Sunday, April 21, 2024

Unreal Engine Powering Video Games, Movies/Shows, and Industry


New Yorker - "How Perfectly Can Reality Be Simulated?"
By Anna Wiener

"Yet certain things remain hard to simulate. There are multiple types of water renderers—an ocean demands a kind of simulation different from that of a river or a swimming pool—but buoyancy is challenging, as are waves and currents. “The Navier-Stokes equation for fluid simulation is one of the remaining six Millennium Prize Problems in mathematics—it’s unsolved,” Vladimir Mastilović, Epic’s vice-president of digital-humans technology, told me, referring to a set of math problems that have been impervious to human effort. Clouds are tricky. Fabric, which stretches, bends, wrinkles, and billows, often in unpredictable ways, is notoriously difficult to get right. It’s hard to simulate chain reactions. “If I chop down a tree in a forest, there’s a chance that it hits another tree and knocks over another tree, and that splinters and breaks,” Kim Libreri, Epic’s chief technology officer, said. “Getting that level of simulation is very, very hard right now.” Even the smallest human gestures can be headaches. “Putting your hand through your hair—that’s an unbelievably complicated problem to solve,” Libreri said. “We have physics simulation to make it wobble and stuff, but it’s almost at the molecular level.” (In some games, hair is simulated by using cloth sheets with hairlike texture.)


Mastilović suggested that MetaHumans could one day be used to create autonomous characters. “So it will not be a set of prerecorded animations—it will be a simulation of somebody’s personality,” he said. He suggested that a simulation of Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson could be fun, and that people could create digital copies of themselves and then license and monetize them. Mastilović’s team often talked about a concept called Magic Mirror: a way to visualize, alter, and explore oneself virtually. “What if I was ten kilos more, ten kilos less?” he said. “What if I was more confident? What if I was older or younger? How would this look on me?” He added, “When things become truly real, photo-real, and truly interactive, that is so much more than the medium we have right now. That’s not a game. That’s a simulation of alternate reality.”


In the past decade, Sweeney has become one of the largest private landowners in North Carolina, buying up thousands of acres for conservation. Land conservation struck me as an interesting project for someone in the business of immersive indoor entertainment—incongruous enough that I found it kind of moving. (In a 2007 MTV documentary, Sweeney showed off his garnet collection, some of which was acquired on eBay, and a “climbing tree” in his yard.) When we spoke, I asked Sweeney whether working in games had made him see nature differently. “Natural scenes tend to be the hardest to simulate,” he said. “When you’re standing on a mountaintop, looking out into the distance, you’re seeing the effect of trillions of leaves of trees. In the aggregate, they don’t behave as ordinary solid objects. At a certain distance, trees become sort of transparent. When you look at the real world and see all the areas where computer graphics are falling short of the real world, you tend to realize we have a lot of work yet to do.” He speculated that an efficient, realistic simulation of a forest would require a “geology simulator” and an “ecology simulator,” each with its own complex sets of rules.


My friend and I talked about Big Basin, a state park that was home to some of California’s oldest redwoods. A few years ago, it suffered a terrible wildfire. I toured the park shortly after the fires, and found it devastating. But the trees were now trucking along. There was an archival impulse to scanning that I found appealing, even as I wondered if there was an anxiety to it, too. Was there something bleak about creating virtual facsimiles of the natural world while we as a species were in the process of destroying it? Lind, the Quixel co-founder, told me that he had gone on a scanning trip to Malibu in 2018. His team spent a week scanning the Santa Monica Mountains, capturing the texture of the landscape. Two weeks later, the Woolsey fire burned almost a hundred thousand acres of land in the area. “That was actually fairly emotional,” Lind said. “Every scanning expedition, you develop a certain connection with that place.” Still, they had the scans. Today, those images could be scattered across games and movies, in jumbled pastiches of the real thing."

Fallout Television

Anthony Edwards and the 2024 Minnesota Timberwolves


(Photo via @CarlosGphoto)

The Athletic - "Anthony Edwards sets tone for Suns series, charming even childhood hero Kevin Durant"

Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z) - "A.P.I.D.T.A." (from March 2020)

Illmatic 30 Years Later


WIRED - "Nas’ Illmatic Was the Beginning of the End of the Album"

"WHICH BRINGS US back to Illmatic. It seems unlikely any LLM could produce the lyrical virtuosity and inventiveness of “N.Y. State of Mind,” but it also seems unlikely, in the TikTok age, that the album could have been made in such relative seclusion. In 1994, there were no Instagram Live videos from the recording studio with song snippets. There were no podcasts where Large Professor (one of Illmatic’s producers) could leak secrets about the project. Part of Illmatic’s legend was in how it came from out of nowhere, and slowly demanded everyone’s attention. Today, there is no such thing as coming out of nowhere and slowly doing anything. In milliseconds, everything is everywhere.

On the consumption side, while Illmatic did benefit from prerelease buzz, it was not an immediate commercial success. Its appeal grew over the span of years, slowly accumulating listeners and fans. This is out-of-step with models of today. Outside of a few artists at the very top of the industry (Beyoncé, Drake), artists who are trying to catch on must play the numbers game: Release music in a steady manner with the hope that something goes viral, around which they can build a fan base. In 1994 there was no virality. Playing the long game was a responsible, often effective business strategy.

Lastly, there is the manner that Illmatic was discussed in. This might be where the differences between 1994 and 2024 are most apparent. The early ’90s had no hip-hop message boards. There was no social media. The legend of Illmatic was built from street corner to street corner, person to person, party to party.

The arguments of 1994—whether Illmatic was better than Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), a pair of cherished debut albums from 1993—were intense. But they didn’t result in trolling or doxxing. Only bruised egos and exhausted vocal chords. And most critically, almost everyone we argued with was someone we knew: a neighbor, family member, classmate, or coworker.

Music debates now take place in front of an audience of billions, 99.9 percent of whom we don’t (and will never) share a conversation with. Music opinions are no longer slow-cooked over the course of multiple trips (and Walkman listens) on the 1 train. Now they’re fried and processed on the (often) toxic stoves of social media timelines. In this world, reverence for music looks and feels different, enough for us to doubt whether there’s breathing room for the sort of appreciation that made the legend of Illmatic."

Sunday, April 14, 2024

High-Low of LA Restaurant 'Chain'


"The chef Tim Hollingsworth made it for what he called “Pizza Haute,” one of the meticulous themed dinners he cooks at Chain in Los Angeles, a regular pop-up that considers American fast food with an almost scholarly attention, exalting the genre with rigorous cooking and presentation.

Chain doesn’t specialize in the forensic trompe l’oeils of fine dining — those baroque lemon-flavored desserts made to look like real lemons until you cut into them, revealing layers of cream and cake. No, this is pizza disguised as, well, also pizza.

It’s a different kind of illusion: a restaurant that isn’t really a restaurant, selling fast food that isn’t really fast food? And it sent me — a person who isn’t really a person? — into a spiral. Was Chain celebratory and nostalgic or cynical and manipulative? Was it a marketing stunt, a performance piece or a loving rewrite of our culinary vernacular? Was it an indulgent dip into the past or a glimpse into the future?


uth De Jong, a production designer who recently worked on “Nope” and “Oppenheimer,” helped devise the look, jumbling together a vintage Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders vibe with ’90s arcade and video games and slick original design: curvy green lettering and red banquettes, elaborate plastic menus and self-referential poster ads. The effect is both jarring and sumptuous — a fast-food multiverse that seems to have always existed.

Hollywood Script Doctor Scott Frank

Lana Del Rey - "Baby I'm a Gangster, Too"

Khruangbin (pronounced krung-bin)—"Thai for “engine fly” or, less literally, “airplane”"


New York Times - "How Khruangbin’s Sound Became the New Mood Music"

Larry David — Fashion Critic


New York Times - "Is Larry David the Most Unsung Fashion Critic of Our Time?"

"Often, he invokes fashion during awkward or painful situations. In an early episode, when a grieving widow shows him a treasured photo of her husband, Mr. David zeros in on the dead man’s attire. “I love this shirt,” he tells the widow. “Do you have any idea where he got it?” he asks, a query that attests less to his acquisitive nature than to his own unease.

On “Curb,” Mr. David reserves some of his sharpest zingers for people who are trying too hard. In a midseries episode, his housemate Leon (J.B. Smoove), doing his best impersonation of an accountant, wears a suit with a bow tie and spectacles. “What’s with this suit?” Mr. David asks. “You look like Farrakhan.”"

2024 Euro Kits


 - "Euro 2024 kits: England, France, Scotland & what every team is wearing at the European Championship in Germany"

Sky Sports - "Euro 2024 kits revealed: Home and away shirts for England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Spain, Belgium and more"

How WhatsApp Became the World's Default Communications App


Engadget - "How WhatsApp became the world’s default communication app"

By Pranav Dixit