In the world of technology, things happen fast. Each day you can read about a new camera, the latest computer, or the next iPhone. Film and video production are no different.

RED, a camera company based in California, is pushing the industry forward–and fast. Higher frame rates, bigger sensors, more detail. Edit in RAW, shoot in 5K and soon 6K.

Trust me, I could go on and on. This is all good and well, but how does this relate to telling a story?

I am the first to admit that I often get lost in all the tech and gadgetry of video production, and at times it’s permissible. Recently, though, I have found great inspiration and fascination in storytelling, moving past the technology of it all and looking more at the content. Being the viewer of a great story is a special experience and it has brought to my awareness the true value of a powerful story.

A great story captivates and engages the viewer in the subject, like in the video below.

Great Wooden Boats: RED EPIC from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

As I revisited this favorite of mine, I found myself moved by the story all over again. And you know what? Not once did I think to myself what camera was used, or how a particular shot was achieved. A great story rises above all the technology used to capture it and displays with beauty the subject at hand as if you have known him, her, or it for years.

Technology is important and shouldn’t be ignored altogether, but a great story will always win.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few others I enjoy.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Paperman by Disney Animation

On Assignment

Happy Friday!

February 8, 2013 · Posted by in video  

Forget Aunt Tilly

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The Old Lady was resting
Photo by Victor on Flickr

There’s this concept of “Aunt Tilly” in the world of software and technology, where people often use the argument of “Aunt Tilly wouldn’t understand it!” to explain why some new idea/concept/software won’t work.

Aunt Tilly is sometimes the reason things become simplified and easier to use, but I also think the Aunt Tilly argument is used inappropriately.

For instance, you could say “Cameras are too confusing! Aunt Tilly can’t figure out how to use them!” as an argument that an easy-to-use camera is the the camera everyone should have. My complaint here is that while an easy-to-use camera is, easy to use, it’s not always the best camera for the job. There are point-and-shoot cameras, and there are DSLR cameras, and there are cameras like the Flip Video (or the Kodak Zi8) and there are cameras like the RED ONE. The DSLR and the RED ONE are not as easy to use, but they are powerful tools, and sometimes powerful tools have a learning curve, and that’s OK.

I can hand a point-and-shoot camera to someone and explain it in less than a minute, while a DSLR takes a bit more time to learn and become familiar with. This is fine. There should be a spectrum of knowledge and skills for such things.

This recent Advertising Age story We Tried to Resolve the Google+ Issue on Google Wave but… uses the Aunt Tilly argument, and I think it’s flawed:

Dear Aunt Tilly isn’t on Google+. She’s too busy playing “Farmville.” Sure, she signed up for Twitter, but she never used it. There was so much going on! Google+ confuses her. Is it Google Plus or Google Plus Sign?

While I’m often called an early adopter in the technology world, I’ve seen plenty of people who started on networks like Twitter or Facebook (or even Google+) not exactly sure what it was, or why they were there, or what they should do, and over time some of them “got it” and became experts, utilizing every aspect of these services, and becoming so comfortable with them, it’s like they’d been using them since the beginning of time.

If Aunt Tilly doesn’t use Google+, and just stays over at Facebook playing games, that’s fine with me. If she sends me a message via Facebook, I’ll probably still get it. Personally though, I’m finding way more signal than noise on Google+, and way more noise than signal on Facebook. Will that change in the future? Maybe… I’m willing to stick around and find out, and if the Aunt Tillys of the world don’t join me, I’m fine with that.

(And for the record, I’m one early adopter who thought Google Wave served no real purpose. Then again, I still believe email is useful.)

July 25, 2011 · Posted by in photo, social media, video  

When you think back to your grade school education, you probably have memories of large science books or overheads. Well, gone are the days of overhead projectors, now replaced by smartboards. And apparently, those hefty science books may be a thing of the past, too. McGraw-Hill just announced it’s first all-digital textbook for K-12. Sure, they want to turn around the trend of schools spending less on books these days, but it’s a smart move for kids whose lives are increasingly more digital.

If you give a child the option to read a chapter from a big biology textbook or read an ebook with animated video clips, I have the sneaking suspicion that the child would choose the digital option. There’s even the option to have digital conversations right alongside the text, similar to what the kids are accustomed to with Facebook. Polly Stansell, director of product development for McGraw-Hill, says, “We’re trying to meet students and teachers where they’re at digitally.”

A lesson from one of McGraw-Hill's digital textbooks, via Mashable

Now, this sounds really smart. Allowing students the chance to learn digitally since they live their lives digitally seems like a natural progression, right? But is there a negative side effect of being in front of a computer screen all day? Are we creating learners who are better multi-taskers or stimulus-addicts?

According to CNN, our digital lives may be giving us “popcorn brain.” Rather than choosing to spend time outside or enjoying a few moments with their children, people are choosing digital stimulus. Experts are speculating that our brains are now so used to the constant stimulation of digital multitasking that we basically can’t live functional lives offline. Normal life just moves too slowly for our digitally-addicted brains.

Why does this happen? Our brains are wired to like the fast-paced nature of technology. We feed off of the instantaneousness. In fact, being online stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain. So it’s no wonder we’re drawn to this digital lifestyle. However, if this “popcorn brain” goes on long enough, it can cause a physical change in our brains. Those who spend too much time online have less gray matter – the thinking part of the brain. That’s a serious issue. To cope, set time limits for your online life or reserve time in the evening that you’ll stay away from technology.

So what do you think? Is digital learning for students a good progression, or are we setting young people up for “popcorn brain” issues? Share your thoughts in the comments!

June 28, 2011 · Posted by in misc, web  

Class While I loved going to the Adler Planetarium in grade school, I think one New York teacher has a better idea for school field trips. Teacher George Haines, from St. Philip and James school in Long Island, takes his students to visit New York start-ups.

Haines started the technology course program a few years ago as a way to teach his students about entrepreneurship. The program is created for PreK-8th graders with various lesson plans for different age groups.

Younger students can learn basic computer skills and can play games which some of the start-ups created. The older students spend the day at the companies where they can learn from and talk to the founders.

The technology class aren’t elective and Haines says they’re proving to be very popular with both students and parents. Haines says technology is changing so fast, he wants his kids to be aware of the fluid movement and how they can be a part of it.

June 15, 2011 · Posted by in misc  

Easter. A chance for families to get together, eat a whole lot of food, and in the case of my family, the chance to hear laughably odd questions about technology from my grandfather.

Unlike other old farts I know, my grandpa desperately wants to be in the know. Rather than scoffing at social networking as something the young kids do, he wants to be a part of it. Setting up a Twitter account for him and attempting to teach him how to use it may have been one of the most painful things I’ve ever done.

Easter Sunday brunch kicked off with the question, “So what is ‘The Cloud’ exactly?” and went downhill from there. At one point in the conversation, he even asked what the difference was between “regular Internet” and “Apple Internet.” And the fact that he could access his new Gmail account from any computer was a revelation. Sigh.

So when I saw this Mashable article yesterday about grandparents responding to photo emails on a fancy new Kodak digital picture frame, I’ll admit I laughed.

I got down to the third paragraph that describes how easy this digital frame is, and it started, “If those loved ones have a wireless network….” I had an instant flashback to another family gathering, during which I had attempted to describe how wireless Internet works and how it is different than data on my phone. I think I lost my grandpa at “router.” So needless to say, I think many grandparents may be a little behind on technology for this gizmo.

Overall, however, the frame looks like fun. I do wish it had a keyboard, because your commenting is limited to a handful of predetermined phrases, including “OMG!” and “LOL!” which may also require some explaining for this older crowd.

All in all, it’s a great gift for grandma and grandpa… assuming you have five hours of your life to dedicate to teaching it to them!

April 26, 2011 · Posted by in misc  

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