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Film buffs bugged by bounty of bugs
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Harry Potter is wearing a suit. But in a blink, he is wearing a T-shirt - both in the same scene from the latest Potter movie. He must be a true wizard to be able to change outfits without being noticed. Or maybe an assistant director or film editor did it.

This jarring costume-shift is one of the "bugs" in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Pictures of bugs - the things that don't make sense - are a hot topic on the Internet for both foreign and Chinese films. Pictures of Harry Potter in a suit, then in a T-shirt are posted.

To date, 56 bugs have been detected in the summer hit and posted on Chinabug. The Website launched this summer is the professional faultfinder behind all this. Bugs from films to TV programs, from PC games to mobile phones, are all scrutinized by Chinabug.

Bugs in films and TV series are the most popular, especially those in "Harry Porter," "Prison Break" "Troy" and other major films.

In one episode of the popular TV series "Prison Break," there is a wound on the right side of a character's face, then it's on his left side, then it's back on the right side, and it looks different.

We've all seen these irritating - but fun to discover - bugs: An actress holds a fan in one scene, in the next frame the fan is gone; in one frame the clock says 8:40, in another it says 11:20; in one scene the dead man wears gray socks, in another he has changed to white; the weather is cloudy but instantaneously becomes fair, or the lighting in a room is suddenly different.

The list goes on and China's films are infested by bugs, say the delighted bug-detectors. Finding bugs is endlessly fascinating. But some think it's pointless, a huge waste of time and say the obsessive bug collectors should just enjoy the movie - and get a life. They are just nit-pickers.

Chinabug is based on the theory of "relative perfection and absolute BUG." It was started by editors and reporters who found that Netizens and the media tend to pay more attention to the distracting bugs and NGs in films.

Their job is to find the bugs, collect them and post them online, not only to entertain fans but also to say "shame on you" to careless film makers who let bugs slip into their final product.

They hope, in time, to play a more influential role, pointing out flaws and encouraging a higher quality of movies, TV programs, online games and other visual media.

According to the Website, "Life cannot be flawless, so it's reasonable for us to deal with every little mistake with delight."

Actually, finding bugs is very popular overseas. Some renowned director deliberately create some bugs for the audience to discover, called "Easter Eggs" (cai dan) - like the hollow ornamental Easter eggs containing intriguing scenes that you can peer into.

But Chinabug is the first systematic bug-detector Website in China. Aiming to become a commercial success, it now employs full-time translators, editors and faultfinders in a professional team.

"The creative idea of launching a faultfinding Website really excited us. In the entertainment industry, bug-finding is more about amusement than criticism. Audiences love it," says Li Mei, spokesman for Chinabug. "Actually, some of the founders themselves are from the media: they know the bugs."

Because of the huge profits in the film and TV industry, some directors are rushing out their products, emphasizing quantity instead of quality. Bugs can be found everywhere, and some spectators get a bit disappointed.

"What bug-finding is to films is just what critics are to authors and proofreaders to newspapers. We are working for the legal rights of the audience. We are doing something to urge the market to produce works of higher value," says Li.

"It costs people 50 yuan (US$6.70) or so to see a film. To their disappointment, bugs fill the film. But there's nothing you can do about the bugs. So we want to contribute to the purity of the film market by supervising the quality and artistry of movies. Everyone is justified in being a film critic," she adds.

Fault-finding is intense, draining work, requiring perception and mental energy.

Besides the professional Chinabug team, many veteran faultfinders come together on the Website. They include "Bug Princess," or Chuan Bang Gong Zhu, one of the first to point out many bugs in the "Harry Potter" films and in "The Proud Youth" ("Xiao Ao Jiang Hu"), among others.

"The first time I discovered a bug on my own, I was extremely excited and posted it on the Internet. So many Netizens replied to show their support that I was greatly encouraged. Now I'm obsessed with bug-detecting," says the "Bug Princess."

"'Bug Princess' is not employed by Chinabug, but we appreciate her efforts," says Li. "It's painstaking to find the bugs and she obviously takes the risk of being censured by the fans. She does it without making any money. More hands make hard work easier. Nothing is possible without the help of others."

But some Netizens says the "Bug Princess" and other bug finders are too picky.

Netizen Bao Biao says, "The faultfinders are all looking for trouble. As long as you love the story, why do you on earth care about the bugs? Even if you don't like it, films are just diversions, there's no need to be so serious."

But most Netizens think the bugs are funny and are astonished by the meticulous work of the faultfinders.

"It's fun picking out the bugs in movies," says Netizen Nan Dongsan. "For me, it's not about criticizing the director, but just about entertaining others as well as myself."

Another fan of bug-finding is Ai Kou, who suggests that a special "Find Bugs" event should be held after each film screening. "Movie fans will definitely love it, and we can exchange views with one another about the films through the events."

Based on her two years of nit-picking, "Bug Princess" says that Chinese commercial films have more bugs than foreign movies, while art films such as 'In the Mood for Love,' don't contain many.

"Bugs occurs mostly in the costumes and properties. And grand scenes invite more bugs," she says.

According to Li, the process of faultfinding is not really so complicated and difficult. First, you watch the film to get a general idea of the plot. Then, watch it over and over again. Sometimes even watch one frame after another. Last but not least, single out the pictures, the frames, as evidence, using special software. It can be fun, as well as boring.

As to the future of Chinabug, Li says, "We built the Website first for entertainment, just like the movie industry. But that's not our ultimate goal. It's not for the amusement and curiosity only."

"We think a creative idea alone, such as Chinabug, cannot become a successful business since it's easy to copy. What we really want to do is to supervise the film industry and urge the film makers to present really good works."

(Shanghai Daily October 8, 2007)

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