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The Pub Is The Place For 3D

September 29th, 2009

A lot of buzz has been around for the launch of Sky’s 3D service, but you’ll have to go to the pub to see it.

3D in the pubSky are planning to launch their 3D broadcasts early next year, on a limited, experimental basis at first.  But it won’t be family viewing but over 18’s only as the first programmes will only be available to subscribers at pubs and clubs.

It’ll be sports to first get that extra dimension, which would have been invaluable for that tricky decision in the 1966 world cup.  Pubs will need to have new special screens, though their existing Sky HD Boxes can still be used, and there will be a higher subscription for 3D shows.  But not much higher as this is largely a marketing venture for Sky who are hoping punters will be so impressed they’ll want the technology at home.

Then there’s the glasses of course, the ones to look through rather than drink from, they will be so cheap it’s thought they’ll be giveaways or may carry sponsorship.  And I’m sure their wearers will be in for a large dash of ribbing.

Sky have had the ambition to show live sports in 3D for some time and this is their opportunity to test the market and the technology.  The very first Sky broadcasts were also premiered on the pub circuit and it’s now doing very well thank you.



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Beyond 3D

September 29th, 2009

Apple iGlassesWith 3D TV about to creep into our media rooms, the ever technology eclipsing Apple, have just been granted a patent for beyond 3D, (not its actual name!)

3D specs may never be the same again, as these aren’t just 3D specs, they’re individual video displays you wear on your eyes.  What might become known as the iGlasses, Apple have had these in development for three years and they’re now ready to move into the design labs.  The idea is that the glasses are fed with video via fibre optic cable from the laser unit carried elsewhere, so the specs are very light. Programming will come from your iPhone or iPod.

They will create a totally immersive TV experience great for movies and games, similar in idea to the early ‘virtual reality’ goggles and helmets, but high quality video and not as clunky.

When and if you’ll be able to buy these is unsure, as Apple patents many ideas which go into the design labs never to come out, but unlike 3D, this is less of a sequel, more a new genre.


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Execs Arrested For Bollywood Piracy

September 25th, 2009

priyanka chopraA major operation by the piracy division of Mumbai police has led to the arrests of six top level executives at leading Bollywood distribution and duplication companies.

In the smashing of a plot to pirate upcoming movie, ‘What’s My Rashee?’, (What’s My Star Sign?), starring Bollywood beauty, Priyanka Chopra, it was discovered that the master print of the movie was stolen from Adlabs, India’s largest digital processing facility and cinema chain,  and passed to bootleggers, along with a print of, Fast Forward, another unreleased movie.  It was also found that those arrested had pirated a further 11 movies over the past six months.

Adlabs processing manager, Durgadas Bhakta was arrested along with, Rajesh Chowdhry of UFO Moviez, Neeray Shah, overseas distribution manager for Big Cinemas, Kalapi Nagda of home video distributor, Shemaroo Entertainment and one other.

whats your rashee PoaterThe investigation and arrests were made under the, Maharashtra Prevention Of Dangerous Activities Act, recently established in Maharashtra state and which carries a penalty of one year in jail.

Ironically, Adlabs is the only lab in India which is recognised by the UK’s, Federation Against Copyright Theft, as piracy is huge in India, costing the industry up to $400m a year.

Clearly, you can’t trust anyone!


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Oz Funds Production Companies

September 25th, 2009

Dharma Wants YouScreen Australia has awarded 12 production companies, across the media board, funding totalling $9m over three years.

The awards have been made by the national funding body’s, ‘Enterprise Scheme’ and covers projects in features, television, documentary and projects for interactive digital platforms.  The companies and their projects were selected from a shortlist of 24, mostly established already, with strong track records and representing all states except South Australia.

They include Jigsaw Productions, best known for their series, Bondi Rescue and Guerilla Gardners,  Hoodlum (QLD) who specialise in interactive multi-media and whose work was seen on, Dharma Wants You, the multi-platform spin-off of Lost and Renegarde Films, a successful commercials company with plans to develop into factual and drama genres.

So little spirit of adventure from this enterprise scheme.


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Britain’s Got Exec. Talent?

September 25th, 2009

Britain;s Got TalentBrit TV channels are going through a bit of an executive re-shuffle as Andy Duncan is clearing his desk at Channel Four and Michael Grade stubs-out his last Montecristo on the pavement outside ITV.  Careers at the top can have quite mundane endings.  Today, a surprising announcement reveals the sands continue to shift.

Both Andy Duncan and Michael Grade, have had tough jobs in the world of commercial TV, though their remits are simple, make programmes and make lots of money from advertising.  A bit like Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods, buy goods, sell them and make lots of money.  Harrods of course is renown for being an upmarket store, selling the best quality to discerning buyers.  Aha!  Sadly, both Andy and Michael failed to make the money for their businesses, indeed they leave them both £mm’s in the red.

The top job at the BBC, Director General, is a little more secure as there’s no requirement to make a profit, more, to spend the license payer’s money wisely, and the greatest thing they fear is criticism, which current DG Mark Thompson has received a lot of recently, some of it Royally.  But it’s hard to get fired at the BBC, it’s an institution, apocryphally they used to say the only grounds were not having a TV license and something I cant talk about on the premises.  At an institution you do the honourable thing, as ex-BBC One Controller, Peter Fincham, did over Queengate and went swiftly to become Director Of Television at ITV.

But as we the industry insiders discuss and report on the day-to-day developments of such shufflings, do we the viewers really notice any difference? Possibly only if Coronation Street gained or lost an episode.  As they used to say, ‘no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in’.

IAndy Duncannterestingly, before Andy Duncan’s stint at Channel Four, was Mark Thompson and his presence was certainly noticed.  Brookside was crushed into a single Saturday night omnibus, and he brought us The Osbornes, The Book Group and the sensationalist, Autopsy Live.  Ironically, a common occurrence in the TV business.

Duncan’s contribution over his five year tenure – on the good side, More4, 4Music, Channel 4+1 expanding Film4 and E4 and bringing them all to Freeview, and 4oD online.  On the bad sad – facing the flack from Shilpa Shetty’s BB controversy.  To be fair, when he joined he already saw a potential £100m funding hole on the horizon and looked at various means of filling it including asking for a share of BBC funding, but sadly…

Michael GradeMichael Grade has always been the most visible of TV Execs, red braces, red socks, big cigar.  The Harvey Weinstein of Brit TV, though nicer. Nephew of impresario Lew Grade and theatrical agent Bernard Delfont, he was never going to work in menswear.  Grade has been around, London Weekend, two stints at the BBC, one at Channel Four now ITV since 2007.  Biggest contributions – restructuring the once independent, regional channels under the ITV brand and building-up ITV2,3 and 4.   On his arrival, he was determined to improve drama output, but soon discovered the drop in advertising wouldn’t support this most expensive programming and ended up cutting The Royal, Heartbeat and Wire In The Blood.  Grade always blamed the lack of advertising and stifling regulations for the company’s dive into debt, but the soon to be introduced product placement, may well turn around the company’s fortunes, but sadly, he won’t be around to take advantage of it.

Tony BallSo who will be next?  For a long time the ITV job was tipped to go to the sinister looking, ex-CEO of BSkyB, Tony Ball.  Senior execs. were concerned about Ball’s appointment and urged the board to look further, not least because it’s said that he would have sold-off ITV Productions, producer of Corrie.  Ball was at BSkyB for four years since 1999 and while there, increased viewers to almost seven million and revenue, doubling to £3.19bn.  It may be this tough business background that was worrying the execs, or the fact that he takes conference calls sitting on his Ducati 966!  But he came at a price, a deal which at £30m over five years, ITV at lunchtime today,  announced was just too high. They wanted him, but not at this price, the spotlight was expected to swung over to Director Of Television….Peter Fincham.

Peter FinchamFincham, who brought us Britain’s Got Talent, was never a contender and was thought likely to leave ITV if Ball got the job, but during the failing negotiations with Ball,  suddenly became the stand-by candidate.  Cheaper than Ball but thought to be less business savvy.

But with today’s announcement from ITV comes the news that they’re seriously considering outside candidates.

However, front runner for the Channel Four job at, 13-8 on is….Peter Fincham.  Oh, to be so popular.  He heads a list of ten other prospects including Jana Bennett, at number 7, currently head of BBC Vision, who came a close second when Andy Duncan got the job.  Interestingly, if Ball doesn’t go to ITV, he’s also thought to be a candidate for Channel Four, albeit an outsider.

But will we notice any difference on our screens?  If Ball gets another job in British brodcasting, probably, wherever Fincham goes, probably not.  So long as Corrie is safe, we can relax.


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Ball’s Deal On The Table

September 22nd, 2009

Tony BallTony Ball, who brought BSkyB to financial success, is likely to become the new CEO of ailing ITV, it’s just the money to be sorted out.

The money, potentially £30m over five years,  could be the deal breaker and negotiations have been continuing for the last three weeks.  Tony Ball has been after the top job for most of this year and has actively campaigned shareholders to try for a boardroom majority, but when it didn’t work out he had to go through the normal recruitment process.

Now, it’s the shareholders who are holding out, wondering if he’s really worth such a large amount of cash, equivalent to that of a CEO of a major corporation or an international bank, when ITV is already on its uppers.  It’s been suggested that it may now be impossible to get ITV back to its former financial glory, so it may be more sensible to hire a cheaper CEO, to at least get the broadcaster to a more stable position.

If the board do decide the price isn’t right, another candidate, ITV’s Director Of Television, Peter Fincham, seems to be hovering over this job and that as replacement for Andy Duncan at Channel Four.

Another glimpse into the world of TV high flyers, and the search for the one.  But will we notice a difference in the programmes?  According to some, if Ball gets the job, we’ll certainly notice a difference in management style.


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The Curious Case Of The WGA And The Foreign Levies

September 22nd, 2009

Settlement is imminent on a curious, below-the-radar, case against the WGA which has been ongoing for four years and in which it’s alleged the WGA has made little effort to distribute foreign funds it has collected on behalf of member and non-member writers.

The Berne ConventionA class-action suit filed by writer and director William Richert alleged that millions of dollars collected by the WGA from the foreign re-use of writer’s work, hasn’t got to the writers concerned.  The money isn’t the same as residuals and relates to the different status writers have as ‘authors’ in countries other than the US.  In the US, full copyright in the writer’s work was held by the studio or producer, then in 1989, the US became signatories to the Berne Convention, which originated in 1886 and which European and other countries had already agreed to.  This stated that writers remained the author of their work and so in the case of screenwriter’s, were entitled to part of the foreign levies.

Foreign levies are taxes collected from ancillary uses such as, video and DVD sales and rental, cable retransmissions, and indeed on blank VHS tapes and blank DVD’s.  Until 1989, the levies went straight to the studios as owners of the work.

So, the WGA began collecting these monies from the foreign collection agencies, on behalf of writers, but found it difficult to redistribute it to the right members, and virtually impossible to find non-members who were eligible for payment.  As of March this year, they had over $30m held in trust for members.  The lawsuit alleges the WGA didn’t have the right to collect the money on behalf of its members in the first place, let alone non-members.

They’d kept the whole thing pretty much under wraps until in 2006 a staff member who looked after collecting the money and making the payments, went to federal investigators, concerned about irregularities and was subsequently fired in what they believe was for becoming a whistle blower.

wga-logoThe proposed settlement calls for the WGA to use ‘its best efforts’ to make all payments within three years, under scrutiny of independent accountants.  The details of amounts collected are to be posted on the WGA website to remain for five years.

This could be the unexpected windfall writers have been waiting for.


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Someone’s Gonna Get Hurt

September 19th, 2009

When was the last time you saw a film and thought, ‘wow, great music’.  When did you last even notice the music, as in most films these days, particularly Hollywood blockbusters, the music kinda blends in with the sound effects.  Often it’s even placed with little purppsycho-shower-screamose in mind, other than to smooth the journey.

Psychologists who study film music know this to be part of the affect of it being there, it covers the joins, or as Woody Allen said, “Let’s just say it covers a multitude of sins”

But that certainly wasn’t the purpose of the music for Hitchcock’s most memorable Psycho. Now that was truly chilling, probably more so than any horror music to this day and interestingly, Hitch had intended to play the whole shower scene without any music at all.  Its composer, Bernard Herrman, scored most of Hitchcock’s films but their partnership hit the rocks when Herrman refused to compose a more modern score, for his 1966 Torn Curtain.   Interestingly, the scary, shark prowling theme from Jaws, has certain similarities to that of Psycho’s shower scene in its rhythm and build-up.

Both start quiet and slow, pHitchcock and Bernard Herrmanre-empting the horror to come, what those who study film music call, ‘setting up anticipations and prolonging their resolution’.  What Hitchcock, from a visual POV,  would call, ‘trigger, release’,  you put tension on the trigger, then release – without firing the gun.  To you and me, it’s the build-up.

The way and why, film music works, is studied and investigated way more than you’d imagine, by psychologists, composers and musicians alike.  Though the latter are more likely to go with their instinct more than any kind of formula, though composers do have their own style, a kind of formula if you like.

The very early film music, over the silents, isn’t thought to have had any form of design, other than a rudimentary association with the mood of the scene on the screen.  Quick music for the chase, sad music for the sad bits and a rousing crescendo for the end.  The main purpose of this music being to cover the sound of the projector and fill the silence of the room.  In those days, no sounds of popcorn rustling to do that.  But then, even this basic playing of music with film was seen to be emotional, which likely led to what we have today.

The emotional response to film music is thought to work in a number of ways.  Rhythm and intonation being important as in Jaws and Psycho, and also the changes in tempo.  These are thought to stimulate the recall of events and moods specific and familiar to a culture and, for us in the generally western culture, subconscious reminders of the western harmonic system.  Changes in tempo kinda jolt our expectations, creating uneasiness, for example.  It’s also thought that musical phrasing and attack can be similar to speech and when music is used over dialogue, it can oppose or align witEdward Scissorhands posterh what is being said.

The undoubted emotional effect of music and images is thought to be created by a combination of things, simultaneously personal, neurological, cultural and universal.  The effect is very powerful, and can affect your physical and emotional state, it can make you cry, grab the arms of your seat with tension, or look away in horror.  As they say, it can make you laugh or cry. Indeed, experiments have shown a measurable emotional response to music stimuli creating, happiness, anger, fear and sadness.

Film composers become known and hired for their particular style.  You’d quickly recognise the fantasy, playful music of Danny Elfman, long time collaborator with Tim Burton and you can see why they work so well together.   Whereas the work of Hans Zimmer, the fav of Jerry Bruickheimer, has blockbuster appeal.  This year’s Oscar went to a less well known, AR Rahmen for Slumdog Millionaire.  Exuberant music which transcends culture.

Some films, have little or no music, Hitchcock’s, The Birds had just bird sounds, though they were designed and placed by Bernard Herrman, he just can’t keep away from a good thriller and I wonder if they’ll be brave enough to go that way with Martin Campbell’s sequel.  And Alien, largely full of spooky silence, even in the tense bits.

I guess the psychologists are still working on what makes movies without music scary.


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BBC Off The Yellow Brick Road

September 17th, 2009

Dorothy and TotoExecs in the BBC entertainment department are reeling at the news they’re to lose The Wizard Of Oz to indie, Talkback Thames.

Following in the success of shows like, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? in which Andrew Lloyd Webber searches for the star of his latest West End musical, comes the Graham Norton presented, search for the stars of, The Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy and Toto.  Yes, Toto, the dog.

This was to be produced in-house by the BBC’s Entertainment department but suddenly, it’s been outsourced to Talkback Thames.  What happened?

Well, apparently Andrew Lloyd Webber was talking to ITV as well, while under contract to the BBC, and when the BBC wouldn’t release him from his contract, he refused to work with them, though by which time ITV had gone cold.  The BBC were worried that if they released Andrew from his contract. other talent may grt the same idea. So how do you solve a problem like Lloyd Webber?

The easiest way to keep the show and keep Lloyd Webber, was to have an indie produce the show, an indie where he could work again with Suzy Lamb, who exec produced the shows with him at the BBC.

The BBC said the show was outsourced because the entertainment department was too busy.  Ahem.

I’m starting to have a strange, creeping feeling at the idea of viewers voting for the best dog.


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IBC Bits

September 17th, 2009

This year’s IBC in Amsterdam, techi shangri-la, had the usual range of TV technology products and innovations on view, among which were these two.

ESPN Virtual PlaybookSport is huge on TV especially in the States where ESPN is king, and the thing about American sports is that there’s a lot of downtime.  So having shown the scores and had the interviews, what now?  They’re always looking for ways to jazz-up those replays and analysis so now ESPN has partnered with games producer, EA to come up with the Virtual Playbook, or what ESPN call, ‘augmented reality’.  I always though reality was finite?

Anyways, now, during time-out, the presenter can be seen actually on the playing field with computer generated players, by combining the technology used to create NFL 09 for the Xbox, with smart green screen and motion tracking.  The presenter can interact with the players, explaining the moves from all angles.  Sounds amazing and it won the Innovation Award for content creation. if only I had ESPN and liked sports!

Bradley EngineeringThe second is from Brit company Bradley Engineering, a low cost, motion control camera tracking system.  Motion control is basically a system that moves the camera in many axis precisely controlled by computer and repeatable.  That last word is important as motion control was developed way back in Star Wars days to enable complex, multi-layered visual effects and model sequences to be shot and composited.  Each move had to be precisely the same so you didn’t see the join between the background and foreground and various elements.

Until now the systems were expensive, big, heavy and took a while to set-up and program.  The aim of this system is to create a 16 axis system that will be light, easy to assemble and easy and quick to program from a laptop.  They want to take motion control out of the studio and give it to your average cameraman.


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