Skeptics with a K: Episode #071

The Hobbit, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor. Plus ghosts, power bracelets, frame rates and hot pink bollocks. In a special north-south configuration, it’s Skeptics with a K.

  1. #1 by Xander on May 3, 2012 - 14:07

    Avengers spoilers below Be Aware!!!!!

    Tony Stark puts on a pair of bracelets so his armour can follow him down when he gets thrown out a window and latch on for a dramatic sequence (its a fairly weak deus ex machina to make the scene work) . Its a stretch to call it product placement since as far as i’m aware they are part of the armour as opposed to just some power balance bands.

  2. #2 by Rupert on May 3, 2012 - 18:37

    I’m hoping that by his next film they’ll have given up thinking of new ways he could put his armour on and just have him say “Blathering blatherskite” and be done with it.

  3. #3 by Andy Stoko on May 6, 2012 - 11:25

    I also remember the anti travel sickness car strips, was this purely a north eastern thing?

  4. #4 by martin on May 6, 2012 - 15:22

    I’m not sure you can ignore interlacing for your theory Mike. It’s 50 fields a second but still only 25 complete frames.

    Doesn’t make it unworkable though as there are noticeable differences between Film and TV quality, as Dr Who fans well know!

  5. #5 by Mike Hall on May 6, 2012 - 17:52

    True, it is 50 fields – but importantly they are 1/50 of a second apart*. It is not 25 frames, taken at 25 moments in time, then split into 50 fields–it is 50 fields taken an 50 moments in time, but each with half the spatial resolution.

    That it is 50 interlaced fields rather than 50 full frames will diminish spatial resolution, but does not alter the temporal.

    * not quite true.

  6. #6 by martin on May 6, 2012 - 19:51

    Hmmm. I’ve done some more reading and you appear to be correct. Carry on!

  7. #7 by Shaded Spriter on May 6, 2012 - 20:08

    I heard about the magnet/avengers thing beforehand on another podcast – forgot about it watched the movie – noticed the scene mentioned above – didn’t think anything of it I don’t remember the dialogue during the scene…but he is bantering with loki and he says something when he puts them on – but I am not sure what.

    The thing is – if it didn’t have a dubious health claim added to it (and wasn’t ridiculously expensive) I might of bought a one – because they looked cool.

    Just a quick search (not calling them magnetic bracelets which bring the skeptic posts to the top of the search) they come up on geek sites because they are basically “actual movie props” you can own – people are weirded out by the health claims – but £150/£300 on a prop for a cosplayer is basically nothing.

  8. #8 by Declan McCafferty on May 8, 2012 - 01:12

    About the ‘it is right to give him thanks and praise’ thing at a Catholic mass. Its even odder than Marsh mentioned.

    Priest: The Lord be with you.
    People: And also with you.
    Priest: Lift up your hearts.
    People: We lift them up to the Lord.
    Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
    People: It is right to give him thanks and praise. if the people are correcting the priest for not being quite sycophantic enough. I remember, even as a child being forced to go to mass, thinking that this was fucking mental even for them.

  9. #9 by Declan McCafferty on May 8, 2012 - 01:42

    I’m confused about the frame rate business.

    I was under the impression that a PAL video on DVD ran at 25fps progressively. Why, then, doesn’t a PAL DVD of a shot-to-video TV programme ( for example ) running at 25p look slightly more cinematic than a broadcast at 50i?

    I assume i am barking up wrong trees here.

    The Australian accent is stunning.

  10. #10 by Mike on May 11, 2012 - 11:26

    Hi Declan,

    No, PAL DVDs don’t usually play at 25fps progressive scan. Old style CRT televisions don’t handle progressive images, so DVD players will almost always output 50i – either 50 temporally distinct video fields (for video-originated material) or 25 pairs of temporally identical fields (for film-originated material).

    You do get some NTSC DVDs, I believe, which encode the movie on the disc at 24fps progressive, but they have a flag which prompts the player to add 3:2 pulldown so it outputs at 60i (well, 59.94i technically).

    Flat-panel TVs are another question altogether, though!

  11. #11 by Declan McCafferty on May 13, 2012 - 05:20

    Thanks Mike. I thought I understood frame rates until last week’s show.

  12. #12 by Vincent-louis on May 17, 2012 - 19:29

    I think it might be easy to know why a power bracelet gets you all worked up and say, time travel or a man becoming a hulk doesn’t. First the movie is about a hulk or time travel etc so it’s what you went to see, not bogus medical devices and secondly, the hulk isn’t cheating people out of money in some sort of scam and time travel isn’t going to effect anyone’s health decisions or wallet anytime soon… but power bracelets are doing this right now. The film was supposed to sell you a fantasy… not a lie.

  13. #13 by Johan™ Strandberg on May 17, 2012 - 19:39

    To make all of it worse, here is another little nugget of information:

    You must think of the whole mess as a single analog stream (because that’s the way it is, pesky reality and all that) where you have to live with the fact that fields take time to display. This results in the top of a field being temporally closer to the bottom of the previous field than it is to the bottom of itself.

    Does this matter? Yes/Maybe/No. If you want maximum fidelity when altering the signal, you have to simulate this, or you won’t fool a trained eye or a forensic analysis. In practice, that means that recording with a VCR will give you a better (as in closer to the original) signal than a frame buffer based device (DVR, DVD, etc.) but as more and more frame buffers sneak into the transmission chain, this becomes more and more irrelevant.

    Other stuff that once mattered a bunch is that (sorry, but this is going to get all TV geeky, even compared to the previos discussion) is that the phase of the color burst varies from frame to frame so as to minimize aliasing between the color and the B&W signal. Every n frames they line up again, so to squeeze all possible information out of a signal, even during perfect condition, you have to look at 4 frames or 8 fields. (For NTSC. I don’t know what it is for PAL or NTSC 4.43, or SECAM x [there are many distinct versions of SECAM, so x varies with your country] and so on.)

    For movies, where the film moves at one speed and standard video at another, they have created a whole industry to supply seemingly ordinary TV sets that actually locks on to the same timing signal as the camera. Non trivial and completely invisible (until you forget to do it) stuff that almost no one but “insiders” even knows about.

    The negative aspect of knowing (and trust me, that’s much closer to “knowing of” than actually “knowing”) stuff like this is that I get way to bothered when watching TV or movies.

    The positive aspects are that I get a big chunk of my life back, and that I can now directly discard another 12% [Avengers joke] or so of stupid attempts at analyzing YouTube videos.

  14. #14 by Elizabeth on May 23, 2012 - 15:13

    Just started listening to your podcasts (episodes 70&71) and essentially thanks for an interesting podcast that still aims to stay with the facts!

    I think the reason the same people who love science often love fantasy is because science makes us face the world with all its facts and reality while fantasy gives us a place to escape to with a “what if it was possible” theme. (Oh, and if you like Skyrim you could easily love fantasy novels, you just need the imagination to bring it to life!) Science fiction is often even more palatable because when we don’t yet know whether science will be able to take us somewhere (for example time travel) so there’s not only a “what if it was possible” factor but also a “one day it will be possible”.

    That’s also why the Avengers is what it is. When the comics came out, they were science fiction. Gamma rays could do all kinds of things to you because we hadn’t understood it completely yet. Science will still be able to create a superhuman soldier like Captain America and Hulk. As our science progressed, so it was necessary to progress the science fiction. Hence all the X-men and other more modern superheroes existing mostly from genetic mutations, because we still think it is possible to unlock all these traits with our genes. I have no explanation for Thor, except the actor is very pretty (hehehe)

    I understand that your “don’t take it to seriously” side of the podcasts means that commenting on Tony Stark’s bracelets being “power balance” or “magnetic” bracelets will give you a chance to jab at it, but I do feel that by just waiting till you saw the film or did a bit more research would’ve easily shown you that it is not the fact. I just thought it would be more prudent to do a bit more research before using something in your podcast mainly for just ridiculing it.

    Well, that’s also probably my main “issue” with the podcast, but it’s not a big issue. It seems like you often talk about things which you have not researched very thoroughly. I guess that is necessary for the bantering talk you have, to be able to argue with each other etc, and a way in which you draw the listeners in (case in point) and I can go to other podcasts for my “hard science”, so as I say, it’s not a big issue 🙂

    Marshall Braveheart was a childhood favourite of ours! “Eyes of the hawk, ears of the wolf… Braveheart! Strength of the bear, speed of the puma!” I’ve almost never heard anyone else refer to it so I’m quite happy you also watched it. I think it was one of the only great children’s shows coming through the apartheid censorship (or maybe it only started after ’94, I can’t remember exactly when).

    While I can’t quite remember the car-sickness static discharger thingy I must say the bumper bollocks are going strong in South Africa, especially in Pretoria and the rest of Gauteng where the favoured rugby team is the Blue Bulls. So a lot of people had blue balls hanging from their cars. Unfortunately the Blue Bull’s uniforms have now been changed to pink (whole big thing, lots of people outraged, I don’t follow it very well) so I wonder how many people will have the guts to hang hot pink bollocks from their cars.

    Anyhows, thanks for your podcasts, I’ll keep listening and laughing. Cheers from South Africa.

  15. #15 by William Roe on May 23, 2012 - 20:40

    I don’t think we have any data to base a theory about 48fps yet – this Hobbit screening wasn’t a controlled test because it hadn’t been through the post-production process. So people reacting to it and saying it looked cheap could just be reacting to the very strange way that films look before the finishing touches are made to the film.
    “Jackson has one key point to make to people who complained about the cinematography of the film though; it hasn’t been through the Post Production process yet. Now that is a damn good comeback because there is a lot of work to do in Post Production on a film like this, and not just with the big CG work but with everything from lighting and colour correction onwards. Jackson feels that there’s a lot of work that was accomplished in his Lord of the Rings films in Post Production and The Hobbit films are no different.”

  16. #16 by Elizabeth on May 25, 2012 - 12:31

    Oh wait, I said Braveheart instead of Bravestar! Well, they both fought for freedom…

  17. #17 by Mike on May 25, 2012 - 12:46

    That’s okay Elizabeth – so did Marsh!

  18. #18 by Brian on February 19, 2013 - 17:08

    I just wanted to mention that being stereo-blind (unable to see the stereoscopic effects of 3D movies) is often a good indicator that there is some other underlying issue with your vision. If you have not done so already, I would book an appointment with an optometrist just to be safe.

    Until recently I worked as a visual effect artist on many stereoscopic movies and the issue is fairly common.


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