Pocketcine Mobile Video Contest

January 19, 2007 4:54 pm

On February 1, 2007, Pocketcine will be running a mobile video contest on Renderosity. The contest will run from February 1, 2007 until February 28, 2007.

The theme of the contest is wide open. The mobile video you create for the contest can be on any subject, created with the software of your choice. The only requirement is that it be created in a pixel resolution (320x240) that will allow it to be played on new generation mobile devices like the iPhone. If you have ever created a video for YouTube, then you already know how to create a video for the contest.

What we are looking for is a video that works best in the context of a mobile device, including Apple’s new iPhone, iPods, cellphone video or other portable, handheld video devices.

What do we mean by “works best in the context of a mobile device?”

The world’s most successful viral video, “the Annoying Thing” (http://www.turboforce3d.com/annoying/) is a very good example of a video playing within the restrictions of a small screen, with limited bandwidth, and playing to an audience that is “snacking” on video rather than hunkering down on a couch to become immersed in a half-hour TV show or 3 hour movie. Is it created to be shared on a portable screen among friends at a restaurant? A home movie? A mini-documentary? You can find other outstanding examples of mobile video and how they are made on the Pocketcine website (www.pocketcine.com).

We want you to help define what is most compelling in the new mobile video medium. Is it a comedic short? A short music video? A 30-second animated short like the Annoying Thing? The winner will be written up on Pocketcine as a leading example of what artists are doing with the new mobile video medium.

If we think your mobile video is really cool, and you are one of the winners, you will win cash prizes. So think small, think wireless, think mobile and think series.

Until the contest starts on February 1, 2007 on Renderosity, we’ll be presenting a series of tutorials that will help you shape your ideas and answer questions about the technical requirements of the new medium.

The Short Guide to Creating Mobile Video
Creating a mobile video is actually very easy, especially for those who have created digital video for the Internet or submitted a video to YouTube. If you have not created video for the Internet or mobile playback, we’ll be providing a lot of detailed help in the tutorials that follow this.

Essentially all the rules governing the creations of video for the Internet also govern mobile video production. The focus is on creating a video that compresses really well. The video needs to be small both in terms of the final file size as well as the data rate of the video at any given moment. The smaller the file size, the quicker the video will start playing. The smaller the amount of changes from one frame to the next, the more smoothly and cleanly the video will play after compression.

The video maker needs to take into account:
Limited Video Resolution The video resolution of mobile devices ranges from 176x144 pixels to 640x480 with 320x240 the current “sweet spot” for distribution to the early adopters with high end phones and video iPods.

Limited Bandwidth
Higher end video phones have the following characteristics when playing at 320x240 resolution:
- video bit rate of 384 kbs (kilobits per second),
- 15 fps (frames per second),
- stereo sound with an audio bit rate of 128 kbs

Specialized Formats
The video players in mobile devices use a variety of file formats. Cell phone video players use .3gp and .mp4 formats, while iPods and the iPhone use the .m4v formats. The easiest and least expensive way to convert your video into a mobile video format is to buy QuickTime Pro for a modest purchase price (about US $30) and test its different export formats on the different destination devices you plan to support. Professional tools like Adobe Premiere and many of Microsoft’s digital video tools also export to the highly compressed formats required by mobile devices.

The tools you use to create the master video do not need to be specialized. As long as you can assemble an uncompressed AVI or MOV (Apple QuickTime) movie with your chosen tool, you can easily convert to a format required by a mobile device video player. The main thing to keep in mind is to avoid video that has a lot of action scenes in it or zooms.

Creative Challenges
While the technical aspects of mobile video are not a challenge to those already creating digital video for limited bandwidth play back, the creative constraints of the mobile video medium are harder to come to grips with. You are in the same position as producers at the beginning of the movie industry or the early days of television. It is not yet clear what consumers will embrace and what the business models are going to be.

Nobody has yet fully exploited the creative possibilities of mobile video. So far, mobile TV has generated the major buzz. That’s because repackaging broadcast content for mobile playback is appealing for purely financial reasons. But consumers have het to turn on Mobile TV, at least in North America, partly because the high cost of playing back television on handheld devices has shocked those few consumers who have dared to experiment with it. Also, content created for big screen television in the living room does not play well on the tiny mobile screens. Consumers are underwhelmed.

The other challenge is contextual. Mobile devices can be played anywhere and at anytime, which means the lighting and sound environments in which the production is played cannot be predicted. Often the environment is hostile to quiet and passive enjoyment of mobile entertainment.

On the other hand, there are unexploited aspects to mobile environments. So far consumers are using mobile devices to show friends video clips that range from video captured earlier on the cell phone (such as a wedding scene they captured live), music videos or favorite bits of canned entertainment. This is in keeping with the use of the cell phone as a personalization device and as an aid to social interaction.

Now that portable video is more than “mobile,” but connected as well, through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and carrier networks, it’s a brand new ball game. Independent artists who have launched their stories on the Internet are very interested in connected mobile entertainment, because it raises the possibility of more intimate relationships with their consumers. Imagine getting an SMS message from your favorite video artist announcing the next installment of an ongoing series.

This is a rare moment in the birth of new medium. Creative dimensions are completely undefined and artists are not saddled with a large body of conventional wisdom. It invites exploration and experimentation. That’s exactly what the Pocketcine Mobile Video Contest on Renderosity.com is meant to encourage. Whatever the direction mobile entertainment takes, the contest is an opportunity to explore the creative possibilities of the new medium so that when it does take off, you’ll be ready for it.

Mapping the Creative Dimensions of Mobile Video

In this article, we are going to get your creative juices going, by exploring a few ideas for mobile video shorts or programs.

We can say that what sets mobile video apart from other media is its "contextual" difference. Unlike a movie theater, a 40-inch LCD TV or a 20 inch LCD computer monitor, which are embedded in a fixed context (a cinema, the den or living room), a portable computer with Internet connectivity like Apple’s iPhone is stored in your pocket and activated whenever and wherever you find a need to connect (to the Internet or to another person) or when an SMS message or phone call prompts you to take it out of your pocket.

Although TVs are becoming connected, the fact is that the mobile phone is natively a social device. The computer has also become a social networking device, but it is not as intimate as the mobile phone. The phone is personal. When your phone rings with a voice call, or when an email arrives, or when an SMS message alert rings your phone, the message is addressed to you and you alone. It is your personal connection to the rest of the world and you keep it right up against your body or in your briefcase or purse.

So the context is intimacy, not the shared social context like the TV in the family living room or the computer shared by family members or connected to a corporate network.

Broadcast TV Versus Social TV
Certainly mobile devices will be used like portable television sets and their small screens probably mean that it will be "personal television." However, the kind of interactivity provided by pocket TV will be of the pop machine variety: choose among five flavors. Mass media cannot cater to the specific tastes and niche world views of a point-to-point system like the Internet, where audiences can be as small as two people.

Social TV invites audience participation by "tagging" mobile videos with comments, rating systems, links, "favorites" and even talking head responses to mobile episodes, like the Evil Rainbow mobile video Pocketcine produced as an experiment on YouTube. (

The huge growth and diversification of Internet video means that you will be able to download highly specialized programming that reflects your particular interests and you will be able to participate in it. Broadcast TV that debutes in the livingroom, well never have the immediacy and quick response of video created for Internet distribution. It is a different context and the audience responds accordingly.

There are other contextual factors shaping mobile video. High definition television (1080i or better) on a large 16:9 LCD television with a contrast ratio of 5000:1 and a surround sound system is totally immersive, putting you inside the scene in a way no handheld device can ever do. What makes the television and movie theater experiences fundamentally different is the way your senses are overwhelmed by sound and image. Television and theaters sponsor immersive, passive media. Mobile video devices will never be able to engage audiences in the same way as high def television.

Mobile YouTube
We think a lot of the content for mobile phone playback will be generated by consumers. The term here is "viral video," like the videos on YouTube. This does not preclude content generated by artists interested in deriving a revenue stream from mobile video playback. Some of the biggest hits on YouTube have been produced by advertising agencies spending big bucks, such as "Lonely Girl" and a viral video purporting to capture pranksters writing graffiti on Airforce One.

Viral video is meant to draw attention and provoke a response. It generates laughter and discussion, and is meant to be shared. On the Internet that means viral videos are shared by email or links. On the mobile phone they are downloaded to be shared in "third places."

Third Place Video
In sociology, place is sometimes described as First Place (home), Second Place (office) and Third Place (social gathering place, usually around consumption such as the English Pub or the North American Starbucks).  The theory was published in "The Great Good Place" by Ray Oldenburg, a sociologist. Oldenburg identifies third places, or "great good places," as the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact in a convivial atmosphere.

While the computer plays an important role in the home and office, video-capable mobile phones that have cheap and easy Internet access are going to find a home in the Third Place. The mobile phone has the potential to convert any place outside the home and office into a third place: a shared seat on the subway for example.

It is the context the makes the connected multimedia device a third place device. The computer connected to the Internet will always be a better device than the mobile phone for browsing information and interacting with applications using the keyboard and the mouse. For this reason we believe video applications will (at least in the near to mid-term) become a major application for mobile devices, eclipsing the phone’s use for information retrieval and manipulation, at least in the cultural or consumer markets.

Because video is a storytelling medium, it will play an important cultural role in reaffirming family, friends, and social networks.

Just as the mobile entertainment device itself has become an extension of personal identity, mobile video is at home in the Third Place. If you walk into many city urban coffee shops, you will see people already connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi on their laptops. Mobile video on phones will transform how rich media and connectivity will be used in Third Places, for social networking and micro-culture formation rather than Internet research. That’s because it is much easier to download content to your cell phone anywhere, anyplace, at any time. Examples are humorous viral videos, videos of family events, snippets from favorite movies or television, personal artwork and other forms of artistic expression.

For example, friends may congregate in a coffee shop or at a theater multiplex and download clips of current movies to make a group decision on which movie to see. Local cg and classic animation artists will show their latest creature or character creation or an episode from a series they are developing.

Pocketcine's "Evil Rainbow" Video (Video Contains Graphic Violence.) The video elicited twelve comments, obviously from an audience that appreciated the artist’s twisted sense of human relationships. One was a video response, making the production come full circle, from producer to consumer and back to the producer again, all in video.

In the coming years there will be the number of video phones will be…well to paraphrase Carl Sagab, billions and billions. At that point, anything will be possible.

Check out the next tutorial on Getting Your Mobile Videos Onto Your Phone
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January 15, 2007

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