3rd February 2011

Bring It All Together At SIRT Conference

sirtFrom storyboard to screen, the Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) brings it all together at a conference dedicated to previsualization and virtual production – two innovative processes that are changing the face of film and TV production. The conference will be hosted by SIRT, an initiative of Sheridan College, at its Pinewood Toronto Studios facility. It will look at how digital technology and live on-stage computer graphics are allowing film, television and gaming professionals to become more creative, collaborative and cost effective. Previsualization and Virtual Production: Bringing It All Together takes place February 24 – 25, 2011 and includes panels, presentations and technology demos delivered by industry experts.

Previsualization (also known as previs) is the application of cutting-edge digital technologies, including motion capture, to help plan and create films and other projects. The process allows directors and other key personnel to explore creative ideas, plan technical solutions to production problems, and communicate their vision to the broader production team. Day One of the conference is dedicated to previsualization with expert presentations from Ron Frankel, Founder of Proof Inc. (The Green Hornet, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse); Aaron Weintraub, Visual Effects Supervisor for Mr. X Inc. (Resident Evil: Afterlife, TRON: Legacy, and The Three Musketeers); Brian Pohl, Co-Founder of POV Previs (Star Trek, Star Wars: Episode I and II); and Darren Cranford, President and Director for Keyframe Digital (X-Men, Driven, and Zombieland).

The sexy sister of previsualization – virtual production – is the focus of Day Two with panels and practical demos covering the latest technologies. Virtual production is the process of shooting a movie with real-time computer graphics, either for all-CG movies such as Christmas Carol, or visual effects movies with live action such as Avatar.

Confirmed speakers include: Jason Walter, Virtual Production Team Consultant at Autodesk; Jim Laird, CFO, Bedlam Games; Lui Francisco, Artistic Director, Bedlam Games; Steve Hoban, Founder/Producer, Copperheart Entertainment; and David Footman, Scripted Event Director, Ubisoft Toronto.

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3rd February 2011

Powernoodle Celebrates Launch

powernoodle“Why can’t people have fun at work?” asked Powernoodle Inc. Founder and CEO Deb Krizmanich, as she kicked off Powernoodle`s launch event at the renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival Theatre. People spend fifty to eighty percent of their careers in meetings and most of that time is perceived to be wasted or ineffective. The resulting cost is billions of dollars globally each year.

Powernoodle draws inspiration from online multi-player gaming and social media, to engage people in a proven guided process that moves ideas from brainstorm to action. Long-time Facilitator and Lead Investor for Golden Triangle Angelnet, Frank Erschen described his experience using Powernoodle, “I was gobsmacked by the strength of the validation I experienced when I had a chance to use it in a real situation,” adding “it addresses head on a problem that everyone in every business in every industry experiences too often: inefficient and/or ineffective group problem solving.”

Over one hundred people gathered to celebrate Powernoodle`s launch and the Stratford ecosystem of partners that Powernoodle comes from. “Congratulations to the staff and investors of Powernoodle. Your software innovation is designed to help people to collaborate in a powerful new virtual way, whether next door or around the world,” stated John Wilkinson, MPP, Perth-Wellington. “Powernoodle is an example of local entrepreneurs striving to meet the growing needs of our new digital economy while creating knowledge-based jobs right here at home.”

Stratford Mayor, Dan Mathieson plans to employ Powernoodle as a virtual Town Hall meeting format, saying: “We are excited to use Powernoodle in our city, as a way to encourage candid and honest feedback from our citizens.”

Tony award nominated Stratford actor Scott Wentworth was Master of Ceremonies for the vibrant affair. Confucius, Caesar, Cleopatra, Joan of Ark and Queen Elizabeth circulated among the crowd, touting their missed Powernoodle moments and posing for photos with the guests, reflecting the product`s use of brilliant historical avatars to inspire people to choose a positive leadership style and to offer anonymous participation for more candid feedback. Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of the Canadian Digital Media Network (Canada 3.0) commented: “The launch of Powernoodle is yet another example of Stratford’s growing leadership in the digital world.”

Unique for using gaming principles, reward & recognition and a proven guided process, Powernoodle is for leaders interested in hearing their people’s great ideas, who want and need the views of the people around them to make better decisions. It’s for leaders who appreciate teamwork. Tobi Day-Hamilton, Director Advancement for the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus noted, “I look forward to seeing Powernoodle fill a sweet spot with the combination of technology and creativity to foster collaboration.”

Digital media elites and the entire room of government, business, tech and education partners participated in a demonstration of Powernoodle, to answer the question: What will make the virtual office go mainstream in 2011?

The Powernoodle meeting took less than an hour. As they brainstormed, ideas were captured on virtual sticky notes, arrows were launched onscreen to vote for their favourites, piles of gold were allocated to prioritize them and the best ideas were then captured in an action plan. The group chose and created an Action Plan based on three top ideas: 1-user friendly software, 2-a younger workforce accustomed to using collaboration tools and 3- the rising cost of travel.

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3rd February 2011

New And Noteworthy

Relic EntertainmentCongratulations to the team at Relic Entertainment for cracking the Top Ten of 2010 sales list on Steam with almost $11 million dollars US with Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising, published by THQ, who yesterday announced that they have put the brakes on releasing Company of Heroes Online, citing a “reevaluation of its strategy of adapting certain Western content for free-to-play online games in Asian markets.”Hothead Games

There’s a new installment of the Dr. Mike tutorial video series about dealing with Swarmites. Watch closely and listen carefully as Dr. Mike teaches you how to score with a Swarmite in this upcoming action platformer from Hothead Games.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

For those unfamiliar with the game’s premise, you will take control of 50 utterly fearless Swarmites and drive them through an intense, entertaining and often suicidal battle of survival. Run, bash, huddle, boost, stack, jump, push and throw your way through gauntlets of death and destruction in an attempt to collect valuable DNA and ensure that at least one Swarmite survives.Garage Inc

Transgaming Studios has announced that the first update to the recently launched Garage Inc. is now live on the iPhone app store. This update includes Game Centre integration, Achievements and the ability to replay any completed day via a handy calendar. A second update is already in progress, which will include an Endless Day mode, which has been the most requested feature by both the press and gamers. The planned timeframe for the release of the second update is within the next 30 days.

psychicparrot gamesPsychic Parrot Games has released a new title on Kongregate. Built with Unity, MudFire is a 4×4 racing game that you can control with either your keyboard or USB Xbox gamepad. The game features options for setting the graphics and audio to your liking (or your computer’s specs) and starts you off in the 4×4 mudfireWander vehicle. Once you get into the winner’s circle, you can unlock the 4×4 Wander Paws, 4×4 Fire, the green Team Parrot 4×4, the Pink 4×4, Red Leader 4×4 and the Super Pickup 4×4. Recent improvements to MudFire include better in-vehicle cams and better vehicle handling.

Speaking of Unity, the Unity team has announced the continued Unityexpansion of its Asset Store. Announced at Unite 2010, the Unity Asset Store is a digital marketplace where developers can share and sell assets to each other to accelerate their workflows. It’s immediately accessible in the Unity editor under the Window > Asset Store menu so assets are at developers’ fingertips when they most need them.

Over the last two months, the Unity Asset Store catalogue has grown to more than 200 new items including a variety of assets such as free tutorials, open-source libraries, art packs and advanced script libraries. The majority of these assets have been produced by the Unity development community – who individually are bringing in revenues of thousands of dollars each month monetizing their assets. January’s top seller brought in more than $4,000. Top selling assets include:

· Unisky by Six Times Nothing
· GUIKit001 by Blackish
· EZ GUI by AB Software
· Sprite Manager by AB Software
· Shader Fusion by Kurt Loeffler

The Unity Asset Store features free assets that range from sophisticated terrain road and river tools to complete packages with learning materials. A popular release, C# Game Examples by Mark Hergaarden, includes five simple, but essential game examples to learn from and modify. Developers can spend hours programming obstacles to animate, swing, thump, follow paths and generally move around or accomplish the same thing in a matter of minutes with one of the top-downloaded free items, iTween, which brings intuitive and easy-to-use tweening animation to Unity.

“We’re getting great feedback from developers and it’s exciting to see content creators monetizing their assets and making thousands of dollars every month,” said Caitlyn Meeks, Asset Store Content Manager. “Our Asset Store user base has grown to more than 10,000 users in less than three months, and it’s quickly becoming the #1 marketplace of choice for Unity developers.”

Meeks continued, “An exciting growth area of the Asset Store can be found in the Editor Extensions category. The Unity editor is surprisingly extensible with editor classes so that the actual development environment itself can be customised to a degree that one would think only possible with source-level modification, including vehicle wizards, procedural sky systems, UI toolbars and added functionality to the workspace.”

Absolute SoftwareAbsolute® Software Corporation has launched a closed beta of Computrace® Mobile for the Android platform. This new solution will deliver asset administration, data protection and geolocation tracking for the popular Android line of devices, which generally includes tablets and smartphones.

Computrace Mobile for the Android platform will deliver:

* Reduced operational costs associated with managing mobile devices by leveraging the Computrace platform’s integrated Customer Center reporting for hardware, software and user information.
* An additional layer of data protection and increased compliance with government data breach laws through remote Data Delete capabilities.
* The ability to geolocate a device and display it on an internet map including current and historical locations (only performed with the prior consent of the device owner on corporate liable devices).

During the beta testing period, some of Absolute’s current commercial customers have privileged, pre-release access to Computrace Mobile for Android at no additional cost. Interested journalists and product reviewers may also request a demonstration of the solution prior to its general availability.

Computrace Mobile is supported on the following platforms: Windows Mobile® 5, 6, 6.1, 6.2, and 6.5 handheld devices; Symbian – S60 Third Edition and later releases; and BlackBerry® Mobile Versions 4.5 and later. Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management allows organizations to manage the Apple® iOS devices (iPad™, iPhone®, iPod touch®) in their deployment.

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3rd February 2011

Creative Coalition Presents Joint Statement On Bill C-32

CanadaAs a special committee of MPs scrutinizes the government’s proposed reforms to copyright law (Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act), a broad coalition of groups and associations collectively representing hundreds of thousands of creative professionals employed in Canada’s arts and culture industries has come together in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Presenting the coalition’s position statement today in Ottawa were Sophie Milman, internationally acclaimed jazz artist; Jean Bouchard, book publisher with Groupe Modulo/Nelson Education; Alan Cumyn, author and chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada; and Nadia Myre, multi-disciplinary visual artist from Quebec and member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg.

Almost 90 groups representing writers, performers, actors, illustrators, musicians, composers, publishers, poets, visual artists, playwrights, songwriters, and producers from across Canada have signed the statement that urges the Government to make changes to Bill C-32. Without these changes, the Bill would overturn the core principles of copyright law that historically have ensured a healthy environment for creators, producers, distributors and consumers of Canadian cultural content. The coalition is part of a $46 billion industry that employs more than 600,000 Canadians and contributes twice as much to the GDP as the forestry industry.

“The whole purpose of copyright is to protect creators and their work,” said Ms. Milman. “Bill C-32 turns that principle on its head by ripping away many of the rights that we have long relied upon, making it that much harder to make a living from our work.”

Citing a long list of troubling new exceptions in the bill, including the expansion of so-called “fair dealing” to cover education, the coalition warns that C-32 will cause serious damage to markets for Canada’s cultural sector and significantly reduce current and future revenues on which creators depend for their income.

“Canadian educational publishers are currently investing money and efforts to develop learning tools that will allow Canadian educators to take advantage of the power of new digital platforms,” said Mr. Bouchard. “If Bill C-32 is enacted as drafted, these investments will be vastly diminished for lack of a foreseeable and stable economic model. Education must be removed from the fair dealing purposes currently proposed by Bill C-32.”

“Bill C-32 also misses an important opportunity to establish the Artist’s Resale Right in Canada,” added Ms. Myre. “Right now, artists only benefit from the first sale of our work, but we all know that the full value of an artwork is often not realized on this first sale. The value of a piece of art can skyrocket over time, but the artist receives none of that profit. The Artist’s Resale Right would fix that inequality.”

“Bill C-32 threatens the collective licensing of rights by undermining the existing, effective system that makes it possible for creators and copyright owners to be paid for the use of their works,” said Mr. Cumyn.

Partial text from the Joint Statement (you can read the full statement on their site)

We believe that the passage of Bill C-32 as it stands will weaken the core principles of copyright law that have historically ensured a healthy environment for creators, producers, distributors and consumers of Canadian cultural content. It will compromise Canada’s competitiveness in the global digital economy, while undermining the economic future of creators of Canadian content. The proposed changes reflect a lack of understanding of the structure of creative industries in today’s rapidly evolving digital economy. Parliament needs to amend the legislation and salvage C-32’s positive provisions. Canada’s hopes for a vibrant and innovative digital economy are only as strong as its protection of intellectual property, the raw material of the knowledge economy, and C-32 as it stands is a step back, rather than a step forward.

Consequences to passing Bill C-32:

The following is a breakdown of consequences that will result if C-32 passes as it stands:

  • User-Generated Content Exception: Canada will become the first country in the world to allow businesses like YouTube the right to use copyright-protected works to earn revenue without any obligation to obtain consent or compensate the creators of the content in return.
  • Education Exceptions: This exception will violate Canada’s international obligations and may form the basis of a trade challenge under the WTO regime. The expansion of fair dealing to include education is an unfair expropriation of revenues payable to creators for copying their works. These new and expanded exceptions will create uncertainty in the marketplace. This will lead to years of litigation as copyright owners and users grapple with the market impact of the new, often broad, exceptions.
  • Private Purposes: Bill C-32 streams revenues away from creators by legalizing copying for private purposes, including format shifting and back-up copies. These exceptions are so broad they could permit unauthorized sharing of content files over networks. The exceptions may significantly reduce the size of the market, undermine existing revenue streams such as the private copying levy and compromise the development of new licensing regimes and business models that provide fair compensation for these additional uses.
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3rd February 2011

For Every Door That Closes

Reminder: Vancouver SIGGRAPH Convergence event TRON – Cult Favourite To Franchise is on February 8th – get your tickets now.

Our condolences to everyone at Frozen North Games, the latest Canadian studio to shut its doors. I have been criticized in the recent past for having a bias and not covering the news of studio lay-offs and closings. Perhaps its my innate desire Frozen North Gamesto try to focus on the positive events in our industry, or it’s the fact that bad news often travels much faster than good and in the midst of the negative, perhaps by accenting the good things going on we can all move past that “gutted” feeling and find more positive aspects on which to direct our focus and ambitions. It doesn’t mean that the recent closing of Propaganda and the lay-offs at other studios such as EA Canada, United Front Games and others don’t touch me, they do, because I have friends employed at those studios, it just means that I would rather find the news about who is hiring or announcing new projects, so that I can pass that information along to those who have been affected by downturns in the industry. If you know who’s hiring or of upcoming events that would be great for introductions and the passing along of career interests, please let me know and I’ll get the information out there. Our audience grows with each passing week, and we’re always getting fresh eyes on the site who just may be looking for that next opportunity.

Microsoft CanadaMicrosoft has updated the Windows Phone 7 Developer Training Kit. According to the Developer blog, this update includes a refresh to almost all the labs along with a bug cleanup and the ability for the labs to run on real phone devices as well as the emulator. Two new labs, Accessing Windows Phone 7 Devices and Multi-touch Game Development XNA Framework, have also been added to the Kit. The Using Push Notification lab has also been updated so that it uses the latest Windows Phone Push Notification Library.

Toronto Screenwriting ConferenceEarly Bird registration is now open for the second annual Toronto Screenwriting Conference, which will take place this coming April 9th and 10th at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto. Professional writers, producers, directors, and executives will benefit from this gathering of the best creative talent, authors and speakers in writing for screen-based media.

The Toronto Screenwriting Conference offers attendees extraordinary key-note sessions with high-profile show-runners and screenwriters along with breakout sessions lead by international screenwriting academics, book authors and industry execs as well as the opportunity to participate in a level of education and skills development unparalleled by any other screenwriting event.

Confirmed speakers thus far include Christopher Vogler, Pen Densham, Sheldon Bull, Dara Marks, Christine Zander and one writer whom I would really like to meet and hear speak, Kevin Shortt, scriptwriter and story designer at Ubisoft Montreal. The Toronto Screenwriting Conference is sponsored by Meridian Artists and the National Screen Institute. Early Bird tickets are priced at $279.00 (+HST) and are available until 5pm EST, February 28th.

CeLEA - ACEeLCanadian eLearning Enterprise Alliance executives Claude Martel Ph.D. (chairman) and Jay Bahlis Ph.D. (director) are co-chairing the Distributed Learning conference track at MODSIM World Canada 2011, being held this June 20th – 22nd in Ottawa.

In the Distributed Learning conference track, the CeLEA will be seeking to present a range of speakers who will describe the training and learning challenges they face, and discuss how they are applying new tools and technologies to meet the challenges in an increasingly digital world. A decade or so ago, computer and web-based learning technologies were limited in their scope and capabilities. Since then we have seen the emergence of social networks and collaboration tools, mobile learning, virtual worlds, Internet television, simulations and games, all enabled by increasingly available bandwidth, computers and mobile devices. Educators and trainers are adopting these solutions to create new, hybrid ways to distribute knowledge, both in the classroom and at a distance.

To that end, the CeLEA directors are seeking proposals for 8 session speakers for the CeLEA track. If you are interested please contact Claude Martel immediately and request the Speaker package. All proposal must be in by February 21st.

This stream will showcase innovative training solutions and blends that have lead to practical, adaptive and innovative learning environments and resolved specific challenges – including:

* E-Learning
* Collaborative learning
* Mobile learning
* Web television
* Serious gaming
* Virtual reality and
* Electronic performance support tools
* Hybrid programs

We urge you to participate, share your expertise and innovative solutions. MODSIM offers a unique opportunity to showcase Canadian innovation in learning technology and network with buyers and colleagues in the educational and training field in North America. MODSIM is also looking for speakers for other tracks, please see the conference web site for more information.

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