Titanic 2, Coming Soon!

April 17, 2006

I love YouTube! I'll like to think that it exists so that a whacky and tacky person like moi can watch all kinds of whacky and tacky videos! A clip that I enjoy is a trailer of the movie “Titanic 2”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio of course. Here’s the catch – this move does not exist…but it sure is believable! The super-titles were well done, the voice-over sounded professional, and the editing was smooth. The creator put it together using clips from Leo’s films, as well as other action movies like Con-Air. As someone who likes to do video editing, I certainly appreciate the creativity and editing skills of the trailer’s creator.

This trailer is an example of grassroots appropriation from the kingdom of fandom! It is a bottom-up evolution and mutation of existing cultural forms.It mashes movies, celebrities clips and music into a new "product" with a refreshing perspective. Power to the people! Hooraaay!

My personal view on the ethical issues involved is that such creative re-working is a win-win situation for both corporations and citizens of fandom. It increases the cultural value of the Titanic and other Leonardo movies. At the same time, showcases the creative talents of normal citizens. I don’t think this trailer will reduce the sales of DVDs and soundtracks related to these films, if anything, it might even revive Celine Dion’s career (ok, I m exaggerating here). End of the day, nobody gets hurt! But things might get thorny when there's revenue involved for the trailer's creator…I'll explore the copyright and revenue issues next time.

In 2004, while I was a trailer producer for a television network back in Singapore, I did a spoof of the American presidential debates for a movie trailer. This movie (check it out here) was scheduled to be telecast one day after the third and final round of the 2004 American Presidential Debates, which was heavily promoted by the rival channels in Singapore.

My spoof aims to ride on the hype generated by the American political scene over the past few months, and capitalize on the momentum generated by rival channels and other medium such as newspapers, magazines and internet. With the near 50/50 support for Bush and Kerry, it also aims to reflect (and satirize) the state of America's voting population at that point.

This cannot be considered a grassroots appropriation since I had access to professional editing equipments and the video footages. Still, it is an example of creative re-working and it taps into audiences existing awareness of another prominent (though totally unrelated) event.

Over the past two decade, the grassroots movement has been greatly enhanced by the Digital Revolution – the relative ease of access and lower cost of new media technologies. This includes the emergence and proliferation of digital formats, hardware and software such as Personal Computers, the internet, Digital Video camera, Photoshop, AfterEffects, iMovie, FinalCut Pro etc. As technologies continues to improve and becomes more affordable, the grassroots appropriation movement will only grow bigger in future.

 

P.S. Check out this other example of grassroots movement with a political/social agenda – A spoof of the Australian Tourism Ad "Where The Bloody Hell Are You". It generated some controversy from the public and the tourism board.

Advertisements

Entertainment Supersystem?

April 15, 2006

The set reading for this week – H. Jenkins’ “Quentin Taratino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture” – brought to my attention this phrase “entertainment supersystem”. Doesn’t it sound super? Let’s go a few steps back and see how this came about. Global consolidation of corporate organizations! Well, let’s stick to the media industry for now. The world is getting smaller? Or is it?

The global media industry is dominated by a handful of powerful first tier corporations – AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, AT&T.These are the Super Star Destroyers of the global media system, if i may. Take Sony Corporation, for example. It is a manufacturer of audio, video, communications, and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets. The organization recorded consolidated annual sales of approximately USD$64 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31st, 2006. It has 913 consolidated subsidiaries worldwide, employing 158,500 people.

Between 1987 to1989, it spent a total of US$7 billion to acquire CBS Records and Columbia TriStar, now known as Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Pictures respectively. Sony acquired rival Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in September 2004 in a deal pegged at nearly $5 billion. Likewise in 2004, Sony Music Entertainment and Bertelsmann AG's BMG completed a deal to create the world's No. 2 music company, Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

In 2002, Sony Pictures’ blockbuster movie, Spider-Man, enjoyed worldwide success, taking almost $822 million at the box office. The global appeal of the movie was utilized to promote a range of Sony products internationally, including mobile phones, Walkmans and computer games. This leverages on the strengths of one division to improve performance in other divisions, achieving synergy and adding value to the company as a whole.

Now, sorry for the hard, boring stats. I hope that gave you a pretty good idea of the magnitude of the word “Super”. Now, back to “entertainment supersystem”, which refers to “the series of intertexutal references and promotions spawned by any successful products”. For example, Spider-man. It originated from comic books, and move on to TV, films, toys and computer games etc.

Think you are an independent and opinionated individual? Think again!!! The corporations are taking over the universe! They are horizontally integrated, with business spanning across publishing, television, film, music and the internet. The Dark Side controls every aspect of our cultural understanding, brainwashing us into mindless submission!

But fear not! For every Super Star Destroyer built, there are thousands more new X-Wings out there, fighting the good fight. The privatization of cultural production has been counter balance by the resistance movements of the “rebels” – the participatory cultural stemmed from ground-level fan communities. Armed with affordable new technology (ironically, provided by the Dark Side), fueled by creativity and eager for action, the rebels are making their presence felt! This counter movement should not come as a surprise. It is somewhat, destiny! After all, Darth Vader did spawn Luke Skywalker!

(also check out these links on Global media ownership)

http://www.mediachannel.org/ownership/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_concentration


Welcome to The Dark Side!

April 8, 2006

The increasing popularity of online gaming looks set to continue with the launch of the next-generation video gaming consoles – Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony's Playstation 3. The first generation Xbox online feature, Xbox Live, already has an existing base of about 2 million gamers. The Xbox 360, with enhanced Xbox Live features, is likely to attract more subscribers. The new online feature goes beyond the gaming arena itself. Users can use the improved Xbox Live to receive text, voice and short video messages, and even video conferencing using the camera add-on. This expands the appeal of Xbox360 to beyond the traditional gamers.

Eventually, Microsoft envisions part of the Xbox Live marketplace to be run by the gaming community itself, where creative types can design, upload and sell contents to other users. This type of practice is common amongst the PC-based online gaming community, but not console based online gaming arena. This way, Microsoft is bringing the console gaming market closer to the PC gaming market. Oh, I coined up this term “CBMMOG” (how original…), where CB stand for Console-Based. You heard it here first, it's not even on Wikipedia yet! Sniff sniff… I smell a PHD brewing…

While Sony’s Playstation series had been slow to catch on to the online gaming community, its latest PS3, slated for November 2006 release, plans to change that. The PS3 will have computer and entertainment media capabilities. Like the Xbox360, technological convergence is one important feature of the new console. PS3 allows for downloading of music, movies and videoconferencing. It will also have internet and network capabilities. Looks like Sony is also expanding its target audience to beyond the traditional gamers.

Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 are killer game machines. Just check out the graphics! The 360 already has high definition, cinematic graphics. PS3’s tech specs are slated to be 2x more powerful!The wave of technological convergence is unstoppable. As it is, the next-generation gaming consoles are already running on faster chips than the standard PC, and have extended entertainment capabilities such as playing DVDs and CDs. The way things are going, will the two gaming platforms eventually merge with television into a all-in-one powerful computing/gaming/entertainment system? That might not be too far-fetched, considering that Personal Computers with media center capabilities are already being used for recording and viewing TV programs. I think it's not a question of IF, but WHEN…

I’m not an online gaming fan (yet). So far I prefer the localized fighting, racing, shooting games in arcades. Compare to online RPG, They uses less brain cells, but gives me more adrenaline rush. Yup, call me a dense monkey. I plan to buy a PS3 or 360 when I start working again, simply…can’t….resist…They’re too cool to miss. And probably a High-Definition (HD) plasma TV. If you don’t realize by now (you dense monkey), the world is one big conspiracy – Get a game console… Ohhh! It would really go well with a HD set and broadband! Already has broadband? Get a wider bandwidth! What’s the point of getting these cool gaming machines without being able to realize their full potential?!?

Both machines have a grand ambition: to dominate our living rooms! If you are not a gamer – online or otherwise – yet, watch out! These big corporations will get to you or your future generations, sooner or later, Dead or Alive (haha…ok it's corny)! Welcome to the dark side (of consumerism).


gamersunderappreciated.com

April 7, 2006

 

An interesting discussion took place during the lecture on MMOG communities. A girl was pushing forth her argument that players who got kicked out of an online gaming community should not bother coming back. It’s just a game, why bother seeking recourse? What’s there to fight for? Move on.

(p.s. If I don’t get this exactly right, and this hot, sexy babe is reading this, don’t kill me!).

The lecturer, Sal Humphreys, was trying to tell her (henceforth know as the “hottie”) that these gamers have their own emotional and personal ties to the online communities. That although it’s just a game, the social relationships are real. Somehow, the hottie didn’t quite get it.

I respect hottie’s point of view, although I disagree with it. The sad thing is that she disagreed with Sal’s points and just didn’t seem to have any empathy for the gamers. I am not an online gamer, but I can understand their attachment. I worked as a trailer producer back in Singapore, and there are times when other people don’t appreciate my trailers or the ratings for the show turn out to be bad. I respect the outcome and opinions, but I’m still attached to my lousy trailer, not matter how flimsy it is to others. I have put in time and effort into scripting and editing this project, it is mine! Take constructive feedback, and improve next time. Similarly, anyone who’s ever written a poem, short story or done any creative work might feel attached to it no matter what others think.

The online games can be both a creative forum and a social community. Gamers build houses, landscapes and social groups in the virtual environment. The point is that people put in REAL time and effort in these games and they enjoy it. This might seem fake, silly or trivial to others, but to the gamers, it means a whole lot more!


The Spirit of Hollywood in Blogosphere

April 3, 2006

Since blogosphere is such a wide ranging arena, I’m going to limit my “in-depth” discussion to the area I know best – hot chicks & hot chicks with brains…woohoo!

The two famous bloggers in Singapore, Xiaxue and Dawn Yeo, they rock my world man…nah, just kidding! They are interesting case studies that fulfill my academic and personal “needs” (oh naughty!!!) at the same time.

Dawn Yeo, with an avatar of “clapbangkiss”, blogged her way to celebrity status in and out of the virtual environment. She was the cover girl for the December issue of FHM Singapore and was voted October 2005’s “Hottest Blogger” on www.hottestblogger.com (a Singapore site). She was also featured on other popular local magazines such as Her World, Cleo, and 8 Days.

In November 2005, Dawn was signed on by Tinsel Management to be groomed into an artiste. It plans to groom her for acting, singing and advertising opportunities in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. But celebrity status came at a price. She was alleged to have undergoing plastic surgery to enhance her looks. Her enemies posted photos of her in her younger days at school, in which she looked drastically different. The controversy over Dawn’s alleged plastic surgery became so heated that on November 12 2005, “Dawn Yang” became the top search on Technorati.

I’m going to quote a line from the movie Chicago, “If you can’t be famous, be infamous!” She manages to be both! Personally I don’t think this episode dented her popularity. She might lose some fans, and gain others along the way. This virtual platform is taking up the characteristics of show business. Talk about the convergence movement, it’ll be interesting to see how if her showbiz career will take off from here.

Another local blogger Wendy Cheng aka Xiaxue commented on Dawn in a newspaper interview: ‘She’s not a real blogger. She’s just a pretty girl who happens to have a blog.’

Ouch! I sense a catfight. Now, this brings us to Xiaxue. In Chinese, “xiaxue” means snowing, and is considered a nice name for a girl. In November 2005, she was ranked the 5th most powerful woman in the blogosphere by Jack of all Blogs. Her blog has also won several online awards, mostly on popularity: Best Singapore Blog 2003, Best Asian Blog 2004, and 2005 Weblog Best Asian Weblog. The daily hit-rate on her blog is supposedly around 20,000 to 70,000 (remember, “supposedly”). In July 2005, her blog was hacked into, and deleted; the act attracted a lot of attention in the local internet community. A fellow blogger gave an (almost) academic perspective on Xiaxue and her popluarity, calling her “the Paris Hilton of the Blogosphere”.

She’s also been feature in numerous newspapers and magazines articles and interviews in Singapore. She appeared in a current affairs program which explores blogging as a social issue. Her blog site is almost like a website – with sections introducing characters, FAQs, photos (an external link) and a Media Center!

I am impressed by the “Xiaxue Media Center” within her blog! This girl understands the importance of other media outlets, and does her homework on public relations. The Photos link to an external page which has tones of her photo. She even coined up the term “Blogder” in her FAQ section, which stands for her reader (quote “blog + reader”). A check on Wikipedia shows that an entry for this term has not been created. Any takers?

Judging by her site, Xiaxue is tech-savvy, media-savvy, and PR-savvy. No wonder, given that she has worked as a columnist for newspapers and magazines. It is undeniable that Xiaxue and Dawn became mini celebrities through their blogs. Their popularity snowballed with increasing media coverage (and controversies). They were elevated from one platform to another, from the “virtual” to the “real”. The spirit of Hollywood came to the Blogosphere, and I suspect it’s here to stay.


my slow awakening…

April 1, 2006

I first heard of the term “Blog” about 4 years ago. A techno-savvy ex-colleague of mine was explaining the blogging trend on the internet. I understood it as just a sort of online diary then. I thought it was another avenue for the layperson desperately seeking attention to get his/her 15 minutes of fame, bitch about the world, etc. In a way, I was right, and wrong.

Dense monkey I was (still is, I suspect)…not knowing the journalistic, political, social and cultural impact that it possess. I have to admit, I was more interested in reading about the juicy, intimate (and dense) details of those “Paris Hiltons of Bloggers” out there. Then again, 3 years ago, I was much less engaged with the net. 3 years ago, I was much less trustful of the net. 3 years ago, I was not studying at QUT. I was working an average 12 – 15 hours a day (no joke) in a high-class sweatshop disguised as a television network back in Singapore. Oh yeah! I was part of the “old media”, and I was skeptical of “new media”.

Now, I am a convert! I have seen the light! MSN, Google, email, Skype are part of my daily life! I have to thank this overseas study stint at QUT for “brainwashing” me. I go on the net everyday to communicate with friends, do research for projects, read about news, and entertain myself with comics and videos. Every semester here in QUT, I have at least one subject that has to do withnew media . Initially, I found these quite dry and boring, but as it progresses, I slowly began to understand and appreciate the transformative power of the internet, from both the academic influence and my personal engagements.

Blogging is an extension of this power. There are many types of blogs out there, from online diaries, photoblog, shock blog, to video blog (Vlog). The latest craze in Vlog town is rocketboom, a daily three minute mock news program that covers everything from tech trends to pop culture with frank irreverence and sly humor. As reported by Wikipedia, the Janurauy 9, 2006 issue of Newsweek gave the figure as "130,000 daily viewers." On February 2, Rocketboom was incorporated into an episode of the TV series CSI in a fictional scene of a murderer watching Congdon (Rocketboom anchor) comment on the crime. In the month following the CSI episode, the number of Rocketboom viewers jumped to 200,000. Not bad for a two-person team consisting of producer Andrew Baron and actress-anchor Amanda Congdon. Given it's lean production cost to audience ratio, it could potentially make television networks sit up to rethink their prodution model. "TV will be transformed," says Mitchell Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corp.

"I think the phrase “everyone is a media outlet” sums up new media. Personal websites, online communities, online gaming, forums, blogs, vlogs…I wonder what’ll be the next big thing…One thing for sure, there are alreday signs of new and old media converging. And this convergence movement is taking place at both the technological front (e.g. media centre, mobile phones, video gaming consoles like Xbox360, PS3) and the cultural front (e.g. machinima, Rocketboom on CSI). More on convergence next time, maybe…