Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Paywalls are medieval while social media is gunpowder

That's the view of Heidi Nordby Lunde, a columnist with the Norwegian media website as published in The Guardian today by Roy Greenslade. Heidi writes, according to the translation courtesy of FollowTheMedia:
"Paywalls are reminiscent of the classic city walls, which were common from ancient times and into the Middle Ages. They are also about as innovative.
City walls were erected to protect the population against attacks from outside. Although the wall was effective against enemies for a while, it also proved to be an effective end to growth.
"In the end, there was a lack of opportunity for growth within the walls, combined with the military innovation that tore at them. When gunpowder came, high walls did not help.
"Today, one can see in many medieval towns the remnants of the old city gates or parts of walls, the old defences, overgrown by urban structures. New military strategies, opportunities for growth and alternative organisational forms won out."
 It is an interesting premise and so I commented on the story...
However paywall or not, there needs to be a sustainable business model. The Guardian has no walls but your online business model isn't sustainable yet and you have fantastic content and are completely committed to the platform. Pay Walls do generate income, however I accept they may not always be sustainable too. In my opinion we are still developing business models like the Freemium model to produce a viable business model for the online world where people have come to expect everything for free or at least free at the point of use. I do find it interesting that folk will sign away all kinds of rights to get a free service.
 What do you think?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Dad's Last Tape

Following on from The House That Fall Into The Sea, I worked with Clare Jenkins from Pennine Productions again, this time on a BBC Radio 4 documentary entitled Dad's Last Tape.
Clare Jenkins explores why people record their life stories and what impact those stories have on other people when the interviewee is no longer themselves, or no longer alive. Twenty-five years ago, Clare recorded her father talking about his life: growing up in a Scottish tenement, being 'sold' as a farmer's boy at a hiring fair, a wartime stint in the RAF, working as a gardener to the wealthy, amateur poet. Jack Jenkins died 18 years ago, and Clare never listened back to the tapes - until making this programme. Broadcaster Rony Robinson never listened back to recordings he had done with his mother until Clare asked him to. Nor had singer-songwriter Sally Goldsmith listened to her mother, who died two years ago, singing May Day songs recalled from childhood. This programme explores the different circumstances in which people's life stories are recorded, and the memories and emotions that come flooding back when the tapes are eventually heard. We hear from the wife of a man suffering from dementia about her bitter-sweet feelings when listening to tapes of his voice. "They really calmed him and made him smile. And it was amazing for me, because I'd forgotten how funny he was." Another woman, terminally ill with cancer, has made a series of recordings for her newborn granddaughter as part of a hospice project in Sheffield. "I want her to hear about my life - and to know that I don't have a Yorkshire accent!" she says. We also hear from Mary Stewart of the British Library, who has been studying the way recorded interviews are used by and for those most intimately involved. Along the way, we discover the power of the beloved voice.

I needed to restore some of the recording but by and large they well remarkably good. Radio Times have chosen Dad's Last Tape as one of their recommendations for the week. This is what their reviewer Jane Anderson had to say...

There is nothing so effective in recalling the very essence of a dead loved one than hearing a recording of their voice. This gently edited programme mixes old recordings of elderly mothers and fathers with deeply moving stories of people facing death in the near future and their reasons for wanting to leave part of themselves behind for their families. Hankies at the ready.

"Gently edited", I'll settle for that. Once again it was a pleasure to work with Clare on what was for her a very personal programme. So if you can get to a radio at Monday 2d July you can enjoy it then otherwise take advantage of the BBC iPlayer for 7 days after that.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Houses That Fall Into The Sea

One of the core parts of my work is helping radio producers make and realise their radio programmes. A recent example of this was for a programme called The Houses That Fall Into The Sea for BBC Radio 3. This is in the Between The Ears strand and is a documentary series, but as the strand name suggests requires a significant amount of sound design in the development and completion of the programme.
Here is some background information on the programme…
Lyz Turner’s house, in the East Yorkshire town of Withernsea, is falling into the sea. “My house has started talking to me,” she says. “It produces haunting sounds like far-off women wailing.” This programme, combining interviews with music and the sounds of the sea, the wind, the land, the dying houses, explores how people cope with natural calamity: with anger, stoicism, distress, and art. One winter, Ron and Judith Backhouse watched as first their fence, then their shed, and finally three trees slipped over the cliff at the bottom of their garden on a private estate above Scarborough. “The crack is running up towards our next door neighbour’s house,” says Ron. “It’s maybe five or ten metres away from his bungalow now and we’re connected to him. So if he goes, we go, too.”? Artist Kane Cunningham bought a condemned bungalow on the same estate so that he could live in it, use it as an artistic installation and document its demise. Since he moved in, the neighbouring three houses have been demolished for safety reasons, and he reckons his is next. “You can’t fight Nature,” he says, “so you may as well celebrate its destructive force. Houses aren’t immortal, and neither are we, despite what we may want to believe.” “As I listen to the soft wailing through the wall,” says Lyz Turner, whose family have lived here for three generations, “I feel the house knows what’s coming. Since Domesday there’s been a dwelling where I live, and it seems all the voices of the past, whoever lived here, all the people from the lost villages under the sea, are crying for us now.”
I had great fun working form my collection of 40,000 plus sound effects weaving sounds of wind and the sea from the appropriate perspectives into the interviews.  For example, when we meet the artist Kane Cunningham who bought the condemned house on his credit card, and uses the house as a studio and as an art installation too. He explains that as part of an art project people can write letters to the house. From those that the writers agreed could be opened we had some children read out quotes from the letters which I matched with Kane’s reading.
At one point we had a reference to a message in the bottle so out came my TL Space convolution reverb and selected a suitable ‘small space’ and put the reader in the bottle. I also had fun creating sounds as the contributors talked about the houses groaning and moving and wind singing and whistling through gaps and cracks.
There were a number of times where I wanted element of the programme not to be in the foreground, especially when we wanted hints of sounds, like the use of an excerpt from My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. So I created a dedicated track with a suitable reverb effect from Reverb One and then automated both the Wet/Dry and Decay times as well as the volume, all in real time, to blend in the sounds into the soundscape of the programme.
You can listen to the programme very easily via the BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Action On Hearing Loss - Your Ears Are Your Life - Look After Them

Action On Hearing Loss is the new name fro the RNID (The Royal National Institute for Deaf People). They have an online hearing check which I have just taken, and I am pleased and relieved, to report that all is well.

You can also read about how to look after your hearing, remember our ears are not user replacement devices. We only have 2 ears and once they have been trashed, thats it you have had it and without good hearing we are unemployable in the audio and music business. So take care of your most important assets.

There are also some very interesting pages that relate to our industry including their current Loud Music Campaign.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The value of Media Studies Degrees

Dr Bex Lewis posted an extract from A Times Educational Supplement article about Media Degrees and I have posted the following as a comment...

Don't get me started on Media degrees. well you have, I do't have a problem with a Media Studies degree "as an object of academic study" as long as graduates don't consider, or get sold the idea, this will prepare them for a career in the media industry because it won't. 

The industry is fed up of people leaving uni with a media degree and expecting to enter the industry at a higher level or even at an entry level, at which point you have to ask what was the point of a 3 year degree course especially from next year! My experience as an industry practitioner and sometime involved in training at both apprenticeship and degree levels, as well as talking to key staff involved in finding new talent, is that very few media degrees actually prepare students to work in the industry without significant additional training. 

The industry has got so fed up, it has put its money where its mouth is and set up a range of apprenticeship schemes so it can train and prepare students with the skills needed.  

You talk about transferable skills and the skills you list are transferable IF they were delivered and developed properly in university, but experience leads me to believe they rarely are. 

We find these practical skills are rarely delivered in a real world and current way, rather they are dealt with in a generalised unrealistic way and students believe they are being prepared for a career in the media industry and I am afraid a lot of universities are letting their students down badly. 

For example, I delivered a Media Induction Course for a dozen cohorts and the first 8 or 9 cohorts were largely graduates with a variety of media degrees and I have lost count of the number of times they would tell me that they learnt more in that 9 day course about working in the media industry than they did throughout their 3 year degree course. 

A Media Degree shouldn't be a soft option. To prepare students for the relatively small number of opportunities in the media industry, it should be a tough course learning a range of practical skills in the first and second years and specialising into a specific area in the 3rd year. Media is a very practical and hands on industry. This needs universities to employ a broad range of associate lecturers who remain active practitioners in the industry so they can deliver current and future practice. The industry is changing so fast that someone who has left the industry even 3 years ago will be out of date.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

An Infographic showing small business financial fitness

Now I should declare that this graphic comes from Intuit UK who make Quickbooks accounts software etc but it is an interesting set of figures that also show that there are areas that small businesses need to so their homework on.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cow Dust Time for BBC Radio 3

Cow Dust Time  was an "Between The Ears" programme for BBC Radio 3 that I worked on with producer Clare Jenkins just before Christmas and was transmitted on 14th January 2012.  
Dust rises from the hooves of cattle returning to a village at sunset. Smoke from open fires wreathes in ribbons across the fields. As the evening shadows begin to lengthen, people, animals and birds all return to their homes to rest. This time of day is known in India as "godhuli bela", or "cowdust time". It is the sacred time when Lord Krishna brought his own cattle safely home. In paintings, he is often seen meeting his beloved Radha in the evening, as peacocks call, bright green parakeets chatter loudly in the neem trees, temple bells and muezzins call people of different faiths to prayer. There are many devotional songs and poems devoted to this twilight hour. It is seen throughout India as an auspicious time for engagements, weddings, even business ventures. But it's also the time when mothers call their children home, to avoid evil spirits. And when those same children are told not to whistle, for fear of inviting evil in. In this hypnotic sound tapestry - recorded in Gujarat, the Kumaon hills and Madhya Pradesh - we hear cows and other animals being brought back to their village, the loud clamour of birds, the eerie noise of crickets. "It is that fantastic time of day," says writer and academic Rajendrasingh Jadeja, "when the cowdust raised transforms the scene from stark, sharp light to a fantasy world." That fantasy world has been captured in art, music and literature. Painter and art critic Amit Ambalal, poets Jayant Parmar and Mahek Tankarvi, and musician Sugna Shah, are among those who talk about the religious and cultural significance of twilight. We also hear the poetry, prayers, lullabies and ragas depicting this magical time "when the earth does yoga".

We were able to interweave the atmospheric sounds of the cows coming back home with conversations and descriptions of this special time of the day as well as poetry & music written for cow dust time. It was an really enjoyable programme to work on.   Clare wrote.....  

“Some years ago, we bought a reproduction of a painting of Krishna, Radha (his beloved) and the cows from the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay. It’s called Cowdust Time, and on the back it tells the story of this time, when cowherds bring their cattle back home and the dust they raise blends with the smoke of the cooking fires to create a smoky effect in the villages. It’s a particularly lovely time of day.  It’s also seen as a particularly auspicious time, good for engagements, marriages and business deals. And a good time for reflection, prayer and meditation. Various people talked about how – at the same time that people are going to the temple or mosque to pray – birds like parakeets all flock back to their trees, and their loud chattering is like another form of prayer of thanksgiving to God,” she adds. “And one writer and academic, Dr Rajendrasinh Jadeja, likened it to a time when the earth does yoga.”

The programme has been well received and here are some comments that have come in...

What a lovely programme! We were both entranced by it. Thank you so much.
Seductive and richly other.  It drew me in. Lovely. Beautifully put together
Really lovely programme. We listened to it in the dark, sitting on an Indian rug, and it was like a meditation.
It was wonderful. I do not overstate when I say there were tears in our eyes, I can't remember when I saw my husband so visibly moved.
I've just listened to it and found it both beautiful and enlightening, and a wonderful counterbalance to the way I was feeling today. I've made some notes from it towards what might become a poem - not difficult, of course, because the programme is pretty much a poem in itself
I'm writing to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed the Between the Ears feature 'Cowdust Time'.  I always make a point of tuning in to Between The Ears because of the eclectic content.  While I'm listening, I'm usually doing something else - tonight I was preparing tomorrow's dinner - but, I stopped chopping carrots and just listened.  A really beautiful programme - congratulations!