Butterfly Beach Montecito ©Gary Hayes 2005We are all familiar with the Directors Cut, but what about the ‘me’ cut? Yes a version of video or audio content that edits itself automatically, just for you. As Chair of the Business Models Group at TV-Anytime, one of the first group of functional applications we requested as should be enabled by the standard was segmentation. It sounds painful, but it provided a whole range of creative, personalized possibilities and I will get that in a moment. Looking around at companies in this area I was delighted to see that some key innovation labs around the world are starting to venture down into this particular ‘rabbit-hole’ – on one hand automatic capture of short, self-contained, clips of TV and on the other personalized edits of film/TV narrative. HP are one lab for instance who told us about MeTV in June of this year:

Researchers also see the potential for offering individual, custom television shows on particular channels that are made up from clips that the service assembles for the viewer. One such show might be a compendium of morning news, for example, tailored to your commute, or a sports show that gathers clips of your favorite teams from all over.

The system would use digital editing technology to design shows that retain a professional look, Rowson suggests. “There would be a narrative structure to such a show,” he explains, “and it would make decent transitions from one clip to another.”

I have built several navigators at the BBC that included integrated PVR capability that exploited the concept of automatic compilation of news or magazine programme segments which are assembled for you based on your personal requirements. To me this makes perfect sense as we move into an on-demand world – why on earth would you sit and watch things that had no meaning for you if you could skip it. Why skip it if the system ‘knew’ you would have done in the first place!? – we are moving into a world of meaningful media enhanced by a clever operating system. Carrying on with HP it goes beyond just personal profiles and starts to utilize other data feeds.

‘The team is also collaborating with other groups within HP Labs. Data-mining researchers, for example, helped develop the algorithms behind the collaborative filter that is at the heart of the system’s ‘recommendation engine.’

This will be a very attractive service in the future if it is transparent (after opt in) for viewers. It also makes a lot of sense for the content providers, broadcasters etc: If I make a magazine or news programme, I know without exception that it would be rare that ‘all’ items will appeal to all viewers. If I tagged the various segments with the right metadata then I would be happy for consumers to capture just the things that really engage them. MyTV was a content development group (Philips, NDS, BBC etc:) within and connected to TVAnytime that explored personalized TV, and particularly the segmentation aspects, still even now a few years ahead of the curve. This whole principle works for all media – albums have already quickly segmented themselves. It was only four or five years ago when most folk were still fighting with albums, choosing their favourite tracks for personal compilations – along came iTunes offering individual tracks and no one batted an eyelid. In the TV/Film space this is not so easy unless we have work done at the broadcaster end and manufacturers who adopt a common standard. That is another post.

What about other content. Can we really expect a film to be personalized? We have directors cuts, parental control cuts and theatrical release cuts. What about the Gary Hayes cut? Does it make any sense? I have been developing various algorithms that allows the flexibility range of routes through well indexed content. One thing that is obvious is that a film or long format TV show (across many genre) can be shortened, randomized, non-linearized, character biased, emotionally weighted, action/non-action led and so on. The thrust of the narrative can still work – it depends on the viewer and their needs. I know several females (not being sexist here), OK and males, who would gladly have the fight/action scenes removed from a few so-called blockbusters. Make this easy, one button-click and you have some very happy customers. Editors around the world are quaking – apologies, I started my BBC life as an editor so I know! As in most new things we shall see. This aspect of segmentation is not in itself a killer application in itself, in the current consumer market – what is early on though will be the gathering of relevant self-contained shorter segments, that works, I assure you! There are also tremendous opportunities, using the same basic technology of index metadata, in delivering non-linear video content via broadband or even broadcast means – as it becomes easier to make and distribute using open standards then more people will become exposed to it, the relevance to them and potential markets will begin to open.

I have lots more to talk on this subject but will leave you for now with Jim Rowson from HP

“We’re looking at this from the customer’s point of view,” he notes, “but there are implications on patterns of content distribution, and on the way that material is recorded and referenced — things that go all the way back to the studio.”

But he also believes this could be the way to make TV highly personalized while retaining the low-stress experience people expect.

“When we show this idea to consumers,” Rowson says, “they say, ‘Yeah! I don’t want to argue with my television. I just want to watch TV.’”

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005