Are we asking the right questions?

One of the benefits of living in an area that draws accomplished people is that they create foundations that do things in their name. So it was yesterday that I found myself with an opportunity to sit in a room with a bunch of smart folks from the motion picture industry, as well as a number of academics as they discussed “ Net Worth: Media Distribution in the Digital Era “. This event was a production of the Media Industries Project at the Carsey-Wolf Center .  Just in case those names aren’t familiar, reflect on the little blurb that happens at the end of every television show- in this case The Cosby Show or Roseanne, or nearly a quarter of all NBC’s line-up at one time that had “Law & Order” in the title.

Held in a very fresh state of the art Pollack Theater, there were three panels. As pointed out by Jay Roth, National Executive Director of the DGA, the real topic isn’t the ‘digital era’ as even broadcast tv today is digital, but rather ‘new media’. New Media is something of the cultural cousin to WiMax or hydrogen powered cars in that it has been the next big thing that is just about to happen for nearly 20 years, yet it still hasn’t “happened” – at least not in the sense that we have any idea how people will make a living off it in terms of the content creation side. While hardware companies, game companies and giants like Google and Facebook have emerged to make New Media a financial powerhouse for some, content creation and distribution is being marginalized amidst changes in technology, confusing over concepts like ownership, and author, and shifting consumer behaviors.

Ariana Huffington and her backers may have pulled a significant sum recently but there are a number of mitigating circumstances in that transaction to doubt its significance as being a real structural sign of anything. Evidence of this was the presence of Jonathan Handel on one panel, who made his name blogging about the 2007 WGA strike as a way to bring clients to his law firm, and ended up on Huffington Post as one of the free content creators there. In his introduction on the “Compensation & Creative Labor” panel, he noted that he hadn’t “received a check from Arianna” yet and wasn’t expecting to. Holding up his recently published book he said “Here’s my new business model” and made a modest pitch to attendees to buy one in the lobby.

Rather than report on the content, I will say that I heard a lot of new information, but nothing to suggest that the question of how to monetize content in this rapidly changing and uncertain environment is evne moving toward resolution. The conference will be posted in the near future on UCTV a great resource for all kinds of intelligence.
Here are my highlights-
Eli Noam of Columbia Business School pointed out that “conglomerate strategies” is an oxymoron like “military intelligence” and gave several examples of how specialization, either at the corporate or personal level has advantages in the current economy over generalization or large scale. The ‘synergy’ concept that drove so much of the last twenty years of mergers and acquisitions has not sustained, if in fact it ever did generate new prosperity, as opposed to just efficiencies. Using Sony repeatedly as an example, although it wasn’t clear if this was because a Sony employee was sitting next to him or because it is an especially egregious example, Noam applied this basic concept to a number of issues and questions that his panel covered.
Jay Roth pointed out that while the attention on new media has never been higher, it still only represents about 3% of the revenue, and only if we include all of Netflix revenue as new media, while the great majority of Netflix is still DVD delivery by snail mail.
Aaron Dignan of of digital strategy firm Undercurrent who himself has a book coming in March suggested that the ‘strategy for any established company” is to delay the adoption of the new until its dominance of the old is completely useless.  Given Ro’ths revenue observation, and human nature, this seems obvious but Dignan did a real service by voicing it.
Roth also pointed out that while there is a great deal of attention given the new markets ( particularly during the WGA strike) , they are not proved and negotiating for something that isn’t proven isn’t a good basis for progress. He also pointed out that the DGA received more residuals in 2010 than ever, and that the existing residual income carries the benefits package of all industry workers.
Roth and Miraada Banks were the only two of 18 panelists, who acknowledged that there are tens of thousands of people employed below the line both in and out of organized labor who’s work and lives have been impacted negatively by the transition to digital technologies, both in their workplace and the business, and that little attention is being paid to the challenges of living and working in an environment where creative work is essentially endless , high pressured and with many opportunities for abuse.
While the subject of piracy was often mentioned, little was discussed about how to deal with it. Roth and writer’s used the term ‘theft’ instead, including the theft of ideas harvested from free content on sites like YouTube that then become property of some unrelated producer.
My own question to a panel about what experiments in monetizing of content are they excited about and what ones would they like to see, went essentially unanswered, suggesting that while we have a new and unknown set of conditions, established experts and observers are not seeing any real exploration of alternative models of how to convert content to dollars. Horst Stipp, formerly with NBC and now with The Advertising Research Foundation, suggested that there is ‘lots of research being done that is proprietary” but obviously if it isn’t in the marketplace publicly, it isn’t a true trial.
Possibly the best illumination of the event, and really the entire field, for me was when I sought out a woman who had asked a very insightful question about why we are putting these issues in the context of workers of the established industry against the interests of the content consumer. I asked her how she had arrived at this question. She told me “I read about the industry a lot. It just seems to me that we aren’t asking the right questions.”

I’m looking forward to hearing her and your suggestions as to what the right ones might be.

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An illustrative moment

The Auburn Tigers and somebody or thing named War Eagle won the NCAA BCS football Championship tonight. A well deserved victory, as the Auburn side dominated. While second year coach Gene Chizik said “God was on our side” and certainly Cam Newton and defensive standout Nick Fairley just appeared as gods, each performing above the level of their peers and the balance of the game, it was human error that was a consistent theme.
There was an entertaining game to be sure. But mistakes on both sides limited overall scoring. And that is harsh judgment on two teams that produced drama and lots of great plays. There are plenty of pundits that will go on about the individual stories, programs, what went right for who, significant plays and just what the War Eagle stuff is about. What stood out to me, beyond the social political and spiritual clash opportunities provided by the Christians from the south winning out on the pot smoking heathens from Oregonia, was what I hope leads to either a rules change or teaching players to stop the rolling pulling tackle.

The final decisive drive of the game, fittingly pulled off by Auburn, which deserved the last chance based upon their performance overall, had two similar plays reviewed. One review went Auburn’s way that meant there would be no overtime. The other denied them a touchdown that wasn’t really necessary.
On each play, #11 of the Ducks tackled the Auburn ball carrier by grabbing his elbows from behind and rolling his opponent on top of himself. This move seems to be either taught or learned by defensive players who are looking to cause a fumble and want to keep the ball carrier’s knees from the ground, so as to have longer, and thus more opportunity to separate ball and carriers. On the first most important instance, the ball carrier made an athletic move, came to his feet and stopped. At the urging of those on his sideline, he started to run once again. Players on both teams had come to a halt. An Oregon defensive player was close enough to have fallen on the two other players, but didn’t, because if the play were dead, then he would be guilty of a foul. But no whistle had blown. By the time Oregon recovered, the ball had been advanced sufficiently to know that Auburn would run the clock down, taking whatever yards closer they might get, as it was well inside their kicker’s field goal range. Yet despite the near meaningless grind that such sequences sometimes become, Auburn’s control of the line unleashed a run that appeared to score a touchdown. Same players, same sort of action. This time the knee was shown down in replay. Auburn was denied a seven point victory, and fans got championship clock management. TV got some more commercials.
While Auburn had to make the kick, the edge of the seat quality of the game was as distant as Eugene. If there had been overtime, and Oregon had pulled it out, there would be a lot of ugly ducking talk, and deservedly so. While the Ducks are god’s creatures too, it was not their night, or game.
Cam Newton, in his post game interview, witnessed for his God, making his mother and lots of Christians proud. The look in his eye made it clear that the young man, who faced the slings and arrows this season to flourish in his biggest game on the biggest stage, who took a lot of vicious hits, overthrew several sure thing TDs yet still delivered stupendous stats, was transcendent. I found his professing of faith and God so much more compelling and admirable than that of his coach, or the exciting QB he played behind at Florida, Tim Tebow. Hearing him, it made sense to me- a USC fan- that Cam Newton will not be sanctioned for his family working his name as Reggie Bush, Mike Garret, Pete Carroll and the Trojan nations were.
With Vince Young out to pasture, and Michael Vick ever to be on a redemption tour, Cam Newton has the best opportunity to truly redefine NFL quarterbacking.

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Why can’t we bomb North Korea with fattening foods, and reality TV?

Somewhere between the last ‘biggest recession’, and the current one, we all got to ride a huge wave of prosperity, with more people getting to eat, be warm, and live lives with options and amenities that would have made a medieval king jealous.
Today, there are a bunch of people for whom these are the worst times ever, since they haven’t ever seen any recession..
That would not be the giant banks that drank their own KoolAid, put the developed world on the brink of having to grow our own food, as they have all recovered to produce excellent profits (“fourth best year ever”) in just two years. It wouldn’t be many corporations who just had their “best quarter ever”.
That much of this was accomplished on the backs of the average US taxpayer, and worker, who have not seen wages increase with productivity, much less more hiring, goes without much notice. Life unemployed in the western world surely beats being anybody in say North Korea. Particularly the life of a few artillery soldiers who were the triggermen in the recent bombardment of a South Korean island, which might be lacking certain elements we over here consider basic- Like enough calories for our loved ones; Or cable TV; A good fitting pair of jeans.
So it perplexes me that we, the most prosperous and open society, don’t respond to such aggression with our most powerful and hard to counter assets- stuff and information.
This first occurred to me during the cold war. Why did we build weapons when we could have overwhelmed the communists with Coca Cola and Levis? Why would we shake our rockets at dictators who were just elevated tribal leaders like Khadafy, when we could have conquered him with a moderate flow of refrigerators?
If we have so much- too much, many say- why don’t we use it instead of acting like threatened animals? While Khrushchev once bragged that the USSR would bury us, and that it could be argued that many of us, if you watch the “Hoarders” television shows, are burying ourselves, the opportunity to put our stuff to best use is in using it to undermine leadership that isn’t feeding their own people. Let’s use those B-52s to deliver cheese, tortillas and soft core porn. How about satellite saturation of their airwaves with the shopping channel soundtrack? Enough with killing them with bullets when we can do the same with bad calories and lame entertainment.

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On turning 56

Once upon a time, I couldn’t conceive of being this age. Now it just seems like on the way to third base. And I don’t think many people around me know who I am, or why.
Or maybe I’m just at one of those points where I am wondering who I amor want to be.
But there is so much work to be done, that I want to do, that there isn’t really time to dwell on that. Need to keep moving, making room for what’s next.

Wikipedia points out some interesting things about 56.

* 56 is the sum of the first six triangular numbers (making it a tetrahedral number)
* It’s the sum of six consecutive primes (3 + 5 + 7 + 11 + 13 + 17).
* 56 is the number of times the word “Yeah” is used by Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) in the song Man on the Moon
* 56 is the number of men who signed the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776
* 56 is the code for international direct dial phone calls to Chile
* There is a town in Arkansas named Fifty-Six
* It’s the number of consecutive games in which Joe DiMaggio got a hit
* It’s the number of curls Shirley Temple wore in here hair when she was a child
* 56, in hex, is 38.

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Holiday dreaming

Starting back in mid December I was bummed to discover that I am in a tribe with college educated and relatively competent folk for whom their consumption is more compelling than their compassion. I am referring to Laura Ingraham‘s elaboration on a comment by former Governor George Allen that the entire climate change conversation is a global conspiracy to lower the living standard, or ‘lifestyle’ of the United States.

Beyond the stunningly false dichotomy that underlies her statement, is the ignorance. While there are plenty of good arguments about what to do about climate, none of them actually demand that the United States lower its standard of living. Thanks to initiatives taken in some jurisdictions 35 years ago, we have multiple examples that show how to have a modern western excessive lifestyle without increasing energy use per capita. In fact in California, where the per capita energy use hasn’t gone up in 30 years, the economy was grown faster than in the rest of the United States, where per capita usage went up 50%. In Sweden, hardly a third world standard of living, energy usage has been lowered over that same period. Forty percent of the carbon emission reduction can be achieved, according to a McKinsey study published in 2007, would be net positive to the economy. The resistance is more than just Ms. Ingraham or the rest of us being attached to long showers and thick steaks. As for the concern that energy will be more expensive, nothing except an extended global recession will keep energy prices down.

The notion of changing our behaviors to use less, or live and drive more efficiently creates new challenges to living with one another. As reported in the NY Times today, therapists report that conflicts about differing priorities and responses among couples and families. Gender distinctions exist as well, as in women are more oriented to the home and personal behaviors, with men more focused on larger policy impacts. A Santa Barbara based family and marriage therapist said “Food is such an emotional issue,”

Today’s holiday is celebration of the person who most embodied social change in the last century. For all those who wish to see our society different than it is today, the principal lesson to be taken from Martin Luther King is to have a dream- especially a dream that resonates across human ideals for a better life for individuals as well as collectively. Certainly the dream that our skin color would be no more important than our eye color was not original or unique to King, but his personal journey of leadership was.

The dream not being articulated today within the issue of climate is that through living well we can enable millions of others to live better too. While there is a threat that catastrophic suffering may result if the harsher possibilities of climate change take place, the opportunity to transform our society from alienating consumption to conscious commerce.

If we can figure out how to support the millions in the Southwestern US desert with the limited supply there, we can probably deliver water to the billion who currently do not have access to clean water. We have been capable of feeding all of the humans on earth since the late middle 20th century, although we have lacked the will to do it. Not only are these admirable goals for moralizing environmentalists, it promises increased national security, as well as opportunities for prosperity. None of which has been articulated for the likes of George Allen or Laura Ingraham, much less the millions of American voters who profess the environment as a priority but are clearly more concerned with their personal circumstances.

So good night friends. Dream tonight of living well, and having it mean others- millions of others- will live better thanks to your conscious intelligent and self serving consumption.

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The future is so bright—wearing shades indoors on Pandora

Friday night I went to the Arlington Theater to see Avatar. Nearly three years ago in the same room, I saw James Cameron pass on the SB Film Festival’s Attenborough Award for nature films to Al Gore. Cameron had won the inaugural award for his 3D underwater films, which were as close as most of us will ever get to the deep-sea environments portrayed in those films. He invited Gore that night to carry on the tradition of the previous winner presenting to the next, which maybe why it hasn’t been awarded since. Too bad, as evidenced by Avatar, Cameron is a man of really big concepts realized in equally large efforts. Who knows what Gore could accomplish if he followed Cameron more closely.

While it is difficult to imagine with all the hype around the film, the fact is that the film is much richer, layered and remarkable than I had been led to believe by the many reviews I read and heard. Ken Turan of the LA Times called it “The Jazz Singer” of the 21st century, and that is a very fair and appropriate description. The rightfully detailed focus on the methods of production have overshadowed the story, itself is a remarkable product from uber geek and technologist Cameron. Like the Jolson vehicle, Avatar shows audiences and an industry the potential of the latest set of filmmaking tools.

The man who brought us new breakthroughs in aliens, time travel, robotics, undersea adventuring, and finally using CGI to let audiences experience the most famous episode of human comeuppance in recorded history (the Titanic disaster) is hardly who one would expect to spend twelve years (by his account) and over $300 million to send a message to humanity regarding our arrogant and ignorant ways here on earth. Complete with swaggering military types spoiling for a fight, corporate authority focused on the quarterly return, and “limp dick science types” Cameron delivers the message with full on battle scenes pitting the machines of war against the full spectrum of the natural world. The real mystery of Avatar is whether or not Cameron, like his hero, Jake Scully, will betray his species or the world of his own creation.

There has been no mention of this, but the coincidence of the film’s opening with the Copenhagen Conference on Climate is well, not so coincidental. Cameron, while not stinting on tons of geeky technology futurism, has invested far more in inventing a spectacular alternate world in which the interrelationship of beings on the planet Pandora are not just concepts of indigenous people’s spiritual beliefs or witchcraft, but a highly sophisticated symbiosis that is scientifically observable, if not understood. The film echoes multiple native peoples cultural traditions in evoking an idealized balanced society of all life forms, providing a observable if thin factual basis..

While criticism of the plot as predictable, and the dialogue stiff, you aren’t likely to notice. The exploitation of the 3D effect is nearly flawless, which given the paucity of expertise with such a toolset is really remarkable. The first sequence of flying is worth the premium price of the 3D admission alone. Whether or not Cameron’s expertise will be propagated to lower cost production remains to be seen, but the aesthetic bar for technical execution has been set very high.

Even more important to the industry is whether or not Avatar will prove the promise Cameron made to exhibitors and peers three years ago when he went to multiple trade shows exhorting theater owners and production professionals to join him in “saving the theatrical experience”. While 3D has shown an ability to bring out niche audiences who are willing to pay higher ticket prices, Avatar is the first 3D ‘tent pole’. Regardless of its ultimate gross return, the measure of its effectiveness in fulfilling Cameron’s promise is probably years away.

Thousands of people worked on Avatar, and all probably had to stretch their skills and selves to satisfy Cameron’s notoriously demanding direction. Yet all now possess a precious experience and skill set in what audiences will hope the Hollywood production marketplace will be demanding. To point out any of their achievements is to slight the rest, but it is impossible to ignore the accomplishments of actors who worked in the oddest of realities to create the key emotional elements that ground the story, and hold our sympathies.

While there are scenes in which actors actually performed in traditional sets, the compelling scenes are all in the CG world of Pandora. The innovations in what Cameron calls “performance capture” bring us further into an impossible environment than anything ever offered. Unlike Titanic, which used CG to represent an actual environment that audiences craved to see, but wouldn’t actually want to be in, Avatar takes us to a world that offers a realization of many common human dreams- flying for one, social integration for another. As I left the theater, I had the distinct feeling that I had just experienced a separate reality and wonderful dream.

If, as is suggested in the Wired magazine profile of Cameron, he was motivated to make Avatar out of jealousy born of seeing Star Wars, filmgoers have yet another reason to thank George Lucas, as well as Sony who first agreed to adapt their products to enable Cameron’s 3D experiments in the deep sea years ago. Cameron, one might guess, has already received his reward in being able to accomplish his dream. Validation by the market awaits, and I can’t suggest strongly enough that you make a point of seeing the film in 3D.
While I doubt that modern western civilization will suddenly attune itself and its ways to the natural world, as demonstrated by the denizens of Pandora, I am positive film fans will be eager to see the next filmmaker’s attempt to match its ambitions.

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Way out west in SB County

Last Saturday was the official day of celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a key figure in the acceptance of the Catholic religion by the indigenous people’s of Mexico. Her apparition on Dec 13 1531, just twelve years after the arrival of Cortes is marked by celebrations of rich and poor, all over Mexico. The basilica in Tepayac in her honor is the second most important sanctuary of Catholicism based upon number of visitors ( after the Vatica).

In one of the corners of California, a small town is named Guadalupe. When Route 1 was the only road on the coast, the town was (and remains) ‘the gateway to the dunes’ that are today more associated with the town of Pismo Beach.

The main street is Guadalupe St. ( not Main St.) and it was there in the midst of sporadic downpours and blustery winds that a small band of folk gathered Saturday afternoon at a small shrine to the Virgen constructed by Andy Johnson the same artist who created the Semiramus memorial on the corner of our property.

A nine piece mariachi band serenaded at the shrine until rain forced the crowd into a sheltered porch where hot chocolate and tamales warmed hands and palates for a couple of hours until cold winds brought heavier rains.

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Beat the hangover

The air is full of those traditional sounds of fall- sniffles, coughs, and feverish moans. As the days shorten, pessimism has spread with the flu. This fall’s version builds upon a spring and summer of agitation and insecurity as the public discourse over a wide variety of issues has been a sort of headache hangover of last fall and winter’s giddy sense of optimism and accomplishment.

Historically, it was a justified buoyancy. But the tempering of realism and the lack of unity on just what sort of change we can actually accomplish sets us up for a new hangover, which unfortunately can’t be excused by a landmark accomplishment.

While it has only recently gotten front-page notice, the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference offers a historical opportunity that actually has equal if not greater potential than electing the first black POTUS. Imagine the impact of a truly meaningful enforceable climate plan agreed upon by all the nations of the world. Imagine the years since Kyoto of effort and organizing and politicking on all sides around the world.

Which is why there is going to be a hangover. Regardless of what is agreed upon in Copenhagen next month, what is generally agreed upon to be required of humanity to both mitigate and adapt to our climate won’t be included. The actions called for won’t be enough for some, and too much for others. Based upon past performance, they won’t be executed by many.

So just like drinking as much water as possible after a night of drinking, taking that aspirin just before going to inebriated sleep, today I want to share with you an example of something you can get stoked and high about and with, that won’t give you any hangover. You might have some after buzz with the prosperity, but the relative stability promised by this example will give the platform that inspires more risk taking.

As I moved into fall, I had the chance to hear Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials speak at UCSB. His talk is titled “Last Chance to Save America”. His company, one of several ‘clean’ tech companies that “Proof or Propaganda” source Marc Porat is involved in. Serious Materials has reinvented sheet rock- you know that thing holding the paint up near you. More specifically they reinvented how sheet rock is made. And what it does both when installing it and just being part of your wall. Surace tells the story in the talk. Among the key points, huge reduction in energy used producing, and great increase in R factor of the wall it is a part of. Results in faster payback for home, and, especially when it goes to scale- reduction in energy use overall. Surace’s personal goal- save a billion tons of carbon release.
Better than all that, Serious Materials has gained the first national recognition for its deal to purchase a notoriously closed domestic door and window plant, retaining the jobs and reinventing windows the same way they reinvented sheet rock.

Invest in the time to hear the Surace presentation, or peruse a few of the much more compact videos on the company website. The shortest slickest bit is a very compressed TED talk here or here. You’ll see something to get excited about, feel confidence in and what has to be accomplished at a mammoth scale. If the United States is to continue as the leading country in the world, in freedoms of all sorts, it needs to lead economically.

The prosperity of the 50′s led to the social revolution of the 60s. Progress in democratic freedoms, and quality of life, almost always follow prosperity- especially broad based prosperity.

As you’ll see Surace show in graphs and charts, there is plenty of profit to be had, and rapid payback in energy savings, in retrofitting our structures. There is no outsourcing replacing your windows and doors or insulating your walls. And energy savings pays dividends in our national security. Again this needs to be scaled way up.

So chin up. According to Surace, there is plenty of work in the material sciences, since we really haven’t done any since building materials became a commodity.

Here at CU, pushing the POP project is one of those jobs. Seems the nation hasn’t been sold on this idea that adapting to climate can produce prosperity and security. Beyond your personal practices or politics, I hope you’ll get enough of a lift from Surace and Serious Materials to want to share it with someone else.

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Command of the Audience

The concept is that an artist has control of the emotional reality of their audience. As performance in particular has become more and more removed from live interaction, this concept has moved to represent capturing attention as opposed to emotional evocation. The potential is still there, though we seem to have less opportunity to experience it, and often then it is a sense of mastery of technique or body of work that produces the emotional satisfaction of a show well done.

Last night I and a few thousand other people got handled, somewhat playfully and with full exuberance, by Blink 182, in what was their last performance of their tour of renewal. After four years being either off parenting, playing other gigs or building their other businesses, the three men who seemingly quit at the peak of their popularity and musical development showed that it is possible to get right back on the curve and keep climbing.

Before a less than sold out crowd at Santa Barbara Bowl, underneath a threatening sky, the band exploded through eighty minutes of their catalogue rarely out of control, but far from the polish of the recordings of the familiar tunes. Slightly tweaking each, or suffering Tom Delonge’s fatigued voice, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand every step. Both shaking it up and settling it down, they worked their audience through the rollercoaster of growing up in the last twenty years.

Having seen the band play in 2004, when even the most recent songs were adapted or shifted for performance, this show demonstrated the band’s appetite for moving forward, finding new fun in the familiar and how maturity and resisting growing up can coexist. At one point Delonge told the crowd, while explaining a nonsensical vocalization “I’m making jazz and you don’t even know it”. Delivered in a self mocking humor that, along with a preoccupation with sex, characterizes most of Delonge’s non musical communication, this comment revealed the tension between the popular artist’s need to satisfy the large audience, and stay interesting to themselves.

Judging by the scene at the Bowl, everybody is satisfied with how the men of Blink 182 are managing themselves, and their renewed relationship with each other and their audience.

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The future of editing is in its past

Tom Skowronski often wonders in a blog over at Videomaker where editing is going, and why does it have to be complicated.

The answers to his many questions are actually at hand, if one has any experience across the digital transition. Allow me to attempt to win his prize of “ten free high fives”.

Where we are going- the trends in software in general say that we are headed for software as a service and subscriptions. The needs and demands of more and more power mean that the code will get bigger, the programs will have more features and the capability to tell stories will require more training and practice- not less.

Which answers the complicated question- to have power requires complexity. Given the huge investment to get programs to where they are, be they FCP, Avid or Premier, or any of the many others fighting to get a significant portion of the market, the likelihood that one of them will take the radical step of stripping down the code tree to build it better, as in simple as well as complex, is highly unlikely.

Combine that with the diminishing return inherit in the pricing trend, and who would bother starting from scratch?

Then Tom wants to know if there is a NLE that feels most intuitive? Or is it all subjective? Well the most intuitive one is the one you know best. But if I had to train someone from scratch, I would l want to teach them Lightworks, which won its early dominance in Hollywood on being easy to learn, and very easy to edit in, and lost that dominance because it failed to provide titling complexity anywhere near fast enough for the television series market, and then stumbled further on not executing a shared storage solution that was robust for the feature market just a few years later.

The good news is that the Lightworks application, after a series of ownership changes, is still out there, but at such small numbers that it is still pricey. Today it has a ton of complexity too – equal to any and capable of HD native multilayer images, but still edits fast and is easy to learn. If you get it with the dedicated console, you can really rip as fast as you can think.

Then Tom asks ‘why do people need to feel as if something is work for us’? Why do we need easy to make use of anything, be it cars, computers or recipes. Well that’s pretty available too. We all want to do what we want, not what some programmer or engineer thinks we want. With cars, its fairly limited. Toasters- not a problem for the designers to sort out. But editing is very open ended. And very few programmers have actually had to tell a motion picture story themselves. If they did, they wouldn’t take up all that screen space with stuff you hardly ever touch. They wouldn’t lock you into modes, or make changing a layered image so damn hard. Going back to when processors made it obligatory to render effects etc, they are stuck with how they got here, and nobody is likely to pay for reworking the path just because it requires a learning curve.

Lastly Tom asks- “why is there a struggle here?” Look in your pocket Tom. Its about what motivates business- yours, the software providers, the producers, everybody. Money and by extension the market for media, and production software makes it very challenging to suggest that the current models are bloated, overcomplicated or need fixing. I mean, if I run the FCP program at Apple, what’s broken? The app keeps making money, and selling hardware. It’s a thing of beauty, and now there are tens of thousands of people for whom the FCP model is the intuitive choice. Do they want more power without more complexity? You bet. Can we provide it to them without sustaining huge hits in profitability and user loyalty? Why would we try?

Now I doubt that Tom will like these answers. And it really doesn’t matter if I get his high fives. It would really matter if there was a company interested in the next generation of production software, since I have the spec and other requirements to build it, as well as having identified a market and business model that could make it profitable. For the last decade, we haven’t seen anything compelling on the business side to lure any visionary investors to this sort of development. What passes for the big boys of media software are too focused on eroding each other to look for a paradigm shift that could actually create the next revolution in the democratization of media.

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