The Digital Option and Video Sales

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Investor Place reports that despite the recent surge in interest for digital copies of films that people still much prefer to view their movies using DVDs and Blurays.  The particular point of interest for the article, “Why UltraViolet, Flixster Won’t Save Movie Sales” ,is the service called Flixer (owned by Warner Bros) which utilizes the UltraViolet cloud.  The writer of this article, Anthony Agnello, clarifies the service by stating,  “UltraViolet…gives consumers who buy a DVD or Blu-ray version of a movie access to a digital version of that movie, which can be downloaded repeatedly on other devices because UltraViolet stores the user’s digital rights info.”

The article notes that the recent interest in digital movie sales is driven by consumer interest in websites such as Hulu and Netflix.  From a personal perspective, I can’t see why film execs would jump to the conclusion that consumers want to watch their movies solely from download.  I use Hulu to get caught up on certain shows that I may have missed through the week and older shows that are no longer in syndication.  Hulu is great because it is free and easy.  Netflix, on the other hand, being a paid service is an entirely different matter.  What I love about Netflix is that you have the option to stream certain things while still retaining the ability to get discs in the mail.

As an avid movie watcher I do appreciate the opportunity to get a digital version of a film in addition to the hard copy so that I can take the movie with me.  The problem is that I love my DVD collection.  I enjoy looking at my shelf of movies almost as much as I enjoy looking at my shelf of books.  Plus, with the recent technological advances in television and movie players, my movie watching experience is much richer when I can actually sit down and watch a movie from my television.

Agnello explains the strain that the digital era is having on the film industry by stating, “if the current market is representative of where the home video market will be in five years, the UltraViolet coalition needs to reassess its plans. Forget the risk of tarnishing its reputation with retail partners like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) by emphasizing digital sales. Consumers aren’t interested in buying movies at all.”

The issue at hand is that with the current economy consumers, myself included, are less willing to pay full price for movies.  I haven’t purchased a movie more expensive than $10 in the last six months because I know that the prices for new movies will drop within a few weeks of release.  So the task that Hollywood is facing is how to harness the money that is being lost every year due to decreased sales across the board.  If Flixster can make itself out to be the iTunes of the movie industry, things may equalize.

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Nintendo Tries to Bounce Back

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Watching the holiday commercials this season, I noticed something a little odd.  While the gaming consoles such as the XBOX Kinect and PS3 are being heavily advertised, I have literally only seen one ad for Nintendo.  This struck  me as more than a little odd, particularly because Nintendo has reasserted its dominance in the gaming community over the past few years.

Image: Wii U vs. Wii

Doing a little digging I came across a number of articles harping on the so-called downfall of the Japanese giant.  But, as a child of the ’90’s, I just couldn’t believe all of the hype.  Finally, I found an article (Talking Point: Nintendo’s Plans to Fight Back) that gave me the other side of the story.  While Nintendo may be down, they are most definitely not out.

This Christmas is likely to be that last breath for the popular Wii console, as Nintendo is beginning plans to release a new 3D competitor for market.  Nintendo has had mixed success with the first generation of the 3DS so the final holiday push for the Wii is more of an attempt to keep fans engaged before releasing their newest products.

The only problem with the latest incarnation of the Wii system is that it will no longer be compatible with Gamecube products.  In my opinion, that will only further hurt Nintendo sales as the Wii was the last system compatible with earlier models.  Gamers who love to revisit favorites such as older Zelda, Mario, and Spyro will have to either keep their older Wii, break out the old Gamecube, or retire the games permanantely.

Beyond making an effort to revitalize their console products, Nintendo is also releasing a new line of games that are sure to bring in top dollar.  The 25th Anniversary of the Zelda series is marked by the new game The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.  Kirby will also make a comeback in 2012.

 

Music’s New Frontier

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Yesterday I read an article from thespectrum.com entitled “Where do you get your music?”  I immediately thought to myself, here we go again.  At least this time I’m not talking about video games.

The article is largely a reflection by the writer, JJ Abernathy, as he thinks back on the various musical mediums in his lifetime.  While Abernathy does not go into nearly as much depth as our technology autobiographies, he never mentions which medium he dealt with first, he nonetheless gives voice to some of the issues that we have been grinding on for a long time.

As Abernathy reminisced about his CD players and Sirius radios I began to think back to my own childhood full of my most prized possessions, cassette tapes.  I remember how hard I balked against the wave of CD’s and wonder if Abernathy put up as much of a fight.  Given that his granddaughter had an iPod Shuffle at the age of 6, I sort of doubt it.

What surprised me about Abernathy’s article was the fact that he paused to consider the role of digital media in the world of live entertainment.  As someone who is an avid concert goer I simply can’t imagine living in a world where people would rather tune in to an event when presented with the opportunity to watch it in person.

I love concert DVD’s and Live From The Artists’ Den as much as the next person but, in my opinion, nothing could ever beat the rush of seeing your favorite acts performing on a stage and breathing in the same atmosphere.  Aberthay’s fear is that as people become more accustomed to the instant gratification of digital music that they will lose patience with live entertainment.  My point is that if people haven’t lost interest in live music in, let’s say, the few millenniums they probably won’t stop attending any time soon.

The article nonetheless left me hanging with my many unanswered questions, mainly: what is the next trend in digital media, will file-sharing take the place of purchased music, and will my grandchildren even recognize an iPod? These are the things that keep me up at night, or at least keep me blogging.

Gaming to Correct Lazy Eye

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I kid you not! Yesterday, Medscape Today reported that a new study shows how a steady daily regime of gaming (along with the appropriate medication) can help correct lazy eye

The article notes how it has been standard practice in the medical community to help children under the age of eight to correct their vision but that amblyopia, if left untreated, is viewed as a hopeless case for anyone past puberty.  Recent studies, in addition to the one mentioned above, have proved the standard to be untrue, “a recent study sponsored by the National Eye Institute, and conducted in the United States by the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigation Group, found that 27% of older children showed significant vision gains after undergoing treatment for amblyopia.”

The study prompted researchers to pursue various treatments and the kids who played video games using only the weak eye showed significantly more improvement than those who were put through the standard practice.

Researchers note that the success of the study is more than likely due to the simple fact that people love to play video games.  Thus, the treatment seems more like fun and less like a medical procedure.

As everyone knows by now I am a huge video game nerd, so I was particularly intrigued by this article. We have known for a long time that gaming increases coordination and complex problem-solving skills.  Frankly, I am surprised that it took researchers this long to apply gaming to sight correction studies.

I hope that research in this field carries on as we dig deeper into the connection between technology and natural science, between entertainment and evolution.

Colorizing the Past

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Last night I was watching Living in the Material World, which is the latest George Harrison biography/documentary by Martin Scorsese.  In the first ten minutes of the film, Scorsese uses various film clips from the Second World War era.  Some of them are in black and white, and a rare few are in color.  Quite suddenly I was faced with an issue from three years ago, when the History Channel spearheaded a movement to colorize news reels from ages long since past, my belief that new reels from the pre-colorized age should remain in black and white.

I know that my stance is not widely shared but I simply cannot get over the sense of wrongness I feel whenever I see a bit of colorized film that was never intended for color.  I understand that the world back then was in full color and I can see where some people feel that bringing such footage into color will make it more relate-able.

My point is, however, that by colorizing the footage you are interfering with the medium and potentially the message.  To make a dramatic point, you don’t see people taking DaVinci paintings and turning them into CG environments and characters.  If the point of colorizing the film was for restoration purposes I wouldn’t have as much of a problem but, as the video shows, it is more to sensationalize than to preserve history.

As someone who loves watching classic films, a major part of the fun is trying to guess what color the heroine’s dress might have been.  Likewise, whenever I see black and white news reels of the World War era I am always much more humbled, because they force the mind to really think about what it is seeing and to digest the images in your own terms rather than just being handed the clean-cut truth.

I can only sit back and hope that Civil War photography is never colorized.  Frankly, I never want to see the works of Mathew Brady in color.

Apple’s Requiem

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As I am sure everyone will know by the time we get to class tomorrow afternoon, Apple co-founder and front man Steve Jobs has just passed away.  Here’s the link to the USA Today article if anyone is interested.  The article, written by Jon Swartz, walks readers through the life and times of “the best CEO of the past 50 years.”

While it is certainly a tragedy to lose anyone at such a relatively young age, 56, to cancer I cannot help but wonder about the future of the Apple corporation rather than the death of Steve Jobs.  Jobs was such an essential component of Apple’s public persona that I feel the corporation will feel the impact of his death as heavily as the Disney Corporation lost Walt.

The Apple corporation has made itself such an iconic brand and Jobs, with his underdog story and personal tragedy, was undoubtedly part of their overall appeal.  I am certain that the executives of the company are as struck by the potential changes as they are struck by depression tonight.

As the CEO of Apple, Jobs helped bring the company to the forefront of thought (at least in the minds of those who could afford the products) and even managed to put The Beatles back into the spotlight. Jobs achieved a type of rock star status in the computer industry by the age of 25 and continued gaining notoriety thereafter.   I would wager to say that, for most Mac owners, Steve Jobs was the first person they thought about in relation to the company.

That being said I wonder how much Apple will be able to maintain their place in the spotlight with the death of their leading man.  I have no doubt that the company will continue making money but will they make as much and will they stay as relevant without one of their greatest creative minds?

Editing our heuristics

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After looking through everyone’s posts for the values and criteria assignment I noticed that even the “best” heuristic scale, namely Dr. Cheryl Ball’s, was lacking in areas that we brought up most often in class.  I propose adding the following to the our class heuristics.

Interactivity:

  • Can the audience explore issues more in-depth?
  • If it is a web article or text, can readers view more similar items/pieces by the same author?
  • Is there some kind of evaluation device, either a comments box or poll for information exchange?

Entertainment:

  • Is the audience intrigued by layout/design?
  • Do visual and audio cues enhance the user’s experience?
  • Will the audience respond positively to the overall message?
  • Is the message both memorable and enjoyable?

Audio/Sound

  • Is the sound quality crisp?
  • Can audio be easily heard/understood both verbally and non-verbally?
  • Does sound help emphasize certain points?

Color

  • Does the use of color improve the experience?
  • Do the colors coordinate with the text/visuals?
  • Are the colors pleasing?
  • Does the color scheme help the audience remember?