Science fiction has always been fascinated by the so-called time/space continuum. Films dealing with that phenomena have ranged from "Stargate" to "Back to The Future" to "The Time Machine."
An Alexandria company has brought an element of that concept into today's world by combining advanced technology with film making and historical documentaries. Appropriately called NetBlender, Inc., it finds "creative ways to blend seemingly disparate types of media" to bring together lives and stories from the past with today's technology.
This new media startup, located at 113 N. Henry St., is the brainchild of Washington/Alexandria native John Harrington, 34, who founded Madison Film, Inc., in 1997 and NetBlender, Inc., in 2005. The latter garnered him a 2007 Emmy nomination for Advanced Media Technology at the 58th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards held in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 8, as part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show.
Although he did not win that Emmy, Harrington holds two Emmy Awards for cinematography and musical composition, one CINE Golden Eagle for high quality professional production, and a Telly Award honoring outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs for his 2006 film "The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson and Wine." His first nationally produced and directed film, it premiered on PBS in November 2005.
It was this film that blended the past and present so seamlessly for viewers and gained Harrington, as well as his NetBlender technology, wide acclaim in both the film and tech worlds. The technology meshes DVDs and real-time Internet media.
Demonstrating never-before developed integration of online mapping with DVD-Video, the production allows the viewer to watch the portion of the film that retraces Jefferson's 1787 wine tour through France's wine regions while an online map of France is displayed simultaneously. As the film moves from region to region, the corresponding map changes.
The viewer is able to take control and manipulate the map view, by clicking on any of Jefferson's tour stops which are marked in pushpins, according to Harrington. "When a push pin is clicked the application cues the corresponding portion of the film from the DVD," he explained.
"This is truly a dynamic time for the television industry, and we are recognizing the significant contributions made by technology and engineering professionals in enhancing and redefining the consumers' experiences with the media," said Peter Price, president/CEO, National Television Academy.
A GRADUATE of the University of Southern California, School of Cinema-Television, Harrington went to work for Paramount Films doing sound production following graduation in 1994. He left Paramount to join Goal Productions doing documentary films.
"I worked on a lot of movies and television shows. Then my interest changed because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life working in a room with no windows," he said.
That's when he decided to return to his native turf and start Madison Films, Inc. which morphed into NetBlender, Inc., as he broadened his horizon in technology. Madison produced documentary and interactive films for museums, government, universities, home entertainment and an array of clients that include Mount Vernon Estate, Smithsonian Institution, National Library of Medicine, U.S. Treasury, and Sony Pictures.
A bridge technology, NetBlender came into being as an outgrowth of Madison Films when "we started getting requests from our customers for updated information on something we had produced," Harrington said. He now has six patents pending on his technology.
"DVDs are very good at distributing high quality video with simple menu navigation — that is all that Hollywood originally required of them. But when the DVD spec was created in the mid 1990s, no one anticipated the impact that the Internet would have on the media, so there is a fundamental gap in the technology. NetBlender bridges that gap by allowing DVD's to interact with Internet and computer content," he explained.
"Training and education professionals have a tool for rich media applications that are never out of date and advertisers have a new avenue into the home as well as a new vehicle for maintaining an ongoing relationship with viewers," Harrington said.
This local graduate of St. Mary's School and St. Stephen's High School, who lives with his wife Mary and their three children on Fontaine Street, has taken his filmmaker/writer skills and combined them with an entrepreneurial spirit to blend yesterday, today and tomorrow. Within the shadow of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office he has developed and produced another element in the ongoing search for that elusive time/space continuum.