Philly Creative Guide

Here's the Thing

Bill Haley

Video/Web/Interactive Outlook 2010
by Bill Haley, 1 Feb 2010

Bill Haley is one of the founders of PhillyCreativeGuide.com. He is also President, Interactive of Allied Pixel (www.alliedpixel.com), an integrated media production firm specializing in the convergence of HD video, web and interactive media. He can be reached at bill.haley@alliedpixel.com.


The digital media universe continues to evolve and the lines between video, web and interactive continue to blur as we enter an era of media integration. Following are some observations and thoughts about what that may mean to you and me.

Video Production and Post

Technology has made entry into the business easier than ever, but the high end is more complicated than ever. Consequently we've seen a quantum increase in the total amount of video produced – but much of it is of dubious quality. The high end continues to be the top one percent.

The physical media of film and videotape have all but been replaced by digital media. Tapeless acquisition is the wave of the future. Solid state memory cards such as Sony's SxS and Panasonic's P2 cards, along with Sony's next-generation XDCAM optical disc, will replace videotape. This has enormous implications for the world of production. A producer must understand how to work with data, or he'll have difficulties with the workflow and ultimately the end product.

HD is now mainstream, and 1080 has pulled ahead of 720 as the HD standard. Most new HD monitors are 1080 native, and YouTube accepts 1080 source material. Besides Blu-ray, HD video is being distributed in H.264 and Windows Media formats, and even on Apple TV. Image resolution is forcing production companies to up their game in terms of production value.

3D is enjoying a renaissance theatrically. All Dreamworks animated features are now produced in 3D. It remains to be seen whether 3D will filter down to home and commercial settings.

"Green" production is becoming more common. Film commissions including the Greater Philadelphia Film Office have developed green initiatives. On the production side, LED and fluorescent lighting drastically reduce power consumption.

In some ways, what's old is new again. The Red One camera and new DSLR "video" cameras have spawned a return to double-system sound where audio is recorded to a separate device. Frame rate and timecode are issues to be aware of. Also in the audio world, the transition to DTV and resulting reallocation of the 700 MHz "white space" band means that wireless microphone systems, in-ear monitors and wireless intercoms operating in that range may become obsolete.

Updated post production tools bring new features and workflow improvements. Final Cut Pro 7 has three new versions of the ProRes codec, along with Alpha transitions, automatic transfer and timeline improvements. Autodesk smoke is coming to the Mac, for under $15,000 – no doubt a shock to existing smoke facilities. After Effects CS4 exports for mobile devices and can save entire composites for Flash. Maya 2010, a 3D tool, adds Toxic compositing software and Matchmover Pro (3D tracking software,) along with real time dynamics simulation.

New roles are emerging. In acquisition, the DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) is becoming indispensable. In post, it is the Compressionist. Producers are becoming more project management-oriented to stay on top of complex and disparate deliverables.

There are ever-increasing ways to distribute programming. That makes it more important than ever before to make the right production choices at the onset of a project, and include all the members of the production and post team in the decision-making process.

Web and Interactive

Corporate America is turning to webcasting and videoconferencing to counter escalating travel and staging costs. Live and on-demand HD streaming is now a reality on the web. High quality video can be inserted into Adobe Connect, creating exciting new opportunities for distance-based training and education.

Virtual meetings have come to maturity and common acceptance. Today's online meeting can run on an average laptop with a common broadband connection. The user experience is truly interactive: PowerPoint combined with chat windows, whiteboards, live chat, screen sharing, breakouts and broadcast-quality video. All in a web browser interface.

Corporate America has discovered social media and is beginning to use it in novel ways to build brand awareness and loyalty and drive demand. A great example was last summer's campaign to get a million "votes" for a nationwide release of the horror film "Paranormal Activity." It became the hit sensation of the year. YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, reddit, StumbleUpon and Delicious are among the prime social media outlets for business.

Google has stepped up its campaign for world domination. The much-anticipated Google Chrome operating system will take on Windows and Mac, the Chrome browser takes on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari and Android competes in the mobile space while free, web-based applications like Google Wave and Voice enable remarkable new capabilities.

Flash remains the premiere interactive platform for the web. Flash developers will soon be able to develop Flash apps for the iPhone, thanks to a new coco wrapper developed by Adobe. Flash Catalyst presents a new streamlined workflow for designers and Flex developers to collaborate efficiently. Flash Platform Services allows developers to easily track the installation and use of their apps across multiple platforms like Facebook, MySpace, etc. and will eventually serve as an App store for developers.

The Bottom Line

Corporate budget cutting combined with new technology is bringing about paradigm shifts and new opportunities. Some clients are bypassing agencies and going straight to production companies. Some agencies have countered by creating their own in-house production capabilities. And some clients are doing it themselves, bypassing everyone and going straight to YouTube. We are also seeing the rise of the "virtual production company" – loose confederations of freelancers who join together to tackle specific projects.

Seeking to cut costs, some companies are turning to guru.com, odesk.com, 99designs.com and even craigslist. It's a good way to find the lowest cost producer but a lousy way to find a true production partner. Now more than ever, it's important to work with a firm that can reliably connect the dots in the increasingly complex digital media landscape.

Converging technologies and economic challenges demonstrate how Darwinism is applied to the new media industry. A firm must be adaptable to continual change, and the smart ones are encompassing multiple disciplines in order to survive in this brave new age.

Thanks to my colleagues at Allied Pixel (www.alliedpixel.com) and Right Click Media (www.rightclickmedia.com) for their expertise: Pete Bretz, Brian Connor, Jeff Cornell, Brian Crumley, Jim Eustace, Dan Francis, Aaron Houston, Ling Song, Tom Shustack, Paul Trumbore, C.J. Witherspoon and Devin Vail.

Print Article Brought to you by: Bill Haley | President, Interactive of Allied Pixel