Thursday, March 18, 2010

Screen Australia and film industry

Greetings from the Screen Australia road show. A government review of support for the screen production industry, including the Producer Offset, is due out today. But at the same time Screen Australia is seeking input on the future of the film industry. CEO Ruth Harley is speaking at a road show around Australia and today is Canberra's turn. The meeting is at the CSIRO Discovery Theatre, with about 60 people present.

What strikes me is that Screen Australia talks about the feature film and TV industry. However, these are now dwarfed by the computer games industry. The Apple iPod has changed the music industry and the iPad may be about to do the same to the TV industry. However, the way Screen Australia works does not seem to have changed since cameras were hand cranked. They seem to be trying to help set up an obsolete analogue last century industry for Australia, rather than a digital one for the future.

Pressure points identified by Screen Australia:
  1. Mid range features ($M10-30 ) lack domestic funding. This is an effect of the government offset, which helps both small and large features, but not mid-range.
  2. Longer documentary series are doing well, but the Screen Australia process is complex for one off documentaries.
  3. Liquidation of SPV has complex legislative issues. Providing a grant has tax issues.
  4. SAC test is currently holistic and has no detailed points score type process which leaves producers uncertain as to what might rate well. Details of previous applications are secret due to tax law. "Reality" TV is uncertain as to if it qualifies as "documentary".
  5. Low budget features may not be helped by lowering the limits on the current tax offsets as this requires a "theatrical release". Low budget films might use other distribution, such as online digital, which does not qualify as "theatrical".
At question time I asked if Screen Australia were addressing digital media. They responded they have initiatives in this area. However, I suggested they need to change their mindset and terminology. Digital distribution is seen as "alternative" by Screen Australia, and theatre distribution normal. I suggest this needed to be reversed. Young consumers see the iPhone as normal and going to a "cinema" as unusual.

Another attendee asked about support for the gaming industry and Screen Australia replied this was a matter of government policy and that representations should be made direct to the government. I got the impression that Screen Australia did not want to address the gaming industry without additional resources.

In my view, as the gaming industry is now larger than the film industry, at least half Screen Australia's resources and the government funding, should be devoted to it and digital media. Screen Australia appears to be stuck in last century technology and unable, or unwilling to change. The government should therefore abolish Screen Australia and set up a new digital entertainment body, which addresses digital media as a priority and also the legacy film industry as a secondary priority.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Teaching Computer-Mediated Communication for Governance

At the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group on Wednesday we discussed what was required for a learning management system (LMS). What quickly became apparent was that selecting an LMS should be treated like other requirements analysis for an ICT system. Rather than start with a shopping list of features found in typical LMS, we should work out what the learning objectives are, the appropriate learning styles for that learning and then how ICT can support it.

LMS can have document creation and document/record management facilities, person to person and person to group communication, meeting management, assessment management and course delivery features. What many of these have in common is computer-mediated communication (CMC):
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is defined as any communicative transaction which occurs through the use of two or more networked computers.[1] While the term has traditionally referred to those communications that occur via computer-mediated formats (i.e., instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms) it has also been applied to other forms of text-based interaction such as text messaging. [2] Research on CMC focuses largely on the social effects of different computer-supported communication technologies. Many recent studies involve Internet-based social networking supported by social software.

From: Computer-Mediated Communication, Wikipedia, 28 September 2008, at 11:06
Even the document/record management facilities and assessment, could be considered a form of communication. The record management facilities are used for communicating from now to the future, and the assessed is the assessor communicating to those who may wish to employ the student.

This analysis should work well for the courses on web design and electronic document management I present, as the topic of the course is also Computer-Mediated Communication.

To test if this would be a useful approach I tried the same technique wh9och I had used with "learning commons". A web search on CMC, returned about 2.5 million hits. Narrowing the search to the last 24 hours, produced just over 10,000 documents. This suggested the term was widely used, but the real surprise came when I narrowed the search to CMC for 24 hours at ANU, which found 4 documents, including an announcement of a seminar a few hundred metres from my office by an expert in lexicography and computer-mediated communication: The 5-Concentric Circles Model & the Australian English Dictionary, Vincent B Y Ooi, The Australian National Dictionary Centre, CEDAM Seminar Room, Building #96, 10 October 2008.

Rather than arguing the merits of Wiki, Blog, Podcast, Webinar, Feed or whatever new technology may be around the corner, it should be possible to apply the analysis developed for CMC, such as synchronicity, persistence, multimodality, privacy and security.

My courses on web design and e-document management largely address the needs of governance. This could be generalised as CMC for governance; that is using computer based systems to coordinate an organisation, or a society. In this way we can step back from the detail of how email or word processing documents should be archived in a company or a government agency and look at how computers can be used to make decisions, have those decisions implemented and satisfy the community the process was properly carried out. Different forms of CMC can then be assessed to see how they assist governance.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Learning Management Systems for multi-disciplinary teaching

Srinivas ChemboliSrinivas Chemboli runs the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra. This week's meeting is on learning management systems (LMSs) for multi-disciplinary teaching (all welcome):
The Varietas TiG will meet today at 11:30 at N329, CSIT Building [Bldg 108]

  • LMS needs for multi-disciplinary and disciplinary teaching/research/collaboration
    • What should a wish-list for a LMS comprise of?
    • Document creation/management tools
    • Focus on function and goals, not specific technologies
    • Communicate/discuss the proposed draft outline for group activities via LMS
    • Support for logically ordered communication
    • Calendaring/meeting-manager support
    • Support for blended/flexible learning
  • Set up a time-frame/agree upon an action-plan to draft the needs statements for an LMS
  • Assess existing LMS options in the context of the needs statements
  • Integrating cross-disciplinary strengths in teaching
  • The logistics of a cross-disciplinary group course

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Building supercomputers from computer game chips

Eric McCreath/Eric McCreath is giving a seminar at the ANU on building supercomputers from computer game chips. He will be talking about using the Cell Broadband Engine (from Sony's PlayStation 3 game console) and the NVIDIA 8800 GPU (from PC gaming graphics cards) for scientific applications. The seminar is free and there is no need to book:


Using the Cell Broadband Engine and NVIDIA 8800 GPU for Computational Science Applications: A Particle Dynamics Comparison

Eric McCreath (DCS, ANU)

DATE: 2008-09-25
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

The NVIDIA 8800 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and the Cell Broadband Engine employ a vast amount of parallelism to produce low cost high performance systems which dwarf standard desktop processing units in terms of floating point calculations. These systems offer great potential for computational science applications. This presentation compares the programming model, implementation strategies and realised performance achieved on these two systems for implementing a simple particle dynamics simulation code. Both systems were found to give considerable performance improvements over high-end uni-processor machines. The Synergistic Processing Elements (SPE), on the Cell, can not directly access main memory. This complicates initial implementation compared to the NVIDIA GPU, however, fully exploiting the complex architectures of both systems is equally challenging.

Eric McCreath completed his Ph.D. degree in 1999 from the University of New South Wales. This was on research involving Inductive Logic Programming(ILP) which is a sub-field of Machine Learning. He joined the Basser Department of Computer Science(now the School of Information Technologies) at Sydney University in 1999 as a lecturer and then in 2001 he joined the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University. Dr McCreath currently holds a lecturing position at the ANU and is pursuing research in the Computer Systems research group.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ANU Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group

Srinivas ChemboliSrinivas Chemboli has issued an invitation to those interested in Multidisciplinary Teaching to join the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra:

Varietas-TIG is a Teaching Interest Group (TIG) that focuses on multi-disciplinary themes in teaching.

Wednesday, 17 September, 16:00 - 17:30, N335 CSIT Bldg (Bldg 108)

Topics of discussion will cover (but are not necessarily limited to):
1) A multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and course management
2) Reconciling different pedagogical approaches across disciplines
3) Incorporating a wider spectrum of research-led themes as guides for teaching
4) Integrating reusable knowledge across disciplines in skills and services-oriented curriculum
5) Develop an effective methodology to reuse the semantic richness of multiple disciplines

Topics for Discussion This Week:
  • Format/ideas for TiG activities
  • Multi-disciplinary activities at the ANU
  • Discussing the practice and personal experience in cross/multi-disciplinary teaching
  • Equity in multi-disciplinary courses, a pipe-dream?
    • Suggested activities for analyzing the trend in cross/multi/inter-stream courses
  • Tying in assessment with disciplinary objectives
  • Paper discussion: Multidisciplinary students and instructors: a second-year games course

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Example of design documentation for a computer game

ABC TV's Good Game show is running a competition for the development of a computer game. This provides insights into how such a computer based system is designed and developed. The TV show has featured interviews with staff and some footage of their office and meetings. The full Design Overview document for the game "Office Wars" has been provided. This could be very useful for ICT researchers in software engineering and information systems. The detailed 46 page document provides a real example of how software development is now done. The overview includes details of the game as well as the business case for it. It could be a useful case study for ICT students, with unusual system functions, such as "Kill the Boss".

From the Table of Contents:

1.0 Overview
1.1 Platforms
1.2 Timeframe
1.3 Scope
1.4 Goals

2.0 Game Synopsis
2.1 Setting Synopsis

3.0 UI Synopsis
3.1 Main Home Screen
3.2 Gameplay View
3.3 Beginning of an Office/Level
3.4 Between Office/Level Screens

4.0 Player Avatar
4.1 Player Skills
4.2 Gaining Levels
4.3 Skills & Tasks
4.4 Level Titles ...

From: Design Overview, Steve Fawkner, Infinite Interactive Pty. Ltd., August 6th 2008

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Apple Designer Bio Worth a Browse

iWoz by Steve Wozniak - cover
While waiting for a plane recently I did something I almost never do: bought a book. Rather than an airport novel it was IWoz by Steve Wozniak. This is an autobiography written with Gina Smith. The section of the book dealing with Wozniak's design of the Apple 2 computer should be read by anyone interested in how technology products are designed or the ethos of engineering.
Less interesting is the section on Steve Wozniak early life and the later sections on his activities prompting rock concerts.
The insights the book gives into the development of one of the most important personal computers are very valuable. But I found the language the book is written in to be frustrating. It is as if it was written using simplified English for a young audience. This may have been the case (or perhaps this is how the author naturally speaks) but it make the book a bit dull.
Also Steve Wozniak's naivety when it comes to dealing with business and the press is a little difficult to believe. He recounts how on leaving Apple he gave an interview in which he criticised some practices at Apple. He recalls how he was surprised and disappointed when this was given as his reason for leaving Apple in the subsequent article. He goes on to say he still doesn't understand why that was done.
There are also some veiled criticisms of Steve Jobs in the book which do not quite ring true. But then perhaps we have to take Steve Wozniak at face value as a genuine engineering genius but not a business one.
The best bit of the book was the description of the urge to get the chip count of the Apple 2 down and to produce a very simple floppy disk controller. I cursed the Apple 2 floppy disk system. While it was a model of simplicity, it wasn't compatible with anything else and had a few quirks which made it hard to work with.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wii Games Web Browser

Screenshot of Wikipedia shown on Wii BrowserNintendo are releasing a web browser for their Wii games console in March. It is based on the Opera browser. Games consoles may not seem a mainstream web device, but along with mobile phones may the first and primary way many people in Asia use the web.

Reports indicate it has a similar look to other browsers designed for use with a TV, such as Microsoft Web TV. This reformats web pages to fit on a low resolution TV by increasing the size of the font, reducing white space, eliminating sideways scrolling and adding on-screen navigation buttons. The WII display is limited to 608 x 456 pixels by the TV technology. Input is limited to the buttons on the games controller; there is no numeric keypad (as on a Web TV device) or QWERTY keyboard (as on a PC).
The Internet Channel is a version of the Opera web browser for use on the Wii by Opera Software and Nintendo.[1] On December 22, 2006 a free beta version (promoted as a "trial version") of the browser was released.[2] The final version of the browser will be available in March 30, 2007 and will be free to download until the end of June that year. After this period the browser will cost 500 Wii Points to download.[3] Users who download Opera before June 30, 2007, can continue to use the browser at no cost for the lifetime of the Wii system.[4]
From: Internet Channel, Wikipedia, 2006, URL:
The Wii (pronounced as the pronoun "we", IPA: [wi?]) is the fifth video game console released by Nintendo. The console was previously known by its project code name of Revolution, and is the successor to the Nintendo GameCube. Nintendo states that its console targets a broader demographic than that of other seventh generation gaming consoles.[7] It competes with both Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. ...


* Up to 480p (PAL/NTSC) or 576i (PAL/SECAM), standard 4:3 and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen[44]
* Component (including Progressive scan), RGB SCART (PAL only), S-Video (NTSC only), composite output, or D-Terminal[45]

From: Wii, Wikipedia, 2007, URL:

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