Archive for May, 2010

old school

So why don’t you meet me, down behind the old school
We’ll waste away the weekend, with perfect regard for how
Cavalier we used to be, that beautiful insanity
The apathy’s surrounding me
Don’t close your eyes or we’ll fade away

A funny thing about the digital age — the more information we have access to, the more misinformation we embrace into our zeitgeist. In the not-so-long ago days when the Internet was mainly for e-mail, and facebooks were made of paper, items were mostly advertised in newspaper ads or classifieds.

It turns out that there was a well-known shorthand language in the newspapers. While we didn’t read OMG or ROFL, we did understand that TLC meant you needed to be handyman and that “efficient layout” meant you’d better like living in small spaces.

I once read an article about how we’ll inevitably catalog our lives with documents, audio, chat logs, blogs and video. Then along came MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.  The thesis was, that, taken to the extreme, there would be more hours of content created per person than we lived. Add in video surveillance from several angles etc. Clearly, we need to summarize, else the person reviewing our lives in gruesome detail would require too much time and possibly waste their own lives trawling through the mass of digital data that we elect to store on cloud storage farms. But what do you leave out, and what do you keep for posterity?

Does this mean that we all need to develop some editing skills, and apply them to our new way of living, else we’ll forever be hoarding irrelevant digital fodder?

Coincidentally, this theme recently emerged in President Obama’s commencement speech at Hampton University where he relayed,

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

When is too much of something irrelevant? And, by what measure?

I agree with the President.

My digital colleagues smile at my usage of an old school gold fountain pen complete with blue Sheaffer Script ink and my Moleskine notebook. Want to really interact with your thoughts in the most intimate way possible? You don’t need an iPad and a finger. Here’s a thought, focus on what takes real effort to craft before committing it in writing. It provides clarity of thought. The distractions of digital immediacy and it’s associated ADHD vanish into deep thoughtful consideration.

Yes my friends smile and joke about my retro-technology quirks, but when I lend them my pen, and give them a precious piece of acid free paper, they just love the smooth feel of the nib and watch the ink flow…

I just sit back, watch and think that some of the old school stuff makes sense, at least to me.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

May 13, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

changing behaviors

We’ll make a movie, you’ll play the staring role
and I’ll direct you on where to go
We’ll make a movie, up & down and roun’ & roun’
baby just you follow I’ll show you what to do

Before the advent of digital content production, files were limited to dog-eared manila folders filled with copious production notes. And long before videotape, everything was about film, and many of the same workflows remained in place.

Enter digital workflows.

Actually, digitizing the content value chain has started at different points, depending upon the media type. Print was a direct function of the desktop capabilities resulting from the mac platform and the Apple Laserwriter. It was not until later that print facilities moved from film to ‘direct to plate’, or on-demand printing. Radio focused on automating the play out facility, leveraging digital audio files to files integrated with playlist management. Studios digitized their raw film footage, and enhanced the available digital video desktop technologies for editing, and edited the content before mastering back to film. Today, they have moved to capturing digitally, and now distributing to digitally enabled cinemas. What a good colleague of mine calls “Glass to Glass. Forever”. More on that in a subsequent blog.

But the behaviors of content creation have really changed beyond just folks working out how to manage digital content files and integrate them into their current business workflows.

Consider the following.

The economics of a film shoot was centered originally on the cost of the film (the celluloid) itself. In the early days, cameras, film and subsequent processing were more expensive than actors’ time – at least when actors were owned by the studios. At that time, the practice of a clapboard was instantiated, as was the stereotypical “action”. The emphasis was on minimizing the wastage of film. The camera was already a sunk cost. Consumers demanded more interesting perspectives, and eventually cameras and film became more affordable, and so multi-camera shoots prevailed.

When Videotape came along, the clapper’s role was less focused on saving film (or videotape), but more on ensuring the documentation of scenes for subsequent editing. Tape was cheap, make more shots, keep doing it again and again because ‘video’ actors were generally paid less than ‘film’ actors. Film still held premium production qualities that audiences craved but by the 80’s video was ‘best’ for TV.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to digital cameras… with the introduction of 2K/4K cameras that rivaled film quality, finally the clapper truly became a mechanism for scene/take separation. In fact, anecdotally, I have heard that due to the relative low-cost of digital compared to actors and production, the camera in many instances was just left running. This practice captures ‘behind the scenes’ content, notes, exchanges between actors, directors, writers and bloopers etc. This content used to end up on the cutting room floor, now it can be valuable extra content on a DVD or a Blue-ray.

Economics driven by technology has changed the behavior of how stuff is made. Apart from the time used to plan content and shoots, the time to turn around rushes has shrunk along with the behaviors, which have become the typical unintended consequences.

Now managing that digital content from glass (at the camera) to glass (at the consumer device) faces another problem… how do we handle, tag and forever secure this content? Not very well I’d say.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

May 6, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment


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