|Topic:||Content is king|
|Title:||CEO and President|
Steve Ellis is CEO and President of Broadcast Pix, and a member of the board of directors. Mr Ellis previously he served vice president of sales and as vice president of emerging markets at Telestream. Mr Ellis began his video career in the Air Force, Merrill Lynch and AT&T. Mr Ellis was Vice President and General Manager of Editel Boston. Mr Ellis was also a co-founder of SNNY, which sold video production equipment and was the top reseller for Pinnacle Systems; Pinnacle later hired him as its director of sales for the Americas. At Vizrt, he served as Vice President of Sales for North American Operations.
Steve Ellis has a communications degree from the State University of New York.
Content may well be king, but producing a king today is easy – they don’t make kings as they used to. Today, anyone with a laptop, some sophisticated editing and production software, and two or three consumer camcorders (or just a cellphone and microphone)can produce professional content. Add an Internet link, and the producer can distribute it worldwide from home or even a hotel room – all this at a tiny fraction of what it would have cost less than ten years ago.
‘Content is king’ is a quote that has been vastly overused (and thank you, Mr. Gates, for the original quote), but it does speak to the world in which we live. However, I would take this one step further and modify his quote to say, “Content is king, but he who controls the content has the keys to the kingdom.” The rapidly changing communication and media landscape is creating an environment where anyone can create a kingdom. At the start of my career in the broadcast and production industry, it took money and power to control content – and only those with enough resources were given the opportunity to be ‘kings.’
Granted, there were a few lucky individuals that were at the right place at the right time, but I would contend that if you wanted to launch a radio station or TV station, build a station group, or launch CNN, you had to be someone like Ted Turner with the resources to do so. You also had to commit those resources (time and money), and be prepared to sacrifice equal amounts of both. It was also very important that you were a visionary with your eye focused on success.
The rules to success were clearly written, and how you controlled content was fairly straightforward. You had to have money and lots of it. Whoever controlled the medium controlled the content.
Today, there are only two steadfast rules needed to build a media empire, and it no longer takes a great deal of money to control the media and its associated content. You need to know a few things, such as a basic understanding of modern communication, including the Internet and the technology needed to create content that will be disseminated on the Internet. And you need a very good idea; you need to be a visionary.
A great example of this is Justin Bieber, a young and extremely wealthy entertainer who got his start when his music video on YouTube went viral. A simple video delivered on the Web, a virtually free medium, launched a career without the need of millions for marketing and promotion. Content is still king, but the rules have changed.
Not long ago, I was interviewed by a Web-based industry magazine and given the opportunity to speak about my company and our products. My expectation was that a crew would show up with a tripod, camera, some type of mic (probably dangling from a boom or a fish pole), and lighting kit. While it has been a very long time since I read Fundamentals of Television Production for my introductory college video production course, I remember things that were very important 30 years ago, including three-point lighting, depth of focus, nat sound, and reaction shots.
Much to my surprise, the interviewer showed up with a cell phone with a mic plugged into her phone – no lights, no boom, no crew. This was a far cry from the numerous videos I have produced and directed in the past.
The interviewer, who was also the director, recording engineering, and mic operator, said, “When I blink my eyes you start talking, and when I blink again you can stop.” That was followed by, “I bet you can do it in one take”, which I did. When the interview was complete, she ran off with my one-take performance, bypassed post-production, and posted the video on their Web site within the hour.
Welcome to video production in 2013.
I went back to my hotel room later that day, found the email with the link to the Web site for the publication, and watched the video that seemed to be produced so hastily. Much to my surprise, it worked. The video did exactly what was intended: It communicated a message about my company without all the trappings and tools I thought were necessary to deliver content to an audience.
This is a real life experience that demonstrates that a very simple production process is only one example of how changes in technology have changed how we produce and deliver content and view content.
At one point in my career, I had the opportunity to oversee the design and installation of two very extensive video and film production facilities. The first of these projects had a construction and equipment budget of just under $30 million U.S., which included a live studio with multiple cameras, a smaller secondary studio, a sound and audio production suite, three fairly extensive editing rooms, graphics, and several remote video production systems. The second was nearly three times this size, with film-to-tape transfer, several NLE suites, three times as many graphic workstations, and more.
The standard definition studio cameras in the first project were nearly US$80,000 each, while the 3D graphic systems were close to US$300,000. Despite the large price tags, neither production facility would have the diverse and compressive capabilities of the tools we use today, which are available at a fraction of the cost.
Last year, I had the opportunity to recommend an integrated production product to someone who has managed live production for nearly 30 years. He was tasked with producing a multi-camera remote live production and delivering the content to viewers around the world on a very limited budget.
Years ago, he would have used a remote production vehicle equipped with cameras and all the necessary gear. He would have contacted a company to set up a communications link, complete with microwave feed or uplink to a satellite. And after spending tens of thousands of dollars, he would pray that it all worked.
Instead, he used an integrated production software package running on a laptop.
The software included a production switcher, graphics, audio, streaming capabilities, and a virtual set – and he plugged in three consumer grade HD camcorders. For less than US$4,000 (and the help of an ISP), he delivered a high quality live production to locations in several countries.
Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to deliver a commercial or TV program to be used on the air in California tomorrow and the production company was in London, you would put a production intern on a flight to Los Angeles with a copy of the videotape. Even five years ago, I could not have imagined that if I wanted to share news footage of the tsunami in Japan or flooding on the New Jersey shore, I could just upload it to the cloud and it would instantly appear in someone’s inbox 8,000 miles away, ready for use on the evening news.
Television technology (or perhaps I should call it new media technology) is moving at such a fast pace that many young professionals who are just beginning their careers don’t remember a time when we did not have file-based workflows. The changes in our everyday production tools and how we deliver content is changing how we see the world. New media delivery systems, such as YouTube, give everyone equal access to viewers everywhere; these new media outlets can create empires and, in some cases, destroy them.
It has been three decades since Tim Berners-Lee first postulated that idea of using the internet as a means to store and retrieve information. Working as a contractor in Switzerland, he was the first to believe that the World Wide Web was a medium that could connect business, employees, and others. In the years since, streaming television services have expanded at an unimaginable rate, and the giants of the broadcasting and cable industries have moved quickly to utilize the medium as well.
Radio stations around the world have also joined the long list of others who utilize the Web. In particular, radio stations In the United Kingdom, France, and Germany are providing streaming video content to their customers. For the first time, radio stations and networks can compete with traditional television stations and networks by delivering video and audio to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Whether you are in the United States, Europe, or Bangladesh, this concept of providing low-cost entertainment and information is a worldwide phenomenon. The number of content providers is growing, from large media giants to citizen journalists who stream video and audio news and content on the Web.
This is the real world of content and modern media communication. It is no longer necessary to have big money, a TV transmitter, or a cable franchise to communicate an idea. With today’s advanced technology, the content can and will speak for itself.
I imagine that if media and communication philosopher Marshall McLuhan were alive today, he would be not be surprised that his famous quote, “The medium is the message,” and his prediction that there would be a World Wide Web (decades before it was even invented) had become realities. But he might be very surprised that in our fast paced and quickly changing world it is no longer about the medium – it’s about the message.