While many film and video aimed expos concern themselves mostly about tech and business—think NAB product introductions featuring their share of mind-numbing tech details—when it comes to photo shows, things somehow end up being a bit different. Emotionally, I mean (see the photo at the head of the column). Now aiming for the heart—or that zone a little lower—isn’t unique to photo exhibitions. The NAB and IBC shows of 20 some years ago often had booth displays of less than completely dressed women that seemed more Vegas lounge than a grey, straight-suited sales convention.
That wouldn’t fly at today’s shows, nor does it at Photo Plus Expo; the fair-sized photo show (it fills one of the two main floor halls at the Javits) is now in town through Saturday. If not skin, attendees do get treated to one other emotion writ large—sentiment (or sentimentality as one cynic of the show sniffed). Oceans of Lucite must have been poured, you think, as you stroll by the companies servicing the wedding industry complex, one seemingly resilient part of the economy.
Custom book publishing, lead by HP’s technical prowess and hunger for new markets, looks hot at the show. In a way this is a replay of what desktop publishing did to traditional offset print houses—laid waste. This time it’s the once ink-stained, analog book manufacturing trade, that’s transitioning from local, or regional companies to any one with internet-based one. HP is the big player here; their Designjet printers are behind the Palo Alto-based company’s push to webify book and magazine publishing.
A number of small custom book publishing companies in the hall—many if not most using HP’s worked-out online scheme—let you create photo books for little effort beyond your own time and layout skills, then print them on a just-in-time-basis, so you don’t hit that first hurdle—not having the cash up front to buy X number of books on the blind hope you’ll sell them all and maximize your profit. There’s a lot of waste in unwanted dead trees too, whether books or magazines.
According to HP’s Andrew Bolwell, director of new business initiatives, 62 percent of the two billion magazines printed each year in the U.S. end up unsold and in landfills. Earlier this week, HP and Wikia announced that their joint MagCloud service was going live. With MagCloud, anyone can pick among the 3 million some user-written free pages of Wikia articles and print them out as a magazine. The cost? Twenty-cents per page.
Also just launching ‘formally’: HP’s BookPrep, which allows you to print any of over 500,000 copyright-expired books from the University of Michigan’s libraries. Google is doing the heavy lifting of the digitizing. Price? A 250-page book is expected to come in around $15.
Finally, just last month, HP unveiled a “print app” marketplace for printing specialized content without a PC. This small software program works with HP’s PhotoSmart and TouchSmart printer to create a web “Printing 2.0” experience, since you can print to those devices from anywhere you might be, via a smartphone or laptop. AOL and Flickr are among the partners which embed that printing app in their sites.
Oh, and the effusive woman in the picture? She’s emoting over Animoto, a web site that takes your uploaded images, automatically edits them into a video that matches the beats and rhythms of pop, jazz, and other licensed music (not generic stuff either, for the most part), and complete with effects (fades, dissolves, graphic breakups, etc). So what’s that get you for the $249 a year fee? Well, you have free use of as many Quicktime videos as you care to create—it takes under a half hour for the system to ‘create’ a typical short video–which you can embed (in a web site), transcode for smartphones, or burn to DVD.
This isn’t necessarily a vanity item. “I’ve spoken with wedding photographers who are selling DVDs and even smartphone videos to their clients,” says Erik Bjornard, vp of marketing at New York-based Animoto. Since weddings still garner top dollar, it isn’t unusual, he says, for DVD to sell at $700 a pop or more. Bjornard says the company took two years developing the software—called Cinematic Artificial Intelligence—”that thinks like an actual director and editor” according to a sales brochure. Whether that’s the case or not, it’s worth stopping by the Javits to see for yourself.