Friday, September 29, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Los Angeles ~ by Kyrsten Johnson

Digital Hollywood: 09/25 - 09/28

* Digital Hollywood
I spent four days at the annual Digital Hollywood event in Beverly Hills, and I was enormously thankful that I got in for free because of the Cyberscene. This highly-touted event certainly did not live up its press, and the lackluster presentations were enough to bore the most interested attendee. With platinum sponsors like Real Networks, Lucent Techologies and Windows Media, I expected a well-run event, but by the second day the below-par level of excitement was demonstrated even by the session panelists as they repeatedly failed to show up at their workshops.
Although the venue location was in the elegant hotel known as the Beverly Hilton, I didn't spot any celebrities or distinguished dignitaries in my ardent quest to find -- of all things -- food. Since there were only 20 minutes of break time to change rooms in between seminars, I expected a light buffet or even some snack items to be laid out for the attendees. No dice. Unless attendees decided to skip whole workshops or sessions during the day, we weren't going to get anything to eat. Thank goodness for the PowerBars in my gym bag. I will say that our hunger got a reprieve on Monday and Tuesday nights then the reception parties took place, and our thirst was easily quenched by the open bar. Tuesday's party was the most enjoyable -- sponsored by Lucent and held in the Exhibit area, everyone was chatting, drinking and sampling the yummy trays of snacks touted about. I met quite a few folks who were very interesting to talk with and I collected many business cards, notably from iKnowledge (, Rampt (, Atom Films (, and UrgePR (

Some of the workshops I attended during the week were mildly entertaining but could have been handled better. Most of the presentations were an hour and half long with 5 or 6 panelists and a moderator. By the time each panelist and moderator finished talking about their backgrounds and showing quick slideshows about their companies, there was very little time left to actually discuss the topic at hand! Thankfully, on the third day of the event, some of the moderators understood this problem enough to ask the panel to be brief about their respective companies and focus on the topics at hand. This worked much more efficiently for the topics, and on the last day of the conference the sessions were very good for discussions -- but, as I noted earlier, fewer and fewer of the panelists were showing up. For the last two workshops I attended, half of the panelists were AWOL or half were 'replacement' panelists because the listed speakers weren't 'available.' One more problem I want to report on is the poorly-planned room capacity, and then I'll end on a positive note, I swear. While many rooms were large enough to hold 200, some were not large enough to hold 50 and invariably people were sitting in the aisles and spilling out into the hallways. On room was so small it seemed to be an afterthought, as if the event planners realized they had a whole session track without a home and had to put random sessions in the room and hope that few people came.

Now, for the positive note: I had a lot of fun in the Lucent sponsor room. There were postcards all over the hotel promoting how any attendee could broadcast a live audio clip via email to friends and family. It was easy and fun, and I was impressed with the new compression technology because it compromised nothing - the audio was extremely clear. You'll have to wait to send these anytime soon though -- the staff informed me that this technology is not for consumers yet, but watch for it!