August 10, 2006

adario strange: the nothing special

Here’s an enjoyable article about the whole online video stampede from Adario Strange: The ‘Nothing’ Special. Not a lot of new info, but a different, slightly more arch perspective than the many business articles coming out daily, and choice passages like this one:

When everyone, everywhere, has their own video show, can anyone’s video really be considered something special anymore?

As the rising tide of reality shows and navel-gazing weblogs have proven, there is [a] large market for recursive ephemera.

Of course, how I feel about it is simple. Personal, grassroots video is great and fun, and I watch it on the YouTube, too, and will probably watch more of it. I’ll watch more reality TV, too, if it’s more like the stuff, say, A&E is doing and less like the dreck on the big 4 networks. But I can’t believe, looking at what sells DVDs, rather than drives ephemeral TV ratings, that we aren’t taking for granted the really good stuff, the comedy, the dramas, the action series, that can only be created using more money and more people. Cameras will get cheaper, bandwidth will get broader, hard drives will get bigger — but for the foreseeable future it will still take the collaborative efforts of groups of specialized, talented people (resources that only get more expensive) to capture with those cheaper cameras the things we most want to download, purchase, watch, and more and more, participate in. (update: Even the Rocketboom $25 a day myth is just that — a myth — as the real costs of each episode were and continue to be considerably more. Those three minutes of video each day took, on average, a team of at least four people at least four hours each to make. Writing, shooting, editing, post-processing, posting on the web, reading e-mails and story suggestions, coordinating talent, locations, and shoots. Not to mention bandwidth bills to serve a couple hundred thousand video files a day. It only helped that many of the people involved didn’t immediately need to get paid.)

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is: demand for the artistry needed to make big entertainments is not lagging, though it may be shifting for now from the multiplex to netflix, from the networks to the net. And we’ll still need people with money to put up enough to pay the artists in advance until a profit can be made. It’s the middle men — the ones that own the infrastructure and marketing machines — that are in trouble.