Vår Energi’s Balder X project involves the redevelopment of Balder and Ringhorne field area on the Norwegian Continental Shelf Vår Energi awards subsea contract for Balder X project to BHGE and Ocean Installer (Credit: Vår Energi) A consortium made up of Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE) and Ocean Installer, has won a subsea contract from Vår Energi for the Balder X project in the Norwegian North Sea.The contract covers engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) of subsea systems (SPS/SURF) needed for the redevelopment of the Balder and Ringhorne field area as part of the Balder X project.The project is being undertaken to extend the life of the Jotun A FPSO up to 2045 by refurbishing it and relocating it to the Balder license PL 001.As per current estimates, the Balder X Project will enable a total lifespan of over 80 years to the PL 001 license.Vår Energi CEO Kristin Kragseth said: “We are pleased to award this important contract to the BHGE and Ocean Installer consortium. It will provide new activity to the world-class oil service industry we have in the Stavanger region.“Both consortium companies a have strong local presence, and large portions of the construction and engineering work will come from local suppliers, securing employment in the region.”Details of the subsea contract for the Balder X projectBHGE and Ocean Installer will carry out engineering, procurement, construction and installation of new subsea production systems (SPS), umbilicals, risers, and flowlines to the Jotun A FPSO. The consortium will also take up decommissioning and cleaning up the seabed by removing subsea systems and equipment that are no longer required at the Jotun field.BHGE Norway and Denmark director Tom Huuse said: “Through our Subsea Connect approach, leveraging early engagement with our customer, we were able to optimise the development cost of this significant award. BHGE will bring a deep sense of history and experience to the region while delivering challenging projects with field proven technology through local execution to support on time delivery.”The redevelopment of the Balder and Ringhorne fields will also involve major project activities in the future, said Vår Energi. As part of that, the life of the Balder FPSO will be extended up to 2030 along with drilling of 15 new production wells in the Balder field area and 11 such wells in the Ringhorne field area.The Norwegian oil and gas company also intends to carry out exploration drilling campaigns apart from the production drilling campaign.Last week, Vår Energi signed an agreement to acquire ExxonMobil’s non-operated interests across more than 20 producing fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf for $4.5bn (£3.65bn).
Mar 5, 2009Egypt reports H5N1 in another toddlerEgypt’s health ministry announced yesterday that a 2-year-old boy from Alexandria governorate was hospitalized with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, according to a report posted on Egypt’s Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR) Web site. He became ill on Mar 3 and was admitted the same day to the Alexandria Fever Hospital, where he received oseltamivir (Tamiflu). The ministry said his family had had contact with sick and dead poultry. The case will be listed as Egypt’s 57th if it is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the second H5N1 case in an Egyptian toddler this week.Report says wild birds likely caused Hong Kong outbreakThe source of an H5N1 outbreak at a Hong Kong chicken farm in December 2008, Hong Kong’s first farm outbreak since 2003, was probably wild birds, according to findings released by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) today. Genetic analysis indicated that the H5N1 virus belonged to clade 2.3.4, which is commonly found in southern China. It closely resembled isolates obtained from Hong Kong poultry markets in June 2008 and from a wild bird found in March 2008. Scientists found no mutations that would make the virus more transmissible in mammals, the report said.[Hong Kong AFCD press release]Israel answers soldiers’ complaint about anthrax vaccineThe Israeli government, responding to complaints from two Israeli soldiers, said yesterday it took “full responsibility” for side effects suffered by participants in a trial of two anthrax vaccines from 1998 to 2006, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. The trial compared Israeli and American vaccines and involved 716 soldiers, 11 of whom, representing both vaccine groups, later required treatment. Two soldiers submitted petitions claiming that the medical monitoring and care of participants were inadequate. The government said all the volunteers were educated about the vaccine in advance and that all who requested medical care received it.Thousands of suspected meningitis cases reported in NigeriaThe Nigerian government reported that the country had 5,323 suspected cases of meningococcal disease with 333 deaths between Jan 1 and Feb 22, the WHO said today. Suspected cases have been reported in 22 of 37 states. The WHO said the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis has approved the release of about 1 million doses of vaccine for mass vaccination campaigns in affected parts of Jigawa and Katsina states. A sound vaccination strategy is important given the large population at risk and moderate global vaccine levels, the WHO said.[Mar 4 WHO statement]MRSA spread from zoo elephant to caretakersIn the first reported transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from a zoo animal to human caretakers, a baby elephant at a San Diego zoo passed the skin infection to at least five zoo workers last year, according to an article published today by Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The report also documents the first known case of MRSA in an elephant. Analysis showed that the strain was USA300, the type most commonly involved in community-associated MRSA outbreaks in the United States. Investigators said the elephant calf probably acquired the skin infection from a colonized human caretaker. Three of the caretakers received oral antibiotics for their mild skin infections, but the prematurely born elephant was euthanized because it failed to thrive.[Mar 6 MMWR article]
By Edward McAllisterMONROVIA, Liberia (Reuters) – George Weah has been here before: on the goal line of the Liberian presidency, one run-off vote from victory. Unlike in 2005, however, his support is much wider and many expect him at last to succeed.The 1995 European football player-of-the-year won 39 percent of votes in first round presidential polls last week, with 95 percent of votes counted. The final result is due today.That was 10 percentage points more than closest rival Vice-President Joseph Boakai, and a better score than he had in earlier contests, but short of the 50 percent needed to win.A run-off between Weah and Boakai will be held in November.The result shows how support has grown steadily for the former AC Milan striker, who lit up television screens in Liberia in the 1990s with his mazy runs, briefly distracting fans from a 1989-2003 civil war that killed tens of thousands.Now ‘King George’, as his supporters call him, has to persuade the majority that he can run a country as well as he kicks a ball.His rhetoric has been light on policy so far. In an interview on October 8 he spoke vaguely about a need for better roads.“We will seek a government of inclusion where everyone can work together and make our country a better one for all of us,” he told Reuters.Weah grew up in Clara Town slum in the capital Monrovia, playing football there and in Cameroon, where manager Arsene Wenger spotted him and took him to Monaco. He went on to play for Milan and Paris St Germain, and later in his career for Chelsea, Manchester City and Marseille.He became the first non-European to win the Ballon d‘Or in 1995, the same year he picked up the African and world player-of-the-year awards.His rags-to-riches story has inspired supporters from similarly lowly backgrounds.“Weah is grassroots, a son of the soil – he is a star, but he has the country at heart,” said Oliver Myers, an unemployed 39-year-old from the Rehab neighbourhood outside Monrovia.Others are wary of his lack of political experience and education, and question his ability to govern a country that remains 12th from bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index.“Weah’s populism and inability to articulate a coherent platform … are deeply concerning,” said Liberian political analyst Robtel Neajai Pailey in a recent opinion piece for Liberian website The Bush Chicken.“Success at football does not translate into success in the presidency of a traumatised, poorly managed, post-war nation.”‘THERE FOR US’Doubts over Weah’s experience could still sink his ambitions in next month’s run-off, as in 2005, when he won the first round but lost the second to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who went on to rule for 12 years.Weah refused to take part in televised debates attended by most other major candidates, and his choice of running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor – ex-wife of Charles Taylor, the former president and warlord serving 50 years in Britain for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone – has raised eyebrows.Johnson Sirleaf was credited with shoring up peace after the civil war, but criticised for failing to tackle elite graft and doing little to lift most Liberians out of poverty.Development has been hindered by an Ebola outbreak and a drop in the price of iron ore. Poor roads still leave most of rural Liberia stranded during the rainy season, often without electricity. In Monrovia, where derelict buildings line the main highways, most live on pitted dirt streets with little access to clean water.Boakai, 72, Sirleaf’s deputy for 12 years, has struggled to separate himself from her during his campaign, despite promoting his humble beginnings.As Weah gained popularity, he was elected to the Liberian senate in 2014, defeating the president’s son Robert Sirleaf.He still plays football every Sunday in Monrovia.“While people have reservations about his lack of education, he is seen as the candidate for change,” a diplomat told Reuters on Monday.“It will take a lot for Boakai to turn this one around.”Thomas Kojo, who played with Weah on the Liberia national team, thinks his former teammate’s passion for his country will take him far.“The heart George has for Liberia is unbelievable,” Kojo said in an interview outside Weah’s compound in Rehab on Monday. “He made sure the national team was always trying to bring (home) some pride.”Weah paid for the national team’s kit when the Football Association couldn’t afford it during the war, and gave players up to $600 spending money and similar bonuses if the team won, Kojo said. He once chartered a flight for the team when they were stranded in Ivory Coast without a flight to a game.“The football team was the only good image to come from Liberia when all people saw was the killing,” Kojo said.“He made sure he was there for us.”
Eureka High Volleyball was triumphant on the road against Arcata High in five sets, 25-23, 25-23, 25-23, 25-17, 15-9, Thursday night in Arcata.The Loggers (10-2) jumped out to an 11-9 lead in the first set and went on to win the first set after going on a 7-2 run that was spearheaded by senior middle blocker Makaila Napoleon who was sensational at the net all night long.“I’m pretty determined to play well every time i step on the court,” said Napoleon. “I have the confidence of having my team …
As an intelligent-design science, archaeology continues to interpret the actions of human intelligence from the observation of physical artifacts. Here are some recent stories bearing on Bible history and archaeology.Battle of the Ages: Science had a special section on Jerusalem archaeology in the Feb 2 issue. Andrew Lawler1 critiqued the spectacular claim that the palace of David and Solomon has been discovered in the City of David (south of modern Jerusalem). The series included sidebars about the lead archaeologist of the site, Eilat Mazar,2 who accepts the Biblical chronology, and her ideological opponent Israel Finkelstein,3 a leader of the “minimalist” school that sees the early kings as mere legends. Lawler concedes Finkelstein’s views have made him a “lightning rod” and “bad boy” to other, more conservative, archaeologists. Finkelstein himself admitted he has a “big mouth” that tends to get him in trouble. Critics say he “requires his detractors to carry the burden of proof” and that he “resorts to bellicose rhetoric.” At the City of David, Eilat Mazar wrapped up a second season of digging on “what could be the most significant archaeological find in Jerusalem’s history: the palace of the king who, according to biblical texts, united the ancient Israelites.” She denies charges that her conservative views influence her scientific interpretations. The most interesting part of the discovery is a large building, covering as much as 2000 square meters, that she claims dates from the time of King David. Much of the controversy is about the dating of the building that sits above the impressive Stepped-Stone Structure on the eastern slope, 37 meters high, portions of which have been dated to before the time of David. Imprecision in dating methods fuels the controversy over this major find. Dates before the Assyrian king Sennacherib (701 BC) are not considered firm. Mazar’s dates are based on pottery (usually pretty reliable). Radiocarbon dates are just imprecise enough to allow advocates of any date to rationalize their claims. Lawler ended with hopes that refinements and more samples will “shed more light–and generate less heat–on Jerusalem’s Iron Age predecessor.” He quoted Ayelat Gilboa (Haifa U), who works on a radiocarbon team, who believes better dating may lead to “a new and more vigorous biblical archaeology” that uses the Bible as a guide once again.Tunnel Vision: Further down the City of David slope to the south, tunneling has exposed a large cardo (street) that experts think went all the way from the Siloam Pool to the Temple Mount in Roman times. Todd Bolen’s interesting BiblePlaces Blog 02/02/2007 and 01/15/2007 describes the excavations with pictures. The real Siloam Pool of Jesus’ day was discovered by accident a few years ago. Now this street heading north indicates that it was part of a large Roman complex. It could be the very path the blind man took when Jesus told him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9).Ramping Up: The rickety wooden ramp to the west side of the Temple Mount is being replaced (see BiblePlaces Blog). Anything this close to the most sacred site of the Jews and one of the three most sacred sites of the Muslims is bound to stir up trouble, and it did; a riot erupted today (Feb. 9), reported MyWay.com, with hundreds of angry Muslims fighting Israeli police in the Old City. Paleojudaica is keeping a daily tab on the activity and the Washington Post also has a report and background information. Sympathy protests took place in Nazareth and Damascus. There were fears the violence could spread to the West Bank and Gaza. The fact that the Temple Mount itself was not under any threat is prompting some, however, to interpret the ramp excavation as a pretext for a few Muslim activists in Jerusalem to gain publicity. Some Palestinians are threatening a new intifada if the work by the Israeli Antiquities Authority continues, “even though the work, at the Western Wall plaza, is not taking place on the Mount and poses no threat to the holy site,” according to World Net Daily. The Muslims fear that excavations required before any new construction may turn up artifacts Jews will use as evidence of Jewish presence in Jerusalem in Biblical times, especially their sacred Temple. Only Muslims deny the existence of the Jewish Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. An article on National Geographic News discusses the skirmish over the ramp, and also details about the Siloam Pool excavations at the south end of the old City of David. Palestinians are condemning those excavations as well even though they are far from the Temple Mount. Archaeologists are finding a large complex with the main street of Jerusalem from the second temple period. Previous excavation work on the western and southern sides of the Temple Mount has already shed much light on the Roman and Judahite periods despite repeated instances of violence. The public now has access from the Jewish Quarter to attractive archaeological parks that display and explain the discoveries. These parks do not discriminate against visitors. Friendly signs that are not partial to Jewish interests explain all the relevant periods and civilizations involved, including the Muslim and Turkish periods. Muslims, however, have a free rein on the Mount while denying access by Jews to their holiest site of all. They deny clear archaeological evidence of Jewish civilization on the site from Biblical times. Israel goes overboard to cater to the Muslims. The Israeli government, for instance, is allowing construction of a new minaret on the Temple Mount, another WND article reports, even though four minarets already exist there and construction of a fifth and taller one is offensive to most Jews. Five times a day Jews endure Muslim calls to prayer from loudspeaker-equipped minarets. Yet with reckless disregard for the sensibilities of their Jewish neighbors, Muslims have done massive illegal digging at the south end of the Temple Mount in order to build a huge new underground mosque in addition to the Al Aqsa Mosque already there. While making the Temple Mount a Muslim-only park, they purposely try to eradicate all historical evidence of Jewish presence. Piles of artifact-laden debris sit inside the Mount. Much of it has been recklessly tossed over the wall. Archaeologist Gabriel Barkay has sifted through some of the rubble and found artifacts dating from the first temple period (10/31/2006), crucial evidence for establishing Jewish claims to the site (see pictures and descriptions at Bible Places Blog). The Muslim Waqf police control all access to the Mount and forbid any Jewish archaeology there under threats of violence. Eilat Mazar and Gabriel Barkay are among Jewish archaeologists protesting the double standard and betrayal of the Jews’ archaeological heritage by their own government. Additional news and remarks can be found on Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post. See also this Jerusalem Post editorial link found on the news site of the Biblical Archaeology Society. Barkay, incidentally, is on a lecture tour in the US; see Bible Places Blog for schedule.Canaanite Spell: National Geographic News was among several sources carrying the story of an ancient Semitic text just deciphered in an Egyptian tomb. Translated into Egyptian hieroglyphs, the text was a prayer to the snake god for protection. Dating from 2400 to 3000 BC, this is the oldest example of a proto-Canaanite language, a predecessor of Hebrew. Apparently Egyptians sought the help of magicians from Byblos (in modern Lebanon) for incantations to protect from snake bite. The inscription was known since the 19th century but was only recognized recently to be a transliteration of Semitic words into Egyptian characters. The significance of the find is that it shows written language and commerce existed before the time of Abraham. (Early critics had doubted that Moses, half a millennium later than the patriarchs, could have used written language.) “This is a discovery of utmost importance,” Moshe Bar-Asher [Hebrew U] said. “Almost all the words found [in these texts] are also found in the Bible.” Richard Steiner [Yeshiva U, NY] added, “It’s not as different from biblical Hebrew as some people might have expected. A lot of the characteristics of Hebrew that we know from the Bible are already present in these texts.” Scholars are expecting that the find may even shed light on the pronunciation of Egyptian words.Flood Flash: Want to see what it’s like to be caught in a flash flood in the dry, barren desert of Israel? Watch this homemade video for a shaky experience. Israel’s many dry washes (wadis) can become torrents of rapid erosion under the right circumstances. This one looks like it occurred in the Paran Wilderness near Timnah. Biblical poets and prophets like Habakkuk were well acquainted with the power of torrential rains.Paul’s Last Good Fight: Have the bones of St. Paul been discovered? Todd Bolen thinks it’s within reason to believe so (see Bible Places Blog). This story goes back a couple of months, but excavations at the cathedral of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome have uncovered a sarcophagus that scholars think could store the bones of Paul the Apostle (see also National Geographic News). According to tradition, Paul was beheaded by Nero shortly after writing a final letter to his apprentice Timothy, saying, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4). If the authorities allow the sarcophagus to be opened, it will be interesting to see if the skeleton shows signs of beheading. This elaborate church has long been considered the site where Paul was martyred. A former Pharisee, Paul traveled thousands of miles over Europe and Asia, enduring all kinds of hardships, including stonings, beatings and shipwrecks, proclaiming, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1).Another story worth watching is about the search for oil under Israel. World Net Daily reported that chances are good that oil will be found. It has been carrying ads for initial public offerings for Zion Oil and Gas, a startup looking to dig for oil in the Holy Land. It opened on the American Stock Exchange on January 3. If successful, it might make Israel energy independent and alter the dynamics of near Eastern politics.1Andrew Lawler, “Judging Jerusalem,” Science, 2 February 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5812, pp. 588 – 591, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5812.588.2Andrew Lawler, “All in the Family,” Science, 2 February 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5812, p. 590, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5812.590.3Andrew Lawler, “Holy Land Prophet or Enfant Terrible?”, Science, 2 February 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5812, p. 591, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5812.591.Paul wrote, a few verses later, that the unbeliever has no excuse for denying God, because of the infallible witness of creation (Rom 1:18-22). He used this argument when speaking to the people of Lystra (Acts 14) and to the philosophers in Athens on Mars Hill (Acts 17). The argument is still powerful today. To the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, Paul also frequently pointed to the authority of the Scriptures. If it weren’t for Muslim threats of violence, Biblical archaeology would be in a wonderful renaissance right now. New scientific techniques and technologies hold promise for more rapid discovery and analysis of data. Brave investigators in the 1800s revived the study of Palestine and began uncovering amazing things, but that was before photography, computers, radiocarbon, radar, aerial reconnaissance, rapid transportation and all the tools we have available now. Photography arrived in the late 1800s. Biblical archaeology began in earnest in the early 20th century, and indeed was the testbed for the science of archaeology in general. The clumsy early techniques are now refined and standardized. Tremendously interesting digs are going on now (dig this blog, but after a century of work, only a tiny fraction of historical sites have been explored. Some claim only 1% of Biblical sites have been investigated, and of those, only a small fraction have been thoroughly excavated. What wonders remain under millennia of soil! Though much remains to be learned, the well-studied sites are remarkable. You can stand in the synagogue at Capernaum, where basalt stones still stand from the building in which Jesus taught and healed a demoniac. From there you can walk a short distance to the remains of Peter’s house, where Jesus healed Peter’s mother. To the west a few miles away is a first-century fishing boat, found a few years ago, of the type the disciples used. The uninhabited remains of Bethsaida and Chorazin, cursed by Jesus for their unbelief, are nearby. Up north in Dan, you can stand on the platform where the apostate King Jeroboam erected a golden calf, then walk to an arched mudbrick gate through which Abraham could have passed. A short distance farther down the trail are the iron-age walls and city gates where kings and prophets of Israel walked. At the ruins of Jezreel, Gibeah, Megiddo, Hazor, Arad, Beth-Shemesh, Timnah and numerous other sites are ruins dating from Biblical times that correspond to the way they are described in the Scriptures. You can go to the British Museum and see Sennacherib’s magnificent relief of his destruction of Lachish, and a few paces away see his stele describing Hezekiah in Jerusalem; then you can travel to Lachish and see the ruins intact. Another stele in the British Museum shows the Israelite king Jehu. The Moabite Stone describes Biblical kings from the time of Ahab. Jerusalem itself is a treasure trove of places and artifacts, like Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Broad Wall, and much more from the time of Christ to Canaanite times a thousand years earlier. It should not be surprising that occasionally there are difficulties with dating and evidence. The Holy Land has been the scene of many major wars and destructions for 5,000 years; in a way, it is surprising there is so much left. Before assuming the Bible is in error, it is good to remember what happened to previous criticisms. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The Hittites, for instance, were unknown outside the Bible till their flourishing civilization was discovered. The traditional site of Ai did not seem to match the Biblical battle, but new excavations at a neighboring site show a better fit to the geographical details described in Joshua 8. Sometimes a third look is necessary. Early excitement about Jericho’s walls matching the account in Joshua, as excavated by Garstang, were deflated by Kathleen Kenyon when her team decided the destruction layer was too early for Joshua’s time. Now, however, evidence is emerging that Kenyon’s methods were flawed and biased. A destruction layer fitting the Joshua story, including a house on the wall matching the description of Rahab’s house (on a part of the wall that did not fall), fit the story well when the pottery-based dating is corrected. This gives renewed confidence that the Biblical record is reliable when all the evidence is in. The news stories reported above demonstrate that Biblical dating by archaeology is imprecise and controversial. Nothing has been found that rules out this historicity of the Bible, and much has been found that corroborates it. A book with that good a track record needs to be taken seriously. Consider also the internal evidence. The Bible (unlike other religious texts) reads like a narrative by eyewitnesses and historians. Read Joshua 12-22, for example; the attention to detail is staggering: place names, kings, countries, cities, villages, towns, directions and persons are all recorded. Such detail does not fit the stereotype of wandering tribes passing along oral tradition, or priests fabricating their social history centuries after the fact. In some cases, only contemporaries could have known idioms of the day that are preserved in the text. The processes by which our modern copies of the Bible came to be do not rule out the use of some oral and external sources, later compilation, insertion of editorial comments, and even occasional scribal errors (none of which affect major doctrines). The Bible has better textual support and internal and archaeological evidence corroborating its authenticity and reliability than any other ancient text. Scholars would have to throw out Herodotus, Thucydides and other reputable sources under the same criteria by which some skeptics distrust the Bible. Remember, too, that Jews and Christians were extremely careful handling what they believed to be the inspired Word of God. Consider that the Dead Sea Scrolls show near-perfect correspondence with the Masoretic Text a thousand years later. This was an astonishing confirmation of the reliability of transmission that has come to light just since 1948. Believers add the proposition that a God able to communicate His Word is able to preserve it. Inscriptions, though rare in Palestine, fit the Bible: e.g., Pilate’s name at Caesarea, the Hezekiah Tunnel inscription, the Lachish letters. More recent finds continue to illuminate the Bible as trustworthy history. This include the Tel Dan inscription corroborating the existence of a dynasty of David, a seal of a royal official mentioned in the Bible at Megiddo, the silver scrolls of Ketef Hinnom (the earliest Scriptural fragment, 700 BC) proving the Iron-Age familiarity with the Levitical priestly blessing, Barkay’s discovery last year of a clay seal with the name of a Biblical character from Jeremiah (10/31/2006), jar handles stamped with Hezekiah’s royal seal (and a pottery fragment with a possible sketch of the king himself) at Ramat Rahel south of Jerusalem (08/20/2006, and a pottery shard etched with a name resembling Goliath found late 2005 (11/11/2005) at the site of the Biblical giant’s home town, Gath. We could expect many more if archaeologists were unhindered by political stresses and threats of violence. Many of the most promising sites, unfortunately, are off limits in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. Where is the scientific community in protest? Where is the United Nations to demand fair access to these important sites that could so enrich our understanding of the Bible and the foundations of Western civilization? We can only hope that more tantalizing tidbits will continue to surface during intervals of peace in the Middle East. (Iraq, by the way, is another vast landscape filled with archaeological treasures. We should work to ensure they do not fall to another closed dictatorship.) In the meantime, you can hold in your hand a book unlike any other. The Bible invites scrutiny! No other ancient or religious text has this much detail that can be cross-checked. You don’t need archaeology to enjoy the Bible and profit from its message. But for those who appreciate the value of building their views on a solid foundation within a well-rounded and informed context, these are the best times to weigh the evidence. Online resources like Bible Places and Todd Bolen’s excellent BiblePlaces Blog can bring you the latest news. Get a copy of the new Archaeological Study Bible, a set of maps and a Bible dictionary. Embark on an adventure of science, intelligent design, history, faith and contemplation that will do your soul good.(Visited 24 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0
If you haven’t heard of VisionColor LUTs, chances are you’ve seen them in action more than a few times in videos and films.Cover image via Mo Gaff.I’m going to get this out of the way quick: I’m a big fan of VisionColor LUTs.If you haven’t heard of them or have never used them yourself, you owe it to yourself to give them a shot. They look great on LOG footage, Rec 709 footage, photos — anything you can throw them at. I’ve used both of the VisionColor packs (Osiris and Impulz) many times throughout my career — certainly more often than any other LUT packs I’ve come across.I’d like to get this out of the way as well: this post is not sponsored by or paid for by VisionColor. I personally tracked down CEO Jonathan Ochmann so I could ask him a few questions about the creation of these LUTs and why they seem to be so versatile — that’s just how much I like them. I’ve always been very excited by how LUTs have added ease of availability to accurate film-style color curves and looks to all digital filmmakers. VisionColor LUTs are very true to the real deal, and they are created with care to achieve a very high level of accuracy across all camera platforms.Our “Escape Room” short was graded with M31 from the Osiris Pack to get the classic Teal/Orange look.While they in no way replace the true artistry and craft of being a digital colorist (as this meme about the M31 LUT would suggest), they do provide a really top-notch baseline to work with, are great to use on set with monitors, and will work drag-and-drop better than any other LUTs that I’ve used.We have composer, software engineer, photographer Jonathan Ochmann (SoundCloud/Instagram) and his team to thank for these LUTs, and he was generous enough to give us some more info about how his packs were created. Lets dive in.PremiumBeat: First off, I’d like to know some more about you in general. Are you a filmmaker yourself? What has your role with VisionColor been?Jonathan Ochmann: I worked as a musical composer and software synthesizer engineer in my early twenties and have been into art and technology for as long as I can remember. I did dabble in filmmaking briefly but never really pursued it. I do take photography as a hobby pretty seriously. My professional focus for the past couple of years has been with VisionColor where I am CEO and lead developer.Image via Mo Gaff.Probably because of my roots in music, most of our early products were born out of the idea to apply the concept of musical sampling to the visual frequency range. Or that was the high level reasoning behind our approach anyways. I’ve always felt that the sound of a synthetic emulation of an analog instrument for example is dwarfed by even a mediocre recording of the real thing. And that’s where I thought the general approach to digital color processing fell flat on its face.In music, it’s well established that if we want the sound of a Bosendorfer Grand Piano, we better record the real thing in a nice studio or go for the next best substitution, which is recorded samples of it.Image via THE SinCos Studio.On the visual end of the spectrum, we really wanted natural, organic looks but were stuck with using sliders and curves which only ever control tiny data fragments in vast interpolated datasets — which, just like on the audible end, do not suffice when attempting to emulate anything that has an organic, non-linear source, like analog film for example.So that was why I thought creative color grading could really use an upgrade and learn from the failed attempts to try and emulate complexity by using simple tools that didn’t really seem to get people anywhere. We’ve since created products that build on the idea to directly sample from organic visual sources.Image via Mo Gaff.PB: What initially got you interested in LUTs and creating them?JO: As a programmer, I’ve been familiar with lookup tables since the first time I attempted to processes complex data in real time and blew up my computer as a result (kidding). The concept is simple. You generally don’t want to run an expensive computation more than once so you save the result to memory after you first compute it. Then you can simply look it up in memory the next time you need that piece of data.This goes right back to the analogy of virtual instruments I brought up earlier. The reason that synthetically generated sounds don’t live up to their organic prototypes is simple: Computers are not yet advanced enough to create extremely complex, non-linear simulations in real time. And as artists we need that real time feedback loop more than anything.So what got me interested in “LUTs” as color grading tools is that they offer a real solution for encapsulating complex color operations in a computationally efficient data structure — both of which the artist and the engineer in me demand respectively.Image via Mo Gaff.PB: How were the Osiris and Impulz packs created?JO: When we made Osiris, color LUTs weren’t really “a thing” yet, and we felt that the color presets and tools that were publicly available at the time were all lacking something.The beauty of LUTs is that they are platform independent, not confined to a single application and can encapsulate countless operations from multiple engines, tools, color models and methods, including the sampling of colors from other media such as film that I mentioned earlier.And that was precisely the idea for Osiris. We wanted to create better presets that more closely resembled the looks of contemporary Hollywood films.So if you want to closely resemble someone else’s workflow the best way to go about it is copying. Our leading paradigm was this: steal their entire process. All of it. Shoot film. Good, expensive film. Develop and treat film. Scan film on really fancy scanner. Color Grade the digital negative. Print negative to positive print stock. Scan again.Then repeat the entire process and at each step sample a set of some 30k+ color samples in a controlled environment that represent the current “state” of the color model. (Just like meticulously recording all 88 notes of a piano at different velocities. All right enough with the audio analogies already.)In reality though, the process required loads of trial and error, which was mainly introduced by working with film. (For me, all love and nostalgia faded as soon as I actually had to physically handle it). We ended up working with some brilliant people though (shoutout to James Dilworth!) that had way more experience with taming this analog beast and made it behave exactly to my liking.All of the Osiris LUTs were based on a single color negative and a single print film emulation, with different color grades baked between them. For Impulz, we threw the custom color grades out and fully modularized the individual steps (film negative, scan, print) that we had baked into single LUTs for OSIRIS.Image via Neumann Films.PB: Do you have a favorite LUT?JO: Of our LUTs? Tetrachrome from Impulz. It’s the result of an experiment we did with a lab in Berlin, Germany and it was one of those rare things that just worked. Tetrachrome is really a Kodak Motion Picture stock intended for ECN2 processing (the chemical solution typically used for motion picture film).We removed the rem-jet layer of the film and push-processed it in C41 to increase the contrast and saturation of the original rendering and ever so slightly shift the colors along the green-magenta axis. It’s by far the most popular emulation from Impulz.I personally also really like the Koji LUTs. I don’t think anyone has come close to creating more faithful print stock emulations than those guys!PB: Although they’ve been around some time, a few years back, the concept of LUTs exploded in popularity seemingly within a couple of months. To me, it seemed that the release of the VisionColor LUTs were at the forefront of that burst in popularity. Did you expect this almost “wildfire-like” spread of LUTs?JO: That’s hard to say . . . I did see that they solved a real problem that I was facing in my own work ,and I know that solving real problems is generally a pretty good indicator for product success. You don’t have to sell people on something that just works.At the same time, it took some significant marketing and meta-marketing efforts (shoutout to Denver Riddle!) to get the word out on this fairly abstract concept of lookup tables as the new holy grail of color grading. Now, after Osiris, Impulz, and all of their distant cousins, everybody knows LUTs. Not everybody loves them, and few truly understand them, but I do believe that well-made LUTs have played a big part in raising the overall quality of the work we are now able to produce on a budget that doesn’t break the bank.PB: What do you think makes VisionColor LUTs special?JO: If anything, it must be the methodology of how we create them. I don’t think that anyone else has actually disassembled the entire film process to “lutify” (no pun intended) each step into a reusable color module.PB: I’m sure you’re well aware of the sheer popularity of the M31 LUT since the Osiris release. That LUT is used everywhere. Anyone who is more than somewhat familiar with LUTs has most likely heard of it (there are even quite a few fun memes out there about it). What do you attribute the popularity of M31 to?JO: I think that it comes down to the fact that the M31 was the first Teal and Orange LUT that gave people a shortcut to one of the most popular palettes that has been utilized by artists throughout history. The M31 is a rather heavy-handed exaggeration of a complementary color contrast around the skin tone vector, inspired by some of the most popular films at the time.The name M31 is actually (slightly) cryptographic and stands for MB (3 – 1 = 2. The second letter in the alphabet is B), the initials of the director whose films inspired the LUT. It’s also an alternative name of a Galaxy that is on an inevitable collision course with our milky way. That was intentional but obviously no one ever got that. If it was meant as a tribute or a warning I won’t tell . . .PB: One thing I’ve always noticed about your LUTs is that they seem to be friendly with all the different LOG curves out there (s-log, v-log, canon log, etc.) without much alteration. How do you go about making a LUT with this in mind?JO: We specifically create normalization profiles for all of the different cameras and profiles we support so that emulation LUTs have a common base and produce consistent results. The generic LOG and 709 normalization profiles are created by averaging the 2D gamma and saturation distribution of the most commonly requested cameras.PB: How do you go about making LUTs knowing that they’ll be used on all different kinds of footage?JO: Test everything against all these different kinds of footage. Seriously.We take a data-driven approach to pretty much anything we do, and a lot of color processing is just mathematical statistics applied to three-dimensional datasets that have predictable or known bounds. When you think about footage as confined bags of color data that may never exceed certain thresholds, a lot of the variables that exist in footage when observed from a higher level go away.PB: What are some of the coolest ways you’ve seen your LUTs in action?JO: Okay, totally unexpected answer but DJI (the drone company) once accidentally shared some of our LUTs embedded into the open source code of their firmware. I was really flattered! They removed it. We’re cool.On a more serious note, I think that where VisionColor LUTs have been used to produce the most stunning results, the LUTs themselves really only played a minor role in an overall achievement of beautiful direction, cinematography, and tasteful color grading. Having seen some of the top cinematographers and colorists in the industry use Impulz in the subtle ways it was designed for has definitely been a major highlight.PB: Any words of advice to people who are new to using LUTs or areas where you feel they’re being used incorrectly?JO: LUTs, although powerful, are just one of the many tools colorists have at their disposal. Everything should be used in moderation and nothing should be treated like a Magic Bullet (again, no pun intended). Use LUTs as presets when you need to work fast. Try to recreate your favorite LUTs from scratch to sharpen your color grading skills. Don’t use all LUTs at 100% strength 100% of the time. Sometimes don’t use LUTs at all.Don’t grade to make up for a lack of wardrobe, makeup, or proper cinematography. Don’t be the guy from the M31 meme. (If you are the guy from the M31 meme: I love you, man!). And lastly, don’t listen to my advice on creative color grading. I’m a software developer and business person. Listen to Juan Melara instead.PB: Is there anything cool in the works for VisionColor in the future or anything you want to share?JO: Absolutely. I believe that color grading software is still in its infancy and has a long way to go until it reaches a state of completion. The creative application of technologies like LUTs really helped push color sophistication and quality forward over the past couple of years. VisionColor has since been working on defining and implementing the next step in this evolution beyond 3D LUTs. I have been focusing on developing higher-level abstractions for three-dimensional data manipulation. Many of the accepted user interface components used for color grading today are either not abstract enough — take interactive visualizations of mathematical color models for example, which don’t generally correspond with how we think about color as human beings — or careless abstractions like slider controls, which have no correspondence at all with how either machines or humans think about color.LUTs have helped artists because they’re easy to apply and yet have the capacity to deeply remap color across three dimensions. They’ve also been a pain to work with because they’re essentially rasterized, static chunks of information that cannot be understood, decomposed, or manipulated once compiled. That’s not exactly the expressiveness we demand from our tools as artists, and I know that we can do better. Much better. And we’ll be seeing a new generation of tools emerge over the next couple of years that will put an end to how LUTs are currently being (ab)used creatively, and I have a feeling that VisionColor will again be at the forefront of this movement.Looking for more filmmaking interviews? Check these out.7 Things to Consider When Shooting on Retro Film StockAn Interview with Andrew Shulkind, DP of Netflix Original film The RitualInterview: Showtime Docuseries Cinematographer from The TradeThe Disaster Artist: Editing A Film About Making a FilmExclusive: Designing Wakanda and the Amazing Sets of Black Panther
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar on Sunday announced the 26 feature and 15 non-feature films, among the 250 films, which will be screened in the Indian panorama section at the 50th International Film Festival of India in Goa to be held from November 20 to 28 in Goa.The festival’s flagship section, which showcases a selection of contemporary Indian feature and non-feature films, will be opened by Abhishek Shah’s Gujarati movie, Hellaro, which won the best film at the 66th National Film Awards, in the feature category. Ashish Pandey’s Nooreh, which follows a young girl whose life is disrupted by daily crossfire at the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir, will open the non-feature category.The Panorama section’s jury was headed by filmmaker and screenwriter Priyadarshan (feature) and documentary filmmaker Rajendra Janglay (non-feature) this year. Other feature films include Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Malayalam film, Jallikkattu, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month; Pradip Kurbah’s Khasi film, Iewduh; and Manju Borah’s Pangchenpa film, In The Land Of Poison Women.Mr. Javadekar said that this edition’s highlight will be screening of films with audio description for the visually impaired. He also announced that Russia will be the partner country of the festival this year. Israel was the country in focus last year. “Since this is the 50th year of the festival, we will also showcase a few films that were made in India more than five decades ago,” said Mr. Javadekar. Celebrating Amitabh Bachchan’s acting repertoire with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the festival will also present a retrospective of seven to eight films, spanning the actor’s five-decade-long career.
Veteran tennis star Leander Paes and his Canadian partner Adil Shamasdin clinched the men’s doubles title at the Aegon IIkley Challenger Trophy here on Saturday.The top seeds defeated local wild card entrants Brydan Klein and Joe Salisbury 2-6, 6-2, 10-8 to clinch the trophy.The match was evenly poised till the end with the UK pair outclassing the Indo-Canadian duo in the first set.The second set though looked like a comeback for the 44-year Indian and his teammate — which they won as easily as their opponents did in the first set.The third and decisive set went to the wire, with both the pairs trying hard to take the lead. But the duo of Paes and Shamsdin took a slender lead to clinch the set and the trophy.