Category Archives: media

Hollywood does China: varying degrees of success

Today’s RSS feeds bring in 2 interesting pieces about China:

A Variety Asia piece on how Hollywood studios are seriously reconsidering their plans in China.

A quick summary:

– co-productions not working as well as initially assumed
– import quotas for foreign movies
– unpredictable censorship & no standard classification system.
– “chronically weak filmgoing culture”.
– online, DVD piracy provide better alternatives

Still, China is an extremely lucrative market:
– Box office this year is expected to hit $590 million, up 21% from last year’s $489 million.
– Growing local film industry: 400 local film productions expected this year, a big jump from 350 last year.
– China Film Group now joined by state-backed companies such as Bona or private firms Huayi Bros.. Others like Chengtian have foreign capital and are pulling together production and distribution slates that make them credible partners.

But recently China authorities have become stricter on content regulation.

Market changes possible, but elements are beyond the control of Hollywood studios:
1. If more multiplexes increase demand for new, fresh content
2. If more private sector companies in production and distribution sectors emerge, which studios can partner with

While Hollywood studios are scratching their heads, other Hollywood players have made further inroads, like CAA. Variety Asia analyses the reasons for their (relative) success in this article. Even if you think CAA’s strategy is coherent in hindsight, the article’s still worth scanning for the differences between US and Chinese/Taiwan/HK styles of doing business in the media sector.

Randomness #520F

Whew! The Japanese Film Festival‘s over.

If you missed this year’s movies and the Q&A sessions with director Ichikawa Jun and actress Yoshiyuki Kazuko (who seriously looks like she’s 50 and not 70+), Stefan has taken very detailed notes.

Q&A with Ichikawa Jun

Q&A with Yoshiyuki Kazuko 

I may not always agree with his opinions or like his writing, but I genuinely admire his diligence. The man’s a true movie fan.

So what if this rumour that Google might be developing a virtual world isn’t true? Bet the folks up on Mountain View are working on something similar anyway.

More interestingly, judging from the slate of apps that Google already has — especially Google Earth and Google Maps — maybe their virtual world will do what none have so far: integrate both the real and virtual — bring us closer to augmented reality.

But with one company controlling almost all this tech… that’s scary. Some possible glimpses into a Google-dominated future from Bruce Sterling and Cory Doctorow

This is not a painting of Ophelia — it is a picture of Elizabeth Siddal dying of hypothermia.

A “fit” between technology and usage

Steven Poole recalls his increasing frustration with successively souped-up versions of MS Word:

Microsoft Word still uses the metaphor of the page, the computer screen that imitates a blank, bounded sheet of physical paper. For me, this is outdated and unimaginative. It has become a barrier rather than a window. And there is always the distraction of changing font and line-spacing, jumping ahead too quickly to imagining the text as a visual, physical product instead of a process, a fluid semantic interplay. Instead, turning my MacBook into a kind of replica 1980s IBM machine, with the words glowing and hovering in an interstellar void, is liberating: as though I am composing the Platonic ideal of a text that might eventually take many different forms.

The irony’s easy to see — so much processing power and yet the barest of layouts. But Poole makes it clear that the writing process is a more than just entering letters and formatting pages. The technical functions are there but do they truly improve the writing experience?

(I sympathise, but I like the physicality of pen and paper. Still I’m curious about the stripped-down alternative word processors mentioned.)

I’m reminded of an article by Cory Doctorow on the longevity of print novels despite widespread digitisation. He points out that novels will continue to exist simply because technologically speaking they are the best format so far — portable, bound sheets with letters printed in ink — for reading long content.

The problem, then, isn’t that screens aren’t sharp enough to read novels off of. The problem is that novels aren’t screeny enough to warrant protracted, regular reading on screens.

For short content most people are fine with screens.

So there seems to be a kind of “fit” between a given media technology and its usage. Could this could be considered a kind of equilibrium state? Once defined, might it be possible to use this as the basis for discussions about the adoption of new media technologies?

(Steven Poole found via anti-babel)

Vocaloid 2; Value from Efficiency; User-Generated Content distribution

I’m still impressed with the abilities of the Vocaloid 2 software (found via Boing Boing). Put in a melody and lyrics, and the software generates singing.

It sounds pretty good. Try this sample:

The opera sequence from Final Fantasy 6 — one of the most touching sequences from the best RPG I’ve ever played.

Watching this brought back good memories of the experience playing the game, and that’s partly what makes Vocaloid memorable for me.

The singing isn’t perfect — one comment remarked that the singer sounded like she’d a cold — but this is a technological factor. As coding gets better, so will the voices. But it may not matter — most people are willing to accept less-than-ideal quality media in certain contexts, compression codecs affect sound quality, and when you’re listening to music in a subway train, bus or car you can’t tell anyway.

The value of Vocaloid lies in how it flows with the trend for more user-generated content. It fits in nicely with existing distribution chains for user-generated content. Make a song with Vocaloid, overlay on a video file and upload to YouTube.

(Does it still make sense to call UGC a “trend”? Isn’t it already here and a part of our lived experiences?)

I’m also struck by how YouTube has become a music player although it began as a video-sharing site. This serendipitous use has been driven by the sheer ease of use and easy availability via laptops and widespread broadband.

Compare this with how people rarely used CD-based gaming consoles like the Playstation to play music. Clearly it was silly to turn on the player and a TV set to play music when it was much more efficient to use a CD player. Even a Discman with speakers plugged in was a preferable alternative.

So functionality is nice, but if it’s not efficient relative to current alternatives the functionality won’t add much value to the user.

Although Vocaloid is aimed at otaku, there must be similar groups that would buy such software.

Let’s consider characteristics of the otaku audience — predominantly teenagers, tech-savvy, relatively affluent and of course, a little obsessive.

Hmm… has anyone tried packaging Vocaloid for Christian rock fans?

Itasha – anime-decorated cars

oie_f0007684_1424639.jpg

Itasha are cars decorated with decals and paint jobs depicting anime, game and manga characters. The word itasha, which literally means “painful car,” is derived from the kanji for itai (”painful”) and sha (”car”). The word also appears to be a reference to the Italian sportscar, also known as itasha (although the ita for Italian is spelled with katakana instead of kanji), a conventional sort of chick magnet driven by a different sort of guy.

(via Pink Tentacle – which has more links to itasha pictures)

Merging virtual and real with handphones

I once saw a HP ad where a boy, armed with a handheld console with a camera, runs around a city playing a game on the handheld. The locations in the game correspond to the boy’s current real-world location, but with obstacles and challenges. So an innocent looking alley in the real world turns into a deathtrap in the game world, with a virtual boulder coming down towards you (like in Raiders of the Lost Ark)

I love the idea of blurring the lines between the real and the virtual, and I thought then: “why do you need a separate device? Almost everyone already carries a camera handphone these days.”

Wish some Singaporeans followed up on this idea before the Scots did.

“It’s about using a camera phone as a magic wand,” said Dr Mark Wright of the Division of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh who came up with the idea.

At the heart of Spellbinder, as the project is known, is a database of all the places that participants have added data to. People query it by taking a snap of a location with their phone then using multimedia text messages to send it to Spellbinder.

Dr Wright said powerful image-matching algorithms are used to analyse the image that can deal with snaps of the same place being taken under different lighting conditions or orientations.

Once Spellbinder has worked out the location of an image it consults the database and sends back an image with the extras added to it. (read full article)

(from Networked Performance)

The Last Wayang – 31 Aug

Was browsing the pamphlet for the upcoming Singapore Art Show (which btw comes with special post-its attached) when this event caught my eye:

The Last Wayang

Situated at the disused Capitol Theatre, The Last Wayang provokes a reflection on Singapore’s old films.

Date: 31 Aug
Time: 7pm – 12am

I emailed NAC for more info:

The Last Wayang is a project helmed by Lasalle Masters students and graduates. It consists of video projections on the facade of the disused Capitol Theatre. One projection is of stills of old film posters, and the other is an MTV style video.

Below is an excerpt of the project description from the artists “The video comprises of [sic] images of past films and how they have contributed to the flourishing local films of today. The highlights will be done in a trailer / MTV superimposition to apply this contradiction of nostalgia and modern times. “

I often wish the Capitol would reopen as a cinema.

(earlier posts about the Capitol)