Commentary

Big Thoughts: Digital Hollywood's Impact On The Small Screen

I recently participated in the latest installment of Digital Hollywood in Santa Monica, Calif. Somehow, whether it's my chic New York sensibility, or lack of style, I always find myself out of sync with the dress code for these events. When I'm looking snappy in my Gimbels corduroy suit and checked flannel shirt, the rest of the assembled are e dressed in faded jeans and expensive button downs. And, when I arrive resplendent in khakis and blazer, everyone else has received the memo "Back to suits and ties." This past trip, however, I found myself in harmony with the collective seriousness of the crowd, decorated in contemporary suits, sans ties L.A. style.

Yet, while I looked the look, I couldn't walk the walk. Marching to the beat of Ezra Pound's injunction to make it new, the crowd pounded the last nails in the coffin of old media led triumphantly by the charge of online video.

In Hollywood, there's a weird hierarchy where aspirations sometimes trump accomplishments. Lacking an online film deal in the works, I was content to sell my old media television advertising wares to all who would listen.

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The good news is that in the video revolution that hasn't happened yet, advertising escapes, prospers and lives in harmony. I repeat my question of "Who pays?" to support all this expensive distribution. But Digital Hollywood isn't the place for these conversations -- it's the place where dreams are made and a plastic badge can make you a producer.

I arrived back in New York contemplating that in a few years the Western canon of music could be held in the palm of your hand. I keep discussing this assertion, because experience in developing technology, taught me that delivering video to and playing it out of local storage is far easier than the network based isochronous play-out of high quality, 30-frames-per-second video.

It turns out I'm probably a bit further away from that dream than I thought -- it seems you can buy something online touted to be the largest record collection in the world containing about three million records and three hundred thousand CDs. My back of the envelope calculation suggests that the collection would the equivalent of 1.1 petabytes. Even with the ten-gigabyte disk drive arriving in 2013, it's more than I could juggle. Interestingly, just tackling the collected works at the Museum of Television and Broadcast, gets me to about 1.2 petabytes -- still not the world in a grain of sand. Lastly, my rough calculation for U.S. movies, assuming we made about 600 to 700 movies a year for the last 80 years, comes to about 1.9 petabytes.

Now, in the words of Don Rickles, please don't send me letters -- these are estimates meant only to demonstrate that large is still large.

We are still safe from USB Flash drive Armageddon, but not as safe as we might believe. Those four petabytes, while not portable, project to cost less than $10,000 by 2014. The big question that remains is not about online video versus traditional distribution methods, as cost and capacity will force most viewing to be local, the big question will be about consumption -- how do we satisfy ourselves amidst those petabytes, for sometimes endless choice leads to endless heartburn.

5 comments about "Big Thoughts: Digital Hollywood's Impact On The Small Screen".
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  1. Arthur Greenwald from Greenwald Media, May 13, 2009 at 4:15 p.m.

    Excellent column. More like two excellent columns on separate topics. Dress codes notwithstanding, I'd love to hear when you think the much-hyped video revolution will finally occur. It seems we've drifted through stages of wishful thinking since the mid 1990's.

  2. Deborah Brozina from Making Change, May 13, 2009 at 10:27 p.m.

    Insightful and I'd like to take some of the questions a little farther. If storage is becoming cheaper and portable, and home TV is now really home theatre, the real issue is what quality expectations will viewers have. Right now, web video quality (resolution, etc.) is quite poor at a time we're upgrading consumer viewing experiences on every platform but web and mobile.

    Will web video really just become a distribution to a home 'hub' with files that are moved to platforms where improved portability is just gained at a downgraded quality? How big will this market really become?

  3. Monica Bower from TERiX Computer Service, May 14, 2009 at 9:10 a.m.

    Great mental oatmeal to slurp and chew on.

    At this point, every media transition has been more or less a lossy compression, often coming down to a question of who has the rights on the original. Not all movies were made into VHS, not all VHS made the transition to DVD, presumably not all the DVDs will become Blu-Ray and so on. Not all albums became cassettes and thence CD's and thence MP3. Obscurity and lack of a viable commercial audience also impact what survives and what is consigned into oblivion.

    Oddly enough I suppose this has occured since the invention of the printing press; Many books were worth printing, but not all.

    But at least in this modern period the media formats are more and more accessible to the average member of the unwashed masses, espcially in the realm of video content. But again I think commercial viability will be a determining factor in what exists in mass access form in 2015 and what is still languishing unwatched on old VHS tapes.

  4. Alan Schulman from SapientNitro, May 14, 2009 at 3:09 p.m.

    No doubt we'll need a simple but extraordinary means in the form a local interface to navigate such immense content choice where the means to search, organize and select them greatly exceeds anything in the marketplace now... but, wait, haven't you built one of those already?

  5. Cody Crane from CCH, May 14, 2009 at 4:31 p.m.

    Ahoy, a new nebbish sails into the Mediapost Harbor. Perhaps next time we will hear less about his fashion missteps and more, dare I say Mitch Oscar like focus on the media issues at hand. Interesting how these advanced advertising folks esteem themselves as philosopher kings and not the vendors they should be. -CC

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