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Friday, August 31, 2007

Attention iTunes Users: Please Visit Hulu

At the end of 2007, NBC will yank its TV shows off of iTunes, according to the NY Times. From Brooks Barnes' piece:

    ...The decision by NBC Universal highlights the escalating tension between Apple and media companies, which are unhappy that Apple will not give them more control over the pricing of songs and videos that are sold on iTunes.

    NBC Universal is also seeking better piracy controls and wants Apple to allow it to bundle videos to increase revenue, the person familiar with the matter said.

    NBC Universal is the second major iTunes supplier recently to have a rift with Apple over pricing and packaging matters. In July, the Universal Music Group of Vivendi, the world’s biggest music corporation, said it would not renew its long-term contract with iTunes. Instead, Universal Music said it would market music to Apple at will, which would allow it to remove its songs from iTunes on short notice.

Better piracy controls? You mean you want a tougher DRM than FairPlay? That's smart.

Of course, by December, we'll all have forgotten entirely about iTunes and will be slurping up digital content from, the NBC/Fox joint venture.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NBC and Fox take just ten months to come up with a name: Hulu

The Fox/NBC joint venture to create a video site that will rival YouTube may actually launch before everyone forgets what YouTube was.

They picked a name today -- Hulu -- only ten months after the joint venture talks began. A trial will begin in October, but you can sign up now.

I predict this will be every bit as successful as, the site we all download movies from.

I'll certainly remember the name Hulu, because it rhymes with Sulu, as in Lieutenant. (Unfortunately, Viacom, which owns 'Star Trek,' isn't participating in the joint venture.)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Susan Sarandon Explains Digital Cinematography to You ... 'Manufacturing Dissent' Debuts on AOL ... CNET Q&A with MPAA Piracy Exec

- So apparently the Wachowski brothers are doing something innovative with the digital cinematography on their next project, which a live action version of the cartoon 'Speed Racer'. Will you understand exactly what they're up to by reading this interview with actress Susan Sarandon? Probably not.

- AOL is making 40 minutes of the doc 'Manufacturing Dissent' available online for free. It's a somewhat critical profile of Michael Moore that played at South by Southwest; it felt toothless and overly-long to me when I saw it there... but maybe a 40-minute cut is an improvement.

What's the business model? Ads will be shown throughout the online version, and the distributor (Liberation Entertainment) hopes that when the DVD is released on November 6th, the online marketing will help. (November is a long way from August, guys...) Video can be found here.

- CNET interviews Dean Garfield, an attorney (no surprise there) who is the MPAA's chief strategy officer. (I interviewed Garfield in LA a year or so ago, and his responses to my questions were so milque-toasty I never did anything with it. A shame Jack Valenti is no longer around to give him some media training.) Here's a sample exchange:

    CNET: What kind of technologies are you guys using to help prevent piracy?

    Garfield: We're at the point where technology provides real opportunity, and it's not just down the road, but today. We're conducting requests for proposals in conjunction with MovieLabs around content recognition technologies. (MovieLabs is a company started by the six major studios to develop technologies that can help distribution of film.)

    That testing is still ongoing, but the reports are that the technology really works. It is really effective. You can distinguish one piece of content versus another. That's real potential for monetizing and filtering out copyright content. Technology gives us real opportunities to give consumers what they want while also protecting the investment.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Two articles on new approaches to monetizing content

- The NY Times writes about a new ad-sharing deal that Trey Parker of Matt Stone, creators of 'South Park', have cut with Viacom. From David Halbfinger's piece:

    ...Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker and their bosses at Comedy Central, a unit of Viacom’s MTV Networks, are attempting to leapfrog to the vanguard of Hollywood’s transition into Web. In a joint venture that involves millions in up-front cash and a 50-50 split of ad revenues, the network and the two creative partners have agreed to create a hub to spread “South Park”-related material across the Net, mobile platforms, and video games.

    The deal, signed Friday, begins with a three-year extension of the show and its creators’ contracts through a 15th season, in the year 2011, and gives Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker sizable raises, both in their salaries and in their guaranteed advances against back-end profits from DVDs, merchandising, syndication and international sales.

    It also creates an entity called, to be housed in the show’s animation studio in Culver City, Calif., that is intended to be an incubator not only for new applications for characters the likes of Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny, but for new comedy concepts that could one day mature into TV series of their own.

    All told, people involved in the deal confirm that it is worth some $75 million to Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone over the next four years.

For me, the interesting lesson here is that properties that don't figure out how to become a big presence on the Web -- easy to watch for free, or to purchase -- are in danger of lapsing into irrelevance. I hadn't realized how little 'South Park' I'd been watching online (and how much other animated stuff, like 'Red vs. Blue' or 'Homestar Runner') until I read this piece.

- The LA Times says that MySpace may soon lift its ban on commerce, allowing musicians and filmmakers, for instance, to sell CDs or DVDs from their MySpace pages. Joseph Menn writes:

    By officially barring most commerce, MySpace is leaving a lot of money on the table. The company talked to Google Inc. and EBay Inc. about teaming up to organize user-to-user sales, but nothing has emerged.

    Executives hint that something big is in the offing. [Co-founder Chris] DeWolfe said peer-to-peer transactions have to be "fun, safe and secure." Selling only to your friends, for instance, might be both fun and safer than bidding on EBay, MySpace employees said. One person said MySpace could be on the verge of a sweeping deal to give it tools to better monetize and monitor the commerce activities of its members.

Of course, the current "ban" on commerce is not consistently enforced -- many filmmakers already have links from their pages to, where their DVDs can be bought.

And musicians can use MySpace to sell downloads.

But this could make MySpace much more of a bustling content marketplace...

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Friday, August 24, 2007

What Percentage of Worldwide DVD Purchases Take Place at Wal-Mart?

We all know Wal-Mart is a powerful retailer in every category, with 7000 stores worldwide.

But who'd have thought Mr. Price-Slashing Smiley Face is responsible for about 40 percent of all DVD sales?

That tidbit appears in a Wall Street Journal story today, about an exec who's leaving Wal-Mart to join DreamWorks Animation.

When it comes to CDs, Wal-Mart is only responsible for 16 percent of worldwide sales.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The DGA's Digital Day: Leave no trace...

I'm sure the DGA's Digital Day is great if you're a Director's Guild of America member: panels on 3-D, visual effects, videogames, editing, and pre-visualization.

But if you're not a member, you're not gonna find out much about what transpired there... there's hardly any coverage of the event each year. (My pitiful blog entry about the 2005 event is the third result on Google when you look for "DGA Digital Day.")

This year, you get a photo montage of the participants, with captions, from the DGA Monthly magazine. (Last year, there was a slightly more thorough treatment in the mag.)

I met Michael Apted, president of the Director's Guild, at the Consumer Electronics Show this January. Really nice fellow.

So Michael, why not help out the young filmmakers who are future members of the DGA, and put some video/audio/blog posts on the DGA site about what happens at this great event?

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Two from the LA Times: Net Video

The LA Times has two pieces worth reading today:

- Tips to create a YouTube phenomenon, from the guy who did "Shoes.

- A piece about "Afterworld," a new animated series on MySpace. There will be 130 episodes, two to three minutes each. Total budget of $3 million. That makes it the most expensive series to appear on MySpace. If it attracts a decent audience online, I won't be surprised to see it released on DVD or TV -- or maybe in theaters?

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Google adopts smarter approach to shutting down Google Video

Everyone (me included) thought Google was taking a brain-dead approach to shutting down the paid content area of Google Video.

Now, they've admitted that they goofed with the shut-down strategy, and are offering all customers a refund for videos they purchased, and will ensure that those videos play for an extra six months before shutting the service down entirely. That makes a lot more sense.

What's the underlying lesson here? People are buying digital video in all sorts of formats -- at Google, it was in their own home-grown format, at Apple, it's video wrapped in Fairplay DRM, at Real it's in their RealVideo format, etc. etc.

More and more, I think that what will make online video take off is a single, very portable format with different degrees of DRM that can be turned on or off. Would everyone in the US have bought VCRs or DVD players if the format differences with videotapes or discs hadn't been resolved?

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Metacafe banks $30 million ... YouTube officially intros advertising ... Video search ... EZTakes gets friendly with the iPod ... Panel at Toronto

- Metacafe just raised another $30 million in venture capital. While no video site has really yet figured out a great way to integrate advertising with their videos, clearly that's what the investors are hoping here.

- YouTube will officially start selling ads in some of its videos, according to the Wall Street Journal. YouTube won't use pre-roll ads. Emily Steel writes:

    YouTube...plans to sell these ads only on videos from its select content partners, whose original videos include professionally produced clips and user-generated content. The partners will earn a share of the ad revenue. The system is similar to Google's AdSense network, which matches ads to the content of a network of Web sites, and gives those sites a cut of the profits. YouTube, of San Bruno, Calif., has established revenue-sharing deals with more than 50 partners, including Ford Models and Warner Music Group Corp. YouTube declined to say what percentage of videos on its site comes from its content partners.

    YouTube started testing its in-video ad format in June and July on more than 200 videos from 20 content providers, and found that 75% of viewers watched the entire ad. The ads had five to 10 times greater click-through rates than standard display ads that appear on Web sites, YouTube said. Other ad models are in the works.

- The Journal looks at four video search sites (Truveo/AOL, Google, Yahoo, and BlinkX) and seems to like Truveo best.

- Jim Flynn, CEO of the Massachusetts movie download site EZTakes, sent a note that his site is about to start selling videos that can play on Apple's iPod. "Consumers, who could already burn EZTakes downloads to playable DVDs, can now also enjoy their purchases on their Apple iPods, and just about any portable media player that they may own in the future," the press release says.

- The panel I'm doing at the Toronto International Film Fest next month, on how filmmakers can use social media, has filled out nicely. It'll include Jason Klein of Special Ops Media, Sandi DuBowski of Films that Change the World, Bill Holsinger-Robinson of Spout, Christine Moore of Myspace, and producer Corey Marr. It's on Saturday, September 8th. See you there?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HD DVD's Last Ditch Effort?

Today's news that Paramount and DreamWorks Animation will release movies in HD DVD only feels like a last-ditch effort to give HD DVD a leg up over Blu-ray...especially because financial incentives are involved, and especially because the exclusive agreement could be for as short as a year.

From Brooks Barnes' NY Times coverage:

    ...Paramount and DreamWorks Animation together will receive about $150 million in financial incentives for their commitment to HD DVD, according to two Viacom executives with knowledge of the deal but who asked not to be identified.

    The incentives will come in a combination of cash and promotional guarantees. Toshiba, for instance, will use the release of “Shrek the Third” as part of an HD DVD marketing campaign.

In the Wall Street Journal, Sarah McBride writes:

    The exclusive could be for as little as a year, according to two people familiar with the situation.

    The studios won undisclosed financial incentives for exclusive commitments to release high-definition movies onto HD DVD only. A person familiar with the situation said the incentives included both cash payments and soft incentives such as marketing promotions.

    ...Prices for hardware to play each of the dueling formats are dropping. Toshiba HD DVD players are now available for less than $300, compared with about $449 for the least-expensive Blu-ray player. The combination of the less expensive players and the hot titles that will be available on HD DVD could help steer many consumers in that direction over the key holiday sales period.

Variety notes that as recently as March, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had been non-plussed by high-def discs in general. Daniel Frankel and Ben Fritz write:

    "Blu-Ray and HD DVD are a niche business," [Katzenberg] said in March on a conference call with Wall Street analysts. "They're not going to become the next platform. I think for the general consumer, there is not a big enough delta between the standard DVD in terms of where it is today and the next generation."

    That's a far cry from the statement he put out on Monday: "We believe the combination of this year's low-priced HD DVD players and the commitment to release a significant number of hit titles in the fall makes HD DVD the best way to view movies at home."

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Rave is largest chain to go all digital

Last February, UltraStar Cinemas in Southern California was the first chain to put digital projectors in all their booths.

This month, Rave Motion Pictures, headquartered in Dallas, is claiming that it is the largest chain to add digital projectors to all of its projection booths (so far).

From the press release:

    All 427 screens at 27 stadium theater complexes, located in eleven states, will now feature state-of-the-art AccessIT (NASDAQ: AIXD) systems and DLP Cinema® projectors from Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN). This represents one of the largest overall deployments of this revolutionary means of presentation and constitutes the biggest percentage adoption of any chain in the world to date.

    Access IT systems enable all feature films to now be exhibited in JPEG2000 via their satellite delivery systems or hard drive download. DLP Cinema® technology then displays that image onto the screen with amazing clarity and vibrancy. Unlike the traditional 35mm presentations, there is absolutely no degeneration of image as the engagement progresses.

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One more set-top box ... NY Times covers the 'mumblecore' movement

- I've got a short piece in Variety today about Building B Home Entertainment, which is trying to create the ultimate set-top box: live programming, on-demand content, personalization, and Internet access, delivered through a broadband connection and over-the-air broadcasting.

Interestingly, Building B has been so stealthy that the guys at Vudu, who are also building a set-top box and also in Silicon Valley, had never heard of them.

- I enjoyed this Sunday NY Times piece on the so-called 'mumblecore' movement (which includes filmmakers like Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski). What was interesting to me is that even though these filmmakers are in their 20s, they haven't been all that adventurous about online distribution. Swanberg has told me a bunch of times that he just doesn't think the Net is there yet as a delivery vehicle for his his are still available only on DVD or in theaters.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Growth in 3-D Digital Screens

Cool piece in The Hollywood Reporter, headlined '3-D-ready screens popping up all over.' And one very interesting stat: when Disney released Tim Burton's 'Nightmare Before Christmas' last year, there were 168 screens to show it on in the US; this year, Disney's counting on about 600. Robert Zemeckis' 'Beowulf' will be on as many as 1000 3-D screens in November, but some of those are in IMAX theaters where the 3-D version will be in celluloid.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

i-Caught: Internet videos on primetime TV

Back in June, I spoke with Jason Schlosberg, a Washington, DC attorney who occasionally writes for the Film Arts Foundation magazine. We talked about some of the options for monetizing an incredible safari video shot by a friend of Jason's, which had achieved viral success on YouTube (13 million views and counting.)

Now, Jason has licensed the clip to ABC for a new show called i-Caught; it's reviewed in the NY Times today, and airs on ABC tonight. We'll see how well Internet videos work in this broadcast context; it's an idea that has been tried before on cable, but never on primetime TV.

And it'll be tempting, tomorrow morning, to see whether Schlosberg's clip on i-Caught attracts more viewers on TV than it did on YouTube -- even though it'll clearly generate more money for him and his friend.

(The safari clip, "Battle at Kruger," is below - if you're squeamish, you may want to skip it.)

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Monday, August 13, 2007

What are the Odds of Apple Opening Up Its FairPlay DRM?

Chatting with an exec at Vongo this morning, I needled him a bit about the service's incompatibility with Macs -- you can't even see what movies are in their library, or learn about how the service works if you're using a Macintosh.

He parried by saying that there is already a version of the Vongo client that will run on Mac OSX. The only thing they're waiting for is for Apple to decide to license their FairPlay DRM to video services other than Apple's own iTunes.

Wouldn't that be nice? Apple only offers movies and TV shows for purchase; other services let you rent movies, or even pay a monthly fee (Vongo's is $9.99) for unlimited access to movies and other video content.

I asked the Vongo exec whether they had any sense of what the timeframe might be for Apple opening up FairPlay. "There's no sign that's going to happen anytime soon," he said.

What do you think? What are the odds that Apple ever opens up FairPlay voluntarily (without a court order)?

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Google Video Abandons the Cash Register ... While 'NewCo' Raises Coin

- Google is admitting that its strategy for selling and renting videos was a flop, closing down the cash register at Google Video.

The three biggest problems: Google never had a wide range of content for purchase. Google invented its own DRM system, so videos wouldn't play anywhere but Google's site. Google didn't let independent creators sell their content - only big media companies. And Google didn't promote the paid content; it was extremely tough to find.

And for some dumb reason, consumers will no longer be able to play purchased videos. You're telling me that Google, which spends about $1 billion on employee lunches every day, couldn't keep the necessary software up and running - to do right by the people who supported this service while it existed?

I still believe that people will pay for excellent content online. Google just made too many mistakes with this initiative.

- The NY Times reports that Providence Equity Partners is investing $100 million to buy 10 percent of the Fox/NBC video site that hasn't yet been named or launched yet. This values a company with no Web site, no viewers, and no revenue (but access to content from Fox and NBC) at $1 billion.

- And here's a bonus link, from yesterday's Times: a great piece on how comedians are using Web video to build an audience and generate interest among agents, networks, and studios.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

New Pixar Documentary: 'The Pixar Story'

I'm eager to see the new doc 'The Pixar Story' when it's broadcast on TV, released on DVD, or released theatrically. (It played last month at Comic-Con.)

It was directed by Leslie Iwerks, the granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, who was Walt Disney's original partner. (An earlier film and book she produced focused on Ub's career.) Her production company has a Web site, but it's woefully short on clips from her work -- including the new Pixar project.

From Peter DeBruge's Variety review:

    The movie is, above all else, a celebration of animation in all its forms. Iwerks naturally has a firm grasp of the medium's history and rightly sees Pixar as the catalyst for the recent resurgence of audience interest in animation.

    Early in the movie, Lasseter credits the book "Walt Disney's Art of Animation" with inspiring him to enter the field, and Iwerks' film will no doubt have a similar effect on future generations. She focuses less on Pixar's behind-the-scenes methodology (with good reason, considering how exhaustively those details are chronicled on the Pixar DVDs themselves), but presents a treasure trove of rare footage, including clips of Lasseter's first two Student Academy Award-winning film-school projects, "Lady and the Lamp" and "NiteMare," which presage "Luxo Jr." and "Monsters Inc."

    Iwerks also includes the computer-animated "Where the Wild Things Are" demo Lasseter and Glen Keane developed for Disney, as well as Catmull's U. of Ohio experiment in rendering his own hand (the first 3-D computer effect featured in a movie) and Loren Carpenter's 1980 fractal landscape experiment "Vol Libre" (which enabled Pixar's work on "Star Trek II").

Here's the IMDB info.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blockbuster Takes Movielink Off Studios' Hands

Blockbuster is buying Movielink for less than $20 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Movielink was founded by a group of movie studios in 2002, which spent as much as $150 million on the site over the next four years, according to BusinessWeek.

We could spend a while listing the problems of Movielink: limited selection, high prices, Windows-only DRM, poor marketing and promotion.

I've been bullish for a while that Blockbuster may be able to solve some of those problems.

This deal will expand Blockbuster's Total Access program, allowing customers not just to rent DVDs in stores and by mail, but download them, too. That makes Blockbuster a more formidable competitor to Netflix.

From the Forbes story:

    Blockbuster's Total Access service, which allows customers to select DVD rentals online and receive them through the mail, has about 3.6 million subscribers. Netflix has 6.7 million subscribers.

    Blockbuster added 600,000 subscribers in the second quarter, while Netflix lost 55,000 - its first quarterly decline since the service began in 1999.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

WSJ Profiles the YouTube Police

Phenomenal piece by Kevin Delaney in today's Wall Street Journal about the people paid to police YouTube for copyright infringement. (They work for a company called BayTSP.) They're trained to look for videos that are on the Billboard music charts, or content with the logo of a Viacom-owned network, among others. Wonder if they're trained at all in the concept of Fair Use?

Viacom apparently pays more than $100,000 a month to BayTSP to hunt down copyrighted clips and send take-down notices to YouTube.

From the piece:

    BayTSP says it has more than five TV and movie-studio clients but for contractual reasons can't disclose names other than Viacom. The closely held company says it bills clients as much as $500,000 a month to track down illegal copies of software, music and video clips. Every month it sends out more than a million take-down notices.

    Other companies have started using automated technology to identify video clips so they don't have to employ a room full of people manually scanning them as Bay TSP does. YouTube, which says it complies with copyright laws by removing clips when their owners request it, is testing technology to keep infringing videos off its site in the first place. BayTSP thinks human beings will always be needed if only to inspect automated results.

    "There will always be something that falls into the gray area," says BayTSP CEO Mark Ishikawa, 42, who is also an active race-car driver. The company and Viacom have faced criticism for mistakenly requesting the takedown of noninfringing clips such as parodies and home videos, though BayTSP says its error rate on Web videos is only around 0.1%.

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Two Great Podcasts for the Price of None

Remember podcasts? Those great audio files you can listen to on your computer while you're doing other stuff -- or transfer to your iPod? They're free?

- Back in March, I moderated a really informative panel at South by Southwest on "Building an Online Fan Base." The MP3 audio is here, and for context, there's some textual coverage of the panel here. Panelists were:

    > Scilla Andreen, IndieFlix
    > Jim Miller, Brave New Foundation
    > Ian Schafer, Deep Focus
    > David Straus, Without A Box
    > Joe Swanberg, Filmmaker
    > Lance Weiler, Filmmaker and Editor, The Workbook Project

- Speaking of The Workbook Project, Lance has just posted an interview with Nicholas Reville of the Participatory Culture Foundation, which is trying to ensure that the medium of Internet TV stays open and independent.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

H'Wood Reporter prediction: Digital screens surpass film by 2010

Carolyn Giardana writes in the Hollywood Reporter that according to their tally, more than 20,000 digital cinema installations have been proposed in the US and Canada by 2010. That'd mean more digital screens than film within four years. From the piece:

    Currently, there are about 3,000 digital screens installed domestically out of a total screen count estimated at about 37,000. Most of those are part of the Christie/AIX program, which aims to deploy 4,000 digital screens. The AccessIT unit already has completed the rollout of about 2,800 screens with such exhibitors as Marquee Cinemas, Neighborhood Cinema Group, Celebration Cinema, Cinema West, Cinetopia, Emagine, UltraStar, Galaxy, Rave, Carmike Cinemas and AccessIT's Pavilion Digital Showcase Cinema. Deployment of the 4,000 screens is expected to be completed by November.

NATO chief John Fithian is still cautious, saying, "(Digital cinema) is the biggest technological transition in our industry since the advent of sound, and it is much more complicated. This rollout will take somewhere between five to 10 years."

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Friday, August 03, 2007

'Beowulf' Begs the Question: What is animation, anyway?

The debate is already starting as to whether Robert Zemeckis' 'Beowulf' (coming in November) will be eligible for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, since it uses live actors and performance capture as a foundation. The Oscar rules require animated movies to have been created "using a frame-by-frame technique."

(Aside: is there anyone else who wishes Zemeckis would just go back to using actual non-animated actors in his movies? Let's start a petition...)

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SIGGRAPH Previews: What's in store for 2007 confab?

I'm not going to make it to SIGGRAPH, which starts tomorrow in San Diego. But I've been poking around the Web to look for some previews and overviews of what's going to be happening this year at the big computer graphics/animation/visual effects gathering...and here's what I found interesting:

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to Media Co's: Enough with the copyright warnings

Interesting new front in the copyright wars...

A group of tech and communication companies say that media companies are using copyright warnings to scare consumers, and they've just filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, according to the NY Times. From the piece:

    ...[T[he group, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said that the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NBC and Universal Studios, DreamWorks, Harcourt and Penguin Group display copyright warnings that are a “systematic misrepresentation of consumers’ rights to use legally acquired content.”

    The complaint alleges that the warnings may intimidate consumers from making legal use of copyrighted material, like photocopying a page from a book to use in class.

    “It is an attempt to convince Americans that they don’t have rights that they do in fact have,” said Ed Black, the association’s president and chief executive. “This is part of the larger context of what should be and what are proper rules for copyright in an Internet age.”

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

More slick video for the Web

Another professional video site launches: My Damn Channel, featuring musician Don Was, ex-sitcom star Paul Reiser, filmmaker David Wain, and satirist Harry Shearer.

Liz Gannes of NewTeeVee calls it a clone of FunnyOrDie. (But at least they willingly acknowledge that.)

And here's the AP coverage. From the story:

    My Damn Channel will syndicate its videos on other Internet sites and collect revenue from advertising. The site has already signed a distribution deal with YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc.

    The site is backed by Okapi Venture Capital. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

    Jupiter Media analyst David Card said there is a growing demand for amateur and professional video on the Web.

    Still, even videos from pros must find an audience, which can be difficult without an enormous amount of promotion.

    ''You still need to cut through the clutter and sign some major distribution deals,'' Card said.

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National Archives + CustomFlix: Two Drawbacks

On Monday, CustomFlix (a division of Amazon) started selling thousands of historic films from the National Archives, via the company's DVD on demand service. Here's the AP coverage, and a story from Video Business.

Making these films available is a great step forward for the Archives (and for researchers and history buffs.) One problem, though, is that there's very little description of what's on each disc -- and no video preview. You just get a still frame, and the dates that the disc covers (here's an example.)

If we've learned anything so far about video on the Internet, it's that you need lots of metadata surrounding the video to help people find it, and understand what they're going to get if they watch it or purchase it: summaries, cast lists, tags, keywords, and previews all help.

The second issue with this new video library is that it isn't yet available as a download from Amazon's Unbox service -- unlike most other CustomFlix titles.

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