Category Archives: Internet Media

Counting down to AMT School

Time has been flying by at an alarming rate and not in a good way. I have lots of day job stuff to get done and a short time to do it all. Motivation is sorely lacking on the mundane tasks that just need to get done. I really need to get boots on the ground to get it all done.

I haven’t had a lot to post about airplane project wise, but I have been working on my welding and composite skills for day job projects. With everything going on, the workshop has become a bit of a mess and needs another good cleaning. I only have 20 more days to get it all done because AMT school starts in three weeks.

Aside from wrestling with the lack of motivation I have been working through some technology issues for the home network. We changed ISP’s from Comcast to AT&T just shy of two weeks ago. HUGE mistake. I don’t really like ether one but in the battle of the lesser evils, Comcast wins this round.

We DSL for many years. Our line was one of the first ones in our area nearly 15 years ago, back then it was awesome. Over time service became cludgy and outages more and more frequent. We tried to go with a higher level of service but they couldn’t get good service out to us because of our distance from the switching station. Enter Comcast about 5 years ago. The service is much faster but Comcast filters some traffic for load balancing every now and then and they prioritize traffic flows in ways that don’t benefit me (selfish I know).

Since it had been some time since we switched to broadband and technology has improved over the years, Pac Bell, our original DSL provider became SBC, then AT&T, we thought the equipment in the field might have improved a bit. No such luck. Our connection was almost as slow as dial-up! Okay, that might be an exaggeration but it did take 15 minutes to load a 5 minute video and Netflix was constantly stopping and restarting, a problem we did not have with Comcast.

Saturday night I called Comcast to see what it would take to get back on line with them. I still had all of the equipment so after a 15 minute phone call we were back on line with them and our internal network was completely switched over. I was very pleased with the results of the call. With everything switched over and running back up to speed I called, well tried to call, AT&T to cancel service.

After navigating there Byzantine help system I managed to find an article on how to cancel service. The 800 number has two notes; call during business hours (Monday through Friday 8-5 Central) and In order to route your call quickly please say “cancel service” when prompted. NOT.

The first call (yes, first call) took me through there again Byzantine phone-cyborg who routed me to the wrong department who then routed me through another phone-cyborg loop which eventually put me on hold for several minutes before hanging up on me. The second call routed me better, I think the system is trained to recognize certain phrases including expletives. Once with the right department I was put on hold for 53 minutes before an agent answered the phone.

By this time I was at the point I really wanted to bite someones head off. Seeing as it isn’t the agents fault, and with the system that busy, it’s likely that most of there other callers were pissed off and they didn’t need my help in getting into a bad mood, I played it cool. The agent was very pleasant and took care of the task at hand quickly. At least the last five minutes of the ordeal was not bad. Unless AT&T runs fiber right up to my modem for free, they wont see my business again any time soon.

On the good news side of things and having a bit to do with aviation, I redid the header graphics for the site, go ahead scroll back to the top of the page if you need to but it’s just a little house cleaning. I did make some changes to the social network links. I removed the Foursquare link, mainly because I don’t think I will be using it that much longer. I added a new graphic and link to Google+. If your scratching your head saying “What’s Google+?” take a look here.

I am hoping to do more with G+ in the future. There are some great tools for group sharing and communications. If you are interested in G+ but need an invitation please let me know and I will be happy to invite you. So far I find it very promising and I am looking forward to seeing what they have in store before it is released into the wild.

Until next time, blue skies and tailwinds,

Digital Media Revolution: Disparate Infrastructure Is The Enemy

I was scanning my Twitter feed and came across this tweet from @AllenChou;

“40% of broadband households watch full-length TV shows over Internet yet TV/Film Distribs not making $”

So I checked out the article Allen linked to. In part it says…

DIGITAL: Study shows industry needs to find better business model By Susanne Ault — Video Business, 11/11/2009

“NOV. 11 | DIGITAL: U.S. broadband households watching TV shows and movies online has doubled over 2008, according to a Parks Associates study.

More than 25 million U.S. households regularly watch full-length TV shows online, and more than 20 million watch movies. Parks singled out free, ad-supported online video-on-demand site as driving people to watch such programming on the Web…”

DigitalDelemaWhile this article focuses on distributor’s need to modify their business model to better monetize internet distribution, it brings something more to the table in my eyes.

At a time when media content is produced for many distribution mediums, the question has been how to distribute across platforms. The solution is not more, it is less. The aging infrastructure in America has become a collection of disparate distribution platforms; broadcast television and radio, cable, satellite, internet, and telephone. All of them use different protocols and systems, but they don’t have to.

In the last decade some of the large communications conglomerates have made some headway in providing multiple services over their primary medium. The problem is that all of them are continuing to provide services to the end user on the same disparate and aging infrastructure they started with. Making it even more interesting, all of them use the same data between distribution points, the disparity is in the head-end to user segment.

The answers to monetizing media exists in a wide range of solutions via the internet, pay-per-view, subscription, and more. The best way to get to greater profit margins is to kill off the antiquated mediums and eliminate the expenses in using them. IP based distribution of broadcast television, radio, cable, satellite, and telephone is available via the internet. What needs to happen is a standardization of infrastructure. The user end is simple: provide an Ethernet connection and all of the services are available with little or no changes on the consumer’s end. By choosing a unified and standardized infrastructure media producers/distributors can focus on making the media available and increasing margins.

A simple example is HBO or Showtime. They don’t need cable TV or satellite providers to get their media to market. A simple login to a subscription-based service can grant access to all the media. The advantage to the consumer is lower prices and the ability to select exactly what media they want access to. No intermediate contract obligations to keep the consumer tied to “licensed channels” on a carrier and the benefits of time shifted media; see what you want, when you want it. Media producers have significant advantages, too. The inherent demographic and statistical data, active and accurate viewership data. Quantifiable data for advertisers.

Another example is broadcast media. If a TV station stopped broadcasting its outbound only signal and focused its resources on providing free WiFi for an area, distributed its media via the internet, its programing made available world wide, it would be a greater value to its viewers and its advertisers. It would also reduce its own operating costs and free up the radio frequency spectrum.

Main stream media and large media producers hold the key. It is up to them to make things happen. It requires them to change the way they look at their content, it requires thinking in an Open Source mindset. The larger the number of potential viewers the better. Things like DRM don’t help protect your media, it makes the media less accessible. Likewise proprietary viewers or binding to specific players make your media less accessible, and thereby less attractive to consumers. I purchased the movie UP with the “Digital Copy” disk from Disney. I don’t have an iPod or iPhone, I have a BlackBerry. Because the iTunes/Windows Media Player is only options for viewing the DRM’d movie, it is completely useless to me. So why would I buy a DVD with this “bonus?”

There is nothing wrong with charging for your content and the public recognizes that. If HBO stopped selling its programing to cable and satellite and distributed consumer direct via internet only the content they produce would reach more viewers and provide them with more feedback and data from their viewers with no intermediaries. How would they fare financially? With the die-hard fans of many HBO programs, I think they would exceed current margins in 2 years or less and recoup any costs of the change in business model in less than 5 years.

These kinds of changes would also create new distribution channels for independent media producers. Without the constraints of programing time slots and the possibility of infinite catalogs, channels could purchase or license indi productions directly. It even provides the opportunity to list the property and pay content producers on a residual basis. The possibilities are endless.

Overall, a high quality broadband internet connection should be freely available to everyone, a network of regulated free WiFi and hard line solutions, provided by a consortium of fed, state, and local governments, service providers, media providers, and businesses. Contributors to the national WiFi network get a tax break for being a part of the infrastructure. It’s green, it reduces consumer cost, it reduces provider cost, and it enhances viable infrastructure while removing old disparate technologies. It really is a win win for everyone, but it starts with content providers and infrastructure.

If a cell phone can connect, you should be able to get it all.

Life of the FlyBoy

BlackBerry Curve 8330, The CrackBerryTime has flown by the last couple of weeks. This is going to be a catch up post rather than a topical one, though several things are related.

First off, the Thrill The World event I am working on with Grave Mistake has been going strong. We have had two Dance Workshops so far and had around 20 people at each. The group has 58 people registered so far making it likely that we will be over 100 for the event. It is still very possible to hit 250, which is my ‘goal’ for the event. I have managed to get two short videos produced and I am putting together more media for the project now. As you can see this project has kept me hopping by itself.

And of course, if you are in the Silicon Valley and want to learn Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ dance come out to one of the free workshops. 😉 *Shameless plug, cause I’m a producer*

Other things in the chute include getting a visit from an old producing partner two weeks ago. He expressed an interest in me working on a couple of projects with him. I am interested, but was very up front about my expectations from him. I think that might have soured the deal as he was supposed to send some information to me to use in developing a preproduction/development budget and I haven’t heard back from him. In truth, I wasn’t holding my breath.

On the good side of producing, I was encouraged by his interest in me working on a couple of films, and decided to drag out a story I have been developing for a few years. I finally have two and a half acts laid out, and a screen play well under way. This is most definitely a labor of love, so the time laps is not all that frustrating. I also think that my returning to the original plan (I wrote about this lat time in Writing for Screen) was a good move.

There are of course the requisite ‘subsistence’ projects that I do to keep afloat during long development stretches as well.

I know I have mentioned social media interests and projects that I have been implementing in previous posts and now one of the tools I have been waiting for has arrived… yes, I am now a member of the CrackBerry (read as BlackBerry) set. I considered both the BlackBerry and the iPhone and opted for the one more oriented to business applications and durability. I am hard on cell phones and have been wanting to do more with mobile media so it was a natural choice. The QWERTY keypad is a godsend for mobile data. I am still getting used to having a really useful phone, but it is fun getting there. With a little work I will be posting more media here and on my twitter feed.

Now it’s time to take The Boy for a hair cut before he starts High School. 😉

A Spork In The Road

Today marks a shift in direction once again. Graphics have been updated, features have been added and the feel/flavor of the site is turning back to it’s original ‘personal’ feel.

I have tried several ‘moods’ and directions for the site and this is the one that appeals to me the most. Adventures will still be forth coming, aviation stuff will be in the mix as well. I am changing the way I work with my online presence, relying more on social media to communicate what I am doing and where. I also intend to post more media, maybe even that podcast that has been rumored!

Media is where I am focusing my attentions. So look for audio, video, and pictures to become a regular element in this blog. Other Social Media outlets will also be playing a much larger part in the new FlyBoyJon.

Slacker Jon’s Web

Welcome to Slacker Jon’s. Though I have not been posting as much as I had hoped, I have been very busy. Between Grave Mistake/Thrill The World website work, organizational stuff and promotions, and my work on the apartments, I have had a full dance card.

Walking has been going well. By the end of July I should be at a couple of miles a day, five days a week. Once I get to that goal I am going to add some more elements to the regimen. The plan is to use my GPS for tracking, but the Garmin I have has a serial data cable. My laptop does not have a serial port, only USB and FireWire. Thanks to MS Vista, the older USB to Serial adapter I had didn’t work so I had to order a new one. The new cable arrived today! Plugged it in and connected the GPS. There were still some data points, waypoints and tracks in the unit so I uploaded them to Google Earth just to see if everything worked… It all worked great! Now I can start recording tracks, distance and time all from the GPS. Now all I need to do is work on the coding for some fancy Google Earth tricks on my site.

What would normally be a bit of free time, has been spent on refreshing some coding skills to get a few enhanced features ready for the website. Now that the first Workshop is coming up and promotional materials have been ordered, and should be arriving by the end of the week, I turn my focus to the production side. Even with a strong skill set in NLE systems, it never hurts to brush up on the finer points; not to mention doing more with video effects. So its back to the books on Premier and After Effects for some refresher projects. Besides, I have been getting some ideas for open/close footage on the Grave Mistake videos. Oh, and I found my green screen too! I do have plans for that. 😉

Now that I have been bouncing from this article to twenty-bazillion other things today )I started this post at 15:00 it’s now 23:45) I think its time to wrap up and get some rack time. So until net time…


Making Media Magic

reels-bl-2 copyIn the media producing world these days, it seems as though there are only the two extremes of thought. “Art for Art’s sake” or “be as creative as you want, as long as it makes money”, kind of like Henry Ford’s “You can have any color car you want, as long as it’s black”.

An Art Zealot I am not, a money grubbing fiend… maybe a little, but no. I do want to produce something I am proud of artistically and at the same time have it be commercially successful.

The measure of pride in an artistic endeavor is relatively easy for the artist to gauge, ether you are satisfied or you are not. Defining “commercially successful” on the other hand can be a difficult task.

In the “professional” production world, commercial success is all about having a good profit margin. If it cost you $1,500 to produce the media, you want to be paid at least $3,000. Let’s face it, we don’t work for free right? A 100% margin is, in business parlance, an acceptable margin. Anything below 25%, and its more like a hobby, at least from a business perspective.

As an artist, paying the bills to produce the project, getting by personally, and having a little extra to fund the next project is usually sufficient to consider your self commercially successful. This is of course the typical “art for arts sake” artist and not the person employed to make a living on there artistic skills; who is by the way no less the artist. Frequently the two coexist within the same person; the daily trudge side and the high art side. Producing TV spots by day and personal projects by night.

I believe most people who make a living from there artistic talents, have an idealistic streak within themselves that wants to do nothing more than their art and just not have to worry about the day to day needs for subsistence. I know I certainly do. The freedom to make movies when the creative iron is hot, having all of the hardware and technology needed for production at hand all of the time, it would be a wonderful thing. But for most of us that is not the case.

For me, the goal is a balancing of the two extremes, produce something that I am artistically satisfied with that also keeps the bill collectors away, and provides for a growing collection of the equipment, materials, and technology to keep moving my art to new levels. Along the way it would be nice to help others on the same path.

So where’s the magic? The magic is when you can achieve artistic and commercial success in one project. Regardless of who the media is produced for, a TV spot, a documentary, a slasher film, a corporate piece. If you the producer is satisfied internally with the work, and you actually made a dime, you have made media magic.

I guess after all of that, it comes down to this…
Only you can make your art magic.


Adventure or Obsession

cropped-800px-film_reel_closeup_by_bubbelsAs you may have guessed by now, I am involved in independent filmmaking. Not in the “I’ve got screen credit” sense, but in the “I’m a self educated film school student” sense. Sound peculiar? It is. Since 2004 I have been meeting with indi producers, directors, and writers, studying the art and science of filmmaking. Along this journey I have discovered a few things.

Indi producers, even the ones who graduated film school, don’t know the industry as well as they think they do. There is a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of business behind making a movie. This is where most of these producers are weakest. It becomes clear when you ask questions about the guilds and all you get is a blank stare; Do you have a marketing plan? Do you maintain your budget? Do you have below the line stakeholders? Are your crew and talent on deferral? Is your production “cleared” for distribution, and can you document it? These are all important considerations in the process.

Another thing I learned is that knowing all of the business is very important, but… there’s always a but, knowing what you can sidestep under the right conditions is even more important. Many of the books in print on filmmaking cover the technical hurdles and how to work around them. Some of the books cover a small part of the legal obligations a filmmaker has to protect his or her work; not from infringers, but from being one. Making a movie requires documenting EVERYTHING; and knowing what documentation you can sidestep.

With all of this in mind, I am a Producer. I document, catalog, budget, plot, plan, create forms (up until after midnight creating some production forms spurred this post) and do the minutiae that goes on behind the scenes. I spent a considerable amount of time working on several screenplays ether as a co-writer or clean-up, and time in concept sessions, and I spent more that a few hours co-directing and as an AD on several commercial productions. Now I need to start flexing my Writer and Director muscles on my own.

There is a small project I thought of a couple of years ago. It is a mockumentary short that should be fun. I have done the basics, concept sheet, and production design elements, now I need to do the script. With that in hand I can start the shoot. I don’t have a completion date yet (I have been stuck on the script for a while) but I will be done before the summer is up.

classLooking at the near term, I need to start networking with other local filmmakers to collaborate with; writers, directors, producers, department heads and talent. Come one, come all.

If you are interested in participating or collaborating on indi projects send me an email.


New Media

NewMedia_BannerAs New Media begins to make serious headway in mainstream business, it is becoming clear that not all implementations are a good idea. Many small businesses have been hanging back to let the “big boys” pioneer the new stuff much like they did when the web was still a newborn. The World Wide Web as a whole has been a grand experiment with some mixed results. By in large, it is rare to find a successful business without some kind of web presence. New media is bringing a whole new set of tools to the table.

What do you mean by New Media?

New Media encompasses a collection of tools based on traditional media like video and audio, that are presented in interesting, interactive formats through social networking tools and environments. Wow! That sounds like a lot of double talk even to me. Here is a simpler breakdown; A typical audio or video program that is distributed through a blog or social site by one-time visits or by subscription. I suppose that is a little clearer. That is a part of the confusion though, many people have varying ideas as to what social networking and New Media are, let alone how to use them.

By now, most daily web users are familiar with Social Networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Spaces, Blogger, and tons of others. There are also micro-bloging sites like Twitter and others. Include user media sites like YouTube, Flickr, PhotoBucket and a host of others along this line. Now add in podcasting sites to host or analyze your traffic and you have quite a confusing collection.

Lots of businesses hear repeatedly “you need a website” or worse yet “you need to be on ‘xyz’ website”. While there are very few businesses and organizations I would say don’t need some kind of presence online, most don’t take the time to look at what they do need. A business needs to know who its customer base is and what the extent of there internet activities are, what sites do they use, and how. Do your customers blog? That is an important question.

Most businesses would benefit from simple Social Networking sites like Facebook for better indexing in search engines and provide point of contact information. The micro blogging can be beneficial as well. But do you need a blog? Should you podcast? Maybe. A simple blog under your own domain name could replace a basic website and provide you with an online venue for future expansions.

Each business has its own needs and eccentricities, some businesses and organizations could greatly benefit from a Wiki based site, or a Wiki in addition to the regular site. Any companies website plans should be determined by company needs, client base needs, vendor needs, and the internet culture of all three.

One thing that comes up in consultations all the time is the desire for custom applications. Often there are off the shelf solutions that can be applied at a much lower cost, or free. Usually adaptive solutions do require more effort to implement initially, but in the long run, that time is well spent when the time comes to make more changes. When an off the shelf solution requires a lot of adaptations or incorporates a lot of unneeded features or complex interfaces, a custom application may actually be cheaper. Another consideration is, if you want to use a specific application but it is expensive and you just can’t do it now, there might be a simpler low/no cost solution that the expensive application can import at a later date when you can afford it.

How does this apply to New Media? Integration. When you are building an online presence it should be consistent in appearance and function. There are times when the over all functionality of the web presence determines the applications used for the presentation.

In the long run, a consultant who is familiar with a broad range of internet applications, e-commerce, New Media, and Social Networking, you will most likely save you thousands on the first implementation and much more over time by tactically planning future upgrades. These savings are after the consultants fees by the way.