Recently I posted my thoughts on iMovie on the iPad 2. I an exercise of complete redundancy, here’s are those same thoughts (more or less) in video form.
Another in my wacky series of vlogs, this time discussing the iPad 2. Edited entirely on the iPad 2.
This time I’m looking at my new Logitech Harmony 700 Universal Remote.
I got nothing.
The current series of Primeval is so ordinary that I have neither strong positive or negative feelings towards it. They aren’t screwing things up badly like they did last season, neither are they making me interested like they did in the first season. I’ve watched through this episode 3 times and still I’ve got nothing, so I decided to try my Fusion Patrol approach. I watch the show, take notes, fill in some comments and hope I have something to say.
00:00 Five years ago a woman captures a bizarre baby anomaly animal and flushes it down the toilet. Yeah. I’m believing that. Looked too big to flush. Perhaps some kids would like to try some experimenting and report back to me on that one. What is the maximum size lizard you can flush. My guess is you’ll need to live in Australia or Indonesia to try that one.
00:04 Philip, “We’re poised on a new dawn” – hhhmmmmmmmm, New Dawn, that sounds fishy. What kind of scientific advancement is he hoping to get? Is it just an understanding of time, or is he perhaps trying to control time?
00:05 Danny Quinn still has a locker. They just keep reminding us about the missing Danny. Once again that seems to indicate Danny isn’t really gone yet.
00:06 Lot of old dumpy buildings in London, aren’t there? Actually, this looks like the same building they shot in during the second series.
00:07 Perky chick (what’s her name?) gives Conner the key to her apartment. Suspicious? Forward? Clueless? Not sure which. Isn’t she perky, though?
00:09 Rex is back. I hope he doesn’t feature in any more episodes. He’s such a technically stupid creature, that thing certainly couldn’t flap his wings and fly.
00:09 New guy (What’s his name?) is chatting with old guy (Is that an old Danny?) Clearly New Guy is spying for him.
00:10 We have our first fatality! Construction worker for dinner! It took 10 minutes for a fatality… this show is really slowing down.
00:11 Perky Girl’s apartment is nice. ARC must pay well well. At least she uses Macs.
00:14 Conner’s old friend, Duncan, has really moved up in the world, living rough and homeless and he has a collection of dinosaur poo! Nah, he’s not obsessing about the whole “best friend killed by dodo” thing at all.
00:20 Perky Girl has the hots for Becker!
00:21 “Are you (Abby) his (Connor’s) girlfriend?” “Wow, there’s hope for us all!” Best line in the entire series, although, I’m noticing that Abby is aging pretty fast, she’s never going to age well like Claudia Brown/Jenny Lewis. PLEASE bring Jenny back! At least we have Perky Girl.
00:24 It’s a Boar Croc (Kaprosuchus)
00:26 Abby has commandeered a boat. On what authority can she commandeer a boat? Do they carry ID?
00:27 Only the second killing. Not much of a body count. Ho hum
00:29 Becker to the rescue! Ever notice how the ARC has a team of crack military types, but none of them do anything except Becker?
00:30 Container breaks free with creature inside, falls 30+ feet… and the animal is still alive. Rubbish! Do we have to discuss the cube/square law?
00:32 I’m so glad the guys running this container port have stacked the containers in a convenient labyrinth pattern.
00:34 One utterly useless ARC soldier dead! Body count: 3
00:37 Conner has his job back! Was it ever in doubt? Wonder why they bothered with that subplot? Was it just to kill time?
00:39 Becker might have the hots for Perky Girl… and why not?
00:43 …and it’s all over. 43 minutes? That’s short!
All this tweeting and podcasting and suddenly I just don’t have time to review new science fictions shows – or, if I do, I do it on the podcast. That just doesn’t seem right, and one of the staples of my blog has always been reviewing episodes of Primeval. Pity they cancelled it, isn’t it?
Ah, but they didn’t, nearly two years later, Primeval is back. Is it better than before?
For those perhaps not in the loop, Primeval, an ITV science fiction program about temporal anomalies opening corridors between different times and the present, often allowing nasties such as dinosaurs into our own time, ran for 3 successful – if dubiously plotted and scientifically inaccurate – seasons, but, the global economic crisis combined with ITV financial difficulties lead to cost-cutting measures. Primeval, a CGI-heavy series, had to go, but creative financing has brought the show back to our screens. (Well, back to some people’s screens, anyway.)
At the end of the previous series, Danny Quinn, team leader at the Anomaly Research Center (the ARC) was trapped, perhaps forever, in the Pleistocene, having defeated Helen Cutter’s evil plans to destroy mankind. Helen had been killed by a velociraptor that had followed them through the anomaly and Quinn was cut off.
Meanwhile, Abby and Conner had been trapped in the Cretaceous, also with little hope of an anomaly opening on its own.
One year later, with a Spinosaur on their trail, Conner and Abby find Helen Cutter’s anomaly control device and manage to return to the present day, brining a Spinosaur with them. They find themselves face-to-face with the new ARC team and must all work together to stop the Spinosaur.
Typically the analysis section of these reviews is where I rip the piss-poor science and ridiculous temporal-plotting, but this episode is something new… there’s really nothing in it. It’s a straight-forward melodrama with no twists or turns and, once past the notion of the anomalies and creatures traveling through time there’s nothing in that to pick on, either.
There are a couple things to note, first, the ARC has been turned into a “public/private partnership” and new character, Philip, Nobel-prize winning genius and inventor of the room-temperature super-conductor now seems to co-own the ARC, and is clearly in a superior position – if equal on paper – with Ben Miller’s returning character of Lester.
Of the old crew, only Becker survived in the present, and he’s been made second-in-command to a new Irish guy who is so non-descript I have to wait for someone to call him by name before I can remember what it is. (OK, I just looked it up, his name is Matt.)
Matt has a secret, he seems to be collaborating with an elderly gentlemen and, if their remarks are to be believed, they’re working together to save the world, and Matt is searching for someone at the ARC.
My pet theory is that the old man is actually Danny Quinn, returned via anomaly to some point in the past and having lived his entire life waiting for this time. I’ve got nothing to support that; however, in the “summary” at the beginning of the episode, we saw the actors faces of Conner, Abby, even dead characters like Cutter and Helen, but we only ever saw the back of Danny Quinn’s head or a quick shot where his face was obscured. If the character has been written out of the show, why would they hide his face and not the others?
Considering it was such a long time coming, I’ve not got much to say about it.
A couple months ago, I purchased a Garmin 1490T GPS at Costco. Although I’ve wanted a car GPS for some time, but couldn’t justify it just for driving around Phoenix. The pending trip to DisneyLand, smack in the middle of the freeway hell that is the Los Angeles metropolitan area, was ample justification. While I’ve had the unit and have gotten very familiar with its operation, I didn’t want to review it until it had its trial by fire.
I’m pleased to report that the unit came through with flying colors, in fact, it exceeded my expectations at every level. There was only one instance when I took a wrong turn and, to be honest, it was entirely my own fault. I made an assumption that the GPS was wrong and… it turns out I was wrong and it was right. We’ll say no more about that.
The 1490T has a large touchscreen interface, but unlike the iPhone’s glass screen, the 1490T has a soft plastic screen, which isn’t very responsive compared to the iPhone. I found myself having to push extra times on the screen, particularly when entering text. Apart from that, the interface is logical and easy to navigate.
The unit comes equipped with the ability to speak street names, and has several “voices” it can use. I’ve chosen to use the female “British” voice, but there are both male and female voices in American, British and Australian accents. The accents aren’t particularly strong, but it was initially confusing by the British voice’s insistent to call on-ramps and off-ramps “slip roads”. It’s a term I’ve never heard.
The GPS can also use a variety of voices in other languages, as well as ones you create and load yourself; however, these voice give only generic instructions such as “turn right” instead of speaking the street names, as in “turn right on N Beaver Rd.”
In particular, the feature that turned out to be the most helpful was the “free” traffic updates. These updates are supplied by FM radio in major metropolitan areas and are ad-sponsored, and so periodically, ads for Red Lobster pop up (discretely) on the screen. The GPS takes your current route and compares it to the traffic database and arrives at a delay estimate, which is displayed on the screen. The GPS compares your current route, including traffic delays, against other routes to the same destination. If an alternate route is determined to be faster the GPS changes your route to avoid the problem.
I’d tested this a number of times in Phoenix and it was less than impressive. The unit would show me that there was a delay of several minutes, but would not re-route me. You can have it show you where the traffic problems are and even “force” it to avoid the traffic; however, in every instance it would complain it me, telling me this really was the best route and even if I told it to avoid anyway, it didn’t seem to do so.
If you know anything about the route from Phoenix to Los Angeles, you’ll know there aren’t any practical alternatives to Interstate I-10. Once you’ve gotten a certain distance outside of Phoenix (around 400th Ave), I-10 is the only choice for crossing the vast wasteland in any kind of direct route. Other alternatives take you hundreds of miles out of the way.
As we left town on I-10, at around 130th Ave, the traffic delay indicator started to go crazy. FIrst it read 10 minutes delay, then 20, 30, 45 and finally 53 minutes before it announced it was recalculating due to severe traffic. It then routed us along a series of byways as we got progressively farther out into the middle of nowhere and it finally returned us to I-10 at 339th Ave, at which point we could see there was a major construction project and that traffic was backed up in both directions as far as the eye could see.
There was a second couple traveling in a different car about an hour behind us. They chose not to heed my warning and spent two hours stuck in the jam. For this event alone, the Garmin 1490T GPS has won a permanent place in my car on road trips.
I recommend this GPS.
Recently in conversation, the topic of using the Flip HD and the Kodak Zi8 mini-camcorders came up, and specifically, how well do they work with Apple products, like iMovie. As it happens, I own both the Flip and the Kodak camera, so I put down a few thoughts on them. For anyone who might find this comparison helpful, here then in a slightly edited and revised version of those thoughts.
I’ll start by saying that, as a camera, I prefer the Zi8 in virtually every way to the Flip HD with the exception of the shape of the bottom of its case, which is, I admit, a rather trivial – but valid – complaint.
As far as I can see, picture quality, macro ability, picture format options (30 or 60 fps, for example), SDHC card compatibility, spare battery capable, low-light ability… in every way, the Zi8 surpasses the Flip. It’s my “go to” HD camera – although I use my iPhone 4 often because it is always with me; however, as a camera, the iPhone 4 is still pretty limited.
My complaint about the “bottom” of the Zi8 is simply this: It’s rounded. Both have tripod sockets, but with the Flip, the flat bottom means you can, in a pinch, stand the camera on a table. The Zi8’s round bottom makes that virtually impossible, making a tripod mount absolutely necessary.
So, as a camera, the Zi8 is my preference, but if the question is: Which camera works best with a Mac (or, perhaps I should say, “Apple products” then I’d have to say that the Flip is somewhat more compatible.
First, let’s look how it works with the iPad.
I’m starting with the iPad because it is probably the most inflexible environment to use the camera with and supports a narrow range of formats as opposed to the Mac.
If you want to use a camera of any kind with the iPad, you must have the iPad Camera Connection Kit, which is a pair of dongles for the iPad. One is a USB dongle, which allows you to connect a standard USB cable to the iPad and then connect that to a camera, just as you might connect your camera to your computer. The other is an SD card reader, for plugging SD cards directly into your iPad. (These dongles can only be used to get stuff onto your iPad, not back off of it.)
Both the Flip and the Zi8 have built-in USB connectors so that they may be plugged into a computer without having to carry a cable. This is a great feature, but a little awkward depending on what other USB devices you have and the configuration of your computer. The Zi8’s is flexible and allows slightly greater freedom in connecting the camera to a computer. The Flip’s is fixed and I always have to disconnect all other USB devices from my MacBook Pro before I connect it. You could, of course, use an extension cable, but that defeats the purpose of having the connector built-in.
Using the camera connection kit USB Connector the Flip connects and the videos can be imported directly into the iPad. Under the same circumstances, the Zi8 causes the iPad to complain that it needs “too much current” and it will not recognize the device. Score one point for the Flip.
Using the camera connection kit SD Card Connector the Flip cannot connect because it doesn’t use SD cards. The Zi8’s cards are easily read and imported. Score one for the Zi8.
I’m going to make a note here that under each camera’s appropriate connection method, you can see thumbnails of the videos. That’s good because you sometimes don’t want to import every picture or video and you need to see a thumbnail to decide which ones to import.
However, once the videos have been imported into the iPad… you can no longer see the Zi8’s thumbnails… you get a generic icon that says “movie”. The Flip ones have thumbnails and can be watched on the iPad. You cannot see a thumbnail or play the Zi8 video on the iPad. That’s 2 points (thumbnail and playable video) for the Flip and non for the Zi8.
So, if you’re using the Flip with the iPad exclusively, I’d clearly recommend the Flip as the superior camera in terms of usability with the computer equipment. This is especially likely to be important if Apple ever releases iMovie for the iPad. Flip videos may be immediately editable. Zi8 videos almost certainly will not.
The Mac and iMovie
Let’s ignore everything I said about the iPad now and concentrate solely on the Mac. In this instances, I am referring to the iLife ’11 series of software. I was using them on older versions, but I’ll confine my remarks solely to the current version.
If you plug either camera in, iPhoto sees them as cameras and will import and play the videos. No problem and this is how I use both cameras, importing the videos directly into iPhoto ands then using them in iMovie from within iPhoto. They both work fine.
The Flip comes with some nasty video management software which is, at least, fully Mac compatible. I don’t like this software, but it does work. It is not necessary and can be ignored. On the other hand, this software also does the firmware updates to the Flip, so ignore it at your peril. There have been several updates since I bought the Flip. I do like the fact that the Flip has a planned mechanism for updating their firmware.
The Zi8 has none of that, and, as far as I can tell, no firmware updates since I bought it, nor does there seem to be a user-friendly way to do the updates when they do happen.
However, iMovie also has the capability to import directly from the camera, selecting only the clips you need, if you prefer to work that way. iMovie recognizes the Flip as a camera, it does not recognize the Zi8 as a camera. You have to get your Zi8 videos in from iPhoto or direct file import. Score one for Flip.
Otherwise, all things are about equal.
So… if I and my iPad were on the road without computer, and I need to view my videos, the Flip would be the better way to go.
On the Mac, since I use iPhoto to organize my videos anyway, this isn’t an issue and I use the same workflow for both cameras, therefore I prefer the better and more flexible Zi8 as a camera.
Friday was a state furlough day. While the school were still operating, the entire machinery of the state of Arizona was closed (and unpaid, of course, that was the whole point.) With nothing to do and no family around, I was going to attend to miscellaneous tasks around the house – until the air conditioning died late Thursday night. Summer is running long this year and it’s still well over 100 every day. Air conditioning repair companies are swamped and it’s nearly impossible to get a good technician to look at a dodgy unit on short notice. We have a reliable company that we use and they were able to get someone out towards the end of the day Friday.
The practical upstart of the whole situation is that I needed to abandon the house for the entire day and could not retreat to the office.
I decided I was going to try two things:
- First, make a movie with the iPhone and the iPhone version of iMovie. I had tried this on the day I got the phone, but made a horrible mess of it. I was unable to cut and assemble the scenes as needed and learned I needed to adjust my shooting style, and
- Go to as many Apple Stores as necessary to get an iPad Camera Connection Kit, which is never in stock. I figured I’d probably have to go to all of them and still not get one. Of course, I could have called, but how would that kill an entire day?
With nothing more than that in mind, I headed off on my trek.
I did vaguely attempt to make a few different types of shots, such as close-ups, using both the front and back camera, using the video light, moving shots, walking talking shots, etc. From my first attempt I also knew not to cut the shots too close. You want plenty of pre-roll and post-roll footage, as I didn’t have much luck with frame accurate editing.
After spending the day taking a series of mostly extemporaneous shots as the mood hit me, I came back home – and while suffering still without A/C, I set about editing it with the iPhone iMovie app.
A lot of people have remarked how wonderful it is, but to me, it’s extremely restrictive and difficult, suitable for 5 or 6 shot, “cuts only” editing. Trying to string together 15-20 shots from a collection of 25-30 is tough. Let’s start with the work flow. Let’s assume we’ve already shot the footage and it is (obviously) on the phone.
You start by creating a project. Currently there are four themes and you cannot choose “none” although if you don’t use any theme elements, you essentially have chosen none. You cannot combine elements from one theme with elements from another (exception: the music) As far as I can tell the theme dictates only three things – the titles, the transitions and the music.
Once you have a new project, you can start dropping things in. Select new video media and your library of video is shown, as film strips, in reverse order. If you’ve shot your program linearly as I did, you scroll to the bottom, find your clip and tap it – it’s tossed into the project at the end of the clip that’s currently on the “playhead”. Note: it doesn’t place the clip AT the playhead, it skips to the end of that clip and places the new clip. There is no insert/overwrite editing.
There is no way to inspect the clip in the bin before placing it, and there’s no information, not even the name, provided, meaning you have to guess what clip you want based on the opening frames. In “Bad Day in Phoenix” I shot mostly in order and deleted outtakes before editing. if it had been many shots with similar locations, a slate would have been essential. Just the ability to preview the clip before inserting it would be very helpful.
Clips are automatically placed with a .5 second crossfade. You can double click the transition placed between the clips and change the duration or change to a simple cut or the “theme’s” transition.
Trimming the clip is achieved by taping the clip once, then grabbing the pin at either end and sliding in or out. It’s not very precise and doesn’t play audio so it’s hard to line up shots. I found it difficult to trim the shots the way I wanted.
The program is not without bugs, too. Sometimes clips wouldn’t play their audio. On the next pass they would. Since everything was shot on the phone, it shouldn’t be an incompatibility with the clips. Nonetheless, one clip never played audio and didn’t even render with audio and I had to delete it from the movie. The clip plays just fine, with audio, in the phone’s photo application.
Titles are placed over a single clip, and seem to run the entire duration of the clip (minus transitions). You have three kinds, opening, middle and closing. Essentially opening and closing are title cards and middle is roughly a lower third. You cannot position them to start at any location than the start of a clip. Nor can I find any way to “split” a clip that’s in the timeline (this would allow you to trick the title to appear on just the segment of the clip you wanted and would also be handy for attempting to simulate an insert edit.)
Considering the type camera, and the prominence it was given in iMovie HD for the Mac, I’m surprised you do a simple 90 degree rotation of a clip. It’s fairly common that people using digital cameras to record video forget that it’s landscape only and shoot in portrait mode. iMovie HD “fixes” that easily. iPhone iMovie does not. I made that mistake twice while shooting this movie, luckily, you might think it was as artistic choice. It wasn’t.
The clips audio can be turned on an off. There is no way to adjust the volume so you cannot normalize the audio between one clip and the next.
You can law down some audio, which can be either any of the themes’ music selections or anything from your iPod. You cannot place the music where you want it, it simply starts at the beginning of the project and moves towards the end.
You also cannot insert audio from you voice note recorder and so cannot record narration and lay it down over the video, nor can you overlay audio from another movie clip. This means I had to narrate each shot as it was recorded, which is a very inflexible and inelegant solution.
Rendering the video was also a problem. The 15 minute video is 1.2GB, the various clips used to make the video were closer to 2GB. With 6 GB free on the phone, I was unable to render the video. My phone ran out of space. I had to change my sync options and put far less of my music collection on the phone to get enough room to process the video.
The quality of most of the video was really good and I have no complaints about the finished output (no complaints that couldn’t be explained by the lack of choices in the editing and shooting process.) For short, quick features, iPhone iMovie can produce a remarkably polished, but it is not suitable for much more. You can do much, much better by loading the footage into iMovie on a Mac and editing it there. You can’t do that in the field, though.
Next, I might try editing it on the iPad.
Oh, and here’s the movie:
What to do when it’s 109º outside, you’re off work for the day with nothing to do and you air conditioning goes out at home and won’t be fixed until the evening?
That was my dilemma today. See how the Apple Store solved my problem of what to do!
This video was shot, edited and rendered entirely on an iPhone 4 using iMovie. My intent was nothing more than experiment with the onboard features to see how robust they were.
Back on July 17th, I ordered an iPhone 4.
I knew about the so-called antenna-gate problem, and I waited until Uncle Steve gave the word for free iPhone bumpers/cases to mitigate the problem. I’d also been down to the Apple Store and checked out the issue myself. Even inside the Apple Store it was apparent that signal strength was distinctly altered by the way you held the phone, but, the potential for problem that this might cause versus the benefits was not sufficient to stop me from ordering one. Especially since I had always intended to have some form of bumper case on the iPhone 4. It was clear that Apple would be supplying free bumpers, but details of how that would happen were not yet announced.
Now I can tell you why their plan blows.
I was given an estimated delivery date of August 12th because of the backorders! I would have ordered a bumper at the same time, but they weren’t available to be ordered (for free of for cost) because of the pending free bumper program.
So, would I just get a bumper along with the phone? No, when the details of the program were released, it turns out you have to download an app for the iPhone 4 and order from there. I heard a lot of people say how clever that was. Bullshit, it was.
Until I received my phone, I wouldn’t be able to order the (necessary) bumper. Inconvenient, but I supposed I would be able to live with it for 3 or 4 days until my bumper could arrive after I ordered it.
Last Monday I received shipment notification that my phone had left China, arriving on August 9th, although the Fedex website said August 10th. It arrived in Alaska by Wednesday and there it stayed, and was, according to their site, still in Alaska when I left work Friday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when it was sitting in my house when I got home 30 minutes later!
For grins, I checked the Fedex website and my phone was still in Alaska. 2 hours later and the website was updated to show that it had been traveling down the coast since Wednesday.
My first order of business was to get the phone activated. When you upgrade an existing phone via mail order, when the new phone is plugged in, it automatically transfers the service from the old phone, and this process was fairly painless. My old phone shut down within 5 minutes and my new phone activated within 5 minutes after that. I restored the backup from my old phone and that, ultimately, took many hours. Once it started to sync music, I got bored with watching my new phone do nothing and cancelled the sync and saved it for bedtime.
Once the phone was in my hands, I started checking all my applications. All my passwords were gone, but that’s a minor inconvenience and probably a “good idea anyway”. Once I got that sorted out, we went out to dinner for some field testing.
Without a bumper, in places, I’m having significant problems with signal strength. On some occasions, when I pull the phone out of the holster, I have no 3G and No Service, which is well frustrating. Setting the phone on the table resolves the problem.
It was imperative that I order my bumper right away. Here’s why the program blows. I’ve already waited 3 weeks for the phone, which I have to have before I can order the bumper. Now, I have to wait another four weeks for the bumper! They need to get phones and bumpers into the customers’ hands at exactly the same time.
I’ve tried using a piece of plastic film over the sensitive antenna areas, and that helps, but it won’t stick, so I’m left holding my phone gingerly and awkwardly, or learning to type left handed while I wait for a glacially shipped bumper.
Enough griping about the bumper issue, lets talk about the phone.
I’m not a fan of the new form factor, which surprises me. I think I preferred the rounded edges. That said, the unit feels firm and solid in your hand, even a bit heavier than the old 3GS, but that may just an illusion. I do like the new buttons.
The new Retina display is awesome. Everything looks crisp and sharp. Even under a loupe it looks great.
The “new” camera produces nice pictures, but the flash and video light has a bluish cast to it. Still, it’s better than nothing. The distance of the flash seems pretty short, but adequate for shots in dark restaurants. There’s a certain quality of being lighted by a flashlight to it. The HD video is very nice, but I’ve yet to determine how much video I’ll actually be able to record, since my phone is perpetually 95% full of music.
Phone calls… I don’t know. I’m not due to make a phone call for a another few days. I’ll let you know when I’m forced to talk to somebody on the phone.
The processor is zippy and it feels as quick as the iPad.
Finally, the big thing is supposed to be battery life. It’s better. Difficult to quantify, though. Last night at about 11, my phone was down to 39% and I hadn’t done a lot of driving (My car stereo charges my phone) so that’s probably a bit better than the 3GS, but I’ve not suffered from the battery problems that other people report, perhaps because I don’t waste my time talking on the phone. I have noticed that when the 3GS has bad signal, batery life is seriously degraded. Since I don’t have a bumper and my signal is all over the place, my battery life may not be up to the capacity it would be if I had a bumper.
I want my bumper.
@steven_moffat and @markgatiss have got a winner in Sherlock, a new series on the BBC.
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ new series, Sherlock premiered last night on the BBC and the series is off to a cracking start.
There’s no questioning of either Moffat’s or Gatiss’ chops as aficionados of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective, Sherlock Holmes and their love for the character is plain to see on the screen. As a life-long aficionado of Holmes myself, I almost feel if they were writing just for me. A conceit on my part, to be sure, nonetheless, I consider that to be the highest praise I can give it. It was completely entertaining television and there was never any question that it was anything other than Sherlock Holmes.
For those not in-the-know, Sherlock is a new BBC series consisting of three, 90-minute stories. It is a modern-day retelling of the Holmes story. In the first story, Moffat’s A Study in Pink (a play on Conan Doyle’s original Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet) a wounded Afghanistan war veteran, Dr. John Watson returns to London and meets and takes lodgings with the world’s-only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Many Conan Doyle purists have complained about attempts to “update” Holmes now and in the past, but I’m not one of those. I grew up watching Basil Rathbone fights the Nazis. As a title card from the first “modern” Rathbone movie stated, Holmes is timeless and indeed he is! From my perspective as a child of the 1960’s, even the “updated” 1940’s Holmes stories were about the ancient past – and so too, someday, will Sherlock be viewed by some as yet unborn Holmes fans.
In Sherlock, Holmes is a nicotine-addicted, self-proclaimed, high-functioning sociopath. Like all incarnations of Holmes, his brain operates on a whole different level than us mere mortals. Holmes has no friends and is disliked by most of the police force, in particular the forensics team, but is tolerated (indeed, sought out) by DCI Lestrade.
John Watson is returning war veteran, wounded in the line of duty. As the story starts he is suffering from a psychosomatic problem with his leg. He’s been encouraged by his therapist to keep a blog, which will no doubt reflect the modern-day equivalent of Watson’s journals of Holmes’ adventures. Was it just good timing that the this modern series has taken place at a point in history where, like the Victorian original, Watson can be returning from a war in Afghanistan?
In their first adventure, Holmes probes a mysterious case of “serial suicides”, which are, of course, actually murders.
A Study in Pink doesn’t pretend to be a remake of A Study in Scarlet, although some scenes are cut whole-cloth from the original. As an original story, they have avoided having the audience know who the dastardly villain is until the conclusion of the story, yet by using parts of the original, the entire thing just feels right as a Holmes story. The story struck a nice balance between a new story and the necessary legacy of the Holmes we all know and love.
Benedict Cumberbatch puts in a great turn as Holmes. His voice, appearance and mannerisms are spot on. Cumberbatch’s Holmes is younger than what we’re used to seeing onscreen, but let’s not forget, when Holmes and Watson met in A Study in Scarlet, Watson would have been a young doctor, fresh from medical school and then into military service, and Holmes was a student. In Sherlock, they’ve cast accordingly.
Martin Freeman is Dr. Watson and also puts in a solid performance, although so far, he has far less personality than Holmes. Whenever I see him on screen, I can’t help thinking of John Simm’s Sam Tyler. Perhaps it’s his appearance or perhaps it’s the competent, no-nonsense professional character tossed into a mad, bizarre world that makes me think of Simm. Either way, he may turn out to be the most useful Watson to date.
If I had any complaints at all about this episode, it would have to be with the direction. At several points the use of a split-screen to emphasis two different pieces of action or to cut between successive scenes is gratuitous and distracting. At other times, through the use of onscreen titles and gimmicks, the director attempts to visualize Holmes’ thought process for the audience. It reminded me a bit too much of the TV Series Psych in that it highlighted what was catching Holmes’ eye. It went further by actually writing his observations on the screen.
This technique might have worked if Holmes didn’t have to then turn around and explain everything to the other characters in the room, anyway. Watson is our tool for understanding Holmes’ brilliance and I don’t think the flashy on-screen graphics in any way enhanced the story. Perhaps in a situation where Holmes couldn’t or wouldn’t have an opportunity to explain it might be better, but if we know what Holmes is seeing and thinking, where is the joy of “the reveal” that was so all-important in the Holmes literature?
None of that was distracting enough to diminish my enjoyment of the story at all.
Finally, it’s been questioned if a modern-day Holmes story could compete in this age of CSI and high-tech crime scene forensics. Forensics was, of course, completely in its infancy when Holmes was first conceived. Conan-Doyle’s own professor that Holmes was loosely based upon, was an early advocate of the careful, methodical examination of the clues that are overlooked by everyone, but in this age of DNA analysis and computer programs to analyze blood spatter patterns, has Holmes and his “amateur detecting” got anything to add?
Indeed he does. While forensics investigations have taken on the necessary methodological and technological tools to thoroughly document and analyze, Holmes is able to spot and sift the important pieces nearly instantaneously and his deductive powers from that evidence leaps beyond the methodical into the magical. It is only afterwards when it is explained that we feel like we should have been able to see that, too. Forensics will find hair fiber and DNA evidence and help link someone to a crime scene, but Holmes will deduce from the age and wear patterns of a wedding ring that woman is a serial adulterer. This has always been the appeal of Sherlock Holmes, for the he is the archetype thinking-man’s hero.
The hero that gives us the hope that, if we’re just smart enough and observant enough, everything will always make sense.
Unfortunately, that isn’t true, and until the day it is, Holmes will live on in any age for any generation.