Leroy Johannsen, BioTech entrepreneur extraordinaire, owns two yachts, six homes in exotic locations around the globe, the latest mobile phone, platinum golf clubs, fleets of motor cars, …, in fact, Leroy owns virtually anything he may possibly want. So what will his lovely wife, Sarah, be getting the man who has everything this Christmas?
“It’s really been tough to come up with something exciting that would surprise him. Then along came PlayMation and I just knew what I’d be getting him; the DVD of Terminator 2 – his favourite movie of all time!”
That may sound like an ordinary gift, but PlayMation is no ordinary film distribution company. “We turn ordinary people into superstars. Within ten years this will be the norm in movies and TV. PlayMation is set to revolutionise an industry ravaged by digital economics,” says Bruce Gibb, the company’s CEO.
PlayMation’s design engineers digitally record a brief series of interviews with the subject and develop a three-dimensional ‘avatar’ of you. Then, choose your favourite film and the character you want to be and PlayMation substitute you for that character.
And what does Leroy, the man who has everything, think of his gift? “This is so cool! Next year I want to be Indiana Jones!”
(Read the full story in the detailed Analysis/Synthesis section – for subscribers only)
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Early 1900s: Dawn of Animation
In 1908 Winsor McCay produced an animation sequence using his comic strip character “Little Nemo.” He followed this up in 1909 with a cartoon called “Gertie the Trained Dinosaur” consisting of 10 000 drawings.
Walt Disney introduced sound to animation in 1928 with Mickey Mouse and produced movies combining actors with animated characters: ‘The Three Caballeros’ (1943), set in South America, ‘Song of the South’ (1946) and ‘Pete’s Dragon’ (1978), in which the green title character is animated.
In 1953, MGM’s musical, ‘Dangerous When Wet’, starred Esther Williams who, in one sequence, goes swimming with Tom and Jerry.
1980s: The ‘Academic’ Internet
TCP/IP goes mainstream as various academic institutions around the world connect to the network. The Internet starts to “come alive”. In 1984 the Domain Name Host is introduced and 1 000 domains are registered. In 1988 the first documented virus, an Internet Worm, breaks into the network and disables 6 000 of the 60 000 service providers.
The 1988 feature film, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, directed by Robert Zemeckis starred Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd and a host of animated characters, including newcomer Roger Rabbit and his beautiful wife Jessica, voiced by Kathleen Turner.
1990s: The ‘Commercial’ Internet, WWW and File Swapping
ARPANET is closed and Tim Berners-Lee introduces the world to the World Wide Web in 1991. Shopping malls arrive on the net in 1994 triggering the long boom that will erupt spectacularly in 1998.
The MP3 standard is introduced for archival and compression of data files. It will achieve notoriety with the rapid dissemination of music and movie.
The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, sponsored by Sonny Bono, extended copyright protection an additional 20 years for cultural works, thereby protecting movies, plays, books and music for a total of 70 years after the author’s death or for 95 years from publication for works created by or for corporations.
In 1999 “Star wars Episode One – The Phantom Menace” uses 66 digital characters composited with live action.
2001 – 4: Digital Actors
Napster causes a stir by allowing the online trading of music files. The media industry panics.
In 2001 John Dykstra creates “Stuart Little” a movie featuring an entirely believable digital mouse adopted by human parents.
According to the American Motion Picture Association, bootleg videos cost the movie industry $250 million a year in U.S. sales and $2.5 billion worldwide. Students and school children are arrested in showcases across the US to warn off individuals from online piracy.
In 2002, when veteran British actor Oliver Reed died during filming of the Roman epic “Gladiator”, some scenes were digitally altered to make it look as if he was present.
“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy introduces the Massive software which enables countless extras to be digitally included in a movie. Each digital extra has an independent ‘artificial intelligence’.
“Rustboy”, a feature-length animated movie, is released. Brian Taylor, “father” of Rustboy, says, “The film was produced using modest, affordable home software without the benefit of high-end 3D packages usually associated with films of this nature.”
Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig contests the Copyright Term Extension Act claiming that the constitution of the US intended for copyrights to expire so works could enter the public domain and spark new creative efforts to update them. He loses.
2005: Digital economics hits movies
The US government is embarrassed when the teenage son of US Senator Bob Albright of Oklahoma is arrested for downloading pirated movies over the Internet.
Studios begin their dispute with the super star actors. Desperate to reduce costs they suggest creating digital stars. In the March of the Stars, four generations of Oscar winners parade along Hollywood Boulevard in protest.
CNN introduces entirely digitised newsreaders laying off all but their most important personalities. Larry King resigns in protest. CNN is unmoved as their stock climbs 14%.
2006: New Marilyn Monroe
Film studios realise that the war to stop online piracy has failed. The cost of film production plummets as new digital techniques combine with the refusal of studios to pay ‘superstar’ salaries. Studios realise profits but only through massive parallel marketing. Films are merely a vehicle for product placement and spin-offs.
Advertisers are willing to spend a fortune on movie product placement after TiVo digital personal video recorders obliterate television advertising. Viewers can’t skip through the adverts in a cinema.
Marilyn Monroe appears in her new film, “Some Like it Hotter” alongside Jack Lemmon. Although both stars are dead, their digital personas (or ‘avatars’) belong to their agents who have licensed the franchise for the new movie. The movie is a sell-out.
Hustler causes riots when they release “Deep Heat”, a pornographic film starring Pope John Paul II, who died in 2004.
2007: You’re the Star!
Individuals get the chance to star in their favourite movies with the launch of PlayMation.
“Watch yourself say, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,’ to Scarlet O’Hara; play Luke Skywalker or James Bond or even The Terminator. I’ve always wanted to be a martial arts expert, so the first movie I tested this out in was as Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon,” says a very excited Bruce Gibb, CEO of PlayMation.
The film studios love it. It allows them to dust off poor selling movies that are pirated all over the Internet and their existing film libraries and sell them in a brand new format. And jaded Christmases are getting a whole new gleam.
At $ 50 000 per film, this isn’t for everyone. “But the technology is getting cheaper,” says Gibb, “we expect to see this on every home computer in ten years.”