Archive for February, 2011

Joshua Greer, right, is president and co-founder of RealD, a Boulder-based company developing 3D technologies.

It’s the story, stupid.

Forget for a moment, if you will, all of the latest 3D excitement and new media technologies. If there’s one thing nearly every panelist could agree on at Boulder’s 2nd annual Digital Media, or DiMe, Symposium, it’s that those who can still tell the best story ultimately will come out on top.

“Brands (another name for money) seek out the good content,” said former Saturday Night Live writer Andrew Steele, now creative director for the very edgy “Funny or Die” website and HBO series.

Steele was one of five media experts discussing the topic “Digital Distribution and Monetization.” And for every YouTuber, blogger or independent moviemaker searching for answers to that oh-so-elusive monetization question, panelists offered some encouragement.

“You should be making some noise,” said David Slayden, executive director of the Boulder Digital Works learning program at the University of Colorado. Students in the program believe “they can become famous,” he said.

“You are the broadcaster,” said TV and web personality Shira Lazar, co-founder of the Disrupt/Group. As a digital correspondent for, Lazar discovers some of the rising stars on YouTube. New media technology, she added, “enables you to find your audience and your audience to find you.”

Don Hahn, producer with Stone Circle Pictures, shares thoughts with DiMe attendee.

But can you break into the big time of film and TV from smaller cities like Boulder or Austin?

Much still depends on who you know and meet, said Steele, and for independents, the real networking side of the entertainment world continues to be New York, L.A. and Chicago. But everyone now has the “means” to get attention, and very talented people are emerging from the smaller media savvy communities.

“Artists want to collaborate,” Lazar said. “A lot of YouTubers are moving to L.A. just so they can work together.”

At last year’s inaugural DiMe, the talk was all about James Cameron’s new 3D movie “Avatar,” and how 3D would begin to change the movie industry.

At this year’s DiMe, an entire panel was devoted to The Future of 3D, and the talk was still about “Avatar,” but everyone agreed 3D is here to stay, especially as the new 3D high-def TVs are adopted by consumers.

In the St. Julien Hotel hallway, attendees gathered around two 3D TVs set up by RealD, a Boulder-based company in the forefront of developing 3D systems. One one, game players blasted a machine gun as opponents jumped out in 3D; on the other, a 3D demonstration film showed ski jumpers twisting in the air, gold fish swimming around your head and colorful excerpts from the popular opera “Carmen,” the first opera to be staged in a 3D movie. Carmen, screened at the Boulder International Film Festival, opens in theaters on March 6.

The cycle for 3D adoption, panelists said, will be similar to the conversion to high-def TV, with a good three to five years to go. This difference this time, panelists said, is the transition is “on steroids.”

The first 3D cinema advertising is now being released, said Kurt Hall, CEO of National CineMedia, which runs ads on some 17,000 screens across the U.S. And companies like Comcast are learning “on the fly” how to broadcast events like the Master’s and the World Cup in 3D.

Shooting in 3D, with higher costs and challenging camera setups, remains a steep learning curve, experts agreed, and getting enough 3D content will be a challenge. Some 35 3D films are in development for this year.

Oh yes, and there’s the story thing again, too.
“We’re seeing an evolution of story-telling,” said Joshua Greer, president and co-founder of RealD. 3D movies won’t succeed without a good story.

Directors are learning to use 3D to let viewers look inward, moving beyond the effects that just “punch you in the face,” said Don Hain, producer with Stone Circle Pictures with the Disney films “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” in his credits.

Next year’s DiMe is expected to be expanded after receiving a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative program. DiMe organizers, including Project Coordinator Sue Salinger, Kathy Beeck with BIFF and Mary Ann Mahoney of the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau, accepted the check between DiMe panel presentations.

The Digital Media Symposium, or DiMe, returns for its second year in Boulder on Friday, Feb. 18 with a great lineup of national and local panelists weighing in on new digital media. Tickets at $50 are on sale at

DiMe recently received a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative (ABC) grants program, and the funding will help support the expansion of the symposium into a multi-day event with workshops, digital art exhibits and opportunities for collaboration.

The DiMe, which starts at 1 p.m. at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder, takes place during the?Boulder International Film Festival, which runs Feb. 17-20. DiMe is an initiative of BIFF, the Governor’s Office of Creative Industries and the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Two panels will fill the afternoon event covering “Digital Distribution and Monetization” and “The Future of 3D.” A full listing of panel members are on the DiMe site, but panels will include Andrew Steele, a TV and cable writer with “Funny or Die,” and Don Hahn from Stone Circle Pictures, a Los Angeles-based animation and 3D film producer.

DiMe is a great event not only to learn more about new digital media technologies, but following the event you can mingle at a cash bar reception starting at 5 p.m. with local leaders and artists in Boulder’s growing sector of film, broadcasting, gaming, mobile and other entertainment-based digital media.


Construction losses hit Colorado hard

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Like a hammer driving down hard on the nail, the last few years of the recession have taken a serious toll on the state’s economy.

A new report just issued by Gary Horvath and his Broomfield-based company Business and Economic Research at examines the volatility of the construction sector, pointing out that its “peaks are often more exaggerated and the troughs more severe.”

Colorado’s construction businesses, including residential, commercial and non-building (infrastructure such as roads and utilities) now have suffered declines in employment from 2006 to 2009.

And when you realize, as Horvath explains, that even despite the recession’s effects, Colorado has a higher concentration of construction works (called the “location quotient” in economist speak) than other parts of the U.S., then the job losses have hit especially hard.

Colorado construction employment now has declined to 7.2 percent, or about 131,000 jobs in 2009, from 8.9 percent, or 167,647 jobs, in 2006.

Fewer construction jobs, of course, also smacked a number of manufacturing sectors that produce materials for builders and contractors. These include everything from asphalt to paint to HVAC equipment. Colorado actually has five seasons, Horvath reminds us. Winter, spring, summer, fall, and “cone” season.

The headlines of Colorado bank failures often fostered by a heavy reliance on commercial lending prior to the U.S. recession remind us that numerous professional services depend heavily on the health of the construction industry. The list of those losing high-paying jobs goes on with insurers, real estate agents, appraisers and mortgage loan brokers.

The category of financial employment related to construction has lost nearly 8,000 jobs since 2006, Horvath’s figure show.

One anomaly is that the category architects and engineers, “thought to be a leading indicator of economic activity,” Horvath says, actually remained fairly steady from 2006 to 2009, reaching a high of 44,593 jobs in 2008 before flattening out to 41,560 jobs in 2009. The pattern was similar for both interior and industrial design jobs.

Overall, Colorado suffered a net loss of about 105,700 jobs between 2007 and 2009, and construction workers and workers in related sectors accounted for about 56 percent of those losing their jobs with 36,700 jobs lost in construction and 22,200 jobs lost in related sectors. That’s a very hard hit.

So where do we go from here? Can a surge in construction business help save the day?

With a population of 5 million people and population growth forecast at 1.5 to 2 percent, Horvath says, the need is clear for a strong construction sector to support new homes and buildings as the economy begins to grow. Colorado, however, may finally be bringing the percentage of construction industry jobs (again it’s the location quotient) back into line with other states.

That location quotient stat, Horvath says, is down to 1.29 in 2009 from 1.44 in 2001, and may very well need to revert to 1.0 for a healthy balance in the state’s economic outlook.

Different economic forecasts for overall Colorado job expansion this year range from growth of zero to 2 percent or completely flat to 44,000 new hires.

In Horvath’s November forecast, he expected some 15,000 new employees to be added this year, based on real GDP growth of 2.4 percent. Both of those numbers, he now says, “are likely to be revised upward.”

And that’s good news for all of the unemployed waiting for the hiring to begin.

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Jurassicasters at Nissi’s

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