Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Address is Approximate

Just love good storytelling and clever use of tools at hand. This works because it's a simple story, beautifully told.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magic Marker on Dutch Railways

Not only are Dutch railways getting notorious for poor punctuality, even when the weather is fine, they seem to be skimping on repairs. Did they really use a magic marker to fix this flip-over board at Schiphol Airport?  I'm afraid I think they did. If this is the way they fix the platform, I wonder how they are maintaining the trains? More great fixes at ThereIfixed it. Perhaps I should send this picture in?

Monday, February 27, 2012

EBU Radio - Progress I don't Understand

I note the EBU has made a video showing what was achieved during last week's RadioHack. Not sure why they have not made it shareable. But the link seems to be public. Update : EBU tells me the same video is also on Youtube and that version is embeddable.  I will add it at the bottom of the post.

Although I see progress especially from RadioDNS and Android Hacks, I do feel the other radio engineers need to be talking to creative programme makers to ensure that interactive programme formats can be developed that create a demand for these hybrid radios. I believe the offer has to be a lot more than opinion polls as mentioned in the EBU video. If they wait until after the manufacturers come up with radios, it could be too late to make an impact. Reminds me of AM stereo if they are not careful, especially now that Spotify are starting to do all you can eat (within reason) deals with the mobile operators.

This was the video I made on the EBU stand in September 2010

And this is the YouTube version of the EBU video I mentioned above. Thanks to EBU for the link.

Transmission Control at the BBC


Watched the Director's Cut version of the Kings Speech, because a shot in the video above kept bugging me. I learned from Tom Hooper that they dressed up Battersea Power Station to look like the transmission control room, I presume at Daventry. You could see that the dials were not showing the right sort of things. But looking at this footage for the preparation of King Edward VIII's first broadcast to the Empire, they weren't far off at all. Take a look. Now back to work!

Robin at the BBC - Mystery Deepens


The mystery caped crusader singer at the BBC. May be they should invite him back to serade BBC World Service out of Bush House.

History Repeats Itself


Everything old is new again. Only the actors change. And perhaps the severity of the bribes....

This original Pathe report centres round the bribery allegations against the British Broadcasting Corporation given in the report of Sir Valentine Holmes K.C.

Polish Radio Masts


Came across this video while browsing the archives. No, there is no sound, but the theme tune to Thunderbirds would fit. Seem to recall covering the collapse of a Polish radio mast back in 1991. Was it this one I wondered? Er no...someone beat me to it. Everything you ever wanted to know about radio masts, and more besides.

Samba Tilt

If you have not discovered the magic of tilt shift, the city of Samba is a great place to start.

SpareOne Battery Keeps Its Charge

Just finished writing a piece on emergency communications in areas of the world where power is erratic, when I saw this announcement out of the Barcelona, Mobile World Congress 2012. 

The Taiwanese company of TennRich has launched a mobile handset that runs on a single AA battery and maintains its charge for up to 15 years, providing you use the Lithium AA battery supplied. You can replace the batter with any standard AA cell, alkaline or rechargeable. I'm curious to know how they are able to project so far into the future with any reliability. But even if its only a couple of years, that makes it a useful standby phone to keep in the house in case of an emergency. 

Note that the phone has no LCD display (The plastic window is there for you to adore the battery). So this phone isn't going to receive or send any emergency SMS messages. But maybe 15 years from now, there won't be any SMS to receive any way. But it will dial out pretty simply and store up to 9 preset numbers. No word on the price when it launches in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Anti-Theft devices


Great British inventions which might be of use to readers of Robbed in Barcelona and those who venture towards Mobile World Congress tomorrow during the public transport strike.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Getting Curious about Google Schemer

This is far more intriguing than Pinterest. Especially when you discover the huge article on Wikipedia about the Ukrainian Bandura. Looks like a way of inviting people to do stuff in real life. Like a nature walk. Or a visit to a Soviet jamming station.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why UNESCO needs to get out of saving radio

When I was involved in setting up a website in 1994, I learned a lot from the early critics of web design. I'm delighted to see that Vincent Flanders site is still going strong, 17 years after designers seriously started playing with code to make pages easy to navigate. As he points out, some major organisations never learn. I agree that the best way to learn about what works is to comb the web looking for examples of what NOT to do. But that applies to more than just web design. I've been looking at the effects of the first World Radio Day, one week after it was celebrated on February 13th. Frankly, I think the official institutions, especially UNESCO, need to do a lot better. What they have done so far is a catalogue of embarrassment.

There's a website, of course, which looks like it was designed around 1994. No expense has been spared in putting this together to announce the creation of a radio prize for next year and to post a rather vague video from Guy Berger filmed outside a radio day conference in London. The whole website radiates a total misunderstanding of what the Internet can do to enhance great radio. It is lifeless and frankly a waste of time. I hope it didn't cost any money. The video views on the UNESCO Youtube Channel indicate that not many people have discovered this video. I'll bet even fewer than 100 watched it to the end. And then there's UNESCO's own radio day website which is also useless. Who on earth are they making this site


 I did watch the UNESCO backed live radio event in London, which was billed as a workshop, but ended up as a series of talks. Once they were finished, the whole event collapsed after a remark made by Linj Manyozo that the elephant in the room is that television is radio's biggest threat. Sadly this wasn't challenged and the event dissolved. No conclusions. So ultimately no point in holding it. Reviewing all this, it's no wonder that the US has given up on UNESCO and it's ability to organize. The response to the withdrawal of funds by UNESCO Director Irina Bokova was to put up a video on YouTube, in a style that only confirms that UNESCO doesn't have its act together. These kinds of videos, which UNESCO clearly hopes will be taken up my mainstream media, clearly shows that UNESCO is totally out of touch with the media world. Even the links to her text are broken.


 So were there places that celebrated World Radio Day in the right way? Yes of course. SourceFabric in Prague and Berlin organised events that celebrated radio's practical, hybrid future. And the link between 720 ABC Perth and 720 WGN Chicago was original. What did they have in common? Their mediumwave frequency, 720 kHz. And an understanding of how audiences are changing. They clearly don't need a special day for that.

Electric Nightmares

I am interested in electric vehicles, especially as I start seeing them in Amsterdam. But I advise against visiting the electric vehicle site in the UK unless you want to get totally confused. It's useless - an embarrassment to the industry. Someone should drive off with the server.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hilversum Meltdown

Is it just me, or has the local bus company serving the area outside Amsterdam just bought a fleet of ice-cream trucks to ferry around the passengers? It certainly seems to be reminiscent of the vans that used to come round the housing estate back in the UK. These are fitted out with an engine which seems to be slightly too small for the size of the chassis, so it squeals along even though there are no hills at all in Hilversum.
Connexion, the bus company, seems to have made some strange choices for its signage system. They have spent a fortune putting up new LED signage which can only display text, and although these have been up for a couple of months now, they still aren't working.
Meanwhile the screens in the buses must have been bought at a discount store because they are frequently burned out, or in this case, they display the schedule of another bus. Hope we're not financing this fiasco. Er, I'm afraid we are.

Everything is a Remix Part 4

Probably one of the best episodes in the four part series on copying and copyright. Worth watching all episodes in fact. If only others spent this time creating great shorts of this type.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm Watching This

Regular readers of these musings will know that I am not a fan of the Amsterdam city slogan "IAmsterdam". It may be a nice graphics trick, but it doesn't work in audio-visual production. You can't do a pay-off that says, "and so, I Amsterdam". The only bit of light relief came when they modified the slogan in respect of a campaign to recognise stutterers.
However, the bad slogan idea seems to have spread to Italy, where I note that a new brand of smart watch is called I'm Watch. At first glance it looks kinda cool to have a mini iPad strapped to your wrist. This design comes at a price - the most expensive version will set you back 1600 Euro and there's no word on how long the batteries last between charge. This might be the last attempt we see to get young people to wear watches. Most of the people I know under 25 never wear one. And because this watch doesn't do everything, you end up carrying two devices.

Assistant Editor in your iPhone

Clever piece of software that helps you edit video shot on an iPhone. Worth playing around with. Robert Scoble bumped into these guys at CES, Las Vegas in January

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brilliant Attack on Vinyl

I understand that some broadcast archives are being cleaned up rather drastically (either closed or chucked out) as the economy bites and current leaders don't see the purpose in keeping their heritage. On the other hand, I thought the BBC's idea to donate a collection of is Caribbean service recordings to the University of the West Indies was a good move to preserve material that had been made with public money. I rather like what artists have been doing with vinyl in Spain, though I guess archivists will find the video too painful to watch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Watch out for the broadcasters!

Dutch railways is currently in the news because of another poor show of performance during two weeks of frosty weather that's no behind us. I saw this sign at the WTC Amsterdam stop, which confused many people on the platform who don't speak Dutch. It means "please listen for announcements" over the station's public address system, because the current train schedule has been suspended. The current criticism in the Dutch parliament is that Dutch railways are probably the worst in the country when it comes to informing people about what's happening during an emergency (weather) situation. Planned engineering works are well documented and shouted out. But when the system fails, for whatever reason, then you can wait in vain for any form of announcement. In Schiphol you'll get them in English, German and Dutch. But on most stations you'll get them in Dutch only, if at all. I'm rather furious that the coordinated bus/train schedule system which is supposed to explain how to get from A to B has disintegrated into fantasy land. Best advice is to go to the bus-stop and/or train system and hope for the best. I took the picture because it could be taken out of context to imply that Dutch railways cares about the future of broadcasting. But the creative collapse of some areas of broadcasting is something for another post.

Covering News Needlessly

Tried to embed a link of the Jon Stewart show from Feb 10th here, but it freezes. So here is the link In that edition Jon Stewart notes that CNN is becoming the Town Crier Shocked Reaction network, just to grab shots of people getting surprised that someone important has died. I fail to understand CNN's reasoning for making an entire item out of reaction shots. Stewart covered something similar last year. Very little seems to have changed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I have a hunch

Great ideas coming together, just like in this brilliant video. Slow hunches. But good ones.

Race for the top at the BBC

Forget the US elections this year. This race is far more exciting. For some. Like me. Who are you betting on? Now why don't they do one for Dutch public broadcasting?  

Could an Azerbaijani aviation engineer help revolutionize journalism?

I don't claim any originality with this post. Have a look at Joshua Boissevain's great piece of curation, where he ponders the use of unmanned (model) helicopters to help journalists in difficult areas. Might come handy in Athens, Tehran, Madrid, etc. I wonder if the police would attempt to shoot it out of the sky? It would certainly help get more accurate estimates of crowd sizes. They are often inflated by the organisers and deflated by the authorities or opposing side.

Welcome to Amsterdam - Now Please Go Away

I use this sign in current presentations of how not to market visitors to a city. It's outside the North-South Line exhibition, built at Amsterdam Central Station to explain why the capital of the Netherlands has been dug up and disrupted since 2003.

But clearly the exhibition staff have been bothered by pesky tourists wandering into the exhibition area to ask for directions or other tourist information. It is, after all, marked as a visitor's centre and it's run by Amsterdam City Council. Clearly, the solution they decided on was to put up a sign outside telling people to clear off and find the VVV (Tourist Office) a few hundred metres away.

I would have put up a big sign outside saying

YES. Information about our great city can be found across the road inside the VVV Building (picture below and map). If you're interested in how our city will be changed by the new metro, then please come inside.

Most people I talk to think this office just sells tickets for the tram and metro. If the sign said "City Info and Tickets", everything would be a lot clearer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Knighted by Microsoft

So here's the scenario. Two things happen at the same time. Microsoft Outlook 2010 corrupts a .pst file and a hard-drive decides to fail at the same time. Having done back-ups, only a little data is lost - it's just the hassle of reinstalling programs again. Until we come to the upgrade Microsoft Outlook 2010, which I ordered on line in 2009. The confirmation mail is in the file that corrupted. Wrote to Microsoft in the Netherlands. Got an email back which did a great job at butchering the English language. Tried the numbers given in the email. I get into automation tree hell. Can you get the activation code or licence from examining the back-up copy of Outlook 2010? No. So Outlook 2007, no upgrade for you.

Meanwhile Microsoft India has been hacked and we're hours away from a major Microsoft Security Update. We certainly live in interesting times.

Interference Problems Loom for Terrestrial Broadcasters

Looks like things are going seriously wrong at the World Radio Conference in Geneva - at least if you're a broadcaster operating in Europe or Africa. Last minute changes to the agenda backed by the mobile industry are to blame. The problem is that spectrum issues are difficult for most people to understand at the best of times. The EBU Technical department made this video a few years back, which could not be more topical right at this moment. For that reason, I've posted it here.

European Broadcasting Union warns that spectrum management talks might be put at risk at this year's World Radio Conference (WRC-12) which is currently taking place in Geneva. The Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP), that will be approved this week by the European Parliament, is Europe's five-year policy programme to strategically plan and harmonise the use of spectrum in order to ensure the functioning of the internal market. The RSPP proposals strike a fair balance: mobile operators are able to increase wireless data traffic, while Member States, in cooperation with the EU Commission, must ensure sufficient spectrum availability for broadcasting services. EBU Members will therefore be able to continue to deliver and develop new innovative services and applications for EU audiences on terrestrial platforms.

So what's the problem? After pressure from the African and Arab regional administrations, delegations at the World Radio Conference are currently looking to allocate the 700MHz band (694-790 MHz) to mobile services.  Such a decision would cause considerable problems in Europe, where the 700MHz band is heavily used for terrestrial broadcasting with, in many cases, long-term licensing arrangements in place.  It would cause considerable disruption, additional expense and loss of services for millions of viewers across Europe. Broadcasters also consider this band as being crucial to the future development of innovative new terrestrial services.

The RSPP instead refers to existing spectrum legislation, the EU Telecom Package, and urges future spectrum policies to be in line with its core message: spectrum is a scarce public resource which must be managed with ‘special attention’, striking a balance between economic, cultural and social values in the public interest.

EBU made this video a few years back (I recognise the living room as being actually a corridor shot inside the EBU Building). But it describes the problem that now threatens to develop in Geneva.

Recalling Krajii on Radio Day

Played around with this photo I took back in the summer of 2006. It's actually two stations. BBC Far East Relay Station in Singapore on the left. And towers of the now defunct Radio Singapore International on the right. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sounds Interesting

Amazed at how Vimeo is turning to the social media network of production professionals. I like their new design. Also seeing excellent examples of the importance of spectacular sound. It's no good just improving the picture quality if the sound doesn't match it. Just watch the video above with the sound switched off.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Visual Complexity 2012

Delighted to see Manuel Lima's project of mapping brilliant infographics is going from strength to strength. This interview with him explains what he's doing. The book he refers to has now been published. The website is awesome.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Best example of trailer storytelling

This video montage in honour of Pixar was made by a young Dutch film editor and posted on line last July.He's a fan of their work and I believe what he's done is create something new. It is still up, although I don't know why. I hope it is because Pixar sees it as a brilliant piece of editing. Personally, I'd put it on the Pixar website and ever Pixar DVD ever sold. Or it could be that Pixar hasn't found it yet. I know from trying to access the video in some other countries (like Germany) that the video was blocked.

A Post about Titles

I am currently looking at the new ways of storytelling when you don't have access to a transmitter network. For a start, your film or documentary could do with some great titles. Social media platforms have become the place for creatives to show what they can do proving they have an audience before they get the commission or the dream job. Vimeo is full of great title sequences made by brilliant designers. Look at this one from Slim Jim, otherwise known as James Curran. The beauty is in the simplicity.

The Amsterdam website run by production company Submarine has also curated a great collection of title-sequence videos, some of which are on par or better than the titles eventually used. Check out the site called, especially the entry from the Turkish designer Dogan Can Gundogdu. 

The Dark Knight Rises - Opening Credits Project from Doğan Can Gündoğdu on Vimeo.

Of course, producing great ideas on "spec" in order to break into a new business is as old as the hills. But digital technology has made it possible to make that demo to cinematographic standards for a fraction of the cost. This reminds me of "405 The Movie" which was released way back in 2000. 405 was an early example of the revolution in digital film production and the use of broadband internet to distribute media. Wikipedia has more.

While the producers shot the film using a digital camcorder and created the special effects using personal computers, all on a budget of $300, the results rivalled that of many major film and television production studios at the time. Furthermore, $140 of the budget was to pay two tickets for walking on the highway shoulder while filming. It was issued to them by California Highway Patrol Officer Dana Anderson (who is listed in the "Special Thanks" section of the credits). At the same time, with little promotional effort the film soon reached millions of online viewers through widespread internet access. By July 2000 it was featured on the site iFilm where it had received two million viewers. As a result, Branit and Hunt signed a deal as directors with CAA as well as A Band Apart. They appeared on The Today Show, Access Hollywood, Roger Ebert,

One of the producers of 405, Bruce Branit went on to make the great short film called WorldBuilder. Again, shot on a weekend, the work all came in post production.

And there is some great work which doesn't seem to have been discovered on Branit's YouTube channel.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sony Make.Believe

Sir Howard's way wasn't all that successful was it? I don''t think Sony's woes can be pinned on the Japanese nuclear disaster and the floods in Thailand (affecting the prices of hard disks). To me, Sony's lack of understanding of social media networks and its failure to embrace the fans of its hardware (read the gaming community) are points that serious blight the tenure of Howard Stringer, Sony's departing president and CEO. It's a pity. I thought the Welsh-American could change the course of a giant corporation that's been seriously out of control for several years.

But I realize that in the course of Stringer's reign at Sony, I have replaced all but one device in my home with a non-Sony brand. Gone are all the Sony amplifiers, Walkman WDM6 casette recorders, DAT recorders, MiniDisc recorders (thank God for that), several Sony cameras, One Sony VAIO desktop (never, ever again) and countless Memory sticks (cost per GB has always been ridiculous)

I stopped buying Sony mobile phones because of reliability issues. My Sony P600 smart phone packed up because it recalibrated itself in my back pocket, making it impossible to enter the password. It would cost 80 Euro to just check was wrong. Switched brands after that. 

I owned a Sony Triniton portable for 20 years. But when it finally needed replacing because of the arrival of digital TV, Samsung had left Sony in the dust.

I have only a handful of Sony devices left. One is the PS3 which I bought for the kids and also doubles as a Blu-Ray player. Oh, I see I have a pair of Sony professional headphones, though I replaced the earpads with another brand which fit better and last longer. I think Sony made some of the best hi-fi headphones (the HDR-1) in the glory days of the late 1990's. But when the Sony Service centre in Hoofdorp wanted to charge me 40 Euro for a plastic lens cap was the moment that my brand loyalty flew out of the window. 

So, the new guy, Kazuo Hirai, has a lot of work to do. I wonder if Sony will ever be a leader again? They could start by re-thinking their slogan. Sony - Make. Believe. No-one see's the full stop. I don't think Howard ever saw the irony. The explanation by the Sony PR team was the most disappointing load of rubbish I've read in a long time. What happened to Only Sony?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Poland's President Visits Radio Free Europe's Former Headquarters in Munich | Cold War Radios

Poland's President Visits Radio Free Europe's Former Headquarters in Munich | Cold War Radios:

VOA has also been celebrating its first broadcast. Voice of America went on the air February 1, 1942, nearly two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and the United States entered World War II. I found that rather late, bearing in mind the BBC started its foreign language service (Arabic) in 1938 to counteract broadcasts in Arabic from Italy into the Middle East.

Speaking in German, American journalist William Harlan Hale delivered VOA's first broadcast from a studio in New York City and broadcast to Germany via shortwave radio. The publicity guys were out there from day one, with those huge cardboard signs on the microphones.

"This is a voice speaking from America. Daily at this time, we shall speak to you about America and the war," Hale announced. "The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you the truth."

Current VOA Director David Ensor says those words continue to be relevant today.


Marking the 70th anniversary, Ensor said the international broadcasting agency will aggressively move forward to continue to provide an "information lifeline to people in closed societies like Iran."  The official party for the VOA anniversary will be on March 7th in Washington DC. 

Scheveningen Radio Revival 1985

Posted more great old shows from the Media Network archive. Like this one I made in Ijmuiden at what was called "Scheveningen Radio". Why the mix up in the names? Have a listen.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Electric Cars in Amsterdam

It costs 55 Euro a day to park an ordinary car in the centre of Amsterdam. That's crazy, because that price doesn't include the hassle of trying to find a place to park in the first place. So what about the green alternatives? Car2Go is charging 39 Euro a day to drive an electric SMART car around the city, parking, fuel, all included. But compared with the price of public transport, that's kinda expensive. There are all kinds of extra charges for registering, "processing reparations" (whatever that is - lot's of spelling mistakes on the website), and don't let anyone else drive the car (1000 Euro fine). These cars are small, so not something you could use to pick up some shelves in IKEA. So, I'm intrigued to see who takes them up on the offer.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Snuggle Weather

A day to stay indoors and upgrade a Windows 7 computer. Yes a clean install is going to be needed. But with the snow falling outside, great music on the hi-fi, it's really kind of fun.