May 30, 2007
It's 1939 All Over Again
I'll credit Bill Bryson for stimulating this entry and providing some of the "factoids".
For many people, the 1939 New York World's Fair was their introduction to television.
Whenever new media technologies appear it is inevitable that: 1) they are compared to existing technologies they appear to have the potential to compete with or replace, and 2) the new technology emulates an existing technology (although not necessarily the one that is threatens to replace).
Some felt motion pictures threatened theatre. However, it initially emulated photography with the earliest movies being moving images of ordinary life activities such as street scenes. It wasn't until a bit later that movies emulated theatre in terms of subject matter: make-up and exaggerated gestures (apparently it wasn't apparent that movies brought the audience up-close to the actors and overacting wasn't necessary). Eventually filmmakers discovered they could move the camera, edit their film, and other techniques unique to the medium that we take for granted today.
Television was a perceived threat to radio. Although the New York Times reported that television would never be a serious threat to radio because it required a change in behavior; unlike radio, people had to sit in front of it and keep their eyes on the screen.
Like film before it, the initial television programs were of people doing ordinary things (talking, smoking, laughing). Many radio programs were turned into television programs. The first television commercial appeared in 1941 and was 60 seconds of watching a Bulova watch tick. In many ways television became radio with pictures.
If we fast forward to the explosion of video on the internet and impending explosion on mobile devices, its not uncommon to hear one industry pundit proclaim television is dead, and another poo poo the thought of watching a movie on an iPod or other small screen device. The reality probably lies somewhere in the middle. Although, those under 20 or who live with someone under 20 can probably see distinct changes in how/where media is being consumed and also who is creating the media being consumed.
While where/how we consume "television" is changing, it is still for the most part a passive experience. While interactive television isn't a new term or concept, much of its poor adoption has been due to the poor user experience a television set offers for interactivity. The computer, handheld devices, applications like the Adobe Media Player, and appliances like Apple TV open a whole new world of "lean forward" experiences that might finally deliver on the promise of interactive television or what some might call Television 2.0 (which seems to mean different things to different people).
May 24, 2007
HD4ME Part 2
I received a comment about my last entry indicating that the 1366x768 resolution of my TV wasn't fully HD. My first thought, was bummer I bought an "Almost HD Really" set. But recalling the mantra of the "satisficer" I quickly thought, oh well this is a whole lot better than before and "good enough" for me.
I then decided to re-educate myself a bit (getting too hard to keep all these specs straight in my head) and consulted my first (and hopefully only) stop for HD info on Wikipedia. To complicate the HD choice dilemma more than I outlined in my last entry, there are at 3 flavors of HD (more when you let frame rates enter the discussion), 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. The horizontal resolution of 720p is 1280 pixels, which would appear to be supported by the Toshiba I purchased. But alas, I'm losing 536 pixels when I watch 1080i programming. It will be interesting to see if I enjoy ABC & FOX 720p broadcasts any better than PBS, NBC or CBS' 1080i. When I think about viewing distance, room lighting, and quality of my eyes, my guess is that I won't be able to tell the difference and as the commenter congratulated me, I've entered the 21st century.
Since my set doesn't support 1080p (not an issue until a life changing moment causes me to buy a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player, or become a gamer, and I must say the Wii is tempting as an entertainment and exercise device) this didn't really factor in for me.
The rub for me is that, while not an early adopter of technology, I do have the aptitude to understand technology. I can't imagine how some of my less tech savvy family and friends handle wading through the mass of confusing specs and contradicting opinions. Its no wonder that based on relatively sluggish adoption of HD televisions that many people are the overwhelmed by the choices/decisions and choose to stand-by on the sidelines avoiding the decision as long as possible. Thus the paradox of choice and a case where less might be more.
Here is a good source for antenna info (a basic UHF antenna works fine if you live in Seattle/Bellevue area).
May 23, 2007
At work I'm surrounded by the latest computer hardware and software technology, and at times feel like I'm living on the bleeding edge.
At home, I'm a technology luddite (well maybe laggard is more accurate). Typically it takes life changing events to cause me to adopt new technologies (my iPod being one notable exception). No Blackberry's or Treo's for me (witness my paper schedule at NAB). It took becoming a parent to make me realize the benefits of a microwave oven and answering machine (my attitude was, hey, if they want to reach me, they'll call back). And much to the frustration of my sister in-law(who apparently has busy signal issues) I don't have call waiting, caller id, or caller anything for that matter.
My television consumption until now was limited to the half dozen semi-snowy channels the rabbit ears on my 15 year old 14" Sanyo television in my bedroom picked up (7 channels if I was willing to mess with the rabbit ears). This hasn't been much of an issue because I don't watch that much TV (I'm a DVD kinda guy) and have been spending more of my limited media leisure time online anyway for the last 10 years or so.
Well a life changing event put me in the market for a new television and DVD player. I got to become a living example of the Paradox of choice (video), or article. First decision was SD CRT (which would have been easy way out) or Wide screen which led me into the world of "HD Ready" HD Almost Ready" and "HD Really". This was before I even reached the, LCD vs Plasma decision, and semi-related "What size screen?" decision and then the various brand choices.
I had just finished reading the "Paradox of Choice" and was determined to not be a "maximizer". Given I don't replace my TVs very often, I decided to go "HD Really" and made sure I bought a set with an ATSC NTSC & QAM (not sure what QAM means) Tuner. Didn't know what this all meant other than if would receive HD off-air signals. Screen size and budget (no TV is worth more than $500) led me to LCD and I was leaning towards a Samsung (even willing to spend more than $500) until I discovered that there was no standardization on how manufacturers report their contrast ratio and that brand X's 14,000:1 wasn't necessarily better than brand Y's 7,000:1. There was one additional spec that got factored in. I didn't know exactly what an HDMI port was, but instinctively knew I needed/wanted at least one (even though I didn't have anything to plug into it).
Anyway to make a short story long, when I saw the Toshiba Regza 32LV67 with a built-in upconverting (sounded like it was and important feature) DVD player (meaning I'd be spared the agony of choosing from the sea of DVD players and I'm not ready to make a Beta/VHS decision on HD DVD formats), I was almost sold (it was still more than $500 sans the $150 I allocated as the DVD player porition). When the sales person offered to discount it by the sales tax (note to self: always look indecisive and enter the store 10 minutes before closing on the last Sunday of the month), I whipped out the credit card (too bad I didn't ask him to throw in the pair of rabbit ears).
Anyway, I got it home, plugged it in and all I can say is WoW. The off-air digital reception is amazing. I don't know why, but I assumed that the quality of the signal would be the same as what I was getting today (after all, I'm not any closer to the transmitter), but its crystal clear SD or HD. Also, once I saw some programming in HD, I must admit it made me want to watch television more than before. The interesting thing I've noticed after two weeks is how few commercials are being produced in HD (I'm assuming HD production costs are still being billed at a premium and are hard to justify).
With only 636 days left until the conversion to digital is officially here in the U.S. (here is a link to converter box coupon program for those of you like me who are laggards in adopting new TVs or accidentally bought an "Almost HD Ready" TV recently), I expect that we are getting close to HD production costs becoming commoditized).
Now please don't disturb me while I watch the finale of American Idol (in HD?) tonight :-) I hear both finalists are from the Seattle area!
May 15, 2007
Act Fast & Win a Trip to Cannes
The Cannes Film Festival which opens tomorrow turns 60 this year. As part of the Cannes festivities, Adobe is sponsoring the Reel Ideas Studio where virtual teams of documentary filmmakers are competing to create films that will be screened during the Cannes Festival on May 24th in the American Pavilion.
Members of the winning team will receive roundtrip airfare, accommodations, and tickets to the 2008 Cannes Festival; plus copies of Production Premium.
Sounds great, right? Absolutely, but you gotta act fast if you want to get in on the action. The competition started May 1st and all entrants must be fully registered by May 16th (yikes). All submissions must be uploaded by May 23rd (talk about a fast turnaround production timeline). Check out the web site for complete rules.
Even if you decide not to participate you can track the teams and watch the projects evolve over the next week on the site, or follow the "At The Theater" link and watch last years winning projects.
Update: Just learned that registration has been extended until May 18th.