Enhance the Movie Experience

Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.

Barber Tech SteddiePod

BarberTech SteddiePodThis is the funniest CES interview I’ve seen (which isn’t saying much, to be honest). Jeffrey and Jamie get a hands-on demonstration of BarberTech‘s SteddiePod by Eddie Barber, which actually looks pretty handy, all joking aside.

The Barber Tech SteddiePod is billed as the “world’s most versatile camera support” and it’s a handheld camera stabiliser with extra features designed in, so it can be used as a tripod or with the boom extended to give overhead shots. The setup looks amazingly straightforward – there’s a good video on the Barber Tech website – and with just a few minutes easy work, the SteddiePod can be accurately balanced for a video camera.

The SteddiePod starts at $499 and is available from dealers nationwide. Barber Tech is “Emmy Award Winning” and has other products such as camera booms and teleprompters for the TV and film industry.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Jamie Davies of the MedicCast and the Nursing Show.

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XpanD Universal 3D Glasses

Michael Williams from XpanD takes Andy McCaskey through the benefits of their range of universal 3D glasses.

Unbelievably, the 3D glasses provided with active-shutter 3D TVs are not always compatible between brands. It’s sometimes possible to make them compatible by wearing the glasses upside down but clearly this is an unsatisfactory solution for long-term viewing. I know, you couldn’t make some of this stuff up.

Fortunately, XpanD have introduced their active-shutter Universal 3D Glasses (X103) which are compatible with all makes of TV and they can be used in XpanD-equipped movie theatres and cinemas. The glasses have a small button on the frame that allow the user to toggle between the different brands of 3D TV. Available now for $129 which is comparable with the brand-name models, so why not buy a pair that you can use in your house, your friend’s house, your local sports bar?

For real 3D aficionados,  XpanD has a pair of Youniversal glasses (X104) that are the ultimate glasses for tweaking and customising. Via iPhone and Android apps, the user is able to alter the settings of the glasses to adjust for environmental settings such as room lighting or medical conditions, e.g lazy eye. Available in April and price TBA.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Festive Family Films

As the festive (silly) season gets under way, the folks at Buffalo Technology polled 3,000 people on their favourite Christmas films.  Topping the chart is comedy Home Alone starring Macauley Culkin, followed by Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Rounding out the medal positions is the animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman.   Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas complete the top 5.

The full top 20 festive family flicks is:

  1. Home Alone
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life
  3. The Snowman
  4. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
  5. White Christmas
  6. A Christmas Carol
  7. Love Actually
  8. Santa Claus: The Movie
  9. Elf
  10. The Wizard of Oz
  11. The Muppet Christmas Carol
  12. Mary Poppins
  13. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  14. Jack Frost
  15. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  16. The Polar Express
  17. The Muppets Christmas Carol
  18. Bad Santa
  19. Home Alone 2
  20. Back to the Future

Maculey Culkin and Home Alone….what were they thinking!  And where’s The Sound of Music?  It’s a Christmas classic.

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

The MPAA may have a point…

…or at least a bit more justification than the RIAA for their fear of downloaders.

I have discussed in past posts how the biggest downloaders of music files are generally the biggest purchasers of music.  This makes a policy of prosecuting downloaders a strange one since they are attacking their biggest customers.  In the case of music, piracy can actually mean better sales.

Early this year I noticed how many people I came across were casually mentioning downloading movies in general conversation.  It sparked a note of interest and I have been taking a bit of an informal, and completely unscientific, study of peoples movie piracy habits.

The first thing that has changed radically from when I first studied music downloading 3 years ago is that people with very low technical ability are participating.  It is not just the computer literate and teenagers.  I have heard from people who still double click on web-links that have no trouble downloading a movie and burining it to a DVD to watch.  I have particularly seen a huge number of parents that are talking openly about either downloading movies, or borrowing copies of pirated movies off other people.

While the most common type of movie mentioned is a new release, i.e. a movie that is currently in cinemas, the essentially free access to movies has not prevented many of these families from going to the cinemas.  I would be surprised if there was no impact at all to movie attendance, however the impact of the GFC and the current state of movie quality have a greater impact on the box-office than piracy.  There is potentially also an impact to later DVD sales which is again unlikely to be large.  The people I have talked to have generally been happy to pay for the better quality, and the extras on movies that they liked.

Another potential loser is the rental market.  Again this did not seem to be so much of an issue.  The general usage case seems to be that people pirate the new release movies that they are sort of interested in, but are not willing to choose as one they see when they go to the cinema.  The second most common reason people gave for the piracy was that they had a level of interest that was too low to invest the cost of a cinema visit too, but high enough to not wait for it to get to video or TV.  Movie rentals will undoubtably have a larger impact to them than cinema attendance or DVD sales though.

The biggest loser in all this seems to me to be TV.  Most people were using the pirated movies as their choice of casual entertainment.  Rather than watching whatever was on TV.  They had a stash of movies that they would slot in when they wanted some casual entertainment and were not happy with the choices on TV.  Not only would the impact be to the viewers of general TV, viewership for premier movies on free to air and cable TV probably decline as well.

Regardless of whether piracy might actually be harming movie company profits, it is a mistake to be trying to use technology like DRM to block piracy.  As has been shown many times in the past and present, whatever DRM technology used will eventually be circumvented.  The only effect it has is to restrict what legitimate customers can do with their legal purchase.  While this might be part of the intent of the movie companies it actually lowers the value of their product to consumers and gives a justification to pirates to continue their practices.  In purely economic terms, reducing the value of your product has two negative effects.  It reduces the amount you can charge for your product, and it pushes more people over the cost/benefit line of piracy.

Even launching legal action against casual piraters (i.e. those that make no money from the practice) makes no sense.  People that are consuming pirated media are essentially your potential customers.  They want to use the media companies product, it is simply not available at a price and convenience level attractive to them.  Downloading movies is not getting it for free.  Regardless of your plan the bandwidth used has a real cost.  There is also the time and effort required to do the download and the cost of burning or storing the media.  These costs are neither large nor negligable.

The answer for movie companies is to find a tiered delivery method that caters to the time, convenience and cost factors.  The other clear answer is for them to stop limiting the useage rights of their legitimate customers, or try to use release schedules to force customers into higher cost consumption practices they do not wish.  The first step in this would be to have close to simultaneous release across multiple distribution models.

  • Cinemas would cater to the event crowd at a premium price.  Releasing a short time earlier (like 1-2 weeks) would also gather in the early adopters in this group.
  • DVD release with extras to entice those that want the movie to keep or to see the background information, deleted scenes, etc.
  • Online download for the home viewer convenience.  These need to be free of limitiations on how quickly, or how often it can be viewed.  It also needs to be at a cost at somewhere around half that of the DVD or less.
  • Potentially even release at the same time to a TV option, free to air or cable depending on who will pay more.  I’m not knowledgable enough on the economics of the TV movie market to know whether this could pay off or not.

The key is to have the movie available at the cost level that is attractive to all potential customers in a convenient fashion.  The higher cost methods then offer more experience or value to cover their higher cost.  DVDs offer the extra content and cinemas give the going out experience.  As I said in the beginning my analysis is based on anecdotal evidence.  From this though, the main driver for movie piracy seems to be less about price and more about a combination of convenience, price and lack of restrictions.  It does no seem that hard for movie companies to come up with a distribution method to fox this.  Changing your model is a scary thing though, much easier to whinge about how your customers don’t like your artificial barriers.