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Why crowd-sourced films are the biggest disruptive force I’ve seen in years

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Vyclone screenshot

Warning: Severe disruption ahead

Something new for entertainment executives to stress over

Over the last few days, I’ve been playing around with a mobile video app called Vyclone.

Check the site, download and play, but I urge you to play with other people who have the app in the same room. It’s really important you do, or you just won’t get it.

If you’ve ever been to a large event, videoed it, and have then been disappointed at the results, you’ll love this app. If you’ve experience of storytelling in video, the possibilities will probably charm you.

If you work for a commercial broadcaster, or in electronic distribution rights for events, it will probably stop you sleeping at night.

Vyclone finds all the other people in the same place as you, recording the same thing, and stitches their videos together into a multi-camera shoot. If you don’t like what it does automatically, you can make your own camera mix.

It’s the most disruptive, fascinating, troubling, creative, delicious, innovation I’ve seen in years. This is a game-changer.

Some perspective: 15 years ago, worried rights-owners would try to ban people bringing video cameras into their events (some still do). They had already sold the TV rights to another company and were obliged to protect that sale.

With mobile phone video, there were too many people to police, but they quickly realised it wasn’t a threat because these individuals made rubbish content. They weren’t organised and had no scale or impact. The individual YouTube stats for the uploaded videos proved that.

These elements have now irrevocably changed. A crowd-source video app offers both organisation and scale, automatically.

Let’s say I’m at Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend music festival. I’m recording Nicki Minaj performing ‘Starships’

(top chune btw). My camera only gets a general view of the stage. But at the front, two other people I don’t even know are recording the left and right sides of the stage. One might have Minaj in full close-up. Yet another person is recording the crowd and their friends further back.

The app stitches all of those shots together into a music video.

If you’re a broadcast professional, I can already hear your say “it still won’t be as good as our planned, directed TV coverage”, and you are absolutely right. But, here’s the kicker:

It’ll be good enough.

YouTube doesn’t amass millions of eyeballs a day because it’s professional. It has content that for the most part, is just good enough for the few minutes those millions want to watch.

Now, take my music festival scenario and imagine instead a riot. Or a war zone. You see how powerful this might be for news gathering?

There’s still a long way to go obviously. For now, you actually have to be recording through an installed application for the auto-mix to work. There’s a limit of 4 other cameras in a single mix. The video quality is, well, from a mobile phone. All these will improve and become less restrictive.

But even now, it’s good enough.

There are fights to come. The technology raises massive issues about whether anyone can “own” the resulting video when anyone is free to remix and share the individual parts.

Given the massive, lucrative sporting event about to engulf my home city of London, I’ll give you one last scenario to imagine the impact of a crowd-sourced, non-owned, multiple camera recording:

The men’s 100 metre final.

I wish the International Olympics Committee a good night’s sleep.


Written by Robert

25 July, 2012 at 12:23 am

Check twice, publish once – the 4am curse

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Don’t write it down, don’t even think it

For some reason at almost 4am on the 28th February I was surfing the Guardian. Right on the front page was a small link to ‘Chlie sausage’ with other links with earthquake coverage.

Intrigued, I clicked, and got this:

(click for the larger size)

Guardian screengrab 28 Feb 2010

28 Feb 2010, 3.50am

Oh dear.

This is clearly a case of a mistaken button push. It came down fairly quickly, and it’s not in Google’s cache anymore, but a search brings up the leftover metadata.

I suppose the lesson here is don’t add anything into a news system which you don’t intend to be visible to the public. I can remember this being impressed upon me during early days at Radio New Zealand. Journalists were actively discouraged from adding private notes in the news system, for the amusement of the newsreaders or sub-editors.

It was pointed out that a court request for information could make the comedy slur of a hapless newsmaker very public indeed, and perhaps lead to legal proceedings! Not fun.

The recent addendum to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines says much the same thing about personal web-presences for BBC staff: If you wouldn’t say it on air, don’t put it on the web.

TVTropes has a whole category of fictional and some real-life ‘Is this thing still on’ moments broadcast on television.

In the end, I’m reminded of the time I saw the Guardian’s mis-publish, nearly 4am. And surreal things happen in the wee small hours, as the poet, Rives, points out in this cleverly written piece at TED in 2007.  Enjoy.

Written by Robert

12 March, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Judge orders Gmail account deactivation

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Incredible bank screw up, but innocent party is sued. Be afraid.

Mediapost reports that a California judge has ordered Google to release the ownership details of a Gmail account user, and deactivate the account.

A bank in Wyoming wants the details because it has accidentally emailed personal financial records to this Gmail address. It then emailed to try to get them deleted, but didn’t hear anything.

Wired backgrounds the story.

So, just a few issues here then:

I wouldn’t respond if a bank I’d never heard of started asking me to get in touch. That’s called Phishing.

Why was the bank emailing unencrypted files around the open internet?

What would have happened if they had posted the material to the wrong physical address? Would they send the police round to change the locks?

Why should an innocent party lose access to their email in this way?

Definitely not the end of this story yet.

Written by Robert

25 September, 2009 at 9:03 am

Posted in Business, legal, Technology

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OFCOM’s 9 day consultation period??

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Get in quick or lose HD on Freeview

OFCOM are currently requesting comment from stakeholders in the UK’s digital terrestrial TV network.  As tax and licence-fee payers, that’s most of us.

They are being asked by the BBC to authorise a change in the way the new high definition multiplexes are operated to allow for the use of encryption.

I’m not a fan of this plan, many others aren’t either, including Tom Watson MP and other vocal bloggers.

Encrypting HD-DTT risks stunting the growth of high-definition in this country and threatens to criminalise anyone who’s using any sort of non-standard cheap-and-cheerful reception equipment (which by law you are required to have a TV licence for).  If you’re using open source receiver software, you can kiss that goodbye should this change go through.

What amazes me is that OFCOM published their letter on the 3rd of September and want  comments back by the 16th. Err, that’s today!

That’s 9 working days to get comments in on a proposal that has far-reaching ramifications on the way the system of TV distribution works in Britain. Does this indicate that OFCOM doesn’t grasp the serious implications of this change, that it just writes to the ‘industry’ and allows such a short time for responses?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good background to why this request is being made.

And if you’re still reading this today, get some comments off to

Written by Robert

16 September, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in legal, Software, Technology, tv

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Pirate Bay trial – live updates

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The infamous bittorrent search site, The Pirate Bay, is on trial in Sweden accused of assisting copyright infringement.

There’s a good backgrounder to the case, and some live tweeting going on as well.

Written by Robert

17 February, 2009 at 12:06 am

Firesharers small win against RIAA

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Filesharing with shared computers may equal anonymity

An american judge has decided that the RIAA, who are seeking to prosecute illegal filesharers, may not have personal information from Boston University about who was using a particular computer.

There were too many people around who could have had access apparently.

So if you’re going to share files at university, make a party out of it!

Written by Robert

3 December, 2008 at 2:56 pm