Throughout the past of media production and consumption it seems that the way in which in which the public consumes media defines how that media is created. And so with the Internet currently as the dominant form of media consumption it would be pertinent to analyze the onset of this cultural phenomenon before delving into the production side of media. The genesis of the Internet is not entirely unlike the creation of the radio and television. When radio and television first began their potential was not realized. In 1938 future President of CBS Frank Stanton saw the opportunity in radio to broadcast media that could be consumed by a large audience. But realizing this opportunity was only part of his goal. The real challenge and success laid in how he managed to monetize radio and create a system out of it; a way in which viewership could be determined and advertisement revenue could be viably created (Socolow, 2008, p. 526). Following radio came television, which went through a similar transition of monetization through sales of advertisement space. Most recently this new medium of the Internet seems to be going through the same process. The Internet is similar to the radio and television in many aspects, consumers get media, news, sports, all sorts of similar entertainment from it but with one extraordinary difference: with the Internet the consumer has the ability to be the producer and to respond directly to the media they are consuming. This new media medium caused an upset in the system. America’s media moguls became frantic when they realized how much of their content could be bootlegged online. “In the past 25 years, the Big Three broadcast television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, have experienced a significant decline in the share of the prime-time viewing audience. In 1980, more than 90% of television viewers were tuned in to one of these three networks during prime time.” (Hindman & Wiegand, 2008, p. 3). User created content for the first time posed a threat to the numbers that kept networks like CBS and ABC on the top for decades. Websites like YouTube and Dailymotion provided the perfect setting for this new breed of media creator. Anything could become a hit on the Internet. The prosumer market flooded these sites with videos and content of amateur level up to semi-professional skill levels. For all intents and purposes this media seemed to provide the same function as traditional network television, with the exception that a viewer could watch whenever they wanted. And so began the age of the viral video. “Web-based media have made multidirectional, audience-generated communication a reality, giving citizens the opportunity to join the party as producers rather than merely consumers. Even with the power law dictating that a miniscule fraction of “prosumers” ever reach an audience larger than their immediate circle, the top-down tyranny of the media has been effectively challenged” (Gross, 2008, p. 67).
Even with plummeting show ratings and an evident flock of audiences to the Internet some in the ‘media tyranny’ do not see the Internet as much of a threat to their business. In an interview, Jim Lanzone (Co-Founder and CEO of CBS’s ‘Clicker.com’) spoke about the fear that consumers are going to the Internet instead of traditional media sources. He replied by saying, “...they want all of it... video has become more bite sized and it’s a spectrum... the Internet has become a new location of content that can be piloted in many ways for the network or for film.” (ForaTV, 2011). It is people like Lanzone who began to realize the potential the Internet had to reach out and find their audience. The way that Lanzone is claiming that the Internet is not competing with traditional broadcast television is supported by some statistics that claim viewers will often flock to a TV show after seeing clips on Youtube. CBS announced that viewership of their programs “Letterman” and “The Late Late Show” have gone 5% and 7% respectively and that their average uploaded clip online pulls in 857,000 views per day in total. CBS went on to say “It’s also worth noting that YouTube takes (their) content to millions of viewers outside the US who can’t access CBS normally...” (Cashmere, 2006). This is another game changing feature of the Internet: the way media can now be consumed.
Previously, in radio and television, a consumer generally chose a channel and had to watch what ever was being programmed at the time. It left consumers with little choice. The Internet gave consumers power, the power to choose their media, how they watched it, when the watched it, and where they watched it. “The dynamics of how audiences consume media are changing, as are the ways media industries make sense of, and define, their audiences.” (Napoli, 2008, p. 2). The Frank Stanton’s of today seem to have a much more difficult time harnessing this seemingly uncontrollable medium. Websites such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter have begun to corral the masses. These sites are able to monitor users interests, what websites they go to, where they consume media, what media they consume. They can then sell this information to advertisers and media companies to begin monetizing the Internet. For companies that is the goal with the Internet. The big television networks need to figure out how to use the Internet to transmit media, gauge viewership, and sell ad space. The changes in technology present these networks and media companies with a new challenge of finding their audience, but it is also an opportunity for them. “While in some ways audiences are becoming more elusive and more unpredictable... new systems of measuring media audiences, of gathering feedback from them... are making it possible for media industries to fundamentally redefine what media audiences mean to them and how they factor into the economics and strategy of their businesses.” (Napoli, 2008, p. 2). Media industries have been trying to capitalize on this new medium. Perhaps the days of networks going out of their way to understand who and how many people watching are gone. “Armed with the information derived from internet-based data mining, audience segmentation and niche marketing have redefined the terms of commercial media, abandoning the search for the largest audiences in favor of targeted appeals to those most likely to respond.” (Gross, 2008, p. 67). But what is in the future for the Internet? In an interview President and CEO of ‘The Internet Society’ said, “The Internet is characterized by constant change, constant surprise,” she went on to say that, “(in 25 years) ...we will be checking email by looking down at our sleeve... or possibly blinking our eyes.” (Zax, 2011, p.1). Although it’s easy to fantasize about the future of the Internet it is almost surely impossible to predict exactly what will occur. “New technologies are at the heart of all these changes” (Napoli, 2008, p. 2).
Now that the way in which the public consumes media through the Internet has been established the way in which the prosumer and professional markets create media will be considered, beginning first with the prosumer market. Historically it has only been the professional market that creates content but the evolution of cheaper technologies have allowed for prosumer markets to create their own media to rival professional media creators. Continuing the Darwin metaphor we see these professional Hollywood production companies as the dinosaurs who once ruled the world, large and powerful, and the prosumer as perhaps the adaptable, agile mammal. In the early days of media production, specifically television and motion pictures, costs were extremely high. The cost of 35mm film stock alone made it impossible for people in the consumer market to become producers of media content. It also made it so that the big Hollywood studios were the only ones that could afford to, and therefore produce and sell media. They had cornered the market. The advent of 8mm film allowed for some consumer, or low budget independent films but were generally used for home movies of lower quality. As we grew slowly into the digital age prices of cameras dropped off completely. A consumer nowadays can purchase a video camera that shoots HD video comparable to film for under a thousand dollars. At first these new cameras were still used for home movies but it did not take long for a few entrepreneurs to begin creating content.
Currently the ‘hot item’ in the prosumer market is the HDSLR. Essentially a high definition still camera that has been enabled to shoot high definition video HDSLRs are cheap, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on the budget. This is extremely cheap when compared to standard professional cameras, which are generally priced beginning at the tens of thousands of dollars (Simmons, 2012). There are also a wide variety of computer programs as well as relatively cheap computers to run the programs that allow for the prosumer and indie creator to professionally edit and add special effects to their content. Technological advances such as these cameras and the programs have now fully allowed the prosumer market to readily challenge conventional media industries with near professional quality products.
In between the worlds of professional entertainment media production and prosumer entertainment media production is the world of advertising media production. Advertisers are the ones who have seemed to struggle most with the advent of the Internet. With commercial time slots costing large amounts of money and most of the consumer market spending more of their time on the Internet, advertisers have had to find new ways of creating ads to find their target market. It seems traditional 30 second commercials have found a new home on the Internet but leading advertisers and their campaigns have focused on new complicated form of integrated content that is cross-platform. Before looking at this new form of integrated media, though, consideration will be first given to these traditional 30-second commercials and how they are working on a new medium. These commercials, which were originally and traditionally produced for broadcast television now find themselves on marketers’ websites, being transmitted out over computers, smart phones, and tablets. The Web is currently the default for anyone who wants to distribute video because there is no limit to who can see your content and how many viewers you can attain. In a presentation for the NAB, Grammy winner Douglas Spotted Eagle analyzed this problem and gave tips on how to shoot, optimize, edit and format video for the web (2012). In the presentation Spotted Eagle spoke about balancing the download speed of content as well as maximizing the resolution of your video. An example on what advertisers must consider is a commercial that is designed to be played on an Iphone screen. An Iphone does not have near the resolution of a computer or even an Ipad and so by lowering the resolution from 1080 to 720, or even 540, a producer can ensure faster download speeds to avoid unnecessary downloading or buffering. Advertisers and even any video producers of past generations would never have had to spend as much time considering what format these videos would be consumed on. This evolution of technology has forced an evolution in the thought processes of those that produce the content.
After understanding the technical difficulties of cross-platform media production, examination will be given to the creative side of cross-platform media. In a panel discussion for the NAB top advertisers Anthony Vagnoni (SourceEcreative), Dustin Callif (Tool of North America), Nick Felder (The Coca-Cola Company), Jason Sperling (Honda and Acura Advertising), and Javier Jimenez (Mirada) spoke about each of their own techniques for producing cross-platform integrated advertising content (2012). Nick Felder spoke about the goal of getting all mediums and media to work with each other, such as broadcast, radio, and websites. An example of a success he had was his “Beat 2012” ad campaign, which paired the Coca-Cola Company with the 2012 Olympics. The core of the campaign was based around the production of a piece of music that was mixed together with different sound effects of Olympic athletes performing their respective activities (i.e. footsteps running; an arrow hitting the target). They went on to produce a music video, a behind the scenes documentary, webisodes eventually culminating in a live concert near the London Olympic stadium. All this different content was able to reach an audience in different forms depending on their interest and by not focusing the content on the Coca-Cola name they were able to avoid the stigma that advertisements have. It is interesting to note that Felder was actually an employee of the Coca-Cola Company and the level of his involved in the production is a unique and new thing to come out of new media. Dustin Callif commented on Nick’s involvement by saying that projects like this put the client into the game, no longer is advertisement production an outsourced job, now the ad agency, client, and production company have an equal partnership in getting their content created. Jason Sperling brought his own experience with his creation of the wildly popular Patrick Warburton cross platform Honda web campaign. In this case Sperling viewed the website as the main hub of the campaign instead of the traditional view of basing the campaign around a TV spot. The ad campaign was unique in that it was based off the web, using a green screen Patrick Warburton to guide the audience through other websites essentially doing the research that a potential buyer would do. It will be creative people like this who manipulate technology in order to create new media.
The prosumer market and cross-platform advertisers are both relatively new sections of the media creating body, both resulting from the evolution of new technologies. But how have the old dinosaurs done? The professional media creators and production companies it seems have been able to hold on and evolve to use these new technologies. The general process of media production seems to have stayed relatively the same as always, but the technology has forced people in different positions in that process to work together in new ways and take on new responsibilities. Very few positions within the workflow of media production find themselves actually handcuffed by the new technologies. Generally it seems these new technologies have allowed for new freedoms that before were otherwise impossible. In the world of audio sound technicians are now able to create several versions of sound tracks and effects and explore more creatively the ways in which sound for film is made. Portable recorders are carried with sound techs everywhere and when a unique sound is heard they record it and put it in their rolodex for future use. (Bender et all, 2012). As far as the production of video elements goes more and more production companies are turning away from the previously popular medium of physical film in favor of new HD digital technologies. These digital technologies allow for wildly experimental and cutting edge production techniques. For example in James Cameron’s Avatar, the sets were completely digital, created in computers and portrayed via green screen technology. During the production of the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon entire blocks of downtown Chicago were shot in HD and then uploaded into a virtual version of the city. This gave the filmmakers control to use a ‘virtual camera’ to zoom around the city and get any angle or shot they needed. It also simplified the process of rendering in the digital characters that carry the film’s plot (Alonso et all, 2012).
It isn’t just these wildly powerful digital tools that professional filmmakers are exploring. Several TV shows are using prosumer equipment to produce their content. Ken Glassing, an AD on CSI: Miami became intrigued by the power of the prosumer HDSLRs Canon 5D and 7D and decided to “sneak them on to set one day.” It turned out that nine times out of ten the editors for the show preferred the footage from the HDSLRs without even knowing it. These cameras allowed Glassing more movement and flexibility as opposed to the heavier cameras previously used (Geffner et al, 2012).
The cameras are not the only thing that's changing on production sets. New computer power and programs paired with the digital video phenomenon has completely changed the way in which video workflow is handled. In the days of film the shot footage would have to be developed, copied, color timed, physically cut together, and finally copied into distributable versions. This was a time consuming and expensive process. Pankaj Bajpal, a Hollywood colorist on films such as Sex and the City, has attempted to change this process. He created a software called ‘In Camera Color Management’ with the goal of cutting the coloring process down completely. Only in digital cameras could something like this be possible. ASC member Curtis Clark uses new technologies to film on sight around the world and send the footage instantly back to LA to begin being edited. The amount of time and money actions like this save must be staggering. The technological advances have completely revolutionized many aspects in which media is created and it seems to be going faster. Post-production supervisor on the upcoming film Life of Pi, Steve Barnett spoke about the differences in workflow management that have changed even from the filming of Life of Pi in 2010 and what workflow looks like now in 2012 (Bajpal et all, 2012). Even those in the industry are unsure of what the future will hold as far as media production, management and distribution. There are many disagreements about what current technology is fit enough to survive and what technology will fade away, but there does seem to be an agreement that the evolution of technology will continue at a faster rate and it will continue to cause huge changes within both the professional and prosumer production side and the consumption side.
Not all in the industry agree that this technology is a good thing. Some may see them as luddites, yet they may have some good points. Cinematographer Julio Macat believes that digital technology is the future of the industry but is a truest to the film medium. When shooting on film he says that you must develop it, color time it, stitch it together. The process that goes into producing film is much more careful and it makes you think and plan out exactly what goes on to that strip of film. With modern day digital cameras it is possible to continuously record ‘hoping to get something good’ instead of ‘planning out something good.’ Macat goes on to say that soon the industry may be dominated by people who never learned to shoot on film, existing only in a digital world, and to him this is a tragedy for the art of film. If someone were to spend five minutes on sites like YouTube it may be difficult to argue with his logic (Macat, J. 2012).
Regardless where you stand on new evolving technology, the evolution of technology is happening. In hindsight it is easy to see why some technologies flourished while others faded. Predicting the future of technology in media may be more difficult to do. It seems that the trending factors will continue. Future technologies will have to increase ease of use, increase quality of production, decrease cost, and most important increase the ability of the few to reach the masses. Relying on old methods is a sure way to become lost in past, only those who can adapt, learn, and create will be relevant. It will continue to be the survival of the fittest.
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