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Friday, January 14, 2011

Web Seer data mapping at BAVC Producers' Institute Public Conference Day

Eric Doversberger of Google provided the first of the quick fire talks at The BAVC Producers Institute Public Conference day in NYC. His subject: data mining and mapping. One of the projects Eric showcased was the seer project. This originally started life as ‘Flowing Media’ a project by MIT/Berkeley PhDs Viegas/Wattenberg – one of many projects enabled by release of Google data visualization API. Seer enables you to input questions and see what the global google community is asking at a moment in time. Eric cracked everyone up by showing data on relationships based on whether the questioner is male or female. For men asking the question: “Is my girlfriend”….the most common question end was “cheating on me quiz” for women the same question starter ‘is my boyfriend’ prompted “gay’ and “cheating on me’ – an aggregation of the two answers being “is my boyfriend/girlfriend cheating on me quiz. You can try this:
Wendy Levy, who has been using Eric’s expertise at the Bay area Producers’ Institute ended Eric’s session with the news that she/Eric have been working on an impact measurement tool at BAVC and will likely release it to the media arts community for others to use as an impact dashboard sometime in 2011.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just launched Popcorn.js and Butter show potential of html5 video at BAVC pinyc conference

Ben Moskovitz twitter@benrito of the Open Video Alliance used his spot on the dais at The BAVC Producer’s Institute NYC to talk up html5 and its ability to make video more interactive. He focused on the Mozilla Popcorn.js project, which allows a mash up of video and open API technology, which essentially connects content from around the web with the content inside the video. The Popcorn JavaScript can show and connect multiple elements from websites such as Wikipedia, Twitter, and Flickr. He showed Johnathan McIntosh/Rebellious Pixels’ Donald Duck/Glenn Beck mash up, built in html5 using popcorn.js as an example of the media rich experience that html5 can provide He also gave advance notice of a new tool being developed --a point and click authoring tool to make it easier for filmmakers to make popcorn videos called ‘Butter’. In fact an 0.2 version of popcorn and butter launched today
At the close of his presentation Moskovitz also gave a heads-up that the Open Video Alliance would be offering a camp showing how to use butter in the near future: register for details at

Kat Cizek: Out of My Window at #PINYC

There were many speakers in the morning session of The BAVC Producers Institute Public Conference day in NYC,(#pinyc) but I have chosen to focus on the documentary/multiplatform projects that struck me as most important.
First up Kat Cizek. Cizek spoke at two points in the day about her project Out of My Window— Cizek spoke about documentarians needing to seize new tools for storytelling that empower audience to be an active part of the storytelling. Out of My Window is the world’s first 360 degree feature length documentary and is part of a larger project, ‘Highrise’ it is also the first idfa doclab award winner for a digital story Cizek’s view of her project is that it challenges long-held notions that in the past have made documentarians reject collaborative storytelling. As she sees it, Out of my Window shows that you can be collaborative and yet have an authored piece, and that technological innovation is no excuse for poor storytelling. She talked about the difference in creating this project as opposed to a documentary: when she thought she was finished with the Out of My Window story, she had really just begun – what followed was a lengthy period of user testing and learning to examine how people navigated the story. She advised on the essential need to identify your goals and chose your measuring stick for a project like this and was incredibly generous about divulging costs: According to Cizek the project cost 25K in Canadian dollars for image collection and 125K for everything else. She also talked through her process – most of the assets for the project were gathered by local collaborators and reassembled by Cizek in Canada. Cizek cites the 25 page Style Guide that she produced to work with local collaborators as a key part of the project’s success, so too the sound design of the piece-- small sound files that could be randomized. Cizek was open to sharing her style guide publicly. The BAVC site is the most likely place it will be available –I will look out for this (could be a useful guide). She also talked about the technology used to create the 360 video – a 5 camera system made by Yellowbird, a Netherlands-based company although panoramic video, Australia
was also mentioned as another company developing similar a camera. Do check out the Out My Window project – it’s really stunning

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BAVC Producers' Institute Public Conference comes to NYC (#pinyc)

30 year-old organization, The Bay Video Coalition BAVC
according to Wendy Levy, BAVC’s Director of Creative Programming, has a mission and scope much larger than its name: “we’re not just bay area based, we’re about much more than video, and we’ve never been a coalition!” BAVC is, in fact, a global social change organization. The Producers Institute for New Media is an 4-year-old initiative founded by Wendy Levy as a ten-day residency for eight creative teams (independent producers or public broadcasters) with a shared goal of developing and prototyping a multi-platform project inspired by, or based on a significant documentary project. The Institute is typically held in the summer at BAVC, in San Francisco. The intention of the Institute is to develop socially relevant media projects for emerging digital platforms. “Producers participate in high-level industry roundtables, intense one-on-one project development with technical mentors, new media storytelling workshops, and hands-on prototyping of their ideas using a range of interactive formats, including but not limited to video game applications, interactive, web-based experiences, and mobile streaming”. ,The Institute provides creative mentors, technology consultants and advisors based on the needs of your project. At the end of the residency, all participants demonstrate their prototype and pitch to a panel of VC funders, industry leaders, and foundations for potential funding/rollout of full platform.
For the first time, in 2011, and in the depths of January no less, The Producer’s Institute came to New York to work with six east coast documentary makers interested in developing games/data visualization/mobile app/interactive site projects based around their documentary projects.
In order to share this expertise with a wider NYC community, BAVC organized a public conference day at the Tribeca Film Theater that included many of the experts that would be assisting the NYC documentary teams with their multi-platform development. Speakers at the conference included producers of current multi-platform projects, previous BAVC Producers’ Institute alumni and presenters offering quick fire 15 minute TED-style talks on new and emerging technology. Follow link below for a full description of the conference day/presenters and to see the range of the BAVC’s NYC offering, for their first ever east coast public conference.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Formspring social network: focus of cyberbullying

This weekend I received a worrying email from the principal of my daughter's New York City public middle school.

The principal wanted to make parents aware of a year-old social networking site used by several of the students at school called 'Formspring'. Through a conversational 'Question and Answer' format, the intent of Formspring is to let you express yourself and learn more about people. All questions and responses are completely public on Formspring. Additionally, Formspring also allows people to post comments anonymously.

My daughter's principal reported doing some investigation on our students' Formspring accounts; and was shocked by what she found.

The amount of harsh comments, bullying and abuse was extreme. Comments ranged from insults on a child's personal appearance to use of slurs and offensive language.

The principal was particularly interested in making parents aware of this social network, because she had spent most of the past few weeks working with students and mediating specific incidents involving cyberbullying.

I decided to go have a look at Formspring for myself and was surprised to see that with nothing more than the name of my daughter's school and the search term 'formspring' I was able to pull up account after account, many containing completely public and unfiltered insults. It doesn't do justice to describe much of content I read: you have to see it for yourself for a sense of its general vindictiveness. Given that the Formspring accounts I looked at are completely public, I feel I can share this one example here (by no means was this atypical of what I saw).

Looking at these Formspring accounts provided an opportunity for me to have a frank conversation with my daughter on social networking, and this social network in particular. After speaking to my daughter, I was relieved to hear that she did not have a Formspring account, but I urge other parents and educators to start this discussion with the adolescents in your life.

On first look, Formspring looks like trolling by another name.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Classroom on the Water, an example of a video collaboration done right

Thought I would share this. It's a nice example of a short documentary about a school -- something we've seen many times before no doubt -- but two things stand out about this piece: Firstly, the school itself, NYC Harbor school, with its avowed marine-based focus may offer an educational experience that is unlike any other in the United States; and secondly, this piece is also an example of what is possible when an organization looking for video content that it can use for self promotion, works with a local media channel eager for interesting content. This was made by NYC25 NYC Life New York City's flagship cable channel. It shows the Harbor School's move from landlocked Bushwick in Brooklyn to its watery location in a brand new facility on Govenor's island. Enjoy 'Classroom on the Water'!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Transmedia storytelling at the Open Video Conference

This presentation featured 2 filmmakers whose latest projects have extended traditional storytelling beyond a single screen.

First up, Lance Waller, a self-described filmmaker who has become a story architect‚
talked about last film he made 'Head Trama' the first ever project to go through the Sundance Institute as a transmedia project. Head Trauma as a project started with interactive comic, then feature film, then live events. People were instructed to share their cell phone number and could interact with other audience members to solve puzzles presented by the film. After the screening, a game designed to build on the film experience loops them into conversation with others who had shared a theater screening experience. Then video on demand was released as a free download, again bringing people in 2.5 million people -- a core of whom continue to interact with games and add-on experiences about the film. The idea: no one piece of the storytelling tells the whole story. By engaging in these different places where parts of the story are being told the public becomes a collaborator.

He then described his latest project, Hope is Missing that will feature mobile episodes micronarratives and a mobile geo-location based app to put people in place of the film protagonist a child in a post-apocalyptic future who has to scavenge by day and make nests by night. His insight: When people buy in to this they give data points GPS info, make model of handset/ email address/phone no/ and storytellers can track their impact from amount of usage.

He also spoke about another of his projects:

A community that he started originally to help share his knowledge about creating this kind of storytelling but has now become an active online community helping people to better fund/create etc. Looks great.

Waller ended by arguing that we are at a point where the value of content is dropping but the social/collaborative experience of storytelling is thing that will have most value going forward.

Tommy Pallotta, producer of A Scanner Darkly spoke about how he unwittingly became involved with transmedia storytelling through a trailer remix contest for A Scanner Darkly. This yielded such rich results that he decided to make a graphic novel using these files. He then decided could make a mobile app. After the movie had been released for several months he couldn't understand why his audiences were growing in size not diminishing. At a screening in Korea he asked who had seen the movie before:it turns out many had on bit torrent. This made him then release a bit torrent of film American Prince. His latest piece is an energy conservation story told as part feature part doc part rotoscope part geo-data and website