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Choose your own adventure – in song and video

Choose your own adventure – in song and video

Remember those Fighting Fantasy adventure books where you’d have to decide what action to take, and then flip ahead depending on your choice?

Here it is on Youtube, in song. About the perils of deciding on a haircut.

I see holograms. Everywhere.

I see holograms. Everywhere.

At every meeting, every gathering, every dinner party…

At every meeting, every gathering, every dinner party…

I am… The Token.

Well, unless another Chinese or Other person walks in. And then this happens:

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

I was recently given the opportunity to produce a short film for work about a new website, coming soon for internal workers. Since I hadn’t really made a short film since my student efforts with Stephen Fry in 1995 – when we were outputting to VHS! – I thought it’d be a great chance to learn what had changed in the last 15 years. A lot.

Whereas before we literally pointed and shot the camera at our interviewees, this time we also had a lighting kit to contend with. A huge lighting kit on a trolley that came in a flight case – and I was told this was the portable version. It did make a difference in terms of the visual image, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort of rigging everything up and blinding our interviewees. But if that’s the professional way to do it …

Of course, I was the one asking the questions, although it took me a while to master my brief, as they are wont to say in the civil service. But by the time I’d recorded and logged all the interviews, I had enough soundbites to put something together, although it then became a bit of a mad dash to try and find alternative footage to pep up the visuals – and amazingly, if you want to film at the place you work, you need a permit. Plus there’s so much footage in the archives that it’s actually very difficult to try and find the footage you want, that somebody else MUST have surely filmed.

All in all, we spent a day and a half filming, and got about 90 minutes of raw footage out of eight quick interviews, most of them lasting less than ten minutes. It took me a couple of hours to transcribe the interviews to create a rough “script” to take to the edit suite.

Having spent most of my working life vainly trying to get work computers to do basic video editing, it was a real blessing to walk into a properly maintained edit suite running Final Cut Pro, being run by an editor who knew what he was doing. Even if it didn’t seem that different from Adobe Premiere Pro. We even managed to add in a couple of graphical flourishes and a visual gag. I did miss the physicality of doing it myself though – of pressing the buttons, using the jog wheel etc.

So two meetings, 14 hours of filming, 2 hours of logging, a couple of spare tapes for extra shots, and 8 hours of editing later, I can say that I’ve managed to help produce a 4 minute internal film that five key stakeholders seem reasonably happy with. Which is an innovation in itself. But then, Geoff managed to make this video in 5 hours…

Now I’ve got a vague hunger to see what else I can film and edit. Of course, that would mean finding a subject, the time, the motivation – oh, and the equipment as well.

It's like, breaking down the fourth wall, man

It's like, breaking down the fourth wall, man

It’s soooo meta. And cool.

Or maybe not. but funny all the same.

I want to be famous … but not like that…

I want to be famous … but not like that…

For a while, I’ve been looking on enviously while the powers-that-be seem determined to groom zuzula into a TV star – or at least, a journalist who appears on the television talking knowledgably about technology – and wondering if I’ll ever get my chance. This of course seems unlikely, especially considering Gok Wan (he has a BIOGRAPHY now!) has taken up the mantle of the first non-kung-fu British-Chinese person to get his own TV show. Lucky sod.

Then for work purposes, two television producers hovered round my desk today while I changed a website based on their whims. They coo’ed, ahh’ed, touched my arms and generally acted as if I was a genius. Which was most annoying because I patently am not. Then they turned to me and said “You’d be great in our diversity video!” and asked me if I wanted to be on it.

On one hand, I’d love to be in the limelight … at the same time, being in the limelight because of an accident of race as opposed to, y’know, doing something worthwhile or interesting seems a bit off. But then maybe rewriting words and putting in images on websites is a highly-skilled art and one that deserves to be lauded in a diversity film?

If someone asked you to be in a diversity video, would you go on it?

ITV, you're doing online video wrong…

ITV, you're doing online video wrong…

With the Pet Shop Boys being given a Outstanding Contribution to Music award at The Brits, I thought I’d look at ITV’s Brits website just to see what behind the scenes content they had. To be fair, they had a reasonable range of content, but it was all let down by the following:

  • It took four clicks from The Brits homepage to get to the page I wanted – even though it was prominently advertised on the front page.
  • See that cunning play icon overlaid on the main picture of the Pet Shop Boys on this page? Click it, and wait forever for the pic to change to a video … before realising that the video is being played in ANOTHER window on the right hand side of the page.
  • Then keep waiting as an entire minute of adverts is played out before your eyes before you even get to the main feature. At least other commercial TV websites like Hulu only play one advert lasting 30 seconds.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if you were watching a thirty minute programme … but all this for a clip lasting three minutes?

The trouble with ITV’s approach to online video is that it seems to show a breath-taking arrogance for ignoring the way online video has been built up till now on other platforms, with a determination to do it their way. From YouTube to Hulu to iPlayer, people now expect when you’re clicking on a play icon, that the video will play where the play icon was, not on another window on the other side of the screen. Trying to establish a different user interface for the sake of it just seems incredibly daft, if not arrogant. We’re living in a world where 37% of 15-24 year-olds say they mostly hear music via YouTube. The corporate world is littered with the corpses of once mighty companies who didn’t notice when little minnows slowly took away their audience.

Oh, and why is Kylie hosting with James Corden? It’s almost as inanely dull and self-consciously zany as the Samantha Fox/Mick Fleetwood pairing…

Embarassment at work… (sponsored post)

Embarassment at work… (sponsored post)

So far, my most embarassing desk-work moments have involved:

– merrily miming along to a superlative Pet Shop Boys track called I’m In Love With A Married Man.
– shrieking like a girl when I played a video that unexpectedly turned into one of those scary jumpy videos.

But fortunately, I’ve not yet been caught looking at things I shouldn’t have, quite like this:

Video placement paid for by ChannelBee

What's so great about the video iPod?

What's so great about the video iPod?

Geofftech is one of those who were “lucky” enough to soak up all the free food and wine at the launch of the video iPod. Which seems to be just about the only good thing about the anti-climatic announcement of the video iPod.

The screen is tiny, there’s no widescreen and as far as I can tell, there’s no option for users to upload their own video content or home movies to it. So it’s still a music player with a hard drive that can also do video. But that’s it.

Compare that to the Playstation Portable. It’s got a proper screen for watching video. It can play games and music. You can upload your own video content. The only thing you can’t do is bolt on a hard drive to it – or buy American TV shows at US$2 an episode to watch.

I think I know which one I’d get. If I had any spare money.

A 14-hour work day….

A 14-hour work day….

Well, it was a 14-hour workday producing on-demand broadband video clips from the Tsunami Relief Concert – and aside from the fact I’ve still got a glowing wristband on that would have allowed me backstage access throughout the entire gig and I had to babysit a video encoder instead – it was good fulfilling fun. Pumping out 8 hours of video content, checking it for swearing gives one a huge sense of achievement. Although not being able to spot when Badly Drawn Boy repeats a song twice is not one of my music appreciation highlights.

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