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panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Martin French

Arts Council England has announced the first of its seminars for "Building Digital Capacity". This particular gathering will take place in London, of course, on May 23.

To save you the bother of going and listening to people yap for 3 hours and 30 minutes, the total length of time this seminar lasts, we, here in TheLab™, explain everything they will probably tell you and why you probably don't need to hear it.

The big push is something called IPTV an unassuming little acronym that means internet protocol television or to put it another way, video delivered to a television screen using internet like technology.

If you have have ever stayed in a hotel then the chances are you have used IPTV. It's what they use to sell you pay per view porn. It's nothing more than video delivered via a clunky graphic interface from computer servers stored in the hotel.

Now imagine this; You buy a new TV set but instead of plugging it into an aerial or a cable box (from Sky for example) you just connect it to your home internet connection. When you turn the set on, instead of being presented with a television channel you get the image below (a concept image from Samsung). Instead of using your TV like....... a TV you use it like a phone or a tablet, or a desktop computer.

To watch a program you open an application from a particular provider, like Netflix or the BBC iPlayer, and watch your chosen program through the television via those applications that are in turn connected to the internet. Hey presto, so far, who cares?

As well as paid for providers, like Netflix or Sky Television, you also get applications allowing you to watch public video sites like YouTube or Vimeo. These types of applications basically provide a TV orientated user interface to let you watch content from those sites.

The applications or "channels" you are able to watch very much depend on the TV manufacturers. If they don't have a Vimeo app then you can't watch Vimeo content. If all your content is on Vimeo then too bad.

What's in it for you?

The simple answer to that question is, not much! From the point of view of a mid-scale dance company or theatre company for that matter all of this is irrelevant. Most of the content on these internet enabled TV's is still controlled by television companies. If you want your content on a Sky Arts application or channel then that's up to Sky Arts to make it happen.

Content on public video sites like Vimeo or YouTube suffers from the same issues as all the content you might currently have online. The fundamental issues of being discovered and getting watched.

From a popularity point of view that very much depends on the number of people who actually buy these types of TV sets or a set top box equivalent (like Apple TV or Boxee). No accurate numbers are currently available for the UK.

There also doesn't appear to be anything on the agenda about how you actually create compelling content that people might find useful or actually want to watch or who is going to pay for that material to get made.

Apps

Next on the agenda are "apps". The apps (applications) they are referring to in the publicity materials are small software programs that run on either, so called, smart cell phones, tablets (iPad, Blackberry Playbook, Samsung Galaxy et-al) or the aforementioned TVs.

They usually serve a very specific purpose such as locating restaurants, making photos look like polaroids, or some other task that was hitherto impossible sans a small battery powered walkie talkie.

Ironically at the time of writing Apple's iTunes store, the most high profile hawkers of these things, is currently working intermittently so we couldn't conduct a comprehensive search for theatre/arts based applications.

The one application we are aware of that was released by a prominent theater is the Sadler's Wells video application (SW Screen). Essentially all the "app" does is hook into the videos that are available via the Sadler's Wells website. Currently, more than a month after release, there are still only 22 videos available. That fact alone makes a complete mockery of the apps "search" facility and it won't work without an internet connection.

"The Wells" could have achieved the same thing with a free podcast channel and saved themselves the cost of developing this turkey in the first place, but we digress.

Once again cost is the determining factor here. Software applications don't come cheap even if you can come up with a genuinely useful reason to commission the thing in the first place. If you want to sell it for money it better have more utility than can be achieved through simply visiting your own website.

Applications are also not a one cost deal. If the app has any kind of long term use then it will need to be developed, updated and distributed for years.

For the most part, unless you are a large scale organisation, you won't have the money to spend getting these things made and if you do have the money, you should probably spend it on something else.

The People

As for the people presenting all of this trivia to an unwitting populace? Mark Dobson and Andy Hudson will be making the case for IPTV. Apparently they are representatives of something called the "Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues" (NGCV) where they have developed a "beta" test version of an IPTV channel.

All we could find about these guys is a closed Ning platform (think Facebook but on a smaller scale), but no phone numbers, no profiles, no nothing. We couldn't find any information about the channel itself or where it can be accessed. The NGCV is made up of 10 venues based in the North East of England.

The other two are Mark Bamber and Justin Spooner who are listed as BBC Academy Trainers. No information on these two either but the BBC Academy website does gives you lots of help about how to set up a tripod and other mysteries. No, we're not making that up.

Conclusion

If you're looking to get out of the office for a few hours, or even a whole day for non London folk, then we can think of about 200 - 300 more interesting ways to spend your time.

Before arts organisations look at possible distribution platforms for content ACE, the BBC and whomever else is involved in this push for digital expansion needs to seriously discuss the resourcing and creation of the content.

Dance companies and other arts organisations are content creators, distribution platforms are the purview of large tech companies and broadcasters.

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