Friday, 6 July 2007

Auto-next for YouTube

After seeing the auto-countdown 'Right' and 'Left' arrows that appear when a video ends in YouTube the following occured to me:

Wouldn't it be neat if YouTube could track what kind of videos you watch, compare your selections with its own list of popular videos and select the next video on its own? Each video could have a 'Skip' and a 'I like this' button appear in the controls, just like the one currently appearing in the player.

You'd still have control over what gets played. When a video ends, you could select from the options provided, just like you do now. The new bit would be a timer. When the timer expires the most popular video from those presented gets loaded automatically. That could even be applied in the AppleTV's and the iPhone's version of YouTube as well.

The algorithm behind something like that is simple as shown by other 'behaviour-tracking' services like, Pandora radio and Reddit. If you are not logged in you can skip the 'tracking' part altogether and just auto-load the next most popular video in line.

A point against this could be that contrary to and Pandora's case, watching videos is not a background task like listening to music (Wasn't something similar said as an 'evidence' on why there was no point behind the iPod's ability to play videos? :-) ). I think this does not hold true. From my own and my friends' experiences, YouTube can be addictive. Like a Greek ad for chips said, 'It's impossible to have only one'. Why not try to automate the selection then?

I think that an automation like that would be usefull, specifically in 'dedicated' YouTube applications like the AppleTV and the iPhone. You'd log in, manually select the first video you want to watch and then let it play on its own. Imagine this scenario with the AppleTV, it's almost like watching your own, personal TV program for free.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Pixar Drama?

Pixar's latest movie, Ratatouille was released last week. I haven't seen the movie yet but I am planning to go and see it as soon as possible. Based on the previous Pixar movies I have seen I know what to expect on the scenario. I'm guessing it will be a mixture of a kids' fairy tale interwoven with a more serious theme. It's been like that since their first feature movie, Toy Story. Their movies have been the kind that both kids and their parents can enjoy equally.

Up to now Pixar's stories have been strictly in the fairy tale realm. This provides a big advantage for the stylistic and the technological requirements of a movie. What do toys, bugs, fish and cars have in common? They are not humans and this gives you the freedom to depict them as you want. The notable exception are of course The Incredibles. This is a movie focused around (super) humans. Yet the style of the movie is focused in a more caricature depiction of the human form. It does not try very much to depict humans as realistic as possible.

I think there is a pattern in the character figures in Pixar's movies. Starting with Toy Story the characters do not have to look very much human like. They are toys after all. With each movie iteration though the focus shifts to the human figure although not always directly. Toy Story led to A Bug's Life which featured more human like figures. Then came Monster's Inc. which focused even more on the human form. It might not seem like it but "Sulley" Sullivan had a clearly human form and especially a human face.

Finding Nemo featured fish of course. What can be less human-like than a fish? And yet, those fish were even more human like. Because fish do not have any useful body parts to convey feelings the animators had to focus mainly of the face of each figure to paint the expressions of each character. This is even more clear in Cars. Here the characters are practically just a face on wheels. Everything had to be shown through the facial expression of the character.

That leads us to the latest movie, Ratatouille. This is the second movie after The Incredibles that features humans as main characters. From the trailers I've seen though it seems like the human figures in Ratatouille are much more "human" than those found in The Incredibles.

This (personally perceived) shift of focus towards the human form led me to the following thought: How long till Pixar produces an animated film that is not a fairy tale? If not by Pixar by someone else but the question is the same, how long until an "adult" movie comes out that is completely animated? We've seen that it's possible to convey serious thoughts through an animated film. Is it possible to have an animated "Philadelphia"? Or an animated "The Lifes of Others"? How about an animated "American History X" or any other "serious" and "adult" movie?