Thursday, January 26, 2006

Does the cinema industry suck that badly?

Mark Cuban is a man who could never be accused of saying in a sentence what he can say in a paragraph, yet a lot of what he says does makes sense. In particular I point you, gentle reader, in the direction of his most recent tome regarding his company HDNet Films and their support for Steven Soderbergh's latest film "Bubble". Now, a lot's been said recently regarding this film and its planned simultaneous distribution across multiple flatforms, including cinema and DVD, including one cinema industry spokesperson labelling the practice akin to a "death-threat" for his industry ("Oh, God! The hyperbole. The HYPERBOLE!"). It seems most of the comments made by the cinema industry, and Hollywood in general, have just been reactive claptrap which has led our "fearless hero" to have this to say on the matter.

"NOT A SINGLE PERSON. NOT ONE stood up and said, “screw him, our product is great. We dont care what he does”. Not a single person said “It could hurt our business, but we will just have to work harder to bring people in to our theaters”. Not a single person said, “It will make us have to work harder and create a better value and experience for our customer”"

"No one even remotely associated with the industry even attempted to spin the situation. No one attempted to leverage the publicity (except for us of course) to their advantage. No one used it as a platform to say a single solitary positive word about theaters and the theater going experience.

They stood up and indirectly said….OUR PRODUCT SUCKS WE CANT SURVIVE WITHOUT HELP."

Which really has to make you wonder about how the cinema industry sees themselves. But then as Cuban himself said a few days ago,

"...I can whip up a mean steak, but I still like to go to restaurants. Because I enjoy it. I enjoy getting out of the house with family, friends, who ever...

"Going to a restaurant. Going to a sporting event. Going shopping. Cabin Fever is alive and well. Wanting to get away from your parents, your kids, your job, your apartment, your house, your problems will never, ever go out of style. For the next thousand years the question will be asked…
What do you want to do tonight? For the next thousand years, people will want to get the heck out of the house. The question is where to and why."

Which to my mind tells me that the news of cinema's demise is greatly over-exaggerated. What it DOES mean is that if cinemas want to be succesful they have to provide value, something I can't get at home. If I'm forking out $15 to see a show, then I want a show goddammit! Good seats, good sound, a professional, comfortable experience. Maybe go back to the days of a short cartoon or short film as a lead-in to the feature, rather than just churning people through the seats.

Now I'm no business mogul. I wouldn't know a BAS statement from a quarterly index return, or even if such things exist. But I wouldn't have thought it was too difficult to realise that for cinemas to continue to make money they need to invest in themselves, to believe in themselves. If I have the opportunity to see a movie at home, or see it on the big screen, the cinema experience definitely comes into play. But if I'm complaining about lumpy or tiny seats, or intermittent audio faults, I'm walking away and not going back. For example, I had exactly that problem at one local cinemaplex. Three minutes into "Return of the King" my wife and I walked because the surround sound kept dropping in and out, which is a pity because I could see the potential of the place if they just looked after it.

Here's what it comes down to in my mind. If you believe in your product then invest in it. Make it all the greater an experience and people will come. Be lazy, look at it as a one-way money funnel and watch the income dry up. Simple, just like me!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Current Studio | VC2 Survival Guide

The 2nd last day of last year I mentioned an article at regarding Current TV. In that piece I said;

I LOVE (with a burning passion) their determination to teach the language of video production to the people, creating a whole new generation of storytellers with the vocabulary to create wonderful content, and possibly push the medium in ways we've not seen before.

And here's why. Available to the viewing public around the world, free of charge, are online videos running through equipment, production, editing, compression, and most importantly, storytelling. While the information is aimed at creating pieces for Current TV (named "Pods") the information is still relevant to anyone wanting to get an idea how this video thing works.

Favourite quote: "If you're on a budget and a 1-chip (camera) is your only choice be sure to spend the $70 on an external microphone. DO NOT USE THE MIC ON THE CAMERA!"

THANK YOU!! FINALLY someone's saying it. The fact is you can get away with a multitude of visual sins if you have GOOD SOUND. The moment the audio levels sound off-mic or they jump from soft to loud and back again you lose the audience who are too busy trying to watch with one hand on the volume knob.

In fact, here's a tip for aspiring editors to fix a simple, rookie mistake: Play some good quality material with proper levels through your editing system. Find a monitor level that seems comfortable for you to hear what's going on. MARK THAT LEVEL ON YOUR SPEAKERS AND NEVER CHANGE IT! If you do, you've still got the mark to go back to. That way, you know that if a piece of audio is loud or quiet it needs to be adjusted on the timeline, not on the speakers. The moment you shift the speaker level you lose your relative position to the other material and you need to train yourself again to know if something's too loud or soft.

Friday, January 20, 2006

ABC chief Balding resigns | ABC News Online

So the boss has made the decision to up and leave a year before his contract runs out to take on a position with the Sydney Airport Corporation. Still, for a guy who was kind of thrown into the job on the back of the hated "Shier" years until "someone better came along" I think he's done a pretty good job.

Favourite Russell Balding moment? Him not showing up to a Senate Estimates commitee meeting and leaving no excuse or apology.

SANTO SANTORO: there a reason why Mr Balding is not here? Did he give you a reason why he's not here?

MURRAY GREEN: Ah, Mr Balding is his own decision-maker. He is not here, and that's all I have to say, Senator.

All the best to you Mr Balding in your new job.

So, the hunt will commence for a new boss. Who would I love to see? Someone with a real grasp of what's happening in the rest of the world when it comes to the media. Not just a TV or Radio person, but someone who can really look across the ABC's platforms and see ways to make it work together.

But then again, I'm kind of biased.

More on this as the "Hunt for the New MD" begins.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

From the sublime...

(via BoingBoing)

to the ridiculous...

(Background: Good Morning Silicon Valley)

A good thing the site's tongue-in-cheek.

While I'm here, what's the deal with a mysterious stranger visiting the grave of American author Edgar Allan Poe's grave every year to mark the writer's birthday? Not why does it happen, but why hadn't I heard about this before?! I mean, it's been going on since 1949 for crying out loud and has apparently been passed on a generation. Roses and cognac? This is just too good not to have known about, and definitely not the sort of thing I want some moron ruining by "catching the guy out."

(Jeff) Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, said early Thursday he had to chase people out of the graveyard, fearing they would interfere with the mystery visitor's ceremony.

"In letting people know about this tribute, I've been contributing to these people's desire to catch this guy," Jerome said. "It's such a touching tribute, and it's been disrupted by the actions of a few people trying to interfere and expose this guy."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Web 3.0 | A List Apart

Jeffrey Zeldman, author of "Designing With Web Standards" (my first textbook for my course) and publisher of the "A List Apart" web design site, has a few things to say about the use of the term Web 2.0, in particular the way it seems to have been co-opted by marketers and businessmen and entrepreneurs looking to ride the hype.

The fact is, I don't really know enough about the technical aspects of things like AJAX to say whether his perspective is legitimate or not, but regardless it's well worth the read for an alternate view to much of the hyperbole on the internet at the moment.

Mass media's last blast |

Via Bubblegeneration Strategy Lab

An interesting article by Reed Johnson of the L.A. Times regarding the current world of media and how the interactive, do-it-yourself attitude is affecting American culture.

My problem with it? Again, too American in its perspective, with this seeming belief that the internet and new media culture doesn't extend past the east and west coasts.

Now before I start a war about how I'm bagging on the "Big, bad U.S. of A." I understand, fully and absolutely, that this guy is writing for an American audience with a view towards analysing the American experience. No problem with that at all. I guess I'm a little disappointed that we don't seem to see similar articles by Australian authors and academics, viewing how much of an impact this new mediascape has had locally.

For instance, I don't believe it would be remiss of me to say that I don't think Australia is feeling the impact of iPods and Internet anywhere near as much as in the U.S., despite our reputation of being early adopters of technology. Between the stupidity of our telecommunications industry, our totally ignorant (and ignored) copyright laws and the overblown expense of everything, I'm amazed sometimes I can even get a broadband connection out of my house without applying for a second mortgage. But the fact is, I want to hear someone talk about this! In detail!

"Why not you?" I hear you say, oh gentle yet transient reader. Well, maybe one day I'll have some time to sit down and nut out an article of annoyance.

But not now.

Damn. How to shoot down your position in one easy paragraph.

Rocketboom/Ask A Ninja - the interview!

Having mentioned the wonderfully quirky "Ask A Ninja" last week it's great to see Rocketboom having a play with it, asking the Ninja questions that matter!

So what I suggest is that you spend some time at "Ask A Ninja" to run through some episodes and get a feel for the show. Then do the Rocketboom episode and see which bits they've taken out of context.

Nicely done. Pity about the audio, but Amanda does acknowledge in the comments the obvious problem of miking someone through a heavy brown shirt that's tied around the head. A transcript can be found in the comments a little further down.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Oh my, what very experientially stylised teeth you have!"

Via the always wonderful we-make-money-not-art

So back in 2004 as part of my Interaction Design subject I came up with the idea for a room specifically designed for enhancing presence in particular roleplaying games (Hell yeah! King of the geeks!). The idea was that at particular moments the Gamemaster/Storyteller had the facility to play with the experiential elements present in the room, i.e. lighting, music, sound effects, room temperature, etc.

Now Philips comes along with a technology they're calling PML (Physical markup Language) to allow media to influence your physical surroundings. The example they give is a PML version of the children's classic "Little Red Riding Hood."

"An Ambient Intelligence system can interpret a description in PML in such a way that the devices in its network can jointly use their individual capabilities to render that experience at a given location.

In effect, your whole room becomes a 'browser' that brings the experience to life. For example, PML-enabled lights add to the experience by getting brighter or dimmer, or changing colour. A PML-enabled hi-fi provides an appropriate soundscape..."

"To illustrate the principle, we have developed a PML-enhanced storybook telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood. As you turn the pages of the book, the book knows exactly where you are in the story. The PML associated with the scene described on that page is communicated to the space around you. The many Ambient Intelligence devices in that space then use their capabilities collaboratively to transport you into the world of the story."

It's an interesting attempt to break out of the desktop, creating an immersive physical environment using ubiquitous computing elements. Interesting to see where they take it in the future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Clerks 2 - the Vlog

Kevin Smith vlogs the making of his sequel.

Can't be arsed right now to say more. If it wasn't for what this is you'd get nothing. Be thankful you get this much.

Update: Yesterday was a particularly awful day for me. Went home early, tried to get some rest. Still not entirely over it, but am feeling better than I was.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

OhmyNews International - A glimpse of an interesting future

From an interesting article in the India Infoline News.

Citizen reporters of OhmyNews, a unique news organization in Korea, now number more than 40,000 and are no stranger to the sensation that comes from producing their own news. It is this transforming and empowering experience that attracts thousands of "citizen reporters" to OhmyNews every day. Kim Hye Won, a long time citizen reporter of OhmyNews, described her excitement when she found her story published on OhmyNews for the first time: “As soon as I saw my article with my name, Kim Hye Won, attached to it, my heart fluttered. A housewife who for the last 18 years has been caught up in housework raising her children has now become a reporter. This was possible thanks to the OhmyNews spirit of ‘every citizen is a reporter.’”

Play Again Games : Monopoly Home Rules

Via the always interesting

I've always been a Monopoly fan, ever since I was a kid. It was one of those wonderful, family-gathering type events, with my dad, granddad and brothers huddled around a table enjoying beating each other.

That said, I've always been a purist with the rules. No putting the Tax payments in the centre of the board and collecting on "Free Parking" for me, nosiree. But with this list of alternative rules for the game all that may change.

Rule: A player must roll two dice on his turn, but may select any two dice from a set of four sided, six sided, eight sided, and ten sided dice.
Reason: Gives players some control over movement. Players may wish to role two four sided dice at the beginning, since they have a better chance of getting doubles and going again, and then later roll two ten sided dice to move around the board quickly. Larger dice decrease the chance for doubles and thus tend to balance the game.

Finally! An excuse to use my RPG dice in a mainstream game!

A new favourite! | Ask A Ninja

Ever wondered if Ninjas celebrate Christmas? Or where they get their cool, black uniforms? Ever wanted to know the career path to becoming a ninja? Well, why not "Ask A Ninja"?

The first episode's a bit too long, but he's starting to get himself sorted out with the comedy timing. Well worth watching.

Ask A Ninja

"I look forward to killing you soon!"

Minnesota Stories: Welcome to the Future

To anyone who still hasn't figured out the big deal about video on the internet, vlogs, blog, tagging, sites like Flickr and, and the general idea about letting people have and organise what they want for themselves, take a look at this video.

MNStories curator Chuck Olsen is on holidays at the moment, but decided to pull this one from his archives. I can remember watching it earlier in the year, but I don't think it resonated in quite the same way it did this time. I guess I'm learning stuff all the time.

Great work and a perfectly made point.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Great Australian Story Challenge

I should have mentioned this a lot earlier.

The ABC starts, in it's own way, soliciting user generated content. I would have liked something a little less formal, but all in all it's a great opportunity for Australian film and TV students to get a foot in the door, especially given how difficult it is to get a job in this industry.

"To celebrate 10 years on air, we're inviting university students from across Australia to produce a five-minute video in the style of ABC TV's Australian Story.

The winner of The Great Australian Story Challenge will receive a three-month internship with the Australian Story team, and finalists' entries will be compiled into a special program to go to air in May 2006, when Australian Story will officially turn 10. This special program will also air on ABC2 and program material will be available on ABC Broadband."

Friday, January 06, 2006 » Moblogging: Yesterday’s Internet

Warren Ellis is starting the new year on a roll with the second great article in two days. This time he asks whatever happened to the moblogging movement of a couple of years ago?

"The promise of moblogging was very simple: that we all get away from our desks and record life on the move and in real time. The dirty secret of the Web 2.0 movement is that it binds people back to their desks. It’s for people who stay indoors, make lists and shelve their DVDs by cinematographer."

Nice to get a fresh perspective.

Here's a thought. Maybe the moblogging movement isn't really stalled at the technology/service provider end. Perhaps it's more that sections of the blogging community have fallen into the mainstream mindset of polished work, fearing that something raw and rough and instant may damage their hard-won reputations. Have the first generation of bloggers gone 40+? Settling down and keeping it conservative? Horrible thought.

Of course, one of the problems is that podcasts and now vlogs do require basic editing to rise above just being raw footage (not that raw footage doesn't have its place). That means the newcomers, eager to impress the old school with their wicked edit skillz, need their desktop, or some serious mobile hardware. Hardly phone and Palm Pilot territory.

Actually, I do think it's more a service provider shortfall. I'd be inclined to make a push to get services like Blogger to sort out the problems getting mobile content quickly and easily onto a site. As an Australian there's all sorts of barriers put in place for me to shoot a pic with my phone annd email it to this blog.

Imagine this;

"I want to shoot an audio file off my phone. I want to shoot a street video to my blog from the street. This is essentially what I was talking about with the streetbound “feedsite listener” in TRANSMETROPOLITAN. And this requires no more than a phone with email or MMS and a system on the other end to parse what’s being received and stick it on my web page. I’m not a programmer. I don’t know if what I’m asking for is impossible. But, Christ, it doesn’t sound like it."

Now take it a step further. Audio or video file is sent to site. RSS subscription makes this media, and just the media, available to any mobile player. When manufacturers create a media player that's WiFi or WiMAX enabled, we'll start to see it. Author on a street corner shoots and loads their work and in seconds a guy on a street corner on the other side of the world is looking at it. Now imagine a dozen people all looking at an event, each clip disconnected from the context of the website it's coming from, just showing what everyone's seeing. Hundreds of New Yorkers watching the Twin Towers collapse in real time from every conceivable angle.

I can see some good things, and some not so good things coming out of that. But that discussion's for another time.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The downside to this video iPod thing

Via Steve Rubel's Micro Persuasion.

The perfect example of why big business should not be allowed anywhere near the internet. Advertisers want your iPods

"I've noticed a few more big name advertisers are starting to distribute short form content via their web sites in iPod format. It's the old “BMW Films” strategy of trying to convince people that ads are interesting by blurring the line between entertainment and advertising. Sprite offer a series of comedy videos entitled Marcus hates his job, while Bud Light brings us the psuedo-documentary about Ted Ferguson, Daredevil."

While "Marcus" has a little interest to it, I find each episode a little long. But at least, despite the obvious Sprite product placement, it's nowhere near as blatant as the Bud Light ones. If you do check them out, see if you understand what I mean when I say I'm not sure exactly who finds this stuff funny. It's a sad commentary on the company that brought us the "Whassuuup!" series of ads.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lord of the Rings WoW mashup

Via Tom Coates'

Comedy gold, for a whole bunch of reasons.

Joss Whedon Eyes the Future of TV

For those yet to read it, enjoy the sarcasm. Any drier and you could wipe the dust from it.

"Obviously, we'll see advances in technology. TiVo, iPods, streaming video — the way we watch TV is changing dramatically. It's on our phones, in our cars — even projected on specialized eyeglasses. But don't listen to the talk about having shows beamed directly into your brain. That's science-fiction nonsense. Shows will be stored in the pancreas and will enter the brain through the bloodstream after being downloaded into your iHole."

VisitorVille - is this perhaps the most fun interface ever?

So I sincerely doubt that anyone passing through here on their way to a more interesting blog would have noticed that this site gets its stats through SiteMeter. It's a nice, cheap (read: FREE) service that lets me see who's looking at what, how they got here, where they are in the world and how long they hang around. But then I noticed a GoogleAd at the top of the SiteMeter page pimping a service called VisitorVille. With interest piqued, I clicked forth...

The interface, at least at first glance, is just wonderful! Instead of tracking numbers and links, all the information is mapped into a 3D cityscape where the people are your visitors, buses are referring pages and buildings are your site's pages.

I have no idea if the program is as good as it claims to be. And I have no intention of spending the money on a program that would create a virtual ghost town (now there's an idea; skinning it to change the cityscape from modern day to whatever you want, like Western Frontier town, or ancient Japanese village). What I find wondrous is that we're finally starting to put the lessons learnt from games into our work tools. | Bums On Seats

O.K., enough self-congratulation leaving my edited work at the top of the list. Time to move on to 2006.

The always entertaining Warren Ellis has a few thoughts on where he thinks Hollywood's getting it wrong.

"...I’ve seen so many trailers this year that appeared just kind of desultorily slapped together. If you’re spending the sort of money on making a film that could cover the cost of sending a probe to Mars, it’s just not right to look down at the ground, kick your heels and mutter that you’ve got this little movie that I might like to see. I mean, jesus, if you’re going to be capitalist running dogs, act like it. Bark and bare your teeth and jump up in people’s faces. When’s the last time you saw a trailer, or even a poster, that made you feel that if you didn’t see the movie an essential part of you would wither and die?

We’re all children when we go into the cinema. The actors stand four times our height and speak louder than we can. We hand over our cash to be told terrible and wonderful things, and to see all kinds of magic.

Is it just possible that some of us skip the cinema and buy films on DVD not only for the convenience and replay, but also because the films of today seem not to deserve to be bigger than us?"

Monday, January 02, 2006

My first foray into vlogging? | 2005 Year in Review

Well, not really. Vlogging is something entirely different, but to that end I'm happy to think of this as a personal reaction to the events of last year.

During the rather quiet week between Christmas and New Years I took the time to edit this together. The people at work seemed to like it so much they found a place for it on the 2005 Year in Review site.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

A word of note for viewers. First up, this video is highly Australo-centric so some of it may make no sense to viewers from overseas. Second, it's a high bit-rate (464Kb/s) streaming video (in line with company policy) so unless you have a 512Kb/s connection or better you may find you get frustrated.

One thing I should mention is that this video is internet only; no TV release for this puppy and other than being able to see it in its native resolution I can't see any reason I'd want it to.

[RealVideo] | [Windows Media]

Music is by the ever inspirational Sigur Rós.

Right, 2005 is over. What else you got?