Our final #minimovie for Innocent – Dr. Wolfman vs Super Smoothie

Here is our final video, cut down to be 30 seconds long.  Unfortunately Innocent can’t feature it on their page just yet to kick off the competition, as it might be too scary for young people!  Oops. Well, we were asked to make a slasher horror…

Innocent film making workshop with Ben Wheatley

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a chance to learn something new, meet some lovely people and create stuff together and come away with a proper tangible thing we made at the end of the day. Not too shabby!

Innocent linked to a blog post about a film making workshop in their newsletter a month or so back, and to apply for a place, you had to send them a story / idea for a next superhero smoothie advert.  I think my entry was pretty bland and pretty close to the current ad, especially after exchanging stories with people I met yesterday who got on with their ideas too, there were some quite out there and funny ones.  Anyway, I managed to get a place and went along yesterday with no expectations.

The day was split into two – the entire morning we had Ben Wheatley, an amazing lo-fi director who made the latest superhero Innocent ad, talk us through the principles and a few techniques of lo-fi filming and shared with us some of his brilliant work.  I thought I’d just jot down in bullet points the main points I jotted down in my notebook yesterday.  Just a few things I didn’t know before and found interesting:

  • Storyboards are really important. They are a chance to practice the film in your head. To imagine shots and flow.  In advertising they can be a legal document
  • You have to have a vision. Literally. Not just an idea of what you want, you have to see it, then try and make it. Spend walking time daydreaming
  • Camera plans can save you time. You save time if you know how you’re going to set everything up beforehand, or have at least thought about it a little beforehand
  • Minuteage is the term for how many minutes of the final movie you can make per day. Kind of like the directors forecasting tool
  • Coverage is lots of shots and options. Like ‘filler’ footage – wide pans of a room, lots of quick shots of nothing. Editors and producers like coverage apparently. It makes things look like TV. You need coverage with weak scripts and weak performances
  • Play your storyboards to music. This allows you to test the time each shot needs, how long it will / should be, and test how the shots flow
  • He described the journey of the progression of film and his involvement as: Film cameras > Internet & flash animation (3 year bubble) > YouTube
  • Lo-fi is a can-do attitude. Not making things look ironically bad, but making stuff work and effects with whatever you have and with strictly no CGI.  It’s about you deciding what is good, and telling a story without worrying too much if it looks right
  • Download sound FX from the internet.

Ben’s talk was fascinating and he’s a really nice speaker. Just natural and humorous. I was particularly impressed that he made the Alan films for Modern Toss, and he references his style as in the same area as Michel Gondry. The Science of Sleep is my favourite film aesthetically.  Ben also made a feature film, which won lots of film festival awards apparently called Down Terrace. I’ll be checking that out.

The second half of the day were were split into groups and tasked with making a mini movie.  It was designed really well – the majority of people there got a place by applying, but they also invited just the right amount of young, talented film students so that each group who had someone with some experience and talent in this area.  In my team was Dan, Luc and Flora, who was a film student.  They also gave each group a runner in the form of an Innocent employee.  We got Joe, who was amazing. He had brought in props from home, a mini bottle of whiskey so we could kick off with a cheeky sip to tickle our senses. I’m pretty sure that gave us an edge.

We were given the genre of ‘slasher horror’, and each got a box of props which included a few of the little superhero fellas, like the one in the picture above.  We managed to get the kitchen as our location, the one used for testing and formulating new recipes, so it had lots of clinical looking machines and kinda looked more like a lab.  The perfect location for a slasher horror!

We had lots of fun making zip wires for flying smoothies, splashing about a deep red smoothie for the gore effects and doing silly voices.  We were given the first half hour to brainstorm and make our story board then we had to shoot it within an hour and a half.  We managed to get into a flow pretty quickly, and sequentially shot different scenes all in one take each!

It was so much fun watching the results of everyone’s movies – each one was hilarious. They be up on YouTube over the next few days and the one with the most views at the end of the week wins a case of smoothies for each member in that team.  That kicks of a wider competition, open to everyone and with a bigger prize.  This video tells all about that:

A thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring day.  Thank you Innocent for making us feel so welcome and at home, for getting some really excellent people together and making creativity happen!

Datacopter ‘Twitter Tracker’ for C4 Drama The Promise

This is the latest instance of Datacopter for Channel 4 drama, The Promise.  Here it is called a ‘Twitter Tracker‘ and it represents all of the conversation relating to the drama over the four weekly episodes.

When Channel 4 first saw The Promise, they recognised that the drama may cause debate around the Israel / Palestine crisis, and wanted to find a way to represent this conversation in a fair way.

Written and directed by Peter Kosminsky, The Promise is a compelling drama set in both modern day Israel and 1940’s Palestine, telling a tale of two ages via two main characters, Erin and her Grandfather.  It’s definitely a gripping drama, which has had amazing tweets from people saying as much, so if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend catching up.

The Twitter Tracker has been designed to specifically represent the breadth of the conversation around the drama, the issues and debate it raises and the characters, to ensure that no large topic drowns out all the others, purely based on numbers or ‘loudness’.  In a sense, it represents not just the top trending topics, but the long tail of conversation.

The visualisation itself consists of a timeline, covering the 4 episodes, which allows you to highlight a specific episode and see the aggregate conversation around it.  Below that are a series of ‘planets’ with corresponding ‘moons’ (a conversation constellation, if you will).  Each planet represents a theme and has a series of moons around it to show related terms to that theme.  As you click on planets and moons you alter the tweets that are shown to you on the right hand side, which drill down as you drill down by clicking on the timeline, planets or moons.

There is some super clever science / maths behind the constellation model, which I’m sure my colleague Steve (who built this) will blog about soon, and I will not attempt to try and explain here!

Here are some initial sketches we sent to the multiplatform commissioner at C4, which I hastily sketched up after an ideas session with Jenni and Steve.  This kicked the project off, but from this we developed the idea quite a lot onto the constellations.  It’s always nice to revisit the first seed of an idea!

 

And here is a screenshot of the first prototype of the planets and moons Steve made:

My colleague Jenni who has been working on this project from a UX / design perspective has started making a story of the project on Storify, a nice little service that allows you to curate stories by pulling in media from all different sources, such as tweets, flickr photos and blog posts.  She asked that I caveat that this ‘story’ isn’t finished – she still wants to add in some narrative around the media – so it will develop over time!

A few TV check-in & social apps links

A few apps and links that have been making my brain fizz around TV check-ins lately…

Yap.TV – an iPhone app for augmenting your experience while watching TV programmes.

Not so much a check-in app but a ‘companion to the TV watching experience’.  Think it’s largely US based and populated but it is available to download (free) in the UK and I’ve just downloaded it and found a couple of UK programmes.  You search for a programme, it gives you 5 screens to flip through – programme details, tweets mentioning that programme, Polls, friends watching that programme and ‘Living Room’ – a space where you can invite your friends to a private conversation around that programme.  It also allows you to update your Facebook or Twitter directly from it with a comment about the programme.

How about a 6th screen that shows a data visualisation of the conversation around the programme?..

Into_Now – an iPhone check in and social app for TV programmes that uses sound recognition to check you in.

Looks really interesting – not available to download in the UK unfortunately.  Uses sound recognition and a patented indexing technology called Soundprint.  Basically it has a library of millions of previously aired and current shows.  I guess it works much like Shazam, but for telly.

Miso – taking TV check-ins beyond just checking in

Miso has been experimenting with giving added value to people who check-in to programmes by offering extra content and media and deals to fans by partnering with brands and broadcasters.

I’m very interested in this – will be interesting to see how this area progresses.

An overview of UK connected TV providers

This blog post is an attempt at making sense of all the various connected / social / internet enabled TV providers that are popping up.  As much for my own benefit as anything else, I feel like I keep hearing names, seeing launches and hearing terms bandied around so I thought it would be helpful to get all these down in one place.  This is by no means comprehensive, nor have I drawn too many conclusions, it’s kind of a working list – I want to add to this as I learn more.

I suppose it would be useful to understand what we mean by connected TV in the first place.  Wikipedia calls it ‘Smart TV‘:

“Smart TV, which is also sometimes also referred to as “Connnected TV“, (not to be confused with Internet TV, Web TV or LG Electronics‘s upcoming “SMART TV” branded NetCast Entertainment Access devices), is the phrase used to describe the current trend of integration of the internet into modern television sets and set-top boxes, as well as the technological convergence between computers and these television sets / set-top boxes. These new devices most often also have a much higher focus on online interactive media,Internet TV, over-the-top content, as well as on-demand streaming media, and less focus on traditional broadcast media like previous generations of television sets and set-top boxesalways have had. Similar to how the internet, web widgets, and software applications are integrated in modern smartphones, hence also the name (“Smart TV” versus “Smart Phone”).

The technology that enables Smart TVs is incorporated into devices such as television sets, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and companion devices. These devices allow viewers to search and find videos, movies, photos and other content on the web, on a local cable TV channel, on a satellite TV channel, or stored on a local hard drive.”

The key difference between Internet TV and Connected TV in meaning is that Internet TV is defined as viewing TV via the internet (such as YouTube!) and Connected TV is about internet accessed via your TV through a set top box.

The internet and TV are converging in ‘user journeys’ already, with people sharing their thoughts about TV programmes via social networks and the emergence of 2 or even 3 screen behaviours – watching TV with your laptop or smart phone with you and giving partial attention to each.

So, I’ll take a look at the providers now, and will look at the following:

Features – what does it do?

Open? – how open is it? Will users be able to access anything on the internet freely, or will it be a walled garden, only allowing use of approved apps to reach particular sites’ content online.

Sofa controller – how will you physically be able to control it – keyboard and mouse at your sofa? Pimped up remote control? iPad and iPhone app?

Launched – when will it be / was it launched in the UK?

Price – what’s it gonna cost you if you want one.

Google TV

Google TV is made up of Google’s Android operating system and the Google Chrome web browser.  It was launched in the US in October 2010 and is currently available integrated in a standalone Sony Internet TV or via one of 2 set top boxes from Logitech and Sony.

Features

According to Wikipedia “Google TV leverages many of Google’s existing products. Google’s Android operating system provides the underlying foundation, allowing developers to create applications that extend the system’s functionality. Google’s Chrome browser provides a gateway to the Internet, allowing consumers to browse web sites and watch television, in tandem. Consumers can access HBO, CNBC, and content from other providers through the Chrome browser. Partners have built applications that allow customers to access content in unique ways. Netflix, for example, has built an application that allows customers to access Netflix’s large library of movies and television shows. Android and Apple phones will be used as remote controls for Google TV. Google TV products ship with wireless remote controls with a full QWERTY keypad.”

It has been criticised for trying to do too much, with the potential of being too confusing for the average consumer.

Open?

Yes, in the sense that it has a browser and you can browse anywhere on the internet.  In the US however, some entertainment companies such as Hulu and ABC have blocked access to their content online via Google TV for competitive reasons.

Sofa controller

Mini keyboards made by Sony and Logitech

Launched

Sometime 2011 tbc

Price

$300 in the US, UK tbc

YouView

Originally called Project Canvas, YouView as a brand was launched in November 2010.  A partnership between BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV and Arqiva, BT, TalkTalk.

Features

There is very little information on features as yet on their website – just that you can access catch up TV and there will be some apps and widgets developed, of which there will most certainly be some high quality video applications for viewing online videos.  It won’t have a browser.

Open?

No – will be populated with pre-approved apps – they’ve done a call for developers to submit.  Although they call YouView an ‘open environment’ on their website, saying anyone can develop for their platform, but much like the Apple model this is open in a ‘walled garden’ kind of way.  It’s been criticised for limiting choice to the consumer – but at a session at the Edinburgh TV festival the marketing director insisted that the average consumer doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by choice.

Sofa controller

Again, not much information on this yet.  On their website they do mention a remote control in relation to accessibility; “Remote control design that meets industry best practice for accessibility”

Launched

In Q2 of 2011

Price

around £100

Apple TV

Apple TV has been around since 2006, but since has launched a second generation which has scaled down in price (to a third of what it was), lost the harddrive (now has a 8GB flash storage, with the intention that all content is streamed) and added new access to a couple more services.

Features

You can view photos, play music and watch video that originates from limited Internet services or a local network. The first generation (white) had iTunes, Flickr, Mobileme/.Mac, and Youtube. The second generation added Netflix. Both models supported downloading/streaming podcasts.

Open?

No – it doesn’t allow you to use a browser or access any other content other than what’s supported via apps and iTunes.

Sofa controller

A remote control, via the Apple remote, or Remote application for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Launched

September 2010

Price

£99

Boxee

Boxee has a differentiator in that it is a social network in itself, as well as allowing access to your existing social networks. More detail on this below.

Features

Boxee requires you to register an account, which allows you to access a social network of other Boxee users.  You get a news feed of your friends’ viewing activity and recommendations and can either watch posted media directly from the feed (if it’s freely available) or get access to a link to it or a trailer.  You can control your privacy settings so not everyone sees everything you watch or listen to.  It also allows you to monitor Twitter and Facebook feeds directly from your news feed and add any links to a Boxee watch list.  This social network that is integrated into it is the biggest differentiator of Boxee.

Boxee also has an app store, a BitTorrent client and video and music libraries which are searchable via the metadata of the files, in a similar way to iTunes (Genre, title, year, actors, artist etc)

Open?

Boxee technically allows that practically any web-based application can made into an app for Boxee integration.  They will be using Mozilla as a base architecture, so that Hulu can’t block it as it will only recognise Boxee as an Mozilla browser. More on this at Wikipedia.

“The Boxee Box is going to be $100 more expensive than the Apple TV, but will give you the freedom to watch what you want. We think it’s worth it.” – Chief exec Avner Ronan says the company blog [link]

Sofa controller

Keyboard like remote control

Launched

December ’10

Price

£100 – £199

Have I missed any providers or key details off?  Let me know and I will update this post.