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More is less? What it’s like to watch an Imax movie at home | Movies

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It was not so long ago, children, that a person desiring to watch a movie at their leisure had no choice but to purchase a round, shiny object called a Digital Video Disc. The early days of DVD continued and widened a debate begun during the VHS era, in that many titles were released in both “widescreen” and “fullscreen” formats from which a discerning customer could make their own choice. The widescreen presentation would fit the theatrical projection to the average consumer TV, “letterboxing” the frame with black bars called mattes above and below to squeeze a long rectangle into a shorter one. As promised by the name, fullscreen versions instead filled the entirety of the TV by cutting off space on the left and right of a shot. This was the demonstrably inferior option – you’re missing parts of the movie, sometimes elements integral to the text – but customers kept buying. For them, the feeling of seeing more overruled the fact that they were in actuality seeing less.

Fast-forward to today, and the cinematic medium now faces an odd inverse of this schism in visuals. The notion that every inch of our massive televisions should be put to active use has compelled Disney to re-release thirteen of their Marvel Studios films in “Imax Expanded Aspect Ratio”, ostensibly bringing the immensity of the multiplex into the living room. In practice, this special feature of the Disney Plus streaming app unmasks the image, restoring space on the top and bottom that had previously been cropped out for ordinary theaters. The taller Imax screens allow for a width-to-height ratio of 1.90:1, as opposed to your given movie house’s anamorphic standard of 2.35:1, without the sacrifices in visibility of a fullscreen DVD. Disney wants to extend this experience to the home, where the usual high-def TV has a ratio of 16:9 (or more relevantly for comparison here, 1.77:1). As the press release on Marvel’s own web site puts it, this on-demand Imax “offers up to 26% more picture for select sequences – meaning more of the action is visible on screen, just as the film-makers intended”.

Whether this represents the realization of the film-makers’ intentions is between them and their god, but it’s true that in terms of simple volume, we’re afforded greater coverage of the hectic battle scenes that have become this studio’s trademark. For a scene like the climactic götterdämmerung that closes out Avengers: Endgame, wherein every speck of the frame has been crammed with computer-generated visual information, the Imax ratio has a practical utility. In the extreme wide shots of the fracas, the expanded canvas affords a view of additional flying ships, Iron Man’s robotic minions, and Thanos’ enemy combatants as they clash everywhere at once. For those Marvel obsessives set on digesting every crumb of content, this boils down to a basic question of volume, this new functionality allowing for another step toward total completism by showing what’s been previously unseen.

But for those viewers who wish only to enjoy a film in its most logical and natural form, there’s a distracting toll to be paid. When the Imax versions aren’t revealing the full enormity of scenes jam-packed with commotion, they’re destroying the composition of passages that would otherwise be normal, unremarkable film craft. Consider a moment early on in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, when martial arts master Xu Wenwu first meets the forest guardian Ying Li; when they exchange dialogue prior to scuffling, what should be a by-the-book shot/reverse shot setup is turned sparse and strange by the thick stripes of negative space in the Imax-enabled zone. A few inches of emptiness hang over Wenwu’s head, moving him from the frame’s center to an awkward lowered position, as if his photograph has been taken by someone not that fluent with point-and-shoot camera use.

This counterintuitive maximalism comes from the same paradigm of blockbuster muchness that has compelled many MCU entries’ run times to strafe the three-hour mark. We’ve been made to believe more is more, despite control and restraint having always been keys to film-making brilliance. Just as the sprawling lengths of these films come at the price of brisk, satisfying pacing, so too does the anti-grandeur of this pseudo-Imax distort the very art it attempts to take to the next level. There’s a reason this format has been restricted to brick-and-mortar cinemas up until now, and not just because it plays better when looked up at from an auditorium seat rather than down on from a couch. The thrill of this moviegoing mode depends on its huge proportions, a dwarfing sensation completely lost when transposed to the TV. The streaming giants would love nothing more to prove that there’s no difference between exhibition in public and the home, but this latest innovation succeeds only in proving the opposite.

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Chinese could hack data for future quantum decryption, report warns | Hacking

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Chinese hackers could target heavily encrypted datasets such as weapon designs or details of undercover intelligence officers with a view to unlocking them at a later date when quantum computing makes decryption possible, a report warns.

Analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, say Chinese hackers could also steal pharmaceutical, chemical and material science research that can be processed by quantum computers – machines capable of crunching through numbers at unprecedented speed.

In a report titled “Chinese threats in the quantum era”, the consultancy says encrypted data could be stolen by “Chinese threat groups”. It says quantum-assisted decryption will arrive faster than quantum-assisted encryption, giving hackers an edge.

“Encrypted data with intelligence longevity, like biometric markers, covert intelligence officer and source identities, social security numbers, and weapons’ designs, may be increasingly stolen under the expectation that they can eventually be decrypted,” the report says. It says “state-aligned cyber threat actors” will start to steal or intercept previously unusable encrypted data.

However, it adds there is a “very small” likelihood that quantum computing could break the latest encryption methods before 2030. The analysts say quantum computing’s advantages over classical computing – the computing used in everything from laptops to mobile phones – are at least a decade away.

“Although quantum computers’ current abilities are more demonstrative than immediately useful, their trajectory suggests that in the coming decades quantum computers will likely revolutionize numerous industries – from pharmaceuticals to materials science – and eventually undermine all popular current public-key encryption methods,” the report says.

Quantum computing is viewed as an exciting development. For example, experts say it could predict accurately what a complex molecule might do and thus pave the way for new drugs and materials.

China is already a strong player in the field, and Booz Allen Hamilton says it expected the country to surpass Europe and the US – where IBM recently made the most powerful quantum processor – in quantum-related research and development.

“Chinese threat groups will likely soon collect encrypted data with long-term utility, expecting to eventually decrypt it with quantum computers,” the report says. “By the end of the 2020s, Chinese threat groups will likely collect data that enables quantum simulators to discover new economically valuable materials, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.”

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UK Space Agency asks kids to make a logo for first launches • The Register

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Good news for those in the UK with primary school-aged kids and wondering what to do when the next bout of home-schooling hits: design a logo for the first UK satellite launches.

2022 could be a big year for launching satellites from Blighty’s shores as the first launchers gear up for a historic blast-off. Assuming the facilities have been built and all the necessary consents given and boxes ticked.

There are currently seven possible spaceport sites across the UK, from Cornwall in England through Llanbedr in Wales and up to the Western Isles in Scotland. Cash has been lobbed Cornwall’s way to support a horizontal launch by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall and more toward Scotland for Orbex’s ambitions to launch vertically from Sutherland.

Should all the approvals happen and construction be completed, there is every chance the UK might host its first launch at some point in 2022.

Hence the need for a logo and thus a competition aimed at inspiring kids to consider a career in the space industry. And, of course, it is all worthy stuff: “Logo designs,” intoned the UK Space Agency, “should reflect how data from small satellites can help inform solutions to climate change as well as generate a source of pride in the UK’s space ambitions.”

What, we wondered, could possibly go wrong?

We put this question to Rob Manuel, one of those behind web stalwart b3ta.com. B3ta has a long history of (among other things) image challenges, the results of which tend to pop up, often unattributed, in timelines around the world. Now heading into its third decade, the site continues to push out a weekly Friday newsletter to email subscribers.

In terms of how to engage participants, Manuel said: “If anyone asks me, and they rarely do, I encourage competitions to be as open as possible – publish the results as they’re coming in. Try and create a buzz that something is happening rather than everything going in the bin.”

“As for things going wrong,” he went on, “well, there’s always an element who’ll want to subvert it.”

The competition is open to children aged 4-11 and will run until 11 March 2022. There are two age categories (4-7 and 7-11) over 12 regions in the UK. Designs can be drawn, painted, or created on a computer and either submitted on the logoliftoff.org.uk site or via post. Some basic questions also need to be answered, and children can work on their own or in a team of up to four.

We asked the UK Space Agency if it would take Manuel’s advice and post entries ahead of the competition close. We will update should it respond. ®

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Video analytics platform RugbySmarts named ‘most investable’ at SportX

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The Galway tech start-up was one of two winners at the sport-focused pre-accelerator programme.

A start-up developing real-time video analytics for sports has been named ‘most investable’ at SportX, a new pre-accelerator in Ireland for founders with sports and wellness business ideas.

RugbySmarts took the title at the inaugural SportX showcase last week, securing a cash prize.

The Galway-based start-up aims to automate and simplify sports analytics using AI,  machine learning and computer vision, helping coaches to improve player and team performance with a platform that could also be transferred to other sports.

RugbySmarts was founded last year by CTO William Johnstone, who has previously worked with Connacht Rugby, and CEO Yvonne Comer, who is a former Ireland international rugby player.

Meanwhile, the award of ‘best impact on sport’ was given to TrojanTrack. This start-up, founded in 2021 by Dublin-based Stephen O’Dwyer, is looking to combine quantitative biomechanical analysis with deep neural network tech in the equine industry.

The aim is to gain feedback on a horse’s injury or gait imbalance without using invasive technology, such as motion-tracking software that requires markers to be attached to the animal’s skin.

‘Next-gen sports-tech entrepreneurs’

SportX was launched earlier this year by advisory firm Resolve Partners, Sport Ireland and ArcLabs – the research and innovation centre at Waterford Institute of Technology.

The aim of the pre-accelerator programme was to build on tech and business ideas for the sport and wellness industries, giving founders access to academic, clinical and commercial resources.

The six-week programme involved workshops and engagement with advisers, entrepreneurs, subject experts and investors. Participants also had the opportunity to pitch to the US-based Techstars Sports Accelerator.

At the SportX showcase last week, nine teams had five minutes each to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges.

The two winners were selected by the panel, which featured Gary Leyden of the ArcLabs Fund 1 GP, Sport Ireland’s Benny Cullen and Niall McEvoy of Enterprise Ireland.

At the launch of SportX earlier this year, Leyden said the goal of the programme was to find “the next generation of sports-tech entrepreneurs who can leverage the amazing enterprise and sports-related supports within the south-east of Ireland”.

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