Sunday, August 26, 2007

Change Being The Only Constant

We are in the midst of changing the way we capture and process videos on the Web site and (once again) going at backwards.

For years, we've used a combination of Vegas Videos and Digital Rapids apps to capture, livestream and digitize videos. It's a time-consuming process. To put it simply, it got to the point where it would take 20 to 25 minutes to produce a video for the Web site that was on the air for about 2 minutes. In other words, if we captured a weathercast that lasted for 3 minutes, it wasn't on the site for close to 30 minutes.

It was time-consuming, but it works and allows us to do things we need to do, such as capture and livestream at the same time.

A decision was made, however, that this was all taking too long (which it was) and the powers-that-be decided to use a different process. A company called Anystream has a system where all the newscasts are programmed and the material is captured automatically. We still have to delineate which video clips we want (which takes MUCH more time using Quicktime Pro than it does with Vegas) but they are processed much faster.

One of (several) problems with the new system, however, is there is no quick/easy way to capture the images we need to associate with the videos. The guy from Anystream who came to put the system in place is a great guy, but it became apparent over the course of two days that NO ONE gave a thought to how we actually do the work at the Web site before choosing a new system to integrate into it. (This wasn't his fault, by the way -- those decisions were made way above his head.)

No one came went to a site and watched what we do, observed the work flow, etc. Instead of choosing a system to use based on what we already do, they chose it based only its merits alone.

What is WRONG with this picture?!

So, the process is going to be extremely gummed up for awhile, even as we head into election season and the transition is not going to be pleasant.

A lot of time gets wasted this way when it would be much more efficient and cost-effective to simply figure out what we do AHEAD OF TIME. Would it ever kill anyone to ASK US before making these decisions? At no point did any of the engineers involved in investigating and implementing this new system ASK US WHAT WE DO OR HOW WE DO IT.

I continue to be dumbfounded.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer Hiatus

Like many New Englanders, I seem to have taken a bit of a summer hiatus and neglected this blog. Unlike last summer, when the Big Dig ceiling panel collapsed and killed a motorist in July, this has been a relatively quiet news cycle. We've had garden variety mayhem in the news world.

Which is good, because it never stays that way for long. The Patriots have started playing pre-season ball again, the Sox lead in the AL least is now down to a few games, and the Celtics have signed a new player that has fans all excited about the team's prospects for the new season. Surely we'll have some sports stories in the offing soon, if nothing else. I don't know why we think of Jan. 1 as the start of the new year, because (at least in TV world) the cycle begins anew in September, as the kids go back to classes and the networks announce their fall lineups.

Unfortunately, none of the nets ever seem to offer much that is promising anymore. Reality TV. Dance or song competitions. I don't think it's a stretch to say that in any given season, each network only manages to come up with one "winner," which (if you think about it) is NOT a great track record for companies such as ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, who have thousands of employees and VERY high paid executives making big creative decisions.

I seem to recall that when I was a kid, you could turn on the TV at 7 or 8 p.m. at night and watch for three or four straight hours and there would be one great show after another. Even as a teenager, I used to stay home to watch "The Carol Burnett Show" or "The Mary Tyler Moore" show. We loved "Bewtiched", "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" and before that, I remember shows like "Petticoat Junction," and "Green Acres" and "Colombo" and others.

My theory is that basically the "creative" people in these industries are now pretty much creatively bankrupt. Essentially, many of them have spent their childhoods watching television, which is a passive entertainment that does squat in terms of fostering creativity. The people who made all those great 1960s and 1970s TV shows were WWII generation people who grew up READING. They grew up playing make-believe games outside, with other kids, in an environment that forced you to use your imagination to entertain yourself because there weren't many other options.

That's why so many of the movies that come out are just recycled TV shows, like the Charlie's Angels movies, or "Bewitched," or all the movies made about comic-book superheroes who were invented back in the 1940s. Ever wonder why very little "new" comes out? It's worth somebody writing their dissertation about.

If any of these people really want to be inspired, they need to move out of the dissipated wasteland of L.A. and go live in the woods of anywhere for awhile, doing nothing but reading and fishing. It's amazing what your brain will come up with when you have no pre-packaged inane entertainment to anesthisize it.