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Jackson Hole Symposium 2008

Last week, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival (JHWFF), which happens every two years, held its “in-between the festival event” in Jackson, WY.

Called the Jackson Hole Symposium for Applied Media Professionals, this event was their first Non-Broadcast Media & Technology Conference. As such, it represents JHWFF’s strategic move to expand its traditional focus upon nature/wildlife film making for broadcast and theater presentation into the world of new media.

I participated in the first panels about the web and internet that JHWFF offered at the film festival, starting in September 2001, and have participated in similar presentations since then, in 2003, 2005 and 2007. From my historical perspective, the specific focus on new media storytelling is a welcome expansion of the festival’s mission!

In between sessions the Symposium attendees gathered in the atrium of the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts.

And judging by the discussions inside and outside the auditorium during last week’s event, conference attendees (there were about 140) seemed pleased not only with the topics presented, but especially with the networking that was taking place in the halls, in the dining area, etc.

Notably, there was a focus on cultural institutions use of new media storytelling.

For example, David Noel and Gannon Kashiwa were on hand from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (co-sponsors of the event) and gave a demonstration of how they are connecting scientists in the field, live, to student audiences in the museum. New satellite technology available only in the last several years has made this possible by bringing the $700 to $900 per hour broadcast costs down by two-thirds. Other factors – better compression, and the fact the whole satellite kit (with generator, laptops, mics, etc) fits into the back of Nissan truck — makes this type of “live from the field” broadcast more realistic for museums and similar institutions.

In addition to cultural institutions, representatives from KQED Public Television, in San Francisco, were on hand to share their Quest project. Sue Ellen McCann, Executive Producer, and Craig Rosa, Interactive Producer and Jessica Neeley, Project Supervisor/Science Initiatives, participated in several panels to demonstrate the multi-platform nature of the Quest project.

Sue Ellen McCann (L), Craig Rosa (C) and Jessica Neeley (R) present Quest, KQED public television's multi-platform, multimedia initiative.

Featuring blogs, maps and photo sharing, the web presence is the “nucleus of Quest.” Not only does it present the high-definition science and nature stories that are part of KQED’s TV and radio broadcasts, but it features web only content, as well. According to Craig, as much as 40% of the online audience are web content only viewers. A full description of the program is on their “About” page.

Core to the current Quest project, and growing over time, is public participation in the content creation process.

A representative of GeoDome explains the projection system of the inflatable, portable planetarium.

A representative of GeoDome explains the projection system of the inflatable, portable planetarium.

Public participation in content creation was a thread that wove itself consistently through the three days of presentations, as many attendees are professional content creators themselves, concerned with how they would continue their livelihood in the YouTube era.

Part of the answer that came up several times was that, while technology empowers almost anyone to be a film maker, not everyone is gifted as a storyteller. And that is where, judging by audience comments during Q&A sessions, there is opportunity. Several attendees representing cultural institutions indicated in their comments that they have the content in their collections, but what they’re lacking is people with storytelling skills who can translate that into new media or HD presentations.

In addition to 3 full days of panel presentations, there were camera and related gear exhibitors, hands-on Final Cut Pro workshops and a really cool, inflatable “Geodome,” which is essentially a portable planetarium.

All in all, a good turnout and a good effort for a brand new feature of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.