Still Photos Make A Film

27 10 2007

Last year there were a slew of films up on YouTube in which people took a picture of themselves in more or less the same position for a year or more and strung them together in a film. The first one that I was aware of was from Noah Kalina, but a slew of them (both serious and parodies) started cropping up soon aterwards.

Here is an interesting variation on this version of the old Eadweard Muybridge using, gasp, stills. It’s called The Arrow of Time and it is pretty haunting in a way that Kalina’s never was.

What is it about the simple arrangement of still photos in sequential time that causes an effect on us? I am convinced that this is at the very heart of cinema.

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Is Search Dead, or is it Dying?

27 10 2007

Bill Ryan, on the October 18, 2007 podcast of Ken Rutkowski’s always informative KenRadio, makes the following comment, which is quite fascinating in its implications:

“We’re moving from a world of search to a world of relevant discovery.”

Think about it for a minute. Google and a host of other search engines do a reasonably good job of searching on one or more search terms (by the way, one new search engine that I like an awful lot is Twerq). Type in “Avid” and “P2″ and you get a whole bunch of hits about how Avid is working at intergrating this new tapeless workflow into their Media Composer software. Mixed among them are results that are nothing more than ads or stories that just mentioned both search terms in passing. You can also get hits for people who are really avid about the film P2. That’s not really very helpful.

What Ryan is alluding to, if I’m not mistaken, is trying to make search results truly responsive to what we need, rather than what we type. If you’re writing an email to a friend and you’re talking about using the HVX500 camera in your last shoot, wouldn’t it be great if a search engine (when triggered) could see that you’ve been writing about a camera that uses P2 cards and that you’ve used the words “rain” “damage” and “buy” in the surrounding text and figure out that you want to search for either insurance policies or replacement parts or rental locations (depending on what the other words in the email were).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could type “What is the cheapest theater running Gone Baby Gone in Hollywood?” into a search engine and have it realize that the words Gone Baby Gone are a book or movie title and since you typed the word “theater” that you must be referring to a movie. And then look for prices of movie theatre tickets in Hollywood and cross reference that with theatres playing Gone Baby Gone at the time you ask for the information? And then present you with a list of theaters and the screening times on that day.

Notice what intelligence has gone into that chain of thought. It recognizes the word “cheapest” and knows that you don’t want to search for every instance of the word “cheapest” (since that would pull up a lot of ads), but it searches on price instead. It knows that, if you want to know a price, then you must be interested in purchasing a ticket and so it provides additional information that would be helpful to you in making that decision — location, show times, surrounding services, et al.

That’s not artificial intelligence. That’s full-blown intelligence. And it will make search much more fruitful.

Ken Rutkowski always talks about moving from Search to Find. Ryan challenged him on this statement, saying it was about finding sites that give you want you want to find. I’d go a step further and say that it is more than finding sites that are relevant, it’s about finding information that you need. The company that figures out how to do that is going to clean up and help to define just what Web 3.0 really is all about.

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Distribution’s Future is Now

20 10 2007

I had a conversation with some producers a few months back about the dire straits that independent film distribution is in right now.  One of them was complaining that nearly all of the independent distributors are really distributors for hire. In order to distribute his film he basically would pay the distribution company the print and ad costs for the film, and then they would use their distribution network to release the film. They weren’t really taking an equity position in the film at all.  In fact, they were merely renting out their services to a company that wanted to get their film distributed.

Years ago, there was a concept called four-walling, in which movie companies  basically rented a movie theatre to run their films. This was an alternative when the big distribution companies of the time wouldn’t buy their films.

This, in essence, is four-walling exhibitors. What we’re looking at today is four-walling distributors.

The problems are obvious. It puts all of the cost on people who can least afford it — the independent filmmakers — and removes most of the incentive for the distributor to get the film a wide audience.

However, as a look into the future, it ain’t bad.

I’ve been saying for years that major music companies really should get out of the business of producing music, and do what they do best — market and distribute music. Madonna’s latest move — to dump her record company and sign with concert promoter Live Nation — is, I think, all about that realization.  While I don’t think that movie studios are inherently without talent in terms of producing film, what they are best at is distributing it. Why not rent out those services?

I don’t think they should be without a financial interest in the film.  They need to have a vested interest in pushing the hell out of a film.  But it would be great if they could choose which films they want to distribute and then do it. [NOTE:  I am incredibly aware that studios do something sort of similar when they pick up an already produced film for distribution.]

This would then set the business model for web and digital media distribution. In the way that many independent short filmmakers are choosing to post their films on (and share the revenue with) Revver and soon to be the case on Google, the business model to distribute films should be to place your film with people who know how to distribute your particular film.

It’s the future of film distribution.  And it’s already here.

Information Wants To Get Out There

17 10 2007

Well, now I think about it, that headline may be a little misleading.

But, if you’ve read my last post, you may see that I spouted off for a while on how Apple locking down the iPhone to third party developers was one of the things that had me convinced NOT to buy one. Now, comes word that Steve Jobs has declared an SDK (Software Development Kit) will be available to third party developers by February.

“We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones,” Jobs said on the Web site at He also said: “Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone.”

Good for him.

The reality is that, in the game of cat and mouse that Apple was playing with these developers, it was often hard to tell who was the cat and who was the hunted. According to the Reuters article linked to above, there are presently 200 applications created for the iPhone. Without any Apple support whatsoever. In fact, with their active obstacle creation. So it was rather unlikely that they were going to stop anytime soon. And, when you think about it, that makes sense because the consumers wanted those apps. Ultimately, all of the business reasons for not providing the capability to write apps for the iPhone (mostly for the business deals made between Apple and its partners like AT&T) fell under the weight of the business reason for providing that capability — from the consumers. So long as we’re going to live in a capitalistic society, one with a vague resemblance to a free market, if consumers really want the ability to play games on their iPhones, they are going to get that ability. As Alex Lindsay said on last week’s MacBreak Weekly, what he really wants is a program that will help him to log timecodes in the field. My guess is that a program like that already exists for the Treo. The fact that it couldn’t be written for the iPhone was incredibly stupid.

(Well, he didn’t put it that way, but you get the idea)

At least I don’t feel that Jobs’ position goes against his anti-DRM stance anymore.

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Why I Won’t Be Buying An iPhone Quite Yet

9 10 2007

And why Apple screwed the pooch last week.

iPhoneMy Treo 650 decided to choke on its own self last weekend and, for a brief moment, I was contemplating the idea of getting rid of it and buying an iPhone.

Then I started to think about it.

My Treo has the following abilities on it:

  1. Connection to Now Contact and Now Up-to-Date
  2. Vindigo — which I use often
  3. Bluetooth connection which I use to talk in the car and send files scurrying about
  4. Various games — which I’ve downloaded for free and run naturally with an easy synch
  5. The ability with Documents to Go, to read Word, Excel, PDF files and more, and send them in my email program
  6. The innate ability to take a picture and send it in an email.
  7. I can do the same with a text message
  8. A database or two
  9. Ringtones which I make myself, easily

I started to think about how I’d get my contacts and calendar out of Now and into iCal, because that’s pretty much the only calendar program that works on the iPhone. Then I thought about Mail (I use Mail for some things, and Entourage for others).

And, finally, I thought about how Apple just last week decided to create an iPhone which did not allow me to use ANY OF THESE PROGRAMS. Their latest update, 1.1.1, not only bricked (which Wiktionary defines as ” To make an electronic device nonfunctional, rendering it as useful as a brick.”) the phones for those who had broken the ATT stranglehold on the device, but rendered all third party applications inoperable.

Then I thought of Apple’s Steve Jobs’ principled stance against DRM for music in the iTunes store. And then I thought about how I use dozens of programs on my Macintosh COmputer everyday that are created by people outside of Apple, and they don’t break my laptop at all.

Then I started to think about how the new iPod Touch has some things just like the iPhone but has crippled the calendar. And I thought about how an iPod or iPhone that is intended to show video, can get away with only 8Gigs (or, 16 gigs in the case of the iPod Touch) and how Apple is making me choose between a crippled iPhone or a cripple iPod Touch.

And I began to wonder just whether I wanted to sign my life away to a company that has situational ethics and large dollops of corporate greed, disguised as consumer concern.

And then my Treo woke up and I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I’m sure I’ll change phones at some point. I’m just not convinced that it’s going to be to an Apple product. It’s too locked down. It’s too DRM’ed. It’s too… well… Microsoft.

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