The Disney & IRTS 2008 Digital Media Summit, Part 2
So I actually have three more posts worth. This oneâ€™s a hodgepodge, the next oneâ€™s about my set visits, and the third is a little more unified and analytical. Anyways, here we go:
Super Tech Geekout Section
One of the highlights of the trip was when they took us into their screening room and showed off the 3D that theyâ€™re working on. The glasses have little batteries in them and flash at an ultrafast rate, while the film runs at 144 frames per second, interlacing left and right eye frames. This is meant to hurt the eyes less than traditional glasses, and to offer a better 3D experience. It did. They showed us bits of the NBA All-Star Weekend in 3D and it was beautiful. They had talked earlier of experimenting with playing college games in theatres for admission price, to great success, and I can see how the two of these could go together well. It really does feel like youâ€™re courtside, and they discussed how theyâ€™ve learnt to keep the stadium sounds on, rather than use play-by-play guys, to recreate the feeling of being in the stadium. Their screening room is kind of small, so extrapolate that experience onto a bigger screen, and I could see this being very popular.
They also showed us a few other tech goodies, by far the coolest being this tiny little screen, called an Organic LCD (OLCD). Our guide insisted that you could grind it up and eat it without harm (â€œfresh pepper, mâ€™am? Parmesan? Organic television screen?â€). But its contrast ratio was a truly remarkable 1,000,000: 1. Sheer beauty. More after the fold …
Less immediately impressive to me was the unveiling of what theyâ€™re doing with Blu-Ray, namely BD-Live (Blu-Ray has online capacities, so theyâ€™re toying with how to use them). Theyâ€™ve developed â€œMovie Mail,â€ â€œMovie Chat,â€ â€œMovie Challenge,â€ and â€œMovie Rewards.â€ The first two allow you to send video mail or to message a friend while watching, with the idea behind the second being that youâ€™d watch a film at the same time with a pal, except in different places. The third lets you answer quizzes while the movie plays, and the fourth lets you get stuff for answering questions correctly (more quizzes, ringtones, etc.). It was pitched as being predominantly for kids, but I canâ€™t really see the applications for it myself. Kids already have the ability to do the first two without cluttering their screen with lots of crap. Movie mail was spoken of as being something that you could send to your kid if you werenâ€™t there for their birthday, since you were away on business, but it strikes me that if youâ€™re going to be away for your kidâ€™s birthday, you could better spend your time and energy planning for them to do something more exciting than watch a movie alone on that day, right? I donâ€™t doubt that some people will use this, but it seemed an odd instance of â€œblack boxâ€ thinking â€“ trying to put a bunch of applications that happen on different screens, and that work best on different screens, into one screen.
So sign me up for 3D and for organic LCD, but Iâ€™ll keep my Blu-Ray old school, thank you very much.
Other Trends and Overheard Comments
1. Echoing what I heard at NATPE, a lot of people would in one breath say that the digital space was new and totally different, confusing and gamechanging (â€œItâ€™s 12.01,â€ as one person said), then in the next breath give determined strategies for how to deal with it. Which begs the question of whether the industry is running in the dark, or whether all this â€œchangeâ€ really is just contained change.
2. Several panelists talked of a fun application on the Lost site: a Sawyer nickname generator. I can now proudly introduce myself as â€¦ Ladybug.
3. I was wondering about the revenue hierarchy between iTunes and their own website. They claimed that their own site produced slightly more than did iTunes.
4. There was considerable concern with â€œdiscoverability,â€ with how people can find things. And it was this concern that drove many staffersâ€™ excitement with mobile media. They showed us stats to suggest that only a tiny fraction of people actually use mobile video, but saw tremendous upside to the market, believing that the four things holding us back from watching more (not knowing we have the technology, price, lack of programming, and difficulty of use) can all easily be cured. Iâ€™m still a little skeptical of how much people will want to watch on a tiny screen in public places, but precisely because only some things would work in such a viewing environment, Iâ€™ll also be fascinated to see, if mobile media develops, how the popularity of those things impacts programming decisions as a whole.
5. In the monetization panels, there was also a lot of talk of the need to get their products into as many windows as possible. They spoke with admiration of Korea, which supposedly has 12 windows, versus the considerably less in the US. While Iâ€™m sure the lawyers have a different take on things, I was somewhat encouraged to hear so many Disney staffers say that the best way to beat piracy was to make their content available in as many spaces as possible themselves. â€œPlatform agnosticâ€ was a phrase that got bandied around a lot. Hence Disney being first to iTunes, hence their Full Episode Player, and hence their deal with COX to get Video On Demand up and running. One panelist even stated that as a network, ABC is basically, or at least should be, â€œin the reminder business.â€
6. All this technology was also seen as allowing flexibility, so that on one hand, they could approach fans in different ways, and, as one staffer put it, â€œfeed the monster that is the fanâ€ (hmmm â€¦ is the smoke monster in Lost a metaphor for the fan?), and on the other hand they could â€œcontrol the experienceâ€ of viewing better.
7. And to end this section, a fun game to play at home and with your friends. Apparently, one of their research questions when they talk to kids is, â€œIf Disney were a friend, what kind of friend would it be?â€ Interesting way of getting at the heart of branding, try playing this game with all your channels and shows.
More later â€¦Tags: 3D, Blu-Ray, Digital Media Summit, Disney, Full Episode Player, iTunes, mobile media