Bill Cammack & Peter Fasano (Fast Company Experts)
Tech Drinks II, December 06, 2007
Bill Cammack & Peter Fasano (Fast Company Experts)
Bill Cammack & Peter Fasano (Fast Company Experts)
Tech Drinks II, December 06, 2007
Tomorrow night, (Friday, July 13th, 7pm EST) Cruxy will host a one-of-a-kind event as Suzanne Vega returns to her avatar form for a special virtual listening party in Second Life. Vega will be celebrating the upcoming release of her new album BEAUTY & CRIME, out July 17 on Blue Note. I caught up with Jon Oakes to get the inside story. 🙂
What is Cruxy?
Cruxy is a media platform that allows any digital content creator (mostly emerging filmmakers and musicians) to promote and sell their works. Here’s a simple example: You’ve shot a short film. You put it in Mp4 format and upload it to Cruxy. We create all of the thumbnails, previews and promotional widgets for you. You set a price of $1 for others to buy a download of the film. We handle taking the money from the buyers and delivering cash to you (less a small fee that we charge).
Here’s a real world example of Cruxy in action. Some folks in the Midwest have a company called ShortTrackWorld. They go (in their cool van) to lots of small car races all over the Midwest where regular folks race their super modified race cars aroundâ€¦ you guessed it, short tracks. ShortTrackWorld films the car races and then uses a satellite link to upload the videos from the event to their Cruxy page. They sell the videos of the race event to the drivers and fans and the videos are available just hours after the race. It’s pretty cool in action. You can check out the ShortTrackWorld page on Cruxy here: www.cruxy.com/stw
Recently we’ve been more focused on helping creators get their work into virtual world environments like Second Life. We see that as the next phase and our main focus moving forward.
What is the status of Cruxy as a startup, and who is team?
We are two full timers with a coterie of supporters, contractors, advisors and well-wishers. We are financed by our personal savings accounts, some paying engagements, anxiety and sweat.
Nathan Freitas and myself, Jon Oakes, have been working together for over eight years through three different (successful!) startups. We have built a ton of different technology, products, and solutions for people ranging from the government, to major corporations, and other technology businesses, but are most excited now to be applying our skills and inspiration towards creating new economic and marketing models for creative people, as well as the entertainment industry. Through Cruxy.com, we get to work with true indie talent and give them access to our entire platform. Working with a major artist and label such as Blue Note allows us to customize aspects of our platform, and create unique solutions, which also happen to help pay the bills. Its a good setup, and allows us to see the radical changes that are happening in this business from multiple standpoints.
What’s some of the interesting technology behind Cruxy.com?
As a startup, we need to be smart about how we spend our money so we use Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services for all of our server and data delivery needs. We pay on a variable basis (we did not have to go plunk down $25k for a bunch of servers and commit to a high monthly data service fee). This is really “on demand” computing and it allows us to scale in a pay that is precisely correlated ith our traffic and demandâ€¦ rather than investing everything in infrastructure and hoping to fill up the pipe.
We’ve built a pretty robust system for syndicating media content. We built our syndication system to use the XSPF format which gives us unlimited dynamic playlisting capabilities.
We’ve also built a “virtual world widget” which allows people to distribute their music to their avatar in Second Life. They can then stream their music into their land or venue in Second Life so others can experience their music in a totally new and social way. Rather than just have a bunch of people anonymously visit a web page and listen to your stuff, with the virtual world widgets, you can hang out in your virtual environment in Second Life while a group of people check out and discuss your work.
Besides Second Life, are there other places where creators can syndicate their media?
Cruxy supports a variety of technologies that allow any media upload to our system to be republished and indexed by almost any standards-based service on the web. We’ve got flash widgets, RSS feeds, XSPF feeds, and even some microformats support. We also recently announced our deep integration with FaceBook so creators can get their work out to their FaceBook network more easily. We expect to launch this feature in August.
Looking towards the future, we see the growth of gaming and virtual worlds as online social environments to be a huge opportunity for creative artists to gain exposure and income. We fully intend to extend the Cruxy platform into these types of spaces and economic models.
What’s the story behind tomorrow’s Second Life event with Suzanne Vega?
We have built a virtual lower east side “Ludlow Street” circa 1990 environment to promote Suzanne Vega’s new album “Beauty and Crime”, which is full of songs about various aspects of New York. Suzanne will join us (in avatar form) for a live interview and take questions from her fans. Avatars who attend will also be able to watch video of some of her recent live performances and sample her new album.
Each attendee to the event will receive a Virtual World Widget that allows them to host their own listening parties and share the music with friends in their own land or club within Second Life.
What makes this event with Suzanne Vega different from her first appearance in Second Life?
We used the new Second Life voice beta software for this event. We also built the lower east side environment where avatars can come to hang out, drive taxi cabs, talk on pay phones and spray paint on walls long after the event. This event is about more than just the event… it’s about the environment where people can come whenever they want and sample the album while experiencing the New York that so inspires the album. We’ve got graffiti by Zephyr, the prolific graffiti artist of that era and guitars by Robbie Dingo, the renowwnded Second Life designer, at a LES guitar shop.
One other thing to note is that the MTV virtual lower east side is designed for the 18 to 25 crowd that might not remember New York pre-Guiliani. We wanted to recreate more of the grunge aesthetic that we so enjoyed in our 20’s in NYC.
How big is the market for what you are doing? Breakdancers and indie musicians don’t really make much money, right?
What everyone is realizing is that there is a growing appetite for independently created media content.
Cruxy is also one of those UGC filter sites. The higher end of the UGC market puts their stuff in Cruxy. We don’t get much of the teenage car surfing or flatulence type stuff (nothing against it as aâ€¦ socialâ€¦ expression, but it’s not what Cruxy is about)
Thanks Jon. Good luck with Cruxy and Suzanne Vega’s event tomorrow! 😀
“Graf art building on Virtual Ludlow Street New York”
Photo Credit: Nathan Freitas
Jonathan Oakes founded and managed his first start-up, a systems integration consultancy, at 24 years old. In 1998 Oakes co-founded ThinAirApps, where he served as CEO and Chairman leading the company to a successful acquisition by Palm Inc. in 2001. Oakes spent over two years at Palm, as Senior Director managing corporate and product strategy. Oakes earned a BA in American Studies from Skidmore College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Over the last ten years, Nathan Freitas’ career has spanned the academic, corporate, and non-profit worlds, solving difficult problems through the thoughtful application of technology. His work has been built into Palm handhelds, on display at JavaONE and SIGGRAPH, included in Wikipedia, and covered in media ranging from Boing Boing and Slashdot, to the New York Times and Howard Rheingold’s book “Smart Mobs”. He also plays a mean double bass.
Bill Cammack â€¢ New York City â€¢ Freelance Video Editor â€¢ alum.mit.edu/www/billcammack
So now, for the umpteenth time, I’ve de-constructed my site. :/
I wanted to change the way my videos were served, so the first thing I did was add the vPIP (videos Playing In Place) plugin by Enric Teller. The plan was to have the videos pop up in whatever format was selected (flash, quicktime…).
At some point, I decided to put my videos on Brightcove. I like their ideas of “lineups” and “players” and “syndication”, so I thought I’d check it out. Apparently, they just added mac upload capability, and they use this beta “Brightcove Publishpod”. The first time I used it, I decided to send flv files up, and it just sat there @ 0% and never moved. I stopped the process, and decided to upload mp4s and MOVs. When you do that, you get an encoding layout that you have to fill in to your specifications. The suggested bit rate was 500kbps, so that’s what I used to encode to flash and upload the files… meaning I dropped an mp4 in the Publishpod and let it do its thing. I had noticed a check-box that said “delete flv when finished?”, and I thought that was really RETARDED, because the whole point was to CREATE flv files, not delete them.
What I didn’t know was that the Publishpod works in two sections. The first section, which takes a VEEEEEERY short time, is when they create an el-cheapo flv file ON.YOUR.COMPUTER in the same directory as the mp4 you dragged to the program… and then the second section, where it actually uploads that file to Brightcove. That’s why the progress was stuck @ 0%. There wasn’t anything to be done, because all they had to do was upload the file. When you put an mp4 in, the first 50% blazes by (as they create this flv file on your system), and then the rest of it takes a long time, because of the upload.
So when I looked at these videos, they stuttered the whole way through, because even though it said 500 kbps was recommended, it didn’t LIMIT.THE.FILES to 500 kbps! :/ So the time was spent uploading files that were encoded @ 625 kbps that looked horrible and played even more horribly!
After that, I invested my time in making an On2 VP6 version of my first video. That looked WAAAAAAY better than the encode that the beta Publishpod made, and came in @ 512 kbps instead of 625 kbps. I’m trying an even lower data rate encode right now, because I’m not sure that being over 500 is going to work on Brightcove for lower-end computers or lower-end broadband subscribers.
I like the whole idea of the hierarchy that Brightcove has set up, so I’m going to stick with it and see what happens. In the meantime, I decided to see if there was any difference in putting the same video on Revver.
The Revver sign-up process was a little faster. The Revver upload process was A.WHOLE.LOT.FASTER!!! 😀 Apparently, Revver will accept mp4s of any data rate as long as the file size isn’t over 100 meg. While Brightcove asks for limited bandwith videos, and then doesn’t LIMIT the bandwidth of the videos in their beta publishpod application, Revver takes what you give it and actually encourages you to use the best quality files you can create! 😀 We’ll see how long it takes Revver to get to my video and approve it. There’s no approval period for Brightcove, apparently. I was able to play my videos immediately by placing their code on my site.
Anyway… Today’s been a learning experience with these “revenue-sharing” sites. Not that I actually intend to see any revenue, since I have about 30 viewers for my podcast, but it’ll be interesting to see the differences between how Revver and Brightcove deal with the same videos.
Attended Jason DaSilva’s on-line talk show, “Zoom In… Producing Movies Today” on zoomin.phovi.com. His guest speaker was Karin Hayes, co-director of the film â€œThe Kidnapping Of Ingrid Betancourtâ€.
Karin spoke about getting films produced, funded, publicized, and distributed. She also told us about her current film project, Pip & Zastrow: An American Friendship.
This Sunday @ 7pmEST, Jason DaSilva will be hosting “Zoom In… Producing Movies Today” on zoomin.phovi.com. His guest speaker will be Karin Hayes, co-director of the film â€œThe Kidnapping Of Ingrid Betancourtâ€.
Join in via webcam or telephone conference or text chat via the flash interface.
The Harlem Renaissance 5-Mile Classic Road Race was founded by: Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr., Tuskegee Airman and past President of Bronx Community College; Preston King Jr., CPA, and marathon runner; and Abdul El Amin, runner of two Ultra Marathons and trainer. They convened a committee of runners, coaches, educators, civic & business leaders to create a racing and cultural event for the enrichment of the Harlem community.
The 1990â€™s brought another, major cultural and economic revitalization spurred by the formation of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, New York City housing Development programs and investment by visionary entrepreneurs. Today, The Harlem Renaissance 5-Mile Classic is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to generate college scholarship funds for Harlem youth by celebrating the aspirations of the Renaissance of the past and the joy of revival currently spreading throughout this world-famous community. The race event brings light to the contributions made by Harlem residents in the fields of art, civics, history, literature and the sciences. The hope is to provide participants and spectators alike with a glimpse of Harlem’s energy, diverse architectural structures, great cultural institutions, historic sites, and world renowned churches.
Raising Scholarship Funds for youth of the Harlem Community is the stated Mission of HR5MCO. For this reason, this race event has earned the support of national corporations, as well as local businesses, elected officials and other non-profit organizations.
Your participation as an individual or team entrant is welcomed. Your presence will help create new educational opportunities for the youth of the Harlem community.
Attendees @ the 8th annual The Harlem Renaissance 5-Mile Classic included:
Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr. – Tuskegee Airman, Hero, National Treasure… 😀
Congressman Charles B. Rangel
Ms. Elaine Edmonds – Executive Director, Harlem YMCA
Mr. Danny Mixon – Legendary Pianist, Organist, World Traveler
Mr. Rudy Lawless – Legendary Drummer
Mr. Michael Max Fleming – Legendary Bassist
Mr. Gerald Hayes – Legendary Saxophonist
Dr. Bob Lee – WBLS Radio Personality
Councilman Bill Perkins
Rev. Reginald E. Moore – Salem United Methodist Church, NY