Tiny-screen video gets its own festival circuit

iPod, cell phone film contests offer filmmakers exposure, prizes for works in miniature.

The explosive growth in small-screen video--think cell phones, iPods, and cameras--is triggering its own new set of mini-film festivals.

Ithaca College's Park School of Communications is sponsoring a contest aimed at filmmakers who use only the cameras on their cell phones.

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Video: From phone to movie
First U.S. cellflix contest at Ithaca College

For those with bigger cameras, but a similar flair for the miniature, indie film site TheFlux.TV is sponsoring what it calls the first iPod Video Film Festival, with all entries formatted for Apple Computer's latest video and music player.

The rise in short-form video, accessible on a growing number of devices, is a sign that filmmaking is becoming more democratic, said TheFlux founder Ryan Ritchey.

"Think of it as the new cable access channel," Ritchey said. "This is the new outlet for people who want to get content out there. For moviemakers, this won't be about repackaging 'Lost'--it is about creating fresh, short content for these devices."

Indeed, the sheer volume of video content available online is becoming staggering, both at indie sites like YouTube.com and Revver, and at larger companies like Yahoo, Google, and Ifilm.

Ithaca College's cell phone festival is aimed at showing students exactly what that means for them professionally, said Melissa Gattine, assistant for special programs at the communications school.

"The whole premise of the contest is that we're trying to get students prepared for the workplace," Gattine said. "Even if they're studying TV or film, they might get jobs providing content for cell phones or iPods. They need to think about how to present stories that way."

The contest is open to anybody who creates a 30-second film shot entirely on a cell phone's video camera, and will be judged by Ithaca alumni in the film industry, she said.

The winning entry will receive $5,000, but many of the other entries may also be used as curriculum in Ithaca classes, as professors and students study them to see what techniques work in that medium and what doesn't.

The contest run by TheFlux will let visitors to the site decide the winning entries in several categories. The overall winner will likely get a video editing system, and runner-ups will win prizes that "fit with the iPod theme," Ritchey said. He said he's waiting until after next week's MacWorld to announce details, just in case there are new products that might serve as prizes.

Entries for the iPod contest are due Jan. 25, and the winners will be announced at the South by Southwest festival on March 15. Ithaca's cell phone contest deadline is Jan. 10, and winners will be announced Jan. 30.

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