Earlier in the Compose Desktop / Skia explorations:

Today, we’re going to look at the recent addition in Skia – shader-based image filters, that are available as render effects in Compose Desktop. These filters operate on the content of the specific render node in the Compose hierarchy, allowing for effects like this to be implemented with a single composite shader (visuals are from this article):

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Continuing the ongoing series of interviews with creative artists working on various aspects of movie and TV productions, it is my pleasure to welcome Ricardo Diaz. In this interview he talks about the art and craft of cinematography, the transition of the industry from film to digital, the variety of screens on our lives, and the impact of the ongoing pandemic on his industry. Around these topics and more, Ricardo dives deep into his work on the recently released “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

Kirill: Please tell us about yourself and the path that took you to where you are today.

Ricardo: I’m Ricardo Diaz, originally from a small town in South Texas, and I’m a cinematographer based out of Los Angeles. I am where I am today because I love movies. I grew up in a part of the world where there wasn’t a whole lot of things to do with your spare time, and my family really loves the cinema. So growing up, I watched a lot of movies with them. We went to the movie theater all the time, and it was one of the many bonding moments that we had, watching a movie and then talking about it.

At some point my passion for it made me realize that this is something that could be turned into a living. I happened to be growing up at a time when analog was already shifting to digital in the consumer market. You could access software that allowed you start cutting digital footage and just experiment. It became accessible to me when I was young, thanks to the internet, Apple computers, and MiniDV cameras.

The movie that made me want to make movies was “Superman” by Richard Donner. At one point I went back and watched it again, and I remember seeing that it was dedicated to Geoffrey Unsworth. I didn’t know who he was and what he did, but thanks to the internet I looked him up, and he turned out to be the director of photography on the movie. Then I went down the rabbit hole of the internet as to what that position was, and it really was in sync with all the things I loved about making these videos with my friends and family.

It was crafting the illusion, crafting the magic of cinema. It’s this blend of craft and artistry. It’s painting with light. And at that point I knew that I wanted to be a cinematographer. That is the path that I wanted to take, and I’ve pursued that relentlessly for the last 20 years. That is how and why I am here today, with a lot of support from my family who really encouraged me to pursue this.

Kirill: Do you feel that the transition from film to digital is complete, and perhaps there is no longer a debate on relative merits? Has the industry accepted, so to speak, that digital is the default choice?

Ricardo: I am of the opinion that it is a tool, and that they are both just matters of taste. And neither of them is right or wrong at this point.

Digital has caught up. It’s indisputable that you can make a digital image just as atmospheric, beautiful, and magical as film. Steve Yedlin has certainly proved time and time again that you can absolutely trick the eye using digital tools and digital capture to make it look almost imperceptibly different from film. So it’s really a matter of creative taste and vision, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer at this point. If you’re Christopher Nolan and you want to shoot film, shoot film. If you’re Sean Baker and you want to shoot 16mm and that’s right for your project, shoot Super 16. And if you want to make “The Avengers” and shoot on digital capture, do that.

There is no wrong answer. Every project is different, and it calls for something specific and unique for the creators. That’s where we’re at.

I almost feel like the transition to digital is so complete that many artists are trying to sneak some film back into the world just because they miss it. It’s this full circle situation where the past decade has seen digital become so dominant, and some people want to come back to film and try it again. That’s how you know the cycle is complete.

Kirill: Is this debate strictly confined to tighter circles within the industry? Is that something that the larger audience does not spend too much time thinking about?

Ricardo: It probably depends on the age range of the audience you’re speaking to. If you take somebody in their late teens or early twenties, and you ask them if it matters that “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is shot on 16mm the way the original was, you’ll hear that it doesn’t really matter to them.

The debate has raged on within tighter circles, but it’s quieting down a bit over the last few years. There are still a few famous and very vocal proponents carrying the flag, and I’m glad they are. I never want film to die. It’s another tool in the toolkit. It’s another canvas to paint on. We need to have different tools and different canvasses available to us, and it would be awful to lose that. But at this point, especially for younger audiences, most viewers don’t care about the medium itself. Of course you still have cinephiles of a certain age that are purists, and it has to be on film, and it has to be flickering 24 times a second. That is what the cinema is for them, and it still matters for them.

But in general, audiences want to be taken on an emotional ride. They want to escape for a few a bit, or be engaged for a bit, and the canvas just needs to be right for that story to them.


“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 2021, copyright Legendary, courtesy Netflix.

Kirill: Speaking of the canvas, I was watching the movie yesterday on my laptop instead of going downstairs and watching it on the bigger TV screen. Do you think that as an audience member I am missing something when I do see it on this smaller screen?

Ricardo: I think you are missing some things when you watch these films, especially those released in 2.39:1 aspect ratio. We, the filmmakers, put so much love and care into the details that make an image feel believable, or gruesome, or beautiful – whatever aim we are going for. There’s a lot of detail in that and it’s a sum of its parts. The smaller you are watching that image, the harder it becomes to see and feel like you’re getting those details.

Now I won’t specify what size at which you lose the ability to really see the details, but there definitely is an argument to be made about seeing it on as big a screen as possible in order to lose yourself in that illusion. I definitely hope that they don’t let you play Netflix movies on your Apple Watch at some point, because that would be disappointing.

I would always encourage you to see it on the biggest canvas as possible. And if for you that was your laptop, then great. I’m glad it was your laptop and not your phone. And if it was your phone, I hope it was an iPhone 13 Pro Max and not an iPhone Mini. It’s really about encouraging you to watch it on as big a screen as possible!

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Aurora 1.1.0

February 24th, 2022

It gives me great pleasure to announce the second major release of Aurora. Let’s get to what’s been fixed, and what’s been added. First, I’m going to use emojis to mark different parts of it like this:

💔 marks an incompatible API / binary change
🎁 marks new features
🔧 marks bug fixes and general improvements

Dependencies for core libraries

  • Compose Desktop: 1.0.0 ➡ 1.1.0
  • Kotlin: 1.5.31 ➡ 1.6.10
  • Gradle: 7.3 ➡ 7.4

Release notes

  • 🎁 More interaction granularity for command button actions
    • Auto-repeat action. Enabled with autoRepeatAction boolean, initial delay configured by autoRepeatActionInterval, subsequent delays configured by autoRepeatSubsequentInterval
    • Fire action trigger, configured with actionFireTrigger and the new ActionFireTrigger enum that has three values:
      • OnRollover to fire action on rollover
      • OnPressed to fire action on press
      • OnPressReleased to fire action on press release (the default)
  • 🎁 Add a breadcrumb bar composable for quick navigation of multi-level hierarchies, such as file systems, XML documents or abstract syntax trees. See documentation.
  • 🎁 Support shader-based fill painters.
  • 💔 Revisit the signature of shader-based decoration painters for API consistency.
  • 💔 Convert command button panel to use lazy loading. Major performance improvements for panels with thousands+ elements.
  • 🔧 Fix incorrect alignment of command button panel content when the content fits without the need to kick in scrolling.
  • 🔧 Eliminate flash of color artifacts on opening popup windows.
  • 🔧 Use bold font weight on decorated window titles.
  • 🔧 Fix text overflow in command button panels with really long text on individual commands.
  • 🔧 Fixexceptions when window is made smaller than the original size and starts to cut off some of the content.
  • 🔧 Fix the display name in Cerulean skin definition.

This release (code-named Blizzard) brings a couple of new APIs, and otherwise is focused on stabilizing and improving the overall API surface of the various Aurora modules. There’s still a long road ahead to expand Aurora’s capabilities in 2022 and beyond, with the ribbon / command bar planned as the next big addition. If you’re in the business of writing Compose Desktop apps, I’d love for you to take Aurora for a spin. Stay frosty for more features coming in 2022!

Continuing the ongoing series of interviews with creative artists working on various aspects of movie and TV productions, it is my pleasure to welcome Etzel Ecleston. In this interview she talks about the art and craft of makeup, and her work on “Archive 81”.

Kirill: Please tell us about yourself.

Etzel: My name is Etzel Ecleston, and I was one of the Department Heads on “Archive 81”. It was brought to my attention that a Key Makeup Artist’ position was available due to the initial Makeup Department Head moving on to another project. I was referred to the project by fellow colleagues as they knew this is the type of makeup genre that I truly enjoy. It has action, suspense and it has special effects as well.

While filming the last couple of episodes, an opportunity came up where I was promoted to Makeup Department Head.

Kirill: And stepping back a little bit towards the beginning of your career, what brought you into the field of makeup, and more specifically into doing makeup for visual storytelling?

Etzel: I started out at the MAC cosmetics counter as a makeup artist, and there I fell in love with being able to change someone’s emotions if they were feeling down prior to doing their makeup. That was a good practice to speak to people and to have a multitude of people in one’s makeup chair.

After 2-3 years I found that as I was binge watching movies, and I was sitting all the way through the end credits to see who did the makeup. A lot of people like myself watch Marvel movies and stay for the post-credit scenes, but I was also doing that to see the makeup department credits. I wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry, and I became involved in independent films. I joined the makeup union, which opened the doors to meet amazing people within the entertainment industry, and to get referred for amazing projects that I have been blessed to be working on.

Kirill: As you joined the industry and saw the behind-the-scene making of the movie magic, has it reduced in any way your enjoyment as a viewer?

Etzel: I like being able to see how things are broken down. I love contributing to these stories, and I love being able to see how a story comes together. There is no disappointment or loss of enjoyment in seeing how that magic is made. I love being a part of this collaborative effort.


Julia Chan as Anabelle Cho in episode 108 of “Archive 81”. Courtesy Netflix.

Kirill: Our home screens keep on getting bigger and higher resolution. Do you find that you need to do more, or maybe do things a bit differently as both digital cameras and our screens are getting that much more detailed?

Etzel: It definitely depends on what the character calls for. Certain executive producers and directors don’t like seeing a lot of makeup on the actors for specific scenes of the characters being portrayed. As a makeup department head, you have to remember what the director is asking for, and sometimes have to compromise remembering the cameras have much higher resolutions.

On “Archive 81” we have Melody Pendras placed in 1994, and her makeup was designed with the idea that she is a graduate student who doesn’t have a lot of money, but who still wants to look presentable. Then, that drives the choice of specific products on her face that would also look historically correct. Generally, it’s about what the character is calling for.

Kirill: Do you find that natural look is something that people assume is easier to do compared with more elaborate period makeup?

Etzel: Sometimes it is perceived that way by people who are not in the entertainment industry or are not makeup artists. In my opinion, it is not quite so. We have higher resolutions, such as 4K, and sometimes you do have to do a little bit more work for the person to look completely “natural” and the products that you use have a big influence on that.

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