Made-for-Ipod "The Sleep of Reason" Hits Prime Time on Studio Universal

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Conceived as a podcast, the thriller miniseries "The Sleep of Reason" will premiere on pay channel Studio Universal on October 31 and only later will it be made available on the internet. The series is just one example of how podcasts have evolved in the past few years, often becoming full fledged shows suitable for multi-platform exploitation.

Conceived as a podcast, the thriller miniseries "The Sleep of Reason" will premiere on pay channel Studio Universal on October 31 and only later will it be made available on the internet. The series is just one example of how podcasts have evolved in the past few years, often becoming full fledged shows suitable for multi-platform exploitation.

In the past couple of years "podcasts", the digital media files distributed through the internet through syndicated feeds for later viewing on portable media devices, have undergone a significant transformation in content and distribution potential. Originally conceived as short audio containers for iPods they have slowly, but steadily evolved to become full fledged shows ranging from language or cooking lessons to personal video diaries, short movie compilations or newscasts. Studio Universal's "The Sleep of Reason", conceived and produced as a podcast, will even premiere on tv this month before being offered on the internet later in the year.

Many podcast now have an established, proven audience: "Channel Frederator", for instance, is a container for short cartoons encapsuled in an original, attractive format. Launched by the end of 2005, it is well beyond its 100th episode and shows no signs of weakness as it proudly defends its position atop the download charts.

Originally a live show on the London fringe, "Comedy 365" is another podcast that launched in June 2005 as an online radio station to become one of the most watched places for up and coming comedy talent.

With almost 10,000 channel views on "YouTube", "Cosmic Ray" introduces itself as a heavy metal novel. At 72 episodes, all available online and each below two minutes in length, this innovative series reminiscent of "The Blair Witch Project" relies on almost five hundred subscribers for its continuing success.

As a result of the growing popularity of this format, the border between podcasting and broadcasting has also narrowed. Although designed ultimately for internet consumption, some podcasts have begun to mix the informal structure by whom they were originally conceived with the dramatic narrative typical of movies and television series. Thus originating a yet new specimen of media content that explores the realm of fiction programming from a completely new perspective.

One example of how the typical structure of a podcast can be stretched to generate multi-platform creative content is "The Sleep of Reason", a miniseries produced by Giovanni Pedde on an original format by Pedde and Vittorio Testa and distributed by Studio Universal.

Unlike typical podcasts, the series will not premiere on an internet site, but rather as a special event at the Ravenna Nightmare Film Festival on October 30. And before it hits YouTube, Studio Universal, Universal Studio Network's pay channel, will broadcast the complete season on television. But what the series' audience will watch on their iPhones and iPods later this year will not necessarily be the same content they had seen on television: the production company Less Visible Things said to have structured each segment as an interactive prototype rather than as a single episodic unit. There will be a myriad different types of media files, ranging from interviews to other forms of audiovisual content, that will surround each of the podcast episodes.

"We realized we can offer the series at more than one level" - explains Steve Bell, who hosts the thriller series - "and while it can be enjoyed as a series on television, we envision it more as an interactive experience in its internet distribution. The individual episode offered each week will be nothing but the firestarter for a broader exchange with its potential audience".

Certainly, podcasting is opening up new and virtually unlimited possibilities to creativity while the incredible success of portable media players and online video sites is quickly refocusing audience attention towards media content that is shorter, free and easy to access without having to adapt to the schedule of tv channels or movie theaters. Cross-platform experimentation with creative content may well be the means to identify the right formats in the future of digital media.

Perhaps to find out that movie theaters and television will one day turn out to be just a tool to promote a product's premiere on the iPod.

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Laura Del Severo

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