The trouble with Star Trek

kirk-khan-shoutStar Trek is sick, and the cure for what ails it isn’t another bombastic brofest.

Allow me to explain. Though I’m best known as a Doctor Who nerd, my first introduction to science fiction in a visual medium was Star Trek. As a six-year old in the mid-70s I was intrigued by the colorful costumes and derring-do of the original series, and I never really lost that interest until the series started hitting the dirt around the mid-point of Voyager.

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Cord cutting or saying goodbye to cable

I’ve just come back from a four month sojourn in Japan and China, and a pleasant side effect of this trip was a break from North American media. I say that, but I had pretty much unbroken contact with any media I decided was worth watching, I simply didn’t access it through traditional means.

Japanese television, despite its charming commercials and genuine enthusiasm for the absurd, was nothing I could watch consistently. Instead I relied on downloads and streaming media, sometimes through a VPN connection. The VPN allowed me to access American sites like hulu.com along with the UK iPlayer app, all by telling these services that I’m actually in their country of origin.

In China this solution was less effective for streaming media, because China’s internet is slooooow. But since a VPN was an absolute necessity to access Facebook, Twitter, anything hosted by WordPress and practically anything else China’s Internet censors whimsically decided wasn’t harmonious, I didn’t feel cheated.

Now that I’m back home the VPN is the cornerstone in my plan to cut cable television out of my life. Since I can watch BBC shows live or on demand, and since I’ve just discovered a pile of great documentaries and indie films on Netflix.ca, I don’t really feel any need to watch the paltry offerings available through Canadian broadcasters.

In effect, this move to on demand media is no different than my shift away from radio a few years ago. The only radio I listen to anymore is courtesy of the CBC Radio app on my iPhone. Local radio is completely irrelevant to me, supplanted by podcasts about topics ranging from the Mac to the media to video games to philosophy.

I’m an outlier. But it’s only a matter of time before more people take the same step. More and more people are perfectly comfortable with watching films on their laptop and short videos on their phones. Being in Canada may actually accelerate this process for many people, because Canadians are online more than anyone else in the world, and because our old media dinosaurs are hell-bent on keeping the public from watching anything they actually want to see and would rather fight tooth and nail for their obsolete business models. Canadians are savvy enough to work around these arbitrary restrictions, and one way or the other I’m sure we’ll see a dramatic decrease in cable subscriptions in the next few years.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to save money and enjoy great content. I don’t think I’ll miss cable in the least, and I’m betting soon others will join me in cutting the cord.

 

playing around with BoinxTV

I’ve been working through various ways to create compelling internet content, and I’ve explored various options including scripted material and making elements for FInal Cut Pro so I can film, drag and drop. All off this comes from the idea of minimizing the inputs while maximizing outputs…but it would still involve a lot of work. Putting together the two Fruitygamer pilot episodes required about half a day of work for each segment, in addition to being down at E3 in the first place and filming the interviews.

That’s all well and good, and there’s no reason I can’t use that same methodology for special episodes. But if I want to create a lot of content quickly the way to do it is live and streamed. So I looked at BoinxTV as a viable option. I got Boinx when I bought one of the MacHeist offers for $40 a while back, and as the program is normally $299 I got a pretty decent bargain. But since I had no use for it at the time, Boinx sat on my computer unused, until now.

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Eurogamer’s loss is your gain

I originally wrote this article about the new Doctor Who video game for Eurogamer, but then E3 happened and by the time the annual gaming conference was finished the game had already been out for a while. So as a result, Eurogamer nicely said I could publish the article anywhere I like.

I’m lucky enough to know Phil Ford, the writer of the game and of various Doctor Who episodes (along with being the head writer of the Sarah Jane Adventures) and he was cool with being interviewed for the article, presented in full below. And if you’re arriving from Radio Free Skaro…hello! Thanks for listening ot the podcast and I hope you enjoy my site.

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One of the UK’s oldest heroes is entering a whole new world.

Doctor Who returned to the small screen in 2005, hypnotizing a whole new generation of viewers with the adventures of the Doctor and his companions as he once again hurtled through space and time vanquishing his enemies with only a keen wit and his trusty sonic screwdriver.

Though the new show soon spread to other media such as novels, toys and comics, video games were unexplored territory until the BBC announced earlier this year that they would release four “adventure games” featuring Matt Smith, the newest incarnation of the Doctor, and Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond, his new companion.

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Canadian broadcasters lose out to internet

Canadian broadcasters have recently have been crying wolf over how little money they make and how we have to support (terrible) local TV. But they’re facing an even bigger foe in the internet, which has progressed to the point where much of the programming they used to enjoy on their television they can now enjoy online.

I have to say that’s been my experience for a few years. I no longer listen to the radio, instead opting for a steady diet of podcasts. And I barely watch ant television anymore. I simply download the best stuff the BBC has to offer, and the rest of my video diet consists of shows people have put together on their own and put on the internet.

And for the most part, I don’t miss TV. But I am a little concerned that as viewers shift online, context and production quality will suffer. I once worked with someone who had poured their heart and soul into making the slickest possible tv show, and after years of success they saw their core audience migrating to internet shows that didn’t look anywhere near as good and were, in all fairness, not as well put together as his show. I pride myself on making video content for the web that looks as good as tv. BUt I sometimes worry that my effort is for nothing, that people’s tastes have changed to the point where they’ll watch any old crap and production value will mean nothing to them.

Right now the industry is in flux, with money leaking out of TV but not enough money going online to sustain producers. Eventually the money will shift online, but I hope that in the meantime quality content doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

The FCC gets the internet

The FCC will introduce a national broadband plan tomorrow to Congress that puts the internet front and centre as the most important medium in the United States. While broadcasters will hate it, I say it’s a long-needed move. The internet has usurped so many other industries in a path of creative destruction that should be further encouraged. Power is sapping from big broadcasters to tiny producers, in media and otherwise, and I’m glad the FCC recognizes this fact. If only Canada would do the same.

Why Al Jazeera English rocks

Simply put, it’s a lot smarter than American news outlets, and comes close to rivalling the BBC World Service in quality. I’ve personally found that I’m getting more and more of my news from Al Jazeera English, particularly their iPhone app, which lets me watch a live stream of the channel from anywhere I’d like, as well as using Livestation on my PC.

But don’t take my word for it, read Robert D. Kaplan’s article in the Atlantic. Kaplan not only points out that Al Jazeera English has the hustle for scoops that other international news gatherers seem to lack, they’re also a unique window into the attitudes of the developing world’s emerging middle class.

Cable’s grip weakens as the web rises

According to a new article in Silicon Valley Insider, cable is starting to feel the pinch from online video, and no wonder. With old technology, no way to get a la carte programming, and a disdain for the customer that borders on the pathological, I’m not surprised cable is hurting.

Anecdotally I’ve talked to many friends who have dropped cable for online, some of them going so far as to get rid of their televisions. I keep my TV around as a video game monitor, but it doesn’t do much past that. And with the advent of iPhone apps like Al Jazeera English, it won’t be long before I pick and choose the channels I want (in my case, mostly news) and carry them around in my pocket.

Of course, Canada is even more of a monopoly than the United States, and to date we haven’t had anything as disruptive as Hulu arrive on the scene (though it’s likely on the way.) And our cable and TV execs are if anything in more denial than their US counterparts; when I was at the Banff TV Festival a few months ago one exec said with a straight face that “We’ll be just fine, we have HD!” Yes, never mind that all it takes is a clever bit of math and the web will soon have as good or better quality video than HDTV, you just wallow in your comfortable lies, TV exec.

Long term, I think the television industry as it stands is doomed. Eventually everything will come to our televisions, computers and other devices through the internet, and those who can adapt to that new reality will survive. Those that can’t…won’t.