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Russia brings an interactive VR series to Cannes Film Festival



Director Georgy Molodtsov
Russian film director Georgy Molodtsov | Photo: Vincent Cros

This year, within the framework of the Cannes Film Festival, the Cannes XR VeeR Future Award competition was created. One of the animations presented as part of the project was the multiformat ‘Under the Pillow’, a project by Russian film director Georgy Molodtsov.

The animated story is based on a fairytale by journalist Sergey Molodtsov, Georgy’s father, where a handmade cuddly kitten-like toy encourages children to explore a hidden magical world under the pillow of an old sofa, while also helping them to overcome difficult periods in their lives along the way.

The event to present Under the pillow at the Marche du Film was held in an unusual format. Part of the presentation took place right inside a virtual reality scene, demonstrating how new technologies offer innovative opportunities to be present without the physical barrier of crossing borders. Particularly handy during a pandemic!

“For the first time in a while, Russia is widely represented at the Cannes Film Festival – both in the official and parallel programs. From the films of leading directors to animated series made with VR technology, we had Russian projects of various formats this year” – says Evgenia Markova, the CEO of Roskino, the state body representing the Russian industry of audiovisual content in the international markets.

“As new technologies are gradually becoming part of our lives, industry leaders are already using VR technology very successfully. But there is still a huge space ahead for the implementation of the most daring ideas. Today we see this with the example of a unique animated VR project, which confirms that the combination of advanced IT developments and a fascinating story gives birth to a real work of art. The widespread recognition of VR by the professional film community and by the audience themselves is only a matter of time.’ – believes Markova.

Evgenia Markova, the CEO of Roskino

Evgenia Markova, CEO at Roskino

“The Under the Pillow project is the first episode of an interactive VR film at the intersection of storytelling and gameplay. But it was important for us not to create this entire universe that was going to be limited only to content available in virtual reality helmets. The model of the use of game engines underlying the project will allow us, with much less effort than in traditional animation, to create adaptations of this story with the same characters, locations and plots within other formats that will help us to immerse a much wider audience in the world of cat Mormitten. Participation in the Cannes Film Festival program draws international attention toward the Russian animation and film industry and to the possibilities of using VR to create both innovative and traditional projects.” – celebrates Georgy Molodtsov.

This is not the first time that this Russian director has brought a virtual reality world to the Cannes Film Festival. Having been involved with VR since 2015, Georgy came to Cannes in 2017 to display the Russian VR Seasons program. Back then, projects were exhibited in 360 format, only allowing people to watch them with the use of VR helmets. Fast forward four years, projects such as ‘Under The Pillow’ offers completely interactive episodes, which begins its own distribution destiny thanks to a partnership with the Chinese company VeeR. VeeR has bought the first episode for a two-year distribution. But the presence of Russia on the international market is not limited to one animation VR project: new co-productions are being launched, and a boom of virtual (XR) production studios is to take place in Russia.

‘Last year in Venice and now at the Cannes Film Festival, a very important process is taking place for the industry – now VR projects can be watched at the comfort of your home by purchasing a subscription to the virtual exhibition centre. Another option for their demonstration is the organization of exhibitions in partner countries in parallel with the dates of the main festivals. People come to such events with pleasure, realizing that this is not just entertainment, but also art’, – says Georgy Molodtsov.


Fully integrated platform for B2B social media marketing secures $20m in funding



Oktopost founders
The global martech industry is now worth $121.5 billion

Oktopost, a fully integrated platform for B2B social media marketing, employee advocacy and revenue attribution, announced that it has secured a $20 million minority investment from London-headquartered growth equity firm Expedition Growth Capital.

Providing a user-friendly cloud platform built on a single-code base, where B2B marketers can curate content, organize, and easily manage campaigns for corporate social media accounts. Oktopost offers native integrations with Marketing Automation Platforms such as Adobe’s Marketo, Salesforce’s Pardot, and Hubspot; and CRM systems such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

The global martech industry is now worth $121.5 billion, with B2B organizations investing in a variety of technologies to help them reach their marketing goals.

Oktopost plans to use the funding to advance its product roadmap focused solely on B2B requirements, boost its customer success function, accelerate marketing and sales, and explore strategic acquisitions. The company currently has a global team spread across Tel Aviv, London, and Atlanta, and plans to grow its workforce by 50% in the second half of 2021.

“Our mission from day one was to establish the first-ever B2B social media marketing platform with the ability to measure and quantify the value of social media in terms of lead generation, pipeline influence, customer acquisition, and, ultimately, ROI. As former B2B marketers, we know attribution and hard ROI are paramount and, as a result, we have been first-movers in developing strong integrations that generate these for social marketing.” – says Daniel Kushner, co-founder and CEO at Oktopost.

“There are a number of social media tools out there catering for B2C companies but we haven’t seen a platform that is specifically tailored to the B2B journey until Oktopost. The ability to manage, track and analyse social activities is increasingly a must-have for B2B sales and marketing organisations. We’re excited to be part of the journey from here,” – celebrates Oliver Thomas, Managing Partner at Expedition Growth Capital.

Seasoned sales and marketing executive, Rainer Gawlick, will also be joining the board as a non-executive director, bringing 25 years of experience in the technology sector as an operational executive and a board member of public and private companies, including Progress and Meltwater.

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How to start a successful YouTube channel in 2021



Youtuber Austen Tosone working on a laptop
Tosone, YouTube creator: focus on one main topic while creating content for the platform

It is relatively easy to start a YouTube channel. Or several.

But judging by the amount of ‘abandoned’ channels with little or no content, one would assume it isn’t that easy to create relevant content and maintain constant growth, at least until a channel becomes popular and monetizable.

The video platform with an estimated 2.1 billion users worldwide has turned into a source of entertainment and ‘how-to’ videos, from comedy channels to how to assemble a 280-piece Ikea table. And some of the people creating regular content for YouTube have the guarantee of millions of views on their next video, such as beauty influencer Jeffree Star and Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg (aka PewDiePie), who, with a solid 110 million subscribers, is netting nearly $8 million in monthly revenue, according to a study by Purple Moon Promotional Products. So, it is perfectly understandable that everyone seems to want to become the next Jeffree Star or PewDiePie.

Despite these aspirations, an estimated 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. This means it’s an increasingly competitive market out there, making the road from videos shot in the bedroom – and watched barely by anyone – to having a channel with thousands of subscribers, one hard to navigate.

“I’ve had my YouTube channel since 2018 and just hit 4k subscribers earlier in 2021.
It took me about a year to reach my first 1,000 subscribers and my biggest challenge during that time was to figure out what content my audience was most interested in and do more of that.” – says content creator Austen Tosone. “Studying my YouTube analytics really helped me see which videos got the most views, how many were watching the videos all the way through, and which videos landed me the most new subscribers. I now focus my channel on beauty product reviews and tips for beauty creators.”

“If I were just starting a YouTube channel from scratch, I’d focus on making videos on one main topic and finding video ideas by researching keywords with a high search volume (monthly searches) and low competition (under 100,000 videos in the search results). I use a tool called TubeBuddy to help me find these keywords. This will help you show up higher in search results and, over time, you can start to target bigger keywords.” says Tosone.

For London-based Italian chef Fabio Errante, it was only when the allocated time and patience to work on his YouTube channel about homemade pizza, Fabioulous, that things started to work in his favour.

“I started my YouTube channel around one year ago but, for a long time, it was one of the abandoned ones with little to no content.
At some point, last summer, I started to work on the channel harder and more consistently. Finally, a few months ago, I hit my first 1000 subscribers and I have more than 100k views!” – celebrates Errante.

Are you still looking forward to creating a YouTube channel to share your expertise and, with a bit of luck, even get some extra money on the side? Here are the tips you need to make your YouTube success a reality:


First things first

Although most influencers and content creators use DSLRs or mirrorless cameras to film their videos, you can start by simply using your smartphone. This means you can also avoid investing lots of money on new equipment that you probably won’t know how to use anyway.

Audio is key. Finding a quiet area with decent natural light will help you create a video as good as those filmed on £6,000 cameras. And, of course, make it interesting and do your homework about the topic you will shoot before pressing ‘rec’.


Things to keep in mind to grow your YouTube channel:

Find your tribe

Instead of appealing to everyone, you will have to niche down and work hard to serve a specific audience through your videos. YouTube values “topical expertise” and, as someone starting a channel, you will have a better chance by narrowing down to a clear topic that you can easily create content on over several months.


Quality over quantity

Time and again, YouTube has determined that viewers don’t pay as much attention to the production quality of videos. But they decide what to watch based on their “interests and passions.”

So, you don’t need to get all fancy, especially in the beginning. Just focus on providing value to your viewers and serving high-quality content.


Consistency will get you places

Don’t ghost your viewers, even if you only have 20.

There are thousands of other videos online about the very same thing you are passionate about. So, if you don’t show up on your subscriber’s timeline, other creators will.

As the YouTube algorithm is rumoured to favour those posting consistently, there is a chance that if you disappear for long periods of time, the platform won’t make too much effort to show your new content to current subscribers or other people searching for content around your topic.


Useful tools to help you with your new YouTube channel

Free audio library

Besides YouTube’s own audio library, which offer free music and sound effects for those creating content on its platform, FMA (Free Music Archive) is another very useful tool. It was created in 2009 by radio station WFMU, offering free access to open licensed, original music. Remember to credit the artists, though!


Free graphic design tool

Web-based graphic design tool Canva offers a decent free version to help you create great thumbnails for your videos. You want a thumbnail that can grab a viewer’s attention, even before they start watching the first minute of your new content.

As well as creating YouTube thumbnails, you can also use Canva to design custom YouTube channel art and a logo for your channel. You could also design end screens to display at the end of your video, inviting viewers to subscribe, share or watch the next video available on your channel.


Measuring your video performance

Social Blade, an American website that tracks social media statistics and analytics on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, amongst other social media platforms, is an excellent tool for seeing what is not easily exposed.

You can use the tool to have a look at what your competitors are up to, so you can learn from others, too.



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New project analyses online content to fight fake news



BBC news browser
Success rate of SocialTruth for news that included falsified information, reached 63%.| © Annie Spratt

The first two test phases of the SocialTruth project, an engine that analyses, classifies and certifies online news for reliability, have been completed.

The platform is a multidisciplinary European project, which was created with the objective of analysing the news to make the dissemination of information online safer and more trustworthy. It was developed by an international consortium of 11 partners, including the ICCS – Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (Athens – GR); UTP-University of Sciences and Technology (Bydgoszcz – PL) and the LSBU-London South Bank University (London – UK).

The tests involved more than 700 use cases conducted in 14 days, where almost 500 websites, articles and pieces of online news were subjected to the SocialTruth analysis. The system was checked, and data was collected and utilized by the technical partners for the further development and definition of the system, which will be completed shortly. This will lead to the final round of evaluations in September 2021.

The results of these first experimental tests went beyond expectations with almost 90% of the “real” pieces of news being correctly recognized by the project and identified as valid and reliable. Similarly, the total success rate of SocialTruth for news that included falsified information reached 63%.

Evaluations were conducted using the Digital Companion end-user app. This is a simple add-on that can be easily installed on most common browsers. The user experience of the Digital Companion emphasizes convenience, as it is user-friendly and easy to understand.

The blockchain system has been utilised to guarantee the results of the analysis are reliable and solid.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, SocialTruth has been developed to fight fake news. The idea of creating an open, democratic, pluralistic and distributed ecosystem shows the originality of the project. The initiative grants easy access to various verification services, ensuring scalability, and building trust, in a completely decentralized environment.

To find out more about the project, visit the official SocialTruth website here.

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