Nexpo Notebook #2: Cheerleading, And What'd I Say?

By: Mark Fitzgerald and Jim Rosenberg Nexpo wasn't the only show in Orlando. Heck, it wasn't even the only show at the Orange County Convention Center.

Among the groups meeting in America's theme park capital was an international cheerleaders competition. We never made it to that event -- but then there was plenty of cheerleading going on at Nexpo.

If there was a common theme to many, many formal sessions and informal show floor demonstrations it was this: Snap out of it, newspaper industry! Stop being a Gloomy Gus and feel the love!

And a common creed was professed repeatedly. Here's a sampling heard on the floor and in the lecture rooms:

"We believe in newspapers." -- Brandon Casson of Southern Lithoplate

"We are very committed to the newspaper segment." -- Bruce Davidson of Kodak

"We believe in this (newspaper) business. We believe in print." --
Peter Kuisle of MAN Roland

"I believe in the future of newspapers." -- Mort Goldstrom of the Newspaper Association of America

"Print is alive, more today than in the history of the medium." --
Mark Mikolajczk of Florida Today

"We believe print products, including the daily newspaper, will be a part of people's lives for a very long time." -- Larry Orkus of the Reading Eagle Co.

Who's Minding The Store?

While Nexpo crowds have been thin, and bulked up the attendance only a little on Monday, the vendors -- a crowd that's had a tendency to be pretty cranky at past Nexpos -- are by all accounts pretty happy with this year's show. The feeling seems to be that the production people who are attending are coming to buy.

But we were struck by the not-for-attribution complaint we heard from a production manager who came to Nexpo hoping to solve a blanket problem. But no matter where he went on the show floor, he said, nobody could help him.

Rather than sending salespeople to production shows, this ops guy thinks, vendors might do better to sprinkle in some actual production people.

What'd I Say?

We've already posted a news item on MerlinOne Inc.'s new technology for searching words spoken on video clips. But Fitzgerald got a demonstration of its Monday afternoon, and came back pretty jazzed about it. Here's his account:

Newspapers are getting pretty good about posting video on their Web sites these days, as can be seen by the popularity of the "raw footage" clip The Associated Press put together from the video Virginia Tech mass murderer Seung-Hui Cho.

They're getting good enough that broadcasters have noticed, MerlinOne President David M. Tenenbaum told me on the Nexpo show floor. At the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting, he said, a speaker chastised the broadcasters, telling them that newspapers were doing a better job than they were in weaving video into their Web sites.

Now MerlinOne is offering newspapers another arrow in that quiver.

An HD (high-definition) video-capable version of its Merlin 5 Content Manager lets journalists and end-users search for words spoken in a video clip.

He and John Harrison, MerlinOne's vice president of sales and marketing, showed me how a search for "Madonna" or "election" turns up both video and text with the system. Click on a video, and a column next to the clip shows where the word turned up. Click on the word, and you go right to the part of clip where it is uttered.

Using an HD video camera and a boom microphone, Tenenbaum, who was an AP still photographer for 15 years, recorded me reading a script. Within minutes, the clip was on the computer and searchable. Nearly instantly, it was manipulated as a lead-in to a scene from Casablanca for a neat little online video package. The demo used Apple's Final Cut Pro.

The program that turns the speech into searchable text is not infallible, and it misinterpreted several of my words.

"It's probably at 80% (accurate), but that's better than zero percent," Tenenbaum said. "We were pleasantly surprised by the accuracy we're getting even before we try some signal-processing tricks."

Tenenbaum sees a lot of similarities between where Web video is now, and digital photography was a decade or so ago. "In trying to get newspapers to go from film to digital, the issues were the same," he says. "Storage capacity ... Metadata, there was no standard for tagging data, and compression standards."


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