Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tab, You’re It

By Tom Inglesby



If you are reading this on a tablet or a smartphone, you are among the majority. Not that we’ve done a survey or anything, it’s just the idea that busy people, unless they are tied to a desk—like us writers—are more likely to use a portable device for their communications and information. At work on a set, a far-flung location, or post-production studio means you don’t have the luxury of a 20-inch monitor and tower case computer. Not that you need one; today’s laptops are as powerful—often more powerful—than a desktop and a lot more portable.

But the true portable computer has become the tablet. What Apple tossed into the mix, the iPad, has spawned a new generation of flat screens-with-computing that come in so many sizes there is one for every possible pocket. As tablets get bigger, smartphones follow suit. The Samsung Galaxy Note, my phone of choice, has a screen bigger than some tablets. Makes these old eyes suffer less strain when reading texts—as one pre-teen said, “Who calls on a phone anymore?”—and offers a reasonable alternative to the tablet for daily, on-the-go communications and information gathering.

Years ago, when the iPad was the supposedly only game in town for tablets, my wife was in China and bought me an “iPad” on a Shanghai street corner. Her thinking was, iPads are assembled in China so seconds and rejects easily find their way into the black market. And the price, about $125 after currency conversion, was much better than the $600-plus for the U.S. marketed version. And it had the Apple logo on the back! What could go wrong?

Fired up, it turned out to be an Android OS tablet with minimal memory and almost no apps available. And, of course, no service, warranty or support in the U.S. (probably none in China, either). So much for bargain hunting.

Today, I have tablets of various screen sizes to choose from depending on the reason I’m carrying one. Trade show? Take the iPad—a real one—to show Markee digital edition to exhibitors. Conference? Go with the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The 7-inch screen is fine and the tablet fits in a pocket instead of a case. Mixing OS is no longer a problem as almost every app is replicated on iOS and ‘Droid.

There comes a time when the technology we employ dictates the way we do business. The printing press allowed the newspaper industry to develop; radio begot television. The Internet has caused any number of changes in how we approach communications. Markee, like every successful magazine, has long been part of that technological advance with a digital edition you can read on a tablet—or smartphone—and a website, blog, Facebook pages, Twitter and every possible social media method known to Western civilization. Some of which this old guy never heard of before!

To paraphrase an old quotation, “The handwriting is on the tablet.” Markee is moving its magazine to a fully digital edition in 2015; the last paper printed version, Winter 2014-15, will soon become a collector’s item, I’m sure. If you attend NAB this year, be sure to pick up a copy and preserve it for generations to come.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Post Post

By Tom Inglesby

Photo by hyena reality
We sometimes get caught up in the WOW factor in this business. And by “business” I mean yours, film making, and ours, writing about film making. When we see the latest whiz-bang animation or VFX or whatever, we get that “insider” feeling that we are the cool cats who know what is going on and can explain it to the outsiders. But we also are the ones who get a little twinkle in our eyes and a “golly whiz” in our throats when we really don’t know what is going on.

After all, there are so many aspects to the film and video production business that few people even in the business can know it all. That wasn’t the case a few generations ago. The indie filmmaker who did it all—conceptualizing, writing, shooting, cutting, and even release printing his or her work—wasn’t uncommon at some pretty high levels. Some even did the acting, directing, and marketing. This was especially true at the industrial, educational, and documentary levels of the business. Without the deep pockets of the studios, indie producers had to try, if not do, everything.

We’ve come full circle. The current crop of small, high-quality cameras, lights and audio equipment makes it a lot easier for a creative individual to attempt a full-scale assault on the entertainment industry. Fall back: YouTube!

Software and computers are replacing cameras and lights for filming, from animation and special effects to green screen and dubbing. All the editing functions that we used to do with a grease pencil on film are done with a mouse on a desktop.

One thing remains consistent, however: value. The end product, regardless of cost to produce, is valuable to the producer, the crew, and the distributor. Their work is wrapped up in what might be a single hard drive worth of space or a hundred terabytes of online storage. This post post-production requirement is rarely thought of in advance. Hey, archiving isn’t sexy; storage is just another cost center.

And then along comes Sony and the Hackers, a title for a film that no one saw coming, it seems. Where and how you store your work during and throughout the lifecycle of a project can be critical in how you monetize that project. Security is just as important as cost up front and space in the backroom. Best to consider that before you spend all the funding on pretty, new camera gear.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Allied Pixel Produces Sexual Assault Education Video


Allied Pixel, a digital studio that specializes in online video, social media and web development, has produced an educational video on sexual assault for colleges and universities. It is part of Allied Pixel’s Higher Education program. 

The video addresses a growing problem on college campuses through frank conversation about what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior – and strategies to avoid dangerous situations. Customized versions of the video are being rolled out to colleges nationally. 

“This is part of our ongoing relationship with partner schools,” says Allied Pixel’s Bill Haley. “We want to help them change attitudes and behaviors for the better.” 

More information about Allied Pixel’s Higher Education program is at www.alliedpixel.com/education.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Will a Non-Neutral Net End Up Looking Like Cable TV?

By William Mainguy

Photo by Waag Society
Net neutrality—the principle that all data is served over the Internet equally, has rapidly become a contentious issue in the United States and on the world stage. The Federal Communications Commission, backed by the ISPs, have proposed a two-tier concept whereby a new “fast” lane of Internet connectivity would be provided, for an increased fee, in addition to the current Internet service offering. The proposal is being viewed by the public as a thinly veiled strategy for ISPs to begin regulating and "throttling" bandwidth for select businesses of their choice depending on what they’re transferring and who is using it amongst other criteria. In effect, this new regulation could allow ISPs to reduce the speed of, for example, Netflix’s video service to force the company to pay for the “faster” pipeline. In fact, some evidence of this has already occurred.

Because video has the heaviest payload on the Internet today, the end of net-neutrality possesses a serious threat to the heart of the film industry and independent filmmakers alike.

Originally, the traditional film distribution model was convoluted, restrictive and reserved for only a fraction of elite filmmakers who manage to succeed in it. The Internet, like in all of the other entertainment industries, has been the great equalizer, providing creators of any background with a free and open marketplace to reach their audiences directly. The advent of self-distribution and streaming has democratized video distribution—thousands of films that would have never seen the light of the day are now enjoyed by viewers. The end of net-neutrality would reinstate a classist supply of video content, whereby only the owners of top content will be able to afford a model where they can pay the ISPs' “fast” lane rates.

And we’re not just talking content—the innovative culture of new startups and companies that strive to offer new services also will be at risk. Larger corporations may be able to weather the storm by making deals with the ISPs—just like Netflix has with Comcast. However, new entrants that have ideas on how to disrupt and improve the industry may be presented with an insurmountable barrier to entry—effectively ruling out any form of new competition. Both content creators and viewers lose, facing no innovation in business model or experience.

Currently, we are enjoying an unprecedented era in which we can effectively watch whatever we want, whenever we want. The Internet has meant that we are no longer stuck with limited programming bundles and content from only a limited number of suppliers. It costs a fraction of the price of cable to do so and that is the source of the ISPs' fear—continuous loss of revenue and control. But this innovation is the fruits of a great Internet economy based on competition within a free and equal marketplace. This is what we must protect.

Simply put, the Internet should not be seen as the telecoms' business model. They are middlemen that should be providing broadband Internet as a “common carrier service,” regardless of what we use it for—just like other utilities we use.

About the author:
William Mainguy is CEO & Co-Founder of Reelhouse, an online distribution platform that enables independent filmmakers, studios, film distributors, and traditional retail outlets to market and sell movies directly to viewers.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I Am A Camera*

By Tom Inglesby


Since the earliest days of photography, one of the driving forces has been to make the camera smaller, easier to use, and with more capabilities. The camera obscura was a walk-in room with a pinhole at one end; the Kodak Brownie added film and a lens in a handheld version. Both were simple, but the latter created a world filled with photographers. Everyone was taking pictures.

Motion in photography came about long after still pictures. Cameras to record the moving images were heavy, mounted on sturdy equipment stands and minimally movable themselves. Scenes had to be blocked out carefully so the cameras could be positioned well in advance—hopefully out of sight of one another. By the 1940s, handheld cinema cameras were following the action on battlefields and sports fields, producing images to be seen by millions. 

Today’s cine cameras can fit in a shirt pocket, produce digital output at the highest resolution the delivery systems can reproduce. And, once again, everyone is taking pictures—only motion pictures this time.

In keeping with the “smaller, smaller, smallest” trend in everything electronic, the ubiquitous cell phone has become a cine camera. And where there is photography, there are competitions. We are a competitive industry, awards being the proof that what we did, what we created, is accepted by our peers as well as the general public.

Which brings us to the concept of the mobile film festival. Or more accurately, film festivals. They are popping up all over the world, it seems. But let’s focus on the celebration of cell phone cinema right here in the USA, the International Mobil Film Festival being held in April, 2015 in San Diego. 

The driving force behind the festival is Susan Botello of S. Botello Productions. She is forming a mobile film resource center for the world to access. “A strong emphasis is on connecting the world of filmmaking to mobile filmmakers around the globe via new technological advances with mobile phone cameras,” she explains. “The purpose of our film festival is not only to create interest and spark creativity in people of all ages with limited income or resources, but to actually inspire creative filmmakers to live up to their potential and realize the opportunity to fulfill their dream. The International Mobil Film Festival is for everyone! All ages welcome.”

The 2015 event will be the fourth and expects to entertain a record number of entries. According to Botello, “Our mobile media film festival will take place in San Diego, where we’ll have a live event venue in which we feature the films competing, film festival partners from around the globe, our global Community Stories program and much more. And all the films will have been shot on mobile phones!”

The festival isn’t the only place for artistic release using a cell phone. Botello also launched Mobile Film Television (MFTV), an online mobile film distribution network back in 2013. The mobile television channel, while still in its infancy, is a venue for mobile filmmakers to distribute their mobile phone films via a channel that will play their short films on just about any device or screen with web access.

“This new medium is ready for filmmakers,” Botello exclaims. “Films will be available around the world from filmmakers around the world. The films can be displayed on screens of any size. We’ll be showcasing them at the International Mobil Film Festival on big screens as well.”

The distribution network is separate from the film festival, although both require that all films are shot on mobile phones. Films for MFTV do not have to be submitted to the film festival and the duration of the films differ. As with any other distribution company, a filmmaker will need to enter into a distribution contract and release their films for distribution by MFTV. There is no limit to how many films a filmmaker can submit for distribution or how many films a particular filmmaker or production company may submit or be distributed.

“The criteria for films is simple, it is strictly for films shot with mobile phones,” says Botello. “We are not seeking just films that are traditionally cinematic. We hope to include quality experimental films from mobile filmmakers. Throughout both the festival and the MFTV channel, production values are important. We want these to be quality films, just shot on mobile phones.”

So if you have a cell phone filled with motion pictures, apply your professional talents to making them into a true “film” and enter the contest. The information is available online, of course, at www.mobilfilmfestival.com. See you—and your cell phone film—in San Diego April 25 and 26, 2015.

I Am A Camera, 1955, Henry Cornelius, director.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Through The Ages

Many of us in the film and TV production industries – if not all of us – use Apple products at work. You likely use them at home as well. Through the years, Apple has managed to create a fan base like no other company in history. Their annual product announcements are much-anticipated events that attract millions of online viewers. This past week, on September 9, Apple announced the redesigned iPhone 6 (now in 2 sizes) and the new Apple Watch.

Following that event, presentation software developer Prezi produced a short video on the history of some of Apple's most influential product developments, including the first home PC with a graphical user interface and mouse, and the iPhone. Have a look:


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams: 1951-2014


 By Tom Inglesby

When a legend dies, people dig into their memory vaults to find something to say, something to recall that might be comforting to others, something that puts them into the picture with the legend. Robin Williams, a true legend in many media, died on Aug. 11, 2014 at the age of 63.

I wish I could say I knew him; I didn’t. I saw him in a live performance once, in the 1980s. I saw his work in several films, some more memorable than others, at least to me. In reading the reviews and comments online, his best films were apparently those I never saw: Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society.

What I remember Williams for was some of the work that is easily overlooked by the professional critics and commentators doing their best to eulogize him. Remember him in Popeye? How about Awakenings? The former showed his talent for facial comedy, the rubber face approach; the latter gave him the chance to be both calm and excited, a range that he pulled off admirably. Not great work but memorable.

His signature shout-out of “Good Morning, Vietnam!” will stick with you forever if you ever served in that country. I was there months before Adrian Cronauer, who Williams played—somewhat loosely I understand—started on "Dawn Busters" on Armed Forces Radio, but the film was a strong reminder of those days.

Williams hit another peak, in my mind, when he transitioned to killer in Insomnia. Here he played so far against type that no one gave him a thought as the villain; we expected him to end up another victim. Come on, this was Robin Williams, not Jack Nicholson in The Shining. How can Peter Pan be a villain?

His acting, however, was only part of the man’s legacy. He won Grammy Awards five times for Best Comedy, Best Children’s, and Best Spoken Comedy recordings. I envied him since those were the categories where I had nominations—without a win—in earlier times. But he deserved the awards, just as he deserves the accolades being heaped on him after his death.

What Robin Williams didn’t deserve is to get so depressed that he considered suicide. He has four films in post and just finished a TV series, The Crazy Ones. Why would such a respected and successful man be depressed? And why didn’t he listen to his own words: in World's Greatest Dad, Williams’ character, Lance Clayton, said, "If you're that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember: Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems."

Did he reach out and find no one there? Will we ever know?

Robin Williams reportedly once said that if he finds himself in Heaven one day, he hopes there will be laughter. If not, he’ll be providing it now.

Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends, those who have worked with him in the industry and his fans around the world who will continue to honor his memory—through laughter on Earth.