Category Archives: Media Topics

Media Topics on Modern Media Mix

TV Shows and Sensitivity: How Should Television Address Difficult Topics?

In our divisive political world, television production teams are trying more and more to send their message and address controversial topics. Because, when done right, TV shows can get people talking, spark positive cultural change, and boost ratings. As with anything, there is a right and wrong way to tackle sensitive issues. If done wrong, this can lead to television shows receiving criticism, poor ratings, or possibly being pulled off the air or canceled.

TV Shows Different types of television networks have different levels of content regulation. The most regulated of the types of networks is the broadcast networks. These include channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Most of these networks’ shows, while they may address serious topics, still maintain the lighter tone that their networks establish.

Basic Cable channels are a step above broadcast networks, and they have a little more free range when it comes to dealing with more sensitive topics. Channels under this category include FX and AMC, which include more content for adults, compared to the content found on broadcast channels. Paid Cable networks and Streaming are the least regulated of the networks. These include cable channels like HBO and Showtime, and Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

In early 2018, Paramount Network, a basic cable network, planned to air a television remake of the 1989 cult classic film “Heathers.” The movie’s plot revolves around Veronica Sawyer, her love interest, Jason Dean (JD), and her so-called friend group “the Heathers.” The story involves Veronica and JD plotting the deaths of popular students at their school, depicting gun violence amongst students and bullying. While this sort of satire worked in the 1980s in a pre-Columbine world, taking on a story of this magnitude should be done so with caution. On top of the subject matter, Paramount cast the main antagonists (the Heathers) and minorities, including Heather Chandler as plus-sized, Heather Duke as gender-queer, and Heather Macnamara as black, which many interpreted as the producers villainizing these types of people. After months of delay due to several school shootings in 2018, Paramount decided to air nine episodes of “Heathers” on their network over the course of five days in October.

Netflix is a powerhouse when it comes to their original content. With executive producer Selena Gomez and based on a popular novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why” fit what makes Netflix Originals successful. After the initial release of the series, it received mixed reviews. Some said the show brought awareness to the affects of bullying and argued it was thought-provoking and would change how people think about their actions. Others felt it glorified suicide with the idea of creating these “tapes” for people that made life bad for them as a sort of revenge and punishment. The idea of leaving these tapes also sparked a meme in the online community, which did not help their cause. While season one was based on the book, season two, and the recently green-lit season three, are both original and continue where the first leaves off in a post-Hannah Baker world.

TV Shows

ABC is known for their more family-friendly content, as their parent company is media powerhouse Disney. “Black-ish” follows a successful black man in the suburbs and his middle-class family. The story portrays the life of a group of people that up until recently, was not portrayed on television. The show is considered a comedy, but does not shy away from sensitive topics, especially those relating to the black community, such as police brutality. The show also addressed the results of the 2016 election, which shocked many. Despite addressing divisive political topics, the ratings have remained good and this fall, the show entered its fifth season.

In all, it is not the severity of the topics that a television show chooses to talk about. Different shows may depict the same issue, one may do a good job and approach the topic from all angles and with sensitivity. Others, if done incorrectly, may result in controversy over their television show, which could result in various consequences, such as poor ratings, boycotts, or being canceled by the network. It is important to use common sense and do research before addressing a divisive issue. While it is great to get people talking about these important issues, if television series are going to use their voices to bring important ideas to the table, they need to do it the right way. How should television networks bring sensitive topics to light without offending audiences? Should television avoid tackling divisive topics all together? Do you think there are certain topics that should remain off-limits?

-Gabby Leitner

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Failure – The Ongoing Struggle of DC Comics in Film

Cinematic universes. The goldmine idea of having crossover movies that Marvel Studios has taped to create a film empire that other film studios try to replicate. While many cinematic universe projects like Universal’s Dark Universe or Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man usually fail and fizzle out after two movies, Warner Bros and the DC Comics superhero films have held on, for better or worse.

After a failed first attempt in 2011 with Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern, Warner Bros decided to try again with cinematic universes in 2013 with the Superman film Man of Steel. This film would mark a new era of DC Comics films after Christopher Nolan’s beloved Batman trilogy came to an end. This universe was to be carried by the vision of director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), and producer Charles Roven. 

DC Comics Man of Steel starred Henry Cavill  and was released to moderate success, making roughly over $600, and being generally accepted by viewers and critics. Warner Brothers then announced a sequel featuring a new Batman portrayed by Ben Affleck would be released along with an entire slate of movies featuring projects like The Flash and Justice League sequels.

In 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released and critically panned, with audiences and critics not enjoying the dark and grittier tone of the movie compared to the competing Marvel films. Suicide Squad also released to more critically panned reviews. Regular audience viewers were more approving of the film however, pushing the film to make over $700 million dollars (surprisingly making more than Man of Steel and almost matching Batman v Superman). This would set in motion the deep changes that were to come for the DC universe.

Wonder Woman, seeming now like lightning in a bottle, leapt into the box office and did extremely well, being loved by both fans and critics. It was hopeful, optimistic, fun, and wasn’t trying hard to build a franchise. Suddenly, the dark and gritty vision of the Justice League that Zack Snyder had started filming was looking problematic. During this time, Charles Roven left his position of looking over the DC films and instead handed the reins over to comic book writer Geoff Johns and producer Jon Berg.

DC Comics

The success of Wonder Woman and audience response to Suicide Squad split DC into a couple different directions. Films not previously announced on the film slate were announced left and right, mainly focusing on different Harley Quinn spin offs. Other projects, like The Flash, were suddenly trapped in production hell, as rumors of actors like Ben Affleck wanting to leave the franchise grew amongst other studio meddling stories. Zack Snyder while working on Justice League was suddenly replaced by Avengers director Joss Whedon. This move on Warner Bros part was likely to infuse the light and hopefulness that Marvel films and Wonder Woman were able to provide.

Justice League was released to negative reviews and numerous controversies and stories, ranging from Henry Cavill having a CGI mouth due to reshooting with a mustache and entire important chunks of film being removed due to a Warner Bros mandate to keep the film under 2 hours. It was also the lowest grossing box office film of any DC film so far in the series. This heavy blow began another restructure of DC, with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns leaving their roles, and being replaced by Walter Hamada.

Currently, DC films is different. Superman star Henry Cavill has recently left the role, and Ben Affleck’s part as Batman is up in the air. All DC projects are to be lighter and hopeful. They also are creating solo films that aren’t connected, differing from Marvel. Personally, as a huge fan of the initial film Man of Steel and these characters in general, it’s sad to see everything fall apart. I followed these films religiously, but have become numb to the idea of them being anything great. What do you think? Should Warner Bros have continued to try and build up this franchise, or should they have found their own avenue?

-Tarrell Christie

Disney Play: Yay or Nay?

Coming in 2019 is the new Disney streaming service to be known as Disney Play. Imagine Netflix or Hulu, except everything Disney. No, it won’t be completely full of Princess movies and cartoons, as it will also contain everything else that Disney owns. Movies and content from the Marvel Universe, Lucasfilms, and 21st Century Fox will all be featured on Disney Play, as well as some original content that will be sporadically produced. So whether you like it or not, say goodbye to Disney content on Netflix, and say hello to Disney content on the all new Disney Play.

Disney Play All Disney content will be removed from Netflix within the next few years. The majority will be removed in 2018, but a few films in the Marvel Universe will remain on Netflix until later in 2019. Disney is very excited about breaking into the streaming service world, where it will compete directly with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Disney already owns 60% of Hulu so some may ask why they feel the need to create their own streaming platform. The answer is that Disney felt the need to put their own brand name out there in a streaming crazed world. Although the new service will take precedence, there will still be plenty of Disney owned content that will appear on Hulu.

One of the promises that Disney CEO, Bob Iger, made to the world when announcing Disney Play was that it would be a cheaper streaming service than Netflix. The cheapest package that Netflix offers is $8. Based on Iger’s claims, expect Disney Play to be less than that. Having a cheap streaming service is obviously a great way to attract business. However, depending on how low the price actually is, some may start to question the fact that the service is so cheap and maybe raise an eyebrow at the content that is being offered.  So how cheap can Disney Play be? I guess we will find out come 2019.

Disney PlayAnother way that Disney plans on bringing in subscribers is with original content it will produce occasionally. The first movie that will be featured on Disney Play is called “Timmy Failure.” The movie will be based on the book that was written by Stephan Pastis. The movie carries a $42 million budget and will be premiered on Disney Play in 2019. Other original content that will be featured is a new Star Wars series called “The Mandalorian” that will be exclusive to Disney Play. The series is a 10-part series that carries a $100 million budget. Disney hopes that the big name series will excite Star Wars fans worldwide and bring in more subscribers. (Here is the first known picture of the new series “The Mandalorian”.)

Disney Play still has plenty of unknowns and what ifs. Details revolving around the new streaming service have been kept pretty secret since the idea was announced in 2017. I would expect more info to be released as the kickoff date approaches. There are many speculations about Disney Play but few will know until it is actually right in front of us.

I am really interested in seeing how successful Disney Play will be. With limited content compared to other streaming services, Disney Play will be up against some heavy competition in the streaming world, but that does not scare Disney chief Bob Iger. Iger seems to be very confident of what Disney can do, and he looks forward to watching Disney Play kickoff. So I ask you, what do you think? Disney Play: yay or nay?

– Christian Ellsworth

UNI Digital Media Students Head to NAB Radio Show in Orlando!

Today’s the day! The University of Northern Iowa’s Digital Media students are off to this year’s NAB Radio Show! Professor Torre will be accompanying this years participants: Monica Cruise, Kaylee Daniels, Nick Langel, Gabrielle Leitner, Brandon Lynch, and Rachel Renes to the Show in Orlando, Florida. All of the participants are interested in careers in the digital media world, and conventions like this are great opportunities for students to learn more about the industry.

NAB Radio Show

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Radio Show is an annual trade show that keeps producers and consumers in the radio industry up to par with the new things happening today like Podcasts, interactive advertisements, etc. At this convention there will be guest speakers, performances by popular singers, and booths with information about companies in the industry.

Before heading to the Radio Show, we each created a presentation about some aspect of the radio industry to share with each other. We learned about the history of radio and where it started to new technology hoping to make a step into the industry, like interactive ads. We also learned about advertisements and how important they are in the radio world.

We created a short video about what we are most excited about going into this trip:

While on this trip we want to document our adventure and what we have learned so we assigned roles for everyone so that we all are able to participate in this group project, but also do what we enjoy and create a journey shown through digital media. We have a production group, which is in charge of getting video from the Radio Show and content to put all together at the end. We have some questions we are wanting to ask some of the presenters and employers at the booths to get and learn more information on a one-on-one level. We also have a social media group to provide exciting content throughout the trip. To stay updated you can follow us @DigitalMediaUNI on Facebook and Twitter!

On behalf of the UNI Digital Media participants in this year’s NAB Radio Show, we want to give a big thank you to Professor Torre for taking us on this trip, and to the Iowa Broadcasters Association for supporting this great opportunity to gain experience in the industry!

-Monica Cruise

NAB 2018: Broadcasting and Beyond!

The moment has come and gone. The 2018 National Association of Broadcasters show was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. From April 9 through 11,  a group of ten Digital Media students from the University of Northern Iowa ventured to this brightly lit city to experience and learn all that is new and progressing in the media industry. Panels about the creation of a major movement for film, question and answer sessions with famous cinematographers, educational panels about new and advancing technologies greeted us, and that didn’t include all the exhibits and companies showcasing their products and networks.

NAB 2018

On April 9th, a series of panels, titled the Creative Masters Series, spoke about the ever-changing methods that are defining the film industry. The opening panel, discussed the recent Marvel superhero film, Black Panther, and the process of making a superhero film like no other. Editor Michael P. Shawver, sound designer Steve Boeddeker, and visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann answered questions about the process of creating such a culturally involved film, as well as explaining the details of creating the Marvel blockbuster. The three guests showed pieces from the film that best explained their creative process.

The second panel was a question and answer panel focusing on the director of photography, Janusz Kaminski, known for his work with many films directed by Steven Spielberg, like Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, BFG, and Ready Player One. It was eye opening experience to sit in on the discussion focusing on how cinematography has changed through the years. Kaminski talked about how quickly the technology has changed, and the different tactics used to create those scenes and shots that made these films. He explained how cinematography is an art form more than anything else, showing clips of his works that further explained his process for each movie. His shared his distaste for using CGI, and the struggles a cinematographer faces with visual effects technology.

The final panel of the Creative Master Series was titled “Jessica Jones: The Art of Darkness,” with panelists, Melissa Rosenberg, the series creator, executive producer and showrunner, Tony D’Amore, the series colorist, encore, and Manuel Billeter, the director of photography. This panel brought to light how the Netflix Marvel series itself has changed the concept of the original superhero movie through a darker plot, encompassing the strength of the female protagonist. Each panel gave insight into the film industry and the changes being made in creating  new stories.

All of the exhibits gave way to an experience of a lifetime. Being able to see all the new products that have recently came out and are coming soon to the world of broadcasting. When visiting the exhibitor hall you get a new experience at every booth. One exhibitor hall focused on the technology, with a lot of sound boards, cameras, drones, and virtual reality equipment displayed allowing viewers to mess around with the products themselves.

The NAB Show allowed ten UNI Digital Media students to see and attend sessions and panels discussing a wide range of topics. They saw and met with exhibitors from all around the world, and were given a chance to look into the world of digital media a little closer. There were hands on exhibits showcasing virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and sports broadcasting. The world of digital media is always changing, which means our students are always learning!

-Taylor Horvatich

NAB 2018: Immersing Fans in Sports Broadcasting

Sports have always been a major cornerstone of America’s favorite past time. It’s one of the best forms of entertainment and engagement for millions of people. There were a number of sports exhibitors at this years NAB Show: Sportradar, FOX Sports, Neilson eSports, NBC Sports Digital & Playmaker Media, Glory Sports International, Fan Controlled Football League, and more. They were all there to demonstrate their upcoming tech in the online sports industry.

Not only has the world of sports been changing greatly, but the way we deliver and showcase this content has revamped the way we become immersed in the game. Here are some of the things we got to experience and hear at the NAB Show!

NAB 2018 SportsWatching sports has always brought up-close action directly to fans. This has all been done with new tech, trends, production quality, non-stop sports coverage, social media, etc. Loyal fans demand only the best quality video, anywhere, at anytime. This has set new challenges for online sports agencies and how they deliver content. It has to set the new bar for quality entertainment and action that all fans can really get immersed in.

At the session “Speed, Position, Power – Connecting Today’s Sports Fans with Data” a panelist from Sportradar discussed the importance of small details that can be delivered to the audience in ways that make huge impacts on the way we watch sports. Not only data that we get from the action of the plays, but the action happening behind the scenes and in between plays. They showcased their website design and how it could take tremendous amounts of data and compress it to the point where fans have easy access to what they want to see from their favorite sports team.

Many announcements of new ways of delivering sports content were made through the week at NAB. But there was one whole brand new way to actually be part of the sports team. Fan Controlled Football League (FCFL) announced that will officially launch early of 2019 with their newest partner, Twitch. It’s the very first of its kind of interactive sports game platform.

NAB 2018 Sports 2

Real football teams ran by the fans. They control the plays, roster, and earn fan tokens throughout season. All of this is done in real time using the Twitch platform. “This is the closest you can get to managing your own football team. For the first time ever, fans actually control what they want to see.” This new type of sports platform will become the next big leap forward for the world of sports and the way we engage with it.

NAB 2018 Sports 3

So next time you sit down with the bag of chips on the couch and tune into the sports channel, be ready for some of the newest advancements in the world of sports entertainment. Between the content that is being delivered, the data being researched, or even the way fans play the game, sports will continue to be one of America’s most enjoyable pastimes.

-Nick Langel

NAB 2018: A Closer Look at Booths and Exhibits

When attending a convention the size of NAB, things can feel a bit overwhelming at times. With a whopping 1700 booths and exhibitors, an even more impressive 100,000 attendees, and three multi-floored convention halls the size of multiple football fields, at times it was difficult to know exactly where to start and what to look out for. So naturally, we explored, and with exploration comes discovery. As we attempted to scour every square inch of the Las Vegas Convention center, all while of course picking up some cool “swag”, we encountered some really interesting booths showing off their latest technology advances.

NAB 2018 Cheqroom

YI Technology, pronounced like the letter “E”, was one of the companies we encountered in the central convention center. YI is a tech company based out of China that specializes in action and mirrorless cameras, but at NAB they were there to show some of their latest advancements. In 2018, YI is planning on joining the growing trend of virtual reality as they unveiled their latest cameras capable of 3D-VR, 3D 360 degree cameras, and a specialized 3D virtual reality camera.

Talking with one of their representatives, they spoke about how YI sees virtual reality as the future of video content. “Virtual reality is really just in its beginning stages at this point in time. Who knows, we might even see schools of the future being taught completely through virtual reality.” The perspective that YI has on VR was something that really intrigued us. Right now it really does feel as if virtual reality is a bit of a niche market, but with major tech companies like YI making strong advances with the technology, we really could see VR becoming more and more consumer friendly.

Another exhibitor that stood out among the masses was the Aputure booth. Aputure is a media company that specializes in lighting technology for video production and photography. Fittingly, the booth was decked out with their latest models ranging from high end, to more consumer and student friendly lighting kits. Additionally, throughout the convention Aputure brought in many different YouTubers and Social Influencers that gave presentations on how they use lighting within their content.

On our last day of the convention Aputure brought in Levi Allen, a YouTuber and filmmaker from Left Coast Media. He gave a presentation on his various lighting techniques that he uses within his business and channel, and also showed us some live demonstrations using the Aputure lights. At the end of his presentation, his words resonated with a few of us. “I want you to all go out and create something and share it with the world. What’s the point of making stuff if you’re not going to share and let people experience in it?” His words were really inspiring, and a good way to round out the convention as we finished producing some of our own media projects about the NAB show.

These were merely two of the almost 2000 booths featured at the NAB show. Some other standouts were the Avid Booth, where they showed off their much maligned (at least by some digital media students) editing software; Cheqroom, a European company specializing in equipment checkout software; and of course the “dancing” robot presented by BOLT.

The sheer number of companies and booths in attendance really showed us students how many opportunities there are in the media industry. We were able to network, get a glimpse into some new tech we may be adding to our toolkits in the near future, and of course you know we scooped up whatever free goodies we could get our hands on. Interestingly enough, most of the free “swag” we received was just different branded tote bags, but we of course were thankful nonetheless. Once our time at the convention came to an end, we headed out the doors of the Las Vegas Convention center, bags in hand, and hundreds of different company names to Google when we got home to look for job and internship opportunities. NAB 2018 was a success, to say the least.

-Tristan Bennett

NAB 2018: Artificial Intelligence

The National Association of Broadcasters Show featured a series of panels discussing the topic of artificial intelligence and machine learning. With the advances in technology today, there are so many different ways AI tech is being used right now. In the use of the algorithms of Google, to the popular home necessity, the Amazon Alexa. The panels presented during the NAB show, focused on how AI and machine learning is changing the media landscape.

NAB 2018 AI

Whether it is through production or video editing, AI is beneficial and is continuing to grow to better the broadcasting industry. The panel titled, “How AI Will Take Productivity in the Broadcast Industry to the Next Level” presented by Dr. Johan Vounckx, explained how machine neural networks are being developed that can teach computers to read and then be able to make connections through the content it discovers.  By developing these systems of networks, computers will be able to put together conclusions and provide output that can be based the system researched. Computer algorithms like this are already being tested in spotting ‘fake news’ generated by unverified sources and helping people identify and verify sources accurately.

With broadcasting, we can use AI to “crop and zoom to ensure the best part of the video is placed in the desired size and aspect ratio.” This will give AI a bright future that will increase the uses of helpful AI that will better our jobs and allow us to go beyond in broadcasting. Dr. Johan Vounckx also explained that “AI helps people, it does not replace them.”

The panel titled, “AI Driven Smart Production,” presented by Yuko Yamanouchi from the Science and Technology Research Lab NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation, explained how AI can benefit the news and sports broadcasting industries. She explained how Smart Production is used for news gathering and editing with big data analysis. An example would be a social media analysis system, that can extract tweets that might be useful for news production, using a “recent neural network, categorizing information into 24 types such as ‘fire’ or ‘accident.’” This use of AI can help in searching for news and updates on ongoing stories with the news industry.

Yamanouchi also explained how in broadcasting footage, smart production or AI technology can be helpful in face recognition of the live broadcast that can be modified for those hard of hearing or hard of seeing can understand what is going on during the live broadcast. The AI would be an animated person that would sign what is being said during a live sports broadcast, or an animated voice would be able to explain what is happening in the shot of the live broadcast, explaining in detail the events on screen.

The panel, “Cantemo: How Could Artificial Intelligence Help Us Better Manage Video Content?” presented by Mike Szumlinski, manager at North American Cantemo brought to light just how AI is already being used by companies and consumers and what to expect or can be expected in the future. He explained how AI can be used with strategic storytelling, and how video producers achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively, thus speeding along access to information and helping collate it. Szumlinski also explained how “The machines are not taking over (yet)” as the main purpose for AI is just helping achieve better results for video producing.

In the use of AI, he explained how with audio transcription, the use of natural-language processing to identify all audio contents of a video clip will still need human guidance as words can hold different meanings in different locations and cultures. Szumlinski explained how AI can be beneficial in video producing as it can detect emotions and identify the ten best shots to form a trailer for a film. With personalizing content, AI is already in use with algorithms to personalize content for individuals based on the information about them on mass scale.

AI was also presented during the NAB show in the exhibits of companies that use algorithms and machine learning as well as AI with their content and products. An example of companies that were attending the NAB and use AI and/or machine learning include, Google and their use of algorithms to provide the best content for its users, Amazon and their use of algorithms and machine learning with providing content and products and in their use of the Amazon Alexa, EchoStreams, who is a server platform provider that uses machine learning and AI, and ICX Media who use machine learning and AI in their server platform for data-inspired storytelling and in helping video creations, and distributions.

The NAB Show showcased AI technology and the advancements being made in the media and broadcasting industry. As the world of digital media continues to make progress with technological advancements, who knows what will be showcased in the years to come.

-Taylor Horvatich