We are often asked what are the trends we see and what is happening in the video field and what value is a professional video production company when anyone can buy the same or similar equipment.
Video Production is undergoing a huge transition. Unlike in years past when being a video production involved tens of thousands of dollars or more of equipment and years to master, today to learn the technical skills of using a camera and software use is something anyone with some level of intelligence can master.
Probably the best way to begin an explanation of the current state of the industry is to start with the trends. These start with equipment. A few years back the TV manufacturers were making a big push for 3D. I spent some time looking at the products and trying to cut through the clutter of advertising and corporate agenda speak. I was never a big supporter of the technology because I really didn’t see a purpose for it. The experience of watching always struck me as mostly a gimmick and something that likely only early adapters would buy because they wanted the newest whether it improved the experience or not. I thought the inconvenience of some products requiring glasses and others very proprietary wasn’t a winning strategy. Though some 3D products are still out there, I don’t see 3D as a mainstream feature of future video production.
In contrast the recent trend towards Ultra HD, UHD or 4k with 3840 x 2160 pixels as it is often called is just the beginning of a trend towards higher resolution video production and viewing. The more pixels, the more detail can be shown impacting sharpness and resolution. Just like HD at 1920 x 1080 pixels supplanted Standard Definition at 720 x 480 pixels. UHD which is roughly 4 times the pixel count of HD is going to become the standard though perhaps only as a step to even higher resolution. High quality 60 inch UHD TV’s with smart internet access are available for under $1000.
In 2014, only 1% of all U.S homes had a 4K TV, so far in 2015, that percentage is seeing very fast growth and other studies have predicted a fivefold increase in 4K television sales for the current years end, from just under 1 million units sold to about 5 or 6 million by the end of 2015.
At this time 4k-camera equipment is readily available to anyone with even some smartphones having the capability to record 4k video. If you pay attention to Network TV programming and you have the eye and knowledge to recognize it, much of todays TV is shot in 4k even though the broadcasters don’t yet have the capability to deliver true 4k over the air. However shooting in 4k today does provide a higher quality picture even when viewed in HD and future proofs the content for future transmission when the delivery systems are 4k.
Most 4k cameras will shoot standard HD so they have the flexibility to shoot that also. However having 4 times the pixels at UHD does provide a sharper picture and because it is in effect 4 HD sized frames, you can use sections of the image to zoom in at full HD resolution. I feel that 4k unlike 3D, is a very viable medium and in fact something that should be considered for any video production project.
Having a 4k camera is only the beginning of addressing this trend and the future of video production. Once you have the footage, you need the capability to edit it. Current professional editing software from Adobe, Apple, Sony and others will edit in 4k. The difficulty is very similar to when HD first came out and computers weren’t powerful enough to handle it. With 4k you need the hardware to handle footage much more data intensive than HD footage and this is a limiting factor for many neophyte or amateur video producers who might think you can edit on an office level machine.
In order to use inexpensive recording media such as SDXC cards and where hours of footage can be recorded on a card, the content is deeply compressed when recorded. That is what causes the stuttering on playback. The recording formats (codecs) at this time have very hardware intensive needs uncompressing the recorded footage so that it can be edited on a timeline. As time goes on the recording codecs will get better and this will alleviate. Also Intel continues to produce more capable processors and again like HD, we can expect the horsepower of the computers to catch up with the medium and 4k productions to become standard.
As a caveat, before we fixate on 4k, let’s realize that good old HD is going to be around for quite awhile longer and HD cameras can be bought for less than a few hundred dollars opening up production to just about anyone.
Video Editing Software
So to further blur the line between amateurs and professionals, in the past professional editing software was expensive. For a basic professional suite, it was around $3000. Now you can pay a monthly small fee for something like Adobe Creative Cloud at around $50/month which gives you all the applications needed for editing and automatically updates to the latest versions.
Very good 4k cameras can be purchased for under $5k and with software almost free, this reinforces my earlier statement that unlike years past when the cost of equipment separated amateurs from professionals, almost anyone today can buy the same equipment that the pros use.
Uses of Video
This raises the question of what separates the amateur from the professional video producer now and in the future. If anyone can produce good technical quality video, what does the professional add? The biggest difference is now and will be more so in the future what is done with the content.
To understand that, let’s look at how video is being used. Everywhere you look online video is being used and this trend is accelerating. Who hasn’t watched video on Youtube or Facebook? Though some of it is certainly junk, a great deal of useful and entertaining content is being produced. In fact, millions of videos are being produced every year. Businesses are using more and more video to differentiate their products and train their employees. Smartphones allow content to instantly get online. Some one has to produce it.
In addition to all the personal video that is being put online a trend we are seeing for business video is that people are not always concerned with the quality of the video they produce, they just want a record of the event. Where in the past a company would hire a professional because what was produced was a reflection on their company, a lot of people now don’t care about that aspect.
Live video streaming is broadcasting live to a streaming server that can distribute over the internet to thousands or millions of people who can view the event online on a computer, tablet or smartphone. This used to be very hardware intensive and expensive, but now applications exist that allow streaming even from smartphones. Youtube has a feature that allows you to send a stream to their streaming server for free. Google Hangouts is similar and allows people to tune into each other and interact live to programming you produce. Many cameras have the capability for Internet connectivity that allows a direct connection, often wirelessly, camera to the Internet for streaming.
People don’t need to travel when meetings, training, seminars, sports, conferences, presentations, concerts and more can be streamed. Along with this the opportunities for advertising with these broadcasts is growing in leaps and bounds.
Conferencing type applications allow people to view content and computer screens remotely. This is giving people the opportunity to share live-events like never before.
On a professional level, live streaming is a method for inexpensively sharing major events at broadcast level quality inexpensively with only a computer or smartphone connection needed for viewing. It can also be used for pay-per-view, continuing education to remote locations and reaching hundreds of thousands of people instantly.
I see this growing more and more with more and more content and events destined to be available to people live all over the world.
It wasn’t too many years ago that if you wanted someone to see your video, you put it on a VHS cassette and mailed it. That spawned a duplication industry which though some decks had high speed recording capability still required a source tape to be copies to other tapes. In the 1990’s in the blink of an eye, VHS was replaced with DVDs, which were less expensive to mail, could be replicated much, much quicker and offered higher quality. DVD players replaced VHS players. In less than 15 years, it’s hard to even find VHS players. Standard DVDs evolved to BluRay discs, which provided even higher HD quality. Today a lot of these players include internet connectivity and come configured to tune into programming sources such as Hulu, Netflix, Roku, etc.
In recent years DVD and BluRay sales have plummeted as more and more content is distributed and viewed online.
Smart TV’s also have internet connectivity, often come pre-configured with applications such as Netflix for viewing content. Many of them have a built-in web browser that allows connecting to any Internet source making the TV a large screen computer. All this points to a trend of content and programming being distributed over the internet instead of through standard broadcast channels. It’s no wonder the broadcast networks are worried and scrambling to find ways to integrate into online content.
Professional Video Production
Successful video production companies are successful not necessarily because they have the best equipment or because they’re great at the mechanical aspects of working a camera and editing. They are successful because they are not just technicians; they are successful because they bring the experience of knowing how to deliver a message and motivate the viewer to take a desired action. They bring this experience, their unique perspectives, ideas and professionalism into helping clients with video projects that solve business problems and needs. They don’t just show up with a camera, shoot and hope for the best. They spend the time with clients to go over goals, design a plan and get agreement on what the video will be. In effect they are much more than a technician; they are often a sales, marketing or training consultant with the video only being a tool to achieve client goals. They also put a premium on tremendous customer service and become in effect a production partner with their clients. This is what separates a video professional from people who can create videos.
Looking at the trend of video production in general; there will be more of it and there will be more producers good and bad, amateurs and professionals. Some of the beginners will develop the experience and skills to become the next professionals. Because of their early association with technology, they’ll bring skills unlike anything seen before. Many people will feel that video is a commodity where anyone can buy the same equipment and will consider hiring a professional unnecessary.
We recently met with a client who thought for us to produce a video, all we had to do is show up with equipment. We had to explain to them that without a script we wouldn’t know which equipment to bring, what points needed to be made, how their proposed location would be lit, that their talent would be prepared and a myriad of other details that unless cared for could likely cause the need to re-shoot the project wasting money. They were very grateful for the insights. It is up to professionals to educate consumers on what professional video adds to the process.
More and more video will be produced, distributed and viewed online. The majority of it produced by amateurs but video professionals will continue to exist by bringing their talents other than just being a technician into the process.