Avoiding spoilers: 1977 v 2015

Star Wars Poster

Like a lot of people I spent quite a bit of 2015 both anticipating the new Star Wars movie and trying (successfully as it turns out) to avoid any spoilers.

And it amazes me no end, considering the times we live in, that the film makers managed to keep one of the biggest secrets away from the vast majority of us. (Obviously I won’t say what it is – even thought the film has been out for a couple of weeks, there’ll always be someone who hasn’t seen it – I still lower my voice if ever I mention the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back).

Compare this with 1977 and the release of the movie that started it all, Star Wars (back then, no ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’ in sight).

The film was previewed at the 34th World Science Fiction Convention and here’s what attendees got to see:

An hour-long slide presentation, made up of 35mm slides of the film’s production artwork and on-set production photos, was narrated live in the Muehlebach’s Imperial Ballroon, the hotel’s largest, to a standing-room-only crowd; this was presented by Lippencott. He outlined in great detail the entire plot of the film from scene one through to the final scene.

An hour! The movie’s only about twice that… Fast forward nearly 40 years and the most you get is a few carefully edited split-second shots.

How Star Wars and the internet changed movie trailers

The Phantom Menace trailer was a sign of things to come. Since then, the release of a franchise blockbuster has only become more of an online event. Studios, under increasing pressure to post big opening weekend sales and in possession of ads people actually want to watch, have set about flooding platforms like YouTube and Facebook with all manner of trailers: multiple primary trailers, trailers to introduce characters, to highlight subplots, to target specific demographics or countries. The Force Awakens has run 17 trailers, teasers, and TV spots so far. Modern trailers shouldn’t just introduce and excite: for franchise films especially, they should link films together, hint at new directions, and provide fodder for fan debate and speculation, amplifying anticipation for free. The trailer-editing industry is growing to meet increasing demand, going from a dozen or so trailer houses 15 years ago to over a hundred today. They compete against each other, with several shops submitting multiple trailers for the studio’s selection.

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Students get new video games course

“We are looking for a new type of artist, who understands science and physics – or at the very least has an understanding of what can be done with hardware and software. It’s very difficult to find staff with the right skills,” Mr Franklin says. His own background is in fine arts and video game design, but he works alongside colleagues with degrees in astrophysics and engineering.

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Can I get a rewind! The lost art of the VHS cover

Any child of the 1980s or 90s could tell you the pivotal role the video shop played in their lives. Once a fixture of Britain’s high streets, they’ve since gone the way of Woolworths, Our Price and Wimpy, becoming virtually extinct with the advent of Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. But the new book VHS Video Cover Art, compiled by British poster artist and graphic designer Tom Hodge (who works under the name the Dude Designs), has recreated the experience of browsing dusty shelves filled with more Steven Seagal action movies and Porky’s knock-offs than anyone could possibly want. More to the point, the book makes a compelling case for re-evaluating the packaging of those films, known in the trade as “key art”.

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Rain is sizzling bacon, cars are lions roaring: the art of sound in movies | Jordan Kisner

It is a central principle of sound editing that people hear what they are conditioned to hear, not what they are actually hearing. The sound of rain in movies? Frying bacon. Car engines revving in a chase scene? It’s partly engines, but what gives it that visceral, gut-level grist is lion roars mixed in. To be excellent, a sound editor needs not just a sharp, trained ear, but also a gift for imagining what a sound could do, what someone else might hear.

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Someone has edited movies down to just the lines spoken by people of color

Every Single World is a project every bit as imperfect as the Bechdel Test — the fact that Frances Ha has almost no dialogue spoken by people of color isn’t so much an accident fueled by prejudice as it is purposeful discrimination that serves the point of the script. The film is about two entitled white women in their insular entitled white world, struggling to become better people in spite of it. But it does well at drawing attention to the still galling absence of non-white people in most of the world’s most successful films — of the 100 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2012, one study found, about 11 percent of the speaking characters were black, while 5 percent were Hispanic, 4.2 percent were Asian, and 3.6 percent were other (or mixed race) ethnicities, despite the fact that non-whites make up about 44 percent of the people who go to the movies, and a much higher percentage of people who exist in the world.

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