Friday, December 08, 2006

International Collaborations Made Easy with Free Phone Calls and Online Storage

I discovered the power of online chat/telephony service and storage a couple of years ago when making a multi-media dance work called Efficiency – which included an original score by London-based artist – Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud). To undertake this transatlantic collaboration (I live in Washington, DC), we quickly realized we needed a digital solution to bridge our distance. With iChat suddenly we could have free hour-long transatlantic conversations (which I once considered unimaginable given international calling rates)!

Another great online telephony service – Skype had just come out as well, which works well for both Macs and PCs; is easy and free to download; and can even be used to dial landline or mobile phones (for a per-minute fee). You can use a web cam (or other digital camera) to suddenly have video conferences.

Our extended conversations were supplemented by forwarding one another files through online storage and delivery services. I was able to record videos of dance rehearsals; upload them to my computer; and then, edit and compress the video using iMovie so that I could forward them to Robin via online storage. And, he could forward me mp3s to try out in rehearsals. He eventually scored the first draft to a video of spliced together video projections and the live dancing in the final work. Once, we finalized the score, he uploaded the highest quality file (“apple lossless” – so we could play it on a theater’s sound system). And, I downloaded it to burn to CD and play during the performances.

There are several online delivery services that are free – like DropLoad or YouSendIt. The beauty of them is that you can transfer a large file easily without having a website. You upload the file; the service creates a unique URL; and it sends the URL via email to your contact, who can then download the file by simply clicking on the URL through their web browser. Since then, I’ve discovered MoveDigital – a fee-based service – which provides the same concept but in a more versatile way. You have a permanent account where you can share and store files in a more consistent way. (MoveDigital also creates a unique URL for each file.) This provides a method of having permanent storage for very low cost providing high-bandwidth connectivity (The basic plan is about $10 for 1GB of storage for a year). I now use MoveDigital on my site to deliver video content – but it can also be used to simply share files.

The applications are endless. An agent or tour manager can meet with venues by teleconference and then quickly follow-up the conversation by providing images and videos of an artists’ work through online storage. Imagine being able to see a quick video of the set that you will need to load into your space in a few weeks or seeing the in-progress dance you’ve commissioned while speaking to the artist in Brazil. You may even be able to get in touch with artists and companies in hard-to-reach places (somewhere like Bangladesh – as the Grameen Bank proves). Maybe like me, you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.

Ed. note - Skype just announced an unlimited yearly calling plan from skype to any mobile or land line phone in the US (currently free in the US, and a per-minute charge to other countries). Starting in 2007, unlimited yearly calling in the US and Canada will cost $29.95, $14.95 if you purchase before January 31, 2007).

If you're interested in learning more about how to transfer large files, see JoRoan's post about Pando.

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