Email Interview with Dmitriy Plugin, Creator of ‘Ranzar’ – A YouTube Parody Channel, based on the Free to Play – ‘World of Tanks’ Real Time Online Game.

“Do not seek a trick, politics or propaganda in cartoons. And before you blame someone just think about it, pull your head, maybe it’s just a joke. Watch more cartoons, they will make you better!” – Dmitry Plugin, Creator of Ranzar, YouTube Parody Channel, based on Real events that happen on the ‘World Of Tanks’ Live Gaming Server.
Ranzar Parody Channel YouTube Link – https://www.youtube.com/user/RanZarEng
Ranzar Official Website – ranzar.com
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1. This blog is strictly a non political blog.
Given the potentially sensitive nature of some of the posts to be purposefully re-interpreted for the ubiquitous function of ‘Online Trolling’, any politically sensitive comments to this post, will be deleted. The views expressed below are solely that of the Person concerned, and is not endorsed by the author or this blog.
2. Mr.Plugin is not very convenient speaking with English, while this Blog’s author does not know Russian, so there is a possibility that some information, may have been lost in translational context.
3. I have only made minor edits for better English grammer, and retained the entire conversation for Transparency.
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Q1. Are you a developer directly associated with Wargaming.Net (W.O.T parent company), or have any interests with Wargaming, or are you just an independent W.O.T fan, attempting to express your views through your videos via the Ranzar channel?
A1.       At first I was (an) independe(n)t creator, I make some toons(Tanktoon) as usual fan art. Now we a(re) partners.
Q2. It likely appears, that you are doing this video series, only as a hobby. What do you do for a full time job? Are you employed somewhere with an animation based company or you do some other work as a full time job?

A2.   At present time I’m freelancer but I have a partial removal of the work, that is, I do not need to move away from my computer to do it. Basically I design, paint and (do) a little programming. Printing, web design, database.

Q3. What does this word ‘Ranzar’ actually mean or stand for? It is a Russian name or something? I see that your real name is not Ranzar.

A3.       It’s complex collaboration. RanZar – it ‘t (is an) abbreviation of two Russian words “Рандомные Зарисовки”, if you want to spell it “Randomnyy Zarisovki” – translates like ‘Random Paintings’ or ‘Random Scathes’.

Q4. Ten or fifteen years back, if you wanted to express yourself, you had no way of doing that. Today, Technology and the Internet has made this possible, not only has Technology made it possible for you to express yourself and the Internet and Youtube has helped you find thousands of fans, who appreciate your work. In a similar way, millions of artists are connecting with fans through a ‘Free’ and ‘Share’ approach that the Internet is making possible (today). In a old world in the 90s, even if you did this work, you may not have found even 10% of the fans that you got today, via the Internet. More over, it is less likely that someone from India, say like me, gets to connect to you and talk to you, without even (each other) seeing our faces. But the Internet has made this possible. What do you think of this trend?

A4.       Mmm, may be I did not understand what was the question but I try to answer. I think internet is great thing! He (It has) opened a huge opportunity for all, anyone can find a kindred spirit. Sounds like a dream at (for) all!

Q5. While I personally don’t think any of your videos are biased and reflect only the realities of the game ( for instance, the German heavy tanks inevitably cannot play from the front like the Russian Heavies, else, their sweet spot in the front will be the first target and they will get hit, and they will be immediately on fire. More over, their long range optics make them better snipers or support tanks than the Russians from long range, for eg), .There is (also) a feeling that the videos you make are pro-Russian, although they are more based on historical events, and historical events did actually pan out that way? . How do you respond to criticism that your videos are pro-Russian and Anti-German?

A5.  Initially, I was doing cartoons exclusively for the Russian-speaking audience. I had no thoughts that my cartoons will (be) watch(ed by) people from other countries. Then I saw the English comments and requests for translation. And I continued to do cartoons for Russian, but began to translate them.  More precisely, I do not seek to make cartoons national, Russian or non-Russian. I did it as I like, just my worldview is much like 90% of the population of the CIS (CIS stands for the Russian Commonwealth in this case?). Therefore, Soviet tanks often take part in cartoons. Although it is worth noting that Hellcat and Chaffee’s (are the ) most popular heroes, and they are Americans. And in fact most of the series do not have national implications besides (being) stereotypical, (or a) comic.

As for the series with the JS* in the role of Joseph Stalin and his opponents are the likeness of Hitler. Yes, the Germans lost there, and Romeo and Juliet die at the end. At this moment politics and historicity ends, and everything else is (a) fiction(al) joke.

About say(i)ng anti-German propaganda. Germany of that period was a fascist, started the war, wanted to grab a piece of the world. They have become enemies of the world. Wash the ideal role for the villain of the cartoon. Besides the artistic moment, German engineering is very brutal, majestic and truly outstanding, just the perfect bad guys. Becoming a bit popular, you begin to get a lot of opinions. Audiences of all ages and social levels, from different countries, different religions. Of course their opinion on some issues may be different from mine. Habit.

Q6. How has the response from the Fans been, through comments that you receive via YouTube and social media? What about the monetization aspects of this work? Does YouTube ad money and provide sufficient returns to make this a main stream viable job for you? Although, it is in Russian, which i cannot understand, there is also an option in your website ranzar.com, which allows users to contribute voluntarily. Am i correct?

A6.       I like my viewers and subs, I read all comment and reply to interesting or more like(a)ble (ones). Money is a means on which I do what I love. Given that most of my time I spend it on something that I love, I have enough money. If I went to a permanent job, and shifts important papers from one pile to another, it is possible to get more.

Q7. Parody, especially in a humour form is one of the greatest rights of an individual’s expression, and in a sense adds a lot of value to the parent company, World Of Tanks (in this case), How has W.O.T responded to your work? Have they been any criticisms or appreciations from the parent company? I think even World Of Tanks features the work you do. Can you tell me more about this or provide some links?

A7.       The World of Tanks didn’t criticize me for all the time.
Q8. You bring so much of variations entirely through the animated Tanks – Expressing human behavior ( the Real players on the server, (for) e.g Noobs who rush and get killed), Historical Tank design features ( The Panther’s sloped armour, which the smaller tanks can’t penetrate frontally), Real Life Historical characters ( The Big Russian Tank with (large) moustaches and smoking a pipe ( The IS Tank/ also called the JS Tank) or a British Tank wearing a Hat and smoking a pipe  (This is an error. This should have actually been a cigar.) ( Churchill Tank) ) , Fictional characters ( The BatMan Video) and contextual humour ( e.g the Maus going after a cheese). What do you think of these variations, and possibly many more,  that you bring to your work ?
A8.       I think it’s funny and it will be more.
Q9. What are your plans for the future? Any other comment that you wish to share in this regard?
A9.   I want to make some own place like studio, there I can connect some artists and make good things.
Again, it is in Russian, so I cannot understand. Are these the same videos displayed in YouTube Channel which users can view for free, or is there additional non YouTube content that users can pay and purchase via Itunes?
A10.   Composer Vladimir puts his soundtrack for sale.
Q11. One more question – You are doing these playlists as well, teaching people how to do animation?
A11.   I get a lot of questions, “How am I doing this?” In this video I try to tell it.
 
 

A secondary Follow up Email : 
Just two things here, that i wish to clarify.

“Q1.  At first I was independent creator, I make some toons(Tanktoon) as usual fan art. Now we a partners.” So, does this mean that apart from creating 2D animated videos, you are also doing some work directly for the main 3D work for World Of Tanks company and part of your work is being implemented in the real WOT live gaming server, correct? 
 
A1.       No, I only make my Tanktoon, I just perform this function of demand, nothing more.
 
Q2. You have already permitted me to use your responses for my Research work. Thank you for that. Are you fine with me publishing your Email responses that you have given me today in My public blog – killthepirate.wordpress.com? I will not edit anything, and publish your views exactly. ( barring grammer changes for better English). Is that okay for you? 
 
A2.       I have nothing to hide.
 
And Thanks a million for the response. It was a pleasure interacting with you, Dmitry. Take care. 🙂
 
 
A last But important Word that Dmitry wanted to share me to post on the blog. It sums up the Entire meaning of the post in a single quote – 
 

You can add a short as a quotation or statement:

“Do not seek a trick, politics or propaganda in cartoons. And before you blame someone just think about it, pull your head, maybe it’s just a joke. Watch more cartoons, they will make you better!”

 
*JS stands for Joseph Stalin Tank. It is also sometimes expressed as IS as in Iosif Stalin, because of the language mapping translational challenges, when a non English language gets converted to English. Th ‘language mapping’ challenge issue is discussed deeply in the context of Tamil cinema, in the book – “Kill The Pirate – The Quest for John Doe.”
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How RSS, API and a Free Sharing Culture are driving a vibrant Internet Economy?

For long, Pirates who have supported Copyright Infringment have claimed that Information can no longer be monopolized and monetized through Obsolete Copyright and Patent laws in this digital age, but rather, sharing of information only freely only drives the economy further and is beneficial to everybody through cultural exchange. The copyright Industry may not agree to this theory, but right in front of our eyes, we are living and breathing what the pirates claim. The copyright Industry still continues to live in a closed world, refusing to open out and see reality.

RSS_API_OpenEcosystem

Image credits – All individual company logos were downloaded from the Internet using Google Search. The Face icon and the RSS Clipart were downloaded from clipart.org

Publishing Tools like Twitter and Blogs are easily accessible to anyone and with the Internet itself acting as the main distribution medium, the Internet has made possible for anybody to become a Content Publisher and for Consumers to find their Producers, without any hassles. Using RSS feeds, users can automatically subscribe to hundreds of thousands of such websites, and automatically get updates when each of them individually adds or updates content.

This short personal example demonstrates not only the benefits of free sharing, but also the pitfalls of a centralized monopolized system. Last year, when Google announced that it was killing the Google Reader, it killed not just an application but thousands of services built around the Google Reader API. If Google Reader was the only service, then the entire ecosystem would have collapsed. Thankfully, there is so much decentralization in the Internet, that such a thing would never happen.

Services like Feedly and Flipboard and a few smaller services stepped up to replace the Google Reader. In hindsight it may have been a blessing in disguise for small services like Feedly, which may never have been able to compete with giants like Google Reader. Feedly subsequently developed its own cloud infrastructure and now uses Google’s API for authentication.

So, in the small example shown above. When ever, I find an interesting article on the Internet, I add it to the Feedly Cloud, using a small Web Browser Add-On. From there, I have linked my Reeder 2 Ipad App to Feedly, which downloads my daily feeds offline on my Ipad. From this App, I transfer which ever, I feel necessary for permanent storage into my Evernote Account. As an individual that suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, I use the Voice Dream Reader to import specific notes from Evernote locally into the Voice Dream Reader app which reads out the content for me, automatically, using its inbuilt advanced ‘Text To Speech‘ engine.

There are 2 important aspects here, in this example. It is thanks to RSS, that website feeds can be easily tracked and automated. The Second is a contemporary phenomenon, that is driving tremendous growth across multiple services – Opening out of their individual API’s that can be used as integration with other services. The phenomenon has become so successful that this has led to the evolution of specialist services that link multiple services through API’s like IFTTT ( If This then That.)

The opening out of API represents a modern outlook, which does not fit with what the obsolescent views of the Copyright Industry. From a copyright Industry’s perspective, they wish to block any accesses of information leakage, which they think might reduce their profits. This view of thought positions the producer’s interest first, and the consumer’s next. Modern Internet services think in the opposite direction. By opening out their API, they give other services an opportunity to provide a possible better user experience than their own.This represents the ‘User First, Producer Next’ approach.

For instance, only by connecting the Reeder App to the Feedly Cloud, you can download the articles from the Feedly Cloud into the Reeder App and use it. Since Feedly had its own App, the simplest thing it could have done was close out its API, and force users to read from its own App. This may have yielded short term results, but long term consequences, because if the rest of the ecosystem collapsed, it would take down Feedly along with it. Another prime example of this concept is Evernote. Evernote already has its app for multiple platforms. Yet, it allows other apps to build their own Evernote clients, which could possibly even replace the stock Evernote client, if the user felt that it provided them with a better experience.

This API culture also forces services to remain innovative constantly and compete with their competitors ( although they have symbiotic relationships through their API), rather than fall into a world of complacency and stagnate, thereby providing no value to the end user in the long run, which is something many modern day Pirates accuse the Copyright Industry of doing so.

One can see from the above small example that the same information has flowed through the various pipes, before it reached the hands of the user, only because of the mentality to allow sharing of Information, through API integration. In this process, it has benefitted each entity. The information created by the creators is as much protected by Copyright and Patent Law, as the ones created by big production and media houses. Yet, unlike the former (in most cases), by allowing this information to flow freely, it is creating sustainability for several services that work through this small ecosystem of Information exchange, benefitting the creator, the Intermediaries and the end user, thereby driving Competition, Innovation and the entire Digital Ecosystem forward.

‘Revenue Enhancer’ Modes Vs ‘Piracy Beater’ Modes

“Spotify really does not compete with Itunes, or with these retail store based services. Spotify directly competes with piracy, we are capturing users out of a piracy based environment and provide them unlimited access of music at their finger tips. They could share and sample music for free.” – Sean Parker, Spotify.

Piracy and online downloads had already deconstructed the album. You couldn’t compete with piracy unless you sold the songs individually. ” – Steve Jobs.

We live in times, where ‘Media Piracy‘ has become a definite ‘Way of life’. The Copyright Industry may not like it, but that is the way, it is. In fact, I’d like to think that ‘Piracy’ is one of the important issues that have emerged, evolved and continues to exist (or resist enforcement) as an important subset of the ‘Open Ecosystem‘ and ‘Digital Economy‘ of contemporary times. That may also be the reason, where you will find a lot of posts associated with ‘Media Piracy’ and ‘Copyright Infringement’ in this blog. It is also one of the main points of focus of my research.

There are two types of approaches used by Copyright Holders to generate returns and address the problem of Piracy – ‘Revenue Enhancer Modes‘ and ‘Piracy Beater Modes‘.( I don’t know if these terminologies have been coined by someone else, but in any case, I think that the names are quite apt.) Revenue Enhancer Modes typically are typically used to maximize profits, while Piracy Beater Modes are used to minimize losses. A Revenue Enhancer mode typically has little or no impact on Piracy, while a Piracy beater mode, if successfully scaled in ‘quantity sold/user views’ can cumulatively become a Revenue Enhancer.

Any business model or legitimate service that typically charges money for the consumption of legitimate copyrighted media content, without having a sizable impact on piracy (or no impact) is called a Revenue Enhancer. A business model or legitimate service that may or may not charge money directly from the user for consumption of legit copyright media, but which has the potential to disrupt the Pirates market is called a Piracy Beater. For e.g Selling a single music album ( consisting of 5 or 6 songs) in Itunes for Rs.100-120 can be called a Revenue Enhancer Mode, where as music subscription services that allow users to listen to music for free on the Internet and allow them to download Unlimited songs/albums for offline hearing at Rs.100-120/month for listening like Saavn, Gaana and Airtel’s Wynk can be an example for Piracy Beater modes.

A legitimate movie disc being sold locally for Rs.30 is an example of a piracy beater but when the same movie is provided online digitally to be viewed at a cost of Rs.30,  it is more equivalent to a Revenue Enhancer mode. This differentiation in understanding is important because a physical pirated disc costs Rs.20-30 whereas an online piracy service does not charge the customer any money at all, atleast not directly. So, when a legit provider provides a service online even for as low as Rs.25, it should be considered as a Revenue Enhancer mode. 

PiracyBeatersVsRevenueEnhancers

In today’s times, when the life span of a movie has shrunk down badly, Revenue Enhancers are best employed in the nascent stages of a movie or in the immediate aftermath of a music album’s release. After a certain point in time, ( typically days or weeks, or a month at max for a successful movie) returns from Revenue Enhancer modes start to shrink down. It is during the period of a revenue Enhancer that ‘Anti Piracy‘ activities or ‘Promotional‘ activities for a movie are also at their peak. Once the nascent time period is over, Piracy Beater modes start to become active. Revenue Enhancer modes typically fade into the background, while Piracy beater modes slowly take over. The arrival of Piracy Beater modes co-insides with slowly reducing PR activities and also declining Anti Piracy operations.

Revenue Enhancer Modes try to maximize revenue on a ‘Per Person basis’ while Piracy beater modes attempt to monetize on a ‘Mass Scale‘. More over, Legitimate revenue enhancer modes tend to leave possibilities (unavoidable in a modern Digital World) that can be exploited for infringers or Pirates. ( I plan to do a seperate post on this statement). Attempting to exploit PiracyBeater modes for such digital loop holes yield no additional benefits of any kind and are there fore logically irrelevant.

Revenue Enhancer Modes typically have no competition with Piracy beater modes, although Piracy Beater modes may compete with Revenue Enhancer Modes. For e.g a Legitimate copy of a movie can be seen freely on Youtube. If the same movie is available on other paid platforms like Google Play/Movies or Itunes, most users who have watched the movie for free on Youtube are less likely to watch the movie on the pay to watch services.

Thalaiva_PiracyBeater-RevenueEnhancer

One possible exemption to this broad characteristics of Revenue Enhancers and Piracy Beaters might be quick, first time broadcast of new cinema on private satellite TV. These days, first Broadcast on TV typically happens within 1 or 2 months, from the first theatrical release. Traditionally in the pre Internet years, a Tamil movie would be broadcast after a period of 2 years**. There was some sort of a minimum time period back then. With the advent of digital internet piracy, it simply doesn’t make sense to delay broadcast of a movie for so long. More over, in such a spurious environment, where every day gets delayed, the chances of the potential broadcast viewer seeing the movie, through a pirated disc simply increases.

So, modern day broadcast combines the best features of both modes. It attempts to generate revenue by ‘scaling in numbers’, ‘supported by advertisements’, which from the viewer’s point of view is like a Piracy Beater mode*, yet is done as soon as possible, now typically within weeks of a movie launch in Theatres, making it appear like a Revenue Enhancer mode, from the perspective of a Copyright holder.

*Unlike viewing a movie on an Internet service like Youtube, where advertisments are minimal, and the user experience is not disturbed, watching a movie on TV can be quite painful, considering the number of advertisements, played between the movie. No matter what the quality improvements, Broadcast TV it cannot compete with Piracy on the ‘uninterrupted’ front.

** Back in those days, the AD intro would sound, “Indhiya Tholaikaatchigalil mudhan murayaga”. These days it sounds “Thiraikku Vandha Sila Maadhangalile..”