Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Future of traditional TV

I read an article from The Gazette this morning that at first, I thought was a joke. To sum it up quickly, the article said that the Canadian Media Production Association (let’s call them the CMPA), an organism in charge of representing canadian producers, is suggesting to the CRTC to implement fees to online services, such as Netflix, to help Canadian producers. The reason they’re giving is that “services that offer streaming video content, such as Hulu, Google TV, Apple TV and iTunes, represent a threat to the current business models of the cable companies”.

Wait, are these guys serious ? Is it just me or does that sound like one of the worse excuses ever from an old, out-of-the-game CEO that just can’t keep up with the new ideas and systems that are at the forefront of modern technology ? The people from this so-called “association” will really need to get a state-of-the-art GPS to find a way to get their heads out of their asses and start telling their members that they have to come-up with new solutions to challenge these new medias. If they don’t, the weather forecast for them will soon be resembling: “chances of deficit with a strong current of bankruptcy coming from the South”.

Let me get this straight… Let’s say I build a brand new, modern steel factory, right next to another steel factory that was built in 1983. With my high-tech equipment, I’m able to get the job done twice as fast as the other factory, by spending half the money the other one does. Will my neighbour go to some random organism and say: “Listen, you need to come up with a plan so I can get 10% of this new guy’s revenue, because I just can’t keep up with him.” Huumm, the answer is most likely, NO. My neighbour will get his shit straight and invest in some new equipment, something he should have done every 10 years. By doing that, he will make sure he keeps his already loyal clientele, and probably get some new customers too, that wouldn’t have come to him, knowing that his installations were not up to par.

Enough with the comparisons, but I think you get the point. What the CMPA is asking is completely absurd. The only ones they have to blame for being threatened by Netflix and company is themselves. They dug their own graves when they didn’t see the potential that the Internet could have in terms of video streaming. They showed great closure of mind and a total lack of avant-garde.

What these new online video services are bringing is exactly what TV hasn’t been able to offer since its creation, and that is on-demand anything, basically. The TV concept has always set its rules, its schedules, its durations… This system is totally out-dated. Why is a TV show obligated to have a specific length (30 minutes, 60 minutes…) ? Would it kill anybody if a TV show started at 9:42pm ? Would it make anyone go crazy if a TV show lasted 18 minutes ?

Yes, it was structured back in the 90s. It made it easy to build schedules. But hey, welcome to the 21st century. People don’t care about schedules anymore, they care about what they want to watch. What if I want to watch the new Rihanna music video ? Am I going to sit in front of MTV, waiting for some kind of Top 10 to start ? No, I’ll go on Youtube and be able to watch it in less than a minute. What if I want to watch Saving Private Ryan ? Am I going to turn on CBS and hope that today is the one day every two years that they broadcast that movie ? No, I’ll check Netflix or iTunes Store and start watching it instantly. This is just the way it is today, and major broadcasters have not all followed.

I’m not going to name names here, but one broadcaster I work with occasionally, still broadcasts in standard definition, 4:3 ratio, and on TAPES. Yes, you heard right, Betacam, good old video tapes. Are these guys aware that something in recent history was created, called the USB drive, and you can get them at Best Buy for 8.99$, and fit a couple of TV shows in there ? Their main argument is always that switching from analog to digital costs too much. Yeah, something else also costs too much. It’s called “lawyer fees when you fill for bankruptcy”. People are finding cures for cancer nowadays, I can’t believe that AT LEAST switching your broadcast mode from 4:3 to 16:9 is that big of a deal.

It doesn’t take a masters degree in marketing to figure these things out. Where does television make its money ? Advertising of course. So, the TV CEOs must keep a close eye on ad stats. Well, unfortunately for them, I do too, and here is how it goes: From 2008 to 2009, TV advertising suffered a loss of 12% in revenue. Recession will you say ? Strangely, the online advertisement, from 2008 to 2009, grew 8.5%. Maybe if CEOs took this stat seriously two years ago, they wouldn’t be begging for a charity tax from online providers today.

Oh yeah, I haven’t talked about Blockbuster, the American empire of video rentals. Guess what, they’ve filled for bankruptcy, and they’re facing huge lawsuits from major studios, such as Universal, for unpaid fees. And why is it like that ? Because when Netflix and iTunes came around, people realized that getting out of your home and walking in endless alleys of movies for several minutes to find that the one movie you wanted to see is already rented, seemed kind of senseless, especially when you can grab a remote at home and start watching anything you want in seconds, for the same price.

Now I’m no expert in Hulu and company, but I know Netflix quite well. Netflix, in the US, grew from 10 million members in January 2009, to 20 million subscribers in January 2011. Now that, CEOs, is what I call growth. And that is excluding their canadian stats. If I go more local, Radio-Canada, the french CBC, released Tou.tv, their online little brother, about a year ago. Here are their stats: 25 million connections, 2 million visits per month, and 85 000 social network shares. Yeah, in one year, in a 7-million people market that is the province of Quebec. I think these stats speak for themselves.

Seriously, CMPA, you are ridiculous. This is a childish, unprofessional reaction from people who look like they have no clue where their businesses are supposed to go. You really need to wake up and see that TV, as we know it, is meant to disappear. The era of schedules is over, and the era of the consumer’s decision is at your doorstep. And if you let them knock and don’t answer soon, very soon, they’ll knock on your neighbour’s door, who’s already equipped with the technology they are looking for.

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Education First’s Live the Language

While browsing on Toch Studio’s blog earlier, I stumbled upon this new ad campaign for Education First, a language-learning school network established worldwide. The campaign is named Live the Language, and it is accompanied by four 2-minute videos showcasing the student lifestyle in different cities, with different languages.

Honestly, for me, this is the best ad campaign for schools I’ve ever seen. It has a genuine happy feel that few schools have been able to achieve with their TV/web ads.

Directed by Gustav Johansson, the four videos portray the arrival of a foreign student in a new city: Paris, Barcelona, Beijing, London. To illustrate the language-learning side of the experience, the video features simple images or actions accompanied by nice typography showing the word in its native language.

The four ads are beautifully shot, and the casting is impeccable. For once, someone has been able to cast actors (the question is, are they even actors ??) that are genuinely good-looking and don’t look like a bunch of Milan supermodels or Jersey Shore douchebags.

The ads also succeeded in presenting the different cities in a very appealing way, without making a simple, cliche mixture of various landmarks shots. For example, putting the Sagrada Familia in the Barcelona video.

This is really a feel-good ad that would definitely make me think about applying to this program if I were still a student. Congratulations on a job well done.

Kanye West – All of the Lights

Not sure what to think about this one, directed by Hype Williams. One of the best songs of the year, that’s for sure, but the video…

I love the cop cars sequences, the lighting looks amazing and Kanye’s intensity is hard to match. I’m not sure about the seizure-style typography and the Rihanna sequences, even though her outfit is sexy as hell. Sorry Yeezy, I don’t think you put out a video that matched the caliber of the song.

Swix.tv Introduction

A couple weeks ago I released a little behind the scenes video of an opening title sequence I did for Swix.tv, without however showing off the final result. Well, now that Swix.tv has been launched, there’s no more secret to be kept, so here it is.

When finishing the video, the client and I came to the decision to change the soundtrack, to maybe better suit the intro to the targeted audience, because the intro is definitely not what you usually see in the freeskiing domain. I thought it’d be fun then to show you guys the original version. So here it is, my “Director’s Cut” of the Swix.tv intro.

Enjoy.

Arcade Fire, the Grammys, America and Ignorance

Yesterday, the whole world was in shock after the Grammy jury made a bold and daring move by awarding the prestigious award of Album of the Year to underdogs Arcade Fire, for their album The Suburbs. With opponents like Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum, no one imagined that an indie-rock band from Montreal could take down those pop/hip-hop juggernauts in a David-versus-Goliath scenario.

From my point of view, the Grammy’s jury achieved what the Hollywood foreign press (and most likely the Academy too) failed at doing, and that is recognizing talent and originality over financial stats and sales. They’ve opened the door to alternative music to get more exposure and more recognition, and it feels good to see something that is not labeled as pop win such an important award.

Of course, like any year, there is some disagreement from the public’s opinion about who wins and who doesn’t, but this is how contests work when they’re decided by a jury, and you’ll never receive unanimous positively-critical acclaim for a judged decision, but the “controversy” after the winners are announced is always a source of debate, which makes it even more interesting.

But yesterday, the American people (slight generalization here) proved once again that they’re a bunch of selfish, self-centered, ignorant people. After Arcade Fire’s win, the social media scene started being invaded by hateful comments about the band, along with the creation of a website called whoisarcadefire.com , with posts showing off Twitter posts that sounded like “Who the fuck is Arcade Fire ?” and “How the fuck can they win against my homeboy Em”. Allright, in 2008, I too was disappointed that Kanye’s Graduation lost to Herbie Hancock, and I expressed my disappointment via social media saying that “Mr. West should have won”, and I think that sharing your opinion is good. What is NOT good, is starting to hate on an extremely talented band because your musical knowledge is as vast as a hamster’s cage.

For those I’m aiming at, let’s start from the beginning. Is it possible that if you don’t know one of the 5 nominees that have a shot at winning Album of the Year, that your opinion on the subject could be categorized as “utterly useless” ? My guess would be, absolutely ! Now, if you’ve never heard about Arcade Fire (but know the lyrics to every Lady Gaga’s songs), chances are you don’t cruise around music websites a lot. Let’s point out a couple of stats here:

– Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs is currently the #3 seller in the iTunes Store in the USA.
The Suburbs has 5 number 1 titles on Billboard.com.
– Back in August, The Suburbs debuted as #1 seller in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland.
– Arcade Fire made the cover of a small magazine that you may have heard of… it’s called TIME.

Oh and I almost forgot, The Suburbs is still in the Billboard Top 200, 7 months after its release, in front of a couple of under unknowns, like Kid Cudi, Taylor Swift and Avenged Sevenfold, but who cares, you probably have never heard of them either.

Now one thing the general public needs to understand too, is that the award goes to the best ALBUM, and not the album that contains the songs most played on Sirius satellite radio. I’ve listened to all the albums nominated yesterday, except for Lady Antebellum’s and I can say that anyone who says Gaga deserved the award is completely wrong. If anyone should’ve won instead of AF, it’s Katy Perry, that brought a new flavor to pop music with her album Teenage Dream (allright, Firework will be the exception). The Suburbs is a masterpiece in terms of harmony and connectivity between the 16 tracks it features. Listening to it from the start to the end is an experience, which The Fame Monster IS NOT !

People need to get their heads out of their asses and realize that there is more to music than Justin Beiber and Madonna’s doppelganger otherwise known as Lady Gaga. If your musical knowledge is limited to MTV’s Top 10, then it’s time for you to start listening to real music or stop posting hateful comments about a band that your retarded selfish person has never heard of, even less listened to. Many people that I will describe as more open-minded than others, RT’ed one of Kanye West’s tweet from last night, which went like this: “#Arcade fire!!!!!!!!!! There is hope!!! I feel like we all won when something like this happens! FUCKING AWESOME!”. If someone like Kanye, who usually has a pretty strong and open opinion about everything, dares to say something like that, maybe Arcade Fire’s win isn’t such a fiasco after all… but that’s for you guys to judge.

Congratulations to the Grammys for seeing past record sales, and finally, congratulations to the Arcade Fire for their win and one of the most genuine award-speech ever.

Let’s clarify “art”

Warning: If you’re a gypsy artist who practices sculpture with empty toilet paper rolls, listen to the complete discography of The Decemberists and your look is somewhat related to this guy, you should think twice before reading this post. Otherwise, enjoy.

Allright, on a standard blogging day, it would be normal for me on this Monday night to post and give my thoughts about last Sunday’s Superbowl ads. But hey, there must be hundreds of thousands of articles on the World Wide Web that will provide you with much more in-depth information than my patience will ever let me achieve, so instead of wasting my time, I decided to write about a very huge problem our society has been facing lately: art. Now before you stop reading this and label me as a corporate asshole who has no knowledge of what art is, let me put you in context.

Last Saturday I went to see a show called 4-Hands iPhone, by Atau Tanaka and Adam Parkinson. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t feel ignorant, it’s VERY normal. I wish I had a Youtube video or something to show you what pain I felt for the 40 minutes the show lasted, but I can’t find one, so you’ll have to let my words recreate the feeling for you.

The “concept” was to have two “performers” handle an iPhone in each hand, and move them around to create “music” through the reaction of sensors and apps from their phones.

Let me rephrase this.

The show presented two guys standing on a cheaply-lit white stage, holding two iPhones, making slow and incoherent movements that produced what could be labeled as the most annoying sound the world has ever heard, next to my neighbour’s lawn-mower on a Saturday morning. Sometimes, this eardrum killer was accompanied by sounds that resembled the scream of dying birds or violins burning in a bonfire. This auditive torture lasted for more or less 40 minutes, accompanied by sighs and whispers of people in the audience that went like: “How long is this going to last ??”

So the “show” finished, and I left with an unordinary feeling of frustration inside me that felt closely like if someone had laughed straight to my face for close to an hour. And then something struck me. Where is art going nowadays ?

Let’s be honest, contemporary art has given the right and possibility to any clueless idiot with a very poor sense of creativity to build, compose or paint the worst piece of shit in recent history and call it “art”. I think it’s time to put things back in perspective and classify what is art and what is not. This will be a daunting task, but it has to be done, for the sake of art itself.

First and foremost, the fact that what you do is “different” doesn’t mean that it’s art. Stop finding meanings to things that have none, and especially, stop pretentiously saying that the audience is not intelligent enough to understand your “masterpiece”, because it is not the case. The audience doesn’t understand your work because of the fact that it’s a total useless piece of crap that has nothing to do with art. Things can be different and understandable, and APPEALING. Pink Floyd made music that was different, and they sold out stadiums for years in a row, and people liked their “different” music. Picasso painted differently, and his work gets sold for millions nowadays, and people hang it on their walls. Tarsem Singh makes movies that are considered different, and he hits big numbers at the box office.

Then, a piece of art needs to have something artistic to it. Perhaps the hardest factor to define, I can’t provide a straight answer for that, but I can tell you what IS NOT art. A packaging of irritating noises that sounds like a semi-functional steel factory IS NOT art. An out-of-focus, badly-lit picture of your girlfriend sitting sexily on a plastic chair in your backyard IS NOT art. 7 rusty screws glued together that are supposed to illustrate the rebirth of Christ when looked at through a telescope IS NOT art.

Also, the mean to create your piece doesn’t justify its cheapness. I don’t care if you spent years creating a system where your movements are detected by an alien device to create music, if it sounds like shit, then it was a total waste of time. I don’t care if you painted Barack Obama’s portrait using a shovel stuck in your nose, if the painting looks like Chuck Norris, then you failed.

Finally, if your “art” is appreciated by a small circle composed of your brother, your sister’s friends, your parents and 3 ultimate-hipsters who you’re friends with on Facebook but you’ve never met, then chances are your art maybe just a goddamn hobby. And that’s FINE. Do whatever you want in your spare time, it’s your right and I’m good with people doing something they like in their free time. But I mean, it’s pretty easy to see when you have no talent, and if it’s the case, then keep your so-called “art” to yourself, get better, try hard, and maybe someday it will pay off.

“Art” and “popular” are not opposite terms that can’t be put in the same sentence. It’s really easy for an untalented hipster to call out real artists who have success, make money out of it and are world-known. It’s easy for them to say that what these guys do is business, and that it’s not art, and that they sold-out, but here’s the fact: These “business” people have way more talent than you will ever dream of having, they’ve made a name for themselves and they’ve appealed to the masses, while you are sitting alone in you’re 500-square foot apartment, smoking marijuana and trying to put together potato-roots to recreate the Eiffel Tower.

Done.