Online Video, crowds and distribution.
From Super 16 and 35mm to online video.
When video first started to appear online, we were making TV commercials and music videos on 16 and 35mm film. Distribution was mostly handled by the television networks. TV ads had a wonderful simplicity about them (Don’t worry, this isn’t a hark back to the good ol days…). A brief for a film director would arrive in the form of a script and we would be given a chance to “treat” on that idea. Timings were driven by television scheduling and we would often find ourselves racing to get a project “played out” and on air.
Then video started evolving online. Short “viral” clips were emerging that would very quickly gain huge audiences. Our world of telling neat stories in 30 seconds was about to be upended for ever. Suddenly the idea needed a punch. Something to get the viewer to take notice in the first few seconds otherwise the brand was a click away from armageddon.
We all know what has happened since. Now we are told that dramatic reveals and punchlines should happen in the first four seconds. And make sure you get the brand in there. It made no sense to build a story over a time period, or allow the audience to develop an affinity with the actors. It all had to happen real quick.
At the time I ran a company with a director (Theo Delaney) who had had huge recognition for his talents in commercials. We both set about offering viral campaigns on the back of tv ads for our clients. We set up a company called Contentment and brought in some digital marketing specialists.
Around this time I wanted to understand how “video podcasting” worked. It was somewhere between written blogs and what has become vlogs. I signed up to a blogging platform (typepad) and began shooting weekly films about owning a GWiz electric car (big bloke, small car gags ensued.)
These were the days of early online video with free and widespread distribution. It felt wonderfully liberating. No 35mm film canisters going to the labs, no 60 person crew demanding their lunch breaks and no army of clients telling you they weren’t sure about the lighting for this set up. Just me and a handheld video camera. I kept the editing to single takes and usually went with the first one. And the audience grew.
In those early days there were only 4 or 5 in the UK video blogging. Some artists and some internet pioneers who were already established in the online space mainly from their blogging activity. The US was a bit more established. We learnt from people like Michael Verdi and Steve Garfield, who spent much of their time imparting their wisdom for free. The video blogging community felt like a tribe and I was lucky enough to get help from people across the world who would talk me through uploading a video late at night on skype. Waking up to several thousand views the next day was enough to get us hooked. I had discovered the world of open source first hand.
None of the early online video pioneers made their fortunes in those days. Other than some online training and event activity it was difficult to find a way of monetizing. And it wasn’t about that. It was about growing and educating the community of video podcasters around the world. Much like whats going on with communities, blockchain and web 3.0 now.
Apple soon had a handle on things with itunes in those days. They had started video podcasting charts. My videoblog hit top 10 in the global automotive video podcasts and Apple were helping us to become more recognized. Little did we know at the time that Chad and Steve (and Jared) were learning and building Youtube in a garage in California. And they began to change everything.
Postscript. Very happy to see that film has made a strong comeback. All the old kit is relevant and film has a magical quality that the best cinematographers spend hours trying to recreate digitally. I’d recommend sticking an SR2 16mm Arri in the attic for a few years!