It still seems like a dream. As kids we may have envisaged that one day we would have our own space ship but probably few dreamed of having their own movie studio. One reason is that a space ship is a tangible single object. A 50s sci fi ship would fit in a garage. We knew even then that a real rocket capable of getting out of Earth’s gravity had to be huge to blast off up to 11 kilometers per second, many times the speed of sound. Yet the personal space ship was still appealing.
A movie studio wasn’t something you’d think of in your future garage. Studio lot buildings were aircraft hangers with a cast of hundreds. Just look at the credit list of any Hollywood movie to realize the scale of these productions. The list can take several minutes to scroll.
Who then would have dreamed that in the 21st Century you could make movies on a card table? And not just 4th-rate home movies screened to your friends and relatives polite enough to sit and watch. The potential is there to do entertaining and even important movies.
Cats are some of the funniest actors in the world. They make up a lot of YouTube time. But home productions can also touch on topics that the mainstream media have either overlooked, buried, or would find unprofitable to screen. They also may arise from countries whose censorship laws prevent any independent news from escaping.
Current movie cameras, even in mobile phones, are capable of capturing quality audio/visual without need for special crews with lighting and microphones. A traditional crew usually needs a trailer to accompany them just for food & drink refreshments, let alone their lights, cables, reflectors, mixing desks etc. A self-styled ‘reporter’ armed with a mobile phone device can beam up news content to the world at large. The images can be edited with laptop-level gear into high quality studio levels of production.
Plenty of companies like Digital Juice and those that sell Virtual Sets and Chroma Key gear can provide the slick visual and audio intro’s that we see on commercial TV channels. Your home-grown newscast can look very similar to a commercial production because for a modest outlay you are essentially using the same gear. I often see the same ones I’ve bought used in NFL productions! These companies now use Chroma-Key and the same sorts of digital effects that we can now buy at realistic prices.
Videoblogs have also changed consumer behaviour. The attention span of someone sandwiching a YouTube video into their schedule is quite different to someone settling in with popcorn to watch an evening’s movies. The traditional movie takes several minutes to roll the introductory credits. A YouTube video would be well & truly finished before then. The videoblog is often a 30 second grab. Indeed, this affects the ability to embed ads for revenue as a 10 second ad can seem proportionately more of an annoyance for someone preparing to view a 30 second video.
All this has profound implications. Where once blogs were dismissed as at best 3rd-rate news sources and at worst as misleading ‘conspiracy theorists’ and quacks in the age-old tradition of ‘pamphleteers’ they are now taken seriously by the search engines as sources of fresh and commercially-independent information. A blog may well come up higher in search rankings than a multimillion dollar commercial news source. Indeed, a blog is international. A traditional TV station, even if part of a vast corporate network, may only reach a few countries. Traditional media outlets are now forced to offer ‘free to cyberspace’ information to stay relevant.
With all this power comes new risks and opportunities. Never forget that some of those early pamphleteers were instrumental in bringing about the civil rights many of us now take for granted.
Fasten those seatbelts.