Too epic for words

Image via forbes.com

How I feel about the ‘Game of Thrones’ television series surpassing the novel saga

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 31, 2015

As season five of Game of Thrones commences, show runner David Benioff and D.B. Weiss revealed that the adaptation will indeed surpass the books.

The anticipated sixth part of Song of Ice and Fire saga by George R. R. Martin, Winds of Winter, has been one of the most anticipated novels of our generation. The reason is because many who enjoyed the books two decades ago were able to relive the journey of war, love, and betrayal through the HBO series. Many more discovered the books through the show and have spent off-seasons catching up on their reading, comparing it with the on-screen version. However, it appears as though the television show will have its finale before the last novel is published. This is ultimately going to leave many book lovers like me forlorn.

I’m a big believer in reading the books first and then watching the adapted version. There is an intimacy to reading that cannot be translated on screen. True, many movies and television shows have done terrific jobs giving life to words. Game of Thrones is definitely one of them and I have little doubt that the ending will surely be epic. Needless to say, I wanted to read the grand conclusion first, soak it in, indulge in the details, and feel the pages transfer from my right hand to the left as characters perish. Of course, I can stop watching the show, hold off, and wait patiently for the books. But knowing Martin’s process, I could wait a lifetime.

As a viewer, I have always separated the novels from the show. Many of the details get lost in the recollection, but the framework is what matters. When the show concludes and all those who are reading the novels see the winners of the game of thrones, will they return to the books and finish it? Will the ending be significantly different? I believe those are now the questions for viewers going into the next season. For a while, those who had caught up on the novels have been keeping their lips shut, limiting their chances of spoiling the story; but now, every viewer will be on the same page. For a story of such magnitude, I think that is fitting.

I like the idea of a series of books having a longer lifespan than a television show. To me it proves how challenging it is to write, edit, and publish a novel. Martin’s tale of Westeros is a feat that will go down in storytelling history. There will come a day when the show ends and the last novel in the seven-part series, A Dream of Spring, is available in stores. On that day, all the true fanatics will relive the experience again through the written words. When the show ends, the story will continue.

Don’t tease me

Opinions_trailersWhy I prefer to not see trailers, previews, or teasers

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 9, 2014

First things first: I understand that movie trailers and television previews are marketing tools, used to create hype, excitement, and anticipation. They’re a hook to get viewers like yourself to engage with the entertainment, to let it into your home, and allow it to consume anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours of your life. Movie trailers are essential to the industry, but I don’t care for them.

How many times have I been suckered into watching a movie strictly based on the appeal of the movie trailer? I’m looking at you, Cloverfield,and every Superman movie ever. You got me! And how many times have I disregarded a movie based on its uneventful, lacklustre trailer—or one that essentially gave away the whole story.

But how will I know what the story is if I don’t watch the trailer or see the preview? My answer: a movie or television show should unravel as you watch it—you don’t need snippets here and there to propel the plot forward. The plot can do that all by itself. If you are engaged in a show, say, The Walking Dead, I don’t need to know which characters’ lives are jeopardized in the next episode. I can naturally assume that they are all in danger. The same way I would not want someone telling me the ending to a book, I don’t need someone highlighting aspects of the movie for me before I even grab the popcorn.

I get it. Your time is valuable and you want to be in control of your entertainment. Fine. But know this: some of the best movie/television experiences of my life began with absolute unfamiliarity—no hype involved, just brilliant storytelling. Trailers are misleading. They sell celebrities, special effects, and dramatic performances, but they don’t prove the worth of the movie, the same way a commercial does not prove the worth of a product.

For comedies, trailers ruin the jokes. For romance, trailers cram the key relationship into two minutes. For action flicks, trailers showcase spurts of explosions, car chases, and fight scenes that only someone with severe attention deficit disorder would find alluring. For dramas, trailers present a potential Oscar nominee crying out of context over a soft melancholy soundtrack. Gee, I wonder what to expect. Commonly the trailers tell you how to feel before you even buy the ticket. And I believe it’s that no-surprise marketing philosophy that is hindering the movie experience.

The fewer trailers you see, the less likely your perception will be altered when you watch the movie or show. You’ll be surprised to see a familiar actor appear on the screen. You’ll be surprised by the plot twists as the story unfolds before you. You wouldn’t want a magician describing the result of their magic trick before it’s performed, right? So don’t be angry because the theatre experience lacks the movie magic you expected. It might be impossible to avoid trailers altogether, but don’t get too hyped or disenchanted by them.

The boob tube

 Opinions_Boob-Tube

Television’s bait and switch tactics are working too well

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 19, 2014

Any good salesperson knows that in order to sell a product, they first need to catch the consumer’s attention. Television, for lack of a better word, is a marketplace and you’re the customer who’s passing through. Since you’re just passing through, or channel surfing if I may, you don’t have time to linger and enjoy six seasons of anything, let alone one with multiple character arcs and complicated plot twists. Solution: nudity!

Sex sells. It’s not just a phrase used in advertising, but a legitimate formula for commercial success. But by applying this tactic repeatedly, like so many independent broadcasting networks and entertainment providers are choosing to do, the content itself turns into one of two things: pornography or satire.

Don’t get me wrong, I love nudity. I can appreciate a well-photographed love scene and smut on different levels. But I also believe there is a time and place for it. The audience should be able to control their own intake of controversial images. Once I’m hooked to the storyline, there is no reason to overindulge me with unrelated nude scenes. I care more about the progression of the storyline, the plot, and the characters’ expositions, than some attractive female lusciously draped over the screen—at least for now.

No, I’m not a prude or immature, but we all have a perv-side to us—that’s why sex sells. We have all experienced sitting down as a collective to enjoy a show with explicit nudity peppered throughout. When nipples appear on the screen, a few things could happen: either the room hushes up with slight discomfort, or someone will break the silence with a blatant statement addressing said nipples, and laughter might or might not ensue. Regardless, that little pulse of misplaced horniness is harmful to the storytelling.

Sure, it might be the artistic direction to include sensible nude scenes; there are many reasonable situations to showcase boobs, etc. But it’s clear that certain producers, with the intention of getting the largest viewing audience possible, are jeopardizing the artistic craft of filmmaking by pumping more nudity into the shows, thus turning an adult drama into soft-core porn.

Naked women should not be used as props to engage an audience. They should not be strategically placed in the background, while main characters discuss betrayal. They should not appear randomly to seduce the leading man only to disappear, never to be seen again. They should not be used to arouse or tease an audience without justified reasons. Am I angry that sometimes they are? No, not that angry, but when I see some of my favourite shows subjected to these low level bait-and-switch tactics to garner more viewers, I feel ashamed to like the show—and I know that true fans are not watching to see Lena Dunham naked or the next Westeros femme fatale.

We love the stories, we love the characters, and we love the fact that the show isn’t some homogenized Canadian show about life in the Prairies. Television producers should understand that by using nudity as a lure for viewers, they are only misguiding people, offering them something that is unsustainable on television and that there is already so much of on the Internet.

How the Sacred Movie-watching Experience Survived the First Round of Extinction

When I graduated from film school in 2008, the landscape of the entertainment industry was changing, morphing with the technology and trying to catch up to new innovations.

Young filmmakers, like myself, anticipated the expiration of television and were just starting to accept all that YouTube had to offer. Meanwhile, grand cinematic spectacles were calling attention, i.e. Avatar in 3D. Yes, it seems as though there was going to be a whole spectrum of viewing habits.

But will movie watching experience be as sacred as church? Or was it going to be a secular pastime, one we try to catch up on like talking to an old friend at a party or a novel on our nightstand?

Inspired by the recent Oscars, I give you the five nominated movie-watching experiences as voted by me—nope, not movies, but movie watching experiences.

NETFLIX

For a while Canadians were reluctant to subscribe to Netflix, mostly out of envy—subscribers from the States were getting more than three times the content—but the on-demand-movie-and-television service suggested that if more people join Netflix, the more content it can generate, both by hammering out legalities through traditional licensing models and by producing their own shows.

House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Arrested Development won many viewers over, and once they got hooked to the binge watching lure of Netflix—it’s not so easy to quit.

TORRENT/STREAMING

The pirated movie and television distribution market is competitive market, albeit an illegal and risky market. With memories of Megaupload still fresh in many downloaders and streamers’ mind, this well-known paradigm is still one that most are treading lightly on.

While many consider this method to be a hassle, others consider it the most reasonable. Viewers are paying by sending traffic to the hosting sites, dealing with pop-up ads and the occasional glitches in download and streams. “Just let it buffer!”

The “no honour among thieves” mentality lives on in this movie watching experience that have existed since the dawn of the digital era. As long as the leaches and seeders continue feeding off of each other, this category will not disappear anytime soon to the chagrin of the big media companies.

APPLE TV and WEB-ENABLED TELEVISION

Bridging the gap from your phone and computer to the television—this relatively new all-in-one model is bringing viewers back to the couch. At least that was the plan.

Unfortunately I don’t know many people who use Apple TV, or even consider getting it. The living room battleground is a tough one to win, even for a trusted brand like Apple. After all, just look at all the different boxes and consoles you have under the television. Needless to say, there is still a lot of convincing needed to prove that cable is obsolete and that the video game consoles won’t suffice. But I think that is just a matter of time.

REDBOX

Since the closure of many video rental stores, Redbox have been the alternative. Standing tall, proud and unobtrusively at a grocery store, the video vending machine offers hot new DVD releases the same way ol’ Blockbuster used to. Comforting to many and laughable to some, Redbox fulfills a service that is still in demand.

As a result of having a secret Santa that no longer cared for the physical medium, I received an arm full of DVDs and BluRay last Christmas. I still relish the nostalgia of DVDs. Seems like just yesterday my family was arguing whether to buy a HD DVD player or a BluRay player, I’m still not sure if we made the right decision. Unlike VHS, DVDs have a bit more to offer in terms of bonus features. And they are compatible enough to remain an impulse buy. But being compared to VHS is never a good thing.

MOBILE

We watch movies everywhere: in bed, at work, on the bus, at a coffee shop, on the john and even in the movie theatre waiting for the movie to start. Personally, I can’t watch a three-hour movie the same way I check my Tweets. But content on the go is what the public wants.

Last year’s study by Motorola Mobility’s Fourth Annual Media Engagement Barometer showed that 55% of smartphone or tablet owners have downloaded and stored movies and TV shows onto their devices. There is so much content in the world that if we were to spend every living moment watching something new, we would not do anything else. Mobile devices are fostering that challenge and allowing people to consume on the go, in addition to hoarding content.

As much as filmmakers want to get people into the theatre, they must also consider the other audiences, and choose to whether nurture the new platforms or not. We’ve come a long way in five years—who knows where we’ll be in another.

Android Users Can Now Channel Surf with Telus’ New Optik TV Remote App

Formerly published in Techvibes. 

This week, the Optik Smart Remote app developed by Telus became available for Android devices.

Searching for quality television can often be an ordeal. You often leap from one channel to the next without ever settling on anything. You mash the buttons on your remote, scrolling down the guide hoping that something of quality would appear—maybe it does or maybe it doesn’t, but either way what was supposed to be a relaxing evening on the couch becomes a stressful, indecisive night.

Telus Opitk Smart Remote app will replace the traditional guide on the TV. Instead of using the remote control that came with the television or the digital box, you can simply swipe your Android phone and browse the guide and tap on your desired channel to watch your show.

Optik Smart Remote app allows you to track your favourite shows and see what is the most popular. You will also be able to navigate through the interactive program guide on your device, search IMDB, Wikipedia and Youtube without interruption.

SEE ALSO: Telus Brings TED Talks to Optik TV

“With Optik Smart Remote, it’s quick and easy to find the best thing to watch—and it’s now available for both Apple and Android devices,” said David Fuller, Telus’ chief marketing officer. “Our goal is to continue providing our Optik TV customers with a richer TV experience. Optik Smart Remote takes that experience to the next level. A tap or swipe of the fingers on your smartphone or tablet lets you control your TV without interrupting or missing a moment of your favourite program, plus you can easily set and manage your recordings at home or on the go, meaning you won’t miss out on any of your favourite shows even if you’re away from home.”

The free app is now available for Apple and Android devices and contains multiple enhancements, including new channel scroll bar, PVR recording enhancement that gives users the capability to filter and sort shows by dates, series or titles.

Currently Telus Optik TV offers over 620 channels, including 160 HD channels.

Canadians Surprisingly Satisfied with Their Phone and Internet Service, Study Suggests

J.D. Power Recently released their 2013 Canadian Television Provider Customer Satisfaction Study and the 2013 Canadian Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Study. According to the findings, customers who bundle their television, Internet and telephone services with the same telecom provider have the highest percent of satisfaction.

The study for television providers used six factors to measure customers’ overall satisfaction, those were cost of service, programming, communication, customer service and billing. The study for Internet providers used five, performance and reliability, cost of service, communication, billing and customer service.

The key insight from the study was that 83% of customers bundle their TV and Internet service, while 17% only subscribe to TV with their provider. 59% of customers with a TV and Internet also have telephone service from the same provider, which is referred to as the triple-play package.

Customers who selected the triple-play package pay an average of $165 per month. TV and Internet bundle cost an average of $156, while TV-only subscriptions cost $89.

“Bundling typically provides discounts and has the added convenience of one bill with one provider,” said Adrian Chung, account director at J.D. Power. “These elements are key drivers of higher satisfaction and provide the stickiness that leads to long-term loyalty.”

Triple-play customers tend to have the highest overall satisfaction with 690 on a 1,000-point scale, while TV and Internet bundlers have 678 and TV-only with 658. And 19% of triple-play customers stated that they “definitely will” recommend their providers to others.

Customers who subscribe to premium TV packages are more loyal to the provider. Only 16% indicated they “will likely” switch to another provider in the next year. They are also more “likely” to purchase additional services, while 22% of basic TV subscribers will likely switch in the next 12 months.

The study also shows that 42% of customers view content on their smarphones or tablets, but satisfaction among these customers average at 661, 22 points lower than those who only watch on their television.

“Satisfaction for mobile users suffers because they tend to experience more problems with picture and download speed,” said Chung. “They expect their mobile device to have the same speed and quality as their home TV, and in many cases their expectations are not met.”

When it comes to Internet, speed is the determining factor. The study shows that 15% of Internet users with fibre optic had their expectations exceeded, while only 8% of DSL and cable users have the same response.

Satisfaction is highest for customers with fibre optic Internet service. Customers who choose this service will experience fewer problems, but issues with their connection often lead to a significant decline in satisfaction.

“While customers with fibre optic connections are very pleased with the speed and reliability of their Internet connection, they also have very high expectations,” said Chung.

29% of DSL customers and 31% of cable customers have experienced outage with their Internet connection, where as only 25% of customers with fibre optic have experienced problems with their Internet. But if a problem does arise, fibre optic users’ satisfaction drops 114 points, 15 more than DSL and 13 more than cable.

In the eastern region, Vidéotron ranks highest in both television customer satisfaction with 747 and Internet customer satisfaction with 755. In the western region, SaskTel ranks highest in customer service with 730 points for television customer satisfaction and 705 for Internet customer satisfaction.

More than 10,500 telecommunication customers responded to the study conducted in October 2012 and April 2013.

Distraction or Entertainment? Either Way, Second Screens are Changing the Way We Watch TV

Whether it is because of our shortened attention span or our heightened interest, second screens are becoming a common television viewing habit. Mobile devices are changing the way people watch and interact with TV.

Engaging with a show and other viewers can now be as simple as using a smartphone or a tablet. The latest Nielsen survey shows that 46% of smartphone owners and 43% of tablet owners are choosing to be connected with their devices while watching TV. During the first quarter of 2013 two-thirds of tablet and smartphone owners said they were using the second screens multiple times a week.

But what are viewers really doing on their devices while watching television? Well, everything really. Majority of tablet owners are simply making general web searches and browsing.

But the survey shows that people are also using the second screens for contents that are related to what they are viewing, 13% of tablet and smartphone owners use the device to interact with the show or post about it on social networking sites. About 15% of users admit to watching a show because of something they have read on social media. And 20% of viewers with tablets are shopping on their devices during advertisement on television.

According to the Q1 2013 Cross-Platform Report, smartphone users can spend up to nine hours each month using social media on their phone. Tablet users average around four hours each month.

Multi-screen entertainment is a product that both television producers and digital device marketers are expecting to grow. Whether we are using it out of boredom or curiosity, the fact is that more often than not we are engaging in the second screen experience. And as social networks sites such as Twitter and broadcast companies such as Bell and Shaw develop more avenues for second screen, viewers and device users alike will continue adapting to the changing world of entertainment.