We think we are right in the middle of a revolution in media. This exclusive article from Robert Buller asks is history repeating itself? Essential reading for anybody who works in the media, thought provoking stuff indeed.
In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press process that, with refinements and increased mechanisation, remained the principal means of printing today. The inventor's method of printing using movable type, including the use of metal molds and alloys, a special press, and oil-based inks, allowed for the first time the mass production of printed books.
His work suddenly revolutionised the building of content, and disrupted the status quo on the desemination of content. Suddenly overnight (well relatively) huge numbers of Monks and Scribes suddenly met the end of the way that they had worked. Suddenly the skills that had kept them in the roles that they had had for centuries started to change. They had to “retrain” and become proficient in the new technologies of their business.
Suddenly key skills changed and new areas of specialisation grew. From Ink, fonts and typefaces, alloys and moulding and all the way through to paper manufacturing all created new competitors new business models and even new technical terms like uppercase and lowercase and instead of Quills. They now had printers trays and struggled with different inks and papers types. This was obviously before the legendary TLA (Three Letter Acronym)
In addition to the new skills, the business models changed and the cost of content dropped dramatically. Gutenberg demonstrated the power of the printing press by selling copies of a two-volume Bible for a price that was the equivalent of approximately three years' wages for an average clerk, but it was significantly cheaper than a handwritten Bible that could take a single monk 20 years to transcribe.
Nearly four hundred years later we don’t fully realise the impact that this had on the economy, and the life that we have today. We consume content on paper with abandon and talk now about how this new fangled digital media thing is effecting the printing companies.
But in the world of the Media Industry today we may need to evaluate the future - Are we going through a similar revolution? While the birth of printing grew relatively slowly in our eyes, the environment in which we operate in today is moving much faster, the driver behind this - the internet - is moving incredibly fast and the impact on the business is huge.
Every presentation on the internet shows usage and revenue numbers up and to the right. Everything touched by this technology is either being devastated or growing in double digits.
Music was the first to go - the likes of iTunes, Amazon and the rest of the online distribution models now are the dominate players and the traditional distribution models stumble and change their models in an effort to compete.
News and Magazine Publishing are in the mist of this now as they rush to discover the revenue models on devices like the iPad and other tablets. Book publishing has partnered up and even then the model may still change as Apple and Amazon launch their new software applications to take this to new levels
There are those with a forward looking philosophy who are wondering what the impact will be on the moving picture. If you stand back and look at our business it is ripe for this change.
Against this we see deep pocket organizations that are resistant to change because they believe it removes their advantage and they won't be able to market against it. We've watched the music, video, and publishing industries all try to stall tech advances because they were afraid of them.
The video production process has huge amounts of wastage and inefficiency in the production process. There are dedicated and expensive solutions based on tools and formats that are more inclined to legacy thinking, and the skills of the poeple are often not up to date and often are based on what used to happen rather than what is happening.
You may well struggle to buy a camera that uses a tape these days but we still see a lot of delivery reliant on tape. We argue on what digital delivery really means. Smoke screens are thrown up from the choice of Codecs through to QA procedures. The arguments go around and around and we see little clear movements in one direction or another.
Into this, Apple launched FCP X.
You really had to have your head in the sand to miss this one. The immediate reaction in the industry was deafening, a thousand canons opened up and everyone took their best shot and had their own opinion.
However if you stand back from this and look at what they have done. This application was apparently built from the ground up, 10 years of code was turfed and they started again with a view into the future. 64bit, a new interface, designed around a new engine and a massive price change.
Granted, at launch No XML, No Audio routing, No Broadcast Monitor support etc etc. However in the 7 months they have rolled out three updates and the latest has Broadcast Monitor (in Beta), Multicam, and some clever media re-linking options which allows edit while ingest.
You have to admit the big features are being locked in pretty quickly. But it is the smaller things that a lot of people miss. The guys at Apple have put a lot of thought behind some of the elements. The ability to make a disk image of the media card at ingest shows that there is more thought than many people give the team at Apple credit for.
Yes its changed, and its not the same but neither is the industry 10 years after the launch of the first version. Perhaps the best indicator is that a lot of the concerns that were raised 10 Years ago are the same being raised again. Well at that price it can’t be professional? It simply will not work, it doesn’t have the the third party support..... and on and on it goes. Forgetting that these guys revolutionised it the first time around and back then the industry was a lot more entrenched, and a lot more expensive.
The impact that Apple had is profound, The barriers to entry came tumbling down and the numbers of users with their own equipment increased, Adobe and Avid changed their models and products to suit. Resellers and 3rd parties built solutions around these eco -systems and new areas and skills developed.
Today the demand for content has grown hugely from what was demanded in those days. The demands from the broadcasters has changed, they now need content for Broadcast and web. The changing models of viewership are immense - iPlayer from the BBC is the most well known but this is rolling across all broadcasters.
The demand for Corporate video has grown in leaps and bounds, the ability to deliver this content across the corporate network or directly from the web page is only dwarfed by the amount of content being delivered by the consumer themselves. Whether this content is good or bad is an entirely different question but, it does gather eyeballs and time - which may not be on the Broadcasters product.
So..... How does all this tie back to Apple and FCP X and where is this possibly going. Loads of people have theories on what when and how the future will be but Apple have proved that they don’t make these decisions on the toss of a coin.
Apple have the Editor, designed to take advantage of the digital workflow, they have a distribution network for all types of content and they have devices to consume this and it all works very smoothly. They are not the only ones and have competitors in each of these markets but the lines are drawn and the game is about to start - So who’s ready.
Like the Revolution in the Print Industry - We are right at the tipping point for the Media Industry, are the Broadcasters ready for this shift, will they be part of this shift or will they be the “scribes” as the models change.
Well its going to be digital from the camera through to the end device even if it is broadcast. Any analogue component in this workflow is going to cost you money. As soon as you see a BNC connector it is a cost centre.
Tape is costing you more money and if the customers wants it on tape - there is a cost to this. Forget the cost of the tape - back to paragraph one there is a BNC connector and a large expensive VT deck to pay for. In short IT systems are the new medium in production and the more unique and complicated the more expense in the production process.
The consumption of this content is going to come down to a few major players NetFlix, Amazon, Apple, You Tube, Google - the percentages are the debate. Where traditional Broadcasters fit in will be a point of debate. Production companies will deliver content directly to these providers and this will be served up through an IP connection via viewer recommendations and your profile.
Yes this is possible today - rights and a few other things aside. The Broadcast biased will jump up and say that Broadcast has the ability to deliver Sport and News and this is the trump card.
Well that may also change. We have already seen rulings from the European Court of Justice saying that the broadcast rights based on Geography may be contradictory to European law. Add to this the fact that most broadcasters are certainly feeling the financial squeeze.
Then think about this- What if sponsoring corporations had a method of delivery of content - Maybe IP based and maybe through Amazon, Apple or YouTube. Maybe the cost of buying the global rights and having a branded lower thirds, the IP distribution metrics, interactive advertising and customer profiling is worth a lot more than the Broadcaster can afford.
And what if the the ticket price asked by a FIFA escalates, who would you back in a bidding war? - Coke, VISA and Mcdonalds vs Sky and the BBC....
So how does this come back to FCPX? The product is not responsible for this change, it probably has a way to go, but the thought process behind this is much more forward thinking that we give it credit for. The people at Apple are looking a little further ahead in a market that is expanding and growing. Video is a growing market and revenue models are changing.
To come full circle - If the Internet is the printing machine and FCP X a set of fonts - we need to be looking forward and evaluating the directions with as little emotion as possible. Some of us will be hugely successful, some will die, but I guarantee it will not be the same.
Robert Buller ©RobertBuller/FCP.co 2012