Watching independent film rather than mainstream cinema

When I saw the Wired headline below I was happily going to say that I haven’t been to see a film at the cinema in years but that isn’t strictly true. As you have seen from my blog I have been an active appreciator of independent films. I was at FIFAD earlier this month and I was at the Montagne En Scène a few months ago. I have been to a few film screenings at the Graduate institute among other places.

I have been to see quite a few films this year
I have been to see quite a few films this year

I love watching good films and I love going to the cinema but at the moment there isn’t a single mainstream film that I want to see. Every single film is filled with CGI and fantasy and as I have joked about why would I spend 25 swiss francs on a film ticket to go to a film screen at a specific time when I could watch youtube gameplay videos and discover the story at the same time as the youtuber.

Last week I decided to stop my netflix subscription for two reasons. The first reason is that the content is crap. As they have a selection of films that have recently been shown at the cinema there is nothing that makes me think “That’s what I want to spend the next 90 minutes of my life watching.

Imagine if Netflix showed more extreme sports, adventure, environmental and other films. Imagine if they showed films that make us dream and aspire to more. Films need to be for other people than sci-fi geeks. They need to be for sports enthusiasts, for people that follow current affairs and for people that live in the real, rather than fictional world.

When I was living in the South West of England I went to the cinema ninety times in 9 months and what burned out was not my passion for the cinema but my ability to watch the same story line over and over again. The lack of creativity and originality is destroying people’s desire to go to the cinema. I have no reason to go to Pathé or other cinema complexes around Geneva because they do not show the films that I want to see. They do not address my niche.

Montagne en Scène, FIFAD and I think the Coupe Icare film festival fulfil my desire to watch films. They cover topics that I am either interested in passionate about.

Les Icares du Cinema 2015 from coupeicare on Vimeo.

Doesn’t the trailer for the film festival make you want to go? Don’t you want to watch people pushing themselves to the limit of their courage and endurance? I watch a trailer for an event like this and I definitely want to go. It fills my desire to challenge myself through the sports I do but also to see beautiful scenery and lanscapes. Why would I want to go and see CGI films when I can see extreme athletes challenge themselves and their equipment to the limits. Watch the video below.

Coupe Icare 2016 from coupeicare on Vimeo.

I watched this video at least twice and you see that whilst hollywood is filling its films with make believe the independent sector is documenting those with a real adventurous spirit. Imagine going to the event for the film festival and staying for the aerobatics.

For years now the film industry has been re-hashing the same content with no appreciation of societal changes. As a result they fail to capture our imagination and our desire to spend money. They need to inject new blood and find new creative directions that will make us want to go to the multiplexes rather than independent events. I enjoy the multiplex experience but the content dissuades me.

A 360 Video of planes landing – An experiment

Waiting for planes to land

I prepared a 360 Video of planes landing at Geneva International Airport yesterday afternoon. Watching planes land, especially when you’re right underneath them just as they’re about to touch down is a lot of fun. You see the lights in the distance and slowly those lights approach. There is a point after which everything speeds up and the sound gets louder. The plane flies right over you and you see the landing gear, the engines and you see the plane correct as the wind buffets it from side to side. You see it skew and then you’re turning around very quickly and you watch it land.

With a conventional camera or tripod this is a challenge to film because tripods are designed to pan and tilt but not in this manner. If you wanted to film landings from the position I was in you would need to build a rig that tilts up and then when the plane is directly overhead swivels and then tilts back down. With a conventional tripod this takes practice to get right.

360 cameras are an interesting alternative for camera operators because rather than move the camera it is the viewer that changes the direction in which he is looking. He watches the plane approach, looks up as it flies overhead and then swivels around to see it touch down.

I filmed 18 landings. Some of the aircraft are A-320s and others are private jets. I would have liked to get one of the A-340s that lands at Geneva but I was not that lucky. When viewing this footage I notice that the underside of the aircraft is dark. When you watch this in person then you see a lot of detail which the camera was unable to pick up. I look forward to when we can film 360 videos with full control of the device.


The Theta+ Video app is available

Yesterday the Theta+ Video app came out for Android. The Theta+ video app allows you to trim video clips and then share them to social networks. This means that you no longer need to wait until you get home to prepare content for sharing. You can do it while you sit and have a post activity hot chocolate or other drink.

Video options
Video options

When you select the raw video it is converted to be a spherical video. When that process completes you can choose between creating a 360 degree video or a cropped one. A cropped one is a tinyworld video.

Filters, Trim and music
Filters, Trim and music

The next menu gives you three choices, filters, trim or background music. I never bother with filters and the trim option is fiddly on the Sony Xperia Z5 compact with a 13 minute video. With a shorter video I would have found this process easier. Saving is not intuitive. First you trim the video and then you go back and save the changes. While saving you need to keep the app open.

The sharing options are to Facebook, youtube and other social networks. This varies according to which apps you have on your phone. I like that the two first options are facebook and youtube as these are the networks that I usually share to. When I tried to upload to youtube it failed twice. When I attempted to upload to Facebook it was stuck at 99 percent twice.

This is a great app to trim videos before sharing and add some music when required. What I would like to see in future versions is the ability to compile a number of 360 videos together to create edited sequences. They need to improve uploading so that it works better. At the moment of posting all attempts to share videos failed.

Thoughts on Youtube Backstage

Youtube backstage is a consequence of Youtube comments not playing nicely within Google+. Google+ is a pleasant social network where people who want to have conversations and share pictures can meet and broaden their horizons. It is a place where you can write comments that are as long or as short as you want. Misunderstandings, as a result are less common.

The idea of youtube backstage is to expand youtube channels so that content creators can share images, polls and more. In so doing Youtube would provide people with a one stop shop. The need for twitter, instagram and facebook would be reduced.

Some youtube content creators have from two hundred thousand to ten million followers. With such a big audience youtube pages would become self contained communities. If you’re watching No Man Sky videos rather than commenting on episode videos you will comment on the game. Would this encourage people to move away from Reddit?

One of the most interesting benefits of youtube implementing text, images and polls is that it would create an environment in which for advertisers to be seen without distracting people from the content. When you watch youtube videos you see pre-roll videos and banners. When videos are longer an advert is shown after a certain number of minutes. With text, images and polls adverts could be shown for longer. As channels are themed adverts will be relevant to the channel rather than a person’s browsing history.

I spent a few weeks watching content created by youtubers. In that time I have watched “series” and “episodes”. If youtube finds a way to monetise the niches that content creators have built up over time then Google and Youtube will benefit. People will go from passive viewing and occasional commenting to active conversations. Conversations make social networks sticky. A sticky social network provides value for advertisers. Advertisers provide funding to content creators and this provides content creators with a higher income, providing them with the incentive to do more of the same.

A Climbing Two year Old

A Climbing two year old is ordinary. They try to climb on to chairs, they climb to stand up. They climb up the stairs and the swings. What is less ordinary is for a two year old to rock climb like a grown up. As I watch the video below what inspires me the most is to see such a young human climb like a grown up. She learned by watching others and by being given the opportunity to practice at home and in climbing gyms.

This video makes me happy because it is nice to see such a young person learn to climb. If I had been given the support and opportunity, and if the sport had been more evolved, then I too would have started climbing at a young age. I used to climb trees, climb on to garage roofs and occasionally climb rocks from which I could eventually get down. I had to wait until I was more than 20 years old before I could climb my first “dalle”. This child was given access to that world from a very young age. Her first memory will surely be of climbing.

To make this story news worthy they had to add conflict of course. They had to speak about how some people who watch this think that it is dangerous to allow a child to climb. As the mother said “When she climbs in the gym we are watching her and she has 19 inch thick matts to fall on. The playground and the street are more dangerous”. They go on to say that she face planted on a street. Every single child does that. That’s the beauty of being a child. You’re bound to fall, cry, be picked up by your parents, and then a few minutes later start playing again. Climbing when you’re with the right people is no different. When and if I have children I will teach them about snowboarding and rock climbing and snorkelling. I want to pass on my passions. I want them to be the next generation of sports enthusiasts.

Prison Architect Game Play videos fill a niche.

I sometimes envy people who produce gameplay videos because the barrier to entry is so low. In theory all you need is a microphone, a gaming PC or console, a capture card and the ability to talk without being asked questions. In essence you are providing an interior monologue whilst staring at a screen and playing a game. Prison Architect Game Play are an example of this trend.

The purpose of this game is to plan and then build a prison. You make sure that you stick within the budget, that the prison is clean and that you make enough money to survive and possibly even thrive. As you build one prison you can then sell it and keep the money to build a new prison.

Some game play videos are interesting because you discover a story at the same time as the person whom you are watching play the game. In other cases you watch people build parks or prisons and you get to live their experiences through the video. It brings us back to our youth when we watched our siblings play computer games. In this case though, the game player can have from two hundred thousand to four million people watch their videos.

On youtube these videos are monetised but I have not researched how much they make but view. I also noticed that if you watch these videos via Chromecast you do not see any of the adverts so I question how they monetise these videos when they are viewed on a television.

Climbing in Saint George – a short drive from Nyon and Morges

Climbing in Saint George is interesting for those living or working between Nyon and Morges. It provides routes from 4c to 7a and above and should cover most skill levels. Access time is a few seconds. You park your car near the lumber yard and a few seconds later you’re at the climbing wall. The image below is to show how short the walk is. It is also there to facilitate your finding the place should you want to climb here. I mention this because Sunday someone said that she liked to go to various climbing walls but that she often found it a challenge to spot the correct location.

The site that you see in this image varies from 4c to 6a+. The gradient is slightly positive so you are more likely to slip than slide. Most of the routes start easily but getting to the end is the challenge. Some of the finger holds are tiny and it’s better to use new shoes. I’m using old worn out climbing shoes so my traction is not optimal so I climb using my heels when possible.

To the right of the image above you have a small path that leads to a nice rock surface that is overhanging. Under this overhanging rock you find traces of barbecues, mattresses and a few quick draws. The climbing here is technical. It starts from 7a onwards so is more interesting for those climbers with the finger strength and endurance to attempt sustained overhanging climbs.

Saint George Overhang climbing
Saint George Overhang climbing

This is a nice location and if you walk further along, to behind the location from which I took this picture there is a cavern. This site looks interesting and yesterday there was an interesting sound. In a nearby valley or clearing Swiss military were practicing with .50 calibre guns. I called it artillery but a former British Marine classified the type of gun.

If I was given the choice between Dorénaz and Saint George I would choose Saint George for climbing because if I’m going to climb a wall by a road it might as well be after a short drive.

For further information on this climbing wall: Saint George

Climbing in Dorénaz

Dorénaz is a small village on the way to Sion and about 18 minutes from Saillon. It is also a few minutes from Aigle. I walked around the area before climbing two of the routes and I noticed that the rocks around here appeared to be magnetite. I saw rust where old climbing equipment had been removed. The magnetite idea came from the rust colour on some of the larger blocks that had broken free decades ago.

Climbing in Dorénaz
One of the climbing walls in Dorénaz

As I continued the exploration of the village I noticed that on one roundabout they have a mining wagon so I looked up the village but there was no mention of mining so I extended the research to include mining in the region. It is at this point that I found mentions of anthracite mining in this village. As this pdf illustrates coal mining was one of the local activities. The coal was hard to extract for two reasons. The first is that the deposits are only thin and they have been folded by geological activity. In 1881 they extracted 900 tons of coal from one of the deposits.

I did not expect that Dorénaz was going to be a former coal mining town.
I did not expect that Dorénaz was going to be a former coal mining town.

Ce tour d’horizon des mines et carrières de Dorénaz met en évidence la vocation particulière de cette commune. Elle sort du schéma habituel du Valais, ayant abandonné le «labourage » et le « pastourage » traditionnels. Les Diablerains – puisque c’est ainsi que l’on appelle les habitants de Dorénaz – se sont presque tous adonnés à l’industrie de la pierre. Elle leur a insufflé une extraordinaire dynamique économique : les Diablerains parcoururent la Romandie en livrant et posant leurs ardoises54. Il y a aussi eu un revers de médaille. Dorénaz a eu des allures de ville du Nord de la France avec ses façades noircies par la poussière du charbon. Et la silicose a frappé nombre de carriers.

That is what I noticed in the village. I saw two or three old chalets built on stilts like you expect to find. The church looks darker than in other villages. In the quote above they wrote “Dorénaz as the appearance of cities from the North of France with its coal darkened walls.”

Le charbon: un bassin houiller s’étend des bords du Léman, entre Lausanne et Montreux, jusqu’à Oron et Sensales/FR. Un très grand nombre de mines ont été exploitées de 1709 à la deuxième guerre mondiale, sur la base de 120 concessions attribuées. L’utilisation de ce charbon sera la cause de la première pollution de l’air sur les bords du Leman. D’autres mines importantes ont été exploitées par exemple entre Colonge et Dorénaz.


Dév : 5’000 m  Déniv. : 200 m
Remarque : anthracite

Source: Mines et carrières souterraines de Suisse romande.

I find it really interesting to read about how Polish coal miners helped in the mining of resources from Valais.

Dans la lettre envoyée à Joseph Dionisotti, de Muralt exigeait encore que ces internés reçoivent un salaire relativement élevé, soient bien nourris, bien logés et surveillés par la gendarmerie valaisanne. Le 27 septembre 1940 déjà, les premiers internés militaires polonais arrivèrent aux mines de Chandoline. Le lieutenant polonais Raspondek était responsable des quarante-cinq internés. Il fut d’une aide précieuse pour l’entrepreneur montheysan, grâce à sa grande expérience acquise aux mines de Kattowitz.

source: Camps et Homes d’accueil du Valais

If and when I go back to Dorénaz I want to walk up the path I walked up. I was looking for a route to get above the climbing wall but instead I found a steep path. On either side of this steep path I saw stone walls had been built on either side. These walls looked old so I went back down to get my hiking boots, my bag and the camera. When I saw that the hike was about 1hr30 I turned around and came back down.

Les mines d’anthracite (charbon) de Dorénaz ont été exploitées durant une centaine d’années. Le gisement principal d’anthracite se trouve au Plan de La Méreune, au-dessus de La Giète (commune de Dorénaz), où trois bâtiments sont encore visibles de nos jours. Les premières extractions ont lieu dans les années 1855-1859, mais la véritable exploitation commence dès 1874 grâce au président de la commune de Dorénaz, Pierre-Maurice Paccolat. La concession du charbon de La Méreune passe en novembre 1913 aux mains du chimiste saint-gallois J. Billwiller, de Goldau, mais celui-ci n’exploite finalement pas le filon.
C’est la société “Dorénaz SA, Charbonnages du Valais à Vernayaz” qui reprend le flambeau en 1917 par la remise en état des deux anciennes galeries à La Méreune. Un véritable village industriel se construit alors au Plan de La Méreune; il accueillera jusqu’à 750 ouvriers, avec trois grands bâtiments et vingt petites baraques. Le charbon est conduit à la briqueterie de Vernayaz grâce à un téléphérique qui relie La Méreune à la gare de Vernayaz, avec une station intermédiaire à Alesse.
Passée la production de charbon liée à l’économie de guerre (1917 jusqu’en 1921), la société Dorénaz SA est liquidée par voie de faillite entre 1922 et 1924. La faillite englobe les mines et la briqueterie, avec un découvert de plusieurs millions de francs. C’est alors la Société de Banque suisse qui reprend les mines et bâtiments de la Méreune.
Au cours de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la société anonyme “Mines d’anthracite de Dorénaz”, sous la direction de l’industriel sédunois Oscar Machoud, relance l’exploitation de l’anthracite. O. Machoud rachète les immeubles en 1941 (logements, cuisine, bains, bureaux, magasin, infirmerie, salle des machines), puis, la même année, la société entre dans le giron de l’industriel montheysan Joseph Dionisotti, détenteur des concessions de Chandoline, Nendaz, Salins, Aproz, Collonges, Veysonnaz, Maragnénaz et Sion. L’administration est concentrée à Monthey où J. Dionisotti dirige aussi une fabrique de chaux vive et sa carrière de “grès dur” de Choëx. Il exploite la mine de Dorénaz jusqu’en 1953, année où celle-ci est délaissée et à partir de laquelle les installations sont laissées à l’abandon. Malgré plusieurs projets de relance de l’exploitation, aucune activité ne reprendra dans les mines de Dorénaz. Source

Travelling experience, going to places like Kiruna in Sweden and towards old railway lines in the Jura have taught me to do some research to see how places in the middle of nowhere, that you would not normally visit can be historically interesting.

This is a village with a current population of about 800 people and they commute to work according to the English wikipedia entry. If you are still curious here is a final document about mining and Dorénaz, in French.

Although the village was interesting I was disappointed by the climbing. If I drive for one hour I want to go to the real mountains, to enjoy a nice landscape and to feel closer to nature. This climbing wall is right on the road side and this detracts from the usual pleasure of climbing. If you do want to climb here then this site will provide you with the required information.


The Third part of the Saillon VF

Yesterday afternoon after two top rope climbs in Dorénaz we drove to the Via Ferrata de Saillon to climb this one. It is a via ferrata that I know well. This time I decided that I wanted to try the third part of the Saillon VF once again. What makes the third part special is that it is marked as TD+, more than very difficult. This is a more technical climb for people who are familiar with the sport.

Looking towards Saillon

The first time I tried this via ferrata I was with a group but climbed it as a solo effort. I went at my speed and I just wanted to complete it as quickly as possible. The challenges were being able to handle the long drop below and the physical demands of the via ferrata. When I climbed it alone I increased my heart rate by a lot and my muscles felt that they were weakening so although it felt excellent it made me skip this portion on two or three subsequent trips.

For a while people would frequently get trapped on the third part and there was a sign reminding people that if they have any doubt they should not do it. If the helicopter is called in it will cost you 3000CHF or more. Imagine all the equipment that you could buy or the holiday that you could enjoy with this money.

Yesterday we climbed the first two parts of the via ferrata with no problems. We went at a comfortable speed and the group stayed as one. When we got to the third part two novices went up and went across to the bridge to watch us climb and we formed an action plan. This time we moved as a team. We went forward and rested frequently. We rested before the overhang and then again after the overhang. We rested before climbing the rope ladder and then again after. Finally we went to the last challenge, the vertical ascent and we rested on a nice slab of rock. We then climbed that final bit and although it is demanding the muscles coped well.

I really like that I found this climb so much easier than the previous climb. I don’t know whether rock climbing, paragliding and the pace helped. I know that in future I will feel confidant about doing part three. My training and this pace paid off.

Paragliding from Plan Praz to the Mont Blanc

In this video we see someone paragliding from Plan Praz to the Mont Blanc. To do this the individual finds ascending air at a number of points going from 2800 metres up to 5000 meters before finally landing on the summit of the Mont Blanc.

This video gives you a practical example of how a good paragliding flight should go. When I flew at Les Diablerets last week I was surprised that we don’t feel the wind as much as we would expect when on a parapente and I was surprised that you do not feel when you are going up or down. In this video you hear a beep that increases in frequency and intensity as you ascend. The faster it beeps the faster you are climbing. There is another beep that we hear just once in the video that indicates that the parapente is going down.

It’s a shame that in this video we do not find out how long the flight lasts. We hear him at one moment speak about the need for patience as he looks for pockets of rising air to raise him to the desired altitude. We hear him comment about how certain people seem to struggle and we hear that his breathing is more laboured as he gets higher.

It would be nice to see them take off from the summit and head back down in to the valley. It must be nice to ascend the Mont Blanc in such a way. We seldom hear of people ascending the Mont Blanc by parapente so this video is interesting.

In this second video we see people hike up the Mont Blanc and take off from the summit. The view from there must be spectacular and the feeling must be pleasant. Many of us have seen the vista from the Aiguille Du Midi but imagine seeing it from a place as calm and quiet as below a parapente.