“Wireless” is probably the best showcase so far for Quibi’s Turnstyle technology. That’s the technology that allows the streaming video app to switch seamlessly between landscape and portrait mode depending on the orientation of your phone. With other Quibi shows, you’re essentially getting two views of the same footage — but with “Wireless” (which is executive produced by Steven Soderbergh), you’re switching between traditional cinematic footage (in landscape) and a view of the protagonist’s phone (in portrait). In this bonus episode of the Original Content podcast, director Zach Wechter told me that he and his co-writer Jack Seidman wrote the initial script — about a college student played by Tye Sheridan who gets trapped in the snow after a car crash, with only his iPhone to save him — before they decided on the phone-centric format. But when they heard about Turnstyle, “It just felt like a match made in heaven that would allow us to facilitate this idea.”
I wondered whether that required going back and adding a bunch of phone interactions to the story, but said Wechter said, “It was quite the opposite. One thing we found in testing was when the phone plot moved really fast, it would be hard, because there are these two perspectives happening at once.” So that actually meant “reducing some fo the intriacy of the plot happening on the phone” to ensure that viewers didn’t get lost.
And if you’re wondering which mode to focus on as you watch, Wechter has some simple advice: “Go with your gut.” He said he had a “roadmap” for when he was hoping to nudge viewers to turn their phones — like when there’s a notification sound or Sheridan focuses on his phone — “but I think the most important part of the experience is that we’re not indicating when our viewers turn, that it becomes this sort of passive-but-active viewing experience.” Wechter described making the show — essentially a feature length film divided into episodes of 10 minutes or less — as shooting “two films that had to dance together” in just 19 days. And he made things even more challenging by insisting that all the phone/FaceTime calls and even the text messages be filmed live, rather than just recording both ends separately. “When I think about directing and my job, really the most fundamental part of it to me is making the actorss comfortable, and I think that having a scene partner is paramount,” he said. “It was a long conversation about why we couldn’t just have them act off of a recording and shoot it separately — because it took a lot of logistical effort and resources to do it — but it really makes the scenes feel very alive and realistic.” You can listen to the full interview in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
Everyone wants more bandwidth from the skies, but it takes a lot of testing to turn laboratory research projects into real-world performant infrastructure. A number of new technologies, sometimes placed under the banner of “5G” and sometimes not, is embarking on that transition and being deployed in real-world scenarios. Those research trials are crucial for productizing these technologies, and ultimately, delivering consumers better wireless broadband options. We’ve talked a bit about one of those testbeds called COSMOS up in northern Manhattan near Columbia University, which is pioneering 5G technologies within a dense urban environment. The same National Science Foundation-funded research group that financed that project, the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research program (PAWR), has now selected two finalists for its fourth location, which has a specific focus on rural infrastructure.
The 5G wireless revolution will come, if your city council doesn’t block it first
Research teams in Ames, Iowa affiliated with Iowa State University, and Lincoln, Nebraska affiliated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, each won $300,000 grants to accelerate their planning for the testbeds. Those teams will use the grants to optimize their proposals, with one expected to receive the final full grant next year. The goal for this latest testbed is to find next-generation wireless technology stacks that can deliver cheaper and better bandwidth to rural America, areas of the country that are not well-served by traditional cable and fiber networks nor current wireless cell tower coverage. Whoever wins will join the existing three wireless testbeds in New York City, Salt Lake City and the Research Triangle in North Carolina. PAWR itself is a joint public-private initiative with $100 million in funding to accelerate America’s frontier wireless innovation. It’s co-led by US Ignite, an NSF-run initiative to bring smart city ideas to fruition, and Northeastern University.
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