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Monday, October 17, 2005

Directing for the (super) small screen

Two interesting pieces from the NY Times...

1. This morning, there's a piece headlined "Now Playing on a Tiny Screen," which focuses on the companies producing video content for cell phones, and how they're doing it. Turns out it isn't easy to create coherent narratives on a screen the size of a Wheat Thin. Laura Holson writes:

    LOS ANGELES, Oct. 16 - When Eric Young directed his first episodes for the cellphone serial drama "24: Conspiracy," it was the bullet holes that vexed him most. Mr. Young, hired to create 24 one-minute mobile episodes for a spinoff of the hit series "24," learned that making video for a pocket-size screen is far different from making it for a 27-inch television set.

    About 70 percent of the images he used were close-ups of actors, because panoramic shots appeared blurry. He said he used tiny speakers to hear what "the sound of a neck cracking" would be like on a cellphone after one of the episode's characters died from a snapped vertebra. But for gunshot wounds, the director was forced to make the bullet holes extra large and to double the amount of blood so they could be easily identified on the small screen.

    "We are all experimenting to see what works," Mr. Young said. "Every new medium finds its own way and rules. It will be true for this one, too."

Holson says that MTV is developing a series for cell phones called "Samurai Love God," which has been described as "Austin Powers meets Akira Kurosawa." It'll debut in February.

2. Richard Siklos observed in yesterday's NY Times that there are devices other than Apple's new video iPod that offer access to a lot more content. One, for instance, is DISH Network's new PocketDISH portable player, made by Archos, which gives you access to anything that comes over DISH Network. (Another, I'd point out, is the Sony PlayStation Portable, which offers access to lots of movies on Sony's annoying UMD discs). Siklos writes:

    Only a fool would bet against [Steve] Jobs, whose iPod now thoroughly dominates the digital music market against rivals like Sony. But here goes: at first blush, the video iPod is not about to revolutionize Hollywood in the way the iPod revolutionized music.

    Why? Two reasons. One is that studios are not rushing to make their most popular movies and shows available for the video iPod (note that only Disney shared the stage with Mr. Jobs last week, and the primary motive may have been its desire to repair relations with Pixar). Perhaps even more important, mobile gadgets with access to everything that is already on television are on the way.

Later, Siklos points out that media companies are "worried about piracy, for one thing, but they're also not quite convinced that there is a good business case for online distribution."


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