Media Theory

Why is the Demand for Quality Video so High?

Sam Mestman wrote a post at that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Ostensibly it’s career advice for people just getting out of film school, but without meaning to do so Mestman touches on a profound question:

Small businesses have no idea how to market themselves through video, they all have small budgets for marketing that they waste on hideous content that doesn’t work, and there’s a big market in just about every town for someone who makes great, affordable web and social media video for businesses. [Emphasis mine]

If the demand for “great, affordable web and social media video” is so high, then why is that demand going unmet? Could it be that the difficulty of creating great video is orders of magnitude more than what’s affordable for small businesses.

Let’s consider three different methods of nonfiction storytelling: writing, podcasting, and documentary. When you consider the amount of time, effort, and skill required to make a great article, versus a great podcast, versus a great documentary; the difference is probably logarithmic.

Think about the standard sit down interview common to all forms of nonfiction storytelling. When a reporter talks to his subject, from the moment the interview starts until it ends, the reporter is able to use whatever they’ve observed.

When a podcaster conducts an interview they have to consider the overall sound quality and the temporal nature of audio recording itself. If the subject says something brilliant, but the recording wasn’t running in that moment, then it might as well not have happened. Ditto if the sound quality is poor. The podcaster has multiple dimensions of difficulty that the reporter can blissfully ignore.

The documentarian has all of the reporter’s and podcaster’s problems, in addition to all of the problems that come with adding image (camera equipment, lighting, composing, etc). Because there are so many considerations, the documentary often requires a crew of specialists, adding personnel management and financial components to the challenges.

We can consider each medium’s difficulties with the following table:

Getting the Interview– the Interview
– Sound Quality
– Temporal Recording
– Interview
– Sound Quality
– Temporal Recording
– Image Quality
– Image Composition
– Crew Coordination

To be clear: I’m not saying that someone like the documentarian Alex Gibney is more skilled than the writer Susan Orlean. What I am saying is that creating a documentary for HBO is cumulatively probably more difficult than writing an article for the New Yorker.

This isn’t meant to be scientific, but over the next few posts, let’s keep this idea in mind as we explore what makes video production unique.


Pre-NAB 2019

Another year, another NAB Show to look forward to. If you’ve never been, NAB is the show to gain hands-on knowledge of the newest tools available to our industry. In no particular order, here are some of the things I’ll be looking out for this April:

NAB Throwback. Do you see it? 🙂

Canon: The C300 is the new unscripted workhorse camera. So I was intrigued by last year’s introduction of the C200, especially by the metadata friendly, easy to use Canon RAW Light recording format. Unfortunately, Canon limited the C200’s usefulness in multi-camera productions. So I’m curious to see if Canon will introduce its RAW format to the C300 or release a C300 Mark III. Side note:I’m also interested in learning what 3rd party lens manufacturers for the EF mount. 

Here’s hoping Canon will add TC I/O.

ACES & Color Managed Pipelines: have you read the Netflix primer on Color Managed Pipelines? It’s a good read. This year at NAB I’m curious to see how the maker’s of Color Correction software like Digital Vision’s Nucoda are educating their users about these ideas that I’m confident will go industrywide.

Get ready for CDL to be part of your acronym vocabulary.

Avid: if you visited Avid’s booth in the last two years you wouldn’t know that they are the makers of Media Composer. So I’m curious to see whether 2019 will be any different. I’m also excited to see how Avid’s partnership with Microsoft Azure has developed; in particular if the cognitive services have been integrated into Media Central in a meaningful way.

Reminds me of an old joke…

Media Asset Managers: Speaking of cognitive services… I’m still on the look out for cloud based MAM that seamlessly connects to Google Cloud Video Intelligence or Microsoft Azure Vision. I was recently given access to a fully functional version of Cantemo’s Iconik.

When the A.I. does the tagging it will be perfectly consistent, right?

Social: Each year I tell myself that I’m going to be more social and attend some meet-ups. Instead I use the time to catch up with old friends and talk shop. This year I plan on going to the Blue Collar Post Collective’s NAB meet-up, and we’ll see if I make it 🙂