MovieMask: The demo

Finally, in February 2002, they took a break from redesigning their site (no kidding--I've seen at least four versions in six months) to get a "demo" online. Not a working software demo, but basically a 21 meg commercial for MovieMask that's a montage of different features of their product. As of this writing, they still have it available at their site, where you can see it in its full glory. But let's hit the high points:

First, they start with The Matrix, where Neo enters the building and shoots the living daylights out of everything that moves. The original had blood everywhere, of course; the MovieMask version replaces the blood with green sparks shooting out of the guards. Okay, I think it's a little silly, but fine, we don't have a bloodbath on screen, which again might be preferable to a traditional toned-down version that would jump-cut the scene into obscurity.

<tieboy> what's he shooting, marshmallows?
<spinn> no, apparently the guards are androids or something
<Mia_D> the green things?
<Mia_D> they look
<spinn> oh, it's clearer in the vid
<spinn> they're erupting electric green sparks
<Mia_D> but still...I would have loved the "boogers not bullets" thing
<spinn> yeah, the guns could shoot Fun-Fome(tm)
<tieboy> they should add some realistic dialogue from the guards: "OOOOH TEE HEE HEE YOUR MARSHMALLOW GUN TICKLES NEO HEE HEE HA"


This raises questions for me, though. I assume the intention is to imply the guards are androids, rather than people. It's like Lucas using android fighters for the bad guys in Ep1: standard censorship logic dictates you can kill them off happily and with abandon, because they're not people. But in The Matrix, it's clear that the guards actually are people, so what does MovieMask do about this? Do they add clanky whirr noises when the guards move? Do they hire a Laurence Fishburne voice impersonator and add "oh and by the way people are robots" when the actor's back is turned on screen? This might seem like a nitpick, but remember, the whole point of MovieMask is to create a comfort level, but preserve the movie watching experience. Don't I get pulled right out of the story when unexplained green sparks go flying out of people's chests?

<tieboy> and the Death Star is digitally removed altogether
<tieboy> "Look at the size of that NOTHING"
<mdxi> phantom menace is replaced with a random Shirley Temple movie
<babich> a pinata
<tieboy> "10 minutes until NOTHING is in range"
<tieboy> "That's no moon.... that's a NOTHING"
<babich> Its just going to make it like watching ANY movie on USA
<mdxi> okay, what the hell do you do with the TIE swarms?
<tieboy> "I've hidden the plans for the NOTHING inside this R2 GLOWING LASER NOT-HURTY SWORD"
<mdxi> replace them all with that fluffy thing from Neverending Story?
<tieboy> "Admiral! Tie CUSTARD PIES coming in!"
<tieboy> "There's... there's too many of them AND THEY LOOK DELICIOUS YUM"
<mdxi> "I'm a wanted man FOR KIDS BIRTHDAY PARTIES on twelve systems"
<babich> "I'll be careful" "You'll be FULL OF CREAMY GOODNESS!"
<tieboy> Not only does Greedo now shoot first, he shoots SOAP BUBBLES
<mdxi> "Hey, my friend LIKES YOU VERY MUCH. I LIKE YOU AS WELL."
<tieboy> "They're not the droids we're looking for. Move along PLEASE"
<babich> "The force surrounds us and binds us BUT IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD OL' MORMONISM"
<DML> "Qui-Gon, you were talking about [OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST]. What are they?"
<spinn> hey, you could keep the ewoks!
<spinn> but instead of releasing a swinging log to crush the walker thing, they release a swinging log so six of them can swing and go "WHEEEEEE!" and drop flowers and candy
<mdxi> the ATATs are masked over with labrador retrievers adn the ATSTs become giant chickens
<Machival> and then they have a sing-along with the ATST.
<mdxi> with the giant chicken
<mdxi> darth vader's line as he is spiraling out of control at the end of ANH: "Wah-HEY with the LOSS OF PITCH AND YAW CONTROL oh LADY"


Speaking of chests, they did a good job of covering up Kate Winslet's. In Titanic, she's on a couch naked and Leonardo DiCaprio is sketching her; MovieMask makes it so that she's wearing a corset, and even DiCaprio's sketch shows a corseted version. Of course, they catch a break with this scene because she's lying down and relatively immoble, which makes covering her with an image somewhat easier to do believably. (I've seen Japanese cartoons with visual bits American censors found objectionable and were masked over in a similar way; but if you're paying attention, you can see the uneven motion of the parts that were added. That can only be more difficult with live action.) Still, if you're concerned about not seeing nudity, this is the one part where MovieMask accomplishes its goal: masking out unwanted content without altering the flow of the story.





Therefore, it is diametrically opposed to what the butchers did to The Princess Bride. Okay, I'll admit a certain bias here, because I couldn't give a damn what anyone does to Titanic. Give DiCaprio a pink tutu and a limp for all I care. But what are you thinking in making the swords light sabers? Back when I read the article in November, I thought maybe that was some off-the-cuff remark by a spokesperson, or some "imagine if" scenario invented by the author. But, nope, there it is in the demo: Westly and Inigo in a light saber fight, little sparkly lens flare effects and all.

<tieboy> when he bonks him over the head, i wonder what they do
<spinn> there's a voice saying "ouch, I am alarmed at this and will sit to consider what you have done while you run off"
<spinn> or maybe it stops before he hits inigo on the head, and there's a black screen with a caption: "Our hero ties inigo to a tree and runs off while inigo feverishly attempts to escape"
<tieboy> "but he ties him comfortably, with extra-cushy nylon cord"
<spinn> hm, maybe "our hero smothers inigo with kindness and hugs until inigo is amazed and blinded by the wonderful world we live in"




The demo has no audio for the movie clips; it's covered by upbeat, grunge-ish excitement music, which means I can only wonder if their dialogue is rendered inaudible under the WHHOOOM WRRUMMM noises of the light sabers. And now this raises all sorts of questions for the plot, like what they do for Inigo's explanation of how his father died making his sword, or at the end when he stabs the bad guy twice in the shoulders.

<tieboy> oh, and when they have the battle of wits with the iocane powder in the wine... the wine has been replaced with SUNNY-D
<spinn> which, you can get Interactive Play to give you more detail about Sunny D
<tieboy> heh heh
<tieboy> hey, wait, there's a whole part where he talks about how his dad made the sword
<spinn> yeah, "he installed the batteries and charged them for 30 days"
<tieboy> "My father made this [HARMLESS LASER NON-WEAPON] with his own hands"
<tieboy> so, is the sword glowing when he talks about how his dad forged the sword
<tieboy> and the talk of 'he bested me with steel'
<tieboy> or is it 'he bested me with GLOWING LIGHT SABER THAT DOESN'T HURT'


Or...oh hell just screw the plot what the hell is the point!? Are there people with such delicate constitutions that they can only bear to see conflict when it's with coherent beams of light? Or really, on that point, how does fighting with light sabers make it better? Start with the premise for the mask for The Matrix, I guess--making the violence cartoony is okay. So abstracting the swordfight to fantasy makes it more acceptable, somehow. But if you accept the fantasy then...hell, isn't that scarier? Them light sabers is deadly, man. Simple clashing steel is tame in comparison.

<spinn> nono, but what I want to see is when he stabs the bad guy
<tieboy> he stabs a bunch! and when he pokes the tree, the sword clinks and bends
<tieboy> AGGGGG
<Machival> "my name is inigo montoya. you *cuddled* my father, prepare to *eat marshmallows*!"
<spinn> oh, so I guess when the good guy bonks inigo in the head to knock him out, they mask it so he actually quickly whips up a warm milk or some soothing nighttime tea and hands it to him to drink


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