The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Technology

Shelter: Reflections On A Collaborative Music Video Between Porter Robinson and A-1 Pictures

“Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” —Don Tapscott

Shelter is a six-minute short that illustrates a small section of seventeen year-old Rin’s life in a simulated reality. Although her life is one of infinite tranquility, it is also an immensely lonely experience. As she creates worlds through a tablet, the simulator gradually exposes Rin’s own memories: she was seven when a moon-sized celestial body is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. Her father, Shigeru, constructs a spacecraft to preserve Rin’s life, while making the most of their remaining time on Earth together. Despite its short length, Shelter is quite haunting: this effect is a consequence of the stunning visuals in the short. As Bill Watterson had done with his Calvin and Hobbes comics, Shelter is able to tell a succinct story in the absence of dialogue. An entire world and its story is conceived and explored in the space of six minutes — in fact, the possibilities of such a world have resulted in some viewers yearning for a longer feature that more completely describes Rin and her experiences. Through the visuals alone, Rin is infinitely creative and inquisitive, crafting the wonders of the world to explore as she passes her solitary days. Whether it be vast fields of verdant grass as far as the eye can see or an Aurora Borealis filling the skies, Rin counters her loneliness through creativity. This would be the theme that lies at the heart of Shelter: individuals can create highly compelling works when they are alone, and this act gives them hope, allowing them to find fulfillment in an alternate avenue.

While Rin’s situation seems to be one of melancholy, a bit of reasoned speculation, coupled with Porter Robinson’s upbeat performance, suggests that Shelter is not meant to depict Rin as the last human alive. The music’s lyrics, speaking of how people can be together even if they’re not physically together, plus the overall tone the song conveys, is meant to be a positive one. Consequently, it yields an optimistic tone that permits discussion to wander in a direction that suggests Rin’s loneliness is not infinite. Such a perspective is further augmented by scientific elements: the music video plainly depicts a moon-sized object on the verge of impact with Earth. There are presently few objects of that size in the solar system (the largest object is the dwarf planet, Ceres, which has a diameter of 945 kilometers), and as such, any object with a collision course with Earth would be readily spotted. This in turn allows Earth’s inhabitants a substantial window to prepare, and in a science fiction setting, it is very unlikely that a population would idly allow their species to go extinct, knowing that such an object exists. Barring the more outlandish course of action (i.e. destroying the object), humanity could construct spacecraft and organise a mass exodus from the planet prior to its destruction. Assuming this to hold, there are likely other survivors in this universe, and so, the possibility that Rin is found would be non-zero.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One of my friends remarks that the possibility for missing out on examples of superb animations is a botheration, although I’ve remarked to him that it’s more about chancing upon the good ones that make things worthwhile. For this talk on Shelter, I’ve got the usual twenty screenshots, and that comes out to around 3.3̅… screenshots per minute, which isn’t quite as high compared to something like Utopia or Cross Road.

  • One of the questions that were fielded by other views is whether or not Shelter could have worked if the individual in the simulation were male rather than female. The answer is “yes”, since the concepts about creativity and loneliness, as well as parental love, transcend gender. These are universal values people share, so whether or not the protagonist is male or female wouldn’t change the fact that Shelter would have solid animation and music that brings out the moods.

  • One of the reasons I’ve grown fond of anime is because of the fact that landscapes and worlds are so vividly created: through the course of the six minutes, a range of locations, both abstract and extraordinary, are shown. These worlds, created through Rin’s tablet, are fluidly created: the control that she has over these worlds is akin to playing an ultra-high fidelity version of Minecraft or similar.

  • With technology’s pacing, I would not be particularly surprised if virtual and augmented reality technologies capable of creating images that the mind do not reject become commonplace within the next decade. The release of increasingly powerful graphics hardware, coupled with decreasing power costs and efficient algorithms for rendering and shading means that there could be a future where phones and wearable headsets carry GPUs surpassing even the modern-generation GTX Titans in performance while allowing for extended periods of wireless usage.

  • I watched Shelter about a week ago, but things have been rather busy: I was able to do my weekly discussion for Brave Witches owing to a fortuitous break in my schedule, and then on Friday, I attended a stand-up comedy evening with my coworkers, enjoying both the smoked ribs and fries dinner as well as the show itself. I spent most of yesterday playing through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and finished the Golem City story mission before visiting a local Chinese restaurant for dinner (beef short ribs in a pepper sauce, Peking-style pork chops and crispy chicken, among other dishes). As such, yesterday saw limited motivation to write.

  • However, I’m back in full force today, and so, this review will be done before I forget about it. Back in Shelter, in a beautiful field stretching as far as the eye can see, Rin recreates a single tree with a swing on it, then vaguely recalls getting hurt on a swing. Her old memories start manifesting as she begins recalling memories of a distant past, and hints that her reality is not what it seems begin appearing via flashbacks.

  • For the most part, reception to Shelter has been positive, and I am in the camp that believes that Shelter is worthwhile. I’ve come across a particularly asinine review from “Zergneedsfood” that purports Shelter to be “utterly trite” for “undermining” the viewers with its supposed lack of “emotional resonance”. From a personal perspective, that was never the point of Shelter to begin with, so the review becomes rather disingenuous for trying to academically critique something for a theme it does not intentionally portray. Compare the chap who wonders why he cannot fulfill the role of a counter-sniper with a shotgun.

  • How does one differentiate an honest review from one that is psuedo-intellectual in nature? The answer is surprisingly straightforwards: a psuedo-intellectual review is excessively critical, with a propensity for sesquipedalian loquaciousness. In short, a psuedo-intellectual author believes that a complex vocabulary somehow elevates their argument’s value. When writing, one should not require a dictionary every five words because the author had multiple tabs to Thesaurus.com or were using Microsoft Office’s built-in thesaurus to replace terms in their prose. These individuals hide behind a veneer of sophistication, forcibly enforcing their own narrow world-view upon others with the intent of impressing or intimidating other readers.

  • Whenever such nonsensical reviews are encountered, I make it a point to remind readers that the opinions of someone with a blog or an uncommonly diverse vocabulary do not confer any additional weight towards their argument. This probably is the reason why this blog gets the same traffic in a day as theirs does over a month. This goes both ways: if I say something that does not align with your own views, that’s perfectly fine. Back in Shelter, Rin strolls through an abstract field of trees adorned with emissive cube ornaments.

  • I’ve often joked that I could be quite happy with any size of home provided I’ve got a stable power supply and powerful internet connection, since when I’m at home, I tend to be hanging out on a computer of sorts. On pleasant days, I take to the parks nearby for a stroll, preferring to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies (or minimally, a lack of temperature extremities or precipitation). One of the strongest features of my city is the relatively large number of pathways and parks.

  • Admittedly, for me, the music in Shelter was sometimes eclipsed by the visuals: I’m very much a visual person, having a fondness for figures, diagrams and charts. I learn fastest when a procedure is illustrated step-wise as a diagram, and as such, when it comes to most entertainment, I also keep my eyes on the visuals. Smooth and well-done, the animations in Shelter were produced by A-1 Pictures, who also did work on Garakowa: Restore The World (accounting for the similarities in style and atmosphere).

  • While the first half of Shelter is illustrating Rin’s everyday life as she passes the time creating new worlds to explore, the second half arises after old memories begin manifesting: she recalls events that happened in her childhood as the simulation taps into her mind. I recall reading a text about the limitations of human intelligence, and one postulate put forth the idea that humans do not universally have eidetic memories is because that such a capacity would allow one to recall highly painful memories with ease.

  • This could be detrimental, and I count myself as thankful that I cannot recall with a high precision all of the negative things I’ve experienced (usually, just the lessons associated with them). This is merely a theory, and from an evolutionary perspective, the practical reasons why humans cannot be more intelligent (assuming a common definition of intelligence to exist, of course) is that a larger mind would make passing through the birth canal more difficult: infants are born with their heads very nearly at adult sizes.

  • Rin receives a stuffed bear from her father as a gift during Christmas. It strikes me that, after the Remembrance Day long weekend and my convocation, I will need to begin Christmas shopping. I glance at the calendar and remark that already, a week of November has very nearly elapsed. Daylight Savings ended yesterday evening, requiring that clocks be rolled back an hour, and I got an extra hour’s worth of sleep. The skies are noticeably darker now than they were a week ago, and winter will nearly be upon us.

  • Rin traversing her old memories brings to mind how the Pensieve in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter operates. An apparatus for storing memories, such a device could be quite useful for recalling different memories and giving the brain additional storage. While initially a curiosity, Pensieves become a major element within the novels, as Harry utilises them to understand Voldemort, as well as Snape.

  • As this moon-sized object draws closer, its interactions with the Earth’s atmosphere would cause the surface to heat up considerably well before it contacts the planet, accounting for why it looks more like a gas giant than a rocky object. An object of such size would hit with enough force to displace the whole of the lithosphere and generate enough heat to create a world-wide firestorm. Volcanic activity would increase on the surface, and once the debris settles, the entire planet would be seen as one large lava field from orbit.

  • To ensure that his daughter survives, the scientist creates a specialised spacecraft, to send her off. It’s a tearful farewell. Owing to the scope of Shelter, nothing else is shown, but this premise has been mentioned to be an excellent starting point for an OVA or even a full-fledged movie. Like countless viewers before me, it would definitely be worth checking out if a full length narrative was to be created, although similar to Star Wars Madness and Cross Road, I imagine that this probably won’t be the case.

  • This image shows the object colliding with the Earth’s surface, and the results are consistent with those seen in an animation portraying the effects of a hypothetical body of 500 kilometers in diameter impacting the Earth. While such scenarios are often used in science fiction, that there is intelligent life on Earth is the surest sign that such objects are rare in the Solar System: in the Earth’s early history, impacts would have been very common, but as the planets coalesced, the number of smaller objects decreased in number as they were absorbed into larger entities.

  • The end of the music video is viewed by some to be on the pessimistic side, since the final shot is that of Rin tearing up while in the spacecraft. It may have been more fitting to conclude with search lights shining upon her in the pod, which could have lessened or even eliminated the ambiguity, but other than that, this was a rather fun music video.

  • I’ll be resuming regular programming shortly after: ahead of time, I’ll be doing a talk on Mankind Divided now that I’ve finished talking with Talos Rucker. There will be some special post coming out later this week related to Remembrance Day, as well as a short reflection on my convocation from graduate school, in addition to the scheduled post for Brave Witches.

Fluidly animated and remarkably well-produced, Shelter is a visual treat to behold: Robinson’s performance complements the visual components, although there are points where the visuals seem to even eclipse the song. This collaborative project was a remarkably enjoyable watch despite its short length, and as remarked by countless others, its biggest shortcoming seems to be its short length, wondering whether or not there could be a more substantial story that carries on the narrative in the future to either show more of Rin’s backstory or her future experiences. It’s not very often I do standalone talks for music videos, but Shelter‘s execution is quite remarkable. As a collaboration between Eastern and Western artists, some audience members have remarked that Shelter could be an exciting beginning for international works. In light of some articles, such as one at Anime News Network discussing whether or not Japan’s projected population decline, these individuals feel that cooperation is very much welcomed to both bolster creativity and address the unsustainable aspects of the Japanese animation industry. Both components are quite important, and I very much welcome prospects of increased collaboration.

The Real iPad Air 2- A Reflection

“It’s the iPad Air 2, mankind’s first step into space colonisation. This device is so advanced, I’m shitting my pants. Here’s the secret: it’s the A8X processor. Safari opens in no time at all, PDFs come up in an instant, fuck whatever load times were for games.” —Cr1t1kal-style impressions of the iPad Air 2

For the past four years, I’ve been fielding an iPad 2. This tablet was one of Apple’s longest running lines, having active support from March 2011 up until February 2014, and while it offered several new features over the original iPad, it was cited as being an incremental upgrade rather than anything revolutionary. Nonetheless, this was the iPad I would use and since May 2011, my trusty iPad 2 has seen everything from Sora no Woto and Break Blade during my first studentship with the university, to being the very device that gave my undergraduate thesis defense presentation. Despite having this much mileage on it, the tablet is still going strong; granted, some apps do load more slowly than they had done previously, but it still runs smoothly and the device retains the battery life it did from the day I got it: it consumes ten percent of my battery per hour of average use. This would be a device I would use until it failed completely, although circumstances change, and I’ve acquired a brand-new iPad Air 2 with the gold finish. The iPad 2 had been thinner than the original iPad and felt remarkably lightweight to use, but compared to the iPad Air 2, even the iPad 2 feels like a brick. Armed with the same retina display as the iPad Air, the iPad Air 2’s display blows the iPad 2’s display out of the water. iOS 8.1 runs like dream on the iPad Air 2, which packs Apple’s A8X triple-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. I’d been noticing the iPad 2 was feeling a little sluggish (but still very usable) in day-to-day tasks, and by comparison, the iPad Air 2 leaves it in the dust. I do miss the lack of an orientation lock button, and glory in the inclusion of a TouchID sensor, which allows me to unlock the device with my thumbprint. The iPad Air 2 is a worthy successor to the iPad 2, but the question remains of what I can do with so much hardware packed into so little a space.

  • I’m finally rocking iOS 8 now, and although it’s not too different than iOS 7 from an appearances perspective, there are numerous new features that I haven’t begun to take advantage of yet. Some of the features I have noticed and enjoy include the updated notification centre and predictive typing (a feature that my Windows Phone has long had and one that I love using).

  • Spotlight search is quite useful, and in the new iteration, will even link to online resources such as Wikipedia if it is available. Overall, I’ve had no troubles using iOS 8, and it’ll probably take me a little while to learn all of the new features that the iPad Air 2 can access. I absolutely love the partial transparency some menus have: iOS 8 does make subtle changes to things to improve the visual fidelity of the user interface.

  • The only thing about the iPad Air 2 that is a little disconcerting is the lack of a physical button for orientation lock/mute. I understand that Apple’s quest for ultra-thin devices is motivated by ergonomics, but admittedly, I would’ve been okay with a slightly heftier device (like the iPad Air) if it meant more hardware and improved battery life.

  • This is what the blog looks like out of Safari for iOS 8. The bookmarks and history bar has been moved to the left, rather than the right, and since I use Google Chrome as my primary browser, this is a little unusual, although Safari for Mac OS X also has its bookmarks bar on the left. Safari for iOS 8 feels amazing and handles well on the iPad Air 2: tabs have become more visual now, and on the iPad Air 2, the additional RAM finally means I can chat with a friend in Skype and browse the web at the same time.

  • While Siri remained little more than a curiosity in the past, I’ve since grown to view it as a very novel feature that brings to mind the robot from Thunderbirds that Brains had been testing. Back in the 1960s, voice-activated commands were very much a thing of science fiction, and in the space of five decades, we’ve gotten to the point where we can ask our devices what our schedule is, or have them act as a worthy opponent against us in chess; the technological advancement we’ve had never ceases to amaze me.

I typically treat tablets as an ultra-mobile computing solution for things like being able to read slides along with a lecture as it progresses and make annotations, read and annotate papers while away from a computer, browse the internet and keep in touch with people by means of social network applications. I also watch anime on tablets, use them to create presentations and work on my assignments, and on some occasions, game on them. The original iPad 2 excelled in each of these areas; during the summer of 2011, I even watched the Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi while waiting for guests to arrive at a friend’s LAN Party, and using a video, gave the impression I was playing Halo Reach on the iPad. The iPad Air 2 is remarkably powerful and, while decidedly less powerful than an Xbox 360, is capable of putting out some impressive graphics: three-and-a-half years ago, I joked about the day when tablets could match consoles in graphics, and in a sense, the iPad Air 2 is getting pretty close. With the new iPad Air 2, I probably will use it as I did the iPad 2. It will be an excellent platform for reading papers and following lecture slides, for casual internet browsing and watching anime; the hardware powering it is more than sufficient for doing all of this. In fact, there are very few apps out there that can make full use of all this hardware. This is expected to change as developers begin making more of the Metal API, and games on the iPad, already impressive for a tablet, will begin to rival games like Halo Reach in terms of graphics as mobile hardware continues to improve. For the present, though, with its overpowered hardware, the iPad Air 2 is quite future-proof, and I look forwards to doing much with this machine.

Shaw Reprised

It’s been nearly five months since I made the switch from Telus 5 Mbps DSL internet to Shaw Broadband 50 internet, resulting in a performance difference by an order of magnitude. Initially, for the first while, the performance was only really noticeable for applications that could immediately recognise the new connection strength, such as Steam. However, as of late, the new internet has revealed its true powers and has consistently performed beyond expectations.

  • In a benchmarking test using an exceedingly well-seeded torrent, Shaw Broadband 50 will reach speeds of 5 MB/s without any issue and has a theoretical maximum of 6 MB/s. Owing to overhead, the remainder of the bandwidth is dedicated to running essential functions, accounting for why Shaw 50 will not reach the upper limit of 7 MB/s.

Let’s do a thought experiment using the assumptions from the table below. A while back, I was able to get the internet capacity that most K-On! fans have. I’ve supplied their connection performance here, and will use it to form the basis of the calculations.

The average KyoAni fan’s internet The Infinite Zenith’s Internet

The K-on! Movie is said to have a runtime of 110 minutes. Assuming the encoders use the .mkv container for the H.264 codec and FLAC audio, the movie will roughly be 2.2 to 2.8 GB in 720p. At a steady 2.5 MB/s, it will take roughly 20 minutes to download. Even at a comparatively “slower” 1.0 MB/s, a download is expected to be completed in no more than 48 minutes. This performance can be attained without placing a significant load on the network: another user on the network can (empirically!) watch HD YouTube videos as per usual without experiencing any lag. On a 15 Mbps network, download speeds of around 1 MB/s can hypothetically be attained, although this will practically be the network’s entire capacity.

Shaw 50 Broadband

The new broadband modem arrived today, and with it, comes superior upload and download performance. The Shaw Broadband 50 plan offers up to 50 Mbps download and 3 Mbps uploads. It is in the 94th percentile for internet speeds; only six percent of all the internet in Canada surpasses it, and chances are, those are owned by large organisations with large amounts of traffic flowing through their networks.

  • This is my network on a bad day. This is probably your network on a good day. Otaku have nothing on the power of this network: when your internet is moving data downstream at 50 Mbps and upstream at 3 Mbps, there are no survivors.

Such a powerful system has the potential to rapidly upload new content to my websites and YouTube, host game and TeamSpeak servers, have lag-free online video conversations and play online games with virtually zero lag. On a practical side of things, it is capable of 3 MB/s downloads no problem (I think the upper limit is around 7 MB/s, although I have yet to encounter anything that will push it that far), and will upload at the same speed as the download speed from my previous ISP. By comparison, my previous ISP provided a maximum download speed of 5 Mbps (roughly the average for USA). South Korea averages around 20.4 Mbps download, while Japan averages 15.8 Mbps.