The CEO of Avid Technologies, Louis Hernandez, Jr., wrote a book about the current media landscape called The Storyteller’s Dilemma. The spirit of the storyteller is communicated very well in the first two chapters of his book. Hernandez, Jr. clearly has a lot of firsthand experience to understand what makes the behind-the-scenes craftsman tick:
From my perspective, most people on the creative side don’t talk about “success.” The speak instead of connecting with others, telling the best story, sharing experiences, honing their craft, finding the truth, delighting the audience, exciting the senses, and being heard.
Video editors, music mixers, gaming developers, and news producers are more concerned with telling the best story possible, one that captures the essence of the message, stirs the soul, and inspires the imagination. And for many behind the scenes, the glamour aspect doesn’t come into play at all.
I felt deep gratitude reading those words, because they reminded me of what I love about the industry and why I’ve worked so hard to get into it in the first place.
But the best way to evaluate this book is as an extended, and more articulated, version of Avid Technologies’s vision for Avid Everywhere. (For an excellent summary of Avid Everywhere I highly recommend this post at digitalfilms)
The essence of Hernandez, Jr.’s book is that businesses are spending too much money on monetization (his catch-all term for the ‘business’ end of the media industry) and not enough money on content creation. Creating a common production platform, “the core common technologies that are shared by all parts of the media industry – metadata standards, file formats, conversion, indexing, resolution, adaptability, optimization processes, and the like,” would free up businesses to focus on their differentiators.
… a platform should encompass the core common technologies that are shared by all parts of the media industry … These are the very things that add cost and complexity to current workflows, but which do not allow companies or artists to differentiate themselves. They are not a source of competitive advantage.
The idea is sound in theory. As a post-production supervisor, a significant portion of my time is spent coordinating file conversions and file transport. For example; transcode file X to h.264, rename it according to the digital media team’s naming convention, and upload via Wire Drive. Or another; transcode file Y to ProRes, rename it according to the promo department’s naming convention, and upload via Aspera.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Managing these tasks are tedious and seem like the very thing computers were meant to eliminate. A common production platform; i.e., a way for separate departments to tap into the same pool of footage and pull what they want without intervention would be a dream. But in practice the common production platform leaves endless implementation questions and more importantly: how is this a Storyteller’s dilemma?
When you look at their own vision for Avid Everywhere, you see Avid identify their four customers: “Major motion picture studio, Multinational news organization, Local TV news station, Television network”. None of these are the artisans celebrated in the first part of Hernandez, Jr.’s book.
Ultimately, The Storyteller’s Dilemma is a call-to-arms for media business owners to realize that “what’s dominating the conversation is the cost of doing business in a digital age, not the actual stories that the companies are in the business of selling.” That Avid Technologies’s sells the infrastructure that is as close to the media industry’s lingua franca does not diminish Hernandez, Jr.’s thesis.
- In the past ten years alone, media consumption has increased by almost 50 percent. What else in your life has increased by 50 percent in the past ten years? [Maybe health insurance premiums; childhood obesity?]
- It’s this ability to become part of the storytelling process by more in the community that is having a fundamental impact on media.
- What is my place in the media value chain and what value do I bring?
- Early on in the evolution of the media industry, the creative side and the monetization or business end became separated for one another.
- And yet, every day the industry tries to reconcile the new reality with the old procedural constraints.
- … music companies have a harder time justifying their role beyond marketing, promotion, and rights management. [This is becoming increasing relevent in for the television and cable networks.]
- One important aspect of trust in media sources that must not be overlooked is the ability of a skilled editor with access to good tools and content to shape a story.
- Box subtext: “On most films, the story has been predetermined down to every line of dialogue, and most footage is shot for specific purposes to strengthen that story. — editor Jason Stewart discussing the differences between scripted and unscripted.
- Box subtext: “The companies that aren’t successful rarely have a technical issue; they have issues connecting to people. — executive producer Herb Trawick
- The numbers show that investment in the tools and technologies that enable content creation is lagging behind the growth of the content itself.
- The ultimate losers are the content creators, because those investments in monetization aren’t benefitting them in proportion to the rise in overall consumption.
- When a media professional like a sound engineer or film editor starts spending as much time on technical issues as on shaping the story, something is fundamentally wrong. [Yes, your software is too complex and not intuitive.]
- They [media professionals] should care because it opens the door to a far more satisfying career and makes the stories they help tell more valuable over time.