Sunday, February 04, 2007

The next step in Pro-Sumer video

I wrote a post not long ago about the rise of pro-sumer video over the last 15 years, and the impact it's making right now on the web video revolution.

Well, this CNET article fortells the coming of a second wave of pro-sumerism... and I think they totally miss the point.

They're talking about evolution of internet video editing tools like eyespot and jumpcut, and asserting that these will open up the exclusive world of video editing to "the rest of us"...

I'm very suspect of this assertion - Editing is about choices. That takes experience and training. The tools you use to edit are pretty much irrelevant.

You can make shooting video very automatic. Camera work is as much about what you get as how you get it. If you point the camera at something compelling, the camera can handle the exposure, and the footage will be compelling. A great shooter is active, creating the shots. You can be a good shooter, though, and be reactive.

In the non-fiction space, editing is where you craft the story and build the experience for your viewer. Lowering the barriers to entry by creating cheaper and easier to use tools and then expecting the whole youtube world to edit is kind of like saying that, by moving from typewriters to word processors, we've created a whole generation of great authors.

Web based editing does have the potential to revolutionize both the editing field and the world of user generated content, though, just in different ways.

Non-destructive editing (which is what we do on NLE's like Final Cut Pro and Avid) is revolutionary because the work itself is very easy on the computer. Basically, you "digitize" your video onto the computer, creating large media files for each clip. These files are never touched by the editing process, they're just referenced by your editing program. The editing project file itself is a series of instructions about what order to play the referenced media files in, what parts of them to play, how loud to play them, etc.

The editing file for my documentary contains over a hundred hours of video. There are probably over a hundred different editing "sequences" (a sequence is the linear result of your editing work - a timeline that has all your footage cut up and placed in the right order). The project references over 150 gigs of raw video. Yet that project file is less than a 100 MB.

Web based editing is a natural evolution of this process - instead of referencing clips stored on local hard drives, we can store the video online - accessing and editing the files from anywhere, on multiple computers at once. This will take remote editing, on location editing, and collaborative editing to a whole new level. And by integrating the ajax based interfaces that are becoming the norm in new web tools, you can create a fully functional editing workflow that's completely virtual. The online video's not fast enough, but it will be soon. The bandwidth's not there yet, but it will be soon. And this will have an enormous, positive impact on my industry.

On the user generated side of things, web based editing won't create a generation of home trained Walter Murch's, but it will allow users to interact with video online in a much deeper way. Video commenting, remixing, video messaging, video quoting - these are the places where the tools can improve the user experience. If I post a video and make the clips I use available online, then other people can build on what I did, play with it, switch it around, add their own work to it.

Simple editing tools won't make great editors, but it will allow people to use video more like they use text online. They will make it easier to search and communicate with video. Right now I can link to and/or embed your video in my blog post or on my website, or an email. Soon I'll be able to quote your video in any of those forums too (in fact, on vSocial I can do that right now). Web based editing will allow me to quote your video just as easily in my videos as I can in my blog posts. Imagine youtube as a giant library of raw footage for me to create whatever I want out of - the possibilities for creativity, better video communication and video social networking are endless.

There's also a great opportunity to build web based editing into the user experience when you create entertainment and information on the web. I blogged about this before - talking about intuitive, interactive web documentaries.

All of that is the true potential of web based editing. And I, for one, can't wait until that potential is realized.



Blogger jmixont said...

The first section of your post reminds me of the advent of ACID loops and other editable audio loops in the music editing world. If you're not familiar with ACID, basically I can take any small secion of music and create a loop from it. Once it's a loop, it can be doubled, halved, stretched, shrunk, transposed, etc. Initially, musicians created their own loops and went to town. It wasn't long, though, before would-be musicians were using pre-created loops or looping already exisiting materials (think Vanilla Ice).

ACID and similar tools can be found in every professional or semi-professional editing suite. Hundreds of thousands of loops are available all over the net and almost anyone can quickly learn to edit them with them.

As always, I remain far behind the pack when it comes to using these tools. Since I learned to actually create (compose) music "from scratch", I feel almost disdainful about using loops in my music. But there are plenty talented musicians and composers (as well as hacks who just want an easy "in") who use this technology daily and are served quite well.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Adam Elend said...

Great point - we use loops all the time on Wallstrip... and they never sound nearly as good as when a professional like yourself scores the video.

11:41 AM  

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