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57,000 channels (and nothing on)

The average TV in the not too distant future will not only provide the choice of hundreds of conventional TV channels, but also endless hours of video-on-demand, catch-up TV, YouTube and masses of other online-hosted videos and vodcasts, and the list goes on....

It already appears far too challenging for anyone with Sky to settle on one channel for any length of time (I find it tricky enough with Freeview), so multiplying this already generous selection of channels by hundreds if not thousands more choices doesn’t sound like a particularly useful thing to do.

But that’s progress.

So, Philips (along with, it has to be said, a large number of other technology companies) is trying to simplify how we access this mass of moving image content, in an attempt to streamline this impending mass of choice to a shortlist of things you might in fact want to watch.

I caught up with the company at IBC earlier this month to find out more about its solution for what it calls the “modern TV dilemma”.

Philips’ “personalised TV” technology, called Aprico, centres on the ability for viewers to make ‘personal channels’. The idea is you add the programmes you like into your personal channels and – using sophisticated, well defined metadata – Aprico begins to populate the channel with recommended content based around your favourites.

So, you could create a drama channel and throw in five or six examples of the kind of drama you like and the next time you access the channel it will have a growing list of similar dramas added to it.

During various consumer tests of Aprico, Philips says that, within 17 days, 90% of TV watching was being done via personal channels rather than scheduled TV.

Alongside channels set up by viewers, Aprico also includes channels filled with recommendations from well-known brands. It also provides the option to use social networking sites to share the personal channels you’ve created with other Aprico users.

Aprico will be built into many of Philips’ future TV sets and the electronics giant is currently in negotiations with set-top-box makers about incorporating it into their boxes. The first devices with Aprico have begun shipping elsewhere in Europe, though no release date has yet been given for the release of anything in the UK.

Posted 30 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Getty's video mix competition

Getty Images is running a video remix competition called 'Mishmash' again this year, following an “overwhelmingly positive response” to last year’s contest. The Mishmash competition is open to anyone and the idea is to create a video of between one and three minutes using video footage and music clips from the Getty Images library.

There’s over 50,000 hours of video footage in the Getty archive, and over 50,000 music tracks, so you've plenty of options when it comes to splicing together a video mash-up.

As well as using Getty content, you can add your own stills and video, illustration, animation, artwork and voiceover. Naturally, you’re just not allowed to use stock imagery or footage from any source other than Getty Images.

The deadline for entries is 31 October, and the winners will be announced on 15 November. The judging panel includes Shine Television’s head of specialist factual Nathalie Humphreys, the director of Between the Eyes, Emil Nava, Stink TV’s Pekka Hara, and David Knight of the Promo News website and the UK Music Video Awards.

As well as the kudos of winning, prizes include MacBook Pros, Sony Pistol HD camcorders and an all expenses paid trip for two to the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City. To enter, head over to www.gettyimages.com/mishmash

The best of last year’s entries are genuinely impressive, and cover everything from mini-docs to creative pop promos. Here are two of the highlights....





Posted 30 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Ash's A to Z of promos

Having split from their record label a few years ago, Northern Irish pop rockers Ash decided to go it alone and have spent the last year releasing a new single every two weeks in what the band dubbed the ‘A to Z’ series.

Each single was available via a download subscription from 7Digital as well as a proper, old fashioned 7” slab of vinyl, with a limited run of 1,000 each. Ash also released a number of ‘B sides’ in the form of subscriber-only additional downloads.

Six of the 26 singles were promoted as ‘radio singles’ and a small budget set aside for a video. Sadly, none of the tracks dented the charts, but the quality of the music, the innovative idea of the series and the high quality, low budget videos are worthy of far more praise and attention than they received.

So, to mark the release of the final A to Z single, here’s a run down of the key video releases from the series.

Arcadia – single ‘C’
The final video for Ash's A to Z series was made after the series came to an end to celebrate the most popular song (as voted for by visitors to Ash's website) of the series – the third release, 'Arcadia'. The video is by Big Button's Nico Jones, who also made the videos for 'Return Of White Rabbit' and 'Binary'. Jones worked with Ash bassist Mark Hamilton "to produce a pacy, retro ride to match the track and indulge in some Star Wars fantasies".



Carnal Love – single ‘V’
Director Alex Turvey, working for production company Love, commissioned cake artist Lily Vanilli to make a number of strange looking cakes that singer Tim Wheeler devours in this suggestive take on one of Ash’s finest singles to date. The grade on the video was by Rushes’ Simone Grattarola. The 'Carnal Love' video is nominated in the UK Music Video Awards 2010, in the ‘best budget video’ category. The winners will be announced on 12 October.



Binary – single ‘Q’
'Binary' is the second Ash video in the A to Z series directed by Nico Jones for Big Button, following his work on the ‘prequel’ single ‘Return of White Rabbit’. The footage was shot on green screen in New York then sent back to Big Button in Birmingham for editing and post production.



War With Me – single ‘M’
Directed by Alex Beck, 'War With Me' is the mid-point release from the series.



Space Shot – single ‘H’
This black and white, space themed video, directed by New York-based Daniel Garcia, looks like it costs a lot more than it probably did to make. The line dancing robots are the icing on the cake.



True Love 1980 – single ‘A’
The first of two Daniel Garcia-directed videos for the A to Z series, the filmic promo for 'True Love 1980' is for the debut single release of the series.



Return of the White Rabbit – Prequel single
Before the series kicked off, Ash released a ‘prequel’ single and music video – 'Return Of White Rabbit'. Animation direction and illustration was by Nico Jones for Big Button (the first of two videos he made for the series).



As well as the radio singles, Ash released sporadic no budget videos for other singles in the series. These include...


Joy Kicks Darkness - single 'B'
Directed by Josh Kletzkin and shot during Ash’s A to Z tour of the UK.
www.youtube.com/watch




Arcadia – single ‘C’
This again was directed by Josh Kletzkin.
www.youtube.com/watch





Tracers – single ‘D’
Another of Josh Kletzkin’s videos
www.youtube.com/watch





Pripyat – single ‘F’
This promo features photographs from Robert Polidori’s book, 'Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl'
www.youtube.com/user/darthmarkh#p/u/10/PPpmDyoSpHo



Ichiban – single ‘G’
The Ichiban video is built around film footage edited together from the (not at all cheap looking) 1961 monster movie, 'Gorgo'
www.youtube.com/watch




Neon – single ‘L’
This is basically a slideshow of photography shot and sequenced by KINo.
www.youtube.com/watch







Kamakura – B-side
The quirky video for ‘Kamakura’ was directed by Dainoji
www.youtube.com/user/darthmarkh#p/u/3/8stoiVnJLsA




Gallows Hill – B-side
Ash ran a video competition for B-side ‘Gallows Hill’ – this is one of the entries
www.youtube.com/watch





For more on the A to Z series, visit www.ash-official.com/ or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%E2%80%93Z_Series

Posted 27 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

IBC: full Televisual round-up

IBC 2010 was “the second biggest IBC in history”, based on visitor numbers, which were up almost 9% on last year. In total, 48,521 attended the show that wrapped up earlier this week.

“The level of attendance and engagement at IBC this year is a clear indication that our industry is robust, recovering well and driven by continuing advances in technology and creativity,” believes IBC CEO Michael Crimp.

Over 1,300 companies were represented at the show and a 13th hall had to be added a month or two before the event kicked off to accommodate increased demand for stand space.

Televisual covered the event in a series of live blogs from the show room floor, which are rounded up below...

Televisual’s interview with stereo 3d guru, 3ality’s Steve Schklair, who made the keynote speech on Monday’s 3d conference day

http://bit.ly/aOn2BG

Panasonic’s new cameras – the AG-AF101, its first DSLR for the broadcast market, a newly updated AG-3DA1, Panasonic’s dual-lens stereo 3d camera and, the AJ-HPX3100, a new P2 model with vastly improved proxy files

http://bit.ly/9zA3Qo

Sony’s new cameras – two prototype models (a dual-lens stereo 3d camera and a very affordable digital 35mm model) and the PMW-500, a new solid-state XDCAM camera that records at 50mb/s to SxS cards

http://bit.ly/ausPom

Quantel re-invents the file to provide web-based editing of live footage, from anywhere in the world

http://bit.ly/9g0IL4

Autodesk packages up Flame, Smoke and Lustre into a single ‘ultimate finishing package’ called Flame Premium that effectively kills off Flame as a standalone product

http://bit.ly/9isR5L

A series of news in briefs, including the Ki Pro mini from AJA, Autoscript’s iPad prompter, Grass Valley’s stereo 3d super slo-mos and Avid’s web-editing technology demo

http://bit.ly/bBdnkw

Posted 16 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

IPad light painting

An iPad and clever photographic and animation techniques are all that's used to draw the moving 3d typography and objects in this eye-catching production (called Making Future Magic) from creative communications agency Dentsu London and design consultancy BERG.

According to the creative chaps at Dentsu and BERG, "In dark environments, we play movies on the surface of the iPad that extrude 3d light forms as they move through the exposure. Multiple exposures with slightly different movies make up the stop-frame animation."

The results are seriously impressive, as you'll be able to see for yourself below...


 

Posted 15 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

IBC: News in brief

AJA brought out a device for taking the feed from 3d camera rigs, converting it and displaying the content on inexpensive consumer 3d screens. The Hi5-3d mini-converter has horizontal and vertical picture flip modes so it can be used for multiple different 3d camera rigs.

It takes the feed from 3d camera rigs, and flips the mirrored image to orient it properly. Using HDMI 1.4a, it then displays the ‘muxed’ 3d image on affordable consumer 3d displays (non consumer 3d displays can cost upwards of $10k) to provide instant 3d on location. The device costs $495, and will be available next month.

AJA also launched a smaller, cut-down version of its portable KiPro file-based recorder. The new, slimmed down £1,995 KiPro mini records edit-ready 10-bit ProRes 422 QuickTime files onto two CompactFlash cards.

It’s lightweight, compact and can be slotted on to virtually any camera, and has a number of useful applications. On a multi-camera shoot where different cameras and formats are being used, by putting a KiPro mini on all cameras they will all record in the same file format, enabling a much quicker turnaround time.

The device also makes it possible to use cameras such as Sony’s XDCAM EX models and make HD recordings accepted by broadcasters.

The user interface of the KiPro mini is the same as the KiPro and it has the same menu controls and navigation structure. However, compared to its larger sister device, the KiPro, the KiPro mini doesn’t offer SD to HD conversions and cross conversions.

Autoscript

Autoscript has brought out an innovative teleprompter– the iPlus - that runs on an iPad, iPhone or iTouch. Designed for “shoot and scoot” news operations, Autoscript’s app turns the iPad into a fully featured portable teleprompter.

The iPlus software can be used as a bridge to WinPlus in a newsroom or studio to download/transfer scripts or running orders to the iPhone/iPad/iTouch. A handheld control – the Scroll Plus Controller - is then used to scroll smoothly through the script.

 

A lightweight plate is available to encase the iPad and mirror the screen as with a conventional auto-cueing device. It also allows the prompter to position the iPad in a convenient place for ease of viewing by the presenter.

Autoscript has packaged the app with the plate and assembly, which is a available as a complete portable teleprompter system for £700.

Grass Valley

Grass Valley used IBC to demo a means of doing high quality instant super slo-mo replays in stereo 3d, which is one of the key remaining challenges in providing compelling 3d sport broadcasts.

Using two of its LDK8300 systems cameras and a 3ality mirror rig, a Grass Valley disc recorder auto-flips the mirrored camera image and syncs the two camera channels together to create the stereo 3d image.

Grass Valley’s K2 Summit server then provides straightforward user controls to enable the marking of in and out points and the immediate playback of stereo 3d super slo-mo replays.

Avid

Avid showed off a technology demo of a new web based craft editing system that makes it possible for an editor to cut images from anywhere, via the web. All the processing power and the media stays is at the facility, so a standard laptop is enough for the fully featured editing software to function ok. The main consideration is the speed of the web connection.

Avid’s Patrick McLean says you need decent speed access (around 6 to 8Mb) for seamless, uninterrupted full blown editing, but, he says, Avid has also created an iPhone app for approvals, which works fine on even a 2Mb connection.

McLean says the system is “very responsive and includes vfx and audio as well as editing tools.” He adds that it’s “a different way of working. It’s not going to displace regular editing suites overnight.”

He says there are lots of “workflow issues to think about” before Avid can turn the technology demo into a full blown product. Currently, the editor has been built in Java specifically for the demo, but has features and functionality that will be familiar to Media Composer users.

Posted 13 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

IBC: Panasonic's new models

Panasonic has released a Digital SLR – the AG-AF101 – pitched at the Canon 5D/7D market but with enhancements over these models to better suit producers' needs, says European product manager, Rob Tarrent.

“We looked at the growth of DSLRs and decided to enter this market. We designed the camera after talking to videographers to find out what their ideal camera would be,” he says. So Panasonic’s DSLR has a headphone socket and “proper SDI and HDMI connections,” says Tarrent.

According to Tarrent, the AG-AF101 (main picture) records “12-hours of footage, not 12-minutes”, has detachable lenses, “proper video and audio” and a “wonderfully shallow depth of field”. Certainly, the beautifully detailed images on the reel Panasonic showed on its stand backed up Tarrent’s enthusiasm.

The camera costs €4,900 and will be available in December. Panasonic is currently taking orders for the model.


Panasonic’s (presently unique) dual-lens stereo 3d camera, the AG-3DA1 (pictured above), which was showcased at NAB, is now shipping, says Tarrent. It costs €18,700 and Pansonic has already sold 150 of the cameras in Europe, and 800 worldwide.

Tarrent adds that Panasonic has received “extreme interest” in the camera at IBC and has taken lots of orders. However, despite the interest, Tarrent says the wait for orders taken now “isn’t months” and that it can fulfill new orders relatively quickly.

The camera has undergone a number of performance tweaks since a working unit was shown at NAB. Panasonic sent out different variations of the camera to users and asked them for feedback on the pros and cons of each model. These comments have been used to further enhance the functionality of the shipping model.

Panasonic says the bulk of orders have come from production, with some from broadcasters and the medical/education market. Tarrent explains the camera’s interaxial is fixed to roughly the same distance as the human eye, which impacts on the distance from the subject you can film and still capture comfortable looking stereoscopic footage - you can get away with filming from between three and 30 metres from the subject.



With all its focus on DSLR and 3d, Tarrent was keen to stress the company hasn’t forgotten about P2. It’s just added another P2 model – the AJ-HPX3100 (pictured above) – which has improved audio recording over existing models, is lightweight (at 3.9kg) and, as a result, more comfortable for shoulder-mounting.

Significantly, it also stores vastly improved proxy files, with 960x540 images (SD) and uncompressed audio, so you can cut to good quality images and best quality audio.

It can also work with a web and iPad/iPhone based app that enables meta data to be uploaded to the camera pre, during or after the shoot.

Posted 13 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton

IBC: Steve Schklair interview

3ality’s founder and CEO Steve Schklair kicked off IBC’s 3d day on Monday with a keynote speech about how best to capture stereoscopic images for live broadcast. I caught up with him at the show to talk through his vast experience of all things 3d.
“It’s all about ensuring everything is quality 3d. During my keynote speech I’ll show everyone what badly shot 3d looks like. You may not notice much of a difference at the start but after 10 minutes it will give you a headache.
We were the first guys to set up a major 3d company based around the new methodology of doing 3d. That was a decade ago. I had no doubts then that things would go 3d, not just for movies but TV too. Where else would media go? In the last decade, we’ve already had better quality, immersive surround sound, so it's natural you'd want better quality, immersive images too. To me, it’s clear TV will eventually be a 3d device.
When 3d is done properly the content is far too compelling to not want 3d. And if it’s done badly it shows, you’ll get a headache and not want to watch it. And it's important to remember that 3d doesn’t make something that’s bad in 2d good, so storytelling is still key to any content’s success.
To produce 3d shouldn’t add anything to the production schedule. We shot an NBC sitcom recently and ended up getting through more shots than previously when the show was 2d. If you have the right technology you’re fine.

But you need a similar range of shooting options as with a 2d show. If you can’t pan fast or zoom in beyond a certain point, the 3d isn''t going to be so compelling as the 2d, so the viewer will just want to switch back to how it was before.

Likewise, in sports, the stereo 3d needs to be better than 2d if it’s to survive, otherwise again viewers will just want to switch back to 2d.
New editing tools save on post production time for stereo 3d. I think SGO’s Mistika is the best option right now. It was the Pablo before but now it’s the Mistika, as it handles the geometry of 3d better. You can make slight adjustments to the interaxial settings, and it’s the only system that can do that.
Sky and Telegenic’s stereo 3d services are built around 3ality kit. They’ve done 3d so well at Sky. They found a business case for it – which has initially been sports in pubs – and made a deal with a TV manufacturer to provide pubs with the sets.

They did a sponsorship deal with the glasses and bought the best quality stereo 3d kit for their coverage. Sky trained their staff correctly and practiced for months before going on air. Crews were being sent out every weekend to practice getting the stereo 3d production right, which was expensive but totally the right thing to do. And it shows."

For more on stereo 3d from Steve Schklair, here's a recent Sky News interview....

Posted 12 September 2010 by Jake Bickerton
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