Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fox uses Treo's live video to cover plane crash | CNET News.com

Mentioned this one around the news room. No doubt it's going to pop up in projects down the track.

When a single-engine plane crashed into an Upper East Side apartment building on Wednesday, Fox News Channel delivered early live video to its viewers from the crash site using a handheld mobile phone souped up with streaming video.

Scott Wilder, a cameraman for the network, had been about 20 blocks away on another assignment when the crash occurred. Wilder ran uptown and reported live from the scene using a Palm Treo smart phone that uses the existing mobile network to transmit video to the Fox News control room. From there, Fox News sent it out live on TV to supplement other video being shot by local traffic helicopters...

CometVision runs on a Palm Treo 700-series PDA via the Windows Mobile operating system. The technology is able to transmit video over non-3G networks, using much less bandwidth than would normally be needed, Comet CEO Howard Becker said.

"We have it set up so you can push one button" and then it starts to work, Becker said. That includes automatically connecting to a computer at the Fox News studio, and sending an e-mail to a producer or anyone else at the network who has a link to the live stream."

The telling quote...

"It'll be used more when the picture itself is of higher quality," (Fox News' vice president of newsgathering, John) Stack said. "It's OK now but it could get better. It depends on the nature of the story. If it's an important enough story, we are more forgiving of picture quality and hopefully the audience is more forgiving."

The Comment Challenge - Extended

I'm out of town until Sunday so I've extended the Comment Challenge until then because the one week timeframe would have run out while I was away.

Ignore at will. I know you will.

YouTube: Sharing Loneliness Together | Reel Pop

Since it launched in August, I've been really enjoying Steve Bryant's ReelPop blog. In particular, I enjoyed this line from a recent post responding to a New York Times article about YouTube.

"T.S. Eliot once said that television was a device by which millions of people could share a joke alone.

I guess that makes YouTube a device by which millions of people can share their loneliness together."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Long Zoom - New York Times

This article by author Steven Johnson is, ostensibly, about the game Spore that I mentioned late last month, but is particularly interesting thanks to the lead-in paragraphs.

"Most eras have distinct “ways of seeing” that end up defining the period in retrospect: the fixed perspective of Renaissance art, the scattered collages of Cubism, the rapid-fire cuts introduced by MTV and the channel-surfing of the 80’s. Our own defining view is what you might call the long zoom: the satellites tracking in on license-plate numbers in the spy movies; the Google maps in which a few clicks take you from a view of an entire region to the roof of your house; the opening shot in “Fight Club” that pulls out from Edward Norton’s synapses all the way to his quivering face as he stares into the muzzle of a revolver; the fractal geometry of chaos theory in which each new scale reveals endless complexity. And this is not just a way of seeing but also a way of thinking: moving conceptually from the scale of DNA to the scale of personality all the way up to social movements and politics — and back again."

Come for the game review, stay for the concepts.

The Comment Challenge only lasts 3 days!

Thanks to The Fiend, my Comment Challenge I set on Sunday has been defeated already only three days in.

I tend to think of this as an abnormality, not having had a previous comment in at least six months (in fact Simon mentions that the reason he'd dropped by was to see if I had anything to say about Google and YouTube - not an everyday occurrence), so I pose the same challenge now. Figuring I'm the only one who actually visits and reads this blog I posit that I will have no comments within the next week, other than perhaps Simon who may pop back in to see if I've replied to his comment.

Let's see how this one goes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gary Trudeau - The Man knows

The first actual item I wrote for this blog, after a "Hi, I'm here", was about American cartoonist Gary Trudeau and his use of blogs, internet articles, even flash mobs in his syndicated Doonesbury cartoon. Mr Trudeau has done it again, extending his push into blogging as a means of extending free speech.

[Introduced in cartoon by regular character Ray Hightower]
"Hey folks! You may have heard how dangerous it's become for the Press to cover operations OIF and OEF. Result: The public feels increasingly disconnected from the troops in the field. Solution: Let the troops report on themselves!
Presenting the Sandbox - our command-wide milblog! Starting today, GWOT-LIT has a new home, and it's exclusively at Doonesbury.com."

And so we have a simple blog interface, based on Typepad, for service personnel, and their significant others, to tell their story.

"It all comes back to me, in dribs and drabs. In the morning, I open my eyes and think of the thoughts that have bounced around the inside of my brain-housing group. And then KM6 (my wife) chimes in. She's nervous of what the future might bring, and, her being a little more liberal than I, is worried what the world might drop on us. Her eyes meet mine, and she adds one last thought to my pondering:

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

And then she tells me that she's proud of me..."

5 days remain in the Comment challenge...

Lucasfilm to create the small Blockbuster?

"Spending $100 million on production costs and another $100 million on P&A makes no sense, (Lucas) said. "For that same $200 million, I can make 50-60 two-hour movies. That's 120 hours as opposed to two hours. In the future market, that's where it's going to land, because it's going to be all pay-per-view and downloadable."

Debate as to his directorial abilities remains alive to this day, but no one can deny that the guy knows what's what. I'm looking forward to seeing the next Star Wars episodes available on GoogleTube.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

And what's this big deal with HD cameras?

While I'm in the groove and posting content that extends beyond being a simple link to something cool, can I ask why I'm hearing so many people getting excited about people doing "internet HD"?

Jeff Jarvis seems to be the most recent culprit,

"Then they set up in the den with lights, a decent mic, an HD camera set to focus on Amanda and me on the couch in front of the books that make me look smart, and with two of them roaming with two more video cameras and a third shooting stills. It was a three-camera shoot! Cable networks and sitcoms don’t use three-camera shoots anymore. On top of that, it was in HDTV."

Yeah! Great. HD. So what?

This may be my ignorance here, and I'm not entirely down with the state of HD in the States, but I can't see HD being any big factor in Internet video (vlogs, vodcasts) at this point. When was the last time you saw someone, anyone, break beyond a 512x288, square pixel resolution? Even the interview mentioned by Mr Jarvis was only 480x272. The last I checked, this is well inside standard definition resolutions.

At this point I can think of only four reasons to even use a HD camera, and only one of them (2) is compelling to me.

1) Extra resolution to play with- This allows for further cropping of the image to create more cinematic aspect ratios, such as 1.85:1 or even 2.40:1. Speeds just aren't up to scratch to use the HD resolution to its full.

2) Better electronics - Just about all modern video cameras come as HD as standard with the ability to downconvert to DV SD, which is likely to be what's really happening (HDV being such a bitch to edit properly without an intermediary codec). Modern camera, better electronics, may as well make the most of it. But that ain't HD.

3) The ability to do Cross-Platform to HDTV - Always a nice option to be able to step it up should negotiations with that cable station pick up halfway through shooting, but if there's no plan for it in the Pre-Prod phase, it's really a bit of a waste.

4) The Buzz - It obviously helps to be able to say "Now shot in Hi-Definition", like old TV shows had the "Now in Colour" super over people's black & white TV sets. The difference is, there is no real HD alternative. At least with colour you could go out and buy a new colour TV set.

As always, I'm ready and willing to hear alternate views. Still 7 days in my comment challenge, so have at it!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Some thoughts from Melbourne

Right, back at work for today. The conference is over and I get to be thrown back into the hurly burly of everyday life. While I sit here, an hour after my proposed knock-off time, waiting for a promo DVD and some troublesome transcoding, I figured I'd get some of my ideas out.

First up, what's with Melbourne?!? Chilly Wednesday morning, dry and hot Wednesday afternoon and evening, cold, windy and overcast Thursday. Crazy town. I preferred it the last time it was there and the temperature ranged from a blustery 6 degrees, to a balmy 6 degrees. At least I had time to adjust.

Would have loved to have got to see the Picasso exhibit, but alas it wasn't to be. Apologies to Melbouorne friends, but there just wasn't time to catch up.

Irony quotient for the two days - keep in mind the title of the conference is New Realities: Beyond Broadcasting.

(In a Southbank men's room)
Me: "If I'd known you were going to play that clip I'd have worn my ZeFrank T-shirt."
Him: "Aw yeah, isn't he great? I reckon it's only a matter of time before he gets his own T.V. show."

Something doesn't strike me as being quite right here...

[EDIT] I had a thought about this and want to make a few things clear, in case someone with a connection to all this should pass by.
I'm not implying that the other participant in this conversation was some sort of hypocrite. I mean, the irony of the statement didn't strike me until late the next day so I'm hardly immune to criticism. This is just the mentality that some of us have as a result of the current mediascape; Cinema at the top, then TV, newspapers/radio battling it out for third, then the internet as the newcomer. It's hardcoded into our brains at the moment, but something we can be aware of and try to think around.

Jennifer Wilson from HWW made a comment that while talking to one of her competitors they made the distinction between television and video on demand as (and I'm going on memory here, so if the quote's not entire accurate I apologise) "if it's scheduled and you can't interact with it, it's television. If it's not scheduled and you can do what you want with it it's Video-on-Demand." The feeling here was that this was somehow wrong, that the term television is one that should be more open to interpretation. It's a feeling expressed recently by Jeff Jarvis of Blogmachine when interviewed by Amanda Congdon ("I argued, in turn, that the definition of TV is up for grabs and that (Amanda) should grab it: Don’t let the big, old guys define and own TV."). I just can't agree with either point. To me the term television is not just "video/pictures over a long distance" as the etymology of the word would indicate, but has picked up all sorts of baggage over the last 50 years. The big, old guys DO own T.V. as evidenced by that self-congratulatory exercise they went through a few weeks back to celebrate 50 years of Australian T.V. They own the infrastructure, they own the broadcast spectrum, they own the process. Even if you create video at home and it gets played at a scheduled time from a broadcast centre, it's television. I say let's avoid calling it television (for the record, I hate "vlog" and "vodcast" even more). Let's not allow names and terms to create a definition, but rather let innovation and creativity define the scope of what's possible.

In a world of broadcasting where schedule is everything, I think I've figured out why so many men are at the top of the totem pole in the live news arena. The whole thing follows the neoFreudian concept of narrative as being akin to the male sexual impulse. The day starts with a single goal in mind, slowly building momentum until the frenzied and focused moment of broadcast. Climax is short and sweet by comparison to the buildup, with the occasional disaster, and it's all nicely wrapped up at the end with a quick "how was that for you?" before getting out of Dodge as quickly as possible. The next day everything before is forgotten in the mad rush to hit the next scheduled broadcast time.
And on it goes.

If I haven't done anything about it in a year's time I want to come back here and be able to have this poke me in the eye to remind me how slack I am with using my ideas to their full potential:
Use the company's public trust to help guide some of the less adventurous into the new technology, because if they won't trust us, who will they trust? You know what that means.
The GreyPlayer. Figure it out, future-me. Don't make come up there and slap you round.

If we want to disrupt the schedule, then let's really disrupt! Create a program accesible only through an ARG, Beast style. Make the audience work, create a feeling of exclusivity. Create and foster community to assist those who can't get the clues, but want to follow the ride. Be adventurous. Make it "pirate". Will the punters hack it to pieces as hoax like they did with LG15? Guess it depends on how you front it. If they know up front that it's a game, if they know it's corp, but aimed at them, it enables the narrative to be built. Programs can go live at any time, completely unscheduled. The product isn't just repurposed, it's net only for one part, radio only for another, elements and clues dropped into TV. Disavow public knowledge of its existence, with a wink and a smile to the audience. Scare the bejeezus out of the marketing people!!!!!

The future's there if we have the proverbials to grab it.

[ADDITIONAL COMMENT] Blogs as conversation.
Ha! There's no conversation here. Sure it happens with some blogs, but for most of us it's just ranting to ourselves, posting links to stuff we find interesting for archive purposes, and knowing we can dig through in a year, two year's time and take a look at stuff we find interesting.

Don't believe me? Then comment!! I would wager that this post doesn't get a single comment within one week from today (Sunday 8th), even with me posting the challenge. There's no conversation here, just me and a bunch people using Google Images to look for that damn LotR-WoW mashup.

News At Seven | Northwestern Infolab

I'm out of town for two days, this pops up.

The new generation of Max Headroom.

"News At Seven is a system that automatically generates a virtual news show. Totally autonomous, it collects, parses, edits and organizes news stories and then passes the formatted content to an artificial anchor for presentation. Using the resources present on the web, the system goes beyond the straight text of the news stories to also retrieve relevant images and blogs with commentary on the topics to be presented.

Once it has assembled and edited its material, News At Seven presents it to the audience using a graphical game engine and text-to-speech (TTS) technology in a manner similar to the nightly news watched regularly by millions of Americans."

Too much fun, especially around the 1:50 mark (why does she keep looking off screen?)

FutureLab's Eight Truths of Innovators | Urlocker On Disruption

Michael Urlocker takes a look at Belgian marketing and consultancy firm Future Lab's "Eight Truths of Real Innovators".

"This is a thought-provoking list. Numbers 5 (launch quickly, perfect later) and 6 (watch what customers do, not what they say) ring a strong bell with me. Perhaps the most important element is Number 1, which identifies that real innovation is not a technology issue.

Companies can be helped along the self-disruption route if the following questions are raised:

  • Which aspects of the current product or service are already good enough? <--stop innovating here
  • Which business processes and products are tied to these 'good-enough' attributes and no longer necessary? <--eliminate the excess processes
  • If we were to create a new business to deliver a new product 1-2 years from now, what would be the right focus for the product and right organizational structure?
  • If we don't disrupt ourselves, will someone else? <-- the KILLER QUESTION"

Go take a look. More comment on the ABC Digital Futures convention in a bit.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Live from Melbourne!

Not much time. I'm coming live and direct from an Internet Kiosk at the Travelodge Hotel at Southbank, Melbourne. It's $2/15 min and just getting to this page has cost me about 4 mins.

Anyway, I'm down here as part of the ABC Digital Futures conference being run by ABC Radio. A great event so far. You can see what's been happening at the ABC Digital Futures blog. I'd love to get the accurate address, but this damn kiosk won't let me open a second window to go check, so I'll probably have to confirm it when I get back home on Thursday night. It's something like http://www.abcdigitalfutures.net
[Edited for accuracy. Go take a look.]

Anyway, I wanted to send off a post tonight, not because I believe that anyone actually cares about whether or not I post tonight, but rather because I can and I find the concept kinda cool. What I did want to get down was a concept that I had watching the group dynamics of the conference participants milling around during breaks. Here's what I scribbled down before the third session. Hopefully I can use this stuff down the track.

Noise <=> Fragmentation

The greater the noise in a community the greater the fragmentation to facilitate communication.

The higher the signal (to noise), even if that's just clarity of voice, facilitates larger fragments within the community.

Where does signal-noise fit in?

Even taking into the ZeFrank principle (link pending, or check my previous post on the ZeFrank favourites index) of "the dirty window".

Ex, the "The Show" controversy - took the clarity of Ze Frank's voice to break through the noise to gain attention. That required necessary clarity of voice to gain ZF's attention (yelling, hurling abuse about his subject, community notification, search).

There's more to this, I know it!!!

Is it even relevant?

Lo noise, hi signal allows large communication, but surely this requires a signal people want to hear.

One other thing that has nothing to do with this.

"Community as "steering wheel" to navigate the net".

Anyway, into the last minute. More later.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

TV Free Burning Man | DV.com

"In the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada, approximately 39,000 cheering people watch as a 40-foot-tall figure of a man perched atop an art deco pavilion explodes, burns, and lights up the night sky. And for the first time in the 20-year history of the Burning Man celebration, many thousands of people not on the desert playa at Black Rock also watch The Man burn, live, on television.

This as-it-happens video coverage of Burning Man 2006--shot largely by Burning Man participants themselves--was made possible by TV Free Burning Man, a pirate TV station that lasted only as long as the event itself."

So what is it about this story that I love so much? Well, I'm a big fan of the fire event. Any fire event. In particular, I've got a soft spot for the Woodford Folk Festival, a similar event to the Burning Man celebration, where I covered the fire event in 1999 and live on January 1 2000 for a worldwide Millenium broadcast. I always said, perhaps with a little too much hyperbole, that the control room in the ABC O.B. truck was my Zen Temple. From there I felt connected to all the sources coming in and it was up to me to get in time with what was happening and craft the output the way the pictures wanted to naturally be. Never was that more evident to me than those two times I was able to switch the Woodford Festival fire event. (Why stop switching? Because there's not many opportunities for events like that, and eventually Directors get to a point where they feel like they should be telling you what to do so they can justify their over-inflated paycheck. Switching commercial sports just isn't fun anymore. Too much pressure.)

The other thing I love about this story is the transience of the broadcast. Any time you put "Pirate" and "Television" together in a sentence you've got me won.

Read on and learned how the Burning Man Project and Current TV got the job done.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Network | We deal in illusions man, none of it is real...

"...the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break Presidents, Popes, Prime-Ministers. This tube is the most awesome, god damn force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people."

Such wonderful words, delivered by a true master of the art. It's the sort of thing that makes me think long and hard about my career.

However, because that's depressing, suppose we transpose this speech by saying that, rather than "this Tube", he's referring to "this YouTube." How does it hold up then, with the future upon us?