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In which I say why I can’t make NAB, but pass on a code ‘worth $150’ that their PR agency sent me.

Over the years I’ve watched the stories coming out of the NAB Show, and heard tales from those who visit. Sometimes I daydream about visiting – especially if I’m going to be in the US at the time. I’ll have to leave the reporting up to my friend Rick Young this time.

Given the nature of trade fairs these days, maybe NAB 2009 would be a good one to visit. If exhibiting and attending events like this starts to make less sense (ironically possibly because of some of the technology shown at NAB itself) in future, maybe you should catch one of these remnants of the 20th century in Las Vegas in April.

If I lived within four hours of Las Vegas, I would spend at least one day there.

Looks like I have enough pull with this blog for NAB’s PR company to send me a ‘a special registration code that you may pass along to your readers that will give them a FREE exhibits-only registration.’

So with that bit of full disclosure, if you want to save $150 (for access to the exhibition area and to the opening keynote), go to http://nabshow.com/passport and quote Free Exhibits Passport Code: TP01 (that’s T P zero one).

PS: If you want to follow NAB on social networks, you can – although http://twitter.com/nabshow is typical of business not yet understanding the nature of Twitter. They should be using social media as a precursor for replacing much of what the trade show is…

Before the iPhone 3G phone came out in July, people created web applications and website designed for the iPhone. It’s still possible.

In fact, if you have a blog, you can use use VenueM.com to generate a version of your blog designed to be easier to read on an iPhone or Android-powered phone.

All you need is your RSS feed (mine was ‘https://alex4d.wordpress.com/feed/’) and a couple of icons. The first will be displayed on the phone when people visit the iPhone/Android version of your blog:

hopey-100
Use a version of your blog logo that is 100 pixels square.

The second is set up so that if someone adds the phone version of your blog to their list of applications (using the ‘+’ button in Safari for example), a 57 by 57 pixel version of your blog logo will appear as the icon:
hopey-57

If your main blog host doesn’t allow advertising, you have the option to add advertising to your mobile blog if you sign up for a pro account (for $3.95 a month).

This is an example of what I’ve been talking about. A twitter thought leads to a blog post… or two.

When I woke, my guest was watching TV. Part of the show was an interview with a French person. His voice was dubbed. As I know a little and my friend knows all French, it was a pity that we couldn’t hear what they had to say while reading the subtitles if needed.

It seems that dubbing foreign speech has become much more common that subtitles in the last 10 years. This is true of even the most highbrow TV news programmes. In 1995 they would have subtitled non-English speech. Now they hardly ever do.

There are two explanations: that TV producers and news editors think audiences are put off by subtitles, or that subtitling technology hasn’t kept up with the world of simpler post production – compared with dubbing.

I’d like to assume the latter for the moment. What is it about subtitling that makes it more difficult to organise than dubbing. It is that it isn’t too difficult to get a simultaneous translator to translate and speak at the same time, whereas producing well-written and well timed subtitles is hard.

For live TV, there is an interesting solution. Subtitle describers are employed to repeat what people are saying and what sounds can be heard into a speech recognition package, which produces subtitles for those who turn them on using their remote controls. All non-satellite TV channels have subtitles on 97% of all shows, this is how they provide the service.

This points up that editing software should not treat subtitling as an effect that is laid on top of video at some point, or only implemented when making a DVD. Maybe it is time that script, music and sound effect information is associated directly with audio clips so that scratch subtitles track could automatically be generated. Then professional summarisers and designers would clean them up before the production is delivered online, on DVD or broadcast.

A thought leads to a blog post… or two

So the original thought was “With people speaking foreign languages, over the last twenty years the technology of subtitling has fallen behind dubbing. A pity.” – Which is what I posted to Twitter 11 hours ago, before going out and having a great day in London. I didn’t think about it until I got back a short time ago and saw that Matt Davis had written a blog post partially inspired by my tweet.

Matt Davis' Twitter profile picture
His idea is much bigger than mine – maybe leading to a whole new media for a Social Media platform to share and discuss. That’s why you should check it out (Also follow Matt on Twitter if you like or blog his feed).

I then decided to write a post about Twitter and blogs, which meant turning my initial thought into (almost) an idea.

This is how Twitter and blogs can work.

twitterunsigned

Twitter’s home page might put you off… Their definition isn’t really up to date. Also, users have come to ignore the ‘What are you doing?’ question. What if you want to see what using Twitter is like without signing up?

You don’t have to. You can follow individual people’s thoughts, status updates, links and reports on Twitter for a while. These messages are called ‘tweets.’

If you see someone use an @ before a username ( such as @audio ), that’s shorthand for a Twitter user name. You can see their profile page by adding the username to the twitter.com web address ( http://twitter.com/audio ).
audio-twitter

As well as plain text tweets, you’ll probably see link recommendations. As each tweet can only have 140 characters, most people use a link-shortening service. This means you won’t get a clue from the text in the link to know where it goes. For example @guykawasaki uses his feed to post interesting links. Here is a recent tweet:

Growing replacement teeth with wisdom teeth stem cells! http://adjix.com/if9t See also http://dentistry.alltop.com/

adjix.com is a link shortening service, http://adjix.com/if9t takes you to http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008593860_teeth06.html?syndication=rss – As Guy is promoting his Alltop network, he also links to that too. You’ll also see short links from is.gd and tr.im amongst others. You usually only have the Twitterers word that this is an interesting place to go.

You might see messages to other people – they begin with their user name ( such as @alex4d ) – they might be difficult to understand out of context, but you might be able to understand the Twitter conversation using tweetree ( http://tweetree.com/audio ) instead – it is a site that looks at what Twitter people are doing and re-arranges the tweets the make things clearer.
audio-tweetree

It also expands the short URLs so you have a better idea of what people are linking to.

As well as having a look at the kind of things I Tweet about, check out editors Scott Simmons, Norman Hollyn, director “Michael Bay”, Stephen Fry and tech journalists Robert Scoble and Jemima Kiss.

As different people use Twitter for different things, visit the profile pages of a variety of people. Each person’s profile page has a grid of little icons representing who they are ‘following’ – the people whose tweets they receive:
following

Click one of the icons to see another profile page.

Also, you might get an idea of what they’ll be tweeting in future by looking at the page they link to in their profile information at the top right of the window. Temporarily bookmark those you like the look of.

Once you have found enough interesting content, consider signing up. Instead of seeing everyone’s tweets, you’ll only see those from the people you follow. To follow someone, go to their profile page and click the ‘Follow’ button.

Once you have followed a few people, twitter.com will look something like what I see:
twittersigned

On the other hand, have a quick look at the post before this one…

A few months ago I provided some constructive criticism to an initial edit of a video shot by the talented Mr. Philip Bloom on Vimeo. Another user immediately told me that Vimeo comments should only be supportive and positive, unless the owner requested other kinds of feedback.

There’s a debate about this on one of their forums: “Totalitarian Positivity versus Constructive Criticism.”

Lucky for me, Eugenia Loli-Queru cared enough to point out some problems with one of the video doodles I posted yesterday:

Very nice idea, very nice shots, but poor execution I am afraid. The editing part needed more… editing. This is a piece that doesn’t need to be more than 2:00 to 2′:20″, and it needs the wobbly shots, or less-than-good shots, removed. Also, the music is not a great fit either.

Please re-edit this footage because you have a great idea there, and great footage in your disposal. I’d suggest you go a bit more artsy on it, check some of Charlie McCarthy pieces on similar looks for ideas on the way he edits and cuts his clips together.

That’s more useful to me than just leaving me the first two clauses and not giving me useful feedback. I should have followed my gut and not posted the video. Oh well.

Vimeo could be defined as a social media platform where a community can share high quality video. Now that competitors have better quality encodes, less limits on uploads and are less expensive, all that’s left is the community of people who share their videos. HD video is the Web 2.0 media that Vimeo shares.

Maybe support amongst creative people and people who are good at understanding the meaning of videos is what Vimeo should spend more time on – that’s more of a Web 3.0 definition. Luckily the support many Vimeo users offer each other is designed into the system. I’d probably trust the opinion of someone who’d decided to follow other people’s videos (‘Contacts’ in Vimeo parlance), ‘Liked’ many videos, set up communities of people interested in specific films (‘Channels’ and ‘Groups’), posted many of their own and provided useful feedback to others. Most of this information is visible on each user’s profile page:
vimeo-profile

My stats are OK:
vimeo-stats-a

Looks like I post enough videos to know some stuff, though they may not be any good – you could watch some linked to my profile page. I’ve been quite good at showing my appreciation of other people’s work. I don’t seem to be following the work of that many other people, but have set up a couple of communities of videos based around a theme.

Here is Eugenia’s stats:
vimeo-stats-b

She hasn’t uploaded as many videos as me, but 32 is a lot, so she probably doesn’t upload any old thing. She spends more time marking other people’s videos that she likes. She also follows the uploads of a good number of people.

One of the people I have marked as a ‘Contact’ is Remyyy. His stats are different again:
vimeo-stats-c
He is prolific and spends time looking at other people’s work.

Here are two of his videos:

It was the ideas in Remyyy’s videos that made me want to hang out at Vimeo. Before that I considered it a place to host my videos without needing to upload them to my own website.

Maybe other people would have a different measure for Vimeo authority, but at least the stats are there on each person’s profile page. We can all roll our own…

PS: If I only had the time to fix that video!

As Vimeo kindly gave me ‘Plus’ membership, you can now watch these videos in HD right here (if you click the full-screen control), until I run out of HD plays. After that, you’ll still be watch them in HD at http://www.vimeo.com/alex4d

This is a little long, in widescreen so that the limited bandwidth is used to encode more pixels. Resisted using time lapse this time.

Below Waterloo bridge, you can buy second-hand books. Music by Aphex Twin.

SD – I was playing around will stock footage back in 2001 while working on a job for Sun and I had to have a go at making one of these.

1993:
I Love Typography – A reminder of the kind of stuff I used to read at the St. Bride Printing Library in the early 90s.

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web – Schizophrenia resulted from me being a SGML purist in the early days of the web while designing magazines. One part of me believed that control over how different web tags are displayed should to be left to the reader in Mosaic and Navigator. The other spent time coming up with the perfect distribution of spacing in fully justified 9 on 12.5 Goudy Old Style on a 48mm measure. Maybe it’s time I bought the CSS upgrade to my WordPress blog.

2009:
Boxee – An open-source media browser than combines video and audio on your computer or AppleTV, content served from the web and the interests of your social network together in one application.

teehan+lax – twenty years ago, I liked the idea of being a user interface designer. Maybe I might have made it to a place like this, and be blogging for them too.

friendfeed – Matt Davis asked me if there was a social media aggregator for Twitter, blogs, comments and other services. He wants a way to keep up with the various online activities of friends and interesting people. My feed combines my Twitter posts, Vimeo uploads and video choices, blog posts and comments on other sites onto a single page. This seems to work for me at the moment.

On my way back from Liverpool by train a while ago, I held my camera up against the window for a while.

If you have a portable media player, and need to go on a journey in the dark, you can play this video instead of looking out of the window.

Click the Vimeo button to go through to their site to watch in HD, and to download the source file.

Over the last few years media companies have been scrambling to avoid what was seen as inevitable: that Apple would steamroll video content owners into giving up control over pricing their programming on the iTunes Store. Commercial TV and movie studios didn’t want to be caught napping like the music industry.

On both sides of the Atlantic an ‘anyone but Apple’ solution has become successful. In the US, NBC and News International launched Hulu:

cloudhulu

It is an advertising supported site for U.S.-based viewers to watch TV shows and films from Universal, Fox and NBC amongst others:
cloudhuluvt

In the UK, the BBC has had great success with its iPlayer service. It is a catch-up service structured around the schedules of their TV and radio stations:
cloudbbc

As the BBC is funded by the TV licence system in the UK, the service is free for British citizens.
cloudbbcvt

The problem with the BBC getting large numbers of people to watch TV on their catch-up service has made things difficult for advertising-supported networks to get the same kind of figures. ITV, Channel Four, Five and Sky TV have their own services, but far fewer people use them. They have much less money to spend on their services.

The UK commercial networks are facing the same problems that TV stations all over the world are facing: more entertainment options available to their audiences and a reduction in spending by major advertisers. Some of the networks have been calling for a share in the money the government raises for the BBC.

Instead of sharing any of that reliable stream of cash, the BBC would rather maintain the future of UK Public Service Broadcasting by creating partnerships with other organisations. In a document published today, they state:

The BBC is today launching a series of new partnerships that could deliver more than £120 million per annum by 2014 to PSB beyond the BBC, including sharing the iPlayer with other broadcasters and bringing it to the television set.

The wide-ranging proposals cover the production, distribution and exploitation of content. One partnership—to develop a common industry approach to delivering on-demand and internet services to the television—is already being progressed by a group including BBC, ITV and BT.

Other proposals announced include helping support regional news beyond the BBC; BBC Worldwide working with other broadcasters to develop new revenue streams; and the BBC sharing technology and R&D to create a common digital production standard.

(Emphasis mine)

They plan to bring a standard user interface for catch-up TV to UK TVs that will be able to play content from any channel. This might include content from the huge archives of the media owners.

My second highlight shows that they suggest that their technology could be used to create an open-source digital production system for programme-makers. The PDF specifically says:

The BBC is exploring how it can adapt its own significant digital production investment to help create a common digital production standard for the sector: bringing together the UK’s creative industry and technology vendors with ‘software as a service’ that adheres to agreed industry standards, including:
A digital archive tool: creating a shared repository for the industry allowing content to be more easily stored and accessed by producers and broadcasters in common
A digital production tool: enabling new material to be combined with archive material and moulded roughly before craft edit begins, and which allows content development to be shared more easily by producers, editors and others.

If you are worried about the power Apple, Adobe, Avid or Microsoft may want to wield over the future of post-production, this might be good news.

In order to keep the licence-fee money, the BBC may be forced to act as an honest broker in the UK to make sure all applications will be able to interoperate using open standards. This will take the risk out of post production technology investments, make collaborative production simpler and cheaper and will open up the market to small production companies:

These services would not be constrained by geographical boundaries: a small independent producer working on a commission in Scotland could save money by paying to re-use rushes recently shot by a different production team in London rather than reshoot that material. Craft edit and graphics could be delivered via service providers on the platform with multiple remote online review points. Finally, the finished product could be delivered digitally in file form to the commissioning broadcaster, conforming to agreed standards and ready for cross-platform publication.

(from the detailed BBC document on partnerships)

Another step towards the day when all footage will be stored in the internet ‘cloud’ and creative people will be able to collaborate to make films no matter their location or financial resources.

Here are some links to PDFs of relevant BBC R&D:

File-based Production: Making It Work In Practice

Business-to-business metadata interchange: Requirements for transport and packaging

Standardising media delivery in a file-based world

Open Technology Video Compression for Production and Post Production

PRISM (PeRvasive Infrastructure and Services for Media) is the BBC Research project for storing footage and programmes in the cloud.

Channel 4 are starting up a community for people who want to share animations called 4mations.tv – this promotes their work and celebrates animation in the UK over the last 26 years. Since 1982 Channel 4 funded a major proportion of British animated films. On Friday, Clare Kitson – their commissioning editor for the 90s – presented some of the films they supported, here are links to some of the films she showed:

mation-1
15th February
– A film that seemed to not be completed based on an initial plan. It’s 6 minutes 39 seconds feels like 10 minutes.

mation-2
Many Happy Returns
– A film that takes a long time to tell a story that needs to be told. Again mixed media, this time more violent.

mation-3
The Man With The Beautiful Eyes
– A beautiful, sunny story based on a poem by Charles Bukowski.

mation-5
Feet of Song
– An impressionistic film at its best when it’s at its most abstract.

mation-4
The Cat With The Hands
– A scary gothic tale.

I’m linking to these films because they are some of the films that Clare thinks are a part of a representative sample of British animation over recent years.

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