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March 15, 2007

Glossary for New Media Technologies: A–N

Introduction

This glossary was originally created for the AS New Media Technologies Unit.


Please note that this glossary is updated and expanded fairly regularly. It is intended that this will give you access to a wide range of terms that are conceptual as well as technical. You don’t have to learn all the terms just use the glossary as a point of reference to help you out if you get stuck. Hope you find it useful.


The development of Web 2.0 with the ability to gain feeds about new media technologies should make it easier to keep updated.


Students are strongly advised to add in feeds from sources such as the BBC Technology pages onto their own blogs in order to keep abreast of any changes.



The Glossary


Advertising. Any new mass media has enormous advertising potential as it can bring together audiences and advertisers in new and more effective ways. See paid for search and online advertising.


Analogue. Non digital form of recording and reproduction. Standard terrestrial TV is still fed from analogue transmissions however these are gradually being replaced by digital free-to-air services transmitted by the BBC. See linear editing.


ASDL. A broadband digital transmission technology which can send far more data down existing domestic phone lines than either conventional modems or ISDN. BT’s system offers half a megabyte per second. In Japan the latest in ASDL technology is offering Megabytes per second. This is more than adequate to use full-frame video streaming. Even faster FTTH technology is being pushed in Japan. Being cheaper to install it is now the major competitor to digital cable links provided by companies such as NTL. It requires special equipment at the exchange. ASDL is likely to be available to 90% of the population by mid-2005.

BT are also experimenting with mid-band.


Bandwidth. The amount of digitally encoded data which can be transmitted by particular systems.


Blogs. User generated material on specially created programmes that require no knowledge of coding and mark-up language. Now used for a variety of purposes from personal to political and company driven. A core part of Web 2 (2.0) if you like. Here is the Wikipedia entry


Blueray. See Format wars


Bluetooth. This is a wireless system which allows different products to communicate with each other using a common protocol. It is able to transmit large amounts of data. Portable computers can link to desktop computers or mobile phones via Bluetooth. You may well have a mobile phone with a Bluetooth wireless earpiece for example.


Broadband. The digital Holy Grail is having all homes linked to broadband networks which can handle huge amounts of digitally encoded data. It should be possible to be engaged in such things as video-conferencing and downloading films in real-time simultaneously in the same household. Likely to take several years to be fully developed and installed in a significant number of households. An important feature is the ability to have two of more computers from the same household linked to the internet. Currently it costs about £30 per month. Rumoured that the latest hard-disc recorders will add broadband internet access and be able to stream video and audio to TV, See also digital set-top boxes. Since writing this not so long ago the scenario has changed dramatically in the UK. This January 2007 story from the BBC shows "BT as having signed up 10 million broadband users".

CD Rewritable. This is a CD which can be recorded and then recorded over rather like an audiocassette. Not all CD-Players can replay these however as the system works on different laser frequencies. See also Rewritable digital media.

CD-Rom. These are CDs which are Read Only Memory (ROM). These are used for selling computer programmes. The data on them cannot be changed.

Citizenship. This concept builds on earlier ideas of citizenship which focused upon economic, political and social concerns. Economic citizenship gave people the right to trade, political citizenship gave people the rights to vote and have representative electable governments with powers limited by law. Social citizenship gave people the right to health care, education and pensions. See also cultural citizenship.

CMS. see Content Management Software.

Content Management Software. Content management software helps users organise their download materials. iTunes is probably the best known of these. It can be used to subsribe to podcast services for example as well a place where music or video content may be purchased. You can click this link to go to the free iTunes downloads site. (This should not be deemed as an endoresment of Apple's CMS above any other ones.). News from the BBC 12th of Jan 07 says that iTunes has made a deal with the Sundance film festival to make films available for download.


Convergence. You must know this term for the OCR AS exam*. This is the current process whereby new media and communications technologies are changing not only our media equipment but changing the ways old media institutions have worked. It is also globalising and changing our systems of gaining knowledge. The process is still in transition with new developments rapidly emerging. In a few years these processes will have matured and will be less dynamic. The way that mobile phones are now turning into multi-player gaming machines or able to provide location based information and send back images by wireless technology is a good example of convergent technologies creating new markets. See iPhone for a good example of this.

Cultural Citizenship. Cultural citizenship is about access to systems of representation within the arts and media to ensure that all have the knowledge and capabilities to represent themselves.

Cybersquatters. These are companies or individuals individuals who have registered variations or misspellings of its key brands, such as “Xbox”. They can make a lot of money out of this and also get respectable brands bad reputations. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6449363.stm

Device for digitally storing still images. Whilst still unable to achieve the levels of image definition of conventional film higher capacity chips and storage systems are continuously eroding the quality difference. With the correct devices an image can be transmitted over the web instantaneously.

Desktop Recording Studio. The growth of podcasting has seen a growth of available desktop recording studios with some being USB powered and others having separate power supplies. Often small but flexible units they provide an interface with analogue microphones and computers. They can be combined with powerful software to create different effects and they can also have inputs from devices such as CD players and electronic instruments. empowering users to podcast onto the internet they are powerful tools in the collaborative and user generated world of Web 2.0. Below an early model the Lexicon Omega and the more recent Digidesign MBox2.

Lexicon Omega Interface












Digidesign MBox 2


Digital Distribution. It is necessary to differentiate between models of 'Business to Business' distribution and 'Business to Consumer' distribution. Digital forms of distribution can be advantageous to both small-scale ‘cottage’ industry sized companies and large media corporations. Digital videos can be distributed globally by specialist we-sites globally when users have high speed connections. They are only likely to find individuals often with little purchasing power. Large film companies can distribute to points of mass exhibition such as cinemas or outdoor arenas by high speed optic fibre cable or else via digital satellite links. With encrypted technologies it is now possible to release a film globally in cinemas if necessary in different versions for different markets on the same day. This will reduce piracy and maximise marketing opportunities whilst reducing significantly distribution costs. The ability to respond instantly to audience demand by downloading onto servers instead of relying on expensive and relatively slow multiple copy distribution will help increase profits and retain and develop audiences.


Digital divide. A very important social and cultural concept of the ‘information age’. This term refers to those who have access to a wide range of digital communications systems in terms of cost and knowledge and those who are excluded from this. It is becoming a serious problem of citizenship.

Digital set-top box. These boxes can receive digitally transmitted TV and Radio transmissions via satellite ( typically in Britain Sky), cable ( typically in Britain NTL and Telewest) and a standard TV aerial ( Freeview). Pace in conjunction with Sky + and others with hard disc-based digital recorders. Sky + has a 40 Gigabyte hard disc. A similar box is now being offered to Freeview viewers. It has a twin tuner and a 20 gigabyte hard disc. With a twin tuner it is possible to watch one programme or listen to radio whilst recording another.

Digital storage medium. Generic term for a wide range of storage media such as mini-disc, CD, CD-ROM, Hard disc, floppy-disc etc. These media may sometimes be designed by a company to only fit their products. Others will be generic. Some will be read only such as a CD or DVD game or film. Others are random access and as such can be totally or partially used many times.

Digital Versatile Disc / DVD. A disc which although the same size as a CD can hold many times the amount of data due to a combination of more sophisticated data compression systems, the ability to store and retrieve data from different levels of the disc. This means that moving images can be stored in a way which is more permanent than tape and maintains its quality over time, whereas tape particles lose their magnetism and lose details. Research is going on to more than double the storage capacity of the current DVD’s by using different laser technologies. The ‘versatility’ referred to in the name means that the equipment incorporates technical standards which means that digital information relating to images - static or moving sounds or text can be stored and retrieved.

DRM. (Meaning 1) Digital Rights Management. This is a major concern for companies and individuals dependent upon traditional copyright legislation to protect their intellectual rights. Within the the world of the web the Napster free downloding company became renowned for breaking these copyright rules in the USA. It was eventually forced to concede by the big record companies. 'Pirate downloading' is still seen as a major problem by many media comapnies. At the time of writing Viacom was taking Google to court with a $1 billion law suit relating to the copyrighted material availble on YouTube which was bought buy Google in 2006. The Wikipedia entry states:

Digital Rights Management (generally abbreviated to DRM) is an umbrella term that refers to any of several technologies used by publishers or copyright owners to control access to and usage of digital data or hardware, and to restrictions associated with a specific instance of a digital work or device. The term is often confused with copy protection and technical protection measures; these two terms refer to technologies that control or restrict the use and access of digital content on electronic devices with such technologies installed, acting as components of a DRM design. 

DRM.  (Meaning 2) DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the world's only, open standard digital radio system for short-wave, AM/medium-wave and long-wave. It has been endorsed by the ITU, IEC and ETSI. DRM is the only universal, open standard digital AM radio system with near-FM quality sound available to markets worldwide. Unlike digital systems that require a new frequency allocation, DRM uses existing AM broadcast frequency bands. The DRM signal is designed to fit in with the existing AM broadcast band plan. Below a Morphy richards DRM Radio.

DRM Radio






DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds). At 2007 CEBIT Nokia showed off its N92, which is due to launch later this year, which has a DVB-H tuner built in as well as access to an electronic programme guide so you can plan what you watch on your handset.


DVD-Audio. A music format which by having a higher sampling rate than conventional CDs can create more ‘natural sounding’ music.


DVD-HD. This is a new high definition format which Toshiba and its backers including Microsoft launched in 2006. It is one side of a format war with Sony who along with many consumer electronics heavyweights such as Philips and Panasonic have now launched Bluray. This is also supported by many Hollywood Studios.


DVD Recordable. A new breed of domestic machines has now appeared which can record TV or films in DVD format. Whilst currently still very expensive it is probable that they will replace the VCR in most households in 5 years time. They will be able to record digital radio signals as well. There is not currently a standardised format which makes things difficult for consumers.

Digital Video. Often called DV as an abbreviation. The ability to 'capture' moving images without the use of film on a digital storage format. The data can be edited ( post-production) digitally and streamed onto the web or put on a DVD or CD.


Dolby surround sound. This is a digital sound decoding system which provides the surround sound features now standard in cinemas. It is also a feature of domestic audio visual surround-sound systems and can disperse the sound around up to 7 ordinary loudspeakers and a sub-woofer to deal with very deep bass sounds known as a 7.1 system.


Download. The expression for taking things from the Internet and putting them onto your computer either temporarily or permanently.


E-commerce B2C. ( business-to-consumer): IdTV and mobile are likely to be the devices which dominate this sector by volume rather than by commercial value. ( see also T-commerce )


Encryption. This makes it impossible to use media texts without having specialist software able to read the security encryption. This is to reduce software piracy and will enable large companies to retain more effective control over their products. Digitised products can be kept in high security systems and downloaded in encrypted form by cinemas for example. See digital distribution


Entertainment Phones. The world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer is producing a new product clled Ngage. Containing on-board memory cards it will be able to play high speed games. The phone will be expensive and currently the possibilities of multi-player gaming on-line are perceived of as very limited. It requires the development of the youth market who are least able to afford this level of sophistication.


Firewalls. This is security software which stops unwanted e.mails or hackers getting into your computer when it is online. As such it is much more sophisticated than straight-forward anti-virus software. It is becoming increasingly important to have this software installed as the internet grows in size and complexity.


Flash Memory. Flash memory is solid state memory. It exists on cards such as Secure Digital cards commonly used in digital cameras and also as USB Flash Drives It is fast, versatile and more resilient to damage by dropping than conventional hard drives. The technology is advancing quickly and for high small computers which firms like "Samsung envisage as 'Super-Blackberries' it will be the first choice over conventional hard drives. For those wishing to conduct electronic warfare the Swiss Army USB drive knife seems like a perfect solution. Doubtless they will be found on Chanel lipsticks soon!


Flash Memory Swiss Army Knife


New memory for 2007 is going to be HHD or Hybrid Hard Drives. Vista the new Microsoft operating system is supporting them and Apple is also in the game. See HDD for more info.


Format Wars. "HD-DVD / Blueray Hybrid."


Free-to-Air. Digitally transmitted TV and radio services which cost the viewer no more than the standard licence fee.


FTTH. Fibre to the home technologies currently being pushed as the next big thing in Japan. This would enable a home to be watching several films in different parts of the house.


Global Positioning System ( GPS ). The ability to find out where you are in the world through special equipment including expensive mobile phones. These link with a satellite to give a precise position. See also Location-based services. Latest gizmo ‘The Hoppy’. Aimed at tourists this device monitors GPS satellites and gives an commentary stored on mini CD using MP3 data compression technology. When triggered by the GPS signals. It can be connected to the car stereo giving information to the driver in real time.


Google. An example of an internet search engine. It became a member of the American stock market in 2004 and first started in 1998. Its founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were worth an estimated $10 billion each in August 2005.


GPS. See Global Positioning Systems.


HHD. 2007 will see the first Hybrid Hard Drives appear on production models of computers. This is likely to be particularly relevant to the "high end laptop market. However Sandisc has already announced a flash memory card which is claims is superior to HHD (see below). Whatever else the effect on small devices which demand high storage such as HD-video are likely to see these appearing.


Sandisk 32 Gb flash drive



Hard-disc recorder. A digital recording machine which records other digital sources on a hard disc similar to the ones found in computers. The advantage over a CD or DVD recorder is that material can be more easily edited before being recorded on another more permanent medium such as a recordable CD. (See also under Broadband).



HD-TV. High definition TVs came on sale in Britain in a big way in 2006 in the run up to the World Cup. whilst the quality is undoubtedly excellent when you see one with a live HD feed there is a problem in the UK of a lack of available programme material in HD. Rumour has it that many people are happily watching their HD TV not realising that the images are not being broadcast in HD. HD-DVDs also became available in 2006 led by Toshiba who have also brought out an HD-DVD Recordable. See also format wars. For a technical break down of the superior definition see "Wikipedia definition".


Hype Cycle. The Hype Cycle, used by Gartner to track the adoption of new technologies, has five distinct phases: “Technology Trigger,” “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” “Trough of Disillusionment,” “Slope of Enlightenment,” and “Plateau of Productivity.” "Link to debate between Gartner and Second Life reported by Reuters Jan 04 / 07 ."


Hypertext. The new aesthetic of the digital era. Originally perceived as the ability to move around a text through links making a medium non-linear and allowing a viewer to make some narrative decisions interactively. Dan Fleming (2000) suggests that there will be hyperlinking across media forms to produce metaforms.


IdTV. Interactive digital television. Currently at a simple level of development. Press red button to vote yes/no on an issue on the programme, or to get a brochure if it is an advert. 32 million households in Europe were expected to have this by end of 2003. This is likely to develop into a way of buying which means that media companies will gain transaction fees as well as advertising. In 2003 interactive games were the most successful market development in interactive TV. The rapid growth of the internet as an important vehicle for buying goods and services may well have made this technology semi-redundant since the time of writing and up-to-date sales figures havn't been seen. Certainly along with mainstream TV this seems to be a technological dinosaur.


Immersive environments. see Virtual Reality


Information filters. Media products which review various media outputs and industrial activities to synthesize and perhaps analyse these products and processes. These are necessary to cope with information overload.

Information gateways. A service, programme etc which provides access to media filtering and media metaforms.


Information inequality. Sometimes described as the ‘Digital Divide’. This expresses the concern that society will become polarised between the ‘digital haves’ and ‘have-nots’ forming another division in society. The lack of availability of information or else low quality information will directly impact upon citizenship.


Information Society. Many sociologists and media commentators are now suggesting that advanced western societies are increasingly becoming societies based upon the use of digitally stored information or data. This is increasingly affecting all our social cultural and scientific systems. Leadeing commentators on this such as Manual Castells have changed their ideas to calling contemporary society the Networked Society.


Interactive. This is an essential term to understand. Digital technologies are provide a wide range of interactivity which allow audiences to interact with the media product such as a TV show requiring some input or the ability to access certain stories stored on news programmes. Audiences can also provide feedback to media institutions large or small about their needs desires and criticisms of a media text in real time. This means that the man of the difficulties of creating and retaining an audience can be facilitated through these interactive monitoring systems. With mobile phone systems location based services can be accessed and information sent received such as booking a hotel or finding out what is on.


Interactive TV. The ability to feedback information into the TV system. This requires digital technology. Typically the flow of information from the receiver


Interface. Interfacing is the way in which people use technologies. A mouse or keyboard is the way we usually interface with computers. For games machines and consoles a range of joysticks were developed. The latest ways of interfacing are through digital imaging where a digital camera can image a subject and store this in the machine in ways that link to icons on the screen. The person can trigger these icons remotely via the camera link. This is the next technological step towards a more immersive environment. Both gamers and various sorts of artists such as dancers are beginning to exploit this technology which will become increasingly common. For one of the leading places to investigate human computer interfacing check out the MIT Media Lab. Wacky stuff including intelligent clothing.

Internet history of: See BBC History of the Internet


Internet Search Engine. To navigate the internet effectively it became necessary to invent new software to make a rapid search of the millions of domain names which mushroomed on after the start of the World Wide Web in the mid 1990s. These include search engines such as Yahoo and MSN. The most successful to date is Google. The way in which the companies who run these make money is by selling advertising space. See Paid for search.


iPhone. January 2007 CES saw the awaited launch of Apple's iPhone. This is a fine example of convergent technology in which a phone is able to download both music and video. The screen is a widescreen. The phone is also controlled via a touch screen rather than conventional buttons. Steve Jobs is claiming to have reinvented the phone. Some find Apple less than tempting however...


The Financial Times editorial comment found time to poke fun at iPhone at the weekend (Jan 13th 2007).

iPhone Launch Jaunuary CES 2007




iPod. An MP3 style music player which has been produced by Apple and has rapidly become a design icon much as the Sony Walkman did in the 1980s. At the time of writing (Aug 2005) Nokia the mobile phone company has planned a phone camera which will also be able to store s much music as a mini-iPod which it considers will rapidly outsell iPods. These phones are now comonplace but iPod is still ahead of the game. See also iTunes / podcasting.

Below iPod Nanos:

iPod Nanos







IPTV. IPTV is the current holy grail for the giants of the new media industries which is "delivery of video content via the net". Ideally this should be accessible in all rooms being streamed from a computer. Various industry linkups are being made between Microsoft and BT for example. Apple too is very interested. Another company on the scene is Sony who wish to use their long awaited Play-Station 3 to provide Blueray streaming to well Sony TVs of course1.

Apples Internet TV vision











ISDN. This is a high-speed data-link for computer communications. In Britain BT kept the price too high and people used conventional modems. It runs at 128 Kilobits per second twice as fast as an ordinary modem and it is possible to use the phone at the same time. It is now being superseded by ASDL and broadband technologies. At time of writing in 2007 it is now dead in the water as Broadband has taken off.


LAN. This is a local area network in which two or more computers are connected together. In the past this has been done by installing special cards and cables to connect to computers together physically. This is likely to change very soon with the commercialisation of Wi-Fi.

Linear editing. Video-recorders are examples of this technology. Unable to immediately access any of the date unlike data on a hard drive. This kind of editing is very slow and there is a loss of quality involved. To reproduce the text on the internet, via digital satellite or on DVDs the text must be digitally re-mastered. See also non-linear editing.

Local area Network. See under LAN and Wi-Fi


Location-based Services. The ability to be able to locate a person’s mobile phone handset, by working out which cell it is nearest to. Information can be passed to the emergency services for example. The new mobile network ‘3’ uses GPS to provide more accurate positioning. This information can be updated as a person moves.


Long Tail The. At its heart the idea of the long tail is straightforward. Online distirutors are able to carry much larger stocks or else can order instantly from small suppliers who are prepared to keep their publications / music available for enthusiasts. It is now much easier for consumers to access these products instead of being limited to what any particualr high street shop chooses to carry on its shelves.

Below representation of the long tail in the media through an analysis of Rhapsody an online store.

The Long Tail in Media















Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. MMRPG’s for short. They are pervasive ( diffusing ) virtual environments populated by human-controlled digital people from around the globe. Players develop characters, work towards goals, solve puzzles. They are the visual marriage of text-based adventures and chat rooms. They are proving particularly attractive to women. Below image from the popular World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft









Media ‘metaforms'. This is (1) the growth of television programmes, print media, websites devoted to other media. Some consider these programmes as just a case of self-absorption and a loss of contact from ‘the real’ ( wars, disasters, politics and policy etc.) Others argue that this is a sign of a growing need for data to make sense of other data leading to new relationships between audience and ‘text’. The metaforms which comprised the ‘Blairwitch Project’ can be seen as an example of an aesthetic life of its own being created which is not secondary to an original product. There was a movie, book and websites which became ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ all of which were self-referential but also blurred the distinctions between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’.. See also hypertext. See metadata gateways. (2) Growth of cross-media marketing strategies see total marketing.


Metadata gateways. These are currently being developed perhaps most successfully on the web and are likely to transfer to other media forms with the increasing convergence of technologies.


Metaforms. See media metaforms.


Midband. This offers 128 kilobits per second internet connection which is three times faster than a standard connection. Calls can be made simultaneously but will halve the net connection speed. This speed is still only 25% of an ASDL connection. The system is likely to appeal to those in rural locations without access to cable or ASDL. This is rapidly being made redundant.


Mini-disc. A rewritable digital recording system which can comfortably work when mobile. It records at half the data rate of conventional CDs and therefore quality is compromised. The rapid rise of MP3 and iPods is rapidly making this redunant technology.


MPEG. A data compression system which allows the recording and transmission of images using relatively small amounts of memory.


MMRPG. See Massively Multiplayer Online role Playing Game.


MP3. A digital compression system for transmitting music over the internet with short download times. The rate of sampling is only about half as much as on conventional CDs therefore quality is compromised. It is claimed that psychoacoustically people effectively notice little or no difference.


Narrowband. This is a standard internet connection via a dial-up modem. Maximum speed of these is 56 Kilobits of data per second. In reality depending upon line conditions these modems connect at about 40 kilobits per second. This is fine for basic e.mail and text-based websites. Audio, video and software downloads require broadband connections. A disadvantage of narrowband is that the phone cannot be used at the same time.


Non-linear editing. This is using hard discs on computers or now dedicated hard-disc digital recorders to edit sound and images. It is non-linear because any part of the information can be easily accessed unlike videotape which has to be dealt with on liner editing suites. This form of editing is especially useful for Digital Video enabling small-scale film makers to create and place their products on the internet fast and cheaply. See also linear editing.






January 25, 2007

USB Microphones for Podcasters

Follow-up to More on Podcasting Equipment from Kinoeye

Sound on Sound on USB Microphones


The February 2007 issue of the British Sound on Sound magazine has an interesting and useful article on USB microphones which are primarily aimed at the podcasting community as it develops. (Here is their 'teaser' article it'll cost £1.00 to read the whole thing). As I predicted in an earlier entry it was likely to be an exopanding market in 2007 and so it would seem.

Basic principle of the USB Microphone

The USB style microphone is a combination of a microphone pre-amp to boost the sound output and an analogue to digital converter (A/D converter) to enable the computer to read the information in a digital format. All this extra circuitry is in addition to the microphone itself.

The A/D converters in these microphones apparently have a lower bit rate than conveters in preamp / interfaces. Because some of the available microphones do not have the posssibility of increasing the output or gain to these A/D converters these microphones will produce low signals unless the microphone is very near the sound source. Whilst individual podcasters propbably won't worry about this if you want to record two or more people in a round table discussion you may find that the microphone is not picking up the sound very clearly because of the loss of resolution.

Another potential disadvantage of this type of microphone is that much of the available audio software only recognises items which give both input and output signals. Normally microphones by their very nature are input devices. Microphones like the Rode_Podcaster_mentioned elsewhere on this site have a microphone input which can circumvent the problem.

There are other more technical issues which the  Sound on Sound article covers as well.

The Range of USB Microphones so far 

Sound on Sound report that the first USB microphone they looked at was the Samson CO1 U which they reviewed in June 2006. This article notes that it was "an unashamedly budget mic" and they also note that it was "rather noisy unless used close up". They note that Samson have released a USB version of their CO3 mic using a similar A/D converter to the CO1 U. They don't comment on the quality of this product. 

The Rode Podcaster

The Rode Podcaster has already been mentioned on this blog but this is the first serious review I have seen about it. It notes that the frequency range is optimised for speech. The article notes that it can handle a high maximum input "making it suitable for close-miked speech and vocals". The headphone input is in fact a mini jack. It will work out of the box with both Windows and Mac. There is additional software which is a free download which usfully provides metering, a mute button and recording level control. The reviwer found that the mic didn't work well with his voice. A point that highlights that there are always a large number of variables involved in finding the best equipment for any individual. Obviously on-line buying limits the opportunity to test items out first.  The normal retail price in the UK is around £150 however one advert is offering it for £124 so internet prices are beginning to become competitive as more products hit the marketplace.

MLX USB.006

The MLX USB. 006 is a low cost affiar but is "a true capacitor mic with a large-diaphragm cardioid capsule".  The is also a three position gain switch which helps  set the mic up for mid and close range work notes the reviewer who also notes that there was no technical specifation included. tonally the mic was "very warm in your face and radio DJ friendly". The ability to raise the gain made it just about possible to record two people in discussion but "it doesn't have the gain needed for recording group discussions , where the distances involved  are likely to be much greater." Current UK retail price £79.

SE Electronics USB2200A

At £222 UK retail price this mic was the most expensive featured in the review. The sound was big and flattering suitable for radio style voice-overs. The gain had two settings and there is also a pad which can reduce the impact of very loud sources. This model has the advantage of an analogue connection to a mic preamp unit which makes it more flexible than the other models mentioned. This comment on the internet notes that it played straight out of the box with the Linux operating sytem. Here is a link to a more technical announcement about the launch of this mic.

SE USB2200A

This link goes to a useful microphone blog which reports on the release of this SEUSB mic and has some useful archives.  Link here to IT Review on this product.

Conclusion

Given that this market has been going for much less than a year there is plenty of opportunity for more models to enter the markeplace soon. all these models look to be good value within their various price brackets and as they save the lone podcaster the necessity of buying mic preamps, interfaces and mixers all of them offer a good route into podcasting. Nevertheless if you think you may wish to record more than one voice at a time the USB route seems to be a less flexible option for the moment.  The Rode Podcaster and the SE USB2200A both offer headphone monitoring which makes a lot of sense and seem worthwhile saving up for. 


January 13, 2007

New Media Glossary Continued: O–Z

Follow-up to Glossary for New Media Technologies: A–N from Kinoeye

Online advertising. See separate entry.

Paid for Search. Internet search engines have rapidly become one of the most successful and effective ways in which new media has been able to act as a vehicle for advertisers. The main way that the search engines make money is by selling links to the advertisers websites which are displayed alongside the research results. Almost everybody who uses the internet (the number increases dramatically every year) needs to use a search engine. This means that there is effectively a captive market exposed to advertising. This is compared with other ingenious systems such as pop-up advertising which can be filtered out by the use of firewall software.

Podcasting. Podcasting is rapidly becoming the new buzz thing at the time of writing. Podcasting allows anybody with digital audio recording technology to download programmes onto a computer and from there onto the internet. These podcasts can be downloaded onto iPods / MP3 players and represent a new way of finding audiences particularly for smaller organisations, however now there has been some success companies such as the BBC are looking at the potential. It has become an important part of Web 2.0. Watch this space!! Below the recent launch of the rode Podcaster microphone with USB connection and input for headphones has set the agenda for 2007. Expect to see more versions of this appear in 2007 from competitors.

The Rode Podcaster in Action

PSP or Playstation Portable. Launched in the UK on September 1st 2005. It is billed as the new ‘must have’ gadget which some are suggesting that will finally see the much vaunted term convergence start to happen.

Sony Playstation Portable

Rewritable digital media. The ability to record use and then record something else over the top as with the old analogue cassette and video-cassettes for example. Digital audio-cassettes followed by mini-discs were the first of these onto the domestic and semi-professional market-place and were expensive. The market driven by the PC means that most computers now come with rewritable-CD for backing-up information. It is now becoming increasingly common to get rewritable-DVD both as stand-alone machines and built into computers. These are likely to replace the domestic video-recorder in the next few years.

RSS. RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’. RSS feeds are just a special kind of web page, designed to be read by computers rather than people. It might help to think of them as the free, internet version of the old-fashioned ticker-tape news wire machines. Not all websites currently provide RSS, but it is growing rapidly in popularity and many others, including the BBC, Guardian, New York Times and CNN provide it. Below is the icon for an RSS feed. Here is part of the Wikipedia definition. Users of RSS content use programs called feed ‘readers’ or ‘aggregators’: the user ‘subscribes’ to a feed by supplying to their reader a link to the feed; the reader can then check the user’s subscribed feeds to see if any of those feeds have new content since the last time it checked, and if so, retrieve that content and present it to the user.

RSS Icon for web feeds

Second Life. Virtual worlds are becoming a big thing. They are working on different models of development. The World of Warcraft is dungeons and dragons for the web however Second Life is a far more creative and dynamic model which is generating real interest in the world of business as well as individual adventurers. To get a better feel of what Second Life is about please use the tag in this blog’s side-bar which will give you a lot of pages which have relevant links. Please also see the entry which is summarising the Net interview with Philip Rosedale the founder of Second Life. Certainly some are beginning to see Second Life as the new ‘killer’ application for the broaqdband era for it is the availability of cheap broadband that is a core technology in allowing the model to operate. Broadband is to Second Life what roads are to a city.Potentially Second Life could become a huge business. Below see their recruitment poster:

Recruitment Banner for Second Life Virtual Environments

Set-top box. See digital set-top box

Sling-box. Launched in 2006 this technology enables people to access their TV systems via a broadband connection and thier home computer enabling them to watch local live TV from anywhere in the world. House owners can access their security cameras and at least one owner discovered people breaking into his home when he was on holiday and he was able to alert the police!

Slingbox TV

Social Networking. Here is a recent BBC definition Websites such as MySpace give users a chunk of webspace they can personalise with images, video and blog entries.To this they add a messaging system that lets members keep in touch with friends on the same network. In the past few years these sites have become hugely popular among young people and some, such as MySpace, are by some measures challenging Yahoo and Google for the title of most popular site on the net. The link also reports on the popularity amongst US teenagers.

Solid State Digital Recorders. The growth of podcasting has brought a much market to the relatively unknown solid state digital recording market. For podcasters, musicians and radio reporters these devices make recording live much easier and more reliable than DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and the Minidisc. It is expected that these older technologies will quickly die out.

Edirol R0-9

Tascam HDP 2

Splog. This word is a combination of spam and blog. A splog exists in order to get ad impresssions or provide links to other sites. “Usually these sites contain giiberish or an unruly combination of content stolen from other sites.” (Grapone & Couzin. Search Engine Optimisation, 2nd Ed, 2008)

Tagging. This is becoming an increasingly common way of navigating around sites. This entry has a range of tags at the bottom and you probably got her by using the tag for glossaries in the sidebar. This BBC technology story gives you more details. Below is a quote from Mr Weinberger from this story:

“Tagging allows social groups to form around similarities of interests and points of view. If you’re using the same tags as I do, we probably share some deep commonalities,” he told Pew Internet.

This story also debates the advantages and disadvantages of tagging as an important way of logging data effectively so that it can be easily searched for.

T-commerce. The growing marketplace for commercial transactions via the idTV. Lottery tickets, games, sports-betting, pay-per-view, travel tickets and more. Will require new forms of micro-payments as the subscriber may not be the person doing the buying.

Third Generation / 3G. Third generation mobile phones enabling customers to view video-footage. The mobile phone will then become a multi-media device. First company in the UK to deliver the service will be 3. Date of launch currently unknown likely to be early March 2003. Owned by Hutchinson a Hong-Kong based conglomerate which launched Orange. What the multi-media content is the key to success. Currently 100 content providers have signed deals with 3 including the FA Premier League and news companies ITN and Reuters. The video footage will not be real-time because of technological constraints.

THX. Sound system for surround-sound cinema and home cinema systems licensed by Lucas Laboratories. There are very exacting specifications of sound reproduction required before a licence is granted.

Total marketing. The elaboration of metaforms for the sake of greater profits. First seen in children’s popular culture with toy lines being developed into TV programmes or the other way around. Later developed into the usual sort of ‘spin-offs’.

USB. Universal Serial Bus. The development of the USB port for computers meant that PCs finally caught up with Macs as items such as printers, cameras and cameras could ‘plug and play’. in other words just be connected to a USB port. Now microphones, audio interfaces and special headphones are coming out with USB connections to feed the voracious Web 2.0 user generated content market.

User Generated Content. Old media and new media are interacting. Users are able to and frequently do send news companies instant news via texts, camera phones etc. The issue becomes how to rank these stories.
Here is a Reuters story on ‘User Generated Content’ from Jan 03 / 07 .

Viral Advertising / viral marketing. An extract from the Wikipedia entry. Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can often be word-of-mouth delivered and enhanced online; it can harness the network effect of the Internet and can be very useful in reaching a large number of people rapidly. Here’s what Alex West who Alex West, who launched the first-ever Viral Awards says:

What agencies are saying now is you need to buy consumers’ time, and to do that you need to entertain them and give them something back.

Certainly this new advertising method is set to change the way advertising works. See Channel 4 article here.

Virtual Reality or VR. The search for fully immersive computer generated environments which could be interactive games, or ‘game narratives’. See also the fascinating development under Second Life which is going beyond any of these.

Voice over Internet Protocol. This is a service introduced by British Telecom /BT in January 2004. It enables users to use broadband connections to make phone calls to phones from computers and the other way around. This is an advance over previous systems in which users have only been able to make Internet phone calls between computers. In May 2004 a less sophisticated version of the system will be sold to the mass market domestic consumer. BT hope this will help persuade more consumers to upgrade to broadband systems. At time of writing Google have just announced a new internet based telephone service which is likely to be highly successful.

Vlog a video based blog. see vodcasting below for a good link. Also see blogs for more on Web 2.0 publishing.

VODcasting. This is podcasting but based upon the idea of Video on Demand hence the VOD. This article from Missouri University provides a useful explanation in full.

VoIP. see Voice over Internet Protocol

VR. See Virtual Reality and entry on Second Life

Weblogs. See Blogs.

Web 2.0

Wi-fi.


January 05, 2007

European Film Glossary: From Ed–Mo

Film Glossary Continued

Editing. See also Film Editing. Editing is essential to the creation of a wide range of media products. It can mean the process of choice of articles and changing articles in print journalism. It means putting together a particular choice of shots in film and TV as well as the way in which sound is used. It is an essential part of the whole process in creating preferred readings of a media product as well as ensuring that it as coherent as possible. Susan Hayward (1996) identifies four categories of editing:
  • Chronological editing
  • Cross-cutting or parallel editing
    Deep Focus.
  • Montage. The first principle of montage editing is a rapid alteration betwen sets of shots. They become significant when they collide. Fast edting and unusual camera angles denaturalise Classic narrative cinema. Image becomes privileged over narrative and characterisation. Originally used mainly in avante-garde and art cinema mainstream cinema has incorporated the technique and the principle appears to have become the fundamental aspect of Film and TV advertising. See also Kuleshov.

Emergent genres. In Britain it is possible to discern an emergent genre of British-Asian films. The most recent addition is Bend it Like Beckham (2002) by a British-Asian woman director. At the time of writing it was the top selling British film for 2 weeks. This is the latest in a line stretching back to My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Sammie & Rosie Get Laid (1987), Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Wild West (1992), East is East(1998),Anita & Me (2002) . Only the last of these became known within mainstream cinema. These tend to be marketed as being comic or comedy. The comic side works through a wide range of issues including inter-ethnic relations, inter-generational relations, cross-cultural relationships and sexual identity issues. This genre can be usefully seen as intertextual as it relates to successful TV comedies such as Goodness Gracious and more recently The Kumars.

Establishing shot. This shot uses a distant framing and enables the spectator to understand and map the spatial relationships between the characters and the set.

Exhibitionary Context. This term sums up the conditions of viewing of a film which can be highly variable. This is not just physical conditions. In Nazi Germany Jews were not allowed into cinemas and people were not allowed to enter a film late to ensure they saw the more propagandistic newsreels and documentaries.

Eye-line match. Another Hollywood editing convention designed to encourage identification with the protagonists. Here the audience sees the action from the characters eye-line or viewpoint.

Female revenge film. Thelma and Louise is often interpreted (incorrectly) as a ‘female revenge film’. This genre construction could be seen as misogynistic. These films feature female characters in which the potential of women for violence is contained within plot scenarios that either demonise them or destroy them in some way (Fatal Attraction (1987) , Body Heat (198), Black Widow (1987). They are films in which femme fatales wreak havoc on the lives of innocent men. The films above are often considered by some critics as neo-noir.

Flashback. (See also intra-diegetic)

Genre as a vehicle for a star. Genre can be a vehicle for the development of a star. John Wayne was developed as a star by director John Ford who used him in many very famous westerns such as Stagecoach. Clint Eastwood came from a relatively minor role in the TV western series Bonanza to become famous through his role in ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, directed by the Italian director Sergio Leone.

Genre Cycle. Genres emerge ( see Emergent Genres) and evolve. The first film or films which are thematically connected are not a genre. Once certain themes become common in certain settings then a genre can be seen to emerge. The Western is a classic example. Once the most popular type of film in the US very few westerns are now produced. Genre stars such as Clint Eastwood make the occasional western. A film such as The Unforgiven in its deconstruction of the natural manly virtues of the gunfighter by depicting paralysing fear and in its criticism of the legal system and the treatment of women it is responding to very different social concerns from the heroic establishing of the values of the US on ‘savage’ or ‘Indians’ i.e. displaced and exploited Native Americans , which was commonplace in the early part of the genre cycle.

Genre Hybridity. A film where the codes and conventions from a range of established genres are used. Singing cowboys making a western musical or a musical western for example. The higher the production values of a film the more likely it is to be a hybrid genre film in order to attract the widest possible audience. Titanic is both a disaster-movie, quasi-historical movie, and a romance. It may be that one of the genres is predominant but this requires a close reading to establish.

Genre Text. A term developed by Stephen Neale to try and differentiate between individual films (the genre text) and the generic norms of the genre as a whole.

Hegemony. In relation to ideology it is a more sophisticated idea than the ‘hypodermic’ model of ideology. Hegemony, or ideology, is the process by which certain paradigms or ways of thinking become so self-evident as to relegate alternatives to the spaces of the nonsensical and the unthinkable. The term originally taken from the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci argues that hegemony is not repressive in the way that armies or the police can be used to repress opposition . Instead, hegemony means that control is maintained through a consensus maintained through the dominance of its “forms” of how society is conceptualised. This renders other forms and other imaginaries, unreadable, inaudible and incomprehensible. For example, films which explore a corrupt government official in the United States don’t see this as a fault of the system but as a fault within the individual. These films, usually through the medium of a self-sacrificing hero , ensure that the system is restored ‘to normal’. The possibility that corruption is the ‘normal state of affairs’ is not considered. See The Insider and Erin Brockovich for examples of this. This position can tend to ignore certain state cultural policies such as censorship laws as having a strong effect on what is shown and when. British cinema between the two World Wars was not allowed to show or make films which were critical of the British Empire for example.

Iconography. Buscombe came closest to arguing the position that a genre’s visual conventions can be thought of as one of the defining features of a genre such as guns, cars, clothes in the gangster film . It is hard to argue this with any great consistency because the possible connections between the items or icons is unclear. More importantly it is actually very difficult to list the defining characteristics of more than a handful of genres, for the simple reason that many genres – among them the social problem film, the biopic, the romantic drama and the psychological horror film – lack a specific iconography. The genres of the western and gangsters discussed by critics McArthur and Buscombe happen to fit the concept of generic iconography very well. Others that fit well are the gothic horror film, and the biblical epic. Neale argues that the failure to apply the concept productively to other genres suggests that the defining features of Hollywood’s genres may be heterogeneous.

Ideology. In media terms this thinking argues that there is a form of ‘false consciousness’ which hides a deeper underlying social reality. This has given rise to the model that people can simply be injected (Hypodermic syringe model) with a certain view of the world particularly via media output. Critics of this model in the media field argue that this hypodermic syringe model is very patronising as it doesn’t give people the credit for being able to develop alternative ideas. Rather they see ideology as a hegemonic process. There is a commonly held belief that Adorno and Horkheimer were behind the so-called ‘hypodermic syringe’ model of ideology. This is a serious misrepresentation of their position which will be dealt with in a separate article in due course. In the meantime students should ask lecturers who put forward this view exactly where Adorno and Horkheimer have supported this reductionist model. The model rather better describes the idea espoused by the Stalinist Communist parties.

IDHEC. Instituit des hautes etudes cinematographique. The leading French film school which was first started in the Second World War and renamed after the war.

Indexical sign. From CS Pierce the American founder of semiotics. This sign is associated with what it is a sign of, such as smoke with fire or spots with measles.

Intertextual. Intertextuality is a relation between two or more texts which influences the making of and/ or the reading of the text (film) being consumed. By using references to other texts the critic or director can be seen to be constructing the knowledge about the film based on other films.
  • Intertextual Relay. Neale uses the term ‘inter-textual relay’ to refer to the discourses of publicity, promotion and reception that surround Hollywood’s films, and includes both trade and press reviews. It is argued that this role of relay is a crucial one. ( Neale , 2000: 3 ). The cinema industry’s marketing campaigns were first described as ‘inter-textual relay’ by Lukow and Ricci in 1984. Neale considers that cinemas, cinema programming and cinema specialisation can all be considered as components in the relay especially when broader conceptions of genre such as newsreel and shorts are taken into account.

Institutional mode of representation. A term used to describe mainstream cinema and its system of representation. There is strong identification with a character and the world is usually seen through this characters experiences. The origins of this were in the 19th century novel which focused on the psychology of one or two characters.

Jump cut. This cut demonstrates a jump in time and disrupts the ‘normal’ continuity editing. It was used as a device by several internationally famous directors during the 1920s and then dropped out of fashion. The development of sound played a major contribution in overwhelming a more diverse range of styles. Malle, Truffaut and most famously Godard used this editing style. Godard’s first feature film Breathless is best known for this. The jump cut ‘calls attention to the constructed reality of the filmic text, to the spectator’s ongoing labour of generating a fictional world out of often contradictory stylistic cues, and to Godard’s own expressive, auteur presence’. (Neupert, 2002 p 216).

Kuleshov effect. The Soviet filmmaker Kuleshov showed that through good editing that it was possible to create alternative readings of the same facial expression. Through this Kuleshov was attempting to show that the meaning or preferred reading of shots could be changed by altering the juxtaposition of the shots.

Lighting. In the early years of Hollywood lighting wasn’t meant to draw attention to itself. In some countries such as Germany lighting was used very early on to create dramatic effects. Low angle , low key lighting was used in German Expressionist cinema . There are three main aspects to lighting:
  • key lighting – hard light, used to highlight focused on a particular subject
  • fill lighting – used to illuminate the framed space overall
  • backlighting – this can distort and brings out silhouettes ( horror / film noir / expressionism).

The Hollywood cinema system had strict rules about lighting not wishing to allow the lighting to supersede the actual narrative. This could make audiences uneasy. See also mise-en-scene.

Meaning. It is now recognised that meaning is made from the active process of reading a cinematic text. Audiences bring a range of individual experiences to the cinema and these are intermingled with wider socio-cultural responses as well. Sometimes filmmakers could use allegories to allow audiences to derive alternative meanings other than the officially preferred reading of a text. This happened in Eastern European cinema during the Soviet times for example. See also audience work.

Mise en scene. Please see under separate entry.

Modernist device. This is a way of using editing or other cinematic convention in a way which draws attention to the film as a construction. The opening credits of Godard’s Mepris and the very content of the narrative itself ensure that the spectator is always considering the process of making a film.


January 04, 2007

European Cinema and Media Glossary: From A–E

Glossary of Terms for European Cinema

Introduction

Please note that this glossary will be on more than one page as the server limit appears to be about 5,000 words for each ‘post’.

*A glossary of this nature will always be a “work in progress”. The adavntage of it being based on the internet is that it can be continually updated as new terms, techniques and methods emerge. Terms sometimes gather alternative meanings as well. So this glossary will, in the spirit of Web 2, be a dynamic one. It is intended to serve a wide target audience of anyone interested in cinema in general but especially European cinema.

Visitors are of course welcome to contribute by asking for terms and or words to be included. I will do my best to accomodate them however there are many other tasks to develop, which is also why it will be a work in progress as I’m developing glossaries relating to other areas of the media simultaneously.

If I find any useful online freely available references which can develop terms in greater depth they will be hyperlinked.

Please note that bold and italic words are cross-referenced

Aberrant decoding. This is term used to describe a reading by part of an audience which is entirely different from that intended by the producers of the media text. More often known as reading against the grain this usually happens when the readers of the text have quite different values and beliefs to the producers of the text. See also cultural effects theory and codes and conventions.

Adorno and the Frankfurt School. Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School of Social Research were amongst the earliest social scientists to closely critique and analyse and critique the growth of the culture industries which are now in effect ‘lifestyle’ industries. Adorno argues amongst other things that the apparent ‘diversity’ of market segmentation and the cultivation of ‘lifestyle ‘ is entirely bogus. Lifestyle can be describe in his terms as a death mask of individuality covering the bland features of the ‘consumer clone’. See also Passive Audience and Mass Culture.

Advertising. (TAM). The advertising content of media forms such as Newspapers, magazines and TV and commercial radio often takes up as much space as the editorial content. It is often advertising rather than the actual number of sales which creates the large profits of a media product. (Count for example the number of pages which are adverts in GQ). Increasingly there is a growth of advertorial content. Media institutions which have a totally public service broadcasting function (BBC) are not allowed to advertise commercial products. They usually advertise their own programmes and products. Advertising is a discourse where frequently all normal physical and social arrangements are held in abeyance. We regard the claims made in adverts as a joke, but we buy the products often in spite of , or because of the jokes.

Aestheticisation of Everyday Life. This is the claim that the division between art and everyday life is being eroded in two ways. Firstly artists are taking objects of everyday life and making them into art objects. Secondly people are making their everyday lives into aesthetic projects in terms of style, appearance and household furnishings. This may reach a point where people see themselves and their surroundings as art objects. Consumers have now broken down the hierarchy between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. See Culture Industries

Against the grain. See Reading against the grain.

Ambient sound. This refers to the ‘natural’ background sound present in a scene in film, TV or radio

Anti-classical. See Art film

Art film. Art film is often described as a European phenomenon and is considered as a genre by critics such as Neale. Often Art cinema is associated with auteurs. European art cinema often uses different modes of storytelling such as long takes combined with great depth of field (Visconti in Ossessione for example). The narratives are less likely to be concerned with the’ classical’ Hollywood structure of a central character moving in a linear fashion through trials and tribulations to a comfortable resolution. Endings may reject neat narrative closure, and there may be multiple points of view. There is likely to be little emphasis on identification with the characters compared to the Hollywood style institutional mode of representation. Typically those films designated as ‘art films’ require more work from the spectator.

Audience. Audience has always seen as important by film distributors and exhibitors. Many commentators understand media audiences to be a construction of the media companies rather than a a social reality based upon conceptions of individual viewers or citizens. As such it is a marketing term which needs to be treated with suspicion. There has been a lot of work by film theorists about how the individual spectator is positioned by the film text. Often this has been without reference to actual audiences. Those interested in a more sociological approach to responses by audiences have done some research on this. The research of Jackie Stacey is very useful in this regard. The qualitative research methods employed show that there are pluralistic readings of a text and that many women read filmic texts against the grain of the preferred reading offered by the construction of the film or the reinforcement of this by the critical establishment. This shows that the social reality and lived experiences of an audience can have a very different effect. (See the monograph by Marita Sturken on Thelma and Louise for comment on the enthusiastic reception by women audiences in the cinema).

Audience work. Far from being ‘couch potatoes’ or passive audiences who merely absorb what is on screen in an unthinking way. Audiences are required to do a certain amount of work to derive pleasure from a film. This work will include: processing information; directing attention to; interpreting in relation to some agenda; evaluating. (This is a point strongly made by Adorno and Horkeimer clearly showing that they have nothing to do with the ‘Hypodermic Syringe’ model of Ideology.

Auteur. Originally this expression was used in the 1920’s . The term was centred around a debate concerning the artistic quality of films. Films where there was very strong directorial input were compared with films where scripts were commissioned from separate scriptwriters and directors were under the thumb of studio producers. This fed into a major debate about cinema and its relations to ‘high art’ / ‘low art’ (popular culture). By the 1950s a group of French critics (again) reinvented the use of the term auteur. They were very keen on American / Hollywood cinema and argued that just because a director had little control over the production process apart from the staging of shots it could still be seen that individual directors had very distinctive styles which could be seen in the mise-en -scene. As a result of this debate the idea of auteur can mean either a directors style through mise-en-scene (Hitchcock, John Ford), or else as a ‘total author’ of both the script and the film itself. ( Orson Welles , David Lynch in the US or Bergman and Godard in Europe).

Blum-Byrnes Agreement. Agreements in 1946 and 1948 were established between the French and US governments which guaranteed a quota of exhibition time to French films as part of a wider trade agreement.

Buddy movie. A basic aspect of the ‘buddy movie’ is that men understand each other better than they understand their women. ( Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ) The primary relationship in Thelma and Louise film is between the women who understand each other’s ways of being in the world. better than their men do thus reversing the conventions of the Buddy movie.

Camera Movement. (TAF). Camera movements include very important techniques in gained specific visual effects and are fundamental to how a film is made and the visual style which it uses. The main techniques are currently:

  • Pan. This is when a camera moves either to the left or the right. Usually there is a moving object on screen but this is not necessary. Empty space can create meaning. If there isa moving object the camera tends to lead rather than follow the object. Whether the pan is a slow or fast one also contributes to the mood and dynamics of that part of the film.
  • Handheld camera / cinema verite. Originally this was quite usual in documentary style filming or news reporting. A wobbling image as the cameraperson follows a subject gave a feeling of being present and ‘reality’ to the viewer. This can often be used to make a moent more tense. A good example of this being used as a technique is in thebatle scenes near the beginning of Saving Private Ryan when the americans are invading the beach. The wobbly images give an excellent feeling of being present on the beach.
  • Steadicam. The steadicam is special camera which is handheld by the cameraperson. The camera uses gyroscopes to ensure that it remains level and thus remves the feel of a handheld camera (see above).
Tracking Shot.
  • Zoom. Stricly speaking a zoom shot isn’t a camera movement but an adjustment of the lens which gives the feel of movement. A zoom lens is a special kind of lens which was originally developed in the 1950s. It was a technological develpment which helped to attract audiences. It is possible either to zoom-in or zoom forward on a person or object. The shot can also create the illusion of displacement of time and space. A zoom-out or zoom backwards places a person or object in a wider context. Zooming in can be strongly linked with voyeurism. Hitchcock’s Rear Window provides an excellent example of voyeurism and zooming.

Cinema verite. See Camera movements.

Character. In the standard Hollywood realist text : ‘Action typically pivots on central characters who are rendered in psychological depth and tend to become objects of identification for readers. These characters are fictional persons whose fate is tied up with the progress of the narrative, indeed on whom may be centred the very disruption that sets the narrative in motion’ (Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures : 31). See also Institutional mode of representation and eye-line match.

Citizenship. This concept builds on earlier ideas of citizenship which focused upon economic, political and social concerns. Economic citizenship gave people the right to trade, political citizenship gave people the rights to vote and have representative electable governments with powers limited by law. Social citizenship gave people the right to health care, education and pensions. See also cultural citizenship.

Close Reading. Making a close reading can get down to the level of individual shot construction, in which subtleties of coding can be carefully analysed. See also preferred reading and reading against the grain.

Close up. Usually a shot of the head from the neck up. Could also be a wringing of hands. See performance and shot.

Closure. See narrative closure.

Codes and Conventions (General). Cinema uses a number of methods to organise meaning production. Some are general to narrative forms and others are specific to cinema. Cinematic conventions work to make the product appear to be seamlessly produced which means that it appears as though meaning had already existed prior to the construction of the film. In fact the cinematic codes and conventions of production produce an axis of meaning which will interact with both the reactions of audiences and the exhibitionary context.

  • Photographic conventions. Framing, long-shots, medium shots, and close-ups all generate particular forms of meaning: To the extent that close-ups are most commonly of central characters in film narratives, they may function to constitute that psychological realism of character which is a mark of the classic narrative. ( My ephasis: Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures: 37).
  • * Mobile framing*. This effect can be produced by different camera movements and can produce a narrative meaning in several ways. A zoom-in can emphasise detail which can be read as bearing a particular significance within the narrative. Camera movements can also move the plot along through panning and tracking.
  • Editing. Mainstream cinema has institutionalised a set of rules for editing. The normal Hollywood system of editing is called ‘continuity editing’ which ensures through making careful cuts that the production is as seamless as possible thus making the system of production invisible and creating a coherent fictional world into which the spectator is drawn. Various ellipses of space and time achieved by fades or cuts will move the plot along. Not all film-making follows this convention see Jump cut.
  • * Narrative conventions*. All narrative genres have conventions by which the narrative is governed. A road movie for example implies discovery, the obtaining of some self-knowledge. Usually the main protagonist / s are male. Usually the movie follows an ordered sequence of events which inexorably lead to a bad end (Easy Rider: Dennis Hopper : 1969) or a reasonable outcome ( Paris Texas: Wim Wenders: 1984). Thelma and Louise ( Ridley Scott : 1991) controversially undermined the male aspects of the road movie genre. It achieved this by having the main protagonists being women escaping from differing, but oppressive, backgrounds. It also showed that a variety of all those things conventionally conceived of as ‘liberating’ from male perspective were male constructions and coded as such. This film reverses the dominant genre conventions of coding outside space as nature / feminine. By comparison men in the film are sometimes coded in domestic / feminine space. The ending of Thelma and Louise was controversial, but by neither showing death, prison nor some-kind of compromise return to their respective roles in life, nor by escaping to another country the film showed the current impossibility of escaping from gender relations which privilege men in this society.
  • Evolving conventions. Genre isn’t static. A genre and the conventions which govern it evolve over time and are transformed through a complex interaction of economic, technological, political, social and cultural factors . Part of the work of genre analysis is to establish these factors. Think of what conventions have changed in the genres you have chosen to study. (See also Genre cycle).

Connotations. Connotations are associations with words or concepts have for a reader of a text. High production values such as glossy paper can connote sophistication and glamour. This is why expensive shops and products have very sophisticated types of packaging. Hollywood cinema has made its reputations on high production values such as seamless editing and very expensive sets etc. The way in which Hollywood products are promoted are also dependent upon high production values to make audiences think they are getting more than they probably are. This is why anything up to half the cost of the actual film can be devoted to marketing, promotion and advertising. This helps Hollywood dominate the film market and makes it hard for independent companies to compete.

Conventions. See also Codes and Conventions. Conventions are established procedures within a particular form of media ( painting, film , novel etc) which are identifiable by both the producer of the artefact and their audiences. Conventions are thus conventions can be understood as agreements between the producer and audience. These will sometimes remain fairly static and at other times there will be moments of strong challenge to these conventions. The French nouvelle vague can be understood as challenging a range of cinematic conventions.

Convergence. This is the current process whereby new media and communications technologies are changing not only our media equipment but changing the ways old media institutions have worked. It is also globalising and changing our systems of gaining knowledge. The process is still in transition with new developments rapidly emerging. In a few years these processes will have matured and will be less dynamic.

Costume. While it is a variety of prop it is specifically linked with specific characters as well as contributing to the general setting. Changes in costume can be used as indicators of changes of attitude, status, time and place.

CNC. Centre Nationale de la Cinematographie. The French state organisation that oversees film policy issues including subsidy ones.

Critical Realism. In East German cinema critical realism was a popular aesthetic amongst the filmmakers. ‘Inspired by the films of Italian directors, the approach may be described as an East German variant of neorealism. It observes rather than leads, offers a realistic depiction of controversial issues and opens them up for debate’ (Claus, Horst. 2002 p 140).

Cultural Citizenship. Cultural citizenship is about access to systems of representation within the arts and media to ensure that all have the knowledge and capabilities to represent themselves. Also see citizenship.

Culture Industry. The term is used to designate organisations that produce ‘popular’ culture such as TV, Radio, books magazines, newspapers and popular music. It is now extended to beauty salons and hairdressing salons as well as museums and galleries and sports organisations and events. They are of growing importance in Western society. Contemporary everyday life is filled with images as part of the output of the cultural industries. The first people to properly identify the Culture Industry were the Frankfurt School social scientists Adorno and Horkheimer. They were very critical of these industries seeing them as being ideologically controlling particularly of the poorest people offering false hopes and imaginaries. Adorno was extremely critical of social scientists who were colluding in this growing ideological industry. He had originally had a post in New York when he was forced to emigrate from Germany by the Nazis. The post was concerned with developing social scientific methods for identifying and creating audiences for media industries. See also Media and Culture Industries.

Cultural effects theory. This suggests that how the audience or audiences of a text are positioned will have a significant impact upon how they interpret that text.

Cut. TAF). This is used in film and TV to change a shot from one place or viewpoint to another. See film editing and shot, It is achieved by splicing two pieces of film together. There are a range of different cuts which can achieve quite different visual effects. Cuts give a film its rhythm. Getting the tempo right is essential. The editor often works with the director to make a rough cut or director’s cut. Further adjustments are then made often after audience research has been carried out on the endings of Hollywood films before the final cut is made.

  • Continuity Cut. These cuts take the viewer seamlessly and logically from one sequence to another moving along the narrative.
  • Cross cuts. These cuts are used to alternate between two sequences or scenesthat are occurring in different spaces but at the same time. Normally these are used to create a feeling of suspense. As such they are frequently used in genres such as action adventure, the western, thrillers and gangster films.
  • Cutaways. These shots take the viewer away from the main scene of the action. They are often used as a transition before cutting into the next sequence or scene. For example: in a court scene the day’s proceeedings are coming to an end, there is a cutaway shot to the outside of the courthouse, then a cut to the next day nside a lawyer’s office.
  • Jump cut. This cut demonstrates a jump in time and disrupts the ‘normal’ continuity editing. It was used as a device by several internationally famous directors during the 1920s and then dropped out of fashion. The development of sound played a major contribution in overwhelming a more diverse range of styles. French directors in the 1960s such as Louis Malle, Fraoncois Truffaut and most famously Jean-Luc Godard used this editing style. Godard’s first feature film a bout de souffle / Breathless is best known for this. The jump cut calls attention to the constructed reality of the filmic text, to the spectator’s ongoing labour of generating a fictional world out of often contradictory stylistic cues, and to Godard’s own expressive, auteur presence. (Editor emphasis, Neupert, 2002 p 216).
  • Match cuts. These are the exact opposite of the jump cut. These cuts make sure there is a spatial-visual logic between the differently positioned shots within a scene. Where the camera moves to and the angle of the camera make visual sense to the spectator. See also eye-line matching.

Deconstruction.

Deep Focus Cinematography.

DEFA. Deutsche Film AG. The state controlled film production, distribution and exhibition company in East Germany (GDR) from 1946 – 1993. See also UFA

Denotation. This is a straightforward relationship between a sign and its referent. The word cat and the photograph of a cat both denote a particular type of animal.

Deterritorialised. This expression is often related to genres which are feminised. They tend not to concentrate on territory in the same way that war films, westerns and other more masculinised genres have.

Dialectical. This is fundamental to Eisenstein’s theory of montage Originating in Hegel’s philosophy the idea centres around the point that an original thesis exists. This is in collision with an antithesis. The outcome of this collision of opposite ideas results in the creation of something entirely new. This is known as the synthesis.

Diegesis / Diagetic. This refers to the content of the narrative which is happening on the screen. This includes the sound , actions of the characters etc. All of these occur naturally within the fictional world of the film. Frequently films use non- diegetic devices for dramatic effects or to inform the audience about something which the characters themselves don’t know:

  • Intra-diegetic sound. This is a sound from a person the audience doesn’t see but whose presence we know exists in the story. There is a disembodied voice. Mildred Pierce 1945 has many examples of this through flashback. Often the character’s voice goes intra-diegetic announcing a flashback acconpanied by a visual dissolve ‘it was yesterday when…’. Flash backs are also intra-diegetic in the sense that they interrupt the narrative flow of the present.
  • Non-diegetic sound by comparison is where there is voice-over or else a soundtrack which heightens the emotional effects on the audience but isn’t present in the on-screen world at all.

Digital Distribution. The opportunities for the makers of short films to be distributed via internet streaming are improving all the time. The most recent deal to allow streaming of independent shorts was made between the Sundance film Festival Organisers and iTunes the Content Management software system owned by Apple as this BBC report of 12 / 01 / 07 notes.

Digital divide. A very important social and cultural concept of the ‘information age’. This term refers to those who have access to a wide range of digital communications systems in terms of cost and knowledge and those who are excluded from this. It is becoming a serious problem of citizenship.

Digital Versatile Disc / DVD. A disc which although the same size as a CD can hold many times the amount of data due to a combination of more sophisticated data compression systems, the ability to store and retrieve data from different levels of the disc. This means that moving images can be stored in a way which is more permanent than tape and maintains its quality over time, whereas tape particles lose their magnetism and lose details. Research is going on to more than double the storage capacity of the current DVD’s by using different laser technologies. The ‘versatility’ referred to in the name means that the equipment incorporates technical standards which means that digital information relating to images – static or moving sounds or text can be stored and retrieved. New standards of quality have been developed and consumers are faced with both Blu-Ray from a consortium led by Sony and HD-DVD (High definition DVD), led by Toshiba. Already third party players are bringing out players which can playback both. (Beginning of 2007)

Discourse. Textual analysis often uses the term discourse to deconstruct or look at the way a text works. This means that the analyst identifies the various discourses present in a text and makes that clear for the reader. A discourse provides a framework of language to construct a particular kind of knowledge on a topic. Discourses organise our thoughts and try to make a closure that is to close off other ways of thinking about a topic. For example, cinematography which continuously sexualises women through voyeuristic techniques is a visual discourse. This can be seen as part of a wider discursive field in which the institution of cinema discriminates against women. A discourse is not a description of reality but a way of ‘fixing’ the topic or constructing a form of social reality in a biased way. Different discourses can therefore change our views of the nature of social reality.

Dissolve: see Editing

Dollying / Tracking Shot (TAF) see camera movements.

DVD. See Digital Versatile Disc.

DVD Recordable. A new breed of domestic machines has now appeared which can record TV or films in DVD format. Whilst currently still very expensive it is probable that they will replace the Video Cassette Recorder in most households in 5 years time. (In fact first written 3 years ago the price has dropped dramatically and video-recorders are fast-disappearing) They can record digital radio signals as well. There is not currently a standardised format which makes things difficult for consumers.


December 30, 2006

French Cinema: Some Good Websites

French Cinema 1945 – 1970 (Open Studies Spring 2006)

Below are a range of websites gathered for the above mentioned course run in Spring 2006 which deal with many of the areas covered in the course. It is by no means comprehensive but opens up a range of portals into an evergrowing range of research, commentary and and discussion now availale via the web.

I haven’t analysed these sites in any great depth so no there are no particualr recommendations. The Senses of Cinema site has many good articles. When this list was complied a few months ago there was a free chapter on the New Wave available at the Blackwells site so I recommend downloading it if possible.

The Sites

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Cinema/4355/index.html

http://www.mastersofcinema.org/bresson/

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/jeanrenoir/FilmDirectors.htm

http://www.thejetty.org/

http://www.maurice-pialat.net/

http://mapage.noos.fr/e.rohmer/

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/links.html

http://www.cadrage.net/

http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC02folder/auteur2.html

http://www.questia.com/library/communication/media-studies/film/national-cinemas/french-cinema.jsp?CRID=french_cinema&OFFID=se1&KEY=french_cinema&LID=15170594

http://javari.com/javari/archive.truffaut.htm

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/cteq/05/35/my_night_at_mauds.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Rouch

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Marker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Resnais

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_and_Fog_%28movie%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prix_Jean_Vigo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_France

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2584/is_n1_v15/ai_16922293

http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/content/BPL_Images/Content_store/Sample_chapter/0631226575/001.pdf
(This is a whole sample chapter onthe New wave highly recommended)

http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Guardian/0,4029,638924,00.html

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/film/scopearchive/articles/how-queer.htm

http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/bachm952.htm

http://www.newi.ac.uk/humanities/dir5/souffle.htm

http://reason.com/9807/fe.cowen.shtml

http://frenchfilms.topcities.com/index2.html


More on Podcasting Equipment

Ordering Podcasting Equipment

Well, post-Xmas online sales have stimulated me into taking the plunge and ordering some podcasting equipment. I should emphasise here that this is not a recommended route for all but a possible route for some. Clearly individual / departmental circumstances are contingent.

If you are going to only be an individual podcaster making your own podcast talks then one good route is getting the Rode Podcaster USB microphone which plugs straight into your computer and download Audacity as start-up software.

If you think that you might want to do something more sophisticated such as interviewing people or recording discussions then a different route is probably more suitable.

Quality Microphones

Trawling the better blogs and reviews of equipment it seems clear that the more you pay for a microphone the better the sound quality. A good microphone isn’t going to go out of date in the same way that computers and software do so the best you can afford is the accepted route. On this principle I took the plunge last night and ordered an AKG C 3000 B. This seems to be a well rated general microphone and is currently (29th December 2006) heavily discounted at Dolphin Music.

AKG C 3000 B General Microphone

The good price decided me that I would take the path of finding an interface which allows you to plug in more than one microphone, add some other sound if you want it and give you some flexibility in what type of microphones to use at any given time. Having a USB (Universal Serial Bus) connection to the computer from this interface device means that you can record straight onto your hard drive.

Phantom Power: What it is and why you need it

I still don’t know why it is called this, and in fact going to a couple of blogs talking about this it seemed to be yet another technological hurdle. In plain English some microphones (usually the better ones) need a power source. Some will use batteries and others rely on these microphone pre-amplifiers which allows you to control the signals coming from the microphone. If you are choosing this route to a small recording system make sure that the equipment you buy can provide this phantom power to microphones. If it can’t I’d suggest forgetting it!

Most of the digital recorders such as the Marantz mentioned elsewhere in this blog allow for this although they have their own microphones built in.
The advantage of the separate interface pre-amp is that it is more flexible with other sound sources and if you buy one of the better ones it will have circuitry and components included which improve the sound quality. If you have good microphones they will get the best out of them.

Disadvantages

Whilst this approach is portable you can’t go rushing around the streets interviewing people and it requires a more formal setting. This route depends upon what kind of recording situations you expect to be in.

Choosing the Microphone interface Unit

Having decided upon the USB route for a recording chain and plunging for a decent microphone the next problem was choosing a suitable interface / preamp. This was harder because I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for to start with. Not only have I trawled blogs, trudged through various online stores and accessed a range of reviews I even found myself in the local newsagents looking at the Sound on Sound magazines which I thought was aimed at a target audience of male freaks all wanting to be rock stars. Fortunately Smiths was empty and nobody I knew saw me. Reason for buying this for £5-00: There was a review of the very latest microphone / computer interface gizmo on the market – serendipity or what?

EMU-0404 Recording Interface

Certainly the Sound on Sound review was very favourable. The equipment seemed to do everything I needed and came with a good bundle of audio software (useful for those who wish to go beyond Audacity). I was close to racing off to the checkout and pressing submit, but I did a last trawl of internet reviews and comments and some of the forums which have sprung up on specific bits of equipment. One person who seemed to know what they were talking about had considerable trouble having read the same Sound on Sound review and been convinced to upgrade from a technologically less sophisticated but very relaible make.

This was enough to put me off at the last moment. I had already been considering a model in the above mentioned Dolphin sale called the Lexicon Lambda. This comes from a more up-market audio firm than Creative Sounds who make the EM-U. I had initially been put off by a very unfavourable comment which rapidly disappeared from the Dolphin website. I trawled the web and paid 99p for a couple of reviews as PDFs (I will pass these on to Robert O’Toole as I don’t know how to get a PDF into a blog, then those who are interested can take a look).

The main concern mentioned by reviewers was that this model was a bit weak on the software package. However I came close to buying it when I remembered seeing something about one of their early forays into USB interfaces coming up with a very good sound.

The Lexicon Omega

Lexicon Omega Interface

I checked out the model which was called the Omega. The Sound on Sound review
was very warm towards the model. Please note that this model dates from 2004. Originally around £330 pounds this was clearly a well specified model when it came out.

Three things you will need on these bits of equipment are:

  • 2 XLR Microphone inputs with the ability to switch to ‘phantom power’
  • Separate headphone controls. (The headphone on the Omega is said to be excellent). This is important for hearing what the microphones are picking up as well as for mixing sounds).
  • A USB output to your computer.

Something else to consider is how you would like to power the unit. Some can be powered via the USB port on a computer whilst others are like a laptop with a separate cable and transformer. The Omega for example is powered conventionally whilst the Lambda uses USB power.

Regarding the Omega there are several references to how good the microphone pre-amps are on this model. This was finally what sold it to me. You can check the firm’s original information sheet here. Note it strongly emphasises the high qualiy of the microphone pre-amps. This is what all podcasters need. As such, it seemed to represent a bargain. I will report back later on the inevitable installation problems.

It does lots of things I will probably never need. The computer conection is only a USB 1.1. This is slow by today’s standards and presumably a low cholesterol model (Omege-3: get it?) is on the way with USB etc. If you wish to record a band this model is probably not for you!. Currently it is available on special order for about £170.00. This was well above my original budget but I was planning to spend something on a ‘lite’ edition of some software so it more or less balanced out. The Omega does have some light versions of industry software bundled and some of Lexicon’s reverberation software which can give the feel of particular rooms. Apparently the firm is very well know for this so it could be a bit of fun pretending I’m in Coventry Cathedral or wherever.

Summary

Overall there are several reasonbly priced routes into creating a podcasting recording base which can be developed if desired:

  • Desktop computer / Laptop with a USB Headset. (Check out Beyer & AKG, for very cheap Logitech) + Audacity software
  • Desktop / Laptop with USB Microphone + Audacity software
  • Desktop / Laptop with a USB interface for 2 Mikes etc. Audacity or hopefully bundled software
  • Fully Portable digital recorder + computer + Audacity software

It is best to try and work out what your needs are in advance. Certainly a minimum of quality is needed. You do need to take some trouble over this. Here is a link to the University of Warwick History Department who have gone to the trouble to do a cost / benefit analysis on audio equipment. recording.

Hopefully I can now get back to covering cinema for a bit, which is where this all started from. Hopefully there will be some podcasts in due course :-).


December 28, 2006

New Media: Relationship of Podcasting to Radio in an Educational Environment

Courses on Radio Production and Their Application to Podcasting

Preface

Here I am going through the process of working through issues of educational innovation and identifying some of the problems involved which are both technical and institutional. Here I have kept the focus on podcasting as the example educational technology to link in with the following educational areas:

  1. Firstly, practical work I intend to introduce in terms of making my own talks
  2. Secondly teaching these technologies to colleagues / students
  3. Issues of managing change
  4. Institutional resistances and problems
  5. How HE institutions which already practice radio production could contribute to developing educational podcasting

Introduction

For educationalists podcasting is going to become increasingly important as one of the available tools of communications / media management for education. This issue has recently been highlighted by Robert O’Toole.

1. communcations managers are concerned with raising the level of communcations skills and the quality of media processes throughout the organisation;
2. these communications skills are also fundamental academic skills;
3. e-learning (following the new agenda for research based learning) is concerned with encouraging skills and quality processes using technology within the student’s research-learning process, communications form a significant element within these skills.

Podcasting & Radio

In many ways podcasting is an extension of radio. Radio is the oldest form of electronic mass media and as has been indicated elsewhere on this site it is very important in countries which have been less developed.

With the rapid emergence of broadband internet access and the increasingly lower financial hurdles to reproduction equipment a combination of streamed internet ‘radio’ and podcasting looks set to fill the role which was occupied by pirate radio stations in a legitimate way.

The great advantage of podcasting is that individual programmes can be delivered direct to blogs or else to a free subscription service such as i-Tunes. This allows the audience to access the content where and when they want it.

As in other areas of media fully professional programmes from mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC will be delivering podcasts which will sit alongside podcasts from small groups, individual enthusiasts, educationalists etc.

Education and Podcasting

Increasingly people will need to become more familiar with these technologies as the ability to produce podcasts with a reasonable level of technical competence is becoming part of everyday communications strategies.

Currently the shift to new media technologies and their application within education is being pushed from the top down. It is one thing to invent grandiose strategies for implementation and quite another to persuade practitioners of the need and use for these technologies when there are already many institutional pressures in place.

It has recently beeen identified that even within Media Studies at HE radio is very much a Cinderella subject.

Those keen on introducing podcasting which is an excellent way of communicating with students -how many are permanently glued to an MP3 – are currently operating in something of a vacuum in terms of how best to format and deliver the content. This is apart from any technological issues which may need to be dealt with and having institutional funds available to purchases this.

Institutional Resistances

Tick-box culture leads to minimalism. The introduction of IT into learning is often considered as just another government mantra which is entirely disconnected for many teachers and lecturers. There is often considerable resistance in a passive sense to innovation which is regarded as change for changes sake and which can involve a lot of work with rewards which are unclear. There is also considerable concern amongst practitioners about the commodification and instrumentalism entering education. Post cognitivist psychologist John Pickering expresses these sentiments here.

Podcasting is just one of a plethora of new technologies which added together seem overbearing in their enormity. I feel the need to be familiar with a large number of quite complex software programmes such as Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, A DTP package, PowerPoint, an audio package say Audition, Premiere Pro for video and video strreaming. I could also do with being familiar with audio equipment, digital video, digital cameras all of which are changing at an incredible speed.

On top of this I should be familiar with VLE environments and how to make the most out of them in a pedagogical way. All the content needs to be rewritten rewritten or even reinvented. Look at the emerging culture of Second Life for example.

The reality is that people learn as much as they can in a very eclectic way. Any strategy involving E.Learning technologies requires a clear institutional investment in ensuring that their educationalists are trained up properly in these technologies. Further more it is important that their training is achieved in relation to the courses they are delivering. Thus there is likely top be a long period of transition for most practitioners which needs to be taken into account.

Where it is possible, the transition to E-Learning needs to be organised on a team basis with clear tasks being given preferably flowing from people’s prior knowledge base and enthusisms. It also needs to be recognised that developments are ongoing things which can’t just be delivered in a one or two day training course. I am certain that a considerable amount of money is wasted within education delivering short ‘training’ courses on some piece of software or another. This is a tickbox attitude which can emanate from mnanagement structures themselves: “X members of staff have received training in Y software. 90% of aattendees said they learned something”. This approach has little to do with implementation, increasing familiarity with the available tools and embedding the technology within the teaching / learning environment effectively.

Here it must be emphasised that the very nature of Web 2 technologies changes the parameters of the educational environment itself, which adds another level of complexity to the equation. Overall considerable amounts of thought need to be invested in devising effective transistional training and development programmes for educators which will undoubtedly be expensive but cheaper in the long run than the odd ‘training day’.

Problems of Innovation: Educational Technologies Guidelines?

For those who are keen to incorporate change and to enthuse colleagues there need to be more practical guides written by academics who run practical production courses which should be available in a multimedia environment on the web. A range of special courses for education professionals could also be set up on ‘Technological Innovations and their Pedagogical Development_’. Educational practitioners could attend courses every week to learn the technologies and discuss their implementation within their own setting. The courses would be assessed on the introduction and implementation of E-technologies in the practitioners environment. these accredited certificates would be available for individual technologies. for the purposes of this blog “Podcasting within Education” for example.

This suggests that HE institutions need to be aware of the potential professional development market within education. Arguably one of the roles of the Higher Education Academy would be to encourage this approach by funding devlopment partnerships between HE & other institutions to provide this accreditation.

Effectively what is happening is a campaign to reconstruct the British educational environment. It sorely needs the active participation of the foot-soldiers. It these people who will put things into practice and develop a new cultural milieu. At the same time the budgets must be available in the institutions for the enthusiasts to be able to innovate. This is an argument for ring-fenced budgets to go to educational institutions for this purpose.

Here is a link to TELFRI which is an organisation concerned with the issue of transferability of educational technologies. I haven’t as yet had a chance to delve in depth into the contents but its on the ‘to do’ list.

The FE / Sixth Form Environment: The Discouraging of Change?

My comments are particularly addressed to problems of change and innovation within the educational foodchain below HE. The ‘A’ level environment consists of teachers taking low risk teaching strategies and things which work and are proven to work to get their students through. Innovation necessarily implies risk.

The intensely competitive environment where teachers do intense textual analysis on what is demanded by the examinations boards functions as a closure and unless process based reward is introduced into the public examinations system there is always going to be a serious problem as risk and innovation are inherently linked.

The current obsession with metrics means that even slight variations in student results are picked up. Unsurprisingly this encourages an attitude of “If it ain’t the broke don’t fix it”. Given that performance related pay systems are also in place the risk is a very real one. Despite the continual bombardment of creativity and change the system itself discourages change on the ground. If management structures order change and targets then people can blame the management if their figures change. We can talk about embedding the new practices or consolidating them.

I would suggest that performance related pay systems need to be linked to a range of different parameters and benchmarks rather than pure results in public exams to encourage the willingness and enthusiasm necessary to promote change from the bottom up. This would encourage the risk-takers and remove some of the conservative values amongst grass roots educators.

Media Production Courses for Radio

Below I have included a link to HE institutions which deliver radio training both theoretical and production based. Accessing their websites may well yield guidelines to practical production of programmes which can be applied to the creation of educational podcasts.

The importance of checking out available courses for practical radio / podcast production is moving up the agenda. Useful media links which I have accessed via the Higher Education Academy

Links to Higher Education Media Projects

Radio Studies Final Report

For students and teachers in schools and FEs here is a link to HE courses which specialise in aspects of radio production

Successful Non-Commercial Radio Projects

Radio Warwick The student radio station


December 24, 2006

The Role of Educational Podcasting: Reviewing the Possibilities

Using Podcasting in Education

Introduction

What follows is a review of my research findings so far regarding the uses of podcasting in an educational environment and some ways of developing one’s own skills which have to take on board some technical issues at a fairly basic level and also production issues in terms of the contents of what is podcast.

What follows has already been influenced by the interactivity of Web 2 internet technologies which is only right. In many ways this has developed rhizomatically for all you (Deluezians out there). The work here is also preliminary work for a certificate in Innovations in e.Learning run by the Open University. (The course is starting in February so if you are inspired by this check it out).

Much of this work has been stimulated by some great experiences with my AS Media Students at Sixth Form College Solihull. We had a great time playing with the Moodle Virtual Learning environment as it was being installed. This experience convinced me that Web 2 represented a significant shift in the ways in which education can work. It made education fun again -right now an awful lot of it is so regimented that education in a liberal sense has been overwhelmed by managerialist discourse – and we were all learning the possibilities.

It certainly worked for some of my students. I met one in Harvey Nichols in Birmingham last week. She was clearly a fashion fan so it was no surprise that she was working there. What was lovely was that although billed to get a ‘D’ she’d managed to gain an ‘A’ on this particular unit and I heard that other students had done better than expected on this unit. That was anecdotal proof to me that being a little less prescriptive and giving students the possibility to drive things – up to a point – can (should?) translate into good results.

The cultural milieu which students work in is very important. There are many paths to learning in terms of developing higher order patterns of thought, and over-reductionist approaches to classroom management are not the only way to gain results.

Thanks to Chris Coe at Warwick e.learning for helping me on the path to blogging. Then thanks to Tom Abbott, the Warwick University Communications Officer, for offering and giving me some of his valuable time. Tom showed me some of the latest podcasting and video equipment and discussed some of the practicalities of producing podcasts particularly in relation to educational purposes. Thanks also to Robert O’Toole for commenting on a blog posting and putting me onto one of the registered suppliers for University of Warwick.

This supplier has got the some of the best descriptions about recording equipment and is a useful way into finding out about some (not all) of the major products which you will probably wish to consider if like me you are just starting out.

One nice thing about this is that there is an exciting atmosphere of ‘just get out there and do it’. As yet there are no precise formulae and there is the mental space allowed to make mistakes. There is something quite exciting about being able to get your voice (quite literally) out there in a way which offers interested people across the world or in your teaching sphere at the local level the opportunity to listen and to respond.

The initial financial entry barriers are very low for aspiring educators and it is clear that humanity is on the brink of another huge communications revolution which in terms of interactivity and reciprocity is opening up our horizons of possibility. This tempts me to point out that even if you are not doing it your students probably will be!

Below I have listed several applications of how podcasting can be used within an educational settting. On a separate posting I will summarise what I have found out about the equipment required to get into podcasting relating this to what you activities you will expect to be undertaking. Different equipment should be used in different settings.

Educational Applications for Podcasting. Production by the Educator

We can split podcasting roughly into two areas: direct usage by the educator and direct usage by students.

There is a range of applications in which podcasting can be used for educational purposes by the educator. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but identifies some common possibilities. There will be separate postings for each point listed immediately below. After that I discuss the advantages of podcast lectures / talks. I then argue that some of the outcomes make a persuasive argument for much greater institutional investment in these developments.

  • Individual teacher / lecturer presentations
  • Carrying out interviews within a familiar internal environment
  • Carrying out location based interviews perhaps in the open
  • Recording visiting speakers giving talks
  • Recording student presentations
  • Recording small group discussions

Podcast Lectures / Talks

This usage can be very rewarding although its use has been controversial. A lecturer at Bradford University has been one of the leading practitioners of this approach. ( Follow this link for more on Dr. Bill Ashraf ).

  • Podcast lectures can function as a replacement for the physical lecture
  • This gives students the opporutunity to predigest the original material and empowers them to ask more searching questions
  • Students are able to listen as many times as they wish. they can also listen in places such as public transport where reading might be far less productive or entirely impossible. Student time can be used more productively
  • The feedback process allows the lecturer to refine the original the original to make points more clearly if they have been weakly understood. Reflexivity is therefore built in
  • Once the lecturer / teacher is satisfied that the content and mode of presentation is right it can be stored for use in the future freeing up development time
  • Should significant changes in the knowledge base emerge the talk can be re-edited to ensure extra longevity.
  • Digitally based archival storage medium is very stable unlike old audio tapes
  • The product is excellent for team working across several groups. Colleagues can work productively on something else to develop an in depth resource base.
  • Colleagues can also easily cover absences as they will know exactly what the students have been exposed to.

Summary of usage for talks / lectures

Making a podcast will initially take more time to produce. Even after going through the equipment learning curve careful attention to structure, pace and rhythm is needed. Attention to radio style communication is important. Lecturers and teachers will neeed training in the techniques. Communications media for teaching will undoubtedly become increasingly important for porfessional practice.

Institutions will need to create professional development time for their educators to learn these techniques. Teachers and lecturers will need to stop whingeing about whether this ‘creates more work’ and have a more get out and do approach. There is a professional responsibility required here. By the same token government (and therefore managers) need to become less obsessed by ‘metrics’ i.e. positivist quantitative reductionism and focus upon educational outcomes and what education actually means for society beyond the terminology of ‘skillsets’.

Pedagogically the evidence is that podcasting lectures is more effective, thus supporting the underlying logic of transferability and flexibility of the medium. The medium is highly flexible in terms of where, when and how it is used by the student. It also has the advantage that it is inherently more human than the more abstract form of communications which is writing.

The ability to use in teams or even to exchange podcasts on a global basis is something which could only be dreamt off in the past. The essence of Web 2 is the collaborative approach and cross-institutional collaboration can be made far easier and more effective. Thus a gradual move towards this form of communicative interaction will be far more cost effective and productive from the perspective of educational budgets.

The argument being put forward here is that even if none of the other uses of podcasting within education are considered the importance of being able to create a vast range of talks by large numbers of people with enthusiasm and expertise would dramatically widen the cultural milieu. It is therefore worth doing in its own right.

Another advantage of the system is that people not registered to courses would be able to gain access. They may be parents, prospective students etc. Thus openness and transparency would become embedded within the wider society and access to ideas and information would be easier and cheaper.


December 22, 2006

Media. Audio Production Resources

The practicalities of audio production

Introduction

The practicalities of audio production whether podcasting or radio go well beyond just the technical aspects. There are many things to learnt such as good interviewing techniques the optimum length of programmes to name but 2. In this section useful links will be added which will help everybody from scriptwriters to presenters as they are discovered.

As has been commented upon by many an experienced podcaster keeping your target audience engaged is fundamental. Very poor technical production will lose you and audience but the best equipment in the world is no guarantee of success.

Links

The Unseco Community Radio Handbook is available here in PDF format

This is written several years ago however in terms of fundamentals there are lotes of useful elements including good definitions of terms such as Public Service Broadcasting, as well as community broadcasting.

A good link for those intersted in community broadcasting in underdeveloped countries is from Johnathan Marks.

The introduction makes many important points about how radio is an extremely cheap mass medium, however if the $100.00 wind-up laptop from Nicholas Negroponte takes off then suddenly a much larger number of people will be able to access the still priviledged world of internet distribution. The world of podcasting and a multiplicity of specialist audiences will multiply dramatically.

This link is from Channel 4
and gives a few basic approaches to writing and sound production techniques for radio which can of course be used by podcasters.


This blog linked to the Channel 4 The Play’s the Thing
above is very interesting and will be added to the favourites section. There are insights into useful technical tricks thsat good soundengineeers develop. See the picture of this double microphone set-up below. You can read about it on the linked blog.

Dual Microphone Set Up

Elsewhere on The Play’s the Thing there is a useful video on recording in a studio with the relationship between actors and microphones explained as well as a basic intro to what equalisation and mixing is about.

This link again to another part of The Play’s the Thing provides a very useful video of making a radio play on location . Again this gives insights into acting the type of microphones which can be used for what purposes and the uses of carpet or acoustic panels to reduces sound reflections in unfavourable room locations.

Drama Writing Career

The Play’s the Thing is a radio drama writing competition open to 16-34 year olds.

This page has a number of good links. The Radio Drama Overview is particularly useful for aspiring scriptwriters with a long list of links attached.

This is another useful link for scriptwriters at Writernet

The BBC online have Writersroom
which is a guide to new writers for the BBC. It is also possible to download Scriptsmart from this site which provides templates for broadcast writing.


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