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Kubrick found what he wanted by trying things out (wsj.com)
143 points by jkuria 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

As a huge fan of 2001, “somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring” is a totally valid critique of the movie.

Its contemporaneous success at the time was tied to the rise of the late 1960s counterculture, which was somewhat of a lucky break.

As an asde, I've always loved the rotation-match space docking sequence: https://twitter.com/Doomlaser/status/981172150001373184 — that is the kind of engineering choreography that SpaceX's recent synchronized double rocket landing reminded me of.

And one of my early creative career highlights was convincing everyone at Tapulous to give me the go ahead to do a 7 and a half minute tribute to the 2001 stargate sequence as the final boss in Tap Tap Dance, set to Phantom Pt. II by Justice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-JLnyHT7IU#t=26s

Someone linked us last week to an essay that said that docking scene is spellbinding, but not if you’re watching it on a laptop/phone in a well lit place. In a dark theater the scale feels different.

I was fortunate enough to watch 2001 on a huge screen, at night, at the bottom of the Thompson dry-dock in Belfast ( in which the Titantic was constructed ). It was indeed an utterly different film when surrounded by enormous cold darkness.

It would have been interesting to have had the 'dialogue scenes' projected onto a smaller section of the screen and then expand out for the space scenes.

I think he held that reverse zoom on the landing bay too long, but nobody's perfect.

like the French, with their little enameled fly in the white of the urinal, in the movie theater you would not notice, watching the small Pan-Am aircraft rolling as it approached. Passengers would not feel the roll and be thanking the baby Elvis.

Both Justice and Stanley Kubrick are two of the largest influences in my life. Loving seeing this as the top comment on a front page article about Kubrick.

Gotta work Doug Trumbull into that list — he directed the effects for 2001, Blade Runner, and more, https://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=HHjLsvEOeS0 and he's still around!


As to that particular project with Justice, it almost fell through because we were on a tight deadline to get the game out in time for the 2008 holiday season. We were working 18 hour days (or more) on the thing, and my best friend and collaborator surprised me on the morning of my 25th birthday in November with this Quartz Composer test visualization of what we wanted to do: https://vimeo.com/129257159 — I immediately sent it along to the office, and the CEO called me up and wished me a happy birthday. They were all floored, and he excitedly gave me the go ahead on the proposal.

Nice! You and Justice rock!

>As an asde, I've always loved the rotation-match space docking sequence

Same here, seeing it also gives an urge to play Elite again.

Thank you :

I have recently watched an analyse of the film, which really made me appreciate it much more and made me want to watch it again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-URy_Smyyk

I fully share the feeling that they were describing of Kubrick where he couldn't "see" things described verbally. For instance I have the hardest time picturing a word spelled out loud to me.

Also, a recent discussion here on Kubrick and Clarke: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16781142

You'll probably enjoy this video with Richard Feynman about how different people think differently even for something as basic as counting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj4y0EUlU-Y

Thanks DavidVoid for sharing the Feynman links, I did enjoy it. He had such a neat way of thinking about and experimenting with concepts that happen almost invisibly behind the scenes.

That description reminded me of aphantasia (famous post about it: https://www.facebook.com/notes/blake-ross/aphantasia-how-it-...). Or, Kubrick may have just had a real grasp of the limits of human working memory, especially given the complexity of many of his films.

Wow I started reading it and it rings true enough that honestly I don't want to think about it too much and I stopped reading. Maybe we are on a spectrum and I and towards that end but not completely without the ability to have fantasies. It reminds me of thinking about either (a) what happens when I die and simply cease to exist or equally terrifying (b) eternity is real and I go on living forever. These are just not fun places for me to go in my thoughts.

''Kubrick found what he wanted by trying things out'' Real painfully; No object passes the limb of a planet; 10 identical film takes with his Selson motor camera track, soup one take. Good? Add one more thing (against black) 9 takes, soup one take. Good? Add another object to the shot, 8 takes, soup one take. Good? Add star field, 7 takes, soup one take. Good? Add matt box holdout and new plastic ship, 6 takes, soup one take. Good? No? Start over. All in 2.6 inch wide raw film stock, one frame per second.

I don't know what most of that means.

In Film, the image is only recorded 50% of the time. In my 50 years of experience, no one in Hollywood knows that. Well, not no one:)

Can you provide a explain-like-im-five version of what you just said?

'Film' is used at 24 frames every second in the theater, 112 feet every minute. 99% of movies are recorded at that speed. 2001 & Star-Wars space shots were filmed one frame per second, Star-Wars assembled all the things in the scene later. 2001 did not have computer motor control, so Kubrick did everything N times for each thing in the final scene, within the camera. Planet; run by 10 times with 10 fresh rolls of film, then add stars with 9 of the SAME rolls, then foreground object (surface of Moon or hotel) 8 times, then spaceship 7 times, until all are recorded on the remaining single roll of film. No-One can look at the result until the film is developed (souped) so the only way to test for success is to develop one roll with each new added thing. Any thing wrong and you do it 10 times all again......at one inch of film per second. Thus is why the Star-Wars teaser on Christmas of 1976 had No space shots; the droids jumping ship was mica dust and were dropped from a forklift, the spinning Empire destroyer was a cut-out Polaroid taped to a plastic star field contraption.

Thanks; the "soup" is throwing me off, never heard the term.

That's interesting! Also expensive, I assume?

When your getting the thing done, So what? John Ford would just tear pages out of the script to make the bean-counters go away.

See, this guy loved this bacon, but the store ran out. So he found a wrapper and drove out to find the farmer. No one was around. Wandering, he finely came up on the farmer holding a pig up into an apple tree. "My God, how much time does that take!" "Whats time to a pig?"

50% of the time; Film records the image when stationary in the camera. Almost all movie cameras use half the time replacing the last film 'frame' with a new one: '180degrees' of the shutter cycle. Thus, if you film a Dolphin jumping, he is recorded as a broken series of blurred stills ('trails'). A 48th of a second is missing during frame replacement, a 48th of a second is recorded, but his movement smears the image. Humans see this flicker, so film projectors break each cycle into 3 flickers....

Sorry, to many words.......... Take your five year old to see the film 'Gandhi', the flicker and strobeing is unbearable.

Alamo Drafthouse has a 70mm print of 2001, and I was lucky to view it a couple of years ago. They even brought the house lights up during the intermission, just like would have been done in 1968. Keep an eye on their announcements - if they run it again, you should travel to Austin to view it.

The only time I've seen it on the big screen was from 70mm + huge plush comfy seating. One day I should go to a normal cinema and see a 35mm copy to compare :-)

Or DVD, where all the spaceship details are too blurry to make out. :(

For the longest time I believed that Kubrick knew exactly what he wanted before he began shooting. The finished film existed in his mind, and set pieces and actors simply had to materialize and adhere to that vision. I don't buy into that idea anymore.

An example would be that he's known for making actors do a hundred takes. Apparently he made Tom Cruise walk through a door for a hundred different takes! One interpretation of that would be that Cruise couldn't deliver what Kubrick had in his vision. The other would be that Kubrick was trying to tire Cruise out, so that Cruise be too tired to keep "acting", and bring out something neither of them expected, something "real" and "raw" and not rehearsed.

For a while, I was also obsessed with filmmakers who appeared to not adhere to a strict vision, and "discovered" their film, rather than try to construct the film to fit their rigid vision. The likes of Wong Kar Wai or Godard or Wim Wenders, who would write snippets of dialogue the same day they would shoot and improvise with actors. In particular, Wong Kar Wai was known for shooting for years on end, and discarding 95% of the film he shot. He couldn't have envisioned the final product at the beginning.

I find common in all of their approaches to include exploration. Filmmaking is expensive. It's not cheap like sketching with pen on paper, which is why I think most filmmakers "sketch" with the script, and less so while shooting on set, where every minute they are burning cash.

When I was a young teen, I'd look at the art of movies like Star Wars and I couldn't ever achieve anything like that on my own. What I didn't realize was that that art required iteration. Of course it's impossible to come up with a grand idea on the first try on a large canvas! Those concept artists didn't start by creating the final piece, but they drew hundreds of little thumbnail-sized sketches, playing with elements, this curve they like, or that feature.

I think of how much pre-visualization work went into the likes of Star Wars Episode 1, where you CAN'T stop the train once it's been moving, with hundreds of visual effects workers working on something that Lucas has decided on much earlier. In this, I think that the means of production of how people work have outsized effects on the final artistic product.

> Scribbled into Kubrick’s copy of a book by Kafka, Mr. Abrams finds his marginal note: “The tower of Babel was the start of the space age.”

Probably "The Great Wall and the Tower of Babel"[0], right?

0) http://zork.net/~patty/pattyland/kafka/parables/wallandbabel...

Trying things out in many tech fields is still expensive and often impossible. Like you can't go try your hand at micro(forget nano) lithography at a hack-lab. Up until 6 or 7 years ago trying things in electrical design was hard because of expensive monitoring tools like oscilloscopes and stable power supplies (thankfully that is changing due to Rasberry Pi and Arduino).

I still hope that expensive university resources, like lab equipment, could be shared better. For example Columbia, CUNY, NYU could certainly co-own expensive equipment to lower costs and access instead of each of them owning their own, if only for the purpose of lowering tuition costs.

Right now this sharing is only true of information. The most liquid and sharable resource.

> Right now this sharing is only true of information. The most liquid and sharable resource.

I don't want to hijack the discussion with well-worn issues, but even information isn't legally sharable in large part.

Hardware Geeks like me were enthralled. MGM was lost. Charles Lippincott reverted the sales pitch to an inference that a really good LSD experience would come with your movie ticket, and 2001 took off. George Lucas hired Charley when he missed the Christmas 1976 release date, paid him by selling all the T-shirt rights for 100K. Like 'The Stunt Man', 'One From The Heart', 'The Last of the Mobile Hot Shots', 'Angel and the Badman' et al, sometimes fans have to pry the good stuff from the grey suits.

Do Not lick your ticket.

P.S. I didn't get to read the WSJ screed, i'm outside their club:(

I'm not either, but you can get in this way: http://archive.is/HjvCF.

If you google the title and click on the same link it will be outside the paywall.

For the Google-averse, the same trick seems to work with DuckDuckGo.

I've been trying to find a Kubrick/2001 anecdote I vaguely remember, maybe somebody here has a source? Roughly a lighting technician found the initial very bright point-source lights needed to illuminate the space ship models were dangerous and prone to fire. The technician explained this to Kubrick and Kubrick asked him to set up the current (hazardous) lighting setup again. The technician asked "you don't believe me?" and Kubrick said something like "I believe you, but I haven't seen it."

For me 2001 is the film equivalent of a moving, storied, Piet Mondrian painting. Each frame of the film is geometric story, each frame a geometry that evolves to the next.

One of my all time favorites. Just to watch~

Interesting! Sounds like he was practicing what we call 'fail fast'

damn it, wsj caught on that no-script caused their content to be un-paywalled...

I've heard that Hacker News is considering banning paywalled domains from the front page, and undoing any rank given by users who post paywall content. Seems risky, but I dunno, it's pretty annoying to click on these things and get blocked.

> "I've heard that Hacker News ..."

Would you elaborate on where and what you've heard? As of 3 days ago, the HN stance appears to be the same as it has been for years and as described in the FAQ.


No subscription.

The trick is to create a twitter account, tweet a link, then click the link, and the referrer header for twitter.com in the twitter link unlocks the article.

That's how you can read WSJ for free. Delete the tweet when you get to the article, if you're not super pumped about playing into they're coerced promotion game.

After Elon Musk, HN seems to have found a new demi god to worship. Kubrick. This is hilarious.

Please don't post unsubstantive comments here.

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