Desktop Video – Not Yet… Maybe Not Ever

I was reading an entry from Aaron Barhardt’s blog TVBarn. Aaron is the TV critic from the Kansas City Star, though his influence and insight are more than you would expect from a market that size.

What Wired doesn’t seem to get is that the ability for people to produce high-quality video at home for little money will mean they won’t have to live in media capitals like New York, L.A. or Vancouver, where their outlooks are shaped, inevitably, by the cultures of those two media- and creative-saturated communities. And by creative I mean “creative.”

That fit in nicely with an off-the-cuff remark from my boss that, one day, something like Rocketboom might replace today’s ‘big media’.1

It’s certainly possible, but I think a lot of people who fondly look forward to the new golden age of simple and fast video miss the point that even with most of the cost and bother removed (and, make no mistake, most of the cost and bother of video production has already been removed), it is still time consuming while demanding creativity and organization.

Desktop video production has become cheap, but only if you place no value on your time!

A few weeks ago I got together with a group to make a short film for a contest. We all volunteered, but we weren’t all neophytes. Four of the principal players work in the media. Our talented, but game, support crew had almost no experience.

If I were a professional producer, looking to make this movie as a commercial project, this Saturday afternoon’s work would have cost thousands! And, to be honest, there was still a lot of unfinished work between what we did and something people would actually watch. There would have been more cost in polishing what we did.

Don’t count the big media out yet. We may be slower because of our size, but it is easier for us to re-purpose already existing material, or slice and dice what we have to produce additional material, than it is for someone in Kansas City to put together watchable video. We have economies of scale.

That’s not to say some mom and pop producers will succeed. They will. But, most of them won’t and most of what will be produced will be unwatchable or barely watchable. Take a look at the well meaning people who produce on your local public acess channel on cable.

The reason there’s so much garbage on TV isn’t because producers aren’t trying hard enough to produce better stuff. It’s because producing good TV is very difficult, time consuming and demanding of talent. Having 200 or 300 or 1,000 channels makes it much more difficult to aggregate that talent in one place.

1I consider my little TV station to be big media, so you can see the line for ‘big’ isn’t drawn too critically to size. Maybe instead of big, I should say conventionally structured.

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