If you’re looking for the future of presentation technology, you only need look as far as CSI Miami and its futuristic rainbow-lit headquarters.
That’s where you’ll find image scanners that can query a database of all the left-handed golf gloves in Florida, and bring up a photo and address of each owner. We’ve previously discussed their image sharpening software that can take a grainy security camera image and enlarge it to full HD.
Then there’s the transparent screens that allow you to flick images around with your hand like playing cards, which you can see at the 2′30″ mark here:
Now, you could say that CSI isn’t realistic program. That’s a fair viewpoint when last week’s TV Guide offered this as the plot of CSI NY:
“After a buzzard flying over Manhattan drops a human eyeball into Stella’s coffee, the race is on to find its owner.”
But as it turns out, we’ll all be getting our greasy hands all over our presentation material sooner than we think. Here’s the just-released Light Touch from Light Blue Optics.
It’s “a laser projector that turns any flat surface into an auto-focused and image-adjusted 10-inch touchscreen with WVGA resolution thanks to its laser- (not LED) based pico projection engine dubbed HLP (holographic laser projection) and infrared touch-sensing system.”
Amazing. Obviously its uses go way beyond the tradition presentation-based projector, like in retail:
Stand by for interesting changes to the way presentations work.
And get ready to see ‘please wash your hands before touching our screen‘ signs in conference centres.
Last week was the annual Scene Change Christmas party tour, which was excellent.
As is traditional, Scene Change Hobart held its annual staff barbecue party the day after the client event. It had a special significance this year: a farewell to the Kingston shed-warehouse, headquarters of the glorious Scene Change Revolucion of late 2006.
We’re moving into a very attractive new office in the Hobart CBD, at the rear of the Hotel Grand Chancellor . It’s the place with the white awnings outside, though they’re being removed soon. You can smell the seafood of Constitution Dock from there.
Here’s PK and Rod checking out the night-time ambience.
The only drawback of the new space is that it’s less suited to the Guitar Hero mania that went down in the Kingston warehouse. Last Friday, Rod, Damo, and the rest of the band played their final performance.
Which was NOTHING compared to some kid who’s hooked up his Guitar Hero to 22,000 Christmas lights on his house (technical details here).
For an audiovisual company blog, we don’t run much material about audiovisual technology, because our clients and presenters aren’t really interested in the technical detail of our projectors.
But wait for it, here’s something interesting about screens!
Americhip, a US company that does ’sensory’ marketing tools like those scratch & sniff strips in magazines, has developed a tiny video screen that can sit inside a magazine and play your client’s ads. They’ve just launched it with a campaign for Pepsi. Yes, a working video screen stuck into the pages of an entire run of magazines.
Is there nothing they can’t do now?
It can hold 90 minutes of video. The battery lasts for 65-70 minutes, and it’s rechargeable via a mini USB cable. Check it out here:
“Well Frank, looks like my algorithm’s better than yours.”
We’re sitting here working on some layouts with images the client sent over, and we’re wishing we worked for CSI Miami. Not the people who make the show, but the actual crime investigators themselves.
Is it the magic pistols that nail a crack lord every shot, while their henchmen blaze away with 6000 round-per-minute Gatling guns and only hit one cop at the end of each season?
Is it having workmates who operate in abbatoir-like conditions, up to their armpits in decomposed gore, in immaculate white pants and high heels?
Or is it the way the office is lit up in primary colors of LSD-trip intensity? Though that could explain all the sunglasses indoors.
Nope, none of those. It’s their image-sharpening software. We want a copy of ‘Adobe Crime Scene’, or whatever it’s called, the all-purpose still and video clarity enhancer.
All over the world, designers spend most of their time explaining to clients that an 8k .gif file copied from a web site isn’t going to cut it as a full-screen image.
Nobody believes us, because they’ve all seen Horatio ask the image guy: “What if you apply the sharpening algorithm?” And presto! The pixels shrink down and the bad guy comes into view.
Interestingly, the idea of doing this never seems to occur to image guy until Horatio asks him to. Maybe Horatio has the only software key because they spent too much money on white pants.
You can even turn the photo subject around and see what’s on his back, using the ‘Make it 3D’ button.
We particularly love the little Kraftwerk-style bleeping noise the computer makes as it sharpens: the sound of processors working up a sweat.
Adobe Crime Scene would save us a fortune. We could shoot events and ads on cheap security cameras, recorded on VHS tape, and fix ‘em up in post. We’ll let you know when it comes on the market, until then it’s boring old broadcast cameras for your event.
Which makes me sound like some kind of moody, tortured Christian Bale Batman character, and nothing could be further from the truth.
No, I’m literally in the darkness, sitting at the back of a conference, listening to a long presentation. The presenter is doing a pretty good job, but I’m ready for a nice afternoon nap.
That’s quite an achievement on a standard stackable chair. Long-haul airlines don’t need bigger, flatter seats. They just need to take the lights down and put a monotone presenter in the front of the cabin. Here’s one they could use:
Why Do They Turn The Lights Down?
In the olden days, even expensive projectors were Jessica Simpson-dim, which meant room lights at zero and blinding spotlights on the presenter.
And in movies and theatre shows they keep the lights down to focus attention on the stage or screen.
So that’s the ‘professional’ look for presentations, right?
Well, not very often. There are two sorts of corporate presentation: shows, and meetings.
When you’re doing a major product launch, for example, there will be a lot of theatrical elements. Concert-style lighting, professional performers, expensively-shot video, maybe even dancing bears.
So you need darkness to get the best out of your staging. And it’s all over in an hour or so, plus it’s exciting, so there’s little risk of audience slumber.
This is your standard conference-style series of presentations, with regular presenters, using PowerPoint. Plunging the room into darkness and adding a light show isn’t going to add ‘theatrical impact’ to it. It’s just going to put people to sleep after the first hour.
The sleep risk factor is doubled during the difficult, digestion-affected session after lunch, when you might as well be in a cave talking to bears in winter.
Today’s projectors are bright enough to work under most lighting conditions. So keep the lights up. Not up to full brightness, but enough for the presenters to clearly see the audience and get visual feedback from them.
If you’ve got a really large screen, or a room with strong light coming through the windows, rent a brighter projector and keep the lights up.
Don’t let your speech become a bedtime story for grownups.
If you want people to remember what you tell them, vivid phrases stick better than jargon.
Vividness put pictures in their mind. It helps them understand. It helps them remember.
If you were describing the stock market, for instance, you could say “the shares exhibited a modest, temporary recovery after a major fall in value, after which the downward trend continued.”
Or you could say “a classic dead cat bounce“. Shorter, better, longer-lasting.
And “pork barrelling” sounds much better than “unfair distribution of funding to influence voting”.
Speaking of pork, I’m feeling a little sorry for the pork producers of the world at the moment. They have rightly pointed out that you can’t catch any kind of flu from eating pork. You’d have to kiss a live pig, and even then, only in the right spot*.
The pork producers have persuaded the World Health Organization to re-name swine flu. So if it’s OK with you, please refer to it as Influenza A/H1N1 from now on.
As in “Run for your lives! There’s an overturned truckload of sneezing pigs in the front yard! If we don’t get out fast we’ll all get Influenza A/H1N1!”
How many people outside of WHO and the International League of Pork Producers will actually use that term? Or be able to remember it at all? Rounded to the nearest whole number: zero.
‘Swine’ is too good a mental image. And as a communication device, it spreads much faster than the disease itself.
Many complex subjects, products and processes have interesting nicknames that you use around the office. Share them with your audience: it’ll help them bring the subject to life.
Not because I didn’t think this sort of thing went on in fast food outlets.
But it shattered my innocent Australian preconceptions of what North Carolinians were capable of. I’ve met a few of them, and my brother-in-law is one. They are the world champions of good manners and considerate behavior. Aside from these two rogue pizza hillbillies, North Carolinians can be trusted around food preparation.
Except for their scary love of deep-fried Thanksgiving turkeys.
But you didn’t come here for flammable turkey alerts, so let’s consider the swift response of the Dominos Corporation CEO Patrick Doyle.
Good Point 1: Quick Response
They got out there and dealt with it quickly. A lot of large companies go into denial mode until it builds up into a larger disaster than it need have been.
Good Point 2: Choice of Media
Nice work to actually use YouTube, the source of all the trouble, to get the message out there, rather than the usual press release approach. The script was pretty honest and free of the usual lawyer-driven evasion words, giving you a sense of the trouble the scandal has caused for innocent small business operators and their staff. It put a human face on the damage, rather than just a giant corporation that people won’t feel sorry for.
The guy seemed genuine, though obviously not a born performer. But that’s OK, it would have been horrible to see a glossed-up professional presenter deliver the message on Domino’s behalf. You want to see the Big Cheese take personal responsibility.
Not-So-Good Point: No Eye Contact
As with any presentation, getting a single point wrong can really lower its effectiveness. In this case, it’s his just-off-camera gaze. Eye contact is essential for any kind of ‘trust me’ message, whether it’s in person, on the stage, or on camera.
It isn’t even the proper ‘talking to an interviewer off camera’ angle, although that would also have been wrong for this. It has a disorienting, ‘are you looking at me or not?’ sort of feel to it.
He’s obviously reading a script, but that’s no excuse. On-camera teleprompters are simple and affordable, allowing you to look down the lens in convincing newsreader fashion.
Shame to mark it down for that one error, but overall, a positive exercise for Dominos in a difficult situation.
And (let me take a wild stab in the dark here) are you over 30?
There’s a simple, affordable answer. Get a kid on the case.
A kid will sort out all your media issues in about 10 minutes, without the manuals that you lost.
Give a kid your PowerPoint show, and a brief on the sort of pictures and video you want to add, and they’ll put together a near Pixar-grade singin’ dancin’ spectacular.
You’ll need to place a few restraints: all the letters in each word must be the same color, for instance. And an unsupervised kid will inevitably favor the Devil’s Font, Comic Sans.
But they can add a lot of life to a dull show.
Kids are also great for general troubleshooting. Digital technology has progressed faster than the average adult’s ability to cope with it.
The Scene Change technicians meet a lot of presenters who have bought the latest HD video camera, for instance, but don’t know how to actually remove the files from the camera, let alone put together a snappy edited highlights package and author it to Blu-Ray. When the memory card’s full, they buy another card.
They need to get an 11 year-old on the case.
Kids can easily be obtained from your sister-in-law, the neighbors, or borrowed from close friends. Check at home - you may even have some of your own. As a general guide, you can expect the following performance specifications:
Advanced PPT custom animation, amusing Photoshop etching and layering work (grafting your head onto animal bodies etc), simple video edits.
14 Year Old
Advanced video editing, titling, Flash programming, publishing of material across all online media, some 3D animation depending on available resources. Check all finished material for music and image rights infringement.
Obviously, if you’re putting together a product launch or corporate announcement, hire a multi-media production house.
But if your presentations are modest and budgetless, put the multi-media producers of tomorrow on the job. For them, it’s as basic as breathing.
Ian Whitworth believes passionately in the power of live communication, without the buzzwords and bullet points. He works as a creative director and principal of agency A Lizard Drinking. He is also one of the founders of audiovisual company Scene Change. Ian is an ex-professional presenter and long ago, ex-audiovisual technician. For non-presentation stuff, try @ianwhitworth.