The current consensus in the TV and video industry is that Blu-Ray will be the last physical format available to consumers, the last time you’ll hold a movie in your hands. Is this the case? Probably, but with qualifications. The issue isn’t with Blu-Ray or DVD or any other format but with the way we access video now and in the future. Let me explain.
If you can remember back to the early seventies there was no domestic ownership of films, you went to the cinema or you saw them on TV. A few very well off people could buy prints from the studios and show them in their home cinemas but generally speaking a film wasn’t something you owned. Then came (with varying degrees of success) VHS, Betamax, Video 2000, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray and film ownership became commonplace. The studios made lots of money from physical formats and every home had a video collection.
Returning to the present, households now have mobile phones, iPods, laptops, plasma screens, Sky+ and any other number of gadgets and storage devices. What need do we have today of a film on a disc when we can download it virtually onto the screen of your choice? Realistically, none. The little black box sat under your TV is now starting to look like an antique and for many it’s even becoming a chore getting of the sofa to load a disc into it.
This doesn’t mean we’ve lost the hunger for owning films or TV programmes, or that we’ve returned to the pre-ownership days of the seventies. If anything the ability to buy and view your entertainment of choice and store it in your pocket has fuelled a boom in sales of films. But while we want the film, we no longer need the medium that carries it. You can have a collection of a hundred films on your iPod and clear three shelves in your living room where previously sat your DVD collection. This is because the world has moved on. As with CD’s in the music industry, the gig is up. We all want our film collection, but we don’t want it clogging up our living rooms – we want it in our hands, stored on our TVs and sat on our laptops.
What this means is that the film makers, TV stations, production companies and anyone else wishing to get a film to it’s audience is having to dramatically reconsider their distribution policy. You see this all around you: the BBC’s iPlayer, iTunes, YouTube – all virtual and all benefiting the viewer. Last week the new Family Guy DVD was released with a free version of the programme as an mpeg4 file (which will play on iPods and mobile phones) included on the disc, surely an acknowledgement that even when buying a DVD what the consumer actually wants is option to access the programme anyway they see fit. Even the new Star Trek film has been released on a USB memory stick which contains the film and extras on all of the commonly used video formats. The stick is shaped like the little badge that featured on Captain Kirk’s uniform in an attempt to beguile geeks into buying something they would normally download illegally by dressing it up as an ornament.
In the corporate domain all this has repercussions too. Over the past year or so less and less of our jobs have been distributed via a physical format. Around 80% of our programmes are shot on disc and, once it’s left the camera and arrives in the edit suite, it never goes back to disc again. Sometimes it goes on a company’s website, sometimes YouTube, sometimes it’s posted on an FTP site for downloading in any location anywhere in the world, sometimes we simply convert the film to several of the most commonly used formats and post these for download on a secure area of our website. And that’s the point really, there is now no single way of distributing your film. The film has to be planned, shot, edited, mastered and compressed appropriately for the intended target audience.
For some clients this is very simple to grasp, for others it’s a minefield. To be fair, it is fairly confusing and (because everything changes so fast) it’s also fairly difficult to predict exactly where we’ll be in the coming months or years. What will probably happen is that finished projects will be made available for download from a single distribution point. So, instead of sending a programme out on DVD it will be converted into several formats and then made available on, say, a dedicated website. You’ll go to a web address, select the device you want to play the film on, select the corresponding option and download to your chosen device.
For a practical example, let’s say you want to send your new corporate promo video to all of your sales force who have mobile phones with web and video compatibility (fairly common nowadays). They would all receive a text containing a weblink which would open a webpage in their browser showing buttons allowing them to download the video to their phone. Hey Presto, video distributed virtually to its intended audience, almost instantly. You could do the same if you want to make film available to download straight into a PowerPoint presentation, or (now that plasmas screens have internet access and hard drives built in) to show on a loop in every one of a chain’s retail outlets. This distribution point needn’t be a website, it could be a USB stick, or even (contradiction ahoy!) a DVD.
Again, the point isn’t the medium the film is accessed through, what’s important is that the film is accessible to the viewer in the way the viewer wants it.
None of this is difficult or, if explained well, complicated – but it does demand a new way of thinking about how you get your production out there. These days we can’t think, “I want to get my message out, I’ll have a DVD made”, we have to think, “ I want to get my message out to my target audience in the most effective way”.
It needn’t cost more or take longer (in fact it’s almost always cheaper) but it does demand thinking in a virtual, not physical way.
Below we’ve included 3 sample files of our Raffles Canouan film to show how versatile the virtual format is. These files are available for you to download.
To do this, simply right mouse click on the highlighted file and save it to your hard drive. These files are useable within your PowerPoint presentations, on your mobile phone and within social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Myspace.
Download a file suitable for your YouTube site.
Download a file suitable for your PowerPoint presentation.
Download a file suitable for your iPod or mobile phone (please not this file will only work on video enabled mobile phones, please check your phone documentation to ensure this is suitable for your model).