Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lightwave 10 Is Here!

Some very exciting news came about today for the 3D artist community. After a very, very long wait and many pushed back release dates, Lightwave 10 has finally been released.

The long awaited debut brings 3D software to a whole new level. Many of the new groundbreaking features unique to Lightwave are Viewport Preview Rendering (VPR), the precision of a complete Linear Color Space Workflow, real-time Anaglyph Stereoscopic Preview, and Virtual Studio Tools that deliver real-time virtual walkthroughs. These latest additions will now allow animators to dramatically reduce production time.

Probably the most anticipated out of the slew of upgrades would be the VPR. A long time consuming aspect of modeling and animating in the 3D world is checking to see what the final product would be like creating test render after test render. Depending on the level of detail in your project you could be waiting for one test rendered image to complete in about an hour! Well, wait no more...VPR enables you to see a previewed test render INSTANTLY as you're working without waiting absurd amounts of time. That alone will speed things up tremendously for any 3D artist.

As most people know, the movie Avatar was largely popular for its stereoscopic 3D seen while wearing special glasses in theaters. This upcoming phenomenon is now intuitively integrated into Lightwave 10's user interface for a far more precise manipulation and previsualization of stereoscopic imagery. Just throw on your 3D glasses while working on a project on 3D capable screen, and see your creation with realistic depth and feel.

These are just some of the latest features amongst many in the long awaited release of Newtek's Lightwave3D. Will Newtek lead the way in the 3D industry making its product the number one software package of choice? It has certainly taken a turn for the right direction...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The year of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg was named person of the year. Wow. The facebook empire is getting bigger and bigger everyday. Facebook started off as a way to communicate with college friends now parents are even using it, which is still a little weird. As good as The Social Network film was it does not give this young man the credit he truly deserves. He is not only the youngest billionaire but he created the realm of social networking. Young people have become dependent on facebook, some spending hours on it a day looking through their friend’s pictures, reading the newsfeed or playing around with the 100s of game and downloadable apps offered now. From bumper stickers to Farmville the possibilities are endless for facebook. Businesses are now using it as a means to communicate with others. It seems every site you go on or every building you enter you see “ LIKE US ON FACEBOOK” or “FRIEND ME.” Those words have now become part of our everyday language and the social network craze is becoming bigger everyday.

Zuckerberg, 26, is the creator of this phenomenon that has over 500 million users worldwide. He is also the subject of the movie "The Social Network," which received six Golden Globe nominations. Each day gets better and better for this young man. He is also very generous as he gives a majority of his wealth to charities. No matter how much public attention facebook is getting regarding teachers "friending" students, or the amount of time teens are spending on the social network, or how to maintain your privacy; Zuckerberg has come out with an answer. No matter what people say about the social network site, people are still using it and most are relying on it to communicate with long lost friends, family members and when making new friendships.

Mark Zuckerberg has created something that has become part of the younger generation’s everyday routines. Checking your facebook has become the “it” thing in 2010 and we can only imagine the limits Zuckerberg will test in 2011, but no matter what we will all be signing in and obsessing about the new ways to communicate with friends.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A New Way to Shoot Video

In today's world of technology and increasing domination of social networking communities, video has become the forefront on many business websites, blogs, and of course Facebook. I worked with a professional photographer a few years ago as his assistant and I remember asking him what avenues to take to be a photographer someday. He responded and told me that the photography industry is soon going to be obsolete because many people are going to lean towards video, specifically cameras that can shoot photos and video at the same time. I was shocked at his response because that meant that he would not be in business for much longer. I realized that what he meant was that the industry and technologies are changing, and to be a player on the same field, you have to adapt and change as well.

The new technology in professional photography cameras, DSLR cameras, today is absolutely amazing! For the first time ever really, the photography industry is now apart of the video industry. Cameras like the Canon 7D that are your standard professional photography camera, are now capable of shooting high definition video. This has become a young film makers dream because for the cost of high definition equipment today, you would be paying tens of thousands of dollars, whereas with the 7D, you are only dishing out a couple thousand to get what is arguably the same (if not better) quality video.

I came across this video on YouTube that shows how you can adapt your DSLR to do the things a Panasonic HPX (or other high def camera) can do, and then some... The mobility and ease of use with the DSLR lets you take the camera almost anywhere and in any condition. Video cameras are often heavy and hard to maneuver in small spaces where the shot really counts. The DSLR is about a 1/4 of the size of an HPX and can get into tight spaces to get shots other cameras wouldn't normally be able to.

In the legal video industry, imagine being out at a scene taking photos and then being able to capture high definition video seamlessly on the same media card with the flick of a switch. This is where these new technologies are taking us, and it's giving young filmmakers, and even experienced ones, the opportunity to move the camera and use a different kind of lens system that they never were able to before.

Filmmaker, Leonard Retel Helmrich, talks about how video cameras are designed wrong, and in order to get nice smooth video you have to use steadicam systems, and other accessories, to achieve what you are looking for. He believes that video cameras should be designed and shaped the way photography cameras are because it allows you to hold it more naturally and move in a way that you can't with a standard video camera. I was able to ask him at a workshop one day what he thought about the new DSRL cameras that are going to able to capture high definition video, and he told me that it's about this concept is actually coming to life.

The new wave of DSLR cameras is already changing the industry by allowing young filmmakers to produce high quality video with a camera that is able to capture professional audio, video, and maneuver in ways that experienced filmmakers wish they could years ago.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Accuracy in 3D Legal Graphics

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of creating three dimensional models and animations for the legal industry is that the more accurate the visuals are the more effective the presentation is. Creating a fair and accurate presentation is the only way to enable the visuals to be admissible into evidence for a trial. There is no room for error, unlike a mediation where visual aids are more persuasive and not bound by legal rules. If the presentation is not fair and accurate during a trial when the animator has to testify on the stand, they will be torn apart by the opposing side of the case. This could cause a completely different outcome resulting in a benefit to them instead of your side.

The first stage in the accuracy process is to collect all the photographs and as much data and measurements as possible. Even if this requires going back to the scene of where the incident took place after the majority of the data has been collected from the clients and experts. The more measurements the better, and all of the additional details help.

If all this is done in the very beginning, not only does it help ensure that everything in the digital world matches up with the real world, but it also makes things easier in the building process. Having all this vital information speeds up the production time astronomically because of not having to go back and find bits and pieces of missing data. For instance if you only have the height and depth of an object but not the width, it causes you to not only risk admissibility but also makes the production time much longer than necessary.

When the virtual world is being presented in a trial, and is fair and accurate, it can be extremely helpful to the side it's being used for. The jury can now see multiple angles of an incident they would never have been able to see before with the use of 3D animation. New levels of detail can be noticed in close up camera shots and a better understanding of the incident as a whole can now be perceived.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Alternative legal careers... for alternative lawyers.

I've recently had the pleasure of speaking with some third-year law school students and recent graduates. They have some... well... let's say, "interesting," ideas about the world. Almost every law school student or recent grad I've spoken with has this idea that not only are they marketable, but that they can still land a job in today's economy, which you know is a laughable idea if you've graduated within the last three to four years. I suspect that law schools (more specifically their respective Career Services departments) are keeping student hope alive for the express purpose of making sure that law school enrollment stays at an all time high even though legal jobs are at an all time low.

I personally graduated right when the economy took its downward turn. Many of my friends thankfully found work early on, but I was one of the less lucky (though still very fortunate) ones that had to go through two boxes of resume paper and countless online applications before landing my own job (without ANY help from Career Services mind you). It took me almost a year to find a steady job and not a day went by during that time that I wasn't actively, in some way, trying to land a job. The process was grueling, exhausting, and demeaning all at the same time.

I made the same error early on that so many graduates make. I assumed that I'd get work at a medium to large sized firm. I set the bar there (no pun intended) and I was committed to that goal. I realized there was a problem when I noticed that almost no firms were hiring and if they were, they wanted experience. "Experience," now there is a word to dread as a recent graduate. The one thing you can't possibly get in order to land a job that requires it. The comically tragic Catch-22 that rules out so many applicants when the economy is down yet law schools are pumping out graduates faster than ever.

I started to lower my standards and look for legal jobs that I wasn't even interested in, just so I could get the fabled "experience" that would make me marketable. I joined five temp agencies and got one job that lasted one week (actually it was listed for three weeks, but I was so efficient that I did the work in one - silly me for having a strong work ethic). So, when that didn't work, I lowered my standards even more and looked for paralegal jobs. Just something, anything, to keep me in the legal field. No luck... it's not that I wasn't qualified, it's that no one wanted to hire a lawyer to be a paralegal because as soon as a job opened up that lawyer would be gone... and... I totally would have been. Lastly, I turned to trying to get ANY job. That's when my eyes opened to all of the other opportunities out there available to a person with a law degree that had nothing to do with law. Click here to check out this blog about alternative legal careers. It lists four types of jobs reported by four different law school graduates, which are: financial planner, real estate investment, campaign work, and government consulting.

It was alternative legal careers that gave me new hope. I started looking into what it would take to get my real estate license, which is easy for a lawyer. I also looked into finance when a friend of mine told me that her accounting firm loved the idea of hiring a lawyer to manage certain finances. I also realized that plenty of companies were interested in the idea of hiring lawyers as business developers because while an MBA is nice, a law degree is often better. It was during this period of newfound hope for employment that I found my current position at WIN Interactive.

Granted, my current job is very related to the legal field, but as far as legal careers go, there aren't many lawyers that do what I do. At first, I thought it would bother me not to do what all of my colleagues were doing, but I quickly realized that I (like all associates) I probably would have hated the first few years of my career at a large firm. I'm sure the pay is wonderful, but they take it out of you in a reduction in the quality of life. Many of my friends were working obscene hours and burning out in the process. Often, alternative legal careers can give you a taste of the law without a lot of the hassle that goes with it. For example, as a litigation consultant and project manager, I get to work with some of the best attorneys in the country (not just the state!) and on some of the best cases in the country. I don't often have to deal with the early stages of a case where there's a lot of paperwork and very little interesting legal argument. Where I come in, I get right into the meat of a case and I get to help craft the presentation of a case at mediation, arbitration, or trial... and I got to do that right out of law school!

Many of us have talents that get tossed to the side in the pursuit of a legal career. For example, I was always very creative growing up and in school. I loved the arts and computers, but there isn't much room for visual creativity in law school. My alternative legal career allows me to take advantage of my love for the arts and computers and apply those skills to my legal knowledge.

As time went on, other, more traditional lawyerly, opportunities also began to present themselves because as a lawyer working for a legal graphics consulting firm, I work with other lawyers. As a result, we can try cases when we feel like it in addition to our regular business. A little over one year after law school and I cross-examined a witness in court in a small case. I also got to teach at a MCLE course on medical malpractice and visual communication.

The bottom line is that working as a lawyer for a firm is great if you can get it and that's what you want out of life. On the other hand, there are so many other opportunities out there if recent graduates are willing to open themselves up to them. Not everyone is cut out for firm life, and even less people are getting those jobs today, but luckily, there are alternatives...

It’s who you know, not what you know.

Headlines lately have been lashing out on the probation department and the idea of patronage. Commissioner O’Brien has recently been fired after a long battle of the blame game. However, the underlying message here is that our world has become a battle between networking with people and not so much how much knowledge or how smart an individual is, which is troublesome to say the least. Many jobs in the criminal justice field and services are not hiring very often so when a position does open up many applicants will be pushed aside and others moved to the head of the list because their parents donate money, their family is friends with someone that works there and the list of possibilities goes on. Many of my friends are on the state police list and have seen their name go up and down the list very often, many have seen why that is because of parents involvement in the department or some phone calls and extra pushes from family friends, neighbors and teachers. It is hard to see an individual who does not have the same scores, experience and to be quite frankly the drive you have be considerate for a job because they “know someone, who knows someone.” Networking has become the buzzword in our society and especially in this economy any help you can get you take. How has the “ who you know” idea shadowed over what you know. That’s simple because in this economy everyone is fighting for a job and there are many more fighting for the same job you want. Was Commissioner O’Brien wrong in hiring a majority of his family to work in the probation department and other branches of Massachusetts state positions? Yes, is he the first person who is guilty of helping out people he knows and giving them a job over other? No. O’Brien was an extreme case as he was public about his favoritism; however the problem of patronage is evident outside of the probation department.

So how do we address this issue is it a crime to network and use those names and contacts to your advantage? We are a society that uses all forms of communications from word of mouth to texting and video chat. When we meet someone for the first time, their business card becomes that much more important down the road because you never know when you need their help or that extra push to land the job you want. No matter what, what you know and learn in the classroom and through experience will help you succeed in your position however if you know someone that can help you or knows the employer that can guarantee an interview, and your foot in the door.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lighting In the Virtual World

When it comes to realism, lighting in a still image or animated scene can make or break a persons viewing experience. When comparing a computer generated imagine to a photograph the first thing that comes to mind is whether or not it looks as real as the picture. The more real it looks, the more satisfaction is had by the viewer.

Lighting is probably the last thing thought about when it comes to computer graphics, whether you're the animator or the viewer, even though its the key factor in realism. Its a tricky and time consuming process in the 3D world but when the right results are achieved, it's very gratifying.

When setting up a well lit scene multiple factors need to be considered. The time of day and the mood the scene is going to convey are just a couple. If it's during daylight hours the color of the lights should be warmer such as yellow and orange. If its a night time scene then colors should have a more cool blue tone to them.

Normally two or three lights per scene also helps achieve realism. Since real world lighting for the most part always has more than one light source its always best to do the same in the virtual world. Additional things that should be considered are the rays of light, whether its from the sun, and indoor light fixture or spotlight. The type of light is very important.

To achieve a type of mood shadows usually play the most important role. The darker the scene and the more prominent the shadows are, the more negative the mood is. The brighter the scene and the less shadows there are, the happier or more positive the mood is. Another thing to keep in mind when considering shadows is its edge. The softer the edge the more realistic it is. Harder edges are usually used for more non-realistic imagery.

These are just a few of many of the important things to be thought about when it comes to lighting a virtual scene. Any virtual object and or scene can appear real if it's lit properly. Like anything the more time and thought put into it, the better the results. In the end, the greatest compliment a 3D artist can receive, is the viewer not realizing that imagery is computer generated.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Media in the Classroom

Being a graduate student outside of work, teachers often pride themselves in using the “newest up to date” technology. This “new” technology is PowerPoint with more than one color on each slide or a graphic that actually appears on the slide rather than a box with an x mark in it. Most teachers are lucky if they can get the image of the computer to project on the screen (whiteboard) in front of the class. Then I come to work and see how the bare minimum of our work is twice as advanced as what I see in the classroom.

Teachers are fascinated that they can post assignment on Blackboard, a university based networking site which students can log onto and keep track of class assignment grades and chat with other classmates. They are amazed that we can talk to each other without seeing one another.

Now these teachers are the exception as most teachers stand in front of the class and talk, talk, and talk some more without using any visual aids. I believe that my generation is much more visual than past generations, because we have been exposed to so many different media outlets and technological advances. Teachers always say that they want to stay up to date with the times, however they give us articles from the 70s, show us videos from when bell bottom pants were in and insist that power point presentations are the latest thing. Most teachers lecture on how to give a good presentation and they themselves use bright colors, light text, and poor images to serve as teaching tools, and most of us in the room would create a better presentation just from what we know about power point such as movement of text, sounds, pictures, links, and movie players; just to name a few.

Is this a clash of generations, are teachers trying to make productive steps forward, are power points the first steps in trying to be “ in with the times?” Our classrooms seem to be the last places to experience the wave of technology and teachers are the ones struggle to keep their classes engage in their lectures.

Now you see me... now you... still see me.

The past four plane rides I've taken have all qualified me for a "Random Security Screening." For something so random, I feel like my odds have been pretty good since 9/11! With these odds, I'm thinking of purchasing a lottery ticket...

Unfortunately, I don't think the odds have anything to do with it. The fact that I'm pulled out of line constantly to get searched or scanned or virtually strip searched (I'll get to that in a minute) is simply because of how I look. Granted, I am tall, dark, and ruggedly handsome (or so my mother tells me), but I'm also Egyptian. Mind you, I'm a practicing Christian that was born and raised in the United States, but I'm sure it doesn't help at all that I have a big nose and a beard. Maybe I should shave? Then again, I doubt that curly haired Mexicans or Indians are having much luck either, regardless of their facial hair status.

Now, anyone that knows me understands that while I'm not for racial profiling as a policy, I fully understand the heightened alarm when someone even remotely middle-eastern-looking looks at an airport the wrong way (and with the poor service, the high prices, and flight delays, can you really blame them for looking the wrong way?). Hell, I understand that if I saw me in an airport, I'd want to perform a "Random" security search on me as well... that's not really my point.

My point is that these "random" searches aren't very random. That much is obvious when I am literally the only person in a line of 20 people about to board a plane (this is AFTER the security check) that gets politely asked to have my personal belongings checked... for a second time. Let's not sugar coat it. That's racial profiling and security personnel aren't even bothering to hide it anymore. Am I so daft as to think that people that look middle eastern aren't targets for airport security? Of course not, but I at least appreciated it when they cared enough about my feeling to lie to me about it! What happened to grabbing me out of line along with a complimentary white person who I secretly suspect goes behind the curtain and jokes with TSA about the middle eastern sucker who is behind the other curtain having his bag turned inside out...... but I digress.

A few of years ago airline security at least pretended that these screenings were random... now... it seems that the facade has been cast off. There are a few problems with this that actually DECREASE security in airports.

Remember up above where I mentioned virtual strip searches? No? Glance up top... It's ok... I'll wait.

Anyway... so, I was in Boston and they have these nifty new security scanners that you walk through and then stand still for 10 seconds or so. These new scanners are so powerful and sensitive that they can actually see THROUGH your clothing... I'm not joking... you can look it up on Google images (or some other search engine of your choice). Try this link . Let's assume that I'm ok with some poor TSA worker looking at my virtually naked body. And let's say that I'm ok with that TSA employee looking at my friends and family that way. What I'm not ok with is the fact that I'm the only person in a long line of people who has to go though the machine! I used to be completely understanding of the fact that TSA workers had a job to do and that by stopping me in an airport, they were doing that job. "Random" metal detector and bag searches are one thing because of the minimal indignity, but I have to draw the racial profiling line at semi-naked scans of a person's body! I know the scan takes some time and the airport doesn't want to delay everyone, but come on! This is above and beyond... and I'm of the opinion that either everyone goes through this security scan or no one goes through it at all. Aside from the fact that it feels offensive to get singled out "randomly," it feels even weirder to have everyone's eyes looking at you KNOWING why you're getting scanned and knowing that the scanners are seeing you naked.

Even if everyone goes through these scanners (which they don't) for the simple sake of pretending that middle eastern people aren't being hounded at the airport, there are still a number of legal issues that are not addressed...

While this new device is a leap in airport security technology, there are a series of legal issues that this machine raises. First of all, what about privacy considerations? "Random" people are being virtually strip searched without probable cause! Since when does the government have the right to make strip searches mandatory and without cause? Some may argue that consent is implied by the fact that people have purchased a ticket to fly, but people don't really have a choice when it comes to reasonable long distance travel, thus consent may be negated.

There are also potential health and HIPAA violations here. There are all kinds of people walking through this scanner with varying medical conditions. There are people with prosthetics, breast implants, insulin pumps, false body parts (like hips), or who are missing body parts. These people no longer have their privacy available to them and their private medical conditions are potentially visible to the world without proper protections. What about radiation? Many authorities say that these X-rays aren't harmful, but there is disagreeing literature. What about unborn children or fetuses that are exponentially more sensitive to radiation?

Supposedly there are privacy features built in that blur a person's face, so that the scanner cannot see the person being scanned, but we're really just taking the government's word for that when there are some borderline horror stories about the lack of privacy.

Even worse, according to these articles (1 and 2), these scanners are actually being used as porn by some airport workers! Really? The images aren't even that great, but clearly this is an example that people can abuse just about anything! With the increased rate of "random" security searches, I wonder if these airport employees know that their new porn is really made up of a shockingly high number of Middle Easterners, Mexicans, Indians, and other brown people. To make matters worse, the government is possibly in on this as well! The machines have the capability of saving the images that are scanned for later use. Supposedly the government doesn't save the images, but I'll leave that argument between them and the conspiracy theorists out there.

What about children? That's right... I went there even though it is just a repugnant thought. Children could be and have been scanned without a parent's consent. Should children have to go through this scanner when pornography is a potential issue? Should they have to go through it when the issue of whether these scans are safe or not remains unanswered?

Finally, isn't security the purpose of these scanners? A large security risk facing America that was created by TSA officials is precisely the fact that brown people get singled out. All we're doing is telling potential terrorists how to avoid getting searched. Instead of someone with dark hair, brown skin, and a beard packing a bomb in his shorts, you'll have brainwashed, blond haired, blue eyed Americans doing the terrorizing instead! Al Qaeda is recruiting all over the world and they're not just recruiting middle-easterners! Look at this blond woman dubbed "Jihad Jane!"

New technology is great. Keeping America safe from terrorism is a noble and wonderful goal, but there just has to be a better way that doesn't single out certain people for a potentially humiliating violation of privacy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tape or Tapeless? That is the question.

I was walking up Boylston Street in Boston last fall when I spotted white trucks, roped off areas, and people running around with walkie talkies and gaffers tape, a sight that has become familiar to locals. Film crews were putting cameras in place for the next shot in the newly released movie, The Town. As crowds were swarming to get a glimpse of the actors, I was going in the opposite direction towards the production tents to get a look at what the producers and directors were seeing.

As I was standing behind the roped off area near the director's chair, two crew members wheeled by a storage container labeled Panavision on the side. I continued to watch them open the container and pull out a large film reel and load it onto the camera. I thought to myself, "hmm, I thought many of these films were shot digitally", but what I have come to realize is that the majority of motion pictures are still shot on film.

With all the digital cameras consumers buy today, they seem to be the smart ones not wasting money on tape after tape, but instead shooting their footage right to flash memory that is automatically digitized without any extra effort. The real question becomes, why does the film industry still use film, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of tapeless production?

As a filmmaker, I work for a legal consulting firm producing and analyzing video for litigation across the country. My job requires me to be knowledgeable about every aspect of video production and there can be no room for error when the cameras begin to roll. The option for a reshoot does not exist in a video deposition when a key witness is being questioned by counsel on a case that has millions of dollars, or someone's fate on the line.

One of my professors in college used to say to us, "Digital media does not exist unless it exists in three places." Those words are now part of my mental framework whenever I begin to roll tape, or shoot digitally. As a filmmaker you have to be thinking one step ahead of everyone else, because an error will result in more time and money spent reshooting something that could have been done right the first time.

So that brings us to the question again, tape or tapeless? In my industry today, I believe that everything should continue to be shot on tape and digitized separately. There are some instances when I am able to shoot on tape and also digitize at the same time, but that requires a little more effort and sometimes the location doesn't allow for it to easily be done. After my shoot, I import the footage to a video editing hard drive which is automatically backed up to a second hard drive, but I also have the physical tape.

It has yet to happen to me (knock on wood), but if and when one hard drive fails, I will have the backup to save me. And if and when that backup fails at the same time my main drive fails, I will have the tape to fall back on. And if and when all my hard drives fail and my tape has been ruined, the never ending question of "how much backup is actually enough?" will have to be answered.

Young filmmakers love the ability to shoot in high definition right to P2 cards, but after a full day of shooting priceless material, let's only hope that they don't accidentally hit that "format" button erasing all their footage with no hope of retrieving it. Let's just say that I've learned my lesson a couple times...

The reason for motion picture production companies to still shoot on film is a little more involved than what the average consumer needs to know, but one reason is that film is durable and extremely reliable. Unlike the beginning of picture making when film was highly combustible and dangerous, it has come a long way and been perfected to last longer and endure rougher physical conditions.

To be a good filmmaker you have to think above the bar and outside of the box because there is no room for error on your watch. So whether shooting on tape or digitally, think about every possible scenario to protect your footage and deliver the highest quality product you can.

After all, it is your reputation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

News: Apple to allow iOS apps created using third-party development tools

Apple announced last Thursday an updated iOS Development License Agreement which relaxes restrictions on what development tools may be used in creating iOS apps. In addition, they are publishing App Store Review Guidelines in an effort to add clarity to the app store approval process.

In April, Apple added language to the previous agreement restricting apps that linked to the documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool. While the change in the language affected many 3rd-party development tools (such as Unity, Titanium, and MonoTouch), it was largely seen as targeting Adobe. Adobe was set to release Flash CS5, and was advertising that software's Flash-to-iPhone publishing option. The new restrictions would forbid apps created with that feature from being accepted into the App Store. Adobe abandoned work on the feature shortly thereafter. Now with the new iOS Development License Agreement, Apple has essentially reversed its position. Adobe has announced that it will resume work on its iPhone Flash tool.

As someone who uses both Apple and Adobe products extensively, I'm quite pleased at this development. I understand Apple's desire to have an approval process that ensures that the apps submitted to its store conform to a certain standard of quality. However, the initial restriction on third-party tools seemed mostly arbitrary and anticompetitive. It makes no difference to the user how the app was created, only that it works. If apps created using a third-party tool fail Apple's quality standards, then the app should rightfully be kept out. If the app performs as well as an app created using Apple's preferred development software and is secure, it is hard to justify keeping it out. Will this change make it easier for developers to also create products simultaneously for Apple's competitors, such as Google's Android platform? Yes. But the only one who loses from this arrangement is Apple. For consumers and for the health of the mobile marketplace as a whole, it is a win.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Out with the OLD in with the NEW

Recently I had jury duty. For my first time I was somewhat excited, looking at the experience like that of a trial on TV; until I got to the courthouse. The jurors were escorted to this “waiting room” it was over crowded with no AC and uncomfortable chairs. There I and 25 other people waited to be told what the next move would be. Then the waiting set in, in the mean time we watched a video on a tube TV; which I haven’t seen in years. At the first sight of the VHS Tape, I thought to myself “this should be good.” The video was from 1970 at least. Watching the video I thought to myself this is what the state uses tax money on, an outdated video about how jurors are the most crucial part of a trial and how we should be proud of ourselves that we are serving “our duty to the Commonwealth.”
After viewing the video I sat there in awe and thought with all the technology and media advances in 2010, the court system couldn't update their presentation on “jury service.” When I got home that night I searched and explored the Massachusetts Jury website, there I found this statement on the top of the home page:

"Due to recent changes in technology, including the implementation of new jury management software, a small amount of technical information on this website may be outdated. THE INFORMATION ON THE LOG-IN JUROR SERVICE WEBSITE IS ACCURATE AND CURRENT.
We are implementing a new website in the near future and would welcome any comments or suggestions our users may have.
Please direct your comments to"

Any suggestions? I have many suggestions. Near future? When is that going to be? Jury duty is not glamorous and will probably never be something that one looks forward to; but make the process modern. The website is not organized, the graphics, colors and links are scattered and confusing. The site itself is cluttered and the pictures are not recent. Technology is the future of our society, with the Internet, smart phones, and all the media products out there we have become dependant on our media aids. With modern technology the process wouldn’t seem so ancient to the first time juror or someone who has served many times.
Waiting in the “juror area” I saw almost every lawyer carrying a smart phone. One attorney was making appointments and scheduling further dates for her client on her phone. If lawyers and those working in the court system are up to date with savvy technology, then how didn’t the court system get the memo: ITS 2010 not 1970. I understand that the court system is on a strict budget, but to make or buy a up to date video and have someone maintain their website is not going break the bank. Everywhere you turn media plays a role in your daily life. I felt like I had gone back in time when I entered the court, its maintenance was appalling, the organization of the cases was dumbfounding and the “juror area” room felt like a room in my grandmother’s house. But beside the appearance of the court, the one aspect of my day that stood out was the fact that attorneys, clients, and those employed for the court were aware that it was 2010 and used the newest technology and media advances but were surrounded by a building that still used VHS tapes.
I am not that technology savvy myself but a system such as the courts; the foundation of our legal system needs to be up to date with the society that it serves and provide services for jurors, attorneys, the commonwealth and its employees. The court system is one of the most used tools in the criminal justice system and in regards to my experience one of the most “out dated, ancient, and behind” systems as far as district courts go.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Technology Done Right is Technology Worth Doing...

A recent article in Law Technology News asks: Did Mark Lanier change the way you use Powerpoint at Trial? Gosh, I hope so. For the past several years, I have witnessed many lawyers misuse technology in the courtroom. The funny thing is, they are usually very experienced lawyers and they are completely unaware that they are making a mistake.

There are two basic mistakes I have seen lawyers make. The first mistake is using technological bells and whistles simply because they exist and not because they are helpful. The second is giving up on the technology.

In my experience, lawyers tend to overuse technology. For some reason, when lawyers get ahold of a new technology they forget why the lawyer needs the technology in the courtroom in the first place. Visual communication technology is there to assist a witness to tell the story and to assist the jury to remember the information and be persuaded by it. That's it. If technology is interfering with the witness’ retelling of the story or if the visual tool is preventing the witness from remembering the information, the technology is in the way and it ought to be removed from the courtroom -- because it is not helping.

But it appears that this is hard for some lawyers to recognize. Lawyers who have spent the time to figure out how to use the software and electronics are proud to show everyone that they have mastered these tools. Like an excited child with a new toy, they will show off all of what the tools can do. But a lawyer who highlights 400 documents in bright yellow, has in reality highlighted nothing. Doing so distracts the jury – the exact opposite of what the trial lawyer set out to do. Worse, it could possibly hurt his case.

Visual communication should be thought of as a smart bomb. It has a specific focused goal. The type of media used to display evidence is incidental to the type of information the lawyer is trying to convey. The need to display a certain type of evidence will determine the medium/technology on which to display that evidence, if at all (such as a large format poster, a model, a document camera, videotape, computer presentation, 2D animation, 3D simulation, etc.). The trial lawyer should employ a particular medium because it is useful for a particular reason. In preparing for trial, the effective lawyer must analyze the best method for presenting that particular information (e.g., timelines work better in a scrolling interactive presentation and not on PowerPoint slides).

Second, lawyers tend to underuse visual communication technology. This is probably motivated by inexperience - not as a lawyer, but as a lawyer practicing with 21st Century tools. If a lawyer is unfamiliar with how to effectively integrate a visual presentation into his or her own style, they tend to just let the technology go. They give up on it. In my experience, this is almost always because the lawyer did not leave enough time to prepare himself to properly and effectively use the presentation tool. More time … means better prepared.

Another way in which lawyers tend to underutilize technology is by giving up on its admissibility. Thomas Edison said: "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."

I recently tried a case where we wanted to use an interactive timeline throughout the trial. We asked the judge if we could use it in the opening argument. He said, “No.” We asked to use it in with our first witness. The judge said, “No.” We asked to use it in the cross-examination of our opponent’s key witness. He said, “No.” We then asked to use it in our closing argument. The judge said, “For the last time. No!” Finally, I asked the judge if we could use a blackboard to display our timeline to the jury in the closing argument. The judge said, “No!!!”

Later that afternoon, the judge’s clerk called to say that the judge would reconsider the use of the interactive timeline before closing arguments the next morning. He did and we were allowed to use the interactive timeline during the closing … and we won.

Sometimes, getting a judge to understand why the technology is helpful and why it does not raise any admissibility problems can be a challenge. It helps to give the judge an analogy, like a chalkboard, to make him feel more comfortable with how and why the technology will be used. It also helps to not take "no" for an answer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

3D Technology

In my most recent interest in the ever growing 3D technology, I've not noticed the inevitable desire for all visual displays to embrace this new phenomenon. However, I can see this technology having more than one use and could potentially be a really helpful tool, as shown in this article.

"Although 3D imaging is predominantly used in blockbuster movies, this new system could reveal even the tiniest details of airborne animals and insects.

A new multi-camera, real-time, three-dimensional method of recording multiple flying animals and insects shows the minutest details of these creatures.

In the future, the system may even be paired with virtual reality technology, allowing scientists to investigate every aspect of the behavior of airborne species, such as birds and houseflies. The new high-tech video package has been appropriately named "Flydra."

"The Flydra system uses high-speed cameras to track the 3D position of animals as they fly," project leader Andrew Straw, a senior research fellow in Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News.

"It does this almost instantaneously, so we know where the animal is at any given moment," added Straw.

In one set-up, Straw and his team combined 11 video cameras capable of recording around 60-100 frames per second. These were linked up to a network of nine standard Intel Pentium and Core 2 Duo computers. The system is described in the latest Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Prior commercial motion capture systems, often used on blockbuster movies, required reflective markers. Straw said the markers are way too big and heavy to be stuck on a tiny fly. They're also impractical for use on big birds and other large animals. Flydra therefore eliminates that step.

Other earlier real-time 3D tracking systems could only record one or a few animals at a time. Flydra, on the other hand, can capture a limitless number, depending on how much the camera and computer set-up is expanded."

As a 3D artist for WIN Interactive this newly emerging 3D technology potentially displays more than one use than just for the cinematic experience. Interactive 3D animations already greatly improve an attorneys presentation of evidence in the court room, now just imagine immersing yourself in the situation of say the scene of an accident. It would without question bring visual presentations to a whole new level of realism.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Who Is In The Driver's Seat?

Just recently, I was perusing the online world looking for commentary on the issues of law and technology. I happened to come across this blog, called "Law and Technology Theory," devoted to that exact topic. I must mention that at times some of the entries in this blog seem a little convoluted and full of impressive big words without a similarly impressive amount of substance. Nonetheless, they do touch upon some very interesting concepts.

One of those concepts was whether or not technology has come to control the direction of humanity or whether humanity remains autonomous. Even further, how does the answer to this question determine how we view the law?

Now, I am not going to even try posing an answer to this question because I'd like to avoid running into a chicken and the egg conundrum (e.g. Did man create technology or did technology find man? Take fire, for example... it existed long before humans did, so did we evolve because of a desire to harness this most primal technology, thus fire helped shape humanity today, or did we, as autonomous creatures invent technology, which just happened to allow us to harness fire? etc, etc, etc.). I'm more of the opinion that you can't really separate them out this way and that the imagination of humanity can shape technology in new ways, just as technology can shape the direction of our culture.

In any event, the issue, when it comes to the law, is one of great concern to all of us in the legal field whether we admit it or not. Our courtrooms are sorely behind the technological curve, while our society is racing out far ahead. How can our justice system purport to represent our societal interests when there is such a discrepancy? The simple answer is that eventually, it can't.

Does this mean that technology is re-shaping our views of justice? Does/Should technology control the direction of the legal system? The knee-jerk reaction is that of course it shouldn't. People and their societal ethics should determine what justice is and how to implement it, right? Right. The problem is then that if people don't make a conscious effort to make sure that we are updating the legal system, then it will soon control us without our knowledge.

Take photographs for example. When the first photograph was introduced into evidence, I'm sure some attorney somewhere had no idea how to defend against it and he (no offense to my sisters in the law, but it was a long time ago... it was probably a he) probably went nuts when a very smart judge said, "I'll allow it." The law probably had to play a very fast game of catch-up to make sure that justice wasn't being perverted by something no one yet understood. The same thing probably happened with videos when they first showed up, and again with computer simulations. Actually, there are still huge issues with authenticity/admissibility of computer simulations, computer generated images, and 3D models.

In an age where e-mails are the norm and cell phone bills can track our every movement, shouldn't the law have an up-to-date way of dealing with these issues? The legal community needs to test the waters. We need to pass legislation like the updates made to U.S. Copyright laws to deal with software. We need to challenge judges (that's right, I said it!) to make reasonable and accurate rulings about technology.

Either technology shapes the law or we, as the legal community, shape the law to deal with technology. I would much rather have laws and a legal system that people shaped to accommodate us, than a system that is struggling to accommodate a faceless technology at perhaps the expense of justice.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

WIN's social networks

Join our Facebook group,or follow us on Twitter. There we add news stories daily and happening events within the WIN Interactive firm. We hope to build up our social networks to ensure that our clients, and those we have worked with remain up to date on our growing firm. If we worked with you, we would love to schedule a video interview and post it on our website Contact the WIN Office if you are interested or would like to work with us on your future cases. Thank You.

Real life Mr. & Mrs. Smith in the Boston area

What do fellow Bostonians think of Russian spies in the Bay State? Are there more people in our area that are living "normal" lives who have a secret identity?