2012 Olympics in 3D: major enhancement or a waste of money?

One of the few decisions yet to be made about the London Olympics is whether or not to broadcast them in 3D.  Supporters (who not surprisingly include equipment manufacturers) say it will greatly enhance the experience of the Games (although it is open to question just how many people will be ready to receive 3D broadcasts in their homes by next summer).  But for our old friend Manolo Romero and his colleagues at the Olympic Broadcasting Service there’s a huge cost implication…lots of new kit and extra production staff…which may or may not be considered worthwhile.

Read more on this from Owen Gibson in the Guardian…

Final Cut X…marketing disaster, or another very clever Apple game-changer?

There has probably been a good deal of gloating at Avid and Adobe in the last day or two over the way in which the US talk-show host Conan O’Brien and his team lampooned Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X. The clip has been removed from YouTube due to a copyright claim from O’Brien’s production company, but if you did’t see it it shows an editor doing a piece to camera supposedly extolling FCX’s virtues while all kinds of things are going awry. It ends prematurely with a cut to bars and tone. LOL.

Pretty extraordinary, in my book, for what is basically a professional tool of interest only to “insiders” to be the subject of such public criticism. A big head of steam has built up, with pro editors lining up to bash Apple for releasing a new version of FC which is so different from the last one, which is more like iMovie, they’re going back to Avid, yadda yadda.

So what’s going on here? Apple is a pretty clever company.  They have a very savvy marketing department. They must have a boatload of focus groups. . Why have they released what pro editors are calling a turkey…and worse… onto the market at this stage?

Now, I am not a video editor. But I’ve sat in the back of a load of edit suites as a journalist, worked many years for Avid, and have two kids who are both FCP adepts. I also understand a bit about marketing. So I decided to do a bit of research into the FCX row.

What is it that the pro editing community is complaining about? As far as I can see, a lot of it boils down to:

  • It’s different and unfamiliar
  • It drops support for timecode and RS422  and other legacy features
  • It’s not backward compatible with FCP7 but is with iMovie (“which is what my granny uses!” says one indignant reviewer.)
  • It’s not a “professional tool” and is missing many  features
  • It’s unfamiliar. And different.

So what HAS it got? My quick scan picked out a few interesting ones:

  • It’s 64 bit, and maximum addressable RAM has gone up from 4 Gigabytes to 16 Exabytes.  This means essentially unlimited project size…as long as you buy the RAM!
  • It can use as many processors as are in the system. FCP7 limit is 1.5 processors. This means it can work very much faster…again as long as you can afford a suitable hardware platform
  • Rendering is moved from the CPU to the GPU (graphics processing unit).  Again, very much faster. Rendering in real time.

There are lots of functional things which I am not really qualified to judge. But bigger and faster I can understand, and I can recognize when developers are giving themselves some headroom for the future.

Now, I know from bitter experience how hard it is for any successful application (in my case it was the BASYS/iNews newsroom system) to produce new releases which at the same time:

  • Introduce new features demanded by users
  • Preserve legacy features which users think they can’t live without
  • Steal a march on the competition
  • Add new internal platforms to enable critical future developments (like replacing RS232 VT terminals with networked PCs.  Took years off my life…)
  • Do all of these with a smooth upgrade path…
  • …and a coherent marketing story that makes your salesmen smile and your competitors tremble

Apple clearly must have known Final Cut Pro X was going to piss off professional editors.  But they went ahead anyway. The unavoidable inferences are:

  1. They don’t care. The professional market is not important to them.
  2. They have other fish to fry, maybe lots of them. Like the DSLR market.
  3. They are positioning the product for a new and maybe very different future
  4. They are up to their old tricks
  5. All of the above

Apple have produced game-changers before…iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad for example. These are products which have changed industries, markets, and people’s lives. They disprove the many “Apple is dumb!” assertions on so many blogs and bulletin boards.

They are very good at putting advanced technology into the hands of the general public. Even if, at the beginning, the general public doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

They are also very good at using advanced technology to change industries…like the music business.  Who remembers going down to the record store to buy the latest CD?

They are also very good at recruiting other companies to help float their boat. What is the iPhone app market worth now? X may have dropped support for VTRs but it’s opened the doors wide for all kinds of other IT-based plug-ins.  Go figure.

So I am keeping my counsel about FCPX.  The professional editor community (that massive global market) may defect…but let’s not forget that this is a product which costs $300. It’s a consumer product. And Apple is a company which sells not just software, but hardware (and content, and services, and cloud-based stuff, and who knows what in the future). And they take the long view. And they’re clever.

If I was Avid or Adobe, I think I might not be gloating that the Conan O’Brien show did a send-up.

I think I might be rather afraid.

Broadcasting: “a unique service unavailable anywhere else in the media ecosystem”

By now, it should be clear to all that what some people still call “new media” are NOT sounding the death-knell for TV. A wealth of information and research seems to be indicating that TV as we know it is actually benefiting from the proliferation of new ways of consuming content…which stands to reason, really, since people want to watch something other than reruns of “I Love Lucy” and broadcasters are the people who know how to create compelling content, however it is delivered.

Anyway, all this is prompted by the comments filed earlier this month by the NAB as part of the US  Federal Communications Commission’s annual survey on the state of video competition. The FCC’s  Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming – is required every year by Congress, and this year the NAB took the opportunity to bang the drum for traditional broadcasting, which it called “a unique service” which no other part of the media sector can deliver.

Read more about it here…

Move over “Content”…Content CURATION is the new King…

Last month’s “Mashable Connect” conference in Florida brought together a broad range of opinion leaders from the digital world. It wasn’t all about TV, but TV was never far from the discussions.

Some interesting trends were identified and debated, including the fact that as media converge the availability of content mushrooms….and just keeping track of it all means that do-it-yourself curation is one now one of the of the key issues.

Here’s more from the TV Genius blog…

Your tumble-dryer…your wine-rack…what’s the future for connected devices?

Following the news that there will be 15 BILLION internet connected devices by 2015, the horizon of what those devices actually will be is expanding rapidly. TVs, PCs, phones, tablets, of course…but according to a new article from Katia Moskvitch, the BBC’s Science and Technology reporter, you could soon be getting emails from your fridge, tweets from your pot-plant and texts from your central heating system…and that’s just the start!

Read more…

A million minutes of video watched online every second by 2015

That’s what Cisco predicts…along with the fact that by 2015 there will be 15 billion net-connected devices in circulation…twice the world’s population!

Read more here

Do broadcast media follow the laws of nature?

I’m still not sure whether the avalanche of information available to us all through such tools as Google Alerts is a good thing (keeps us all informed) or a bad thing (shovels stuff at us in a chaotic way which makes gaining a balanced view impossible).

Occasionally, however, something  pops up that just catches your eye and grabs your attention. Such as an article plucked out of cyberspace for me today by Google which started like this:

“It’s not the outcome of nature. But broadcast media follows the law of nature and changes its form day by day. Technology made it easy to showcase any incident instantly through the internet. Now the changed media enables people to control the extent of the video’s content.”

I was particularly struck by the observation that broadcast media change their form day by day.  Written by Abdullah Mamun in the Daily Star, the leading newspaper in Bangladesh, the article looks at developments in TV, IPTV and Internet TV, and comments on the regulatory issues involved. The Bangladesh Telecommunications company has announced an intention to go for triple-play some years ago, says Mamun, but the government is yet to make any announcements about IPTV.  ”Experts say television-related equipment will be converted into IP-based system by 2015. If the country’s broadcast society lags behind then the whole process will collapse.”

The article (read the whole thing here) is very interesting to me since it highlights the way that the evolution/revolution in “new media”  delivery and consumption is just as rapid and far-reaching (maybe even more so) in countries which we usually think of as “developing nations” as it is in the developed world.

Going back to the “laws of nature” analogy we really are seeing a kind of fast-forward evolution taking place, with change happening day by day rather than over millions of years, and affecting not just media technology but areas which are impacted by it such as politics, government, and society itself.

The internet-enabled revolutionary changes in such countries as Egypt and Libya are a case in point…and the fact that ex-President Mubarak has been fined $90m by an Egyptian court for cutting off internet and phone services during the revolution is an interesting reflection on how communication is now seen as just as essential a utility as electricity and water.

How Bangladesh and many other large and small nations across the world deal with what we might label the “digital media and communications revolution” is something I for one will follow with huge interest.

Thanks Google!

Five emerging IT trends…how will they affect the media sector?

There are a ton of blogs, posts, stories and releases these days which offer opinions about evolutionary trends in anything and  everything. We read lots of them, and while some are amusingly weird, others are truly thought provoking.

This one struck me today: a list of “Five New Technologies That Will Change Enterprise Computing” published on the smartertechnology.com website.

Now, while it’s normally stories about media and media technology that occupy our reading time,  we’ve recently been thinking a lot about how broadcasting and other forms of electronic content delivery are actually forms of “Enterprise Computing”…and what that means for the media technology sector.

So the “5 new technologies” article is actually pretty relevant to all of us concerned with media and e-content.

It made us think.

See if it does the same for you (Some other good stuff on the site as well)

Please feel free to come back here and tell us what you think…

How is TV coping with the changing ad landscape?

Convergence is transforming the way broadcasters make money out of TV. Traditional TV ads are holding their own (for now) but none the less innovation is key.

This interesting article on the excellent TVGenius blog discusses some of the ways the innovation is happening…

Newscorp profits slide overall but TV business is buoyant

Newscorp made a billion dollar profit in its Q3…but while that was an overall 15% slide over the same period last year, their star performer was television, with profits shooting up from $40m to $192m in the period.

Rupert Murdoch says the quadrupled contribution is down to a strong national advertising market, increased retransmission consent revenues, and popular programmes.

So who says TV is dying?

Read more from Rapid TVNews…