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Tipp-Ex cellent video

Have you seen this superb new interactive Tipp-Ex online ad?  I won’t spoil the fun, I’ll leave you to discover what you can do with it so have fun finding all the different combinations of things you can do with the bear…

Just goes to show that with a bit of thought, a decent coder and presumably the help of YouTube, you can produce something a lot more engaging than a linear video.  Will it persuade me to buy Tipp-Ex?  No, I’ve got a backspace key now.  But it’s gone a long way to putting the brand name back out there in the blogosphere and beyond…

Apple’s Ping pongs

Now I’ve had a chance to download Ping I thought I’d add a few more thoughts to yesterday’s ramblings.

So like Apple do, they created all the massive hype yesterday to triumphally announce their big new plans for world social media domination.  A shiny new social network just for all of us who like music and can’t be bothered to find it anywhere else but iTunes.  So presumably millions of early adopters and geeks worldwide frantically download iTunes 10 with its new, 80′s throwback logo and its Ping capabilities.

So we sign up, fill out the extremely basic profile which doesn’t allow HTML so really can’t be made to look interesting and certainly can’t link elsewhere because nowhere else exists outside of iTunes.  We are told we like Alternative, Rock and Rap but that’s ok because we can change that to something less cliched (like Alternative, Rock and Pop in my case; I couldn’t face putting soundtracks down even if I am partial to a West End musical).  We don’t have any friends yet but that’s ok, no need to panic because we can follow our favourite artists on there.  Let’s see…they’re recommending Jack Johnson, Yo Yo Ma and Lady Gaga.  Thanks but no thanks, I’ll check out what Kasabian are up to.  Eh?  No Kasabian listed.  What about Radiohead?  Nope.  Erm, The Cribs?  Nada.  The Killers, surely as U.S. rock gods they’ll be there?  Sorry.  Kings of Leon (not a big fan but I’m getting desperate now).  No go.

Why couldn’t Apple warn labels and bands that this was coming so that those of us who want to check it out whilst it’s still hot actually have a chance to communicate?

Frustrated, I decide to post out there into the wilderness so search for the post button…and there isn’t one.  Turns out you can only comment on a post in the timeline, so I can say something about the latest item I bought, or reply to Coldplay’s posts (they’re on there because Chris Martin was guest of honour at the launch and they’ve already got 36000 followers so there are people out there).

I could go on, but I won’t.  This is worse than I feared; it’s not at all like social networking in jail as was suggested yesterday, it’s like social networking in a dream where you just can’t get your words out and even when you do, nobody’s listening.  And then when you wake up and try to talk about the dream nobody understands what you’re saying…because I can’t even link to a page to show you because it’s not on the web.  How are we supposed to share any information we want to from Ping?  Where is the ‘social’ or the ‘network’ apart from within the microcosm that is Apple?

I really don’t like being negative but I’m struggling to see the point of this apart from as a MySpace killer and a cynical vehicle to increase purchases from iTunes.  Anyone see it differently so far?

Apple updates iTunes, IOS, Apple TV, iPod, Chris Martin and…Ping

A vaguely considered review of the new Apple updates announced by Steve Jobs minutes ago follows…apologies for the lack of pictures but I’m sure you know what an iPhone looks like.

So I was babysitting today and as I promised myself I’d keep up with all things techie from now on, I attempted to juggle following the update live on my iPhone with In the Night Garden, bath, book and bed.  Martha (18 months) is now fully au fait with the full product range but is a little dubious as to their new foray into social networking.  More on that in a bit; just don’t tell the mrs that I wasn’t paying full attention to the small person.

First thing to note is that the whole thing was streamed live, iPhone compatible, naturally, which is always impressive.  If Apple do one thing very well, it’s pulling the collective geek-strings of the world to create a huge buzz around their new product launches.  Less impressive was the lack of a jump forward button in the timeline so even though I was running a few minutes behind live (Special Agent Oso was on so I couldn’t jump on it straight way) I couldn’t skip the boring bits (no, not Chris Martin, the ads and stuff).

So…the updates.  Gadget reviews aren’t really my thing even though I’m as prone as anyone to new stuff so I’ll keep this brief:  iPods are getting smaller.  Really small, and the Nano is now touch screen.  Presumably surgeons and concert pianists will be fine picking the album they want but the rest of us might struggle.  Oh and the iPod touch is getting even thinnner.  That was one announcement which the assembled audience didn’t bother whooping.  Also, iPhones are getting an update next week which should fix bugs (which is as close to an admittance of fault as you’ll ever get from Apple) and the new iOS 4.1 includes HDR (‘High Dynamic Range’) photo capability.  This latter update sounds interesting although I’m dubious as to how much you can improve your photos when your source is the pretty poor iPhone camera.  It apparently takes 3 photos with 3 different exposures, merges them to collate the ‘best’ image and offers you that as an alternative to your original.  Also included in the free update is GameCenter which apart from being incorrectly spelt opens up your games to live multi-player gameplay.  Beyond that, 4.2 will roll out in November and will mainly concentrate on the iPad, offering wireless printing and AirPlay, an updated version of AirTunes, a wireless music streaming service.

More interesting to me was the news that they’re giving Apple TV another aggressive push.  Accepting that it has never really taken off, Jobs and co and offering the new, 1/4 size box at $99 (or £99 over here, apparently).  It’ll offer HD, streaming content for rental from several major U.S. networks (TV shows for 99c) and first run movies for $4.99 including compatibility with NetFlix.  YouTube will also be supported although apparently still no support for the iPlayer.  At that price it’s going to tempt a whole new market into the possibilities of streaming media on demand.

For me, by far the most exciting news of the day was iTunes v10.  No, not the new icon, the announcement of Ping, Apple’s new social network.  I say ‘exciting’, as that’s with my digital head on, but at the same time I’m really wound up by it.  In a nutshell, it’s a social network run through iTunes where you can connect with friends or artists on a musical level, so share recommendations, leave messages, find out about gigs etc etc.  Fine; I get that.  It’s like…Facebook for music.  Sort of like…MySpace.  What??  Haven’t we been here before?  It’s a new social network to belong to which focuses on one subject (music) and which has no apparent links with the outside world.  Oh, and you have to do it all on iTunes which for all Apple’s worth is clunky at best in my opinion.  Someone on my Twitter feed just said it was like being on a social network in a jail.  I may be wrong; they may open up the API to allow it to link to other social networks but I’m doubting that.  I’ve got a feeling this is Apple’s attempt to suppress the might of Facebook and to a lesser extent, Twitter.  In the spirit of research and digital open-mindedness I’m going to give it a go (apparently the download is available today but not yet, apparently), but if I’ve got to do it through iTunes, and if I can only use it to talk about music, it’s not going to win me over as much as a thinner iPod might.

Arcade Fire and Google get it on

As you might have guessed by now, I’m embracing new technology because I’m excited first and foremost by the prospects it offers those of us in the creative industries and also as a viewer.  And when a new bit of tech is combined with music from one of my favourite bands it’s bound to go down really well.  So like millions of others already I’ve been enchanted by the new interactive video offering from Google and Arcade Fire.  Called The Wilderness Downtown

The Wilderness Downtown

and featuring the band’s “We Used To Wait”, as I understand it it’s a showcase for Google Chrome and the possibilities offered by the new HTML5 web standard and its video, audio and canvas capabilities.  My techie knowledge stops right about there; I’ll certainly be doing some more digging into what we can expect and moreover exploit from HTML5, but for the moment like everyone else I’m sitting back and marvelling at the genius involved.

If I’m being picky, for me there’s a certain element of style over substance (or is it the other way round?); whilst I’m excited by the technology involved and I get the whole interactive thing and the fact that you can customise and share the experience, as far as a music video goes it’s no Bohemian Rhapsody.  I don’t know if my browser settings aren’t optimised for it (although I’m running it on a 17″ Macbook Pro 1920×1200 screen) but I found the window sizing and placement distracting rather than an enhancement to the video.  Could the sequence have been cut into one window?  Would that be defeating the point of the whole thing and regressing it to a traditional, linear video experience?  I’m being picky; I’m sure the point was to showcase the technology rather than create the perfect video, and I for one certainly couldn’t do any better.

If you haven’t had a go on it yet, you’ll need to download Google Chrome first and then go to The Wilderness Downtown where you input the address of where you’d like the video to take place.  Towards the end of the video you get your chance to get all Tony Hart and to create your own postcard which may be used on Arcade Fire’s next tour.  I’ve done one for Oxford United fans featuring the 3-sided majesty that is the Kassam Stadium if you’d rather see that than your own:

Wilderness Downtown – Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium

If you can’t even be bothered to run the video, here’s my poor but United-spirited attempt at a postcard message:

Arcade Fire/Google Interactive Postcard

If you’re geeky like me and you want to know more about the technology involved in making the vid, you’ll find it here:

http://www.chromeexperiments.com/arcadefire/

So what do you think of the whole idea?  As a viral campaign I’m sure it’s already assured of victory judging by the Twitter traffic generated by it, and I’d be interested to see how it affects Google Chrome downloads…

Martha laughing

Babies laughing seem to do pretty brisk business on YouTube.  They’re what it was made for; them and cats playing the piano and chemistry with fizzy drinks and mints.

We didn’t set this up, however; this is Katie (Mrs Square) swatting away a fly and Martha (Square Jr) enjoying it:

I shot: the leader of the FIFA Inspection Team

The 4th and final day of the FIFA Inspection Visit, and a thankfully somewhat less hectic day than the previous one.  It certainly started better than the day before; the Midland Hotel saw fit to put on a breakfast rather than put a bag with breakfast in outside your door as they do at the Travelodge Sunderland Central.

Manchester Central was the venue for the closing statements

Closing statements at Manchester Central

and subsequent press conference which formally ended the week’s inspection visit.  Nothing particular to report; Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean leader of the FIFA Inspection Team

Harold Mayne-Nicholls

made some very positive noises and certainly seemed happy with the ‘perfect’ way in which the visit had been organised, but naturally giving nothing away in terms of our chances of winning the bid.  He did, however, allay fears regarding the two negative angles which the press had conjured up (David Cameron’s decision not to meet them and the lack of a visit to a match) which must have gone down well with the team.

Andy Anson, the CEO of England 2018

Andy Anson and Harold Mayne-Nicholls

then offered his thanks and goodbyes

A farewell to FIFA

and it was off to the airport for the delegates.  Back to the press room for me and an upload of the videos before returning to the stage a couple of hours later for the bid team’s closing press conference which seemed to be handled without major incident or niggles from the assembled journos.  I did hear the odd grumble from them in the press room afterwards though; why some people feel the need to drum up a negative angle on these things when ultimately they’d be good for the country I’ll never know, but that’s why I’m not a journalist.

Train home, another long encode (this trip has made me realise that I’m wasting a lot of time just waiting for files to finish…it’s a long and very dull process even to explain how digital files get made so I won’t trouble you with that just yet) and a Friday edit putting together a montage of a very long and memorable week:

I shot: Steve Cram, Peter Beardsley, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Rio and Rooney

Yes, day 3 of the 2018 inspection was certainly a biggie, and I did it all without the aid of the breakfast in a bag on offer at the Travelodge.

An early 8am start at the Stadium of Light awaiting the arrival of the delegation on a rather painstakingly crafted landing spot outside the ground

England 2018 helipad at Stadium of Light

and then it was all systems go…until 2am the following morning.  I managed it all on a foot long Subway, a Red Bull and a late night £4 can of Grolsch from the mini bar which isn’t bad going.  Not sure it’s a diet I’d advise but needs must, and I didn’t feel I could ask the helicopter to swing by the local fly through McD’s.

So, first stop Stadium of Light, and a tour of the stadium hosted by Niall Quinn and Steve Cram.  The latter and I actually met back in 1986 when I interviewed him for my CSE P.E. project when I still wanted to be an athlete (see my biog) but I don’t think he recognised me.  Some people.  Anyway they’ve got a massive painting in reception which I think Niall Quinn said was the earliest football painting in the world or something.

Niall Quinn hosts at Sunderland

I think Oxford United have got a photo of Jim Rosenthal wearing ox horns at the Milk Cup Final which is good enough for me.

From one impressive ground to another, and the short hop to St James’ Park.  A short hop in aforementioned massive helicopter, although I was working so had too much on to worry about what might happen but luckily the conditions were perfect and I got some half decent shots out of the window.

The toon from the air

Peter Beardsley (nicest man in football) was on hand to show the delegation around NUFC and I think he did a grand job.  His love for the game and the club shone through and as long as they understood him, I’m sure the delegation would have been impressed.

The nicest man in football

Two down, two to go.  Back in the chopper for the trip to Manchester, and a proper edit deadline for me.  50 minutes to upload the morning’s footage, cut it down into a 3 minute B-Roll for journalists and to set it encoding.  So I didn’t see much of Yorkshire and Lancashire below us but I finished in time to pick up a few shots of the City of Manchester Stadium before landing.  Sadly I missed out on the pastries; I’m that dedicated.

City of Manchester stadium

Eastlands is very blue and very plush indeed.

Man City's changing room

Man City's tunnel

They’ve got a hydro-room and everything.  World Cup hero Howard Webb was on hand here to meet the delegates along with Garry Cook; sure they did a great job but in my head I was entertaining myself with what could have been if Liam and Noel were showing them around.

From the blue to the red side of town, and the final ground of the day:  Old Trafford.  The red carpet was really rolled out here, with Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex

and David Gill hosting, and cameo appearances on the pitch from Messrs Ferdinand and Rooney.

Wayne Rooney

Aside from the silverware kicking around

Man Utd's treasures

what impressed me most was Sir Bobby bounding up the stairs like he was 20 again.  Like Beardsley before him, his passion was infectious as he impressed upon the guests just what the club means to the town.

Over to the Town Hall for a few shots of the evening do

A bit of a do

attended by the great and good of the game

Michael Owen

but sadly not me.  I had to make do with my foot long and Red Bull as I cracked on with the edits of the day back at the hotel.  At least the previous night’s hotel disaster wasn’t repeated as I got to go posh at the Midland.  £4 a small can of Grolsch in the minibar posh.

So by 2am, the day’s total ran like this:

Premiership grounds visited: 4

Flights in the massive chopper: 2

Knights filmed: 3

Inches of Subway eaten: 12

Small cans of Grolsch taken from the minibar: 1 – I wasn’t that desperate

Edits uploaded for broadcasters: 6

iPhones crashed and refusing to recover: 1

Technology can be a cruel master.

The Next Big Thing: Facebook Places

Another first in a series, this one’s called ‘The Next Big Thing’ because if you’re even vaguely into your digital media you’ll know how we’re constantly bombarded with new technology which we’re expected not only to embrace but also master.  I love it; part of the reason I’m doing this is because I’m excited by it all, and I’ve learned not to fear change, unlike some people I used to work with who will remain nameless.

Joe Sheephead Worsley fears change

I’m still not naming him.

Change is good.  And once you accept that you don’t have to master every new innovation and you don’t have to add every new app, it can be liberating.

So yeah, Facebook Places; last week’s Next Big Thing (I have been busy you know), or for those who don’t like change but who will remain nameless, ‘not another thing I have to get my head around; why can’t we just talk to people like we used to?’  The world’s tech bloggers have been hard at work debating the pros and cons of the social networking giant’s massive step onto the geolocation map since the launch a few days ago.  For my two penn’orth, I’m excited by it.  I’ve been reading that geolocation is the next big thing for a year or so and I love the idea of the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla, but until they pick up significant traction over here, they’re pretty limited in what they’re going to offer.  If none of my mates are telling me where they are (or maybe there’s a different reason for that), if brands aren’t bothering to offer check-in ‘specials’ or recommendations there’s nothing really ‘social’ about it.  I don’t particularly want to broadcast my location on Twitter for the sake of it because that’s dull for everyone else, but it would be a different matter if I had people in my network who might be interested.  I’m sure it’s a different case in USA where these sites have picked up a lot more traction, but over here at least, we have a way to go before geotagging becomes the norm.  Facebook have the clout and the members to bring this technology to the masses and I’m confident that Places will mark a new shift in the way we communicate.

If you’re not as geeky as me and you don’t know what it’s about, it’s Foursquare for lazy people.  And if you don’t know what Foursquare is about, check it out (and check-in) here.  I’m on there…here.  I have one friend which kind of makes my point about traction.  If you can’t be bothered to do the research, here’s the glossy promo video for Places.  All well and good, we get the idea, it looks nice but have you seen anything as cheesy as this since the 70′s?   The acting and directing are shocking; whoever thought that real, 21st Century tech-savvy Californians behave like this needs to take a long, hard look at themselves.  Check it out at about 30 seconds in.  Have you and your mates ever ‘hung out’ in a park like that, without attracting weird looks from Police Community Support Officers?  And how’s your baby going to benefit from using Facebook Places?

Maybe I’m being unfair.  Anyway, whatever the merit of the promo video, Facebook Places is huge news.  Perhaps predictably, many people chose to focus on the privacy aspects surrounding it but I really can’t be bothered with all that whingeing.  In fact I so can’t be bothered with it, I’m going to write a blog specifically about privacy issues when I get round to it.  And when I find the article I read in Wired about Facebook and privacy.  In a nutshell; get over it.  If you’re a member of social networking sites then I’m sorry but your privacy as you knew it no longer exists.

I was going to watch the footage of the official launch from Facebook’s HQ until I found out that it’s almost an hour long.  I did get about 10 minutes into it and gave up, but if you’ve got time to watch it, it’s here; let me know what it’s like:

Watch live streaming video from facebookinnovations at livestream.com

Aside from the launch itself, one of the interesting things to come out of this was the way the UK side of things was handled.  As usual, the technology has been rolled out in the US before we’re able to get our grubby mitts on it, so Facebook’s UK PR had a job on their hands answering initial questions from keen Facebookers over here.  These were expertly handled in a very modern and supremely efficient way on Twitter by their PR @sophysilver – and I’ve got to thank TNW’s Martin Bryant for bringing that to my attention:

The Next Web – Facebook Places story

Ok so I’ve waffled a bit but I’m new to this blogging thing.  The question is: is Facebook Places the new Facebook or the new Google Wave?  Let the debate begin…

I shot: Steve Gibson and Niall Quinn

So, day 2 of the big FIFA Inspection visit, at the very well appointed Rockliffe Hall near Darlington.

Rockliffe Hall

After a hugely unexpected but welcome catch-up with my sister in law who was there filming for ITV (you know a family has their priorities wrong when they find out what each others kids are up to within the confines of a media pen), the delegation arrived in their very flash helicopter

A big helicopter

which may seem an irrelevant detail to you but for me who has a fear of flying and who was due to get in it (twice) a day later, it was pretty significant and more than a little reassuring to see that it wasn’t a rustbucket.  Apparently it belongs to Mr al Fayed and is the only one in the country; a Sikorsky S-92 if you care about these things.  All I cared about was whether or not it looked like it would get me to Manchester in one piece.

So the shoot was following the delegation around Boro’s training facility at Rockliffe Hall, hosted by Steve Gibson (it’s his pad, apparently, and a very nice one indeed) and Niall Quinn.  Disappointingly for me, they didn’t get the always entertaining Gordon Strachan on the case as well although I can understand that his priorities don’t necessarily lie with England.  All fairly straightforward; they took in a youth game then went inside to the indoor pitch, changing rooms, video and treatment room.

Niall Quinn and Steve Gibson host the FIFA Inspection Team

For the important people it was then on to dinner; for me it was a quick drink (and a handshake with the hosts) then up to a room and my laptop for the edit (with mighty Oxford United at West Ham in the other ear).

Edit done, I still had to make the transfer to Sunderland where I was staying the night.  I wasn’t really fussed about not staying at Rockliffe, an early start at Stadium of Light meant that it was best making the trek in the evening.  I wasn’t really fussed, that is, until I arrived at the Travelodge Sunderland Central.  Let me get one thing straight; I am no snob, I’ve been lucky enough to kip in some great hotels and some dives in my time, but I wasn’t really prepared for this particular culture shock.  Maybe it was the fact that they’d lost my booking, maybe it was because the duty manager clearly didn’t want to leave her McDonald’s long enough to find me a new room, maybe it was the tempting ‘breakfast in a bag’ they were offering for £4.50, but I’m not going to be recommending this particular establishment in a hurry and I don’t think it’ll be on the list of FIFA approved hotels either (although that decision is out of my hands).  Because I try to embrace digital culture, I did check in on FourSquare, but decided against telling anyone about it.  I even added a tip (Don’t stay here).

At the end of the day, and a long one at that, a bed is a bed, even if it backs onto a window which backs onto a drunk bloke ranting and ripping up street furniture at midnight.

I shot: Nick Clegg and Fabio Capello

Quick one this; I’m on a train most of the way up to Darlo with 50 minutes of battery remaining on my Mac.  Boo North East trains for not having plug sockets on your trains.

So this week I’m doing a pretty hectic but hopefully fruitful job; I’m the embedded cameraman/editor for the England 2018 team, tasked with documenting the movements of the FIFA Inspection Team.  The schedule is pretty hectic although I haven’t been involved in the London visits today; yesterday was Downing Street for the official welcome from Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

and other opening speeches from the delegation.  First time in Downing Street but to be honest I was so concerned with getting the shoot right I didn’t have time to nose around.  Good location though; really central, handy for work.

Then it was a hop onto the Jubilee line up to Wembley Park, editing on the way.  Hardcore.  I was there at the station to pick up the delegation as they arrived behind me; they then were taken on a tour of Wembley with Fabio amongst others in attendance

Fabio Capello and FIFA delegation at Wembley

The organising committee did a great job of getting a load of local kids in to welcome the delegation and kick a few balls around on the pitch; I was impressed so I hope that rubs off on the honoured guests!  Again a whistlestop tour round the place, then onto Altitude for the evening soiree.  Canapes, champagne and entertainment (including Boris Johnson speech) for the invited; a laptop and Final Cut Pro for me.  Managed to get B-roll footage of Wembley and Downing Street ready for upload to journalists/news agencies who couldn’t cover it, although such is the life of a digital producer that one of the encodes crashed part way through meaning I’m writing this now on 3 hours’ sleep.  Onwards and upwards; Boro very shortly and then a very big day tomorrow….more on that soon.

Techwise, I’m shooting this week on Sony PMW EX1; when you get it right it’s a really fast workflow for decent quality.

More soon…