Categories
Lynda.com

Start with a Theme: Video Blogs in WordPress – new lynda.com course

Want to build a video blog in WordPress but don’t know where to start? Look no further than my new lynda.com course Start with a Theme: Video Blogs in WordPress. The course looks at best practices around adding videos to and creating a video blog with WordPress and features three themes that make your videos shine: Twenty Twelve, Origami, and Sundance. The course is just under one hour long and gives you a complete runthrough of all the features of the three themes as well as tips on how to use them for the best results possible when posting videos from sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

The SWAT (Start With A Theme) series is an ongoing project to showcase different themes and the way you can use them to create cool WordPress sites the easy way. Other courses in the series include

Categories
Lynda.com Video Tutorials

Building WordPress Child Themes with Twenty Twelve – new and updated course on lynda.com


If you are following my courses on lynda.com you may have noticed that there is an update for my WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course. But this is more than an update. With all the developments and new features of WordPress, I thought it better to completely revamp the course to incorporate new tips, techniques, functions and features to make your experience building child themes as up to date as possible.

For the all new WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course I also chose to use the new Twenty Twelve theme as the parent theme. Twenty Twelve has been out for a little over a month, but only as an add-on. When WordPress 3.5 comes out in early December however, it will become the new default theme in WordPress. That means if you jump in now, you’ll have a head start on everyone else using Twenty Twelve and building child themes off it.

The course looks at how to build a standard child theme and best practices around how to create new styles, add new functions, and alter the different template files to give the child theme a personal touch and make it do what you want. I’ve also added in some clever new elements towards the end like a dynamic welcome message that only appears on the front page.

The original Building Child Themes course was hugely popular and I am hoping that this new and improved version will be even more so. But don’t take my word for it: Head on over to lynda.com and check WordPress 3: Building Child Themes out for yourself!

If you don’t already have a lynda.com account and you want to try it out, go to lynda.com/trial/mor10 and get a free 7 day trial.

Categories
services video

Motion Graphics for VJ I Am TV – The other part of our business

People are often surprised to learn that web design is only one part of a large portfolio of services provided by my company Pink & Yellow Media. We also provide extensive services for broadcast television. These include small scale production as well as still and motion graphics.

Over the years we have provided graphics and other post-production services for numerous TV shows and most recently a new US syndicated show called VJ I Am TV. Just to provide a sample of our services, here is the intro we created for this show based on their logo. It was made entirely in Adobe After Effects and Photoshop and utilizes still frames in a mock 3D environment to create a pop-up effect that is both engaging and modern.

The music was created by Skratch Bastid after the intro was created and it merges well with the visuals to create an overall feel of youth and vibrancy.

You can catch VJ I Am TV on numerous American networks (I don’t have the air schedules handy) and interact with them through their website. The show is part of the larger IAM network which is a video based local social networking service that includes VancouverIAM.

Categories
News

Bridging Media – Some thougts

I attended a very interesting one day conference in Vancouver today called Bridging Media. The intent of the conference was to

open the channels of communication between the broadcast and digital media communities. We aim to increase an understanding of our respective industries and strengthen our approach to building multi-platform projects.

Over the last few yers I’ve been working with pure digital media and video distribution on the web and I’m aslo the technical producer for The Pratt & Taylor Show on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific, so with one foot on each side of the divide this conference was pretty much a must-attend for me.

NOTE: For all you expression people who read this blog and right now scratch your heads because this seems to be totally off topic: It’s not. This has to do with the future of online video and content distribution – something you will be working with no matter what kind of projects you are involved it. It’s a bit of a meta-topic but it’s still quite relevant.

I won’t go through the conference here – Miss604 has done an excellent job live-blogging the entire event. Instead I’ll share with you my thoughts and perspectives on the problems presented and the whole concept of media convergence as a whole.

A bridge built from one side only will probably fall

The title of the conference was Bridging Media, and the intent was a good one. Unfortunately there were few if any broadcasters present, so the bridge was only being built from one side. The conference was attended by all the usual suspects in the digital and social media scene and also a large group of independent movie producers and they shared what I would classify as a standard from-the-digital-world view of the situation: Broadcasters rely on funding, digital media relies on other streams of revenue. The broadcasters don’t want to share our content because they are a bit antiquated and they are afraid of losing control of their own dominance and their own content. The digital realm is the future and we should just ignore the broadcasters and move on. In other words, if you build it (a digital media outlet), they (the viewers) will come, and they’ll bring money. (This of course is my very broad and biased interpretation and I’m sure many will be angered at it. So be it.)

To prove this thinking, examples like Sanctuary, Quarterlife and Ask A Ninja were brought up. And this brings me to my first issue: None of these examples are actually applicable in the conversation: Both Sanctuary and Quarterlife were created by well established producers with a strong fan base and more importantly solid funding.. If a complete unknown with the exact same idea had presented any of these concepts to investors, they would most likely be turned down or get insufficient funding. Furthermore, the chance of them reaching a wider audience would be next to zero. Why? Because the web is saturated with similar content and it’s almost impossible to break through the noise to get people’s attention. As for shows like Ask A Ninja that actually get picked up, they are flukes and one-offs. Building a business based on the thought that your show will be picked up by a major network is financial suicide. And the one commonality of all the similar shows that have been picked up is that they were started as jokes with no intention of making it big. So this whole way of thinking is fundamentally flawed. Such successes simply can’t be reproduced by entry-level content producers, at least not without a fair bit of luck (as in winning the lottery kind of luck).

NOTE: Since posting this article, Sanctuary has been picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel for broadcast release. Quarterlife was picked up by the E! Channel in early February. Both these shows were launched on the web with the intention of migrating to broadcast proving that building a fan base online can help you move to the living room screen. Unfortunately you have to be famous and have millions of dollars backing you tho…

The other idea that was touted, that you can make money off your content if enough people come to your site, is also highly questionable. Simply generating visits is not enough to generate money these days. Having a video series on YouTube that has over 2 million views combined will give you exactly $0 in revenue. To turn your content into money, you have to either use advertising or sell services. And that’s where the divide really shows itself in all it’s width and splendour.

Broadcasters are content producers

Putting on my broadcast hat, I can understand why there were no broadcasters at the conference. And I also understand why even if they were there, they would have no answers: Broadcasters are content producers that expect to get paid for the content the produce. A phrase that kept coming up throughout the conference was the question “What business are you in?” The thinking presented was that if you share your content online and want to get money from it, you should use it as a way to get other business that will generate money. As an example, Papercraft was brought up. They produce funny and informative videos on their website explaining complicated technical terms in an understandable way. These videos make no money but companies ask them to make custom videos and these make money. So it’s a completely different way of approaching the whole concept of revenue gathering.

Broadcasters and other content creators on the other hand, are not interested in using their content to advertise services. Their content is the service they provide. They are in the business of making content. If they were in the content of selling services, they would be an advertising agency. And that’s why there is a divide. The two sides are talking two entirely different languages and thinking about things in completely oposite ways.

The question is if there is any way of making them come together at all. Right now, the digital media community is building a bridge over to the broadcast side, but the broadcasters are digging a tunnel to the digital media side. And while a bridge built from one side is likely to fall down, a tunnell will bore it’s way to the end and start functioning whether the other side wants it or not. TV and film producers are quickly learning that the internet is an excellent marketing tool and are working on ways of leveraging this technology to theri advantage. On the other side, the digital media community feels it has content that should be presented on an equal level with the broadcasters and they are trying to push this content into the classic broadcasting channels. The problem is that once you move into the realm of public broadcasting, a whole mess of legal and financial problems arise: Who owns the content? Who made the content? Who has the rights to distribution? How do we pay the producers? Who is responsible if it turns out the content is illegal in some way? These are issues that are largely ignored by the digital media community because it is based on a somewhat anarchistic approach to content ownership (i.e. once it’s on the web it’s free). Broadcasters on the other hand have to make sure proper ownership is in place and that all the rights are where they should be. Otherwise they lose their licence. Unfortunately many people in the digital media community don’t understand (or choose to ignore) why this is so. But as a content creator I can tell you that when you find material you created on someone else’s web site, and you realize that not only do they earn money from it but they pass it off as their own, you feel creatively raped. So until the digital media community bring a more open attitude to the concept of rights and ownership, the broadcast side will be very reluctant to work with them.

At the same time there needs to be a softening of the firm and archaic guidelines that govern the broadcast side. For the most part, the systems in place both for television and films were created way before the web was even given a name. They are cumbersome, full of red tape and based on an attitude that only “proper” broadcasters can make broadcast content. That’s just not the case any more and the broadcasters just have to accept the fact that they are no longer the only roosters in the hen house. But that doesn’t mean that hot chicks farting is worth broadcasting, no matter how popular their videos are on YouTube. That brings me to my final point:

1,000,000 views don’t make you Stephen Spielberg

The fact that your video is popular on YouTube doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth broadcasting. In fact, many of the most popular videos on YouTube are such trash that they should never be broadcast. And others are blatant misinformation that has no place in the media realm. If you exclude funamenalist states like Iran, China and even the US, most countries have very strict guide lines for media outlets when it comes to balanced coverage. The internet has no such rules and as a result anyone can publish anything and present it as true. It’s a running joke that people who quote the internet need to check their sources, but it’s pretty evident that it’s not something we should laugh at. People, organizations and even governments with an agenda can use the internet indiscriminately to misinform and even blatantly lie to their audience with no reprisals. And because of clever marketing strategies and viral distribution, much of this content becomes so prolific people start believing it. Some of the best examples can be found on YouTube if you search for “global warming”. A public broadcaster would never be allowed to air much of this content because it is based on half truths and whole lies. And it’s often very difficult to tell if content produced is factual, rubbish or even part of some evil ploy. So if a broadcaster is going to get involved, these things need to be checked and re-checked and re-checked again to ensure balance and factuality. What stunns me is that many people on the digital media side don’t see such misinformation as a problem or even think exclusion of such content is equivalent to cencorship. I agree that all sides of any story have a right to be told, but when large corporations or organizations use substantial funds to deliberately misinform the public through lies and manufactured evidence we have a serious problem on our hands.

This is one of the reasons why when a digital media content producer approaches a broadcaster about distribution of her content, the broadcaster is rather reluctant to even talk to her. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just explaining it.

So should we just tear down the bridge then?

I guess I sound pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. I’m not. I just want to get all the facts out and make people understand that the fundamental problem here lies in the lack of a common language. The analogy of a bridge is actually a very good one, but it should be thought of more like a bridge over the Gibraltar strait than a bridge over the Nanaimo river. It might seem like the digital media community and the broadcasters are standing on the same land mass and speak the same language, but in reality they are entirely different countries with different languages, customs and rules. What’s need more than anything is an interpreter or a common language we can all work from. As long as the two sides think they are on the same plane, nothing will change. They need to understand that they don’t see things the same way and that to communicate they need to find a common vantage point somewhere in the middle.

All that said, I applaud the effort and look forward to Bridging Media 2.0.

Finally, for all the Expression people who by this time must surely have stopped reading: This is relevant to you because at some point in the near future, one of your clients is going to ask you how they can put a video online and get it featured on a TV show. Now you know why it’s not as simple as putting it on YouTube (and that you’re not the only one confused about why it’s so hard).

Categories
Silverlight

Is Silverlight the end of Flash?

I got a couple of emails about my post yesterday from angry web devs who wanted to complain about my Microsoft Fanboi attitude toward Silverlight. I won’t post the emails themselves here (let’s put it this way: had they been comments I would have deleted them) but I’ll reiterate their overall message:

Microsoft is already dominating the PC world and with Silverlight they are trying to take over and dominate the web world as well. Since Microsoft by default is an evil monopolistic corporation, noone should support their new scheme to monopolize the internet.

I realize this is a common sentiment among a lot of programmers, especially those that use Open Source software heavily, and it should come as no surprise that Mac users also share these attitudes (ironically because to describe Apple as a company you need a whole new definition of the word “monopoly”). I also understand the sentiment to some degree but at the same time I think it has more to do with the built in hatred we as humans have for those who do better than ourselves. For the most part, the ever-so-popular pass time of Microsoft bashing is wholly undeserved and misguided. But I digress.

In light of these emails I did some quick searches on the web for articles on Silverlight vs. Flash (because even though the two apps are two entirely different animals, they are still direct competitors). What I found was not too surprisingly a whole whack of misinformation, assumptions and good old fashioned propaganda.

There seem to be two fronts: Those that have tried and tested Silverlight and love it on one side and those who think Silverlight is a Flash rip-off and therefore are not interested in testing the application on the other. What I found most striking is that there are very few Silverlight-deniers who have actually tested the program – they just hate it by default and predict it’s demise purely because it is a Microsoft creating (and thus should be full of bloatware, holes, bugs and other garbage). I think that says a lot. If my theory is correct, most developers and designers who get their hands on this incredibly powerful application will be blown away by how much better it is than Flash. And I highly doubt anyone in their right mind would predict it’s demise once they realize what it can do. One noted exception is Lee Brimelow whose expertise in Flash ActionScript and authoring is unparalleled. He is thoroughly unimpressed by what Silverlight has to offer and considering his background and skill level it would be stupid of me to question his attitude. It is worth noting that he is an Adobe Evangelist so his views will be slightly biassed to the rival, but nevertheless I think it important to include his objections. Brimelow’s main stance is that Silverlight has little to offer that Flash hasn’t already done. And that might very well be true. But what Silverlight has that Flash is lacking is an accessible code language. While Lee and his kin will have no problem churning out hundreds of pages of ActionScript that can make Flash do pretty much whatever they want, most devs and almost all designers don’t have the chops (nor the time) to do this. Silverlight on the other hand has a more approachable code language and though this alone it becomes a more usable application. And when it comes to video handling, I think he will agree with me that what Silverlight offers is lightyears ahead of the Flash status quo (though his custom video player, which I painstakingly emulated some time ago, is amazing).

One interesting feature in Silverlight that is getting very limited attention is the ability of the apps to interact with common navigation tools in browsers. Anyone who has surfed through a Flash based website will know that hitting the “back” button on the browser by mistake is a big mistake. At MIX one of the Silverlight guys showed me a simple code set that let the application interact with the navigation buttons so that they functioned within the application itself rather than on the browser window as a whole. This is a huge feature that will make life a lot easier for devs and designers and I think once people start messing around with it they’ll realize it is something they have missed in the past. I know I will.

But like I said before, it’s in the video handling Silverlight 2 truely shines. And I can see a future where the grimy, buggy, crunched and artifact-riddled video provided by Flash will be a thing of the past. The fact that Adobe is working on new codecs and YouTube is playing around with a HD feature might very well be a testament to what a threat Silverlight is becoming. Because regardless of the success of Flash as a video platform, any serious video content producer will agree that compressing video for Flash is like running it through a shredder. Sure you can make it look good, but only by following very strict guide lines. The VC2 codec in Silverlight 2 is the difference between old VHS rental tapes and Blu-Ray. And for people like me who want high quality streaming video on the web that’s music to the ears. Ad to that intelligent streaming and scaling, full meta-tag integration and endless expandability and it really starts looking like something.