Video

Shooting ratio

A colleague today, reviewing a video made by some of our students, opened my eyes somewhat:

Even the occasional slightly jarring cut is forgivable when the ratio of footage shot to that used is only about 5:1. (The average feature film is 20:1 while Apocalypse Now was 95:1.)

Wikipedia on shooting ratio.

Wikipedia on Documentary Film — Cinéma vérité and Direct Cinema:

… the shooting ratio (the amount of film shot to the finished product) is very high, often reaching 80:1.

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Paradigm shifts

I like the discipline of the del.icio.us 255 character limit for the excerpt from, or comment on, the item you're bookmarking there. But sometimes there's just too much that's good to be contained or summed like that.

The amazing miracle of YouTube versus The Times, as everyone reading this blog surely already knows, is that YouTube is a platform where cream--user-uploaded videos--rises the the top, to be savored by the world, while The New York Times Company is an information organization that pays thousands of journalists, designers, business people and administrative types millions of dollars to create expert content that tells people what to think and what to like. And honey, that day is passing fast. 

The point here--just to kick it a little harder--is that this is yet more evidence how social media platforms that are shifting the paradigms in a profound way--Not only does YouTube have a mass market, it's video on the web appeal that the more high-brow Times will never have (Is YouTube the next MTV?). Furthermore, it's a platform that gives Google the opportunity to morph into a multimedia MySpace ecosystem, way beyond what Orkut could ever be--and most cruelly, it's something that teens and twenty-somethings care about, which may no longer be the case for The New York Times.

So Google bought YouTube, not a media company, and the fact that doesn't even surprise anyone one anymore and that it makes perfect sense, that, dudes, is a paradigm shift.

*

… consumerization will be the most significant trend to have an impact on IT over the next 10 years. … "Consumers are rapidly creating personal IT architectures capable of running corporate-style IT architectures," he [Gartner's director of global research, Peter Sondergaard] said. "They have faster processors, more storage and more bandwidth."

He advised corporate IT executives to adapt to the changes and prepare for what he called "digital natives," or people so fully immersed in digital culture that they are unconcerned about the effects of their technology choices on the organizations that employ them. … 

In a paper prepared by Gene Phifer, David Mitchell Smith and Ray Valdes, Gartner researchers noted that corporate IT departments historically have lagged behind popular technology waves, such as the arrival of graphical user interfaces and the Internet in business. They argued that the biggest impacts of Web 2.0 within enterprises are collaboration technologies--notably blogs, wikis and social networking sites--and programmable Web sites that allow business users to create mashup applications. … "Our core hypothesis is that an agility-oriented, bifurcated strategy--one reliant on top-down control and management, the other dependent on bottom-up, free-market style selection--will ultimately let IT organizations play to their strengths while affording their enterprises maximum opportunity as well," the Gartner report said.

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Skype

Last Thursday evening I was at the Saïd Business School to hear Saul Klein (blog), Vice-President of Marketing at Skype. An eye-opening talk.

When eBay bought Skype for $2.6bn last September, with an additional $1.5bn dependent upon performance targets, the deal surprised commentators:

… the high price for the transaction and the young nature of Skype's business prompted scepticism among some telecommunications industry executives and analysts, who questioned Ebay's ability to generate significant revenues from its new acquisition. FT

Since then the Skype user base has doubled in size. The company is young, only 2½ years old (launched in August, 2003), yet as of April this year it has more than 100 million users and a 67% CQGR: every 5 days, 1 million people join Skype. It has websites in 23 languages and accepts payment in 15 currencies. A year ago it employed just 100 people; today, 300.

From its inception, Skype has been intended to be a simple product — easy to use. A new user can be up and running within 2 to 3 minutes of downloading it. The software is under rapid development (changelog for Windows here; the latest beta version is 2.5). Currently, Skype allows up to 100 users to talk in a Skypecast and up to 5 people to conference call for free. (If you use an Intel Dual Core Processor machine then you can host 10 people conference calls for free.) Group chats can accommodate up to 50 contacts.

To understand more about the new Skypecast initiative, you can begin here. There's some background here:

Skypecasts enable people to discuss shared interests — anything from classic cars and cooking, to home design and computer support. Skypecasts are moderated by the ‘host’ who is able to mute, eject or pass the virtual microphone to participants when they wish to speak. Hosting or participating in a Skypecast is completely free.

There's more food for thought on Skype Journal. TypePad users are well set up:

Yesterday Skype launched their Skypecasts Directory, as well as a Widget that lets TypePad users promote upcoming Skypecasts (either their own or Skypecasts they're interested in) on their blog.

Ready to start talking with your readers?  Hosting a Skypecast is easy...

  1. Schedule your Skypecast. Got a topic for discussion? Got a time? Visit skypecasts.skype.com and schedule your Skypecast. It will be listed for anyone to discover and join.
  2. Promote it on your blog. Once you’re listed in the Skypecasts directory, promote your Skypecast on your blog. Link to your listing directly in your post, or use the Skypecast Widget for TypePad.
  3. Host your discussion. Connect using your Skype client to share your passion with your audience and have a bit of fun.

My school has just gone wireless in its boarding houses and some rapid work by two of my pupils has established that Google Talk and Skype work (both within the school's system and across the firewall). Very shortly, I'll be exploring the use of Skype conference calls with pupils.

Skype's program of development is both rapid and tightly focused around a well-defined product, with close attention paid to user-feedback (forums from day 1). Reviewing some of what Skype already offers (in addition to group chats, conference calls and Skypecasts) can't but impress: SkypeOut, SkypeIn, voicemail, Video (1 in 5 Skype users now video call), IM, SMS, data transfer/sharing (last month I noted Matt Webb's piece about Skype and there's no doubt we'll be making use of Skype for moving files around), cross-platform interoperability, integration with other apps, Skype Me, presence …  The appearance on the market of Skype-enabled mobiles is gathering pace. Also developing swiftly is Skype's engagement in eCommerce (Skype embedded in eBay auctions is already running as a trial in China — 25% of sellers use it) and the company expects its role in this market to be big.

Skype has so much going for it and the blogosphere is closely attentive. No wonder it was the third most recognised brand in 2005, and Saul used Blogpulse to demonstrate that, for the most part, Skype tracks above VoIP:

Skype_voip_trends

Skype is offering some powerful tools that will make a great impact on the way we work in education. I'm grateful to Saul for putting me in touch with their developer relations program team, and I hope we can begin to work with Skype both on the kinds of functionality that Skype already has (and we don't know about) and on new implementations that will be of value to schools.

And I want to put Skype in control of my home, too!

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YouTube

Be it Frank Zappa specials, such as I am the Slime and Mike Nesmith and Frank Zappa on 'The Monkees', or Captain Beefheart — Lick my decals off, baby … or the loftier heights of The Hearts of Age (Orson Welles) and Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren), YouTube is going to become compulsive viewing. (All links via del.icio.us, the first three via Merlin Mann, the last two via Warren Ellis.)

Wikipedia on The Hearts of Age:

The Hearts of Age is the first film made by Orson Welles. The film is a four-minute short, which he co-directed with William Vance in 1934. The film stars Welles' first wife, Virginia Nicholson, as well as Welles himself. He made the film while attending the Todd School for Boys, in Woodstock, Illinois, at the age of 19. The plot is a series of images loosely tied together, and is arguably influenced by surrealism. The film is rarely seen today, but many point to it as an important precursor to Welles' first Hollywood film, Citizen Kane.

Meshes of the Afternoon, to my shame, is a discovery. Better now than never. Wikipedia here. An Uruguayan site here (Spanish). (Both these links via absurdita, who uploaded the film to YouTube.) IMDb entry here.

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Understanding MySpace

Jesse James Garrett in BusinessWeek online:

It seemed like an also-ran. But in less than two years it built up a community of more than 20 million users. And then it sold for half a billion dollars. The site is MySpace, a social-networking space where people connect with their friends and make new ones as they share their interests and personalities through the blogs, photos, comments, video, and audio they post. MySpace has developed a particular appeal for young people because the site makes it especially easy for bands to set up pages to communicate with their fans. Today, the statistics are staggering: 43 million users so far, 150,000 new ones every day. Ten percent of all advertising impressions across the entire Internet happen on MySpace -- twice as many page views as Google (GOOG). And in the wake of its recent acquisition, MySpace's growth has only accelerated.

… the system allows users to do almost anything to the look of their pages, whether it's a good idea or not. Regardless of its aesthetic consequences, this customizability is one of the site's most attractive features, and the do-it-yourself sensibility of the site resonates with the audience's desire for self-expression. …the unpolished style invites users to try things out, telling them they don't have to be professional designers to participate. The unrefined look of MySpace sends another message to users: We're like you. You're not a designer, and neither are we. We're not here to show off our design skills, we're here to connect. … Throughout, MySpace knocks down the distinction between the people who run the site and the people who participate. You'll never be isolated on MySpace, because the site's operators are your friends.

… crafting a site experience that acknowledges both what users care about and what they don't may be the smartest design strategy of all.

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Murdoch, MySpace and YouTube

This CNET article, patronising comment about teenagers apart (never heard of fickle adults?), caught my eye:

When Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace, the social-networking Web site, in July, some of its users gloomily predicted that the site would be altered to suit the company's corporate interests. Proof for many of those people came earlier this month, when MySpace users began to notice that any references to YouTube, a video-sharing site and a competitor, were erased or blocked from appearing on My-Space. Some MySpace users also reported that when they tried to download videos from YouTube, a patch of white space appeared instead. … The official blog maintained by YouTube offered another explanation the next day, saying the issue was "a simple misunderstanding, and MySpace has re-enabled all YouTube embeds." A spokesman for News Corp. did not return phone calls on Friday.

The incident underlines the peril corporations face as they buy blogs and networking sites like MySpace, which depend on the good will of their users. Murdoch paid $580 million for MySpace, a significant investment for a 2-year-old Web site primarily populated by fickle teenagers and users in their 20s. Like other members of free community Web sites, MySpace users often react with indignation if they believe their content has been tampered with. And they can always decide to leave for other networking sites. As one irate user put it in a message to MySpace members, "visit Friendster and Hi5 if you're interested in social networking sites that don't censor content and allow your YouTube video embeds."

I haven't bought in to MySpace precisely because of Murdoch's ownership of it.

Oh, and YouTube is a site that surely is going to become big this year.

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Nokia's SmartPhone revolution

The Nokia N70 is a fine, fine phone. (I was fortunate to be sent one as part of Nokia's 360 SmartPhone Study.)  Jason Fried sang its praises last month: 'overall the N70 is the best phone I’ve ever used'. Marc Eisenstadt produced a very informative posting of his experiences with one (a 'Swiss-Army Phone') which is also a vade mecum for all phone buyers:

… there are some specific factors you need to consider when purchasing a ‘modern multi-purpose mobile (smart)phone’, and which don’t get mentioned in many reviews … :

1. Grab without thinking: If you have to think twice about whether to carry a gadget with you on Errand X or Trip Y or Meeting Z, then it’s too big. The N70 is an absolute winner on this front …

2. Thumb-centric vs pen-centric operation: if you’re making the jump to a smartphone (i.e. phone with PDA functionality), one key attribute you should consider is whether you prefer to enter short items with your thumb or with a pen …

3. Satisficing beats moving goalposts: when Nobel-prize winner Herb Simon invented ’satisficing’ in 1957, he meant (among other things) that people had a great gift for trimming a search space opting for solutions that were less-than-optimal but ‘just good enough’. Since Moore’s Law means there will always be a better gadget around the corner, and indeed the special-purpose gadgets (MP3 player, camera, etc) will get better even faster than an all-purpose Swiss Army Gadget, you just need to decide on your threshold of ‘just good enough’ acceptability for the features you want, and go for it.

… the N70 is a good all-rounder. The era of ‘jaw-dropping surprises’ is over: the fact that the N70 can do so much of what it does, and so well, ought to amaze us, but our expectations keep growing and we are increasingly hard to impress. … what are my biggest gripes?  Just two:

1. If you are a text-messaging fanatic, you will be unhappy with the N70: the keys are too small, and, most importantly, the ‘Clear/delete backwards key’ is in the wrong place, certainly for right-handed users. For me, this is an acceptable tradeoff given the good screen size and compact size of the phone (all things considered).

2. Scrolling through news/articles/messages/emails of more than, say, 30 lines in length is annoying because there is a ‘discontinuity jump’ as each new segment is rendered, which makes it hard for your brain to ‘do the right thing’, the way it can when scrolling even longish articles on most PDAs. …

So, there you have it.  Now to deploy my new productivity tool (by ignoring it). … Don’t get me wrong, this is one gorgeous phone! By ‘ignoring it’ … I mean ‘letting it blend unobtrusively into my activities, without fuss’.

I agree with Marc on his plus point 1 (but see below) and gripe number 1. As for one-handed (thumb-centric), my experience is that using a SmartPhone when busy makes one-handedness desirable. I'm not yet satisficed (?) with the camera: at 2 megapixel it's much better than what I've had before, but I still long for the day when I can leave my digital camera at home and just take my phone. And I have another gripe about the keypad: the menu/option keys are too close to the green and red (left and right) phone keys and also don't feel sufficiently different to the touch. I've mis-hit these a number of times now.

The N70 does seem to be a huge step on from the 6630 in the clarity of its software. (I haven't tried to work out why, but it immediately felt more intuitive and less like being parachuted into a jungle.) Its ease of navigation and use has encouraged me to run things on it such as LiteFeeds (RSS for mobile devices). I'm pleased with LiteFeeds, particularly as feed-reading on a mobile has been problematic until recently. (FeedBurner Mobile Feed 2.0 is not yet available, but I'd like to try it when it's out.)  Mobile Gmail works well. Audio-only podcasting is a no-no, but video can be done: see here (and there's a pdf guide here).

If I hadn't got the N70, I'd have been looking at the N90 (which Ross has blogged about here) — a far bulkier but very interesting transformer phone. My recent phones (SE P900, Nokia 6630) have been on the heavy side, and the N70's lightness is a delight. (If Christian Lindholm's right, mobile phones will soon be wearable, and the PDA will be a separate item again. And check out Nokia's 770 as reviewed by Russell Beattie and his challenge to Silicon Valley.) However, Ewan Spence's All About Symbian review of the N90 concludes:

To sum up, the N90 is Nokia’s first true cameraphone to focus on the camera, and it’s all the better for it. Yes, the unit has a number of quirks in the design, but the software, the operation and general polish of Series 60 continues, and makes the N90 the high-end phone of the moment in both Nokia’s N range and in terms of smartphones in general. It might be marketed with the camera as its killer feature, but with Series 60 it covers all the bases, and covers them well. Right now, there’s no solid reason to not look very, very seriously at the N90.

But back to light-and-thin: on the near horizon, the slide form factor N80 looks very interesting indeed. All About Symbian had a preview of an early version of this phone:

… in slide closed mode, the phone at 95.4 x 50 x 23.4 mm is essentially the smallest Nokia S60 phone yet. As a slider it is a few mm thicker than a monoblock such as the 6680, but this is hardly noticeable. It is bigger and heavier (134g) that the other modern S60 Slider, the Samsung D720, but that is a reflection of the extra functionality found in the N80. …

High resolution screen support makes a real difference – physically the screen has not changed in size, but the increased density of the pixels results in a much crisper display. … The new S60 browser, based on Safari's WebCore and JavascriptCore components, is also found on the N80. The 'minimap' feature allows you to see a full page at a glance and navigate around it, while other new features include 'visual history' and support for RSS feeds. … In use, the browser is much faster than Nokia's previous efforts (and) will start to change the way people think about browsing the web on a mobile device. Previously, sites aimed at PCs were only accessible using SSR (small screen rendering) technologies and this had usability problems since it was always limited by the intelligence of the re-rendering algorithms. Higher resolution screens, together with minimap, mean that it is possible to quite comfortably view any web site on the phone.

A 3 megapixel camera, Flash Lite, improved Java support, Nokia XpressMusic, UPnP and Wi-Fi (to name just a few of its features — possibly Skype connectivity, too!) add up to a very powerful mobile device:

With features such as UPnP (play music on any device anywhere wirelessly), Bluetooth 2.0 (wireless stereo headsets), 3G and Wi-Fi Connectivity (music download/purchase over the air) the N80 is the most feature rich and powerful digital media playback device on the market. Imagine the reaction that wireless headphones, wireless music sharing and playback around the home and over the air song download and purchase would get if they were features announced in a new iPod and you can start to grasp the significance of the feature set of the N80.

The smartphone is often touted as the ultimate convergence device, and the N80 is just one more step along that road. Nokia made it clear they see the N80 at the heart of the digital home with UPnP, with its auto-discovery and remote control properties as the enabling standard. But it is also clear that this is just the first stage and we can expect to see increasing integration with other devices around the home in the future, which will be achieved through the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) 1.5 guidelines (which aims to enhance interoperability and user experience). All About Symbian

I blog all this because I am personally interested in what these slender, hand-held devices can deliver but I also believe that they will alter fundamentally the way schools and students operate. Moreover, although they are as yet so much the playthings of the richer countries these new generation phones have the potential to make the world more equitably connected — and for education that is also very exciting.

Or, if you prefer, as AAS concldues: all this is 'a story of four years of development in which the smartphone has moved from the initial concept smartphone to a series of feature-rich and powerful multimedia computers which will sell 100 million units in 2006. For the consumer electronics industry, it is an unprecedented story of product-line creation, growth and success and one that is largely unnoticed by mainstream technology pundits'.

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Online life and education

It's been well over a year since I and my colleague, Ian, started dabbling with TypePad. We've learned a lot and made many connections — face to face and online — and learned, too, to join "small" bits together (TypePad, Basecamp, Flickr, del.icio.us, 43 Things, Backpack, Ta-da, Audioscrobbler/Last FM …). It's been a stimulating and creative time.

The online magazine that is again waking up, Sed contra, is soon to be relaunched with its own Flickr and music feed, and with podcasting. I was very interested to see that Musselburgh Grammar School has already got to the podcasting stage. Indeed, its work in the blogging sphere (its geoBlog is a collaboration with a school in Silesia) has won it an award as Scotland's Best School Website for March 2005, and it has been nominated for a New Statesman New Media Award for education and innovation (news via Blogger Me, where Alistair Shrimpton, UK Business Development Manager for Six Apart, reports that via their weblog MGS 'received over 1400 letters and emails exchanged between pupils in 20 schools in seven countries with four languages'). Earlier this month, the TES had a very brief article on podcasting and schools, and I've just come across Adam Burt's mobile learning blog, m-learning.

Reboot 7.0 lies ahead for Ian and me, and thereafter plans for further developments at Radley (online calendaring, student-camphone feeds, video blogging, internet-radio/podcasting, state-sector/private-sector collaboration — the last is a major project). It's a good time to be involved in the internet and web-based applications, and teachers have lots to learn and exploit.


IM, Video Conferencing & Skype

Stuart Henshall, Skype Journal, citing EuroTelcoblog:

At c30m registered users, Skype would appear to have penetrated 20% of its addressable market, and with around 2m concurrent users, more than 1% of the world's broadband population is running Skype at any given time.

… Despite 30m+ MSN video users no one ever talked about giving up the phone for it. Thus the numbers I'd like to see is Skype share of IM voice minutes, share of voice initiated sessions, and lastly share of messaging occasions. While I'm sure Skype has only a small share amongst text / chat sessions its share amongst voice initiated sessions should have made the other IM clients wake up by now.

I am only now making much use of IM, and do so via Skype.

Bill Campbell, also posting at Skype Journal:

The MSN + LogiTech Partnership raised the bar for Skype Video with their public release of MSN Messenger 7.0. Full screen video without pixelation. Excellent audio-video lip sync, modest bandwidth (audio + video at 80 kilobits per second) a frame rate high enough to pick up blink of an eye, CPU Utilization of 10 to 12 percent (using a AMD XP 3000+ CPU) and resolution that allowed my Skype buddy in Romania to read a document with 10 point text. The audio still sucks comparpared to Skype, but is a vast improvement over previous versions. It was quite useable. It was simple to set up. No ports to forward. … Truly an amazing product.

With Apple's Tiger-iChat and now MSN 7.0 Skype will be feeling the heat. Will they push out a quick and dirty beta to show they have video or will they give users a video conferencing system that really contributes to the Skype user's experience?


The seemingly never-ending question: Mac or PC?

Just when I thought I was ready to plunge Mac-wards, Jeremy Zawodny blogs about why he is moving the other way — but not entirely. Highlights:

Something has been bugging me for the last few months. Though I got my nice new Mac and switched to using it as my main personal desktop/laptop machine, it's been a frustrating experience at times. … it never felt quite right. The Mac felt slow and awkward for daily "office" use. So I decided to begin using the Windows box for my work related activities in 2005. Instead of hauling the Powerbook to Yahoo each day, I now take the Compaq. …

I've found that nearly every one of the Open Source applications I've installed seems to work better and significantly faster on this machine than on my nearly new Powerbook. In other words, open source applications feel better on Windows than on the Mac. …

The Mac isn't going to collect dust. I still use NetNewsWire daily. iPhoto and the Flickr plugin are still my preferred way to deal with digital photos. iTunes, my iPod, and the iTunes Music Store are still the center of my personal music world. … But Office on the Mac just doesn't compare to Office on Windows. …

The Mac is my media computer. I see it handling my audio/video/entertainment needs for the foreseeable future. …

The only viable choices (for me) are Mac OS X or Windows XP. And Windows lets me:

  • feel like I'm getting more out of the hardware
  • stop fighting the Mac's usability problems (the tab key being useless in most dialogs, the lack of hotkeys in most apps, the X11 requirement for some apps)
  • have decent power management—almost as good as the Powerbook
  • get full IT "support" at work (meaning that I get on the "real" network and don't need to do all that tunneling crap)

I can quite see the appeal of a Mac for media stuff — and maybe the ideal is a Windows machine for "work" and the rumoured about $500 Mac (due to be announced tomorrow?) for all things play and media: a Media iMac.