Write Design Multimedia

Monday, August 28, 2006

ABC makes user-generated high priority

It's not unusual for traditional television commissioners to spawn internet or mobile add-ons, but at Australia's ABC the 'new media' department is the one programming second-tier cabsat channel ABC2. Dan Fill, head of development for new media and digital services, tells David Jenkinson about the thinking behind this back-to-front approach.

Dan Fill (left) moved to ABC from Canadian producer Decode eight months ago. He's been at the heart of the interactive game for years, and now, as head of development for new media and digital services at Australia's public network, he's having some fun defining next-generation content that works on and off TV.

ABC's output divisions include television production, radio and ABC Enterprises, which manages books and merchandise and 60 retail stores across the country. The company relies on revenues from the latter division to be reinvested as it is a commercial-free network. Then there is new media and digital services, which primarily manages a 1.8 million page website that, among other things, is the biggest podcaster in Australia.

"We also have responsibility for the mobile strategy and interactive television," says Fill. "And also sitting within the new media division is broadcaster ABC2, a digital free-to-air channel the original programming for which is derived from the new media team."

The channel has just celebrated its first birthday, and Fill is now focused on developing new programming that can work on TV but also adds fuel to the new digital initiatives coming out of the department. "It's quite a nice option to know you have a television component that you can build into what may primarily be, for instance, a web proposition," says Fill.

ABC2 is focused on kids, youth and regional programming and has a lot of time-shifted shows from the main network. "Increasingly we are looking at innovative projects that are a bit riskier than you would see on the main network," says Fill. He is responsible for the original programming while Carol Saab, who came from Sky in the UK, is in charge of acquisitions.

In terms of new content, one of the things ABC has realised is that its radio station Triple J (TKTK) has a strong youth audience - which is something that can carry over into TV and onto the internet. "So we are producing a television series for the main network called JTV, and then for ABC2 we are making an extended two-hour version of it called JTVXL. It is focused on rock - and fairly inexpensive youth energy and interest," says Fill.

The show is in a magazine format featuring interviews and shorts (bought in) that are "quirky and different." Music videos will be played within the two-hour piece as well.

When it comes to acquisitions, ABC is looking for material like Atom Films' stuff or the Happy Tree Friends. But the main play for Fill will be looking at generating content from users, which is "a huge part of the interactive strategy."

"We are still considering the exact way to go about creating the user-generated content but we have a lot of infrastructure in place through the Triple J site and we have a lot of calls to action for the radio station, so it is just a matter of determining the exact kinds of content we want," he says.

"We realised that this youth audience wants the content when they want it, and they want it in depth. Once the show has finished there is an enormous amount of content on the web that flushes things out."

It has also become clear that kids want to get up on their own soapboxes and say what they think. "It is clear that they do want to see themselves reflected in the content of the show. We are totally open to that notion," says Fill. Many of the opportunities to do this will happen online.

Broadband penetration floats around 70% in Australia, and cable penetration - which is currently low - is about to rocket. "They have just cut the cable prices by 50% and subs are improving, so we are expecting a massive rise," says Fill.

There are two competing offerings: Optus and Foxtel. The full package has dropped to A$50 (US$38) a month.

Fill is buoyant about how the department will move forwards with user-generated content commissions. He says: "We've done some pretty interesting things in the past months. We didn't have the rights to the Commonwealth Games, so we invited people to send in images of their own Commonwealth Games - their own little parties and how they were taking things - through their mobile phones. We got a massive amount of response, things we would never have been able to pull off the wire, and it was very exciting for us."

In the kids arena, ABC is launching an application called Playground Radio that will harness the power of the user-generated trend. "The ABC has a very big library of preschool music, so this ap will allow kids to create their own playlists of songs - like Wiggles songs and Bananas in Pyjamas, some decent brands. In total they can listen to a library of around 1,500 songs," says Fill.

Playground Radio also has some special playlists from kids characters The Wiggles. "If you would like to download those songs to a mobile device and then take it off the computer then that goes through to an arrangement with Destra Publishing," he explains.

"We are trying to broaden our reach to the audience in preschool and have also just launched a parenting section online. We recognise parents surf with their kids."

ABC is also about to overhaul its news site, and while the focus is going to be on providing editorially sound news content it is also about allowing users to be able to participate in some way in terms of tagging content or being able to comment.

There are likely to be extensions of projects like Snapshots, in which the broadcaster sends out 100 cameras into regional Australia and has people take pictures of their lives. "Now we are entering the second season of Snapshots the media is likely to be more rich," says Fill. "And probably spill over from the website onto ABC2.

"We have another project called Video Lives in which we invited the audience to send in videos about them and their regions. Those went up on the ABC.net.au, and then the audience came online and voted for the best, which were broadcast on ABC2. In season two we have actually taken the five or six that were the most compelling of all and have now turned them into a weekly video diary that they do on a show called Australia Wide on TV."

However the network chooses to move forwards, it seems users will play a big part of ABC's future.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

LAMP calling for submissions - deadline September 25

The Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP) is calling for cross-media projects from creative teams in the Australian media industry for its fifth live-in-lab in Freycinet, Tasmania, October 29 to November 3, 2006. LAMP gratefully acknowledge the support of major sponsor Screen Tasmania.

LAMP is an initiative of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), funded by the Australian Government. The LAMP live-in-lab is a practical, production and market-focused prototyping lab specifically tailored for content creators. Project teams spend the week developing concepts and production prototypes for delivery on multiple devices.

In the last 10 months LAMP has run four major live-in-labs developing over 30 projects and transforming 92 people in the process. These have been run with ABC TV, South Australian Film Corporation in SA and general ones in WA and Sydney. It has also run seminars around the country in digital business and distribution.

LAMP Director Gary Hayes said that LAMP was designed to transform the participants and their projects.

“LAMP uses a proven development model adapted to suit the Australian emerging media landscape, similar to immersive labs in the US and Europe,” he said.

"The week is focused on producing a pitchable prototype and as such it is exhausting but very exhilarating process. It creates a real future for your cross-media property by making you relevant to the new audiences.

“The labs have attracted high profile teams from News Interactive, Project Greenlight Australia, Firelight Productions, Double the Fist, ABC TV, SBS TV, Bush TV and Penny Chapman Pictures.”

LAMP requires teams to be comprised of:
1 - Creator - executive producer, producer, director, writer etc
2 - Designer - broadcast, brand, visual identity
3 - Other craft - editor, writer, talent, sound, DOP etc:

Participants will be led by Australian and international mentors with specialist skills in design, writing, business, user experience and the technical aspects of cross media. The Lab will conclude with teams pitching their projects and showcasing their prototypes to VIP’s from the Australian media industries.

Peter Giles, Head of Digital Media at AFTRS said producers need to make the shift and follow audiences to embrace new delivery platforms such as broadband internet, IPTV, games and mobile devices.

“It's about building new partnerships and thinking outside the square to tailor a message that works across multiple platforms,” he said.

“We've found that the intensive workshop model is extremely effective in developing high-level skills for career professionals working in a dynamic global media environment.”

Interested people can apply at www.lamp.edu.au/apply to deliver concept on mobile devices, interactive television, broadband, games consoles and beyond. The submission deadline is September 25, 2006. For further information visit: www.lamp.edu.au or email lamp@aftrs.edu.au

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bring your storyboards

Please remember to bring your storyboards on Monday. We will be starting to compile them into an animatic...

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Monday, August 21, 2006

AFTRS National Screening Tour

Each year AFTRS packages up a cross-section of its best work highlighting the country's most exciting new talent and tours across Australia.

In addition to the screenings, the program provides an opportunity to attend an information seminar on everything you need to know about applying to the country's finest film, television and radio school.

This event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there...

NOTE: Program and dates may be subject to change. Films are unclassified and recommended for viewing by audiences 15+ in every state. Seating is limited and no prior bookings will be available. Allocation is unreserved on a first come first serve basis.


Wednesday 23 August
4.00pm Recruitment Seminar
5.00pm Screening
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Cinema 1
Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Enquiries 03 9602 2300

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

St Kilda Short Cuts Luanch and Screenings

Premiere Event Launch 30th August 2006 :: Take a Short Cut to St Kilda

The Directors of the infamous Fitzroy Shorts cross the river to bring you St Kilda SHORT CUTS, a new monthly short film festival that promises to be a spectacular addition to St Kilda's film landscape. Its home, the gorgeous first floor Lounge Bar at Big Mouth. The Short Cuts launch event will be held on 30 August 2006 and will give movie punters an awesome selection of short films that have won acclaim for the filmmakers or propelled them onto greater projects.

The SHORT CUTS ALLSTARS launch night, is a collection of rare, specially curated short films, never to be seen together again. Featuring the acclaimed short film Wilfred, directed by Tony Rogers, and soon to be a TV Series on SBS. Also featuring is Harvie Krumpet, the nude little man that we all love. See where it all started for the director of Wolf Creek, Greg Mclean featuring his rarely seen short film ICQ and finally the internationally award winning short film Cracker Bag, which took out the prestigious Cannes Palm d'Or for best short in 2003 for its director, Glendyn Ivin, which put the Australian short film circuit on the international map. Glendyn is part of this years prestigious accellerator program at MIFF.

Invite yourself to the launch of this monthly short film festival @ Big Mouth St Kilda. And then on the last Wednesday of each month for 2006 and into 2007.

Take a Short Cut to St Kilda and join us upstairs at Big Mouth for films, food, booze, rare funk grooves from DJ Mr B and door prizes to the value of $500.00.

For a screening calendar and full list of films screening on the launch night please visit www.shortcuts.net.au.

WHEN: Wednesday, 30 August 2006
WHERE: Big Mouth first floor lounge bar, St Kilda
TIME: Doors open 7pm, Screening at 8.30pm
COST: $10 Full, & $7 Conc. Tickets only available on the door!
WHY YOU NEED TO COME: Door Prizes to the value of $500.00

For further info simply email: info@shortcuts.net.au

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Canberra Short Film Festival

The Eleventh Canberra Short Film Festival is calling for entries. With its four competition categories, expanded out-of-competition screening program, filmmaking forums and hands-on workshops, this year's festival is looking to be a big one.

General Entry guidelines: Max 30 mins, made since Jan 2004, any genre. For full requirements, see the entry form on the website.

There are four competition categories:
* National. Entrants must be Australian residents. Prize is $2,000 cash and a trophy.
* Canberra Region. Entrants must be residents of the Canberra Region. Prize is $1,500 cash and a trophy.
* Youth. Entrants must be 25 or under at time of film's completion. Prize is $1,000 cash and a trophy.
* The University of Canberra Schools Competition. Entrants must have been Students in Grades 1 – 12 at time of film's completion. Prize is $750 and a trophy.

This year an expanded screening program will see films selected for screening in out-of-competition collections including:
* Animation,
* Horror,
* Experimental and
* Family Friendly

For more information and an entry form>>
DEADLINE: Friday September 1st 2006
p] 02 6297 0432
e] canberrashort@iinet.net.au
m] PO Box 5212 KINGSTON ACT 2604

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