Episode 42: “Breakin’ In with Juan Cabrera!”

This week we sit down with an actual master of 3D.  That’s right… a master.  Juan is literally one the world’s foremost experts on the art of 3D editing.


The convo gets super nerdy and techie at moments, but I promise you it’s beyond fascinating.

So how about we just get to it?!

The song this week?  Well…I’m sure you can figure it out 😉

Till next week…

3 thoughts on “Episode 42: “Breakin’ In with Juan Cabrera!””



    As a long-time critic of (so-called) 3-D movies I was greatly anticipating this discussion… and it did not disappoint! Not only did I have my technical assumptions confirmed I learned some things I didn’t know before, such as:

    1) If you are only shooting with one camera but know it is going to be converted to 3-D you shoot clean background plates whenever possible in order to make the conversion easier;

    2) When shooting with two cameras the inter-axial distance is often changed to compress the depth of field (thus making it less obvious to audience members that they can’t change the focus of their eyes from foreground to background);

    3) That for the price of converting one movie to 3-D (4 million dollars or more) one could make two low-budget movies!

    But the most favorite thing of all I learned was that Cheryl hates 3-D as much as I do! (You go girl!)

    By the way, I didn’t have any problem with Juan’s accent, and found his life story fascinating.

    However, I am more convinced than ever that 3-D is an abomination that should be avoided as much as possible — and probably will end up being responsible for a lot of eye (or eye/brain) problems.

    If that sounds overstated, just consider how annoying it must be for your visual system to not be able to change focus from something in the foreground to something in the background (or vice versa). This NEVER happens in real life… but now millions of people are subjecting their brains to it for hours every week.

    Even worse (perhaps) than the focus issue, in real life when an object gets closer to you, not only do your eyes change focus (just like a photographer turns a quality camera lens to focus on a nearer object), they also CONVERGE. That is, instead of your eyes looking out in parallel (as when looking at, say, distant mountains), they are somewhat pointed inward when you look at a close object.

    But in a “3-D” movie your eyes can’t change focus, or converge, because the objects are in reality all the same distance away (the movie screen)! So (to use Manny’s language, which I love) you are really fuckin’ with your eyes, peeps. (Which is why people get eye strain and/or headaches. There is nothing wrong with them… it is your brains way of telling you to fuckin’ stop the hell what you are doing!)

    The only true 3-D system is a hologram — that image really is three-dimensional (which is why you don’t need brain-fuckin’ glasses to see it) — which is why I’ve always thought (ever since I saw one in a museum as a kid) that holograms are so cool. (Even though I avoid 3-D movies like the plague after my first one years ago.) Alas it (apparently) isn’t practical to make a 3-D movie using holography, for all sorts of technical reasons (which I won’t go into here as this diatribe is already way to long).

    Frankly, I really don’t understand the appeal of so-called 3-D movies. As your discussion with Juan pointed out, in most cases it isn’t even shot with two cameras (which arguably is at least somewhat 3-D, despite the major problems of focus and convergence), but “converted” afterwards!

    And that conversion consists of simply slightly shifting foreground images relative to the background for the right-eye view, in order to trick your brain (when viewing the two different images with separate eyes with the aid of special glasses and a special projector) into thinking it is seeing depth.

    Even if this technique didn’t have the drastic side effects (focus, convergence) that give you “eye strain” or a headache, it still seems rather pointless to me. Not to mention the extra cost!

    Alas, I am not hopeful, based on the kind of coverage I see on the news. Not long ago on the local news there was a (heavily promoted) story on 3-D and eye strain. Alas, in addition to incorrectly “explaining” how 3-D movies work (they claimed the 3-D is simply due to the alleged higher frame rate!), they claimed that if you get a headaches from 3-D movies, then you should see a doctor because there might be something wrong with you!

    Of course, this was just in the opinion of the doctor who was interviewed in the story (who was none to shy about overtly soliciting customers [excuse me, patients]), but the news program gave the impression that most doctors felt that way (or if they didn’t they were behind the times).

    And of course the station didn’t bother to mention that they are owned by the same conglomerate that owns a major movie studio. (I guess they could legally get away with it by claiming they were were promoting all 3-D movies, not just that company’s movies in particular.)

    The truth is, headaches from 3-D movies are perfectly understandable – because it isn’t really 3-D! It is simply two normal movies, one for your left eye and one for your right eye, with the (polarized) glasses insuring (along with a special projector) that each eye only gets the movie intended for it. This partially fools your brain… but not completely, and the strain and pain is nature’s way of saying CUT IT OUT YOU STUPID FUCKER!!!

    This is the first time in all of human history that any kind of wide-scale 3-D simulation has ever been done. But I suspect that if this 3-D craze doesn’t die down soon I suspect there will be massive eye problems years from now.

    (Which, of course, the medical establishment will be more than happy to help you with – for a hefty fee of course – while claiming they had no idea that 3-D movies were dangerous or they surely would have warned people!!!)

    P.S. For those who didn’t catch (or already know) the “thumb trick”, I’ll explain it here:

    Close your right eye and hold one of your thumbs up a few inches in front of your face. Align the thumb with a lamp or some other object in the distance. Now close your left eye and open your right eye, and your thumb will appear to have shifted to the left of the distant object.

    Now try the experiment again, this time holding your thumb as far away from your face as possible. You’ll notice that when you switch from the left eye to the right eye the thumb still shifts like before, but this time not as far.

    Now when you have both eyes open, instead of giving you two images of your thumb, your brain combines the two images in such a way as to show you how far your thumb is away from you.

    The proponents of 3-D movies claim that all they have to do is simply isolate each eye and give the objects that are supposed to be nearer a left shift in the movie intended for the right eye. (The amount of each object’s shift will correspond to how near the object is supposed to be.)

    Alas, there are in reality several significant problems with this. First, only in the case where the movie was shot with dual cameras (the lenses of each camera about two inches apart to match the distance between the average person’s eyes) will all the shifts for all objects, no matter how near or far, be proper.

    In movies that were shot with one camera and then “converted” to 3-D (either right away, or years later for a “special” lets-milk-it-for-all-its-worth re-release), the process of shifting all of this objects is (as even James Cameron recently admitted) a tedious, massively labor-intensive process. (Dozens of technicians sitting at computers going frame by frame through the movie.) So naturally most conversions will try to get by with just shifting the major objects in each scene, and hope that your eye/brain system simply “goes along for the ride” for the rest.

    But this (along with the aforementioned focus and convergence issues) is exactly where the problems come in. Your brain realizes something is wrong, doesn’t like it, and thus gives you a headache to let you know to stop doing what you are doing. So getting a headache from a so-called 3-D movie is normal, NOT something to go to a doctor about!


    I was initially surprised by Manny’s and Juan’s negative comments regarding The Original Series (ST-TOS), but fortunately they ultimately said enough things to confirm a revelation I had a few years ago when the first JJ Trek movie came out: JJ’s Star Trek movies are primarily for people who don’t like Star Trek!

    This revelation came when my friend mentioned how he couldn’t wait to see the movie again, whereas I said it was okay once but I never planned to see it again. During the resulting melee (well, okay, discussion) I found out that my friend was never a fan of the original series! Furthermore, like Manny, he did like Next Generation — which I stopped watching after two episodes because I thought it was so bad!

    Now it is of course pointless to argue whether TOS or Next Gen is better; people tend to like whichever one they saw during their teen years. (In my case I was fortunate that WGN TV in Chicago ran Star Trek all the time during my teen years. Whereas I was out in the working world [albeit barely] as a computer programmer by the time Next Gen came out.)

    Furthermore, it isn’t a matter of whether JJ “destroyed” or “saved” Star Trek; his movies have nothing to do with Star Trek! JJ simply bought the rights to the ST brand name (including the names of the characters), knowing (as with any famous branding) it would likely cause a lot more people to come to his movies than if there was no pre-branding. (And of course now he’s in the same trap with Star Wars.)

    (I actually almost feel sorry for the guy… until I remember “Regarding Henry” and realize that maybe it is for the best that he would [apparently] rather produce and direct franchises written by others than write original screenplays.)

    In fact, even the reviewers who liked the new JJ movie point out that it is really not a Star Trek movie; not even science fiction… it is more (to quote one) “The Bourne Federation”, a roller-coaster action movie.

    Which, while the movie has little appeal for me (especially because of the alleged extreme violence), doesn’t bother me. I’m old enough (alas) to recognize the value of branding without taking it too seriously.

    What did bother (and intrigue) me, though, was Juan’s and (especially) Manny’s major mis-characterization of the original series, saying it was “horrible”, “just an adventure”, and “campy” — terms most objective people would say apply much more to the movies (especially JJ’s) than the original series, which is actually chock full of philosophy and drama.

    I’ll give Manny and Juan them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were unfortunate enough to have primarily sampled third-season episodes (which not even the most devout Trekker would defend more than one or two episodes of!) (Roddenberry had left in a tiff with the network and the show’s quality plummeted as the network took more control over it).

    But I am still intrigued with the larger question: Why is it that people who didn’t like The Original Series are still so hell-bent on being part of the Star Trek fan-world? I would think people who didn’t like the original show would simply have better things to do than watch (and get excited about) the spinoffs and movies.

    The first explanation that occurred to me was because deep down they know TOS is the best, but they can’t admit it (even to themselves) because they weren’t in on the ground floor. (Think how many people who missed out on the initial weekends of Star Wars refused to become johnnies-come-lately… but suddenly became rabid fans of the franchise once “Empire” came out.) (Face it, folks, as good as “Empire” is [especially on Dagoba], it isn’t a stand-alone movie, and there was a lot of silly crap in the opening Hoth sequence and [especially] in Lando’s space station.)

    And (in my experience at least) most women prefer Next Gen to TOS. After all, it was designed to appeal to them, with BOTH the ultimate father-figure type romantic character (Picard) as well as the younger dashing leading man type (what’s his name… Frakes I think).

    But I don’t see how anyone who examines both series objectively can think Next Gen is better written than TOS (again, I’m only talking about the first two seasons and maybe two episodes of the final season). My guess is that people are confusing the lack of a strong narrative flow (in most Next Gen episodes) with somehow being “better” — perhaps in part because of the speeches. But throwing in hokey speeches is not good writing (unless you’re writing for The West Wing I guess).

    But based on the (admittedly few) episodes I saw, the slow pace wasn’t for a good reason, but due to a tremendous amount of padding. Remember the writing axiom about starting a scene as late as possible and ending it as early as possible? Next Gen constantly seemed to be doing the opposite. Scene after scene in the episodes I watched would begin with some extra entering the bridge, wandering about a bit observing the nice set, until finally somebody would say something and the scene proper would begin. I mean, it’s nice to have coverage like that, but you should rarely (if ever) have to use it if the show is well written (and not padded to fill the necessary 44 minutes or whatever).

    Far worse than this padding, though, were those speeches (and general pandering). I remember trying to watch an episode sometime later in the run (hearing that supposedly it had gotten better), and I couldn’t believe it!: One of the regular characters was giving a speech to somebody (I think someone who had somehow traveled in time from our era) regarding how they don’t have any money, that they had evolved beyond the need for it or some such crap.

    Well this is absolutely ludicrous! Money is (ultimately) simply an efficient way (compared to barter) for people to exchange their TIME. The only way we’d ever stop needing money is if people had infinite life spans or otherwise placed no value on how they spent their time.

    I never watched another episode after that (so I saw maybe four total), and to this day it sickens me to think how many young (and not so young) minds were warped by speeches like that in this show. For I suspect most regular viewers thought the speech was great. And, sadly, that speeches like that are the hallmark of good writing. (As opposed to the philosophy being more embedded in the story itself, and the changes the characters go through.)

    (I think even the casual TOS viewer will admit money played a huge role behind why some people did things they did… just as in our time. And yet just a short time later, in Next Gen, there was no need for money? Inconsistent as it is ludicrous.)

    I suspect more people have been messed up by Next Gen than perhaps any other program in human history. (Though I suspect The West Wing comes close… and that there is a high correlation between viewers of it and Next Gen.)

    Anyway, getting back to the original subject (“REAL” Nerds Like TOS): I think it’s safe to say that I was/am a Real Nerd. I got all A’s in high school [ended up being valedictorian], never had a girlfriend, and ended up being a computer programmer for most of my life. (Nerd credentials accepted? Thank you.)

    But I never once read a comic book! In fact, when “Iron Man” first came out my friend who likes Next Gen had to tell me that it was based on a comic — I had never even heard of it! And the closest I’ve ever come to having a video game console at home was when I was paid a few thousand dollars (would have been more but by then [1983] the Atari 2600 was dying) for using my 8-bit (6502) assembly language skills to come up with a way of making the old Atari 2600 do POV graphics that had never been done before (and thought to be impossible), making the game look much more like the more expensive Intellivision games. But I had no interest in actually playing video games (then or now).

    Okay, now that we’ve defined a Real Nerd, let’s define the other kind. Ironically, it was a recent quote from Ironman3’s James Badge Dale that was the breakthrough in my understanding of the two kinds of nerds:

    “When I was in school, I got beat up by kids who read comic books. I was not as cool, I was in a different level of nerdom… something to do with Dungeons & Dragons and a cello. So, really this was kind of my first foray into the comic book world.”

    Let’s call these “cooler”, comic-book reading “nerds” (that like to beat up on Real Nerds) (either literally or their beloved TOS) “Man-Child Nerds”. (Because that’s what they become in a few years.)

    When young a Man-child nerd is much cooler than a Real Nerd; they love comic books and super-heroes and videogames… and beat up on real nerds. But as Man-child nerds get older, and they realize the value women put on the earning potential of potential spouses, it becomes advantageous for Man-child Nerds to be mistaken for True Nerds. After all, for every successful screenwriter making a living off of a comic-book franchise there must be thousands of guys making good livings (in the sense of income I mean) as computer programmers.

    (Note: Just to be clear, I’m talking in generalities. I’m sure Manny will get screen credit long before I do!)

    Finally, I found what Quinto reportedly said to Bill Mahr rather amusing, as if he knew the movie wasn’t that great but had already figured out a way to defend it (“hey, man, these are dark times we live in, so shut the fuck up”).

    But what is the point of a dark movie if there is no profound insight or knowledge on how to bring about the end of the dark times? Do we really need or want to spend our free time and money on a dark movie when the rest of our lives are so dark already? Sounds like a cop-out for those who point out that there isn’t much reason to see the movie if you don’t care for endless bloody action.

    (I think Manny’s characterization of JJ turning Star Trek into a Michael Bay-like franchise is spot on. And JJ’s decision to change the timeline so he can both make reference to things fans lovingly remember while not having to bother to be true to them was, from his point of view — brilliant. [As annoying as it is to TOS fans like me.] It’s the perfect combination for someone who [as he has admitted] doesn’t like TOS but wants to make money off of its fans [as well as everyone else].)

    By itself what JJ does to Star Trek doesn’t matter much. But overall these are dark times indeed: Instead of quality original screenplays we have endless sequels, remakes, reboots, 3-D, scenes (and entire movies) specifically designed to appeal to “gamers”, movies based on one comic book hero after another and, of course, JJ trying to control everything (apparently so he can be the ultimate super-hero without ever actually having to write anything original again).

    I can only hope that someday these dark times will pass, and the Olde Republic of good, original, non-pre-sold, non-pre-branded writing will once again be restored to the galaxy.

    1. I wasn’t going to include any links or reviewer quotes, but I’ve decided I’d better. Anyone who thinks I’m crazy to not like JJ’s new movie please check out:

      Even the reviewers who really liked the movie, such as David Edelstein, say “the plotting is clunky and nonsensical”; “the most brutal Trek ever, with a mammoth body count and wince-inducing pummelings”; “every scene is peppered with cyber-MSG”; “fan fiction with a huge budget and a cast that, if you squint, looks like our old crew.”

      Some of my favorite other reviewer quotes:

      “Although the film is directed with the fervor and intensity of a tie-in theme park ride, the script, sadly, has precisely the same narrative aspirations. Offering a nonsensical mess of conspiracy theory, “Into Darkness” ends up becoming something stuck midway between a muddled Truther metaphor and a nearly beat-for-beat remake of the identically plotted ‘Star Trek: Nemesis,’ widely regarded as the franchise’s worst entry.” — Silas Lesnick, ComingSoon.net

      “JJ Abrams’ reboot of ‘Star Trek’ was a strange, almost miraculous film. When you think about the movie at all — give any of it a thought — the whole thing falls apart. But the film itself holds up as you watch it; you have to actually revisit it in your mind for the collapse to happen. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ doesn’t bother waiting; the film falls apart as it goes, raining debris as it implodes like a building being demolished.” — Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

      “Director J.J. Abrams, who has owned up to not having an emotional attachment to the TV show or the movies it spawned, commissioned his screenwriters to do a riff on Wrath of Khan, an alternate history of the Khan myth… ‘Remaking’ The Wrath of Khan while not actually actually remaking it muddies the message and robs the villain and the story of its mythic staying power.”

      “As an old-school Trekkie, I have to say that I am not at all pleased… I saw the last Trek film that JJ Abrams did and, to borrow a few words from the late Roger Ebert, this version of Star Trek is “an insult to science, to fiction, and to the hyphen in between”. Not to disrespect JJ, but this version seems to be less about the story and more about “kewl ‘splosions” and fights with bad guys who are bad solely for the purpose of being bad. Gene Roddenberry created the original Star Trek to be thought-provoking, and this appears to be anything but.” — Stephanie Smith

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