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We’ve been making innovative drama, documentary and comedy since 2008. Now let us tell your story. Dead Medium Productions is a Dublin company offering videography, video-production and editing services. We also provide podcast consultancy and creation, and teach podcasting and storytelling through sound. We’re tied into a rich network of creative professionals, artists and musicians. Ask us how we can help your business tell its story today.

  • Music Videos
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  • Podcast Creation
  • Workshops – Podcasting, Writing for Radio, Storytelling Through Sound
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  • Freelance Writing – Technology, Music, Psychology

Background

Dead Medium founder / senior producer Gareth Stack, started Ireland’s first online TV show while attending university. The show ran for over forty episodes, amassing hundreds of thousands of downloads, and gaining coverage in the Irish Times and national television. Gareth also served as station manager / senior producer at college station Trinity FM. Later he began producing radio programmes, packages and podcasts for leading Irish stations like RTE Lyric, RTE Radio One, and Newstalk. Starting in 2010 he produced a variety of short comic films and performed comedy and talks at events like Electric Picnic. He also wrote and directed several stage plays, radio dramas and documentaries. In 2016, Gareth returned to education, retraining as a video professional in IADT’s Broadcast Production masters degree. He has written for numerous magazines including Analogue, Blue Ireland, and Piraña! Today he brings over thirteen years worth of production experience, across video, radio, print and podcast.

Gareth has worked with talented creators like directors Bob Gallagher, Daniel Butler and Dathai Keane, broadcasters like Dave Fanning, Roger Gregg, and Colette Kinsella, and production companies from Shoot Cut Grade to Dublin Digital Radio and Bonne Pioche.

“Specialisation is for insects”, Robert Heinlein.

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The World You Think You Live In

A couple of years back I gave an ignite talk at the Mindfield’s festival, all about creativity and the ‘nuts and bolts of making stuff up’. Alas despite years of trying I haven’t been able to pry the video of that talk from the organisers, so last month I took some of the research / writing – which ended up developing into a short story, and a bunch of other stuff, and turned it into the strange poem / mashup video you see below.

Lawrence Lessig on the criminalisation of culture

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Lawrence Lessig has consistently been one of the most important figures in the debate over copyright reform, ‘piracy’, and remix culture over the last decade. He’s recently switched his energies to battling the corrupting effect of PACs, lobbyists and outright bribery in the US political system, so it’s rare these days to hear him talk about how the law is prohibiting the development of culture, criminalising creativity and creating and extremism on both sides of the debate. A development that Lessig argues, has led to the social normalisation of copyright infringement on one side, and to the legal persecution of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens on the other.

Arguably, Lessig stands to the right of most of this generations creative community, but compared to the current legal prohibitions in place around the world, from the DMCA to the EUCD, he’s a leftist loon; and that’s how he’s frequently been portrayed in the media.

In these three video interviews with San Francisco’s ‘Booksmith‘, Lessig briefly outlines the moderate copyright reform position he advocates in his book ‘Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy’ .

More Lawrence Lessig videos..

TED 2007, How creativity is being strangled by the law
Google Lecture

Trip to Barcelona

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Barcelona from dbspin on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago I travelled to Barcelona, capitol of the Spanish province of Catalonia. On the last day, I cycled through the city and took a few low quality videos with my phone. These were too shoddy to post anywhere, so I had a play with them in final cut. The track is ‘The Weight of My Words’, by King of Convenience. Remixed by Fourtet. Most of these videos were taken in the cities oldest quarter, the Barri Gotic.

Cheated by the DMCA

Social media, user generated content, folksonomies, Web 2.0. Geeks usually view these emerging phenomena in a glowing light – as ways for individuals and groups to co-operatively contribute to the generation of technology, culture and information. To cynics such buzzwords define methods for private companies and corporations to build products and databases without needing to pay for the work involved. Either way, social media has become ubiquitous online, with topic specific social networks connecting the audiences of most major websites, while user generated content (from Facebook posts, to Google Maps mashups) add value for users and content owners alike. This year sees user generated content spill over into interactive entertainment in a big way, with games like Will Wright’s ‘Spore‘, and Media Molecule’s ‘Little Big Planet‘ gaining appeal through thousands of user made creatures and levels; content produced for free by people contributing their creative energies and time.

The downside of user generated content is that creators, coders, artists, and authors – the ones producing the content – are engaging in a one sided relationship. Their work, once contributed, can become wholly owned and controlled by the company they provide it to. If the creative work becomes part of a larger whole then this non reciprocal relationship means that while the website, book, or games they’ve added to can freely use their contributions, the opposite is not true.

My friends and I experienced the flip side of social media this week. Two years ago we entered a contest to be part of a video by the punk group ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’. The collaboration asked fans to dress up like the band and film themselves dancing around to the song ‘Cheated Hearts’, a track from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s second LP ‘Show Your Bones’.

contest

It wasn’t an original idea, the Welsh indie group Feeder had done pretty much the same thing almost five years before, with their fantastic video ‘Just a Day“; but we liked the band, we liked the song, and it looked like fun.

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My friends and I duly spent an evening getting dressed up in ludicrous costumes and makeup, and filming ourselves in various states of confusion. Afterwards, we ripped our tapes to computer and sent the originals, along with a release providing the band and their representatives with ownership of “all worldwide rights in the material submitted”. This rather lunatic agreement is pretty standard as far as user generated content goes, and though we didn’t like it, it was required to contribute.

A few months later we received a notice from the band, to the effect that our performance was to be included in the final video, and that we would receive a prize for our contribution. Shortly afterwards the band sent us a token bunch of signed pictures, stickers, patches and the like.

yyystickers

Finally the Cheated Hearts video was released. Rather than being exclusively fan made, it intermixed contributions from fans and a second official band video.

Despite being flattered (and embarrassed!) at be flashed across MTV around the world, we were a little disappointed that our contribution (it’s at the 3.04 mark) was a just 3 seconds long. So we took our footage, synced it to the song and uploaded our own fan edit video, as did a variety of other folks [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. It was something to email our friends about, Continue reading “Cheated by the DMCA”

How to Edit YouTube Videos

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I spent about eight hours yesterday working out how to do this. A working method was surprisingly hard to come by, so hopefully this will be of use to someone. Luckily it’s really easy once you know how. This technique should work not just for YouTube, but any other flash video site, like Google Video, DailyMotion etc.

 

Caveats

You should be aware before you start that posting remixed video online (if you don’t own the copyright to your source video) could theoretically get you into legal trouble.

These instructions are for Windows. Here are some simpler instructions for the Mac. Let’s face it, video stuff is faster and easier with a Mac, if you can afford one.

It’s also important to note before you begin, that uncompressed video files are enormous. You’ll likely need at least 1 free Gigabyte per 5 minutes of video you plan to convert, and much more to do editing later.

If anything goes wrong, I disclaim all responsibility. These instructions are provided as is.

All that said, here’s how to do it..

Download the video

There are lots of ways to download a video from YouTube. Here are a couple.

Throw the address of the video you want into one of these sites
Keep It Simple, Video Downloader 2.0, KeepVid.

or

Install Firefox, GreaseMonkey, and one of the these scripts.

Once the file has downloaded, you’ll have to convert it before Movie Maker or Adobe Premier Pro 1.5 (haven’t tried this with more recent versions) will open it.

Download Super

The free program ‘Super’ will convert almost any multimedia file to almost any format.

Download Super. The link is difficult to find on the horrendously designed site, but keep looking, it is there!

Convert the File

  1. Install and Run Super
  2. Find the file you’ve downloaded, and drag it into Super.
  3. Along the top of Super, set the settings like so [Image]
    • Output Container: avi
    • Output Video Codec: huffYUV
    • Output Audio Codec: WAV -(pcm U8)
  4. Right click anywhere in Super, and click ‘Specify the Output Folder Destination’. [Image]
  5. Select the folder where you’d like to put your finished file and click ‘Save Changes’
  6. You may wish to increase the size of the output video (by default Youtube’s resolution is 320*240). To do this simply change the Video Scale Size setting (e.g.: 640*480) [Image]
  7. Your finished settings should looks something like this [Image]
  8. Now click Encode. After a few seconds the video should start to encode [Image].
    In a few minutes (depending on video length), the process will finish.

That’s it!

You should now have a video that most video editors can import and edit without glitches. Happy remixing!

Joost not good enough?

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The Venice project, a mysterious beta application from Kazaa and Skype creators Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, has being variously hailed as the future of television, and the application which may finally bring to its knees the aging last mile bandwidth of the internet itself.

Retitled in mid January to ‘Joost‘, TVP is an IPTV application. That is, a program designed to carry high resolution video direct to consumers via the internet, rather than through satellite, cable or terrestrial broadcasts.

On the technical end, Joost uses both the UDP (to stream video direct to viewers) and TCP/IP (to share shows between users) protocols to create a hybrid Peer-to-Peer and Streaming, MPEG 4 H.264, (currently) free, on-demand TV network.

While Joost does live up to its promise to deliver full screen, uninterrupted streaming video at a watchable quality, a variety of potentially insurmountable challenges stand between the company and its goal of subverting broadcast television.
1. No Premium Content

Whilst Joost’s founders perhaps aim to ultimately provide licensed ‘A Plus’ broadcast content, current offerings are thin indeed, and there is little to suggest that the company has the industry connections or necessary expertise to lure rights holders into making such content available.

“Watch for sci-fi shows, rock videos, sports, comedy — anything with a testosterone angle. Deals are in the works with the three music majors, plus top US broadcasters and cable channels. For the rest of the world, there’s a modified PBS strategy: classic reruns, documentaries, and independent dramas.”

Wired Magazine

While there’s clearly a market for cheap, low quality television, creating a new distribution channel for low value content is unlikely to bring about the paradigm shift in multi-hour-a-day TV watching articulated by Joost’s founders in the latest issue of Wired Magazine.

As Zennström points out..

“You have to put together a whole consumer offering, a great instantaneous experience. A simple service that fills an obvious need and can be offered for free.”

Right now there’s no compelling reason to think that Joost can deliver on the ‘obvious need’ element of such aspirations. Kazaa and Skype were technological and infrastructural achievements, not content deals.

2. No User Content

It may be too early to tell, but early indications are that Joost, like the iPhone, will be a closed platform. Although the developers, unlike Mr. Jobs, welcome independent extension development, it appears they will avoid distribution of user uploaded content entirely. With online only content, and content production companies, from the Revision 3, TWIT, and Podshow networks to Channel101, growing in quality and diversity all the time, this has become the golden age of high quality, short format, web friendly media. At the other end of the scale, YouTube’s survival in the wake of massive takedown notices and competition from far more piracy friendly alternatives, signifies a huge unanticipated interest in the lower end of ‘user’ generated media; from inventive indy band videos, to post modern soap operas, to emerging comedians. According to Wired, the Swedes have no desire to tap this particular well spring of talent.

“Content that few people want to see — what Leiden engineers call “the too-long tail” — crimps a P2P network’s advantage.”

Whether you accept the sincerity of this reasoning or not (in fact, shows like ‘Diggnation‘ and ‘This Week in Tech‘ regularly beat the viewership of much cable television), if Joost’s founders follow their stated plan, they will fail to do for syndicated internet video what apple managed for the podcast, and in the process potentially waste their biggest advantage over ‘content providers’ like Apple, Microsoft and the major vertically integrated media corporations – rich, freely generated ‘sticky’ media.

3. Computers don’t deliver the TV experience

In contrast to active clip grazing or movie watching, computers are ill suited to the casual background parsing of TV. Theres a missing piece of the IPTV puzzle that Joost cannot in its current form solve. A link between the expanding, thinning, television and the computer. The key here is that connectivity must be bidirectional. It’s no use connecting your laptop to your Plasma via a composite cable (and in the process distracting your computer from any useful task), if changing channels necessitates a return to the keyboard. Technical solutions to this problem abound these days, with devices from companies like Slingmedia and Cisco prepared to carry high resolution audio and video to next generation HDTV’s. These are however, likely to be niche products when compared to the omnipresence of media centers in the form of the Microsofts Xbox 360, and Apple TV, both of which offer the potential to bring pay (and pay per view) programming to the television; in the form of all important big media licensed content. Arguably these players are in a far better position to ‘migrate broadcast television’s mass audience to the Web‘.

4. User Bandwidth

With grave doubts proliferating, as to the ability of the internet as it now exists to manage the load created by the growth curve of streaming video, and considering the effective and explicit bandwidth limits placed by ISP’s on their customers, it is by no means obvious that Joost can succeed in the mass market.

According to Joost’s detailed FAQ (beta customers only), in one hour’s use of the service “approximately 320Mb data will be downloaded and 105Mb uploaded”.

In Ireland, the broadband penetration poor man of Europe, common download and upload ‘allowances’ start out at around 10 GB download / 1 GB upload per month. That’s less than 10 possible hours of Joost watching, hardly enough for the program to replace broadcast television. Whilst this represents the worst peak of corporate bilking (leading to one of the worst broadband takeups in the EU), bandwidth limits are an uncomfortable reality throughout Europe and daytime and application targeted bandwidth throttling common in the US and UK.

5. Too Complicated

The Joost interface itself is a model of parsimony and slickness. It is also however, neither familiar nor obvious. Control of the program is via a video recorder / PVR interface metaphor, but in it’s current form more complex and ‘mystery meat‘ than either. Elements of the interface, like the channel library, used to manage channel subscriptions, and the ‘mychannel’ link used to open specific program items, remain unintuitive. A higher level interface design may prove necessary to ease the public into a world of fullscreen online television.

6. Advertising Specificity

Whilst Joost will offer advertisers a variety of viewer demographics – geographic, temporal, and viewing profile – this is not the kind of information which is necessarily most valuable to mass market advertisers. Whilst broadcast television ratings provided by companies like Nielson are deduced from representative samples rather than IP headcounts, they provide rich demographic information that includes income, employment and interests, for each data point. The difference, crudely put, is between ‘what kind of person’, an ‘what time and place’. Additionally, while Joost may allow advertisers to know which programming is viewed when, and which ads are ‘flicked’, this is a capability shared by existing PVRs, and one Zennström and Friis may well choose to leave disabled.

7. Visual Quality

Thanks to James Corbett, I’ve had a chance to sample the Venice Project over the past few weeks, and I can report that under XP at least, the visual quality is not up to the DVD standard claimed. Whilst the resolution may be as high, some channels have a washed out muddy look, more often associated with Flash video.

Check out a screen shot here (NOTE: This is a 2meg uncompressed BMP file!), a static camera, full resolution shot from the Green Day documentary ‘Bullet in a Bible’, you’ll notice it’s much lower quality than the reference images provided by Joost (check out a second screen grab here, from a different video, exhibiting higher quality). While this may be a function of the low end laptop I’m using, its a noticeable reduction in quality compared to watching a DVD or other H.264 content on the same machine.

For comparison purposes here’s another screenshot, a frame from an apple trailer played fullscreen in 480p, roughly equivalent to DVD resolution (again 2meg!). Perhaps image quality is increased on a higher speed connection? Our home machine is connected to Digiweb DSL XTRA (theoretical 3 meg down, 384k up), and about two miles from our exchange.

In summary, picture quality is certainly more impressive than rival streaming web formats, but not quite up to DVD. Does this matter? Well that depends a lot on point three. Sitting two feet from the screen its O.K., but I wouldn’t want to see a movie this way.

8. Not a Magic Bullet

Much like Zennström and Friis’s previous projects, Joost is not a radical advance in the state of the art, but rather a more reliable implementation. The technology to distribute high quality video via IP already exists, but is currently poorly implimented. What governs future uptake in this area is likely a mixture of legal (IP and regional distribution restrictions), economic (distribution costs), and psychological (ownership preference, tolerance of DRM) issues, rather than a best of breed technological race.

All in all there are many things to like about Joost, it’s interface, while likely too complex for casual users, is efficient and geek friendly; its expandability and image quality, almost instantaneous channel streaming, and the promise of ads as short as ‘one minute per hour’, are all commendable. However it’s ability to compete against free, burnable downloadable content, and branded services with a hook to the television, remains to be seen. There do exist however, at least two scenarios which could spell huge success for the upstart company.

1. Pay per view

If Joost can snag studio support, their service could provide a terrific (if lower resolution) alternative to ‘legal’ movie downloads, which if marketed correctly (read rented cheaply) could create a whole new market for lower resolution video – or cannibalize existing DVD sales.

2. Selling Out

The rapid skipless streaming technology, and piracy resistant (sic) encryption behind Joost, could make it an attractive purchase for use by a worried major TV network, suffering media giant, or net enabled set top box maker. Perhaps licenses to ala carte device or service tailored versions of the software and the backend network which supports it could be sold to multiple providers?

In the absence of either circumstance, Joost may well end up the Betamax of streaming video.