Microsoft continues to roll out new entertainment offerings for the Xbox 360.
The second wave of content providers for the recent user interface revamp of Xbox Live has hit the console, bringing some familiar names. Starting today, U.S. users will be able to access content from ClearChannel's streaming radio service iHeartRadio and Verizon FiOS customers will be able to access a limited selection of live channels.
Also joining the fun is YouTube, TMZ and MSNBC.com.
Verizon's FiOS customers will be able to watch up 26 live TV channels, including MTV, Spike, Food Network, Comedy Central, HBO, CNN and Nickelodeon. In order to use the services, Xbox Live users must prove they are subscribers to the cablers or satcasters, or in Bravo or Syfy's case, confirm that they are paying cable or satellite customers.
Other countries are getting different channels. Here's the complete list.
* blinkbox. United Kingdom
* iHeartRadio. United States
* MSN Video. Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom
* MSNBC.com. United States
* MUZU.TV. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
With so many achievements to his credit, Steve Jobs impact on the advertising industry is often forgotten.
The fact is that with Jobs influence, the modern Super Bowl commercial might never have happened. The "1984" spot that is so well known was conceived by Chiat/Day and directed by Ridley Scott, but it was the Macintosh that was the inspiration.
Jobs himself tended to shy away from being the marketing face of the company, but in 1997 he almost stepped into the role. It was during the "Think Different" campaign – which was ultimately voiced by Richard Dreyfuss. But an early version of the first installment of the ads was voiced by Jobs.
It never aired, but hearing it now - after his untimely death Wednesday – adds a certain gravity to the spot.
When "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" hit theaters in 1997, it did something that parents groups and senators had failed to do: Brought the franchise to its knees.
The film was so horrendously bad that it made 1995's "Mortal Kombat," which only the most die-hard fans of the series truly embraced, look downright artistic. Production on a third sequel, sub-named "Devastation," was shelved and New Line Cinema never looked back.
But a funny thing happened as the Internet exploded. Last year, director Kevin Tancharoen ("Fame"), a big fan of the video game fighting series, had an idea to lobby Warner Bros. for a new installment in the series. Calling in favors from friends and tapping friends of friends, he began working on a live action short, which he never planned to release publicly – well, certainly not as soon as the short actually did make it online.
“I am not the most technically savvy YouTube person,” says Tancharoen. “What came out wasn’t the final product in my mind. I wasn’t done yet. It was still in its rough phase, but I couldn’t send a 2GB file over email, so my friend said I could cerate a private page on YouTube and sent it to him to review. It turns out it wasn’t that private.”
Fans and gaming outlets quickly found the video – which has since racked up over 5 million views. As it went viral, though, Tancharoen had no idea.
“I looked on Twitter and saw MK was trending and thought ‘Oh god, did someone beat me to the punch?’,” he says.
When he realized it was his film, his fears doubled: certain rights hadn’t been secured – including with his cast.
“The actors could have quickly rebelled against me,” he says. “Thank God people liked it, because it could have gone really bad.”
The buzz surrounding that YouTube short led Warner to tap Tancharoen to direct nine live-action shorts to lead up to this year's new installment of the game, which ultimately proved to be one of the most successful in the series.
Now Tancharoen is taking the franchise to cinemas – which is just what he had hoped to do when making that YouTube video.
“The bigger thing for me, of course, is I want to translate this to a feature,” he noted in a conversation earlier this year. “I would love to tell the stories that lead the character up to a certain point, then have them merge together in a big 3D movie.”
It was, in fact, Tancharoen's short films that got Hollywood thinking about rebooting the franchise.
"The new game and the online shorts prompted us to consider a reboot of a brand we hadn’t been actively thinking about," said New Line president Toby Emmerich.
The film will be written by Tancharoen's partner on the shorts and will likely come out in conjunction with the next Mortal Kombat game. Still undetermined is whether the stars of the Web series – which include Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan - will reprise their roles in the big budget version.
The remake has one thing going for it, though: Fan buzz. Tancharoen has proven himself to the "Mortal Kombat" core audience – a critical first step in reviving the franchise.
While there are a handful of 3D videos on YouTube already, they're anything but cutting edge.
The only 3D format the service supports is anaglyph - requiring the old-school red and blue glasses to see the effects. That's hardly ideal for studios looking to promote upcoming films or publishers looking to showcase 3D video games. But that's all about to change.
Starting today, YouTube and nVidia have struck an alliance that the online video site will be enabled for nVidia's 3D Vision computer graphics cards. The update will initially be available only to users of Firefox 4, though both organizations are planning to expand beyond that.
A good number of nVidia cards are 3D enabled, but users who want to see the effects need to buy the 3D Vision kit (for $149), which includes a pair of active shutter glasses and a receiver to communicate with those glasses.
YouTube puts active 3D in the big time in online video, but it's not the first site to offer it. nVidia's own 3DvisionLive.com currently offers 100 3D videos and over 5,000 3D pictures. With traffic of just 150,000 visits per month, though, it's a drop in the bucket compared to YouTube.
YouTube, historically, has been the playground of things like the Chinese Backstreet Boys and the Numa Numa guy, but Google may be thinking about adding another layer to the popular video destination.
Officials at the search giant, which owns YouTube, are reportedly planning to add up to 20 'channels' of original, professionally produced content, which will fill between 5-10 hours per week.
The Wall Street Journal, which originated the story, says the ultimate goal is for the site to compete with both broadcast and cable television and YouTube plans to spend as much as $100 million on the initiative.
At stake are not only increased dwell times (YouTube visitors spend an average of 15 minutes per day on the site), but substantial ad revenue. (The television industry takes in roughly $70 billion per year.)
The move follows a recent deal by Netflix to exclusively run "House of Cards," an original television series starring Kevin Spacey, bypassing networks entirely. Netflix is gaining power with its audience of 20 million subscribers (which is nearly as many people as HBO boasts).
YouTube, meanwhile, had 111 million unique visitors in February.
Alex Carloss, who up until last week was head of digital distribution at Paramount, has made the jump to Google.
Carloss will work on the content acquisition team for the company's YouTube arm, joining Robert Kyncl, who left Netflix for the company last year.
Paramount reps who were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter confirmed the move.
This is the second notable Paramount defection to YouTube in the past four months. Malik Ducard, who was senior VP of digital distribution at the studio, left in December for an unspecified role in "content business development."
Google has been looking to built relations with the studios after years of tumultuous waters (the public stumbles of Google TV are the most recent – and glaring – example). Last November, for instance, the company was reportedly in talks to acquire the digital rights to Miramax films.
Having a growing collection of studio names at the company could help the company make peace with Hollywood.
While the networks and other content providers are throwing up hurdle after hurdle to slow Google TV, the search engine giant is looking for new ways to ensure the service stays relevant.
The Wall Street Journal reports Google is in talks with the holding company that's in the process of aquiring Miramax to license the digital rights to the studio’s entire film catalog. If successful, the films would be available two ways: Via paid rental on YouTube and, for older catalog titles, free to watch, with ads.
Google has been trying to sidestep into the film digital distribution business, a la Apple, Amazon and Netflix. So far, it hasn’t managed to make much of an impact, though. Its only significant partner is Lion's Gate, which offers titles such as “Kick Ass” and “Precious”.
While this sort of deal would help Google’s streaming service, its impact on Google TV would largely depend on the ratio of rental to ad-supported titles. There are currently several paid streaming options on the service (along with many other platforms). Adding one more won’t be a draw that attracts fence-sitters – but if the deal results in new free offerings exclusive to Google TV owners, it could be the second wind the service needs right now.
The Vuvuzela – which has sprung to fame thanks to the World
Cup – has popped up on the viral video service, bringing its droning angry buzz
sound with it. A new button slipped onto the site’s videos recently, letting
masochists add the sound to videos they watch.
To add it, look for a soccer ball icon to the right of the
resolution settings. Click it and – well, brace yourself.
Need a sample? Here’s a behind the scenes video Pixar put
out about the making of “Toy Story 3”. See if you can make out anything that’s
being said once your click the soccer ball.
(Note: This is likely a short term promotion that may
disappear with as little warning as it appeared – so enjoy it while you can.)
You’ve probably heard the story: A YouTube user creates a
video. It goes viral and becomes an Internet sensation – but suddenly, it’s
gone. More often than not, that’s because of copyright issues – and quite frequently,
it’s specifically because the creator didn't have the proper rights to use the music he or she selected.
Now, Rumblefish and YouTube have teamed up to give users the
opportunity to license music performances for their videos, ensuring that they
won’t be taken down without warning.
FriendlyMusic.com, a standalone site working in conjunction
with YouTube, will sell rights to over 35,000 independent artists and labels
for $1.99 each. The license is for noncommercial use only and lasts as long as
the video is online.
It’s a start – but it’s a pretty shaky one. FriendlyMusic
has none of the name artists that are likely to be particularly appealing to
most people. Rumblefish has not signed any major labels, though it says “name
artists” will be added in the months to come.
“We hope this is the first step toward a much bigger trend
toward content companies being much more user friendly with their licensing
models,” says Glenn Brown, head of music partnerships for YouTube. “What this
does is give users upfront clarity that we haven’t seen before today. … It’s a
great innovation in that regard.”
Rumblefish, which cuts deals with musicians and companies looking for background music, first partnered with YouTube in 2008 to create AudioSwap, a service that gives users the opportunity to swap out soundtracks, with the artist getting attribution in the video - but completely replacing the existing soundtrack. The new service will offer a bit more flexibility.
Stories about film studios that have had YouTube rip down
videos featuring copyrighted works are a dime a dozen, but it’s not that often that you
see the surfers of the Web unite in protest over it.
Constantin Films is in the middle of a PR disaster for just
this reason, though. The German production company has asked the streaming
video service to remove the hundreds of parody videos that used the climatic
scene from its film “Downfall”.
What’s a little baffling is the timing. The parodies kicked
off over three years ago, when some savvy editors put false captions to the
German language scene showing Hitler furious he had been banned from Xbox Live.
Other notable versions had him making plans to attend Burning Man, railing
about the real estate bubble and even frustrated that his plans to dub his own
Hitler meltdown video had already been done.
The studio says the parodies could trivialize the Holocaust, so it wants them down. Critics note that if the company felt that strongly about it, they could have (and should have) filed the copyright claim years ago.
In the end, the parodies may have been funny stuff, but they used copyrighted material and
Constantin apparently felt enough was enough. The Internet, though, doesn’t
seem quite ready to let go.
Videos continue to surface, with settings attempting to
bypass the removals. (The above video is a good example, assuming it stays up
for any length of time.) And smaller video sites are still running the site.
It’ll be interesting to see if Constantin sticks by its
guns, despite the Internet outcry or decides that it was a bit too late to the
party to claim to be offended by the films.
(A warning about the above embedded video. It contains some harsh language.)
Chris Morris reports on the the intersection of Hollywood and technology, as well as the latest must-have consumer technology gadgets.
Tips and feedback are encouraged at chris.r.morris-at-gmail-com