VR Trivia Battle

It has been a long journey for our crazy VR game show, from the mad dash in 2017 that earned us a spot at GDC and SIGGRAPH, to bootstrapping the company with Azin for nearly two years, then bringing on HTC as our exclusive development and launch partner.  

Finally, VR Trivia Battle (formerly known as Kiss or Kill) is available, exclusively on Viveport!

Continue reading “VR Trivia Battle”

Game Shows are the Real Hero of Innovation

What helps drive mainstream audiences toward new technologies? Is it celebrity endorsement? Big budget special effects? No? Well what about the humble game show?

Content and technology have a vital symbiotic relationship. Just ask any VR developer (ahem) about the need for great content to support a new medium of entertainment – You can’t have one without the other.

From radio to TV to mobile games, and now to live interactive mobile experiences, game shows have always been at the forefront of bringing audiences to a new entertainment technology. This relationship between technology and content was perfectly on display in the 1950s, during the start of the exponential growth of television.  

Continue reading “Game Shows are the Real Hero of Innovation”

Vertical is Personal: IGTV is the Aspect Ratio We’ve Been Waiting For

Kodak, originally known for still photography, transformed culture forever and set a precedent that would go on to last for over a generation. In 1891, Kodak released a transparent roll film, which inventor Thomas Edison used to develop the first motion picture camera.

Technical limitations often dictate a medium. Kodak’s film was created in the 4:3 aspect ratio. The decision by Edison to use Kodak’s film locked filmmakers and audiences into the 4:3 aspect ratio for over a century. Today, Instagram, with its release of IGTV, is following in Edison’s footsteps and solidifying a place in history for vertical video.

Continue reading “Vertical is Personal: IGTV is the Aspect Ratio We’ve Been Waiting For”

Who is Behind Charlie Sheen Winning the Internet?

My post before this one was about Old Spice Guy (Yes, it’s been a while). The Internet agreed it was the bench mark for an innovative social media campaign. It was interactive and different and got the brand’s message across. But once the buzz wore off, and everyone forgot how to spell Isaiah Mustafa, we all wondered what would be next.

We’ve finally got our answer. It’s Charlie Sheen.

Granted, he cheated since he is already a major celebrity, but Sheen has jumped online head first. The campaign isn’t interactive like Old Spice’s, but it’s more effective because it is truly transmedia. It begins with a TV show on a broadcast network and ends in nearly every online entertainment format available.

While everyone else wants to know if Sheen is still on drugs, I want to know who is running this campaign. Yes, there is the post for a social media intern, but that’s just a distraction (and it’s also an ad for Internships.com). This is all too well coordinated. It’s just too … perfect.

First, the power of mass TV and radio stirs the pots and gets people talking. This ABC Interview being the turning point into Act 2 (put that into film terms, why not). The mashups quickly followed and brought the sensation online:

Then he joins Twitter and gets a million followers in 24 hours. Since accomplishing that feat, it has been touted as a World Record ad nauseum. Of course, before then, no one even thought of that metric. Charlie Sheen sure didn’t think of it. Do you know who did? Some clever marketing agency. Now it is a benchmark for anyone trying to enter the online sphere with gusto. Can’t break a million in a day? You lose.

Furthering the proof that there are people behind this, his Twitter account is being monetized, to the tune of a million dollars a year. The mind of a digital agency. Rounding it out is a ustream channel and today, a FunnyOrDie short. You can’t be a funny celebrity online without being on FoD.

If you were given a high profile celebrity, who would do anything, and told to make him huge online, the last two weeks of Sheen is more or less a blue print of how to do it. Everyone is talking about Charlie, offline and on. He is a meme to all, a hero to some, and completely unavoidable.

So, we are left with two questions. 1) Who is the mastermind and 2) To what end – What is Sheen after? This is more than a ‘in your face’ to the execs who canceled his show. This power play must be grabbing for something bigger. The 2012 election isn’t too far away…

The Big Fight and Monetizing Your Life

I’m an Apple Fan Boy. I don’t try to hide it with my MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad. They are great devices. But lately I’ve been… looking. It started with the HTC EVO. Based on the specs and the early reviews, this phone looks like a beast. Or as Engadget said

… its magnificent list of specs reads as though it was scribbled on a napkin after a merry band of gadget nerds got tipsy at the watering hole and started riffing about their idea of the ultimate mobile device: a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 4.3-inch WVGA display, 8 megapixel camera with 720p video recording, HDMI-out, and WiMAX compatibility.

A true powerhouse.

Google has positioned itself in a beautiful way with Android. The fact that I (and many other Apple loyalists) am considering jumping over to Android is a big deal. It’s all part of what I’m calling the Big Fight.

The Power Players of the Big Fight are:

And to a lesser extent
MySpace for starting it all
Twitter for introducing real time
FourSquare for introducing location

The Big Fight is real time, location aware and across all screens. The Big Fight is about control of you – voicemail to email to your social feed and texts; what you are watching on TV or Hulu and who you are watching it with, where you are eating lunch and what you are about to purchase. Your identity (online and off) and that of all your friends. Everything is content and it is all monetizable. That means the top contenders – Google, Apple and Facebook, need access to it all.

Google has established dominance in consumer mobile with Android. It has leverage on more platforms than Apple since Anroid isn’t device specific. Google also has a few social networks (That aren’t doing well, yet). It has massive ad capabilities. In some capacity, it has all the elements that Apple and Facebook have combined. Which is why it is no surprise that iPhone 4.0 is rumored to have tight Facebook integration. They need each other, while Google is able to do it on its own (with massive acquisitions and help from people like Sony and Intel). Apple/Facebook is all about a closed, secure, easy environment for ‘normal’ people. They are mainstream. Google is open but also geeky.

Google has their cards lined up in a way that should make Apple worried because this war has just begun.

Apple tried to get on your TV with their failed Apple TV. While they now have a true content consumption device with the iPad, it’s a personal consumption device. They are behind on taking over your living room. Google TV will (hopefully) bring the web video experience to the big (consumer) screen. No more hunkering around a 21in monitor to watch those funny YouTube videos. It will be seamless on Google TV.

I have been envisioning a dual device content experience for a while. Sit in the living room with the TV on and interact with a tablet or phone. That’s built in to Google TV. Say you are watching one of the new Fall shows on NBC with your HTC EVO in hand. During a commercial you’ll be able to push that funny YouTube video from phone to Google TV seamlessly, watch it with everyone, then get back to your show. That’s fun. That’s event / crowd driven in a new way.

And it’s only the start.

The Android tablet is coming out soon. Now we get some real interactive possibilities in the Android / Google TV ecosystem. For example, a new soap is set to air on MTV which has a choose your own adventure style ending. I don’t think choose your own adventure will have legs in any space, but picking the ending will at least feel natural when you have a device sitting on your lap (instead of having to remember your choice, then the next time you are at a computer remember to go to the Mtv site and pick it). The interaction here is probably more of a marketing hook than anything else and I doubt it will have any Android (or iPad) integration. What will be coming after that, however, is immersive interactive experiences that truly enhances the story.

Enhancing the story is vital. It’s the only way this stuff will stick around and evolve. If it’s not adding emotion, if it’s not helping the story, what’s the point?

Innovative interactive possibilities will surely come in the 2011 and 2012 fall lineup. At that point there will be a large enough group of people wanting to interact who will have the hardware to do it. Even if it’s 200,000 people it allows for HUGE advertiser play. Those 200,000 will be Hyper Engaged. They’ll interact with the show and its brands on their tablet or phone. They’ll investigate product integrations, or perhaps their device will notify them with coupons (or something less lame).

Google now has a complete TV platform, including heavy monetization capabilities.

Where does that leave Apple and Facebook? Facebook has already demonstrated its ability for social viewing with CNNs election coverage integration. It was a good small screen experience. How will Apple and Facebook get into the big screen market? Apple must find a TV strategy if it is going to be a contender in the Big Fight. The iPad is obviously their first step. I’m designing content for it. I think its game changing. But Apple needs to find a way to leverage me on the couch watching TV, because that experience isn’t going anywhere. It’s just going to get better.

Screen Size Democracy

Nick talking about his iPad again. Awesome.

I’ve been watching old episodes of Arrested Development and The Office in ‘passive mode’ on my iPad for a while. They play like music in the background. I’ll glance over while making dinner or brushing my teeth. Why not, right? The iPad makes me want to have content playing at all times. Examining this experience, and the other options available through this device, is important in understanding how it’s going to work in 5-10 years.

The next Story Telling Revolution.

Having exhausted my tolerance of comedy I’d seen ten times before, I put on this lecture by Amy Jo Kim about social game design.

(It’s long but worth it)

The lessons learned from the above video I will save. Instead, I want to examine my habit. I took my netbook out and started writing down thoughts and questions. This was an active experience. But the active element was not contained within the iPad environment. That option isn’t available. Yet. The lecture wasn’t scripted or story driven but the habit of ‘doing’ while watching seemed natural.

Since it was a lazy Sunday, I next fired up the DailyMotion app to watch Compulsions. I had a pre-release DVD of this and watched it months ago, but I watched it on my computer. At work. On my second monitor. While I emailed. And Tweeted. And caught up on RSS feeds. And cycled between 5 different browsers with 10 tabs in each. A multitasked nightmare.  I have tons going on every computing second. It’s not an optimal way to consume content; to get lost in a story. It’s a passive experience. Computing habits are deeply engrained, however, and hard to break.

Luckily, a new habit is being formed now.

The iPad habit. First, you aren’t multi-tasked to death (The iPad despertly needs the 4.0 update to support multitasking, but even with that, you’ll be focused on one thing at a time. My iPad is jailbroken so I’ve already got multitasking). Second, all content is treated the same. Screen size democracy. The 9-inch screen feels bigger than it is. I’ve watched a ton of TV shows and features, so Compulsions was no different than LOST. You lose that stigma of ‘It’s on your computer so it’s bad’. Third, it’s a ‘lean in’ experience. The iPhone OS has been CREATED to lean in. No one has yet capitalized on viewing filmed entertainment in a ‘lean in’ environment. That will be here soon.

On a tablet you want to TOUCH. It feels right. That’s where our new form of entertainment is going to shine. You won’t have a million things going on, but since the habit of doing while watching has been established, some sort of interaction will be natural. I was ready to touch and play with Compulsions. The option just doesn’t exist.

On your 52in web connected tv, you’re gong to want to sit back and watch. That will be your tradiational content experience, indistinguishable from what’s on TV today (Except there will be more options with lower budget and niched targeted shows replacing what we today call Web Series). The hybrid experience will be consuming content on the big screen while you interact via the tablet. This will be great for tentpole events.

With a million iPads sold and people downloading (and paying for) Apps at a breakneck speed, the new market is creating itself. The options are emerging. Now we just need the platform and story. Two parallel paths that need to be developed in tandem. You’ll be seeing that from me very soon.

Momentum: Recapping Dallas

Last Saturday I was part of a panel at the Dallas International Film Festival about creativity on the web.

Short, one-off viral videos have driven interest in original content for the web. But with the introduction of hi-def, web-based players, cheaper high quality cameras and increasingly savvy viewers we may be approaching a watershed moment: a time when the web is the final destination for high-end material. Is the web a viable outlet for creative, original content?

Matt Bolish (Dallas IFF): Moderator

Justin Muller: Dream Factory

Jessica Rose: Lonely Girl 15

Joy Gohring: DateAHuman.com

Tina Santomauro: Atom.com

Nicholas Robinson: Vuguru

Moderator Matt Bolish did a great job focusing our discussion. I had a few opportunities to chat with Matt prior to the panel and was happy to see he shares the same enthusiasm about the digital space as I do. On the panel, we covered all sides of the digital content creation equation – development, marketing, and distribution. I always welcome an opportunity to discuss the future of our industry. This panel was an excellent chance to do so with a bright and talented group. The audience was similarly engaged, and while they all wondered how to make money (We’re working on that), they were excited about the possibilities. My fellow panelists and I all agreed, before the panel started, that the answer to the core question was, obviously, a loud YES – The web is a viable outlet for creative original content.

It’s to be expected that a panel about content creation on the web, by people intimately involved, will go in the direction that it did. The most encouraging and surprisng conversations were the ones I had with everyone else at the festival. The volunteers and general festival-goers ‘got’ what I am doing and see how important the digital space is becoming. I don’t think that would have been the case even last year. Sometimes it takes a one-on-one conversation to drive home the point that there are high quality, engaging stories being told online. If I can get one new person to tune in, that’s a success.

While the Streamys may not have gone over very well, the overwhelmingly positive reactions of everyone at Dallas is encouraging. As long as we push forward and work through the obstacles, an incredibly promising future awaits. You can check out DIFFs recap here.

Success, Failure, Lightsabers & Awards: Moving on from the 2010 Streamys

The first film festival I ever entered was a statewide German competition called Sprachfest (The cool kids in central Maine took German for their required language class). I, unfortunately, was horrible at German. My recipe for a good grade, as it often was, was to make a movie. I wrote a script in English and had my more competent friends translate and act. It was a high concept schlocky comedy called Gilligan’s Winter Island. Titanic meets Gilliigan’s Island. With a lightsaber battle for good measure, mostly because I just learned how to rotoscope.

The night before the festival I was ready to export my masterpiece via the Iomega Buzz. All you old school filmmakers remember that piece of crap. And, as is often the case with deadlines and technology, the Buzz died.  6am quickly rolled around and the technical difficulties were only getting worse. I rolled with the punches, setup a tripod, and filmed the computer monitor as I played back the film fullscreen. Scan lines and all. It was the only option. I couldn’t walk into Sprachfest empty handed and disappoint my classmates, teacher, school, and an easy A.

My eyes were closed the second Winter Island started to play. How embarrassing. The only source of redemption? The lightsabers. Thank God for them. As we all know from George Lucas, special effects can save any horrible movie. I won third place (Out of pity I’m sure).

This is a long and roundabout way to get to my thoughts about last night’s Streamy Awards. But anyone who has ever created anything knows things go wrong. It’s how this world works. Both the audience and the creators have to eventually roll with it. Because of that, I’ll give the Streamys a pass on the technical front. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Sadly, technical issues were far from the only problem. The primary purpose of the Streamys is to show the world top tier digital content and to explain, by exceptional examples, why this new form of entertainment is high quality, here to stay and to be taken seriously. Our time to shine.

I’m all for self deprecating humor. It’s a great way to hide the tears show how down to earth you are. But it’s vital to take a step back and look at the big picture.  The positioning of digital content is how the rest of the world is going to perceive it. If the awards say web content is crap, then that’s what everyone else will think. Subpar production of the show itself is just toxic icing on a undercooked cake.

Granted, there IS a lot of junk out there on the web. It’s an inevitable result of a totally open ecosystem and to be expected. Roll with that. The Streamys must showcase whats great and shout from the rooftops YES, WE HAVE AMAZING CONTENT. Until WE take ourselves seriously, NO ONE ELSE WILL. A high profile host like Paul Scheer was great exposure, but the way he was used only heightened the problem. Control the things that are under your control. To have Paul’s script mostly make fun of web content is beyond counter productive. And frankly it’s overdone. Yes, we all get it that no one is making a lot of money. Yet.

Speaking of money, we need to be appealing to advertisers. What are they going to think now? Our awards show was filled with profanity, nudity, technical problems, and disgusting behavior. If we are to survive and ultimately thrive, we have to be smart from the beginning. Treat this like a joke and we’ll be treated like jokers. I can’t imagine how upset some of the brands involved with the awards must be. We ALL have a responsibility to show them this was isolated. Felecia Day, as always, was spot on in her acceptance speech. It’s unfair that she had to go on stage to accept the award while fighting back what must be an avalanche of  incredible frustration.

For those of us who live and breathe this world, the entire night was a slap in the face.

I was sitting behind Chris. This was not planned and he was rightfully pissed off.

The good news is we can only go up. I hate to bust out a quote from the Big Boss, but

Succeeding is not really a life experience that does that much good. Failing is more sobering and enlightening.

Recovering from failure is often easier than building from success.

– Michael Eisner

I can’t begin to comprehend how complicated running a live production like the Streamys must be. The TubeFilter team are all top notch and should not be the sole recipients of the blame. We are in this together. It’s everybody’s fault. Luckily, that means everyone can work together to ensure this never happens again. 2010 can be a landmark year for digital content. Let’s learn from this failure and move forward.

On a final note, thank you to the incredibly talented people who won and were nominated. People like Bernie Su, Mark Gantt, Jesse Warren, Felecia Day, Randy and Jason Sklar, Brett Register, and Jeremy Redleaf (Who should have been awarded on Sunday, not Wednesday) are top notch creators who are serious about this space. Thank you all. Oh, and don’t put the Crafty winners and nominees in the balcony. They are a big part of this and should have been down in the main area.

In the meantime, I’ll work on creating a real life lightsaber just in case we need another distraction. It’ll beat naked geeks. Or at least scare them away.