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HTC Rhyme

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For several years I've been using HTC phones and been a big fan. My first was the HTC Wizard 200 branded the T-Mobile MDA VARIO, Since then I've had 2 TYTN IIs, an HD2 and 2 Sensations. So when O2 offered me the chance to review one of the latest HTC handsets it was an offer I couldn't refuse. With the Sensation, I had been impressed with it's Full HD video camera and immediately saw the potential for film-making with it and had started to make plans for shooting The Transition of Juliet and Romeo on it (and if O2 and/or HTC want to talk to me then I'm still eager to do it and to publicize them in return..)  so I had hoped to try out the new HTC Sensation XL which is built from the ground up for that specific purpose. However when I arrived at the O2, I spent a little too long eating the buffet, far too long playing with the demo XL, and by the time I came to sign up for the review process they only had the HTC Rhyme left. Perhaps this was a good thing as it saved me from focusing my review on just the film making capabilities of the phone, and instead focus on the whole package.

First out the Rhyme appears to aimed towards female customers - it's basic colour is a sort of pinkish purple, and it comes with a charm to indicate a phone call on the outside of your handbag (or perhaps I'm wrong and it's also intended for your satchel - did Indiana Jones have one?)

It also comes with a pretty neat docking station including bluetooth speakers and a set of headphones that look like HTC's purchase of "Beats By Dr. Dre" is paying dividends in the style stakes, even in products not directly made under that branding.

Alas design seems to be the only Dr Dre influenced aspect of the headphones - The Audio quality is terrible. I ran a comparison between these headphones, the standard earbuds from the HTC Sensation, a set of inexpensive Maxell Colour Buds, and an old set of Sony MDR-V50  cans; all 4 were tested with Dire Straits "Telegraph Road" from the "Love over Gold" album on the Rhyme. As expected the Sony gave the best sound fidelity - accurately representing sound throughout the spectrum - I could clearly hear all the instruments and the sound reproduction was like being in the first few rows of a live concert. the Maxells and the Standard HTC's gave very similar sound quality - both gave a brighter sound preferring higher frequencies such as the Piano and Guitar with the Drums and vocals slightly more muted giving a slightly more intimate sound, like being in the studio  while the track is recorded. Last came the HTC Rhyme headphones - these also appear to concentrate on the piano/guitar range  - but also muffling the sound significantly (specifically the vocals) - it was like listening to a concert from the lobby through a closed door. Playing around with the equaliser settings helps somewhat, but it doesn't fix it and playing with equaliser on the older HTC ear-buds actually improves the sound rather than just bringing it up to "bearable". It might have been better had they been comfortable; around 1995 I came to own a Sony Walkman WM-FX413 it was the first time I had ever owned a set of earbuds (having used cans throught the 80s and early 90s) - these were Sony Fontopia earbuds and had great sound quality but they were a stupid shape that wouldn't stay in and caused pain in my ear canal. That's what these remind me of, they just won't stay in my ears and are uncomfortable when they're in there - perhaps like the use of the charm they're designed for a more feminine ear canal but they're certainly not for me. I should add that I use a very similar style of earpiece for radio communications at one of my workplaces and while it's not designed for audio fidelity it gives much better comfort than these.

The Dock is much better iit gives reasonable quality Bluetooth audio when the phone is docked with a good range and ability. It also supports charging in the dock by a series of contacts on the back of the phone (no need to plug in) and makes good use of HTC Sense 3.5's Dock Mode. The dock mode has been supported in Sense since at least 3.0 but you had to get a third party dock and not all docks were equal so it's nice that the Rhyme comes with a good one. My one bugbear is that the bluetooth speakers will only pair with the rhyme no matter how I try to coax them to also pair with my Sensation. I can't be the only person who would appreciate having only one pair of blutooth speakers in the room so that any phone could pair with and play music through them? In fact while we're at it, the ability to use the dock as a Bluetooth audio bridge could be useful as well.

Speaking of Sense 3.5 it's a decent update, I'm not too sure  the new home screen widget was made with me in mind - it's not something I would use too much of so would switch it back to one of the clock widgets. Other features such as the updated camera app are much better, my Sensation is suffering from problems with the camera app so a direct comparison is not easy to make - but the features available on 3.5 seem much better particularly thing like the seamless panorama software (and Samsung are only just starting to boast about being able to do this) and slow motion video. The 5MP camera isn't going to set the world alight, but it's a solid performer and probably better suited to casual snapping that the 8MP one found in the likes of the Sensation. The 780p video is good and again the ideal sort of thing to replace having a separate Flip Video camera.

Something I liked about the Sense 3.0 on the Sensation was it's integration of DLNA technology, so much so that I set up my whole house around the technology. Sense 3.5 is very similar in terms of what you can do with DLNA, but now has clearer support for DLNA media servers which makes it a better all round client. Personally though, I would like to see something that goes a bit further with features like UPnPlay allowing me to download albums from my DLNA media server to my phone and manage my music that way rather than having to plug it in to reorganise my music through the laptop or even the ability to connect to a network drive and copy those files across that way - I've used Astro File Manager with a SAMBA plugin to achieve management this way.

All round it's very wire free friendly with 2G, 3G, HSDPA,  WiFi (b,g, and n), and Bluetooth 3.0 and as most HTC phones since the HD2 it can act as a Wifi hotspot if you want to share your internet connection with friends. Battery life is excellent, but the battery is fixed and can't be replaced once it reaches the end of it's lifespan - this could be problematic if you're on a long contract and kill the battery with a poor recharge strategy. I'd look at retaining an external backup battery to charge on the go and to maximise time between plugged in charges.

Alas the more feminine features aren't for me, and I prefer my bigger screen, so long term I'm probably going to continue to use my Sensation - but these features do ring a note with my wife who has kindly agreed to test the phone on a day to day basis for me now (or rather she insisted I had to let her test it). She's not a very critical person and appears to enjoy the sound quality from the headphones and I'll update this blog if she has any additional points to add. I did some filming and and photography with the camera, but didn't take them off before I gave her use of the phone - I now need to try and wrestle the phone back off her to attach them here.

Stuart

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 April 2012 10:20
 

National Minimum Wage

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I was asked to compile some of my discussions with HMRC and BECTU about the National Minimum Wage and how it applies when it comes to film making - A lot of this was compiled for the Indie Film Forum but when that site failed to achieve what BECTU wanted the information was deleted. I reprint it here because Equity have started propagating the  same myths that BECTU did two years ago.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 16:59 Read more...
 

Product Placement in Transmedia

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A New Era in Product Placement?

When I started working on the Transition of Juliet and Romeo, I had a bit of an idea, and I hid it away. It seemed like a potential way to fund production but I wasn't sure how it could be implemented for our particular film and more importantly I worried that like Crowd Funding the window of opportunity may be small and if other film makers got the drop on me I could miss out.

I know longer believe that to be the case, I think the window could be much larger than I can ever envisage and the potential rewards worth the work.

The basic premise is this whilst within the Film itself product placing can grate on the senses (Look at "I Robot (above)" or "The Island" and the response to placement within them.) Research shows that other forms of advertising - Newspapers, Bill Boards, Radio, TV, and Internet Adverts sell products far better (http://www.bigresearch.com/news/big100908.htm). Using transmedia we have a means to sell space in these more effective advertising areas - possibly using them to enhance the effectiveness of standard product placement.

Live Event Advertising

For an example I want to focus on a project currently on hold - "Screen" by David Paul Baker. Screen is a horror film set in and around a drive-in theatre. Although David has many transmedia plans for his films; the most exciting part about Screen for me is that he plans to distribute it in a model that encourages small  groups to run Drive in showings in their local neighbourhood. For me I see this as having great potential for physical billboard style advertising and the ideal advertisers being DVD rental companies although Energy Drink companies and Brewers seem to love these kind of live events as well. This distribution style also means that adverts before the film can be controlled in favour of our advertisers. As I say Screen is currently on hold and David is currently working on a new interpretation of his feature film MissionX a film with great potential for a different kind of placement based more on spanning more media types - however for this kind of project we'll look at the proposal for the Transition of Juliet and Romeo.

The Transition of Juliet and Romeo

Here's the pitch:
The Transition of Juliet and Romeo is told as though it were a real life event, in order to enhance that feeling we're going to found a newspaper. We've set up a test server at http://osgrs.co.uk/ where you can see how it works - essentially the site trawls a number of news agencies looking for stories relevant to the coverage area of our fictional newspaper and presents them as stubs of a news article. Into that we inject stories and facts about our fictional plot-line perhaps things that aren't seen within the film perhaps video diaries from characters filmed before the events occurred.

Within this fake newspaper we have potential for real adverts - on the test server we have a Lovefilm one from an attempt to sell the idea to their marketing department. We can sell on-line advertising to a number of different advertisers - as part of the larger film. We then have a number of options in how we use this platform to expand our story world. For another potential advertiser we suggested a series of Viral  videos detailing one of their employees caught up in the events of the film. Their product would be shown in every viral, it expanded the world of the film, and their employee would show his commitment to delivering the service through the events that would impress potential customers.

For the Transition of Juliet and Romeo, we're planning an alternate reality game (ARG) the exact details may vary depending on the potential advertiser, but the plot would be to examine facts about the story from several different viewpoints giving three different interpretations of what really happened.

Along with the fake newspaper, we will have another corporate website for the company around which the story unravels. Clues would be revealed depending on information that can be gleaned from advertisers websites (or physical locations) for the Lovefilm example  we might have had DVD titles stored under a characters name used as passwords on the corporate site. For the use of a physical location, we may need to customise the experienced based on the Geographical Location of the player but most ARGs have had to deal with the problem since the Genre was created. What it does allow us to do is to Target potential SMEs in a each region allowing them a fair share of any increased footfall (and revenue) as a result of the ARG.

Overall we will be using this to offset a more subtle product placement within the film as a whole, creating a more effective promotion for advertisers and more pleasant experience for the film viewers.

 

Overview

As you can see transmedia allows film makers a more effective way to sell placement as a means to rise finance but without directly placing it into the film and compromising the story itself. Of course the wider you spread your potential media outlets, the more options you have - make a limited edition comic and an advertiser can give it away free drawing customers into their premises. Of course Hollywood has had some plans like this over the past few years including tie-ins with global fast food companies, but simple Transmedia allows an opportunity for the indie film-maker to market in the same way to SME's who may never have considered that they could product place in a film before.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 September 2010 21:26
 

The Rules of Juliet and Romeo

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Adapted from the Dogme 95 Rules these are the rules we will be attempting to abide by while shooting "The Transition of Juliet and Romeo"

  1. Filming must be done on location. Props *can* be brought in if a particular prop is necessary for the story, but otherwise props should exist in location.
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
  3. The camera must also be digetic. Cameras can only be static where a camera may naturally exist (CCTV, WebCam) otherwise cameras must be held or placed by a character.
  4. Special lighting is not acceptable.
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must contain superficial action (conflict motivates the characters.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are required (they exist as a metaphor for the character's alienation).
  8. The movie must cross combine multiple Genre's.
  9. The final picture must be available in 1080P digital format.
  10. The director must not be credited.

 

A New Way of Deferring Payment?

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Starting off on the Microbudget trail, you have to do a lot of feeling your way - examining the routes that previous pioneers have taken and sometimes blazing a trail.

On my journey two issues have cropped up and aroused my attention, firstly the question of how do we market/distribute our film and during production how can we pay our cast/crew.

In the UK it has become apparent that the latter question is of extreme importance as our liberty to work for deferred payment is eroded by catch all legislation trying to stop exploitation of workers. We can work as volunteers but can't receive a gratuity payment or even a DVD that has intrinsic value.

In recent discussions and in following the Infinite Distribution panel on Twitter (#infdist) The question of how do we deal with the risk of Piracy as a loss and how do we make money when our film can be redistributed out of our control was raised. My solution was then and still is to license our film under a creative commons license that allows Non-Commercial use of it. This means it can't be pirated, it's free to distribute for anyone that obtains a copy; but leads to the bigger question of how do we make money?

As film makers today we need to be faster and smarter, identifying niches and quickly filling them. that might be the comic book adaptation, the soundtrack CD, Mugs, T-shirts, and also other DVD content which is not Creative Commons (Special features, making of's , Commentary tracks, etc;) and this is where we make our money - we then need pay back our deferments to our cast and crew from the sales of things they didn't have creative input into  - we want to be fair to them but we also have to be fair to ourselves.

 

So here is my suggestion instead of paying in cash lets pay cast and crew with a distribution license and a Vanilla DVD master. If the cost of producing a DVD is £1 ($1.5) the cast/crew member can individually sell that for £20($30) and that's 4 hours they worked on the film paid back to them sell 35 or 40 they can recoup a full wage for the time they spent on the film. If they can manage to shift 100-200+ then they're are looking at making a small fortune for work that might be small in comparison. It also gives them motovation to produce the best work possible because they need to sell it themselves when the shoot finishes not hoping that some distribution deal will bring their money to them.

So Creative commons for a lower resolution digital copy, A Vanilla DVD for Cast and Crew, and Full Featured DVD/Blueray for the Production company.

So you might be thinking but I'll be missing out on that potential revenue, but quite probably the cast and crew are going to be selling their copies to people who would not have been customers beforehand (their family and friends) and the attention drawn by this may make them want to be customers for your next film. The same applies to releasing a digital copy under a Creative Commons license, what's even better is they may like your film enough upgrade to your Full Featured version from their Vanilla or Creative Commons version.

It's a new model, so it's going to take some work and I don't see why the model couldn't be extended into giving investors (over say £20) a similar opportunity to recoup their investment. I'm looking for further improvement particularly for those of you who have self-distributed, how many of your Cast and Crew made referals that led to DVD sales? Also if you have any comments/improvements feel free to reach me:

Email me through the contacts page

on Twitter I'm @SJamieson79

 



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