T-Author - digital TV not only for programmers
For some time I have worked on, or with, the development of tools to facilitate the authoring of interactive applications for digital TV. It was with great surprise, therefore, that I was invited Rafael to write this post. Today's post is about a tool called T-AUTHOR, being developed by LABCOM - Media Convergence Laboratory UFMA.
To talk about the T-AUTHOR, interviewed Marcio Carneiro dos Santos, coordinator of the project. Follow the conversation with Márcio full.
How do you see the scenery and the adoption of digital TV Ginga today?
Recently I saw a news story on blogs summarizing some papers presented at the INTERCOM 2011 in Recife where it was said that the interactivity with the Ginga "was a dream." Until I got scared of it have come from an academic event, considering that, in theory, scientific work must be based on empirical data protection and find it very difficult that some researcher had access to internal strategic business plans of the major TV networks or data internal broadcasting of major players in Brazil. A thing is what it says in an interview with someone from the University, another is what really goes on behind closed doors. I'm not saying it that broadcasters want the Ginga, but just say that it is so extreme dream too much.
I understand that a technology such as Ginga, falls within a dynamic system that we call the market and this situation will always depend on a large number of factors, including, among them randomly (by less scientific than it seems to those who do not studying dynamical systems or complexes). I believe that all search technology adoption has a time window to achieve minimum numbers of users and, from there, follow the life cycles of products so common in marketing books. This process usually depends not only on the good qualities of technology, many have gone before to prove its value, no other emplacaram and then, in another time window, turned back and fever, tablets for example.
Ginga is undeniable and known qualities, however faces three basic contradictions that have even described in an article due out in the journal Contemporary UERJ. Briefly:
- Being a technology with an innovative potential depends heavily on an approval of a sector that is traditionally conservative broadcasters.
- Their greatest potential and richer applications depend on a connection to the internet, which would lead us to doubt the need for interactive TV applications in scenarios where the internet is available.
- Despite being closely linked to the audiovisual production process so far has been developed and played by programmers, which are more competent (and usually are) not understand communication and end up making applications formally correct but uninteresting.
Given these three problems there is no way to predict. I know that broadcasters have not found anything good enough to bet effectively in Ginga but continue developing and researching, spending time and resources to not stay out of a possible upset. Ginga remains a possibility, it is fact.
The second problem depends, in my opinion, a type of applications for TV that is not yet being developed and it basically has the characteristics of internet and TV, or even with the connection could not be replaced by simple web applications since the no internet (or rather, it is very difficult to have) a precondition of TV, synchronicity of actions between receptors. I call this category today AFA (All Family Aplications) and my work, or any part thereof, now addresses this. In simplified terms AFA applications are based on multiple devices, nonlinear narratives and much of the principles of games allowing a common narrative as a soap opera can have a split, while in another screen, such as a mobile phone or tablet synchronized.
The third contradiction we are also trying to solve here in LABCOM, or at least assist in solution, with T-AUTHOR.
What is the T-AUTHOR?
T-AUTHOR is a builder of interactive applications, it is a meta-application if you will, focused on a very specific audience: content producers NOT PROGRAMMERS, ie, journalists, designers, advertisers, publishers and professionals in Overall communication. T-AUTHOR works like a CMS internet, ie a content manager, in the case of media, precisely because that is what NCL does. If you look at most of the applications available on TVs today, ie on real production systems, not in laboratories, which you will see in simple terms are screens where you navigate whose elements are text, images, basic geometric shapes and of course, the image of the channel. T-AUTHOR then deal with it through the concepts of templates and Slots.
Templates are the organizational structures of these elements, ie, a template is like a blueprint of a house where I define where you'll be the door, the window, the corridor, the walls, etc.. In a template I I place the elements within a 16:9 space, ie, a screen full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. What are these elements? Slots. Slots are the first boxes that receive a specific type of content. Today, T-AUTHOR has 5 slots types: text, image, button, dynamic text (to pull the contents of a file) and feeds (for use when connected). Throughout the project we intend to develop new slots, giving the design is modular, new features, always with the same concept, ie, the user does not see the code needed for that slot do you have to do.
T-AUTHOR is the result of an innovation project chosen by edict with resources FAPEMA and FINEP and involving the private sector, academia and development agencies.
T-AUTHOR will have two types of licensing, an academic, FREE, to educational institutions and public research and PRO version for businesses. The difference between the versions is that the package does not generate academic NCL required for placement in real network. The rest is the same. Next week we will be providing including the form so that public institutions can apply for free licenses for their academic courses and laboratories. It is expected that these versions are available in November this year. By the end of the year we are also hitting with a member of the engineering of EBC, which saw our workshop in SET 2011, a presentation of the solution to public TVs, EBC, TV Câmara, TV Senado. I think if the government is really interested in fostering Ginga can use the T-Author to put interactivity in newsrooms and news production structures of these companies with great simplicity. For applications of interactive educational content eg, T-AUTHOR is the ideal solution.
The T-AUTHOR works with the concept of templates that will define how the content of the application being developed is "behave". How easy is it to create a template, ie, how does the novice user to create a template?
As explained before, a template is a structure where I I place the slots with whom I work. The process is completely intuitive, I drag a slot for the desktop, dimensiono it as you want and then find it necessary to lock it so it does not skirt over the place when I'm dragging stuff. T-AUTHOR comes with several ready-made templates that the user can change and save as new. Note that, for example, if I have a newscast where the application will only allow the main screen is small and I have a menu for news and editorials for a feed given in any application I will have only one or two templates different screens that will generate several different because they have different contents.
When creating the application, the user selects a template to use. In that moment of choice, as the T-AUTHOR passes to the inexperienced user "behavior" that the application will present to use a Template?
T-ACTOR has two screens - and DESIGN EDITOR. We did so not because one guy can not do everything but we think that a structure of normal production, as a TV newsroom, I can have a guy from the art department thinking and building templates with the colors, backgrounds, logo and visual identity the broadcaster and television news and other guy, the editor who will only worry about what will fill the text boxes for example.
The behavior (imagine you're thinking of shipping) is given by the slots buttons where I point to the screen going from it. This is also very intuitive, I click the slot button opens the image of a TV control, I point to the button that will activate the function and it will do specifically.
Obviously we made a very clear choice for simplicity and complex applications will always depend on the hand programmer. However, with T-AUTHOR, even if not to create the final application, I can create and test more with less cost and less specialized people. And I put the main power of creating the application in hand from the guy who knows how to do TV and knows what works. To test the concept, even in TVs with specialized people to do, T-AUTHOR is very useful. Up to convince the diffuser that Ginga is not one thing it's another world, to use, will have to change everything in the station and wait to see the results. The personal TV works primarily with fast and dynamic processes and the idea of having to wait for a programmer to see something scary. With T-AUTHOR, even if you do not want to do the whole process, you experience, creates a testable prototype viewable and quickly sell your idea and win there after the time you need to do. I think it works better that way.
I have noticed that a major difficulty in the creation of editors for applications for digital TV is making users without knowledge of NCL, Lua or Java to understand the concepts behind it, for example the temporal relations between media. As the T-AUTHOR solve this problem?
Again, we do not intend to do all kinds of applications, or work with great complexity. We made this choice consciously because we believe that the Ginga not have much time in that time frame I mentioned. He needs popularization actions. Training workshops programmers are one of the possible important actions being performed. Projects like the new Composer that staff TeleMídia, PUC Rio is developing, with the competence of all time, will surely realize broader situations, only depend on more development time. Projects such as the School of Television Station Digital LAVID UFPB, in which we participate, are also important because they try to solve the issue of joining programmers and content producers to work together, facing the question of the spoken "blackout interactive content." These actions led by these two centers of excellence in the development of the Ginga has to be highlighted and supported. Groups of researchers are of the highest quality that created a national technology with enormous potential and we can not "turn dream" so easily, as some scholars at least rushed. Making predictions is something that is within the work of science, but who does enact the "death" of a certain technology is something that should be done with great responsibility. If by some theorists newspapers, magazines, radio and TV itself does not exist anymore. And things are not quite so. I think the interactivity with the Ginga is the ugly duckling of broadcasters, on the contrary, I think it's by Ginga they may be more likely to face the war of the market that will get worse with the input of other interested companies and Telecoms in seeking the rarest and most difficult item of the contemporary world: people's attention. But that's another story. For now, we the LABCOM - Media Convergence Lab we trying to do our part. The future is for the visionaries.
Yeah there our conversation. Márcio think could make clear what is the T-AUTHOR, as well as its usefulness. For technicians was possible to discuss the authorship of a deeper perspective. For non technical, think it was possible to clearly see the benefits of the tool. If you have further questions feel free to post them here. I'm sure they will be of great assistance.
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