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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Friday
Jul122013

Why I miss my iPad

I left my iPad on CalTrain car #138 at 11:07 am PDT on June 27, 2013 at the Menlo Park station. If you’re the bastard that has it, please give it back.

#@argh!! I’m stupid. They’re stupid. I hate everyone. I hate myself.

I decided, after the requisite stages of grief over my loss, to go without. I mean, I’ve only had one since 2010: I survived just fine before, right? And maybe, just maybe, the friendly folks at CalTrain lost-and-found might find it, right?

Well, I can tell you, my iPad-less two weeks have convinced me: Somehow, I’ve organized my life around that damned device, and I’ll be going over to the Apple store this weekend to remedy the situation.

Why? Let me count the ways.

First off, there’s my book-reading. I’m a voracious reader in general, but really, I break into a cold sweat if there isn’t a stack of mystery novels in reach. Ironically, I recently talked all my friends into giving me Kindle downloads this year instead of physical booooks. Now have more than 20 unread digital books in my cloud, just waiting.

So by Tuesday, I had a new Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader, and quickly began reading the next selection for my bookclub: "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman. I'm almost done with the book, and so far, I'd give the device a 6 out of 10 for reading. I can read out in the sun, there's no glare. It's small, fits into my pocket. But that's about it. The UX in general is awful, kind of like a cable TV settop box from 10 years ago, only in BW. The lag time is very noticeable, certainly compared to the quick snap of the iPad, and this really makes a difference over time. And don't get me started on Kindle's "Experimental Browser" that allows you to sort of surf the web. Badddd.

So for “mobile browsing” I went back to my iPhone. Snappier, for sure, than the Amazon device, but after 15 minutes, my eyes start to hurt. And forget about typing messages any longer than a tweet. I do have access to many, though not all apps I use on the iPad. But it's just too small for a media consumption experience.

Certainly the iPad has spoiled me for video, as well. That awesome screen and semi-decent sound allow me to dive into the content. Not immersive like the big flat screen with surround sound, but better than an airline or a small TV. And portable. And connected. 

Back in the day, of course, I felt that way about my laptop. It was portable, connected and a great video player, along with everything else it does. When I try it now as an iPad replacement, my trusty 13" MacBook Pro seems so heavy, so awkward, and well, it doesn't have a touch-screen!

Plus, I now use it as my primary computer, so it’s a hassle to unplug it from my 30” monitor and speakers in the home office and bring it to the media room. Why would I need to do that? Well, duh, because the iPad lives on my couch. It's my 'second' screen, and I feel incomplete without it while watching TV.  Sometimes I’m accessing content related to a show I’m watching, either thru a second-screen app, or Twitter, or maybe IMDB. But more often, I’m just picking up the iPad and checking email, Facebook, or adding a note to my to-do list on Evernote. I may also be cruising the news on an app like Zite which isn’t on my laptop and other unmentionable sites out there on the interwebs. 

So, here I go again, back to the Apple store where I’ll drop some sawbucks and get my digital life back in order. It’s not really the money, it's a lifestyle thing. It's the way I do what I do now.  

But I confess, it's kind of the money too. Another wealth transfer from my bank to Apple's, putting me in mind of a great tool built in 2010 computer science geek Kyle Conroy who wanted to calculate the difference in dollars if he had spent his money on Apple stock instead of buying Apple product. For example, if you had invested $299 in April 2003 instead of buying that iPod, its value would be $11,000 in the then-ascendant 2010 Apple share price.

Can't get that at the Genius bar.

 

Saturday
Jun222013

TVOT

 

 I'm now on stage three times in two days at next week's TV of Tomorrow Show

Tuesday

"Watch What Happens Live" and the Next Generation of Embassy Row
Join Michael Davies, President of prominent production company, Embassy Row, and Deirdre Connolly, Executive Producer/Showrunner of Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live," as they answer any and all questions about the only live, late-night interactive talk show on television. Additionally, Davies will talk about the future of Embassy Row, including upcoming projects, the importance of the second screen, and how ad integrations are the key to keeping audiences tuned-in and engaged. The session will be moderated by Nick DeMartino, Principal, Nick DeMartino Consulting. 

Wednesday

Accelerating the TV of Tomorrow

Business accelerators are offering start-ups a new way of refining their business and gaining access to networks of investors, customers and collaborators. The breakout success of broad-based technology accelerators, YCombinator and TechStars, has inspired scores of variations on their inspired model of a bootcamp that provides mentorship, learning, building, pitching and launching. Now, a new crop of accelerators is focusing on developing technologies and services for television and other areas of the media business.

This session--hosted by industry consultant, Nick DeMartino, who in his previous role as SVP of Media and Technology at the American Film Institute and founder of the AFI Digital Content Lab, himself played a significant role in accelerating and incubating today's burgeoning advanced-TV industry--will feature a roster of panelists who are working to transform television and other entertainment media with their own spin on the accelerator methodology. Panelists include:
Business accelerators are offering start-ups a new way of refining their business and gaining access to networks of investors, customers and collaborators. The breakout success of broad-based technology accelerators, YCombinator and TechStars, has inspired scores of variations on their inspired model of a bootcamp that provides mentorship, learning, building, pitching and launching. Now, a new crop of accelerators is focusing on developing technologies and services for television and other areas of the media business.
This session--hosted by industry consultant, Nick DeMartino, who in his previous role as SVP of Media and Technology at the American Film Institute and founder of the AFI Digital Content Lab, himself played a significant role in accelerating and incubating today's burgeoning advanced-TV industry--will feature a roster of panelists who are working to transform television and other entertainment media with their own spin on the accelerator methodology. Panelists include:

  • David Austin, Senior Director of Emerging Technology, Media Camp, Turner
  • Nick DeMartino, Principal, Nick DeMartino Consulting (Moderator)
  • Mike LaSalle, Partner, Shamrock Capital Advisors
  • Jigar Mehta, Director of Operations, Matter
  • Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer, Canadian Film Centre 

Storyworlds and the Reinvention of Programming, Advertising and Audiences 

This session--sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Interactive Media Peer Group--will bring together companies that offer platforms and services for developing and monetizing transmedia/multiplatform interactive storytelling experiences, in order to explore how the "storyworlds" they make possible will impact our conception of television programming--as well as television's advertising/monetization strategies--going forward. Topics to be addressed include: 1) The implications of the transformation of the audience from mere viewers to, as it were, "citizens" of a storyworld, for whom a program is not something that is viewed on a screen within a half-hour or hour-long timeslot, but something that is immersive and available around the clock. 2) The extent to which new, interactive storytelling platforms and services promise to increase engagement by actually allowing the audience to become co-creators of the programming experience--how do programming creators remain in control while ceding ground to the creativity of their audience? 3) The implications of the fact that storyworlds are not confined to the TV in the living room--how will mobile technologies and services such as geolocation and location-based social networks allow transmedia programming to extend beyond the home (and perhaps even beyond the screen) into the real world? 4) The ways in which marketing and advertising will have to adapt to take into account a new type of audience that is not only immersed in a storyworld but, in some cases, is helping create that storyworld, and that has that storyworld potentially available to them around the clock and everywhere they go. Panelists include:

  • Nick DeMartino, Senior Advisor, Theatrics
  • Robert Pratten, CEO, Transmedia Storyteller/Conducttr
  • Thomas Rigler, Executive Producer, "City Walk" (KCET/LinkTV)
  • John P. Roberts, SVP of Digital Media and Commercial Affairs, Endemol USA
  • Craig Singer, CEO, Hopskoch
  • Lori Schwartz, Governor, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Interactive Media Peer Group/Principal, Tech Cat, World of Schwartz

 

Wednesday
Jun052013

June 2013 Conference Talks

June is a busy month for conferences and events. Here are a few sessions I’ll be involved with. Let me know if you’ll be attending and we’ll say hi.

National Association of Latino Independent Producers - June 7-9 at Universal Sheraton Hotel, Universal City CA

WHATEVER IT TAKES: DIY TECHNOLOGY AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF CONTENT CREATION (9am Saturday June 8) In the analog world, it was difficult, expensive and time consuming to make a film. In the DIY digital world, technology and ingenuity are driving tectonic shifts in content creation. From hacking a DSLR camera to coding a new app, the customization and democratization of the filmmaking process helps to cultivate new and fresh voices and empowers storytelling. The savvy, tech-driven and ingenious producer will soon dominate the multiplatform media frontier. This session will cover how the accessibility and customization of filmmaking tools and resources can enable smart content creators to future-proof their craft, save money and make compelling media.

  • Ben DeJesus, NGL Media;
  • Edwin Pagan, LatinHorror.com;
  • Nick DeMartino, Theatrics.com;
  • Ryan Koo, NoFilmSchool.com;
  • Monika Navarro, Monika Navarro Productions;
  • Gustavo Stebner, StebnerShow.com
  • Moderator: Ben Lopez, Viento Fuego Productions

Banff World Media Festival - June 9-13, Banff, Alberta, Canada

I will be attending as Senior Advisor to the Canadian Film Centre’s IdeaBoost accelerator, part of the team helping the six companies involved with the program access the expertise attending Banff.

TV of Tomorrow Show, June 25-26 in San Francisco. 

ACCELERATING STARTUPS IN THE MEDIA BUSINESS - Business accelerators are offering startups a new way of refining their business and gaining access to networks of investors, customers and collaborators. The breakout success of broad-based technology accelerators YCombinator and TechStars have inspired scores of variations on their inspired model of a bootcamp that provides mentorship, learning, building, pitching and launching. A new crop of accelerators focus on technology in service to the media business. Find out how a roster of visionaries are working to change the world of media & technology with their own spin on the accelerator methodology.

  • Ana Serrano, founder, ideaBOOST, Toronto  
  • David Austin, founder, Turner/Warner Media Camp
  • Jigar Metha, Matter Ventures
  • Mike La Salle, partner at Shamrock Capital Advisors
  • Corey Ford, founder, Matter Ventures
  • Nick DeMartino, moderator

PLATFORMS AND SERVICES FOR TRANSMEDIA EXPERIENCES - The panel explores how the transmedia ecosystem will impact our conception of television programming and advertising/monetization going forward. Issues we expect to be addressed include: 1) The implications of the transformation of the audience from mere viewers to, as it were, citizens of a storyworld, for whom a program is not something that is viewed on a screen within a half-hour or hour-long timeslot, but something that is immersive and available around the clock. 2) The extent to which new storytelling platforms and services promise to increase engagement by actually allowing the audience to become co-creators of the programming experience--how do programming creators remain in control while ceding ground to the creativity of their audience? 3) The implications of the fact that these new story worlds are no longer confined to the TV in the living room--how will mobile technologies and services such as geolocation and location-based social networks allow transmedia programming to extend beyond the home--and perhaps even beyond the screen--into the real world? 4) The ways in which marketing and advertising will have to adapt to take into account a new type of audience that is not only immersed in a storyworld but, in some cases, is helping create that storyworld, and that has that storyworld potentially available to them around the clock and everywhere they go.

  • Nick DeMartino, Senior Advisor, Theatrics
  • Jeff Gomez, President and CEO, Starlight Runner
  • Robert Pratten, CEO, Transmedia Storyteller (Conducttr)
  • John P. Roberts, SVP of Digital Media and Commercial Affairs, Endemol USA
  • Craig Singer, CEO, Hopskoch
  • Lori Schwartz, Managing Partner, StoryTech (moderator)
Wednesday
Jun052013

The Fanthropology of Theatrics

The session was called "Unlock the Power of Fans" at Transmedia Los Angeles’ monthly meetup earlier this week, but I’ll remember it as the Fanthropology of Theatrics, because I learned so much about the way audiences are using the new collaborative storytelling platform that I was there to represent.

 

I kicked off the discussion with a presentation, embedded here, about how theatrics works, and was then followed by Jay Bushman, co-executive producer of ‘Welcome to Sanditon,’ the sequel to the phenomenally successful web series ‘Lizzie Bennet’s Diaries,’ a modern updating of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice. ‘Sanditon’ used Theatrics to invite fans to create their own characters who could engage with the story over a 14-week run.

The third panelist was Kris Longfield who describes herself as a “fanthropologist.” Such a perfect conflation of terminology! You instantly know what she does: she studies the behavior of online fan communities.

My client Theatrics has built a remarkable platform, but like any software tool, it’s only as good as those who use it – like world-class interactive visionaries Jay Bushman and Margaret Dunlap from Pemberley Digital (the fake company in their stories, which is now the real production company behind these great Austen transmutations.)

Jay reported than more than 200 videos from 130 “characters” inside the Sanditon story world were created in the first week, from which he built a very engaging compilation episode.

 

With more than 400 videos created by fans, Jay will edit another, and that practice will continue over the run of the series.

Sanditon has managed to keep about healthy slide of the Lizzie Bennet audience, but not all of them are pleased at the team’s introduction of the interactive aspects of the story, as the comments on the non-Theatrics companion sites indicate:

I don't mean this rudely, but: Is there actually a point to this? Like, is there actually a *story* in this story? Or just random user interactive things like this? :-/

And in this corner:

I'll give all you Sanditon plot haters a clue......Your Welcome. Heh, heh. Seriously this_ series is what you MAKE IT. After all we are all just a PART IN THE PLOT. Do you get it yet? Good luck. ;>

Bushman surmises that lots of fans --  notwithstanding their age (young) and their relationship to digital tools (extensive) still want a linear narrative. It’s the 90-10 rule, said Longfield, e.g., only 10% of the audience in most fan communities actually contribute. The rest lurk, read, observe, consume.

She also noted that fan communities thrive within and against the aura of a “canon” – the official version of the story, its settings, characters and rules. Huge commercial properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Harry Potter have immense fandoms, sometimes embraced, sometimes opposed by the commercial interests behind the canon. She noted that it may be harder for original properties to generate fan engagement communities in the same way as existing properties.

The Pemberley projects attract a fanbase that is overwhelmingly female and young. Bushman noted that most of the videos uploaded by young women included some form of apology – for their performance, for the quality, for their video skills. Male uploaders did not apologize. Clearly the social context for young women has an impact on how they interact in these kinds of fan communities.

Bushman opened the door to a fascinating ethical and legal issue for the show creator whose work invites user content with the disclosure of a particularly delicate incident that in which a young woman shared – in character – something highly personal that other fans did not like. Does the show runner or other fans have a responsibility to help? To police errant behavior?    

From the audience came one decisive question: “Just who are these people?” – meaning, is there a profile for the type of audience member who migrates into the world of co-creation that tools like Theatrics enables? Her research suggests, she said, some usual suspects like students who have time on their hands, bored housewives, and, counter-intuitively, a lot of lawyers. Tell that to Shakespeare!

 

Saturday
May252013

Mystery and Emotion: "The Cosmonaut" hits the big screen

“The Cosmonaut,” directed by Nicolas Alcala and produced by Carola Rodriguez and Bruno Teixidor, all part of Spain’s Riot Cinema Collective, had long since become a legend, at least in transmedia circles, well before its checkerboard theatrical release in venues around the world this week.

The project, which began as a short film in 2008, exemplefies many of the innovations in our digitally powered and audience-centric media world, including ongoing crowd-funding, online webisodes, consumer-edited mashups, on-demand theatrical distribution, hackathons, simultaneous day-and-date release, and probably a lot of other stuff I have missed in reviewing this creative and business brief you can download from Riot’s main website. (And of course, all of the characters have Twitter accounts. Let's not get into continuity issues right now.)

If there’s no in-person screening, not to worry – you can watch it for free online starting May 19th. The website is also where you can join the “K-program” for a onetime fee of 5€ that gives you 32 webisodes, a mockumentary, behind-the-scenes videos, a newsletter, a book, and 56 “Eastern eggs” (Lost, perhaps, in translation?) This stuff is intended, as one of the webisode links says, to “fill the empty spaces left out of the film.” Some clips are also available on the site for free.

None of this I really knew when the lights dimmed in the theatre and I entered the world of the story. “The Cosmonaut" focuses upon two young men who join the Soviet Union’s space training program in 1967. While preparing for missions in the heated space race with the United States, Stas and Andrei both fall for a fetching female technician named Yulia. Andrei gets promoted to the mission team and sends Stas to the moon – maybe so he can win Yulia, maybe for some other mysterious reason.

Stas, Yulia & Andrei The film is jammed with loose threads and snippets of mystery: Did Stas make it to the moon? Did he come back? Was there a disaster on Earth? The film is steeped in evocative nostalgia and melancholic yearning as it makes its way through a jagged, non-linear telling of a series of events, both personal and world-historical.  I particularly liked the set-up scene in which an Italian space enthusiast tells of his discovery of a “lost” manned space mission that the Soviets never publicly admitted had happened. 

Stylistically, many of the scenes felt like Terence Malick, offering a kind of diaphanous, non-linear sensuality and very tactile verisimilitude. These guys put all of their crowd-sourced bucks on the screen (except for a few unfortunate space-modeling sequences that looked more like Jules Verne than George Lucas). The pacing and subject matter recalls Kubrick's "2001."The filmmakers list such iconic filmmakers as Andrei Tarkovsky and Robert Bresson, among others. 

That would be a bit of a stretch, as is the film itself, which runs about 80 minutes (not counting a truly interminable credit roll that features all 8000 funders, I kid you not). This would have been a dynamite short film, had the filmmakers had the discipline to delete a lot of the repetitive sentimentalized shots of the three lovers wandering through lakeside grasses and other outtakes of Summer’s Eve commercials.

Subscribers get more stuffNonetheless, this film comes closer than most ‘transmedia projects’ at arousing genuine emotion. While I didn’t believe for a minute that this attractive threesome with tut-tut British accents were in fact Soviet space monkeys, I did want to know what happened, I wanted to know more about them, the story, and their world. Beyond this intentionally opaque film, I’ll be able to explore some of those questions, not only in the various webisodes, but other forms included different edited versions from the filmmakers themselves, and new versions of the film that the Riot Collective will enable fans to create themselves by releasing assets for all to use under Creative Commons license.  

The film also reflects something of a Cold War nostalgia wave, as well as a renewal of interest in space as a subject in movies and elsewhere in the culture. To wit: Check out the forthcoming Alfonso Cuoron feature "Gravity"; or this clip from 2011's Another Earth in which Britt Marling's character tells a Cosmonaut story; or the recently concluded period spy drama The Americans; or even this engaging video cover of Bowie's 'Space Oddity' by Astronaut Chris Hadfield shot in the International Space Station. (Plus Star Trek, and much more. We love our space operas, it seems).

I’ve often said, I’m waiting for transmedia to make me cry – my way of saying, I want the story and the characters to move into my heart. “The Cosmonaut” in its linear form came close. Let’s see if the other story elements push me over the edge. 

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