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 Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Page One
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DELF 2005: Bridging the Cultural Divide in Digital Entertainment
(continued from page 2)

AWN’s Dan Sarto (right) receives his souvenir from Cyperport ceo Nicholas Yang at the post event networking dinner for the speakers.

Digital Tools and Digital People
Conference attendees were treated to a number of stunning clips in two panels on “Content Evolution” and “Content Creation.” The first panel, moderated by Russell Flannery of Forbes (Shanghai Bureau), focused on audio and how digital tools have enhanced audio production for games and films. All three speakers, including John Griffin of Dolby Tokyo, Frankie Chung of Hong Kong’s Centro Digital Pictures and Michael Hedges, Academy Award-winner for sound mixing on The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King, touted the creative freedom and incredible flexibility that new digital platforms provide. Audio tools have advanced the art of sound mixing to new levels and clips from Kung Fu Hustle and The Lord of The Rings, showed the depth, intricacy and characterization that can now be achieved. John Griffin noted that one of the challenges for game developers is the expectation to match the quality of audio to that of film production, a goal that Onimusha 3, a console game from Capcom, seemed to achieve quite well. With production deadlines looming Michael Hedges claimed one major technology kept the schedule on track. With recording sessions happening on one continent and sound mixing on another, the speed of the Internet allowed recording session output to be transferred quickly for immediate feedback and integration.

Although digital tools play a large role in streamlining and enhancing previously tedious or lengthy production tasks, it is obvious that their influence is reaching into the creative process. Dan Sarto from AWN observed that digital tools allow for new artistic styles to emerge as evidenced by films like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City. Pascal Herod, founder of Duran Duboi in France, showed a beautiful clip from Enki Bial’s Immortel, which used the “digital backlot” technique to combine live actors in front of a greenscreen with computer-generated (CG) characters. Visual technologies allowed the director to create a moody, illustrative world where characters transform into mythological creatures and gravity and reality are defied throughout. In a similar vein, Frankie Chung stated that the film industry in Hong Kong had established its own culture in visualizing the Kung Fu Hustle movie in a very comical way and digital tools helped them realize the effects. Indeed, the extremely stylized actions of the characters in Kung Fu Hustle have a mythical and cartoony feel that complements the director’s comedic style.

The second panel, moderated by Michael Logan of The South China Morning Post, broached the topic of talent and content as the differentiating success factor. Bill Bishop, ceo of Red Mushroom in China, stated the importance of creative talent. “Good game designers are like movie stars,” he said, and the name of a key creative talent can often have more bearing in the market than the company brand. Certainly, in the digital entertainment world, success comes to those who understand the potential of the medium and can creatively bring it to life. Yet it was also emphasized that successful innovative content had to resonate with consumers, and as digital entertainment offers more opportunities for self-expression and the ability to define and create their individual experience through interactivity and personalization, companies who truly understand what people want and why they want it will make an impact in the industry.

Interactive TV took center stage with (left to right) Robert Chua of The Interactive Channel (TIC), Katz Kiely of Just-B Productions, and Justin Hewelt of Broadband Bananas.

Of Content and Licensing
A holy grail of content creation is to become a licensed property that moves freely between media and merchandising and is adored (and purchased) by consumers regardless of where it lands. Licensed properties were mentioned throughout the conference. Bill Bishop stated that the trend in the game design business is to license an established property, a trend shared by just about every other medium including television, mobile phones and film. John Griffin from Dolby remarked that licensed music is becoming prevalent in game development over in-house compositions, adding that the same licensed audio as in the film version is often used, such as with The Lord of the Rings game.

But crossing the magic threshold from new content to entertainment staple is a difficult task made even more arduous by the entertainment industry’s inclination to simply rehash what has worked well in the past rather than take risks on the new and unproven. Even successful licensed properties don’t always transfer well to other cultural regions or to the global market. Indeed, the cultural distinctions in the kinds of digital entertainment consumed seem remarkably counterintuitive to being able to globalize content. Dan Sarto of AWN pointed to Spirited Away as an example. Although the film fared well in the U.S., it came nowhere near matching its phenomenal success in Japan. Yet other properties like Pokémon and Spider-Man seem impervious to cultural partiality.

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© 2007 AWN, Inc.