Digital Video

I have a confession: I'm really bad at watching television. Well not really. I'm just too good at it. For most of my life I haven't grown up around a television, and so I'm not used to having TVs on, so when they are on I tend to give them my undivided attention, which is a deviation from the cultural norm where television becomes a backdrop to life. Actually the truth is that the family television spent a few years in my room, because there was space for it there, and at most I watched a couple of SF shows when they aired every week but there were periods where I wouldn't turn it on for months.

Because of this, I really enjoy television, but these days I watch almost all of my television on my computer, usually while I knit. I also feel as if this puts me in a unique position think about the fate of video/film in light of the internet. So as customary for me here on TealArt, I'm going muse at whim! So there!

I remember collecting digital videos, usually ripped from VHS recordings of television broadcasts with commercials edited out from way back when (long before bit torrent). It wasn't feasible for mass consumption because the files were huge, and bandwidth was narrow, but with the broadening of bandwidth, and better compression schemes, to mention nothing of phenomenal like YouTube, iTunes, pod-casting 'the web has become much more amenable to video. This of course changes the way that we interact with video content. No longer do we have to watch the content on demand, or rent physical disks, or go to a theater, but rather download and watch, more or less at whim.

In the end, I think that this makes us more active consumers of television, because counter to conventions, watching TV is really an activity in itself worth doing, rather than something that we half-expect ourselves to be doing other things during. This is compounded by the fact that while bandwidth is wider today than it was even 3 years ago, a "hour long" (40-45mins) television show can still take several hours to download, especially at higher qualities. So independent productions tend to be significantly shorter which means that the kind of purposeful watching doesn't take as much time. The downside is that dramatic video hasn't really found a home on the internet outside of the traditional media via iTunes, which doesn't really change the model very much.

With the video iPods and the apple TV (but also the Zune and PSP, I suppose,) it's become possible for digital video's to become more accessible, clearly portable, in ways that traditional television has never been able to be. I wonder how the on-demand aspects will interact with the portable aspect of contemporary digital video. I'd also think that there's a space here for audio only content, I can't imagine that video podcasting, would ever really present a challenge to audio podcasting (much less the textual blog,) in the same way that TV really superseded radio.

New technologies and media consumption practices take time to mature and grow, and I think it'll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. Will YouTube begin to have longer and more substantive content? Will we be able to get more content into smaller packages? Will production costs go down so that there will be more content avilable? And of course the question that lingers in the back of a lot of people's minds, how will the money work out? I don't have answers, I just know that it'll be interesting.

best, tycho

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