Using the ‘net, not being scared by it

People who own the rights to music, film, tv, etc. should, in my humble opinion, learn to love the Internet, and not to be frightened of it.  That’s a nice glib statement from someone who never created anything useful in his life, but as someone who consumes a lot of created content surely I have some experience 😉

I was really struck by this thought when reading Felicia Day’s blog (again), after the release of the Guild song, Do you want to date my avatar.  Within a short time of it being released, there were fan-made movies on YouTube, using that music and animation from games such as Lord of the Rings online, World of Warcraft, Second Life, and others, to perform to the song.

Many content owners would immediately go to war with DMCA’s to have the music stripped from those videos, since it’s clearly not owned by the people who made them but by The Guild, or Felicia Day, or whatever organisation she has in place to own the rights.  Did she start processing take downs?

Nope, she found them on YouTube and listed them as favourites, which let’s them show up on her FriendFeed account.  I can only assume that this eventually increases the sales of the song (because god only knows once you’ve heard it you can’t stop humming the bloody thing) and doesn’t negatively impact it at all.  In the same way that seeing a cool fan video on YouTube with a song by Big Mega Band from the 80’s as the backing track is more likely to make you go and re-buy it on iTunes than it is to make you strip the audio from the vid and import the illegal, low quality version onto your mp3 player.

You either embrace the ‘take it and use it and make something with it’ nature of the ‘net, or you end up fighting it at every step of the way and losing none-the-less.

Felicia Day and creative content owners of her generation are going to make it work, because they accept, use and take part in the medium.

LoveFilm – online movie rental

We joined LoveFilm a little while back, because we found ourselves in our local movie rental store every few weeks renting four movies at a time, but wanted something a little easier and more accessible.  It’s taken a few months to get used to the service and initially I was disappointed.  Not really unhappy with the service (which is excellent, 1 or 2 day turnaround on films), or the price (which works out better for us than what we were paying locally), but that it didn’t seem to fit with how I actually wanted to watch films.

They send you a random disc off your list, we have 2 lists and get 2 discs at a time.  But sometimes I wasn’t in the mood for that film and it sat there for a week or so unwatched.  We ended up using one list for TV series and Grete is ploughing through Scrubs at the moment and it works really well for that.  You add the series to your list, they send you a disc when you send one back.  The other list we use for films, but I was still struggling to work out why it wasn’t as good as I had expected.

A few days ago it finally dawned on me.  When we joined, we’d been through a period of watching quite a few things in the cinema, renting a lot of stuff, and buying a few DVD’s.  There wasn’t anything recent that I wanted to rent, we’d seen them all.   We’d also bought a whole load of cheap stuff from Amazon to fill in our favourite movies (like WarGames, Goonies, etc.) so we didn’t need to rent those either.

Now that a few months has passed, there have been plenty of movies on in the cinema that we didn’t go and see, and quite a few new releases coming up, so I’m more excited about the service going forward.  The turnaround is really quick, it seems like good value if you watch as much as you can and the website is okay.

I don’t think physical movie rental stores can survive much longer, and when LoveFilm finally get their digital delivery system in place for everyone and I get some way of linking my PC to the TV, it’ll be the final nail.  I’ve now got about 16 items on my main movie list reserved for when they get released over the coming months, and I’m looking forward to them arriving one disc at a time, through the door, with no effort.

LoveFilm has a referral scheme, if you were thinking of signing up, this link gives you a one month free trial and I get a bonus.  I didn’t write this post to get referrals, I’d been thinking about writing something for a few weeks, but if you were thinking about signing up, I won’t turn down more referrals.

Felicia Day made me Cry!

With laughter.

I posted ages ago about The Guild, I wasn’t really sure what it was but I’d seen a link to a humorous Christmas thing they did.  At the time, I didn’t know who Felicia Day was either.  Sue me.  I didn’t really *get* the Dr Horrible thing, I don’t really enjoy watching lengthy movies or episodes of anything on my PC.  I watch that stuff on my TV, in the comfort of my lounge.  While lounging.  So I don’t really do web TV stuff.

Anyway, time passed and I heard more about Felicia and realised who she was, and saw her in an episode of House, started stalking following her on twitter, etc.  She’s funny.  And cute.

I spotted that The Guild was available on DVD at Amazon (.com only, sadly) but I thought what the hell, people say it’s funny.  So I bought seasons 1 and 2 and Dr Horrible’s Sing-along-Blog as well.  Due to the superb small print, it actually cost me almost double the price to actually get them in the UK (due to Post Offices charges, not tax, I might add), but such is life.  Maybe the world isn’t that small after all.

The DVD’s have sat in the ‘must watch these soon’ pile for ages – and today fate intervened.  Our Sky+ box is on the blink, I think it’s the new viewing card, but the box crashes, hangs or won’t power on with the new card in (works fine with no card, but obviously, no Sky channels).  I needed something to watch and The Guild was at the top of the pile.

It’s hilarious.  It’s funny and entertaining in its own right – but if you’ve ever played any online game with a kin, guild, clan, alliance or any other collection of people, it’s on a whole different level of funny.  In the same way that it’s obvious to me Scott Adams works at the same place I do, it’s clear that Felicia Day was in my guild in EverQuest.  She probably even let my Warrior die one day while I was reviewing the finer points of tank aggro control and she was getting a drink or something.

Basically, Felicia Day let me die.  True story (maybe).

Myself and Grete watched both series straight through, and the gag reels and some of the commentary. The series revolves around members of an online gaming guild (for a roleplaying game), and their personal issues.  If you’ve been in a guild / kin / clan / whatever you will recognise these people.  You will recognise yourself (if you have any sense of irony), and if you can laugh a little at yourself you’ll laugh a lot at the show.  Marvel as the control-freak guild/raid leader organises this collection of sex-starved-stalker, perpetually-afk-mother-of-three, younger-than-you-all-dps-monkey, late-with-heals-because-of-life-healer and manipulative-sex-kitten.  Laugh as they have their first real-life meeting.  Shudder as you recognise the things they say and do and wonder when Felicia was watching you that closely.

So while I’m late to the party, I did eventually get here and drink my fill.  I strongly, strongly recommend you go watch this.  If you can cope with it online, start there, but if you’re like me, the DVD’s are a perfect choice.  And don’t forget to buy their new single (itunes link, youtube link).

Avatar – the trailer

So, it’s out, Avatar’s trailer, the best place to see it is on the Apple site in HD, here.  Does it look impressive? Yes.  Do the CGI characters move well and have emotion in their eyes? Yes.

Do they still look like CGI? Yes.

Does it look a bit like WoW the movie? Yes.

Bah technology

For some reason, the non-terrestrial channels on our Sky+ box are showing very dark on the TV.  If you switch to BBC1/BBC2/ITV/C4 it looks fine (they’re still being delivered via Sky+ over the same SCART connection).  But anything else you can actually see it ‘flip’ to a darker picture.  On top of that, any dark scenes are causing the black on the TV to get totally saturated and you can hardly see any detail.

I’m positive it only started doing this in the last couple of weeks, maybe even after I switched in the new Sky+ viewing card.

It’s really frustrating me.  I hate when ‘simple’ technology like this doesn’t work and hate it even more that I can’t fix it.

The International

A thriller about the banking industry?  You’d be forgiven for assuming it would be dull and full of tedious exposition, but with minor reservations you’d be wrong.  Clive Owen plays an Interpol agent trying to track down the truth about a giant bank’s involvement in weapon sales, money laundering and other illegal activity.   He is assisted or thwarted by various individuals and organisations along the way including an American DEA, Italian police and the bank itself.

The International is long but engaging and although I wouldn’t describe it as always gripping, it does demand your attention and keep you hooked through to the end.  Not least as a result of excellent performances from Owen and the cast around him.  I was particularly engaged by Armin Mueller-Stahl’s presence on screen, understated and calm yet totally real.

The story has a few holes and you have to wonder why it takes the police so long to arrive to a gun fight in a major public place in New York, but there’s nothing there that ruined the experience for me.  I do wish more movies took more time to avoid the little niggles like this, but I wonder if any film actually manages to achieve that.  The cinematography was subtle but really supported the cast and dialog.  There aren’t many action set pieces so it wouldn’t be true to call this an action-thriller but the one major set piece is certainly thrilling.  The writers opted to avoid any twists and instead build tension through Owen’s growing frustration at the cases progression and the threat on the lives of those around him.  I give them credit for that.

The end is downbeat, but rather expected and the newspaper headline snapshots during the closing credits do justice in wrapping up a couple of questions the main ending left you with.  Overall this was a surprisingly enjoyable film which probably deserved more credit than it got from the critics.