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Thursday, 28 August 2008

HBO Asia blogger event: "Flight of the Conchords"

HBO swag
With special thanks to HBO Asia and Text 100, I and a friend had the chance to visit the local office of HBO Asia and preview not one, but two episodes of HBO's new series, "Flight of the Conchords".

Office area
After being ushered into the empty but brightly lit office (it was held after office hours), we were treated to a glass of lemon and perroa (I think that's the drink), a delightfully refreshing sparkling juice. We were then treated to a tour of their editing facilities.

Since we were late, we jumped straight in where the others were, at the editing studio. HBO Asia is in charge of creating trailers and regional shows for HBO's programming, and this studio was where that magic happened. Videos, titles and effects were laid over with Avid to create the final video that would be shown on screens.

And for film editing geeks, get this: one year's worth of fully uncompressed HBO video! That's terabytes of storage that can be accessed at any time for lossless editing! Whoa.

Green screen studio
Next, we were ushered to their green screen studio, which is where the hosts are filmed. One member of our group volunteered to demonstrate how it's done, complete with reading from a teleprompter.

Audio room
Our final stop of the tour was the audio room. Here, different sound tracks are overlaid, using Pro Tools (this ain't an Apple shop!), to bring a film to life. The room is also connected to a studio in the USA, so that the voice artiste there can record the voiceover with the local producer. We were treated to a demonstration of how the audio for a 30-second trailer was created, which also included a recording made by a group member.

As a hobbyist film editor, I'd only ever read and heard of these facilities. Seeing them up close and personal certainly made me appreciate even better the magic that goes behind making a film... or even a trailer!

Karen Lai, Director of Communications
Finally, because this was an event to promote "Flight of the Conchords", we were ushered to the pantry to enjoy some fine New Zealand food (including a white wine that was rather strong for me), then watch the second episode of "Flight of the Conchords". Later, because we had time, we watched the third episode too!

"Flight of the Conchords" is actually the name of both the series and the real-life New Zealand band (hence the country-themed food). The show is about this two-man band's attempt to make it big in USA. Of course, seeing as how it has its own TV series, CDs and music videos, it's reasonable to say that FOTC has more-or-less "made it".

As I watched the two episodes, I couldn't help thinking about how it was like that other well-received show, "The Office". It's filmed in a "reality TV" style, like MTV's "Laguna Beach", but it occasionally breaks into a song-and-dance music video routine. That's when the comedy really kicks in.

The duo essentially remix songs into parodies, like Weird Al Yankovic. That's why some songs sound familiar. (I don't know if they've composed any original songs.) While the songs themselves are funny, it's also their on-screen dances and antics that elicit laughter. I was especially taken in by bespectacled Jermaine's stiff and serious dancing, which made him even more funny to watch.

HBO Asia is promoting FOTC so strongly that not only do they have a FOTC-specific blog (maintained by a staffer), but also a video contest. More details at HBO Asia's "Flight of the Conchords" section.

After watching the episodes, I'll definitely be listening to their album, which each of us received as a complimentary gift (in addition to an HBO T-shirt, pen, car plate, bag, and FOTC sign). I know I could use a laugh every now and then.


Saturday, 16 August 2008

Why I want to watch "Wall-E"


What is it about an animated robot that makes me want to watch it so much? Is it:
  • his voice?
  • Eve, his love interest?
  • the idea of experiencing a life-changing adventure?
No, it's more than that. The entire reason is captured in the first half hour of the show. You get 30 minutes of emotion-filled drama and comedy -- without any dialogue! Since when has there been a movie that has been able to achieve this milestone, let alone an animated film?

"Wall-E" opens in Singapore on August 28th. Yeah, I can't wait for it!