Cloverfield unrealistic?

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- Watching the new movie, Cloverfield, last night, I found myself constantly thinking: "Oh, come on. That is so unrealistic." (Warning: This column contains movie spoilers -- if you haven't seen Cloverfield, and want to be surprised by it, don't read this post.)

First of all, Cloverfield was a brilliant movie. The entire film from beginning to end is presented as a digital recording found by the U.S. government in the aftermath of a disaster in New York City. Like some other movies, the main story line is occasionally interrupted by events in the past. But in the case of Cloverfield, the past appears in gaps in the recording, which was taped over older video. Like I said: brilliant.

The disasters are two-fold: First, a giant monster from space wrecks Manhattan. Second, the government kills the monster with a "doomsday" strike on the city, presumably nuclear. Call me a dork, but at the end of the movie I thought to myself: "Oh, come on. That is so unrealistic. There is no way the data on that camera is going to survive a nuclear bomb."

The other unrealistic thing about the movie was the use of the camera. For example, there's a scene where the main characters want to enter a skyscraper in order to rescue someone. Unfortunately, the entire building has been shoved aside by the monster, and is now leaning against another skyscraper. So our intrepid yuppie heroes decide to climb the stairs of the upright building, and cross over to the diagonal one. The guy carrying the camera has to kind of jump to a slanted, crumbling building dozens of stories high. So, naturally, he does so while filming. Nobody would do that. Which got me thinking: What if a giant space monster *did* invade Manhattan. Are our cell phones, digital cameras and digital camcorders up to it? I think not. In general, our gadgets aren't rugged enough, nor are they easy enough to use hands-free.

Everyone carries -- and most of us drop -- cell phones. But it's amazing how few ruggedized phones are available. The most rugged phone I'm aware of is the Casio G'zOne Type-S, which actually makes calls underwater. We've got one, and it's a great phone.

Beyond that, very few other phones are designed to be "rugged." Some "regular" phones, however, are pretty indestructible. I can't seem to scratch or chip my BlackBerry Pearl, for example, no matter how hard I try. The Apple iPhone is pretty sturdy. Neither is waterproof. Increasingly, digital camera makers are taking steps to shock-proof and waterproof digital cameras, but I'd like to see the average camera become even more reality-resistant, and for seriously rugged cameras to become both more numerous and higher quality.

Most of us don't even try to use cameras hands-free. But we should. With storage capacity on the rise (and the cost of that storage on the decline), it will become an increasingly good idea while enjoying an adventure to lash a video camera to your body, and just let it roll for hours. You can edit out the boring stuff later.

To the best of my knowledge, there's only one inexpensive camera designed for semi-hands-free use: The GoPro Digital Hero 3.

What's nice about this camera is that you can just take it with you, say, on vacation and not worry about it. Lash it to your wrist, and it goes with you when you're climbing volcanoes, snorkeling or skiing -- and even when you're walking around town. It has, for me, a fatal downside: The picture quality is too low. I'd love to see a camera just like this, but with 6 megapixels (rather than 3) and with better optics.

You can also buy higher-end "helmet cam" type cameras, such as the awesome POV1, for much higher quality and much higher price.

All of these "hands-free" cameras are targeted at the "extreme sports" crowd. But I'd like to see this go mainstream. Couldn't everyone benefit from having a camera than can record video hands-free? We all go on vacation. We all drive, walk around and want to film things. Why should only surfers and rock climbers have this capability?

After all, you never know when a giant monster is going to destroy your city. Sure, it's unlikely. But if it does happen, you're definitely going to want to film it.

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