Five things I’m thankful for in the world of video

November 26, 2008

That’s right, it’s the end of the year which means it’s time to start generating lists of things. Top 10 this, top 5 that, yada, yada. I thought I’d get a jump on the end of the year lists by doing a Thanksgiving list. As we pass the potatoes around the table tomorrow, let us all remember to be thankful that:

1) Hulu for the Holidays has us covered. Sure, is great because it helps us keep up with such heartwarming and touching family favorites as Fringe and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but it has gone far beyond that with its new Hulu for the Holidays campaign that introduces us to [actually] heartwarming movies we may have forgotten. Last week it was Rudy, A League of Their Own, and Call of the Wild, today’s featured movie is A River Runs Through It (in which one-time heartthrob Robert Redford simultaneously directs and passes down the mantle of screen idol to Brad Pitt). I would embed the clip for your immediate enjoyment, but, alas, due to rights issues this one is not viewable outside of

2) Netflix went off the matrix. When I say matrix, I don’t mean the movie, I just mean the PC-based Internet. With Netflix off the matrix and on my $99 Roku box, my family actually enjoys watching Netflix streaming movies. It used to be I had to lead the kids to the PC and say, “look what you can do with Netflix!” They would blink once or twice and then say, “Dad, if I wanted to use the PC, I would watch YouTube or play Webkins.” Not anymore. We now have a queue of about 50 movies ready to play in the living room at any time. All of them family friendly, except, whoa, hey, who put Risky Business in there? I’ll have to check with my wife on that one. What does Tom Cruise have that I don’t? [Don’t answer that…]

3) Tina Fey is alive. As I reported yesterday, Nielsen says we watched 4.5 hours of TV a day in Q3 of this year. While that was attributable to the Olympics and the election, I think about 10 minutes of every day was probably spent watching Tina Fey. If she wasn’t doing her dead-on Sarah Palin impression she was talking about it with David Letterman; if she wasn’t being delightfully nerdy on 30 Rock, she was joking about it with Rachel Ray (btw, Tina Fey and Rachael Ray makes for a great rhyme, try it). And notice that all of her shenanigans, including CNN’s coverage of said shenanigans, are online for us to see on demand, over and over again. Do you ever get enough of her Palin-Clinton skit? Too funny.    

4) You didn’t have to go to YouTube Live. What? a YouTube event that is live? You mean you have to sit there and experience it linearly? You can’t just jump to the next related video as soon as you’re bored with the current performance? Hmmm. Why was this a good idea? The best headline on this one goes to the San Francisco Chronicle, “YouTube Has Real Party for Self-Made Stars.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of YouTube. It’s enormous — it delivers 25% of all the online video minutes American experience each day. But the whole point of YouTube is that it’s a massive filter. You don’t have to watch what you don’t want to watch. YouTube Live was not that. Luckily, I was able to catch up later by watching the highlights on, you guessed it, YouTube.  

No, he doesnt always look this scary

5) We’re not this guy. By “this guy,” I’m referring to my friend, marketer and social web practitioner, John Johansen (pictured here in his Halloween costume), who accepted a challenge from me to live an entire week without any video at all. None. Zip. Nada. And he opted to take this challenge during Thanksgiving week. That means no movies, no catching up on episodes of shows while visiting family. No football on Thanksgiving Day! Could you do it? Bet you couldn’t. Be thankful I didn’t challenge YOU!

Obama’s videogame ads are as big brother as they are big innovator

October 15, 2008

This is one picture you want to see. As reported widely yesterday and picked up by CrunchGear today, the Obama campaign has purchased ad space in several Electronic Arts games, including Madden NFL and Burnout Paradise, which is where the killer ad image comes from. It’s not technically video, though the boundary between videogames and video is blurring on its way to eroding completely.

Obamas face appears on virtual billboard in videogame

Obama's face appears on virtual billboard in videogame

What I get a kick out of is how much this ad image feels like Big Brother, with its pervasive access to your living room.

At the same time, the ad is a great way for a candidate who appeals to younger voters to reach them in a context that is more likely to have appeal. So I won’t knock it, even though the image itself does haunt. The real controversy comes from the gamer crowd, one of the last to lay down their arms (or gamepads) and give into pervasive advertising. Reading some of the comments on Crunchgear today will reveal that many are not ready to go hand-in-hand with advertisers into that brave new advertising world. For example

Lovely, now we are paying to be advertised to on top of buying the product? EA should make advertising to its customers voluntary with free map packs or something for those willing to sell their souls instead of forcing us all to look at s___ we don’t want to.

My son runs for president, or, does he?

October 7, 2008

If you haven’t seen this, you should check it out. It’s a gag video that also functions as a sign of things to come. 


Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “2008 Election Coverage“, try this yourself at

Lachlan — the candidate featured in the above — happens to be my one-year old. Don’t know if he’ll seek political office one day, but just in case, I inserted his name into this video so he has a track record of grassroots support.

I posted this because, despite how cheeky is it, it’s a handy example of one of the things that’s likely to come out of an OmniVideo world (for more on OmniVideo, the future of Video, read the What Is OmniVideo page). A world in which video is as flexible and malleable as the word processor made text and Photoshop made still images.

Video is only going to get easier to manipulate. The phrase “seeing is believing,” hasn’t held sway since Terminator 2 made a man turn into molten metal.

At least back then, that little stunt cost hundreds of thousands to plan, shoot, and add effects in post production. Today, with 30 seconds of work, I put a virtual tattoo on the small of a senior citizen’s back promoting a fictional campaign for my toddler. Wow.

CBS tests online group viewing…wait, haven’t we seen this before?

October 2, 2008

Today we read from TechCrunch that CBS Labs has built a social online viewing experience — you can watch with other people, share comments, and generally engage each other during the show.

Cool idea, but also not a new one. I know of at least two others who have been testing this for two years now! The first one I came across from Lycos Cinema, which has been offering these kinds of social experiences since at least early 2007 when I first saw it. 

Here’s a screenshot of Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising, which was having a slightly unsocial social screening this afternoon when I joined the last ten minutes of it (which was as much of Michael Moore as I could stomach at the end of a long day).


Not a lot of partying going on during this social viewing experience.

Not a lot of partying going on during this social viewing experience.

You can go there right now and start your own social viewing experience with strangers or invite your friends. Another ambitious example of this is also about two years old, it’s from MTV Networks, The N, which is MTVN’s network targeting girl tweens. This site is chock full of award-winning social features wrapped around video (one worthy of its own post some day, called Vomments), including social viewing parties The N calls Screening Parties. I’ve pasted in a bigger screenshot (you can click on it to see it full-size), so you can see the cute little avatars that pop up along the bottom of the screen so you can chat with your fellow viewers. 

The point here appears to be that what CBS is doing isn’t that new. But the real point is this: this has already been going on for two whole years and you haven’t heard about it until now!

That says a lot about the potential success of this kind of viewing. Not that people won’t do it — The N’s Screening Parties are very hot among their visitors. But then, anything that lets 13-year old girls dress up little avatars and chat with friends is a good fit for that market. 

For now, though, most of us are so darn happy to have the ability to watch online video on demand that we’re not left wanting more viewing options and features. We’re pretty satisfied. Give it some time, though. There will be some applications for this. I like to watch Heroes with my family even when I’m on the road. This way, we could watch together. In fact, one of the keys to this kind of viewing experience will be when it gets ported to the TV so that TV-PC social viewing can occur. Though it’s sad to imagine: me, in a hotel room, hunched over my laptop screen watching Hiro Nakamura save the world one cheerleader at a time while my family sits back with some kettle corn in the living room and watches the same show on the bigscreen. What would I possibly have to say via on-screen chat? Pass the popcorn…

Biggest LED screen in the world

September 29, 2008

I have been predicting an increase in public displays, some linear and out of your control — CNN in the airport, the Target in-store end-cap displays — and some you will be able to interact with. Today, while in Philadelphia, I saw an increase in something I didn’t predict, but that I want for my very own. 

It’s the largest LED screen in the world and it lines an entire wall in the entryway to the Comcast Center in Philadelphia (new headquarters of Comcast and the tallest building in Philly now). According to Engadget, it’s 87 feet wide and 27 feet tall. The picture quality is 5x that of HD. Check out the quality:

The fun part is that when it is off, it pretends it is a wall made out of wood. See the picture below for some effects Comcast’s video designers have played with to make it looks like the images, animations, and even the weather forecast, pop off the wall.


The videowall pretends to be...a wall

The videowall pretends to be...a wall

Raises all sorts of ideas for how a videowall might be used inside your home some day. Imiagine that the video image pretends to be a static wall and can carve out space to show videos, weather forecasts, and pictures of the kids at summer camp.