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Wednesday 3 May 2006

The BBC, public participation and ‘user generated’ content

How serious is the BBC about public participation and user-generated content? Not very serious, I would say…

The BBC has always looked on the public as material to be used in its programmes and now it looks on photographs and videos that come from that public as material to be used in its programmes. So not much change…

The old joke is that the official BBC tie has small checks (cheques). But, for many people these days, the BBC means no cheques…

My experience, as a former magazine writer/photographer and now web developer, is that the Corporation is always on the look out for free content. I’m tired of producers and researchers asking to use my photographs for free. There’s never any money. With a remit to encourage creativity and promote culture in Britain, the BBC is the last organisation that should be doing this.

Then there’s the raw deal that independent TV production companies have experienced over the years… If this is the BBC’s attitude to fellow professionals, then pardon me for being just a little bit cynical about the Beeb’s enthusiasm for material from the public.

READ THE SMALL PRINT

Before you supply any photos or videos, as a member of the public, read the terms. You’re giving the BBC:

‘a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide. This may include the transmission of the material by our overseas partners’

In the case of video, it says they may not even be able to credit you. Wonderful — no payment and not even a name-check either. Isn’t there some European law that entitles everyone to be identified as the author of his or her work?

I hope the public will wake up to this soon. I believe that the companies that deal unfairly now will pay later once people get over the novelty of seeing their video on screen and realise that they have been ‘used’.

It really pays to keep people happy these days. The video blogger or photographer who has a good experience of providing footage to a company, may continue to do so for years to come. But leave someone with a bad taste in their mouth and there will be no more material from that source in the future.

Guess which of these is the best business model?

UPDATE: LoadedPun has the story of a video blogger who helped CNN make a report for TV but then was told he would have to pay $1000 if he wanted to include the final video on his blog. In fact, so far, he hasn’t even been able to see the report!

Maybe this guy will think twice before getting involved with CNN again? Piss off enough videobloggers, who then tell everyone else, and soon no one will want to work with CNN. It seems that yet another big media company hasn’t quite woken up to the way things are changing?

Friday 14 April 2006

In search of cheap video lighting

I’m delighted with my Sony DCR-HC22E camcorder. But one thing that has been disappointing is its performance in low-light. It isn’t a patch on my old Canon Hi8, which can pretty much shoot anything the eye can make out and also corrects the colour well — even in street lighting at night.

For indoor shooting, I had equipped myself with several 60 watt spotlights from IKEA, which produced good results with the Canon — even for bluescreen special effects. But these aren’t enough for the Sony. The images are noisy.

So, what’s the solution for my ‘no budget’ film making?

I have a couple of Photax photographic stands and lamp holders that have provided faithful service for 25 years now. They take ordinary screwfitting domestic bulbs or photoflood bulbs (which come in 275 watt or 500 watt versions).

Trouble is, photofloods are expensive (£7 for a 500 watt bulb) and they have a short life.

An alternative is to use 200 watt domestic bulbs. Purists will point out that these change colour with age but, in practice, it isn’t a problem.

What IS a problem is that I can’t find any 200 watt bulbs in central Manchester (the third largest city in England). So I’ll probably have to order the bulbs online.

Work lights from Screwfix

An alternative is work lighting. Screwfix do two 500W tungsten halogen lamps, on a 1.8m telescopic tripod stand, with a 4.5m cable — for just £16.99 and replacement bulbs cost just 76p. You can imagine how much a ‘special video lighting’ version of this set-up would cost from a photo shop!

The lights will work great if bounced from a white wall or ceiling, or shone through some kind of diffuser. So I may order this too.


Filed under: Manchester,Net & technology,Video-making — GS @ 7:56 am
Thursday 13 April 2006

Video blogs could be hit by EU rules

The Times reports that the most popular video blogs may have to comply with new European television regulations, if proposals are adopted by Europe’s member states.

However British ministers and regulators believe that a light touch and selfregulation is the way to go. They plan to lobby their counterparts elsewhere in Europe to force some amendments.


Filed under: Net & technology,The media,TV & film,Video-making — GS @ 8:20 am
Wednesday 1 March 2006

Video music

One of my friends has said the music in my videos always sounds the same.

I think it’s true and a consequence of me using Acid Pro to make ‘music’ from loops. That combined with the fact that I’m just not very musical.

I really want to keep away from having any commercial music in my videos. The fact is, you are infringing copyright even if the music is at a low volume in the background and you just happened to pick it up.

Channel Four’s FourDocs website has some excellent information about copyright and other legal issues that affect UK videomakers.

I’ve found a couple of places that offer free original music in exchange for a credit. Now I just need some videos to go around that specific music!

Recently I spent some time building a completely new soundtrack for some video of a Manchester gay event from 1991. In the original footage, half a dozen music tracks from the time can be heard quite prominently on the soundtrack.

I took some crowd noise that I’d recorded at another gay event. Made up some (hopefully) Hi-NRG-sounding loops in Acid Pro and added some echo to them to make it sound as if it was all happening ‘live’ in Sackville Park (which is surrounded by tall buildings). A car-interior effect was added to one scene and a few seconds have some original sound that included no music.

Hugely time-consuming: a couple of hours to fix up a one minute clip. Here it is.

I think it works pretty well. You may think it’s ‘fake’ but, the fact is, TV and film editors do exactly the same thing all the time.

Currently many bloggers and other sites are getting away with using copyright material in a way that traditional publishers and TV companies wouldn’t dare. It is especially serious if they have ads on their site and are earning an income. I reckon the media companies and music industry will start picking on them very soon…


Filed under: Net & technology,Video-making — GS @ 1:11 am
Tuesday 21 February 2006

Video formats on my site

Updated on 14 April 2006

In the world of online video, things change almost weekly. Just when it seems I’ve found the ideal format for the videos on my site, along comes something better and it’s ‘all change’ again.

Then there are the developments with the hosting and listing of videos: iTunes, blip.tv and YouTube, RSS feeds… More people are getting ever-faster broadband and inexpensive portable video players are just months away… It’s all pretty exciting.

I’m switching to Quicktime (.mov) for the videos that are embedded on the page. I never thought I’d use Quicktime, but I like the way it works now. There will also be options to download either Quicktime (.mov) or Windows Media (.wmv).

Windows users may like to check out the free Quicktime Alternative player which will save you having to install the official bloatware. Though you’ll have Quicktime already if you’re installed iTunes.

Up until now, putting up two versions of each video meant that I was rapidly running out of space on the server. But now I’ll be hosting some of the files at blip.tv.

You probably won’t even notice, but you may like to check out blip.tv as I think it is the best video sharing service around at the moment.


Filed under: Net & technology,Video-making — GS @ 6:46 pm
 
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