iPads (iPants!)

The Apple Australia site says that iPads will be available in late April May. Well, it’s officially late April. Where’s my iPad!

*Update. iPad orders have been pushed back a month outside of the US. Makes the (potentially) over-priced eBay option look better than ever.*

Funnily enough (that’s a term my mum used to use, i’m not so sure it’s correct grammar “funnily”?) the site also mentions the unbelievable price. What is funny about that statement is that no one has any idea what that unbelievably new price is going to be. No one that can say, anyway.

It’s pretty amazing that there’s such hype in this country about a device that has no fixed release date, very few details about available models, and which nobody knows a thing about the 3G capability, not to mention the fact that all the ruminations about video iChat point to an updated release (no doubt within 6 months).

Still, i’ve got a deposit down and i’m in line for the top of the line model (whatever that happens to be).

sammi.com.au on an ipad

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this device, and i’ve been describing it as “the best computer for your mum”, ever. Of course if your mother is a 30 something technology writer for a National newspaper, that description doesn’t apply. Mine isn’t, and so for my 50 something mother, i think this machine is perfect. Here’s a few points that i’ve had on my mind as a rationale…

  1. It’s pretty simple (and meant to be)
    It does one thing at a time. My mum can only manage about one thing at a time on her macbook pro. But the ability for her to be able to physically do more makes her run into trouble, and get confused watching anyone else use her machine. The lack of multi-tasking (actually there is multitasking in OS4 but it’s not real) is a perfect way for her to be more immersed in what she’s doing, while she’s doing it. Lack of multi-tasking is a feature for my mum.
  2. Touch is intuitive (duh!)
    All you have to do is look at the way that it’s portrayed in walkthrough videos and ads, this device is super simple to use. Everyone has fingers (sorry to the fingerless?) and it’s easy to walk them around a screen and point at things that interest you. Sure there’s gestures and multi-finger functionality but that stuff is mainly optional, and as you get more comfortable with one finger touch, these things will make my mum feel like a power user. The popularity of the iPhone among a very wide demographic has shown that touch is a very natural way to interact.
  3. fancy pad wearing a mexican hat (of course)

  4. It’s a bit fancy
    Although an internet luddite, my mum likes to show off a bit. When i set her up with Skype, she showed all of her friends like she invented it. The newness and flashiness of the iPad will make her want to use it around her friends, this meaning that mum and her buddies are online more. Sharing and surfing and watching and creating with friends of all ages can only mean better, more diverse user bases and more eyeballs
  5. It’s “available at an unbelievable price”
    Who knows what this even means for us (Australians), but if it truly is a great price then i think the usual barrier to entry with Apple products could be close to eradicated. It’s a shame that you’ll need a computer to activate it, but any machine will do the trick, and then sit gathering dust while mum plays with her shiny new toy.
  6. It’s a toaster!
    Well it’s not really a toaster is it, but it should be considered an ‘appliance’. It will sit in the lounge room or the kitchen (the bedroom?) not resigned to a special room for ‘corm-pyu-ting’. This is a good thing, with more digital integration in everyday lives, probably less television-time, and more looking at your son’s Flickr photos.
  7. It makes content more fun
    I can see my parents buying newspaper and magazine subscriptions on their iPad, for sure. Dad will find it more compact to grasp an iPad on the toilet as he reads (or probably watches) the sport pages, mum will get richer media for her hollywood gossip, dad’s golf magus will include interviews (probably in higher res than his crappy SD foxtel) and it should all come down the pipe automatically in a way that is way more fun to consume and share not having a convoluted way to seek it out in the first place will be the key.
  8. My parents might start to understand what my job is
    I’ve always been described as the son that “works with computers”. It’ll be nice for them to be a bit closer to integrating with things that i do for a living. They might just start to get it :)

adobe ideas. visual jazz running man

I love this device even though i’ve not yet touched it i’ve only spent a short time with it (we’ve got one at work doing the rounds), but I really lament the lack of a front facing camera. I think being able to Skype is one of the things that my mum got most excited about when i set her up with her macbook. This, for me, is almost a deal-breaker. I’m sure it will come and iPhones are already being used as remote bluetooth cams, but the more abstracted that gets the less likely my mum is to do it. It’s a shame, but i’m sure we will see it in the next revision from the looks of all the “iChat” references in the 4.0 software.

I’m still waiting, and i’m waiting with baited breath, Mum doesn’t know it yet but i i’ll be swapping her laptop for an iPad when they’re arrive. I think she’s going to love it, i just hope she shares it with dad.

More on the 3D aspect of the Jay Jays Dance Off campaign

3D is so hot right now. Up, Avatar, Alice, Spiderman, Tron, Desktop mag, .net mag, Woman’s day even! YouTube, it looks like every piece of mainstream media is going nuts about 3D and in cinema, it’s a strong bid to get bums on seats again.

At VJ, we’ve been hanging to get in on some of this sweet 3D action, and the high movie-going demographic our new client Jay Jays was a perfect match. We set out to create the newest Jay Jays campaign using 3D videos and stills, online and in store. The plan was to not only have 3D appear in-store windows and in catalogues, but also on the web in an interactive video that would bring 3D into customers’ homes.

dance off screen 3

Mitch, throwing some glasses at the end of the Dance Off video

We printed hundreds of thousands of those old skool red/cyan 3D glasses and distributed them to Jay Jays stores around Australia and NZ. Customers are able to walk in-store and grab a pair of glasses for free, look around the store that is currently decorated with 3D price points and wall features and then take their glasses home to view the Jay Jays Dance Off 3D campaign site.

A time lapse from shoot day.

The 3D video workflow proved a real challenge as we ended up with 2 versions of every clip that we shot, adding a syncing step to each of the 20 videos that were created. In-house, our ActionScript team devised a system that would switch between an anaglyph 3D view and a standard single-image view seamlessly – this was key to the campaign as we didn’t want to alienate users that had not yet picked up their 3D glasses. The system uses side-by-side flash videos that are split, stretched, overlayed and re-coloured as each frame appears to achieve the anaglyph effect. This was done using the bitmaps draw function, and ultimately this means that the video itself is never on the stage, but is rather drawn to the stage after all of the effects are applied. It sounds complex, but we were surprised to find that this still allows the videos to run incredibly smoothly, helped by the fact that as all of this processing is done, the site is designed to do nothing but play the video. All the interaction happens once the snapshot is captured.

dance off screen 2

Xander, frozen in time

Each frame of the video is able to be frozen in time so that users can explore each piece of clothing in each outfit. Every video frame was mirrored as a still that quietly sits on the server until it’s requested. The still images have the same side-by-side affect applied to them based on whether the user has 3D turned on or off in the application. The still images load in on top of their compressed video counterpart to provide additional clarity in each image.

We shot on a custom designed SI2K 3D rig supplied by the good folks at LeMac who have been shooting plenty of 3D content of late. Images from the camera were supplied as RAW files that were flatly graded and compiled into standalone video clips for each shot in After Effects. All of the right eye (correctly orientated) clips were then bought into Final Cut for the edits to commence. Once complete, they were graded, married with their graded left-eye counterparts, and exported as side-by-side quicktimes to be output both as stills sequences and flash videos.

dance off screen 4

A source frame from the end of the video (pre-processing)

The 3D element steps this project up a notch and gives Jay Jays customers, hanging for more, cool 3D content, a way to be satiated online. YouTube’s (relatively) new yt3d:enabled tag provided us a great way to get this content out to even more users, as the clips were posted on the video sharing site in both 3D and 2D. An extended edit of the clip is currently available on YouTube for those wanting just that bit more.

click to view in YouYube (using the YouTube 3D player)

One of the choices we made was to converge the images at the point on the stage that the dancers are usually at, this means that the colours of the clothes remain in tact as much as possible, even if you’re using the 3D version but not wearing the glasses. Users are also able to turn the 3D on and off based on whether they have/want to have the glasses or not but are always encouraged to head in store to pick up a free pair.


Some of the many 3D glasses, available free, in Jay Jays stores

All of the 3D elements that appear in-store were composited in Photoshop from static 2D stills. These work great, but it was fun to use true left/ right images provided but the 3D video rig for the full effect in the video content.

Check out Ty Johnson’s take on directing the shoot and working with the 2D images in a 2D to 3D workflow for print, and also see here for Steve Woolcock’s tips for 3D video processing in Adobe Flash.

You can read more about the Jay Jays dance-off campaign here…

Or go and check it out now here

Jay Jays Dance Off campaign. New from Visual Jazz

The campaign formula has remained similar for apparel company Jay Jays for some time. Traditionally a printed catalogue, perhaps some TV, new price points and store design, some photos of each outfit on the Jay Jays website and some eye-catching window-designs in the many Jay Jays stores across the country. But that’s all changed.

Jay Jays approached Visual Jazz in 2009 with key insights that their customers are consuming less print, watching less TV, and engaging with more fun, social content online. Jay Jays have a great handle on their brand and a solid, loyal relationship with their customer base – they have over 40 thousand Facebook fans and as such, a growing online focus.

dance off screen 1

The (just launched!) Jay Jay’s Dance Off 3D campaign is a first for Jay Jays and it’s focus is online engagement, entertainment and of course showing off the new Jay Jays range. Visual Jazz has worked with the brand to create an immersive and exciting new experience that really needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. It launches alongside an entirely new Jay Jays website filled with customer engagement opportunities and barrels of fun.

Here’s how we went about the Dance-Off online campaign element…

A casting call was put out for dancers with unique skills of differing backgrounds. Two busy days of auditions took place and 9 dancers were chosen. We ended up with the following range of performers…

  • a robot popper
  • a ribbon dancer
  • a jazz dancer
  • a salsa dancer
  • a ballet dancer
  • a freestyling locker
  • a breaker
  • a arcrobat
  • and a ballroom dancer

Jay Jays are a brand with diversity, inclusion and freedom of expression at it’s core. The chosen dancers represent a wide range of styles, backgrounds, age-groups, attitudes and ethnicities.

dance off screen 3

Shooting took place over one grueling day in an amazing warehouse in the Melbourne CBD. Two of the many spaces in the warehouse were decked-out and fully crewed for two distinctly different shoots. One was for stills, with shots to be used in store window displays, on price-points, and other predominantly offline collateral. The other contained a 3D video camera rig to capture the motion that was to be used in the online execution. The dancers came in and out throughout the day and performed brilliantly within both areas on a tight schedule. Costume changes took place after both locations had their fill of sweet moves and they did it all again.

The Jay Jays Dance-Off 3D campaign shows Jay Jays new range of winter street clothes in a fresh light in an interactive and entertaining way. You can mix your own edit of dancers, or sit back and watch the master edit play out. And at all times you are able to pause the action and explore each dancer’s outfit in detail.

Ultimately we had 20 videos to cut for the full campaign. One solo video for each of the 18 outfits was created, and two main edits that appear on the dedicated site and YouTube utilising the new features of the YouTube 3D video player.

All items of clothing were tracked in each frame of every video. Clicking your mouse or pressing space bar while a video is playing brings up a still image allowing users to explore the outfits in detail and save still frames and wallpapers.

dance off screen 2

The 3D component adds a real wow factor to this campaign. Interacting with the videos and watching the dancers presents a really fun experience on it’s own, but I feel like we’ve really stepped it up by having everything in 3D. The process has presented many more challenges than expected and it’s been a real learning experience, but the re-burgeoning nature of this technology was too exciting to leave out. After many headache’s and late nights, Visual Jazz are extremely proud to present Jay Jays Dance Off in 3D.

Head in to your nearest jay jays store to pick up your free 3D glasses and then check out Jay Jays Dance Off 3D at http://jayjays.com.au/danceoff

If you’re interested, please stay tuned for a future post about the 3D process in greater depth..

checking in to foursquare

Another Sunday night is over, and so ends another race to the top of the foursquare leader board. Everyone is getting very competitive in the Visual Jazz offices about their check-ins and points balances in the latest social media craze taking social media boffins by storm.


FourSquare in a nutshell, by foursquare

foursquare is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things. We aim to build things to not only help you keep up with the places your friends go, but that encourage you to discover new places and challenge you to explore your neighborhood in new ways.

When you tell foursquare where you are, that’s called “checking-in”. You can check-in from parks, bars, museums, restaurants… really anywhere. When you check-in we’ll let your friends know where they can find you and award you points and badges based on your adventurousness.

more here…

It’s a mobile service that allows you to tell everyone where you are, and for you to instantly find out where all your friends are (as long as they’re regularly ‘checking in’). It’s a pretty interesting service that rewards users with points, mayorships for regulars and badges for earning achievements (many of which are quite cryptic). It’s a well thought out system that seems robust, easy to pick up and addictive. Its value for the regular punter is up for negotiation, but (like Twitter) it’s as useful as you and your network make it.

There are a few other similar services on the scene; Gowalla seems to have a very similar featureset with the inclusion of virtual items that you can drop and pick up (it’s also better designed), Google Latitude, Buzz, Twitter and Facebook also have location aware services for mobile devices, but foursquare seems to be picking up the momentum and has the press behind it. I’m sure there’s a whole bunch more out there but it will be hard to catch up now unless Facebook makes a big thrust in this direction.

statsEarning and obsessing
I’ve always loved going to new obscure places, and now I love it even more, knowing that the more obscure a place, the more likely i’ll be the first to add it to the network of foursquare locations to check-in to gaining me an extra 5 + points. Extra points are awarded for adding new places, checking in to places for the first time, and seem to be accumulated faster with a multiplier bonus the more you check in.

Checking in can easily become an obsession, especially when all your friends are doing it and you’re trying out new ways to unlock badges and earn points. Points get reset every Sunday night so you’ve always got a chance to redeem yourself next week if you fall behind. You know you’ve got a problem when you turn up at your mother-in-law’s house and can’t say hello to your greeters until you’ve checked in. It can get a bit socially unacceptable to be on your mobile device every time you walk through a new door, but for those with the addiction it’s commonplace.

specBrands on foursquare
St. Ali coffee shop down the road from VJ is the first brand that I have noticed using foursquare to it’s benefit. Checking in to any location in the South Melbourne area pops up a little green box in the top right hand corner of the foursquare app that says ‘Special Nearby’. Tapping this special icon lets me know of a special available only to foursquare users. Initially St. Ali were offering 6 free beers, one for you and one for 5 of your mates each at their street party a couple of weeks ago, but only upon proving that you are the mayor of St. Ali on foursquare. After the street party was done, they changed the offer to be another foursquare specific task.

At this stage, with foursquare in its infancy, it’s probably just a good way for brands to test the technological savvy of their customer base, but as the service grows I’m sure it will get very creative. Apparently it only happens when checking in to like-minded locations like other cafés – but in practice, I’m not sure that works properly, as checking in to Visual Jazz alerts me to a special at the café down the road. It looks at this stage that the promotions in foursquare are free for brands to set up from a page on the foursquare site, but again I’m pretty sure as it evolves and more brands want to be involved that there will be a cost for this type of ‘advertisement’. Perhaps they will run a google adwords typo system with bidding for locations in your area? I can’t see the system working very well if there are 10 coffee shops in a city block that all have foursquare ‘specials’.

I think this stuff is great and a really fun way for brands to connect and monitor the usage, demographic and tech savviness of their customers. I can, however, see an issue arising when people are checking in to places fraudulently, which brings me to my next point…

spec-detHonesty and location fraud
I’m assuming the foursquare framework works completely on an honour system. I use it regularly and have (shamefully) checked into a place that I was leaving because I forgot to check in while I was there – I did it for the points. But this got me thinking, can I become the mayor of the Eiffel tower having never been to France? Perhaps not, as the system is aware of my general location (even though I can change it) and it wouldn’t suggest The Eiffel Tower as a place for me to legitimately check in to, but I’m pretty sure from my desk at VJ in South Melbourne I could hypothetically become the mayor of a Café down the street (having never stepped foot in the door) and then take advantage of their offer available only to mayors (presumably designed to reward loyal customers). On the flip side, if I was walking into the café for the first time to prove my mayorship and get some freebies, then at least that is getting me in the door. There’s a world of interesting opportunities and scenarios about to be unleashed, I’m sure.

There’s an inherent danger in publicly publishing all of your coming and goings on the internet, and although there are some privacy protections in place, I think it’s fair to say that most people that don’t fully understand the implications or configurations to use friending and privacy settings properly. This is blatantly evident from the furore of the Facebook privacy changes.

please rob me logoEnter Please Rob Me. This site is a bit unfair, but it’s also a good idea in principal, even if it does nothing other than teach people not to be too transparent about their public movements. My house-mate is always home even if I’m not, so don’t even try it.

Wait and see
It’s cool. foursquare is really cool. It’s not for everyone, but for me and a group of my friends it’s really great to be out in the city and know where my friends are, offering places to go to meet up and places to avoid for fear of bad crowds. It’s another platform for brands to leverage in a new and interesting way and it’s clear that foursquare have a framework for this already in place, it will be interesting to see where they take it and who’s brave enough to use it early (and creatively).

Sammi, checking-out.