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ATPM 6.09
September 2000


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On a Clear Day, You Can See the Hollywood Sign

by Mike Shields,

I Couldn’t See It

I recently received the following e-mail:


If you say so. But I don’t know of any place in Redondo Beach that has a view (much less unobstructed) of the Hollywood sign.

But, hey, that’s what words are for, right?

And I have to admit, he’s right—from my apartment in Redondo, there’s no good way to see the Hollywood sign, at least from my computer. If I were to crawl onto the roof of my apartment and look north, I could probably see it on a clear day. But I don’t have a laptop, and crating an 8500/180 up to the roof (complete with 14" monitor) would be impractical, and would bring complaints from the rest of my family.

A place where I should’ve been able to see the sign, at least metaphorically, was at the recent ShowBiz Expo. Variety magazine puts on this extravaganza twice every year, both near me at the LA Convention Center (near the site of the most recent LA riot-Go Lakers!) and in New York, where I don’t live. While there were iMacs at almost every booth that had a computer (green apparently being the favorite color of the industry), Apple themselves were quite conspicuously missing. Sure, Canon was there with their entire range of video cameras (including the XL-1, which I highly recommend), but they didn’t have a Mac or even a PC with which to do a demo. The recent Democratic National Convention, held in the same complex, had more iMacs.


I guess I was hoping to see something like this at the Expo. It’s my impression that if Apple wants to be first in the DV content arena, catering to the professionals who are actually going to create it should be top priority.

Of course, the recent slew of iMac commercials would have you believe that Apple is counting on individual consumers to create the next Titanic. But for every Titanic, you get ten Plan 9 from Outer Spaces, Sturgeon’s Law being what it is, after all. Of course, The Blair Witch Project was indeed edited on second generation Power Macs, but it was not shot on digital video. I’ve had several discussions on the future of digital video on the various newsgroups and mailing lists that I used to frequent (some I still do, most recently, the MacDV mailing list that I’ve referred to on several occasions). Most on the Net believe that big-screen DV quality hasn’t arrived yet.

And now, for an opposing view: I believe that DV is here to stay. QuickTime is already the de facto standard for the Web. FireWire devices proliferate by the day. Web sites featuring short films seemingly pop up by the hour. Check out a few of the more famous: Digital Papercut, Atom Films,, and others that I’ve mentioned previously. And of course, there’s Apple’s own QuickTime site.

So, what can we conclude? That I’m right :-)? That I know more than Steve does? Or, does he know more than I do? Both? Neither? Okay, maybe Steve has a better view of the big picture. But this doesn’t explain Apple’s absence from the upcoming DVExpo.

Elsewhere in the Industry

A recent court case affects all of us, not just those creating content. Several versions on the same story broke last week. I like the one here, which talks about the legal aspects, without all the Hollywood spin. You can also find variations on the theme at Wired News, Mac Central, and MacNN, among others, and I think even some of the rumor sites covered this one. Then come back. I’ll wait.

Okay, I admit it, I’ve buried the lead. But I’m a columnist—I get to do that. At least until my editor tells me I’m a reporter. To recap, a bunch of guys got together and figured out a way to play DVD disks on machines running Linux. Another bunch of guys posted the software on the 2600 eMagazine site. Then the MPAA (read: Jack Valenti) got upset. Lawsuits were filed. Ninety-three-page decisions were written. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act received its first real test regarding its constitutionality. As of this writing, the best answer I can give is: I don’t know.

What I can give is my opinion. Then, of course, you may decide to ignore it, agree with it, or send me an e-mail to tell me why I’m wrong. Or why I’m right.

If I buy a DVD, I should be able to play it on the machine of my choosing, whether that be a DVD player, or a computer with a DVD drive. The software that allows me to do this should be transparent. However, with the advent of the Content Scrambling System, I’m not able to play said DVD on all machines, specifically, if I’m running some version of Linux. Conspiracy theories about Microsoft trying to limit your DVD viewing pleasure aside, according to the MPAA, the pirating of DVDs poses a “serious threat” and costs the organization $2.5 billion per year. Never mind that during the trial they couldn’t come up with a single piece of evidence to support this allegation.

An interesting idea was tried by the defense. Computer code in and of itself is speech, and therefore protected by the First Amendment. This argument related to the code being published on T-shirts and sold. The judge quickly dismissed this notion. It will be interesting to see how the appeal goes. Another part of the judge’s decision relates to being responsible for the content of sites to which your site links. This could have far-reaching effects for the entire Web. If I link to your site, and you have a picture of a nude woman on it that I don’t know about, I don’t think I should be liable for that.

I believe that a few hundred Linux programmers wanting to see DVDs is a good thing. Apparently, the major studios believe that they’re a threat to intellectual property rights everywhere. Only time, and perhaps ultimately the Supreme Court, will tell.

Seventy-two and sunny in Redondo.

e you next time.

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