May 292009
 

ABC Island Second Life Panorama 3000 wide!
While lecturing to AFTRS students last week about multi platform, social media & new forms I got on to games and social virtual worlds. When I asked who knew about Second Life one student chirped up “oh isn’t that the place where ABC TV got bombed”. Now a few things immediately sprung to mind when hearing this comment

  1. Having built the ABC TV Island in 5 days or so and part running it at the time I knew the background to this intimately, so how much detail to go into?
  2. I was also bizarrely running a LAMP residential lab in Tasmania when this event occurred and Lisa Romano then an ABC producer was one of our mentors, she also was in charge of the ABC Island at the time – so very much involved in the response
  3. These events are very rare and my experience was either mostly technical server errors or simple admin error, so the problem was fixed in an hour or so as we immediately liaised with Linden Lab who run Second Life and fixed the problem

But the thing that really sprung to mind was, wow this event was back in May 2007. A two year old story. How and why would it persist so long and into the heads of ‘one so young’ – well mid 20s gen, young in my book :). Then I started to think about the story I used to tell not so long ago to folk who were fascinated by the story of the intriguing ‘ripple’ effect. How a technical error ended up with the CEO of ABC TV being interrogated in government about the act being about anti- Public Service commercialisation combined with terrorism training. This also reminded me forcibly of Laurel Papworth’s Ripple effect and more importantly the Long Tail of an influenced ripple effect – whereby a story is spread like chinese whispers and in some cases enters into folklore and myth – even with endless online interrogation. I also liken this to the Butterfly effect or chain reaction, where a small event can end up causing something far more significant. In this case study below of ABC Island, as you see below, it was more to do with a kind of mass hysteria about the medium of branded virtual worlds & the reflection of that out into real ‘prejudiced’ society. An example of online mass hysteria or clever marketing? You decide.

So here is a glimpse into the Butterfly Effect chronology on 2nd year anniversary of the momentus event 🙂

Continue reading »

Mar 312009
 

A cross-post from the LAMP blog I also run: LAMP mentored ‘Social Media, Multi-Platform’ Drama Scorched won the coveted International Interactive Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last night at MIP TV. The first time Australia has won this award.

A big congratulations particularly to producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox from Firelight Productions. These awards are held annually at MIP TV in Cannes and celebrate the most innovative drama, documentary, informational and entertainment services delivered on multiple platforms.

iemmy-awardThrough these awards, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is celebrating a significantly growing sector of the television industry and recognize excellence in content created and designed for viewer interaction and/or delivery on a digital platform.

The 2009 Winners.

Fiction category winners “Scorched” Firelight Productions in association with Essential Media & Goalpost Pictures, Australia

Non-fiction category winners “Britain From Above,” BBC / Lion, United Kingdom

Children and young people category winners “Battlefront”, Channel 4, United Kingdom

Brian Seth Hurst (Second Vice Chair at Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and CEO at The Opportunity Management Company) who helps organise these awards sent through this Twitpic of himself (mid left), Chris Hilton from Essential Media and Entertainment (far left), Marcus Gillezeau (mid right) and Mike Cowap (Innovation Head at Screen Australia – far right), at the after awards (30 minutes ago!). Picture from Brian Seth Hurst (actual photographer as yet unknown).

iemmy_awards_scorched_brianhurstpic

The story has also been covered in The Hollywood Reporter, TVAusCast,  TV Tonight, Digital Media, Campaign Brief, ShowHype and NineMSN

Digital Media magazine has a few ‘delegates’ over there at the moment who are twittering events as they happen you can follow them here. This is how we found out about the award over here from several other tweeters…

  • PipRMB: Aussie digital media company Firelight Prods. have won the first ever International Digital Emmy for best drama for Scorched – huge congrats
  • BrianSethHurst: Winner Fiction Int’l Digital Emmy Award “Scorched” Australia Goalpost Media, Essential Media
  • FanTrust: Check out Scorched which just won a digital Emmy— outstanding fictional drama for 3 screens. Live from #miptv

The Digital Media magazine also featured an article prior to MIP TV referring to LAMP’s involvement in the project –

“Meanwhile the makers of NineMSN cross-platform drama Scorched, Marcus Gillezeau, Ellenor Cox, Michael O’Neill and Brad Hayward, have been nominated for an International Digital Emmy Award. The awards ceremony will be held on March 30 at the MipTV conference. Scorched was financed by Nine Network, ITV International, Screen Australia and the New South Wales Film and Television Office and developed through the Australian Film Television & Radio School’s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP), which is Australia’s premier emerging media research and development production lab.”

Other awards winners noted by TV Week

The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences revealed the winners for the International Digital Emmy Awards at the MIP TV opening festivities in Cannes, France.

Australia won its first International Digital Emmy award in the fiction category for “Scorched.”

The non-fiction category went to “Britain From Above,” while “Battlefront” won the children and young people category. Both programs were from the U.K.

Below is a shot of the team with Jackie Turnure (far right – now at Hoodlum) back in May 2006 when they started planning the Social Media elements of the experience on a LAMP residential. There were then several follow up sessions with them to help crystallize their ideas. (Pic Catherine Gleeson)

Scorched has received a great deal of attention and commentary from press and also those closer to the project. This is the LAMP post about the launch, here is Guy Gadney at MIPTV at the moment (then head of PBL New Media, Channel 9) and Gary Hayes (LAMP Director’s personal media blog). It is great news that another LAMP connected project has won the International Emmy’s – examples of earlier ones included Jim Shomos (LAMP mentor) with his Forget the Rules projects, the winner of the Ogilvy Amex award by then LAMP mentor Jackie Turner and other LAMP projects such as The Deep Sleep won development awards too.

xeno_cannes01-ghayesPrevious iiEmmy award winners in related categories have included Canadian Xenophile’s Alternate Reality Doco/Drama Regenesis and Total Drama Island plus fellow Canadian’s Zinc Roe with their Zimmer Twins service (now featured globally).

Link to the Canadian’s winning most awards two years ago here and the image below is of the two teams during the awards taken by Gary Hayes.

Mar 212009
 

tracey-02

There are a multitude of sites out there asking the ‘audience’ (grrr)  to submit films, music, scripts, stories, bits of their personal life and anything the brand or property feel will draw them into their branded world. Many go about it in a really poor way, providing virtually no incentive, a pretty small audience (as regards the actual community that will likely see their work) and often give little or no encouragement to learn and improve on their original submission. Many even resort to seeding the ‘competition’ with faux community created videos (made by pros deliberately shaking the camera!) – to pretend to kick-start it – they have no idea how easy it is for the community to sniff that out.

An easier and more enpowering way in for the co-creative community is to give them ‘great’ assets to create great content – it gives them a big kick-start. Giving them the same stuff that the pros get generates the real big incentive – it lets them show how ‘they’ are as good, if not better, than the pros! It also shows a willingness on the part of the usually out of reach ‘creative production’ to expose some of the real behind the scenes’ness and draw communities into the brand firstly from a ‘trust’ perspective. Secondly as the ‘creative audience’ members themselves will be spending many hours with the assets and this creates very strong brand/story loyalty. Often these creative types are pretty active influencers on the web anyhow and will draw their own communities into the brand. The list of benefits goes on.

Below are relatively recent examples of professional film and music folk throwing top draw fragments of content (rushes, isolated tracks etc) over the wall for the wannabee’s to work their own magic.

cut-own-scene

I have written about this subject a few times in the past but Bronwen Clune on Twitter pointed out her brainchild initiative, a Disney / AFTRS Film  “Two Fists One Heart” making available some rushes for the community to re-edit.  Cutscene site has all the information on the project and a mention should go out to my colleague at AFTRS, Bill Russo who has the enviable task (yes enviable as it is a joy to see community wisdom like this) of viewing potentially hundreds (see examples below) of alternately edited scenes.

We are giving you the chance to download and edit rushes from the international film TWO FISTS ONE HEART. This is the footage that editors work with and it is free for you to use under creative commons as long as you acknowledge the source and link back to the official movie page. We€™ve tried to give you a mix of scenes so that you can even download all of them and put together a short film of your own. When we told the folks at AFTRS and Disney what we were doing they were so exited they wanted a way to recognise some of the best videos that are created. SO €¦

The best 5 scenes will be posted on Disney€™s promotional TWO FISTS ONE HEART site. This is a great opportunity for some exposure to high-profile people in the film industry. The 5 best scene cuts will be selected by Bill Russo head of Editing at the AFTRS and the creative team from TWO FISTS ONE HEART. TWO FISTS ONE HEART Director Shawn Seet, Editor Milena Romanin and Cinematogropher Hugh Miller are all graduates from AFTRS, Australia€™s premiere Film and Television school.

The WINNERS will be personally contacted by Bill Russo who will give them editing advice and help with their editing careers. All you have to do to enter is post your video on YouTube, link to the Two Fists One Heart site for the movie in the info section and tag it TFOH, then email the link of your entry to competition@cutyourownscene.com

DE-FRAGMENTING TRACEY

tracey-01

Of course this is not a new idea and I recall at least five major projects at the BBC I was involved in from 96-03 that did a call out based on downloading and then re-editing, ‘professional’ footage (and at least 20 other ‘mash-ups’ using web interfaces). A recent non-BBC, feature example (Jan 08) that springs to mind is Tracey Fragments – a sort of timecode’esque Canadian film that gave away the ‘whole’ film to re-edit and again used YouTube to show the re-fragmentation. These are still available on the site – click refragmented. Here’s one example of a re-edit that have around 10 000 views each on YouTube.

Tracey: Re-Fragmented made available all the footage from the shoot of the film for users to download and re-edit their own replated projects including music videos, new trailers or to re-redit the entire movie themselves. A contest for best use of the footage has just closed at the end of January and judging will commence soon. The re-reditng initiative also has a competititve elements with Bruce McDonald and his editors selecting the best from the pojects from Canadaa to win an Apple Final Cut Pro prize pack. The winning project will also appear in the bonus features on the DVD release of The Tracey Fragments.

TEASING TEASERS

As mentioned the BBC has a long track record of opening up its rushes to the public (well it would do because the ‘internal’ BBC av assets are effectively owned by the taxpayer!) as well as providing community filming skills to a vast audience with 15 year old initiative such as Video Nation. Another recent example (2006), was when the BBC Commercial Archive opened up some of the rushes from its natural history section and asked the audience to re-cut or rather creatively make a brand new trailer for Planet Earth. Here is one example entry to the BBC Planet Earth video editing competition

To highlight the creative potential of the Open Earth Archive the BBC is also running a competition to make a short ‘advert’ for Planet Earth. Novice editors can enter the competition through the Easy Edit Suite, an exclusive application available free on the Open Earth Archive site allowing users to create a short video with a sound track using some of the best bits of the archive. The competition closes on 30 April 2006 and winners will spend time in an edit suite with experts seeing how the professionals edit for BBC Television. The Open Earth Archive is made freely available for the UK public to use under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence. The Creative Archive Licence allows people within the UK to watch, download and edit material released for non-commercial purposes, using it to inspire and create their own creative endeavours.

MAKE IT A GAME TOO

insectmen02At LAMP there have been at least 20 projects based on the call for creative contribution. This includes the iEmmy nominee Scorched as well as a Gruen Transfer’esque ‘Sold in 60 Seconds‘ and most of our ARG variants. One really cool ‘video fragment’ example was on our very first residential workshop lab in late 2005,  Insect Men. Insect Men was a video fragment scavenger hunt. The mind of a character (of course represented by a linear film sequence) was shattered in a freak lab accident and his mind spread all over the web, outdoors and on linear channels (these things happen!). The audience had to find, collect them and put it back together in a meaningful way. This predated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and other similar recent play’s on fragmented memory but this is less about story and more about bringing a game-play element into the re-cut too. The team were clear that there was no right or wrong way to put this unfortunate characters mind back together but rather courted community compare contrast – which is the best way forward.

BE PREPARED FOR A TIDAL WAVE

What to do when all this great stuff comes back?! Looking at exactly the same methodology of – here are some professionally created assets by your heros for you to rebuild in ‘your’ wayImogen Heap (who I keep going on about?!)  in the past month gave away a song in the form of lead and backing vocals for the co-creative fans to provide their own music. This takes it a step further as the backing to the vocal tracks truly represents the genre and style of the contributors vs the more subtle ‘persona’ that comes through a pure film edit. Imogen and team got back nearly 400 completely rebuilt unique 3 minute songs and you can listen to 219 of them here on the Twestival site. They were so overawed by them they are going to release a special EP with the best ones on. Shame that wasn’t part of the original incentive – but it probably didn’t matter in the case of a loyal fan base already!

EASY TOOLS

OK there are folk out there who use ProTools, Final Cut, Logic, Cubase etc etc: There are even more who are now familiar with iMovie, MovieMaker, Garageband etc: But although these will produce much better and original results it requires a significant amount of extra effort than a browser based tool.  I was a little derogatory about web based editing or mash-up tools earlier but there have been a few good examples over the past 12 years on the web we know today – yes folks they have been around for that long! Even I did some in 1995 when I put the first audio and video on the main BBC sites in the UK – simple quicktime based mixers which worked even in the days of 28k modems!

A recent one that works because it is so integrated with the TV component is ABC Australia’s Gruen Transfer. The thing that really works for me (above and beyond the AdMixer interface and usuabilty – yes they are getting better) is the fact the call out from the show gives a very specific task – this week/series for example the presenter said – go and create using a bunch of pre-built clips/audio and text, a promotional advert to sell Australia. Simple, a bit limited tool and clip wise, but really easy for an audience to quickly produce something meaningful with very little effort.

gruen

THERE’S A LOT OF IT ABOUT

As regards remixing, mashable content there are many others worth investigating if your into the subject and a quick look around will reveal the likes of

But a last point I shall leave you with is make it accessible. If only 1-2 % of the audience will get off their a$&#s and make something and send it in then make it easier for them – grow that to 10% or more. I covered the sort of splits of the co-creative audience on my post Web 2.0 and the Myth of Non-Participation. Allow them to search and embed other peoples work, allow them to just vote or rate (obvious and used a lot of course) or give them some really good material so they can create something ‘they’ will be proud of – like most of the examples above here.

OK there are lots more examples of this including community driven film sites like my fav triggerstreet and I have probably missed the ‘big’ ones (so tell me in comments!) but the last message –  Throw good stuff at your collaborative, co-creative audience and they will reward you many times over!

Mar 122009
 

Dying? More in the middle of this post – Thought I would share my lil’ introduction slides from ad:tech 2009 earlier this week. It is such a short time (each panel is given 50 minutes) to cover such a vast area and myself, Jeff (habbo.com.au) and Mitch (SmallWorlds.com) were all struggling to impart tons of great info/examples and have enough time to get interactive. I hogged the first 15 minutes by giving a broad overview and some examples I have been involved in that fitted the brief of the talk.

Below are my slides,  a little descriptive text below that and at the bottom of this post some deeper insight into SmallWorlds (given most of my readers probably know Habbo already? – If not, Why Not!? ). I included one slide from Jeff Brookes set looking at Hitwise’s stats on browser worlds and other sites in terms of session length which will raise a few eyebrows!

Virtual Worlds & Business: What’s The ROI?

Virtual worlds are maturing at a rapid rate and brands are realising there are valuable business opportunities within them. Whether the objective is engagement, research or brand presence, virtual worlds are proving to be a legitimate marketing channel. In this session our panel will look to provide insights into the business benefits of working within a virtual world.

Presenters

  • Gary Hayes, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Media Production, AFTRS & CEO MUVEDesign (Australia’s leading SL developer!)
  • Jeff Brookes, Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Sulake Corporation (habbo.com.au)
  • Mitch Olson, Co-Founder, SmallWorlds.com

There were several important messages in my introduction. Firstly making sure we all understand the different platforms social virtual worlds are operating on so I briefly described

  1. Layered or Parallel worlds – cute 2D type avatars that move over the top of 2D web
  2. Browser Worlds – walled garden that run inside web browsers, often as isometric views as flash or shockwave
  3. Client Worlds – anything from 20MB to 3GB downloads of data and the world is obviously much richer than browser worlds but do need higher spec computers
  4. Console Worlds – a relatively new kid on the block, social spaces that exist on games consoles. All the rendering grunt is there and the avatars are often linked to the PS3, Wii or XBox360 real life account. PS3 Home is the easiest way to match to worlds like Habbo or There.com
  5. Note there are hybrids of the above and  I would put ExitReality down as a hybrid of 1 and 3 as it turns a web page into a client style world

Here are the images of the above part of the presentation

worlds_platforms

I decided that a good ‘spine’ to hang the introduction on was the sort of negative questions floating around from those who don’t really understand what’s happening with web 3.0, the live virtual world space. This includes the paranoid printed press, a few out-of-touch businesses, and digital media companies/consultants more interested in iPhone/mobile games or Facebook widgets which is something they can truly explain (read: make money off).

Press hyperbole or myths?

  • Virtual Worlds are on the decline?
  • There’s no one in them?
  • & people don’t spend long there?
  • They are for kids or social ‘games’ not business?
  • There are no marketing models?

But I then addressed each question in turn showing real world stats and examples which turned all of these on their heads. Obviously in recession investment in new tech/services are going to be hit and recent reports do suggest a minor consolidation of investment into kids worlds, hinting at a lowering of VC in the ones I highlighted in my presentation, but this whole area is still something education & business are advised to R&D and understand fully – as a minimum. As we know it will be new ways of doing business, more immersive and efficient ways to collaborate and alternate forms of entertainment that will be partly what will bring us out of recession. Some reports even say that investment is high regardless (hat tip Mitch)

For Virtual Startups, There Are VC Funds Aplenty

If there is an economic crisis, then it isn’t impacting any of the startups making virtual goods, online games or virtual worlds. In just the last month alone, three companies have raised mega-millions from venture capitalists.

  • Greystripe, a games-related advertising network, raised another $5.5 million in funding, bringing its total to $15.6 million. We have covered them in the past.
  • SuperSecret, a San Francisco-based online social gaming company, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Opus Capital. They are targeting the tween market and hoping kids graduate from Club Penguin or Webkinz to their offering.
  • Offerpal, a startup that links virtual currency to real-world marketing deals, raised a whopping $15 million in funding late last month from D.E. Shaw Ventures and others.

The investor interest in these startups mirrors the growing popularity of social games and virtual worlds, especially among younger web users.

I finished the talk with a quick overview of the main models that virtual worlds (and most online games) can be monetized. Items 1, 3 and 4 were picked up in a talk on the 2nd day of ad:tech looking at how Nike engaged with console ingame campaign experts Massive across a few platforms.

  1. Static Advertising
  2. Promotions & Sponsored events
  3. Virtual Goods & Product Placement
  4. Dynamic InWorld Advertising
  5. Branded Spaces
  6. AdverWorlds & AdverGames

After my talk some great examples from Jeff Brookes from Habbo followed by Mitch from Smallworlds. I am always fascinated by the methods Habbo engages with its loyal and large community and was equally fascinated by Small worlds thinking too and how they are ‘integrating’ themselves with the existing 2D social networked web. This video by the infamous Robert Scoble features Mitch Olsen and Ted of SmallWorlds

They talk about the main traditional world features but then go onto the interesting areas of embeddable worlds (the Google Lively Killer app – not exploited), API integration with almost anything (twitter feeds, YouTube vids, FB updates on walls anyone) and the most interesting ‘missions’. You are encouraged to explore, meet folk, shop and basically get involved – Mitch says this is like the LinkedIn profile thinking, until your profile is 100% filled in you feel like you are missing out. I likened it much more like World of Warcraft, set players tasks, set them group tasks, give them rewards. This to me could be SmallWorlds real killer applet. At the moment they have around 400 000 users and that looks set to take off in the next months.

Tony Fendall blogged about a particularly cute feature that allows (his words) –

One important thing which was missed is that they didn’t have time to talk about all the cool micropayment features (which Ted alludes near the end) such as Gambit, OfferPal and Zong. Gambit and OfferPal are both services which allow users to earn SmallWorlds currency by completing tasks. These tasks include things such as answering surveys and give amounts of currency proportional to the amount of effort put in. This is a great way for players (who may not have a credit card) to still be able to earn a premium SmallWorlds experience. Zong is a simple cell phone payment service, where by users can pay for a premium SmallWorlds experience using their mobile phone. For an excellent look at how we have integrated Zong into SmallWorlds, check out this YouTube video created by the developers at Zong:

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