Auckland: Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshops/Journalism Symposium

(and a title so long it reminds me a really must sort out my WP template…)

Oz/NZ Week Three

Many of the contributions to last week’s MINA 2013 Mobile Film Screenings and Symposium explored locative media and geo-located production practices. Carrying on the same theme, for the past week I’ve working alongside iCollab/ELVSS collaborators Thom Cochrane and Laurent Antonczak, with the welcome addition of Vik Narayam from AUT. We’ve been running a series of Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshops (#marmw2013) for academics from AUT and beyond.

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It’s been a packed week, where we’ve covered many aspects of mobile/locative media creation with guest speakers from around the world dropping in via Google Hangouts. Together we’ve explored collaborative mapping and augmented reality applications (similar to the recent #iCollab project); collaborative movie making using Vyclone; Vine and a range of mobile film apps; Vimeo and YouTube (or rather Vimeo vs. YouTube); mobile film history and aesthetics; mobile filming techniques; mobile audio production tools and practices; and transmedia narratives for audience engagement.

Guest speakers via hangout included:

  • Vernon Rive (NZ but currently at Cambridge University in the UK) – as an environmental lawyer, Vernon’s use of social/mobile media in his casework is a real eye-opener as he uses online platforms to highlight community issues in relation to legal cases. This led to Averill Gordon musing on the blurring of boundaries between law and PR if lawyers are using digital media to engage people/raise awareness of campaigns – reminding me of Ron Burnett‘s writing on transdisciplinarity in networked spaces, which I find myself referring to on a regular basis, including in our paper “New Global Learning Cultures: Interdisciplinarity through Networked Technologies
  • “The Swedes” (Sweden, funnily enough) who told us about the ways they’re using mobile and social technologies at Umea University – they’re wonderful, as is Thom’s blog post which tells you more about them…
  • Dan Wagner (UNITEC, NZ) who gave us a live demo of filming techniques (from the great outdoors – well the lush grounds of UNITEC at least – complete with a serendipitous tui birdsong accompaniment) particularly focusing on the technical capabilities/limitations of camphone lenses.
  • Everybody’s favourite German mobile filmmaker Max Schleser (Massey University, NZ) who gave us an entertaining yet erudite perspective on mobile filmmaking, including a sample of his mobile-mentary “Frankenstorm“, filmed at the Jersey Shore, two month after hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and caused an estimate of over $71.4 billion in damage.
  • Catherine Cronin (Ireland) – a member of the iCollab team, who talked about our international collaborative google mapping project, raising important issues around trust and identity in online networks. It’s always good to hear Catherine’s graceful musings on learning and teaching through social and mobile media…
  • Finally, Mark McGuire (University of Otago, NZ) joined us on Friday afternoon and gave a rich overview of digital media practices and possibilities before spending time talking to each participant individually about their projects, which was much appreciated and ensured that people went away brimming with ideas.

While the workshops ran Monday to Friday, we also spent part of the day on Wednesday at the AUT Journalism Symposium, where Thom was presenting on the use of mobile technologies in L+T and I was a panellist (Innovation and The Future) along with Jeremy Rees (Editor-In-Chief, APN-online/NZ Herald) and Richard Pamatatau, expertly mediated by Helen Sissons, where we discussed, debated and occasionally disagreed on the role and impact of social media on mainstream journalism.

Danni Mulrennan, who organised the Symposium (and is doing great stuff with mobile/social in journalism ed.), also gave us a tour of the fantastic journalism facilities at AUT. Myself and Laurent had a great time playing around with the VidyoCast system and making… erm… screen art

All in all it’s been a packed week, and we’ll be seeing the workshop participants again on 5 and 6 December to view their individual/group projects, which I’m really looking forward to.

Here is the G+ Community for the workshops, which gives an idea of the kind of things we’ve been covering, and for a visual summary see this Flickr set.

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MINA 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013

WEEK TWO: Auckland (post 2 of 3): MINA 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013

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As well as working with some of the ELVSS team on our Mobile Augmented Reality Film Workshops (more of that later), I’m in Auckland as a keynote speaker (along with Prof. Larissa Hjorth from RMIT) at the 3rd MINA Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium. I’m writing this after the event, which was so rich that I can’t fit everything into one post so I’ll write about the mobile film screenings here and the conference itself in a separate post.

SO, the films: The Symposium itself launched on Wednesday night with the first of three nightly screenings of mobile shorts from around the world. Each screening was held in a darkened theatre with films shown on a large screen. I’ve rarely viewed mobile films in this way before (having generally viewed films on smaller screens/devices – apart from when showing films to students, but then as standalone pieces rather than as a running showreel) and I was struck by the intensity of the experience. Because the films were so short, ranging from something like 15 seconds up to 3 minutes, we were immersed in mobile film in all it’s glory – a real cornucopia of genres, styles and aesthetics which showcased the rich possibilities of pocket cinema brilliantly. I’m more in love with mobile film than ever after this…

The depth and power of emotion in many of the short pieces is quite remarkable. These filmmakers really understand the medium and the art of telling a short story quickly. Interestingly, some of the films were virtually indistinguishable from big budget counterparts in terms of production values as a result of technological shifts (HD camphones) and were not only crisp and clear but also incredibly cinematic due to their framing and sweeping shots (for instance, Wilhelm Jerusalem – Kołacze by Lukasz Krysiewicz). Others retained a more lo-fi aesthetic, including several made using apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. Max Schleser’s film “Midtown” was filmed on an iPhone 4 with mCAMLITE, the mobile video created with the Time Piles app, edited with the Splice app and the music was produced using the iMaschine app. It’s amazing to think what can be created with the devices in our pockets.

As is practically a defining characteristic of ‘pocket cinema’, the films had a sense of immediacy, intimacy and authenticity. Personal devices are ideally suited for telling personal stories, and the films were so imaginative and varied – the one unifying feature being that they all proved how compelling short-form content can be when the idea/story is really strong. It doesn’t have to take a long time to take people on an emotional journey, as proved by films such as “A Grand Mother” by Candy Elsmore, which conveyed her delight and pride knowing that her grandmother had signed New Zealand’s Suffragette Petition over 100 years ago. The spark and wit of pieces such as Kevin Logan’s “To Have and To Have Not”, and Paul Taylor’s “Digital Trust Hike” were palpable, without detracting from deeper messages. I won’t list all of the films here, but I’ll be searching them out online and if available, will write a follow-up post listing the contributions with hyperlinks (many are not in the public realm as this may compromise their eligibility for festivals etc.).

The final night (Friday) was a showcase of films from other/partner mobile festivals, including SEISFF (Korean Mobile Film Festival), the Cinephone Spanish Mobile Film Festival, the Macedonia Mobile Film Festival, the USA Mobile Film Festival, and the Ohrenblick and Mobile Streifen Festivals (Germany).

There’s something about sitting in a darkened room watching a succession of short-form films on a big screen. It’s intense, compelling, leading the viewer into a Zen-like state. It had me thinking about the Netflix model of releasing an entire series in one go (see Kevin Spacey’s speech here). Increasingly, audiences want to be immersed in a viewing experience, and in the digital age, we can be. However, this isn’t just about gorging on the latest epic (obvious examples being The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black – even though 3 of these were broadcast as regular series, many or even most viewers saved themselves so they could watch the entire thing over a short space of time). In the case of the MINA 2013 screenings, we experienced the depth and immersion in a much shorter time period, ideally suited to short form content.

As you can tell, the MINA screenings were truly inspiring. They made me want to go away and start creating there and then – and judging by the conversations I was having many others felt the same. These screenings were invaluable in terms of opening the mind to what’s possible – vertical and square formats, durations as short as 15 seconds, a huge variety of styles and genres – it’s a brilliant exercise in freeing the mind from the constraints of industry-led convention. I’m looking forward to showing the MINA 2013 DVD to my students next semester as I think it’s a powerful way to experience mobile film, and I hope that it will really open up their minds and get them thinking about what’s possible, pushing them to create in new ways.

Here’s the MINA 2013 Showreel as a taster – and some stills here.

Some more of the films:

#PLEconf Collaborative (un)Keynote

The PLE Conference, now in it’s 4th year and running simultaneously between Europe and Australia, is one of the most innovative conferences out there. I can’t think of any other conference that pushes the boundaries quite so much when it come to the keynotes – or in #PLEconf terms – UNkeynotes.

UNkeynotes are about interaction and audience participation, moving away from the idea of the ‘sage on the stage’ towards a model which is collaborative and energising, drawing on the knowledge of the room, not just the ‘main speaker’.

When I was invited to UNKeynote this year’s PLE, I was genuinely delighted – and also intrigued by the overall theme: Personal Learning Environments in the Cities of the Future, or ‘smart cities’ as they’re often termed. Having been working with colleagues across the globe for several years now on mobile filmmaking projects, I thought it would be pretty cool to do a collaborative keynote. After all, if we’re connecting learners across the globe, co-creating through mobiles and Google everything, what better way to demonstrate our global PLN/PLE than using a Google Hangout? What can possibly go wrong? Hehe…

So we did it. I’m still breathing. Just*

We started by exploring the range of smart city initiatives from the top-down, centralised initiatives led by the big beasts of IT through to bottom-up citizen-led, grassroots initiatives. Drawing on Dan Hill’s Manifesto for Smart Citizens (a city can only be as smart as it’s citizens, right?), we discussed the complexities and tensions between these ‘extremes’. Most importantly, we asked “what will the PLE of the future, in smart/future cities, look like? What about the idea of the whole city as a PLE?”

My co-presenters were Max Schleser and Dan Wagner, two awesomely creative people with whom I’ve been working for the past 3 years on a range of mobile/PLE-driven projects, bringing together students across the world to make short films on topics including global sustainability. Dan and Max are both based in New Zealand, although Max is from Germany originally and Dan is from LA. They are amazing to work with and they were amazing in the unkeynote – both joined via Google hangout and spoke about global collaborations such as 24 Frames 24 Hours (a constantly evolving film ethnography where participants across the globe contribute 2 minute mobile films representing their life/day/city), and ELVSS (which I wrote about here last year – and there’s more to come as this year’s project pushed the boundaries even more… yes, we ‘gone done’ a visual opera backdrop with over 100 students from New Zealand, France, Colombia and the UK), sharing their thoughts on mobile PLEs and the potential for connecting people across the world through co-creation.

We then invited the audience to contribute 15 second clips on THEIR ideas in relation to future PLEs using instagram along with the conference hashtag #PLEconf13films. Yes, we actually tried to make a film DURING a keynote (I’m still in the no man’s land between ‘never again’ and ‘I can’t wait to do that again’ i.e. slightly shellshocked). If you go to this URL http://web.stagram.com/tag/pleconf13film/?vm=grid you should be able to view the short videos as they come in. This is a living, connected, mobile film project. We have just over 24 hours to produce a short film composed of multiple clips from people across the globe – so we’re really hoping that our friends at the Australian #PLEconf will also contribute! We’re looking for either a) abstract shots relating to PLEs/future cities, or b) 15 second (max) talking head videos responding to the following question:

What do you think our learning environments will look like in the cities of the future? What will we use them for?

We also have a Google doc set up here http://bit.ly/11B92HM for crowdsourcing general thoughts and ideas, so if anybody would rather contribute to that (or even, as well as a video clip) then please do so! We’d love to end the conference with a manifesto of sorts – alongside a really cool short film starring YOU!

So thanks again #PLEconf for giving us the opportunity to experiment with a connected, collaborative, (un)keynote idea that was technically challenging, chaotic, and slightly scary at times – it was rather ambitious, but I’m hoping that tomorrow we’ll (and when I say WE, I mean ALL OF US!) look at the outputs and think ‘damn, we managed to produce something pretty special’. Judging by the contributions so far, I think we stand a good chance…

#PLEconf? We’re ALL the PLE Conference! Let’s make it happen 🙂

 

*a few unanticipated technical glitches 😉

Learning through frustration – ELVSS12

We bring you… Entertainment Lab for the Very Small Screen

I love this project. I feel very lucky to be part of a committed team, working on something that is not funded – a genuine Community of Practice where our passion for mobile filmmaking has brought us together in an international collaboration which spans disciplines, levels… and timezones.

Continue reading

Running a module as an ARG a.k.a. The Rufi Franzen Mystery

So the secret’s out. We’ve had the Big Reveal.

#psvtam (otherwise know as the BSc Professional Sound and Video Technology, Advanced Multimedia module) was a game – an alternate reality game.

A game that took so many unanticipated twists and turns that I’m still trying to process everything. For the past 48 hours I’ve been replaying the past 3 months in my mind, thinking about every clue, red-herring, reaction… wow. Continue reading

From Mashups to Pocket Cinema…

As a fan of short-form user-generated content, I have a real fascination with pocket cinema a.k.a. mobile phone films a.k.a. productions for the Very Small Screen. The first camphone appeared in Japan in 2000, and within a few years mobile phone films festival started to appear, such as Pocketfilm in France and Japan, alongside dedicated streams at festivals like Sundance (US) and Raindance (UK). YouTube launched in 2005, in 2009 the iPhone 3GS launched and this saw YouTube uploads increase 400% in one week (1700% in 6 months).

There’s a certain aesthetic to many mobile phone films which can often be shaky and pixelated (termed the ‘Ketai Aesthetic’ by Max Schlesser) and yet some of the most powerful images of recent world events have been captured using these personal, consumer devices. The mobile phone camera is intimate, discreet, and allows us to ‘shoot from the hip’, recording events as they happen in real-time. Continue reading