Saturday, 20th of November, 2004
Monday, 8th of November, 2004
The Panasonic DMR-E55 recorder burns to DVD-R and DVD-RAM, with functions on it allowing you to set up chapters and basic menus. There are 3 composite audio/video inputs, and 2 S-Video inputs, and RF in/out of course too. The user interface is actually very easy to use - the best I've seen in any DVD unit. The remote has big, well-labeled and color-coded buttons, and there are diagrams on the screen at each menu telling you which navigation buttons are valid entries on the remote. The remote also can be programmed to control the TV - changing channels and changing the input (one of the most important buttons nowadays). The only complaint I have is that the "Disc Setup" menu takes too many steps to get to. It's used all the time for finalizing discs, but you have to press 5 buttons to get to it! The buttons physically on the unit are mostly convenient too - a nice big "Record" button that you can't miss, as well as play and stop. There's no pause button, though, which I think would have been useful.
At $250, it was the cheapest DVD-R recorder at the store (other even cheaper ones were DVD+R only). But it definitely has all the necessary features, and a little more. Any more advanced DVD authoring tools are probably awkward in a stand-alone unit like this, and probably should be reserved for the computer. So thumbs up to Panasonic for a great unit, thumbs down to Best Buy for not knowing anything about the products they sell.
Friday, 5th of November, 2004
It turned out to be quite the opposite - a step up. Pixar has done the easy stuff first - making vivid computer animations of situations that cannot be acted out in real life well - such as Toy Story, Bug's Life, Monsters, etc. But superheros? Now we're getting close to a human story - so it better be good, and something that makes the computer job worthwhile. I think they succeeded. The characters were very entertaining, and they used the boundless world of computer animation very well to achieve what cannot be achieved with real actors. And the rendering was excellent - just pay attention to the way the characters' hair moves in this film, and you'll see just one way in which the quality of the image in Pixar films is infinitely better than traditional animation.
They've stepped out of their comfort zone with regards to the story too. We see them digging into the topic of deep family relations - between parents and children and between married couples.
So a step up today, and they will probably continue the tradition for a while still. A teaser that played before this film was for "Cars". All I have to say is, there's nothing more cute than seeing a computer-animated car with a face and personality.
Thursday, 4th of November, 2004