Friday, April 28, 2006
But seriously folks...
Don't forget Australian Story Online this Monday as we do Senator Barnaby Joyce and his trip to Antarctica. This includes an edit of the good Senator's home movies from the trip by yours truly.
One of the reasons I haven't had anything to say today or yesterday is that I've been a little busy at work, and I've found myself reading two pretty decent articles, one the IBM Business Consulting document "The End Of Television As We Know It" and a fascinating study on Alternate Reality Games, in particularly the "Cloudmakers" and their work on the non-game dubbed "The Beast." It's fascinating stuff and worthy of a longer piece when I get the time.
But for now, geek out! See you all Tuesday.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
"Mark Thompson, the Director-General, announced a radical shake-up yesterday in the delivery of all the corporation’s services...
The familiar portfolio of BBC radio and television channels could ultimately be phased out as content is delivered “on-demand” to the licence-fee payer through handheld devices, computers and mobile phones as well as digital television sets."Before we go any further, what is it with media writers that they feel a need to constantly play the "end of your TV!" angle? Sure, maybe one day we will dump our TV sets and move away from broadcast television once and for all, but I can tell you now it won't be until the medium is completely obselete, irrelevant, and every cent has been squeezed from it. When that happens the collective cry will no doubt be "what kept it here so long?"
Anyway, the big announcement, or at least the one that's caused the most furore, was;
"The plans to create an online community incorporating music and blogs echoes the service offered by MySpace.com, the website bought by News International, parent company of The Times, for £324 million."
And just like that, News Corp starts getting defensive.
"James MacManus, an executive director of Murdoch's News International company, accused the state-funded BBC of "blatantly commercial ambitions" and seeking "to create a digital empire."
"Our view is that can only damage the development of commercial digital media," MacManus said.
"This is being done with public money," he told The Associated Press. "It really is outrageous." "
Or, my favourite, the bit at the end of the Times article (who have already helpfully let us know where their allegiances lie) entitled;
LEARN TO SPEAK FLUENT MARK THOMPSON
360-degree commissioning in knowledge content
We get the marketing guys to knock out Little Britain ringtones
Dynamic audio-visual content
User-generated content to re-engage audiences
Licence-fee payers star in programmes and text-vote for winners
More hybrid hits like The Apprentice
We can dress up reality game-shows as an insight into business
One clear and comprehensive metadata solution for all BBC content
Search any word in Google and the result is “BBC”
[Edit - More on the BBC revamp.]
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Pokemonetise: "To make money by appealling to the stupid human instinct to collect dumb things"
Couldn't have put it better myself.
"It says more than I ever could."
"The great sacrifices their generation made would be wasted if current and future Australians do not share an abhorrence of war, and forever work more towards its reasonable avoidance rather than its glorification. They would want us to reflect upon the human tragedy that World War I was not, as hoped for at the time, the "war to end all wars" - that young people are still called up as cannon fodder whenever politicians tire of resolving differences through diplomacy or have grandiose visions of national destiny."
That to me is the great dichotomy of ANZAC day. Being able to reflect on those who gave their lives in horrendous conditions to do what they thought was right for their country, sometimes at the behest of a jingoistic propaganda machine that wasn't entirely "accurate", and show appreciation to those that had the good fortune to return from service, while at the same time admonish war as the hateful, destructive and repugnant state of insanity and overt power-mongering it truly is.
This time last year I made the comment "I can't find any reason to justify war or the actions of those that actively seek it out." I hold to that comment, but find a year later that I have greater appreciation for those flung into combat by powers that exist beyond them. Lest we Forget.
That said, I can't deny the quality of this thought.
"..."opportunity seekers," love charging into the unknown future. They trust that things will work out if people are free to work and create, using capital that is free to seek a return. Opportunity seekers, in fact, are bored by static problem solving. This does not mean they are shirkers. It's just that they'd rather invent word processors than fix typewriters.
Problem solvers, on the other hand, see failure everywhere. They will grind away at a problem, even subsidizing past efforts that have never worked well and probably never will. Problem solvers tend to resist forward motion until all present-day problems are gone. Problem solvers get irritated--a stern bunch they are--when they see others frivolously seeking opportunity."
It's not a bad thought to live by, especially for someone who is expected to seek new media opportunites while solving old media problems. Don't solve problems, find ways to make the problems irrelevant.
Good luck mate. We're already missing you.
I'll leave the commentary on a wave of youth left behind in a late 80's/early 90's morass of recession and social decay for another time, but for now;
As a counterpoint, let's try "Fight Club" as romance.
Doesn't quite count because it was done by a TV station as a promo, but I'll throw this one in here anyway, "The Lord Of The Rings" as farce.
So long as I'm out on the edge of these things, let's try an interesting remix of
And more "Brokeback Mountain" ripoffs than you can shake a stick at (no pun intended), including;
(What was the deal with Anakin and Obi-Wan anyway?)
(Same deal, different edit)
(Scary! What's the deal with all those frying sausages?)
(O.K., this is getting weird)
(Good Will Hunting)
(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Hey, wait. Aren't they supposed to be brothers?)
I also found references to a "Brokeback Heat" and "Brokeback Island" (Lost) that have been removed for one reason or another. Obviously they're of varying quality and I guarantee you'll get sick of that guitar refrain from Brokeback Mountain before you're through looking at them all. I'm not sure exactly what it is about this movie that's spawned all these remixes and spoofs, but I'm sure there's a psychologist or two that would have something to say on the subject.
Friday, April 21, 2006
As always, DV does require registration.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Mark Day has a little (albeit justified) whinge about the state of High Definition in Australia, a bit of the history (and stupidity) of its inception and the ridiculous lengths one needs to go to buy a truly HD ready set.
It highlights an issue that I keep bringing up. Us techo's and media types can rant and rave all we like about the digital revolution, Web 2.0, High Definition, digital television, streaming content, podcasting, but for the majority of the public it seems an analog set, a DVD player (for playing rentals from the local video store) and a VHS recorder work just fine to keep them entertained. This is not an indictment on them but rather a wake-up call to those of us who can get a little too excited and ahead of the pack.
The fact is (a phrase I use advisedly, mainly because I hate "the reality is...") that people will not take up this technology in droves because it's just too difficult to make it work straight off the bat. Have a think about VHS recorders when they first came out. Compared to the existing technology of the time the system was really quite simple to set up, the stations were easy to tune in, and the interface was so similar to the audio tape deck controls already familiar to us all that it didn't take long to get the whole thing up and running and used by all my friends at my 10th birthday party to watch a recording of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
Peripheral bits? Don't know how to set the clock? Not a problem because the core functionality works without it; record and playback analog video, in particular television broadcasts.
Fast forward to 2006.
"When I plugged it in a panel came up on the screen asking if I would like my new toy to search for signals. I gave it a "Yes" and three minutes later I had 17 analog and digital channels locked in with the digitals giving me excellent choices of picture."
So far so good...
"I flicked between Seven SD and Seven HD. It seemed the same to me. Ditto Nine SD and Nine HD."
"And then I read a speech delivered at the broadcast summit earlier this month by Patrick Delany, Foxtel's executive director of content, development and delivery."
"At a time when HD screens were expensive and HD broadcast material was scarce, all they talked about was HD," he told the summit. "Subsequently all the press talked about was the high cost of HD TVs."
But while the free-to air networks paid lip service to HD, they allowed the official Australian standard for HD to be set at the lowest point, just above standard definition as defined by analog PAL quality. "Hmmm, standards being set to appease the lowest common denominator. Sound familiar to anyone?
"My new whiz-bang screen will never be able to show full HD because its native resolution is 768 lines and 1230 pixels. It's not true HD but it can legitimately be labelled and sold as HD because our standard is set ridiculously low.
Even if I had shopped around for the ultimate HDTV unit - and only about 10 per cent of widescreens in homes so far are capable of delivering the full deal - I would still be hard pressed to find true HDTV on the airwaves. "
I've never had much time for high definition as a concept, basically for the above reason. I saw the whole thing as a sham.
Then I got to see real high definition content on a real high definition set. Now I'm a believer. Which is why it's so frustrating to see what's happening to yet another infant technology.
"Now, all this might be confusing and for many people, a barrier to making the first step towards the electronics shops. My neighbours say they can't understand a word of it and argue that their old analog set is good enough anyway, so why bother?"
Yet again, the "Path of Least Resistance" raises its head.
"The bottom line is: unless you ask about the true capability of your screen, and are prepared to pay more than the headlined models, you will have no guarantee you'll get high definition television even if the box the screen comes in says it is."
And that's the sad conclusion to our tale. An inadequate standard allowing shoddy quality. And with each consumer that gets burnt by retailers you wind up with 10 scared away from the experience.
As mentioned previously, Australian media interests were called to have their say on the Minister's proposals for media reform. Those responses were due Tuesday, but as the authors, John Lehmann and Mark Day, mention, Senator Coonan will continue to receive replies over the next few days. The article goes on to make some conjectures on what we're likely to hear from the various parties when the submissions are finally released to the public, based on open statements and previous intentions.
"Fairfax has expressed an interest in winning a licence for one of the (currently unused digital) channels, using spectrum formerly reserved for datacasting.
The PBL submission is expected to argue strongly that any digital channel must not look like a TV service.
Commercial Radio Australia is also concerned the channels could potentially become clones of free-to-air commercial radio."
"News Ltd, a 25 per cent owner of pay-TV operator Foxtel, would also be expected to oppose new pay-TV services unless the Government scrapped or significantly watered down the anti-siphoning sports list.
Sources say James Packer, whose PBL has a 25 per cent stake in Foxtel as well as owning Nine, is increasingly attracted to the subscription model. This has given rise to speculation he may join News in easing opposition to digital services which compete with Foxtel in return for Foxtel being able to expand on its sporting services."
"Seven wants multi channelling, and Ten gives it limited support only if it can use the spectrum for subscription services.
Nine is opposed, because it fears more signals will add to programming costs and fragment existing audiences, but deliver no extra revenue. While the big players appear united on the lifting of cross media and foreign ownership restrictions, some smaller companies, including Rural Press, are strongly opposed. Rural Press chairman John B. Fairfax said last week that he opposed mergers between radio and TV interests in country areas.
But APN News & Media chief executive Brendan Hopkins has called for the changes to cross-media and foreign-media ownership rules to be made a priority."Of course, all this sabre rattling and sizing each other up may yet be for nought.
"When he set the media reform ball rolling 15 months ago, the Prime Minister let it be known he was not prepared to "die in a ditch", or expend large amounts of political capital, on an issue that he saw as having limited public impact.
He warned the media industry to "get its act together" or face failure for the third time in its attempts to modernise the highly regulated industry."Way to take the lead guys. The scary thing? The likelihood that having to buy a digital set top box to watch television is more likely to affect the votes against the government at the next election than a scandal involving tacitly endorsed bribes to a regime in Iraq to buy our wheat, then convincing the public that we needed to invade because the Iraqi's were buying "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and were a threat to us all.
Definitely time for a change, if only to clear the decks. It's just a pity the "other lot" are a pathetic shambles at the moment.
"AUSTRALIA'S oldest newspaper company, John Fairfax Holdings... is itching to get back into the TV game.
But don't expect Fairfax's activist chairman, Ron Walker, to further stretch the company's balance sheet buying a free-to-air TV station.
Fairfax is hoping to turn itself into a next-generation television network, moving its news and entertainment content across internet sites, mobile phones and, possibly, onto one of the federal Government's proposed new digital channels."With the appointment of telco veteran Jack Matthews to head Fairfax's second foray into the intuhweb, analysts seem to think the stars are all aligning for a push into the broadband news market.
"(Fairfax CEO David) Kirk said at an ABN AMRO conference in Sydney this month that "video-on-broadband will be an increasing driver of growth, and we will be a leader in video on broadband for our websites". A glimpse into Fairfax's future was seen this month when it sold news video footage (my link - KL) of Sydney murder suspect Gordon Wood to the Nine Network."
"Kirk also said this month that the two new digital channels the Government wanted to introduce next year were "potentially of interest". The channels were previously reserved for datacasting services, but Communications Minister Helen Coonan had said they would be used for a broader range of television services, providing they were not clones of free-to-air TV.
Kirk warned that "if these are stillborn as services because of rules that are too restrictive - just as datacasting was neutered five years ago - then that spectrum will lie fallow for several more years to come". He pointed out that Fairfax had wanted to move into datacasting back in 2000, but ended up being "burned" because the Government limited the types of content allowed to be carried."Stupid rules to protect existing interests tend to dissuade companies from investing time and money in new technologies. Who would have thought it?
So anyway, there's obvious interest here.
"It's got a long way to go before people turn to mobile phones with tiny screens to watch the races or things like that," Walker told The Australian's Media section this week.
"But ... every media board worth their salt has to be aware of future media (platforms)."
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Video CoPilot is the work of one-man band Andrew Kramer. In addition to a bunch of downloadable resources at a reasonable price, it features some totally awesome free video tutorials on some of the more fun aspects of Adobe After Effects such as de-interlacing, creating an old film look, basic green screen keying and 3D compositing. Nice work and definitely worth a look for the enthusiast and professional alike. Good luck to Andrew as he continues what seems to be a very handy resource.
Here's my beef: Hey, cyclists! You want to be part of the traffic? Then follow the GOD DAMN ROAD RULES! You want to be one of us then it's up to you to see those "Give Way" and "Stop" signs, or, God forbid, the traffic lights. Then, and I realise this is an insane concept to a lot of you, YOU'VE GOT TO FOLLOW WHAT THE SIGN SAYS! Moreover, me foolishly believing that traffic isn't going to be coming straight through a Give Way sign is no excuse for you to start yelling that I'm blind. I'm not the one missing the Fricking sign, pal!
I understand that cycling is different to riding a motorbike or driving a car, I really do. I know that losing momentum halfway up a hill to placate a Stop sign is the last thing on the cyclist's mind. I've been there, I appreciate it, but I'll tell you what. I'll keep a better eye on you all, and make it my duty to get other drivers to do the same, if you all do what's expected from the road rules.
Aaah! That feels better. Time for another cuppa.
Monday, April 17, 2006
"Executives at Seven are preparing to make hit shows such as Dancing With The Stars and All Saints available to be downloaded over a broadband internet connection for free."
So there's the Aussie content sorted out. Now, how do we get around the issues of overseas content flooding the P2P networks I've mentioned previously on this blog?
"Seven is also eager to strike a deal with US media giant Walt Disney, with which the network has an output agreement, to enable US hits such as Desperate Housewives and Lost to be able to be downloaded through Seven's joint-venture online portal, Yahoo!7."Sounds fun. Doesn't quite get around the issues of ridiculously late scheduling compared to the U.S. broadcast dates, but it does allow people to get access without a lot of mucking about. As regular readers of King Leonard - The Weblog will know, we're big fans of the "path of least resistance from complete boredom." To that end, if people can easily locate and download content without having to stuff around with BitTorrent or eDonkey then 7 are a step ahead already.
"Under one model being considered, all of the shows would be embedded with advertising and available online soon after each episode had been broadcast on Seven. One source said trials were likely within a year or earlier if broadband speeds quickened."
Then, BOOM!, the whole thing falls in a heap.
If iTunes can get away with a 320x240 resolution clip and expect people to stick it on their TV sets, why on Earth do we expect local audiences to only accept a full-screen program? Start small why you've got it. Get bigger when Telstra pulls their finger out. If you keep putting things off we'll be hearing that things have been put on hold until ISP's can handle HD streams.
The story of a drunk driver, Ian Van Rooyen, and the family of the man he kills in a road accident. Definitely a polarising episode; you either see Ian as a doomed hero or an irresponsible fool. It's hard to be objective either way.
Then tonight we have an update on a previous Australian Story episode from six years ago, just in time for ANZAC day.
As part of the special we've got the entire original episode (as opposed to the television version where they'll only show half of it) as well as the update on what's happened to the subjects six years later.
"Australian Story travels back in time with a group of Queensland state school students who embarked on an epic mission to the battlefields of Gallipoli and northern Europe several years ago.
First, the program recorded their journey in 1999 as they traced the footsteps of World War I Veterans. Many were surprised the ‘school excursion’ had such an emotional impact on all involved.
Six years on, Australian Story catches up with the students and their teacher and discovers repercussions are still playing out in their lives, in richly rewarding ways."As part of the Broadband extras make sure you take the time to check out the Google Earth interactive map of the journey (requires Google Earth obviously).
I think we have a week or two off before the next one.
Mark Cuban has a few things to say about the U.S. federal communications regulator and telecommunications companies push towards being able to charge more for "non-essential' data flow and how it may affect digital TV in the future.
"In an ala carte world, the ala carte applies not just to consumers choosing between TV networks, but distributors choosing which applications to offer. Cable MSOs, Satcos and Telcos want their stock price to go up. They want to make more money. There is the very real possibility, and I would say likelihood that as new software applications come along, and they will, they could successfully compete for bits on distributors networks to the exclusion of TV bits. Im not saying digital TV would go away, it wont. But could substantially less bandwidth be allocated to TV ? Of course."
Yeah, cute. Nice post. And while it's a good warning to any country entering the world of high speed internet with powerful telecommunications companies to put their foot down, it's not quite relevant to the Australian experience (yet).
Then I got to the end and felt I should post his quote because I can see it being something I should keep in my head for the future.
"Its always a mistake to listen to your customers. The goal of any organization should be to give their customers or constituents what they will want, not what they did want. Its not the job of the customer to know their future consumption habits. Its your job"
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Regular readers of King Leonard - The Weblog will know that three weeks ago Communications Minister Helen Coonan released her intentions to reform the Australian Media landscape. Now, a lot has been spoken about the implications of what's in this package, and no doubt much more will be written as the major media players submit their opinions by Tuesday next week (what a stupid date, the day after Easter long weekend).
(From the "Meeting the Digital Challenge" media release)
Key Proposals2.3 MEDIA OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL
The cross-media rules would be amended to allow cross-media transactions to proceed, subject to there remaining a minimum number of commercial media groups in the relevant market (four in regional markets, five in mainland state capitals).
And so it is that Get Up! has decided to enter the political fray, with a particular bent on the proposed changes to cross-media ownership laws.
"Media diversity is essential to our democracy.
It means we get to hear more than one side of the story. It helps us hold leaders accountable and prevents large corporations from wielding undue influence."
A valid point. In our changing media world the fact remains that the most massive consumption is still through television, radio and print. When one person or company holds multiple voices, with no obvious connection between them, it does mean differences of opinion can be efffectively shut down; not a good thing in a free and democratic society.
However, that view, to my mind, doesn't take into account the ever increasing impact of the internet, both in the existing media's ability to diversify and the public's ability to have their opinion heard (or, more recently, seen). For over a decade now we've had TV and radio stations delivering stories in print. Now we have newspapers and radio stations creating video content. And I have to tell you, I think it's great to see. The more media companies realise their key product is "information" or "stories" rather than "TV" or "Movies" or "Radio" or "Magazines", the easier it will be to get them to start facing the future and create content to suit. Of course, even newspapers with video cameras have their down side (an interesting outcome. Interested to see where this one takes us).
Then there's the ever growing base of user-generated content, citizen journalism and other recent buzzwords relating to regular people being given the ability to create and distribute their content online, not to mention a solidifying number of "Web 2.0" companies giving their audience the ability to pick and choose news sources quickly and easily. Despite the dire warnings of some, it is to my mind an activity of social responsibility worth pursuing. To this end, the more important discussion in this country is not whether Packer wants to buy out Fairfax (why would they now? All they wanted was the classified dollars. They've got that with their recently purchased classifieds websites. Why bother with a newspaper when you've got to create all that annoying filler. You know, content!) but rather whether creative people in this country will have access to distribute and download content easily and fairly, and that is a discussion relating to a slightly different, but increasingly connected, section of Australian telecommunications.
"Telstra and the ACCC are negotiating the regulation of the company's proposed $3 billion fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network, using a mixture of private horse-trading and public bluster.
(Telstra CEO, Sol) Trujillo has declared that if Telstra gets shafted on wholesale pricing of the existing wire network (unconditioned local loop or ULL pricing) the FTTN network won't get built, and it might not get built anyway if he doesn't get "regulatory certainty"."
"Without that, this country will be stuck in the dark ages with massive broadband inequality. The 20 per cent of the population who happen to live within 1.5 kilometres of a telephone exchange would be able to get quite fast broadband speeds (up to 24 megabits per second - a quarter of the speed they're now getting in Korea and Japan); everybody else would be stuck with the misnamed broadband we now have (256 kilobits, which is not broadband at all)."
"This, it seems to me, should be a clear aim of national policy, and it should be the Minister's job to see that it happens. The trouble is that the debate has gone up the blind alley of ADSL.
ULL/ADSL and FTTN are entirely different things but they are being lumped together simply because the ACCC is coincidentally deciding on the regulation of both at the same time and Telstra is trying to use ULL leverage to get a good outcome on FTTN."I don't even want to go into my thoughts on Testra at the moment, and in the danger of allowing a single organisation or closely aligned monopoly to own the future media infrastructure (issues the U.S. are dealing with now) but I see the ongoing issue of true broadband connectivity as a more important issue than media ownership laws, especially ones that hold provisions for "a minimum number of commercial media groups in the relevant market".
So basically, I guess I'd like to see a Get Up! petition campaign that sounds a little something like this.
"At no time have regular Australians had such a potential to voice their opinions on the issues that matter the most to them. The advent of affordable and easy to use publishing of text, audio and video via high speed internet access, far from merely being an avenue for illegal file sharing or MMORPG's, has the ability to create a democratic forum unheard of in human history.
However, bickering by the country's major telecommunications company, Telstra, still predominantly owned by the Australian people, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), itself a government owned institution, has halted the much needed rollout of FTN (Fibre-To-Node) infrastructure to ensure equality of access to this resource to all Australians.
We urge the Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, who has noted that unless broad steps are taken to resolve issues of digital communications Australia faces a genuine risk of becoming "a dinosaur of the analogue age", to find a way to break this impasse and push forward with this essential service to all Australians."
Yeah, it's kind of wordy (and a little tongue-in-cheek) but I think it gets the point across.
As always, any random visitor who drops by on their way somewhere more interesting is encouraged to have their say. Kind of the point, really.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
"I think the traditional commercial break will be the salvation of TV.
Crazy. How can I say that you say. What is my logic you ask.
Well, I would make one big change. I would make commercials live productions.
Thats right, live commercials. Straight out of the 1950s."
"...after the kicker misses a field goal, and we cut to the Levitra commercial.. Cue former player “If that guy would have hit that field goal, his wife would have been all over him to celebrate, but this late in the season, performance on the field and off can be tough. When I played, Iused Levitra. And you know what ? When I had a 4 hour erection, I put that shit to work. I didnt call a doctor. Hell no. My girlfriend… I mean my wife, loved it ” scroll news ticker with disclaimers and warnings.
Would you ever fast forward through a commercial knowing that the next one could be a classic ?"
It's an interesting notion, and one that fits the medium. A pity television's become so lazy.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Friday, April 07, 2006
Now all I've got to do is sign up to both and test them out. (Sometimes I love my job)
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
"None of these delays can be put down to a lack of advice. It is coming from all quarters, but the Government seems prepared only to listen to the advice it wants to hear.
Before the turn of the century the Productivity Commission held a series of hearings to inquire into the digital future, and with today's hindsight, it is clear the commission got it right. It called for the removal of regulatory restrictions to stimulate the marketing of new services.
But the Government offered a deaf ear to the commission, and pigeon-holed the report. "
But this kind of thinking overlooks the obvious: the digital revolution is with us, and it is unstoppable. The world is converting, and will continue to do so, whether we're ready or not."
But this kind of thinking overlooks the obvious: the digital revolution is with us, and it is unstoppable.
The world is converting, and will continue to do so, whether we're ready or not."
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
A big one for us, as we not only had to compress both episodes, but also seven additional video elements, including the interview with Phil after the broadcast of part 1, shot and edited here in the Broadband studio.
I'm pretty sure we've got next week off (after the double week production) then it's back for the 17th and the 24th. It is nice to be getting some good comments from people watching the episodes online which just goes to show that people will watch heavily compressed sound and pictures if the story warrants it.