SXSWi2009: From Framing Shots to Pushing Pixels – Crossing Between Film and Video Games

Last session – let’s see if I can make it! And a funny aside – I was talking to two people before this session about sound boards of all things – one attendee and one SXSW volunteer. Turns out the volunteer is a librrarian who took a year off to write a novel (good for her), and the attendee – not sure who she is – actually attended another presentation and asked me what FRBR was, of all things! Wow.


Rich Vogel
Rodney Gibbs
Mark Bristol


If you flake, you’re out. Don’t leave the project before it’s done. Also share turntables – mix things up that don’t actually go together.

Try awkward things.

Learn how to deal with difficult people. (he worked with Michael Medved)

Henry Winkler says “say thank you” (panelist worked with him).

Ed Spielman says “Start with the poster…” Make believe the movie’s done. He’d get people to give him money … then they’d go write the script.

Megatron says “Geeks have a long, long memory.”

He transitioned into video games in the 90s.

Tim Curry says “say dirty words in funny voices.” Hmm …

What stuck with him in his transition was storytelling. Games are stories. In a gaming pitch he attended … the designers were focusing on the story.


To film makers – you should be able to transfer your writing ability to the gaming industry.

With film, you have a budget, can maybe just do 3 takes. With games, you can do whatever you want to do.

Talked about his transfer from film to gaming…


Ouch – he always loved film, made a documentary about a teacher affair with a student, got in trouble for that!

Loved PCs in college… After college, realized he didn’t want to program … so went to grad film school (I think).

Landed a game design job – they put in long 60-70 hour work weeks…

Film helped him develop game pacing, how to make them more immersive.

He was a senior producer for Ultima – a virtual world game from the late 1990s.

With “suits” – in presentations, they mainly notice what you’re showing them – not what you’re actually telling them. So his background with storyboarding and quickly getting to the point helped – if you have this skill, you will get the gig.

They went through 1000 writers before they picked the 12-14 they kept. Wow. The writers take a writer’s test.

SXSWi2009: Surviving Scandal: How to Manage Negative Attention in the Internet Age

Moderator – Megan McCarthy – was at Valleywag, now with Techmeme

This is a Core Conversation – I think more of an unconference, discussion approach. But the topic is certainly relevant to my library! So I’m attending, and we’ll see what transpires (hee – I used the word “transpires”).

#scandal is the hashtag

Megan has a few points to make:

– don’t panic. That’s the worst thing to do. It’s probably not really as bad as it seems. With Valleywag, people were upset – but it was only bad for an hour or two – people simply moved on. People’s mean reactionary comments made it worse than if they’d simply ignored it.

– what types of scandals are we talking about? People giving examples of different types of scandals that happened to them. Someone wrote a sex book, wanted to stay anonymous … the press took that anonymity away. Her point – people forget this touches real people’s lives. She took control of the situation by holding an interview wither the Guardian – all the tabloids then decided there was no story anymore and stopped bothering her.

when to respond, when to ignore.

Someone in the audience was on the Real World show. Getting her perspective. It happened 10 years ago, she’s still getting people coming up to her and commenting on it (I think she was hit or something – hard to hear). She left the show early. Lovely. She was hit, and all the stupid camera people did was keep on filming. Nice.

Someone claiming some people want scandal – because they want to be noticed.

Some scandal is good – Sarah Lacy from last year’s SXSW for example. She achieved scandal … most people didn’t know her before that – most of the tech community knew her afterwards … and since her book was coming out, it helped sales. It wasn’t a planned thing, but possibly was ultimately a good thing.

Another guy disagreeing – people don’t want the scandal.

Some scandal starts as an accident or mistake. A problem then is not admitting it – it’s better to be transparent and say “I was wrong.”

A webhoster talking about basic customer service stuff, ie., let the customer yell until they’re done, then say “I undersntand” etc – yay! Finally soemthing that us public librarians do lots and understand…. :-)

Best way is face-to-face, then phone, then twitter, comments, etc. If you send an email, assume it will get published. Watch what you say, no exclamation points, say as little as possible, spell-check, etc.

at can you do to prepare yourself? Don’t panic. This too will pass. No one notices your scandal as much as you do – especially on the internet.

Interesting stuff to think about… thankfully I don’t personally experience this!

SXSWi2009: Chris Anderson/Guy Kawasaki Conversation

Guy Kawasaki – CEO, Alltop
Chris Anderson – Wired Magazine

#free is the hashtag

Q: how would twitter make money? New goal with new media companies – to make money, as opposed to the older traditional ad model (freemium approach). So for twitter, charge companies.

Guy – so charge companies but not Guy, who’s not a company?

Suggestion of doing a first 500 tweets are free, pay so much after that. Good option. nline gaming is a good test case for that model. Sort of a free to play, pay to get better hair & weapons. Chris thinks this model with Twitter might make people go elsewhere.

Guy disagrees – he has lots of followers who might not follow him elsewhere, so he’ll stay and pay.

Guy – How would you reinvent Wired? Right now, paper still matters. The question is which paper adds value to the internet? Nice way to view the question – I’ll bet libraries can use that logic for the short-term, anyway. We’re NOT, but just sayin.

Right now there’s both, and that’s ok. Guy – will there be pdf versions of free? Guy – Chris, you’ll be a hypocrite if there’s no free version. laughter.

Hypothetical scenario – What is a book? Lots of different formats. Paperbacks. Sponsored paperbacks. Electronic version, audiobooks, DRMed versions, ebook in various formats, the web version of a book. Digital forms – marginal price is 0, so it should be free. Paper formats are not free to make, so they should cost.

If you believe that the physical version holds value, you need to still make those.

Chris’s publisher is forward-thinking .. chris also owns the rights to the ebook version (I think that’s what he said) – so he can do whatever he wants to with it

Popularity – is it easier to achieve popularity or monetize popularity? Chris says it’s harder to monetize popularity – because there’s no one right “here’s how to do it” answer.

If you’re a professor, you might want tenure. If you’re a speaker, you want speaking gigs – so it’s different. Guy says – me giving my book away gets me more speaking gigs – but it doesn’t help the book publisher. Chris – talking about similar thing with music industry. Music industry is moving along, but publishing houses are having problems. So they’re starting to represent artists differently – they’er seeing the business as the bands do now.

Can a book publisher do a similar thing? Get speaking gigs for the author, etc? Align their business to push the author and not just the book.

Guy talks about a meaningful trade – if you follow chris on twitter, maybe he can give you a free pdf? Then you can figure out how to monetize that. Chris says “he’ll do it.”

Guy is introducing soemone in the audience. The guy who negotiated the 99 cent song for Apple. Cool.

More models. A free/pay model like free cell phone, pay for minutes. Now a new free – anything online is near zero cost. Take the quotation marks off free – it’s really free bacause of no to low cost.

Freemium is fascinating. Giving out water. Give away 99% for free to sell 5%. The free version doesn’t cost anything – again, you see this in the game space. Online RPGs – much experimentation in online charging. If you can get 5% to pay, you meet cost. Guy says – it’s very hard to get 5% to pay. Chris – free for a couple of years, then add value. 37signals as example. TIme limited – first 30 days free. Storage limited, feature limited. Google – certain enterprise class is free, larger costs.

Guy – switch cultures. he bought Chris’s book for 50 cents. Chris says “oh really?” In China – no intellectual problems – what can we learn there, where there is no intellectual property? Chris – China and Brazil is the future of free.

CHina – has stopped fighting piracy. Instead, play off that and use it. Let the pirates do their thing, let them to spread the buzz for you, then use that to push celebrity – concerts, appearances, etc. Advertisements/product endorsements.

Guy – another model. Let’s say a basic Starbucks coffee is free. You buy muffins, buy the extra stuff – mocha, extra shots, etc. Chris – you have just described Walls Drugs. They needed some way to gain attention – they’re in the flat part of Colorado – they offered free water to bring people into the store, then people bought other stuff too while there. Companies do this too – they give you free coffee so you’ll stay and do more work. Zappos – gives away free shipping.

online shoe store – you can’t try on the shoes. Can you take that problem away? Yes you can with free shipping and free return policies. Some people feel guilty about this. Chris’s wife feels guilty about all the shoes that get sent back.

Guy – why is free better than 25 cents? Why is one penny more of a bump than free? Chris – someone he knows calls it the one penny gap. We always think “is it worth it?” That flag is enough to dissuade you from buying the stuff. What free does is to allow us to never raise that flag. It’s not about the money – it’s about the flag. Remove the flag, and you’ll be more successful.

Charging people a little bit can give it more value sometimes.

In the digital space, waste is a good thing – it’s too cheap to matter. This differs from the physical world. No one thinks less of Google because it’s free.

Is there any negative connotation for free in the digital world? Chris – I can’t think of one. But – there’s no excuse for sucking. If your stuff is bad, people will simply go elsewhere.

Office vs Google Docs. Ask which one suits my way of working best? Utility comes first. As you move online, free wants to be the natural price. If you don’t do it, someone else will do it to/for you.

Traditional marketing – shows you stuff you don’t have but want. Free – doesn’t do this. Free says – come try it out. If you really love it, when it comes time to pay, you’re cool with that. Because you love it. For Guy, if twitter asks him to pay, he’d be ok with that because he’s getting real value out of it.

Q&A Audience time:

A guy with a company that has a freemium model – a hosted app. People weren’t going to the free model. Chris – how people feel about free comes from their experience and familiarity with similar products. IE if you’re competing with Photoshop and you say similar to photoshop but free, people might be suspicious.

Chris’s new book, “Free” will be published on July 6. Follow him and apparently get the free online version. Cool…

Economy question – no good answers. Guy said “free money!” Chris – you need to start working on new freemium business models.

Guy hollered at someone who was going too long on the question – “Can you cut to the question?” Funny.

Chris says he isn’t telling the apple to fall (thinking about gravity). He’s just saying the apple will fall – it’s inevitable.

Depends on expectations. If people are used to free, they want free. If they’re used to pay, they want to pay (hmm … I must be different here – I always want free!).

How can you compete with free? Microsoft has been doing this for 30 years. They’re not selling software – they’re selling confidence and risk reduction – they’re selling a contractual term, a 1-800 support line.

Some dude says he’s willing to pay for premium video content. He’s being laughed at. His point is that this would be similar to current cable models … so why hasn’t YouTube done this? Chris – YouTube isn’t doing this – they more concerned with content and relevancy instead of premium quality.

Guy is making the next Q&A guy give $20 to a non-profit feed the hungry group, in order to ask a question – the guy agreed and did it! Housing credit bubble question … Chris says it’s different online. You can start a new company with a credit card over the weekend, vs the years and years of the housing market.

SXSWi2009: Digital Tsunami – Breaking News at Breakneck Speeds


Peter Imbres (Moderator) – Hill and Knowlton
Andy Carvin – NPR
Alex de Carvalho – StartPR
Christopher Barger, Director of Social Media, GM

hashtag is #diginami

Moderator (Imbres):

Started off talking about the recent Hudson River plane crash, and how the news of that and information about that broke first in online media like Twitter, Flickr, and Wikipedia WAY before it hit traditional media.

Alex de Carvalho:

Talking about Twitter and how news happens fast. Metioned the dude that was arrested in a different country and how he was able to get help quickly because he tweeted for help.

Not perfect – erroneous Amber alert was reported – some people don’t fact check

Vik Singh created a Rollyo search that mashed up rnews sources with twitter results for the topic

BreakingNewsOn – a twitter feed that’s grown to be a great breaking news source on twitter

instedd – a twitter feed for breaking news on disease outbreaks

Andy Carvin:

Giving background on his real-time news focus.

Andy was in Washington DC when the Pentagon was hit on 9/11

He created a 9/11 email discussion list – they were getting a TON of posts. Some of it was responses to things they were seeing and reporting stuff. Ex – he lives in the Foggy Bottom area of DC – he stood on his balcony and reported if he saw smoke or not then reported it

He started the Hurricane Information Center for news and help about hurricanes – they’re using wikis, blogs, online database data, etc and coordinating it all together

They used Ning for this.

Christopher Barger:

What happens if we get it wrong because we simply don’t know enough yet? You have to get your employees as much info as you can, as quickly as you can. Because it’s not just the marketing/PR types that share that info anymore – it can be anyone.

They decided to blog some info that wasn’t getting out into the news media – and the news picked it up and quoted from it.

Gave example of how a twitter user was angry with them and posted angry stuff. GM actually called her, they listened, and she ended up doing a very positive blog post saying “hey – they’re real people.” Great example of connecting with customers and listening.

You have to be able to do 1-on-1 communication now – even if you’re a big company.


GM says we need to do this 1-on-1 stuff – needs to be incorporated with everyone in the company. (question was why are you just changing now/does it need to be everyone in the company). Q says make the structure of the company more transparent. GM dude says we need to restructure the company (which they’re doing right now). They have to build that in to the restructure.

And I stopped typing the Q&A …

SXSWi2009: Quality – the Next Online Video Opportunity

Speaker – Eric Feng, Hulu

I arrived late at this one, but still took a boatload of notes. Online video is amazing, and Hulu is right there in the thick of it! Here’s what I heard:

Video 3.0:

continual growth of broadband:

  • median US broadband speed in 2008 was 2.3 Mb/s – still lots of room to grow. Some can get 10 Mb/s
  • In Japan, the median broadband speed is 63 Mb/s !!!

Video technology innovatin is continuing

  • better hardware – more powerful PC CPUs and GPUs
  • better video codecs – H264 as great open source example thats used in many places (ie., YouTube and DVD, for example)
  • Better video platforms – multi-bitrate streaming, intelligent buffering
  • iPhone has the processing speed of a PC around 1998-1999

Marketplace for premium content is there

  • video content has changed
  • now full TV shows are online
  • there are fully-produced, professional-quality web-only shows

Online video ads expected to grow 45% to $850 million in 2009

  • people/companies can monetize content
  • 150% growth in 2007 for online tv
  • 200% growth in 2008

Stuff about Hulu:

The Underwater pyramid – great example of a pyramid with the tip sticking out of the water – the tip is what you see, a small company. The stuff under the water is all the mega technology required to make that company run. It’s a huge technology base.

“Worthy or remark” – Hulu’s rallying cry. They want their stuff to be this, and want people to say this about Hulu when Hulu’s “not in the room”

Great content deserves great quality – 90% of videos available in high resolution 480p – that’s standard def TV/DVD quality video. Wow.

Closed captions to enhance video viewing:

  • thousands of videos have this on Hulu
  • it’s incredibly hard to do
  • they have to sync timecode
  • the V companies store the closed caption content in a variety of ways, including in SMIL and XML, and they have to figure out how to parse it into the videos

Obsess over every pixel

  • review process for every thumbnail on the site
  • they actually look at every one
  • 16X9 thumbnails, optimized for different sizes
  • working on the experience – they’re obsessed over the details
  • they actually used technology to automatically crop shows/thumbnails that were sized 4X3 to 16X9
  • They made it a game in their company, complete with prizes – they had 20,000 thumbnails to do

Innovations you use, but don’t notice

  • query-aware thumbnails
  • same video has different thumbnails depending on your search query

Aside – Eric played their newest Hulu TV ad today – it’s not out on TV yet…

Q – when will Hulu be on my TV/Set top box?

A – still focused on the PC and browser. He said in regards to the TV/Video content world, “they’re the tallest midget in the room”

Q – Canadians can’t get Hulu – when will you be in other countries? I guess Hulu is only available in the US right now.

A – it’s because of rights – they have to sometimes negotiate those rights show-by-show, region-by-region. Wow. They are committed to worldwide. And Eric said “Canada first. Promise.”

Q/A – about Ad revenue – Hulu actually makes more money on with ads online for, example, the show 3rd Rock than the traditional broadcast companies make with traditional commericals. That’s amazing! And they share their ad revenue with the owners of the content.