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Friday 27 April 2007

g7ukTalk: 27 April 2007

UPDATE (October 2008): this podcast has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

Chris joins me to talk about:

* Queer Up North: Europe’s leading queer arts festival which starts here in Manchester in the next few days, with events throughout May.

* Peter Tatchell

* Our show Bargain Hunters: why we haven’t made any more since June.

* Big Brother

* The TV phone scandals that have engulfed Britain recently and the recent BBC Panorama programme on the subject.

* The Basement Social Centre

* The Conservative Party

* Scally wear: we find out, does Chris own a hoody or any trackies?

* Doctor Who and Torchwood

Friday 24 November 2006

Bargain Hunters: Big Brother Special

This episode has a Big Brother theme (Channel 4 not Tony Blair via George Orwell).

We filmed it on 1st June. Hilariously, considering the theme, during the making of this we were told that filming in Piccadilly Station is no longer allowed as it’s a ‘terror threat’.

(more…)


Filed under: Food & cookery,Fun,Manchester — GS @ 2:44 pm
Friday 17 November 2006

The Power of Nightmares

If you haven’t seen this fascinating three-part BBC documentary series, you can download it from the Internet Archive:

Part1 | Part2 | Part3

It explores ‘the origins in the 1940s and 50s of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East, and Neoconservatism in America, parallels between these movements, and their effect on the world today.’

And it shows how politicians have used the terror threat to restore their power and authority in a disillusioned age.

It’s a brilliant use of archive film of all kinds, combined with interviews. Give it a look even if you don’t usually watch this kind of subject, because it’s interesting to see how Adam Curtis the producer combines such diverse visual material.

If you have problems playing MP4 files, just grab the free VideoLan player.


Filed under: Documentary,Politics — GS @ 10:12 am
Wednesday 23 August 2006

Rushes: bluescreen test – mailbag

UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

Posts that begin with the word ‘rushes’ contain unedited footage, tests, bloopers and experiments.

I mess around with a lot of stuff which, up to now, has never seen the light of day. Also I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can easily spend twelve hours editing a four-minute video.

But, in recent months the tapes of master footage have been piling up, with not enough time to edit them.

I’m not sure how this will work or where I’m going with it. Some edits always have to be made for privacy and copyright reasons. But at least this way you get to see something. I think it can be fun to see what does and doesn’t work.

Either you can take a look at the rough stuff or ignore the posts marked ‘rushes’ and wait for the polished final products :-)

I wanted some practice at building a sequence using a bluescreen effect. It’s fairly simple if you stick with one wide shot only. But what happens when you cut in for closer shots? You need extra backgrounds from a narrower angle, possibly blurred to give that ‘zoomed in close-up’ effect.

We were thinking of including a mailbag section in our Bargain Hunters show, where we would read some of the email we receive. I shot still pics for the backgrounds (video would be nicer) and we ad-libbed this. The ‘indoor’ sound quality is a dead giveaway (as it was a test we relied on the camera mic).

It’s also a bit more experience of what lighting works best. I used an amber filter on a backlight. This warm rimlight is meant to help the separation between the subject and blue background to give a cleaner ‘keying’ effect. Strangely the backlight seems to work best at head height, even though that isn’t very naturalistic. Though in theory it could be from the sun setting I suppose.


Filed under: Rushes — GS @ 2:34 am
Sunday 16 July 2006

Cool screen grab software

FastStone Capture

This is great. It can grab a full length web page, scrolling if necessary. Free for personal use.

I like to keep copies of the pages I design.

Also today I discovered that Opera 9 can save a web page as a self contained web archive file (.wht extension).


Filed under: Net & technology — GS @ 2:14 am
Thursday 6 July 2006

Rocketbust: the question the articles never asked about Rocketboom

Andrew Baron, the creator and producer of the videoblog show Rocketboom, and Amanda Congdon its star, have parted company according to reports.

In all the hype that surrounded Rocketboom in its first year online, there was one question that always went unanswered.

Print articles and TV reports were in awe of the show. Breathlessly, they told us how it was produced in an ordinary living room, had a quarter of a million viewers each day and yet cost just $20-$50 to make. Some even suggested that the main expense was photographic light-bulbs.

Andrew, the creator and producer of Rocketboom, was quoted as saying he spent some 8-14 hours making each five-minute episode. Which will be no surprise to anyone who has been involved in the time-consuming business of making television programmes or video.

But, as they predicted a rash of ‘user-generated’ Rocketboom-style programmes coming to a website near you, what none of these ‘anyone can do it’ reports ever asked, was how did the people behind Rocketboom pay the rent and buy food?

It was clear that making Rocketboom was a full-time job. After a year, I began to wonder. Did Rocketboom have a financial backer who had given them start-up cash? Was Andrew a rich-kid who didn’t have to worry about earning a living? Were they all on welfare?

Of course money isn’t everything, but eventually it became clear they did want to earn an income from the show.

As a video blog, Rocketboom has been a spectacular success. A phenomenon and I wholeheartedly congratulate Andrew and Amanda on what they did. But, as a business, it represents a missed opportunity of quite staggering proportions. I read they made about $80,000 from the one ad they had so far.

To be running for eighteen months, with 300,000 viewers per day, five days per week, and make only that, is just mind-boggling. With Google ads you can make $500 a year from a website that only gets 50 visitors a day…

History is littered with the tales of people who had great ideas or creativity, but failed to do what was necessary to turn those into an income. Rocketboom gave away its product under a creative commons licence. Its website and show usually carried no ads. It seems to me that the only valuable asset is the ‘brand’ and Amanda Congdon is a huge part of that.

Now the bubble has burst. Occasionally Rocketboom was brilliant (Amanda dancing in Russia), but often it was a bit too off-the-wall and left us scratching our heads in bemusement. Andrew was an expert on the RSS distribution side of things, with the result that Rocketboom was the first to make it big. It was a novelty and highly popular for that reason. That iconic combination of Amanda and the map… They captured a moment in time and I fear that moment is now over.

If I was Amanda, I would start making a new online show right now while she is so much in the public eye. If I was Andrew, I would sell the Rocketboom show, archives (which don’t have a lot of value because they are so topical) and domain name and split the money with Amanda, while they still have the chance to make some money from this. Otherwise Rocketboom is going to begin a slow fade into history without making either of them rich.

The worst thing would be to get tied up in a legal case for several years, by which time there will be nothing left to carve up. Time is of the essence for both of them…


Filed under: Net & technology — GS @ 11:17 am
Tuesday 16 May 2006

Bargain Hunters: baps

Bargain Hunters: baps

UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

Bargain Hunters is our reality shopping programme. Can we get some good last-minute deals at the local grocery stores? It’s a race against the clock!

This one was filmed at Easter but I only just got it edited. I think it turned out great — especially considering we had a few issues.

Five minutes into filming it started to rain (April was just SO wet here). Rain has to be extremely heavy to show up much on screen, but even light drizzle isn’t too good for the camcorder. Then my voice recorder seemed to stop working, so we abandoned one thing we had planned (it turned out later I had hit a ‘helpful’ switch which prevents recording and which I’d forgotten was there).

As usual, here are my thoughts on this episode and some of the ideas behind it…

I’m going to scream if I see another lazy PR person, estate agent or journalist refer to ‘vibrant Manchester city centre‘. It’s become a cliche and we need an organised campaign to take the piss out of the unimaginative people who do it. Even churches and the Arndale Centre (with its tacky new catchphrase ‘come together’) are ‘vibrant’ supposedly.

Big Brother starts here this coming Thursday. It was, of course, Big Brother contestant Michelle who famously offered Stuart the chance to squeeze her ‘baps’. As usual I expect to watch the start of the 13 weeks, get bored and stop tuning in, and then return for the last few days to see how it ends.

One of the things I love about editing video is the way all the different elements — picture, live sound and music — sometimes combine to create something unexpected. As I filmed Chris in the lift, in the background there was the sound of a rather emotional woman talking in a loud voice. During editing, when I added the music, I found it became almost like some weird operatic version of our regular theme music. Bizarre.

Chris makes me laugh an awful lot, with his enthusiasm and that slightly-eccentric British thing he has going on. Like a Kenneth Williams or Frankie Howerd, he can make the most innocent remark sound suggestive.

Memo to self: remember not to film broccoli or salad in front of a green screen.


Filed under: Food & cookery,Fun,Manchester,Shopping — GS @ 3:51 pm
 
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