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Recent Blog Posts in March 2012

March 21, 2012
  Sony reveals (some) NAB plans
Posted By Marc Loftus

NEW YORK - Yesterday, I attended Sony's pre-NAB briefing at their office at 550 Madison Avenue. While some of the product announcements are under embargo until the first week of April, the company did reveal their overall NAB strategy. Sony plans on showing "complete solutions" at NAB in Las Vegas this April and is also "looking beyond broadcast to a new range of markets" notes executive Alec Shapiro.

Its NAB exhibit will include a Beyond HD theater, where they will screen 2K and 4K material. There will also be space dedicated to cameras, workflow, monitoring, media, creative software, live productions, pro audio and 3D.

4K will have a special emphasis, in fact, the company reports that Sony Pictures is currently working on After Earth, a new feature being shot by director M. Night Shyamalan using the company's F65 camera. The project marks the director's first feature using acquisition media other than film. Sony began delivering the F65 in January of this year and reports that they will have delivered 100 F65s by NAB, with orders worldwide already totaling 400.

The company also called attention to the success of its F3, which began shipping just prior to NAB last year. To date, Sony has delivered 3,000 F3s, which are being used on project such as Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, Key and Peele, and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Some of the Royal Wedding was also captured with the camera. In November, Sony introduced a new zoom lens, and upgrades are also available that allow for 3D and S-LOG/4:4:4 RGB) recording. The F3 is very flexible thanks to its compatibility with Canon, Nikon and PL lenses.

On the monitoring front, Sony introduced its Trimaster monitors and more affordable PVM line last year, and has gone on to ship over 2,000 OLED units. At NAB, they plan to show additional size OLED displays.

Alec Shapiro also mentioned the upcoming opening of the Sony Digital Motion Picture Center on May 1, of which he will serve as president. The Digital Motion Picture Center will be situated on Stage 7 of the Sony Picture Studios Lot and will be a resource for training, and education for DPs, cinematographers, and film professionals. The Center will focus on all Sony Super 35mm cameras and workflows, and will showcase how to use these cameras in most creative ways possible.

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March 14, 2012
  SXSW 2012 Interactive
Posted By Peter Corbett
By Peter Corbett

AUSTIN, TX - SXSW 2012 offered up a bevy of new insights, as always, and in looking through my notes on the half-dozen panels I attended, I discovered there was a thread that was very enlightening and inspiring.  As we look to develop content for brands and products in all its various forms, the relevance of transmedia became much clearer to me.  

The most significant and influential for me was a great talk by David Womack, the CD of interactive design at R/GA.  Using a thoughtfully illustrated deck, he really articulated his thesis of how marketing a product has a narrative - a story arc.  That the age-old motto "keep it simple" can actually disrupt the process of creating compelling engagement, as emotional complexity leads to a more compelling narrative. One of the ways he illustrated this was through the simple fact that "I Love Lucy" had an average of five characters each episode.  Desperate Housewives? 18.  



Peter Corbett (left) with Noelle Nimrichter, Mateo Messina and Trevor King. 

The Top Chef Bravo presentation.  Great, well-illustrated case study on the use of transmedia to create a second narrative: "Last Chance Kitchen," which was hosted online. They defined transmedia as storytelling across multiple platforms. The Bravo presentation included Andy Cohen, the EVP and Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio.  It was easy to see how, with imagination, the multiple channel narrative can create exciting and emotionally connecting engagements.

I also heard a presentation by Andrea Phillips, author of A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling who defined transmedia as either a story narrated over multiple media OR in a single medium where the story accumulates over time.  Andrea Phillips extended the transmedia opportunities to even include "media" like Google Calendar, Twitter narratives, live events  - any digital or sharable media that can progress the story.  

In fact, when I connect the transmedia presentations with Cohen's presentation, there is a clear takeaway that I found ultimately inspiring: I think we all feel that the opportunities for imaginative work are much greater - especially as we embrace complexity.  These three presentations laid out the beginnings of a roadmap.

Some of the other panels had simply terrific potential, given the all-star cast, but ultimately went nowhere.  Sometimes panels seem to have great catchy titles, "Viral is a Dirty Word", "Social Media is a Fad," etc. But the follow-through is disappointing: generalized questions from the moderator and zero visuals. This is a visual and highly interactive medium and the sessions need to reflect that.  The moderator + four panelists + the obligatory Q&A (mostly with no Twitter questions) is kind of lame.  Astonishingly, I didn't attend a single session that actually used Internet access as part of the presentation.

The Interactive section of SXSW has become an ad agency fest by-and-large. I would argue that more interesting perspectives are at events like Social Media week, Internet Week even Advertising week. They're much cheaper - even free-- and the panels are often better thought-out.  However - the parties at SXSW remain great and numerous!  Still the best part of the event if we're all being honest.

Peter Corbett is the founder of Click 3X (www.click3x.com) in NYC.
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March 08, 2012
  Mission Complete!
Posted By Jason Womack
Five Ways to Know When You're Done with What You're Doing

HOBOKEN, NJ - If you often feel like you've barely skimmed the surface of what you should have accomplished on a given work day, I have a secret for you. When you learn to "know when you're done" with projects, tasks, and everything the work day throws at you, you'll free up a lot more time to focus on those things that truly matter.           

The curse for many of us modern-day movers and shakers is that we never seem to have enough time to do everything that needs doing. There simply aren't enough hours in the work day (or even the work week!) to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. Worse yet, when we finally do get on a productivity roll, there always seems to be a distraction (or two, or three) waiting in the wings to throw us off course. But the reality is that we could actually accomplish a lot more each day if we would just learn to recognize and acknowledge when we're done with what we're doing.                    
    
One of the biggest time wasters we all face is spending too much time on those things that don't require it. When we do so, we lose the time we actually should be spending on more difficult or time-intensive tasks. But when you learn to recognize when you're done with a task, you'll have valuable minutes and maybe even hours added back into your day.

My new book is packed with strategies, tactics, tools, and processes to help readers consistently and incrementally improve their performance at work. It teaches the fundamentals of workflow and human performance and spells out how to get more done, on time, with fewer resources, and with less stress. But more than that, it provides brilliant insights into why we tend to do what we've always done-and how we can break out of the patterns that hold us back.

It often seems that we put off the most important things on our to-do lists until we feel like we have the time to work on them. When you learn to recognize when you're done with projects, big and small, you'll immediately find that you have a lot more time than you thought you did. Time you can use to focus on those things that truly matter.

Tips:

Stop majoring in the minors. Many of us spend a lot of time on those projects and tasks that are easy for us. Then, we convince ourselves that we "just didn't have enough time" to get to the harder stuff. But when it comes to knowing when you're done and freeing up time during your day, completing these easy tasks quickly and efficiently is essential. Before you start your work day, think about what your high leverage activities are and what your low leverage activities are. For the low leverage activities, force yourself to move through them as quickly as possible. With these tasks-for example, writing an email to a colleague-perfection isn't necessary, and there's no need to waste time wringing your hands over every word. When you can accomplish these minor tasks more efficiently, you'll have the time you need to do those major tasks justice.

Don't overwrite emails. Much of your time-probably too much-each day gets eaten up by email. Make a conscious effort to keep your emails as short and sweet as possible. Get to the point quickly and use action verbs in subject lines so that both you and the recipient know what needs to happen before the email is even opened. And while long emails waste the time it takes you to write them, keep in mind that the person receiving the email doesn't want to have to spend so much time reading it either. Chances are your boss doesn't want or need a three-paragraph rundown of how your client meeting went. He just wants to know if the client is happy and continuing business with you.
 
Quit over-staying at meetings and on conference calls. Often meetings and conference calls will take as long as you've allotted for them. Set an hour for a meeting and you're sure to go the full hour. Pay close attention to how much of your meeting is actually spent focused on the important stuff. If you spend 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of the meeting discussing your coworker's golf game, then next time reduce the amount of time allotted for the meeting. And always know the meeting's or call's objectives before you begin. That way you can get to them right away.

Set your own deadlines and stick to them. It's very easy to get distracted or sidetracked by things you think you should do or things others think you should do. Having a self-imposed deadline will help you ignore those distractions. If a colleague calls you about a non-urgent task, you can let him know you've got a 3:00 p.m. deadline that you have to meet. There's no need for him to know that it's self-imposed! And then as 3:00 p.m. draws near, start wrapping up that particular task.

Know when it's time to ask for help. Have you ever been stumped by a certain project or task? Did you walk away from it for a while and then come back to it hoping you'd suddenly know what to do? Sometimes knowing when you're done is knowing when you, specifically, can't take a project any further. You simply might not have the right expertise to completely finish a certain project. That's okay. Wasting time on something you're never going to be able to figure out is much worse than asking for help! When you put in place steps to help you know when you're done, you'll be surprised and pleased with how much, well, you can get done. It will truly free up time in your day that you can use to focus on areas where it's really needed. As a result, you'll have a more gratifying work day and you'll be happier overall.

Jason W. Womack, MEd, MA, provides practical methods to maximize tools, systems, and processes to achieve quality work/life balance.  His book is titled "Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More" (Wiley, February 2012, ISBN: 978-1-118-12198-6, $24.95) and is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.

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March 06, 2012
  A look at HP's newest Z Series workstations
Posted By Lance Grange
By Lance Grange

Recently I attended a special HP (www.hp.com) event in Las Vegas during HP's Global Partnership Conference. I got an early glimpse at what was announced officially today - the latest refresh of their Z Workstations line with the Z420, Z620, and the Z820 workstations.

This impressive refresh boasts the latest Intel Sandy Bridge Xeon processors, increased and faster memory capacity, USB 3.0, 6GB/S SATA, and PCI Express 3.0 technology.

PROCESSORS
The latest Z workstations incorporate the just released Xeon E5-2600 Sandy Bridge processor. This Sandy Bridge processor comes with up to 8 cores running at 3.1 GHz with the Z620 and Z820 supporting two processors, allowing for 16 cores with 32 threads of processing power. The E5-2600 has the latest Intel technology with an integrated I/O Hub in the processor reducing latency by up to 30 percent as well as integrating Advanced Vector Extension technology allowing for increased performance in floating point capabilities.
 
MEMORY
Four-channel 1600MHZ DDR3 ECC memory has been used, which is faster with greater throughput than the previous generation. It has also vastly increased the memory capacity (over double previous generation) with the Z420 having a maximum of 64GB Memory via 8 DIMM slots, The Z620 with a maximum of 96GB Memory via 12 DIMM slots, and the Z820 comes in with supports for half a terabyte of memory with 16 DIMM slots.


STORAGE
Supporting the latest SATA technology with two 6GB/s SATA ports for all the Z Series models and on the Z620 and Z820 with 6GB/s SAS ports. The Z420 and Z620 support up to 11TB of storage and the Z820 supports up to 14TB of storage.
 
PERIPHERALS /VIDEO

The entire line of Z Workstations incorporate the latest PCI Express 3.0 technology, which contains twice the bandwidth of PCI  Express 2.0 and has a minimum of three slots in each model. It also has multiple USB 3.0 ports integrated into all the Z series towers. For video cards The Z 420's support Nvidia 5000 graphics dares and the Z620 and Z820 support Nvidia Quadro 6000 graphics cards (Z820 supports dual Quadro 6000 cards).

  DESIGN
The Z Series workstations have all been designed with tool less design cases allowing for easy upgrades and accessibility, where this was previously designed into the Z800 Workstation, it has now had been added to the Z420 and Z620 workstations as well.
 
PRICE/AVAILABILITY
Price points start at $1169 for the Z420, $1649 for the Z620, and $2299 for the Z820. The workstations are expected to be available worldwide in April.
 
OVERALL
This is an impressive refresh of the Z Series line, which should address the need for the ever-expanding memory requirements, process power and peripheral technology required with the latest rendering and video design software at an aggressive price point.

Lance Grange is an independent consultant and owner of Grange IT Consulting as well as on the IT staff at California Lutheran University working closely with the Multimedia Department. Lance can be reached at grangeITconsulting@gmail.com
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March 01, 2012
  Leap year and drop-frame timecode are conceptually the same
Posted By Alan Hardiman
By Alan Hardiman

For those in the media production industries, February 29 was a good day to revisit drop-frame SMPTE timecode, because both leap year and drop-frame timecode came into being for the sole purpose of reconciling two different time bases on which we do things with mundane regularity.
 
Take the calendar first: our calendar simply charts the sequence of the individual days that comprise a single year. The day is based, of course, on a single rotation of the earth on its axis, whereas the year is based on a single revolution of the earth around the sun. Rotation and revolution are the two different time bases on which our calendar is constructed.
 
Since it takes about 365.25 days for the earth to revolve around the sun, we collect four of those quarter days and add them together into a single day-February 29-that appears on the calendar once every four years.
 
We do this because there's no such thing as a quarter-day: you couldn't start a New Year at 6:00 a.m. After all, a day is a day and cannot be partitioned like that. It's an integer.
 
It's important to see that the concept of the yearly calendar comprises 366 days-February 29 is not imaginary. But rather than adding it every four years, what we are really doing is dropping it from the calendar in every year that is not a multiple of four. If the year is not divisible by four, then we drop February 29 from our count of days in that year.
 
It's exactly the same with drop-frame timecode, where frames are analogous to days, and hours to years. A video frame is a whole thing, an integer, and we count 30 of them in one second. But the rate at which they proceed is a bit less than 30 per second, more like 29.97 frames per second.
 
This is the same sort of fractional discrepancy that exists in the annual rate of 365.25 days per year.
 
We deal with it the same way, by dropping two frames from the count at the very beginning of every minute that is not a multiple of 10. In that first second, there are only 28 frames.
 
So frames 00 and 01 simply do not exist at the beginning of every minute of timecode that doesn't have a zero at the end of it (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 00 minutes being the exceptions), just as February 29 does not exist in any year that can't be divided by four. It's as simple as that.
 
Why go to the bother of doing this? For the calendar, it's long been considered important that the seasons start at roughly the same time every year: if we didn't have February 29 as a corrective, then the beginning of spring, for example, would progress steadily back through February, January, December, and so on as the years rolled by.
 
For producers, it's important that the time displayed by your timecode reader agrees with the realtime clock on the control room wall. Without drop-frame time code, a one-hour program as measured by your time code would actually run three seconds and 18 frames too long, and that would wreak havoc with broadcast schedules.
 
Note that what we are NOT doing is cutting out frames from our program and leaving them on the cutting room floor, as some of my former students at the Toronto Film School used to believe. Those "dropped" frames are simply never there in the first place, just as February 29 will not "be there" in 2013, 2014, and 2015. The calendar works as "drop-day" code.
 
The takeaway from this blog entry is that if you can intuitively grasp the concept of leap year, then you've already got the essence of drop-frame timecode. Conceptually, they are one and the same.
 
Associated Buzz Creative (www.abcbuzz.com) is a media, publicity and entertainment creative house based in Toronto, drawing on founder and creative director Alan Hardiman's 25-years' experience in film and television post production.

 
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