2014: Looking Back – Looking Forward

Posted on by Sudd

For the last several months, I’ve been contributing a monthly article to TV Bay Magazine in the UK. I enjoy these opportunities to write more generally about technology. This week, I’ve expanded upon an article that I sent them for their “Year End Issue.”

This is my favorite time of year – a time of resolutions and predictions. Resolutions are fun because they allow us to think of all the things we would like to have happen in the New Year — provided they don’t take too much work on our part.

While resolutions are personal, predictions are a group sport. Last week, on the Digital Production Buzz, I invited seven industry leaders – and Buzz regulars – to share their thoughts on the past year and the new one. Our guest list included:

I’ve included some of their comments in this article.

NOTE: You can listen to the entire show here – it is well worth your time. Click here.


After another year writing about our industry and talking with the key movers and shakers, here are nine trends I expect to dominate our thinking in 2015.

1. Hardware and software will continue to become more powerful and more affordable. This mean budgets will continue to contract as clients perceive that high-quality work is, somehow, cheaper because the tools are cheaper.

Creative folks need to realize that budgets will continue to contract for the foreseeable future. This means that to combat “bottom-feeder pricing” we need to clearly understand and clearly showcase what makes our skills unique to our clients. However, something I’ve learned is that what we think is a unique strength and what clients think is a unique strength are rarely the same. The more you talk with your clients, the more good ideas you’ll learn from them on how to market yourself.

As Cirina Catania mentioned, “employers are finally realizing that they get what they pay for. Spending more for talent pays big rewards.”

To a US company, your ability to speak good English is expected. To a Chinese company seeking to broaden their market in the US, your ability speak and write good English is something they will pay extra for.

It used to be said that the key to success is: “who you know.” While clever, this has never really been true. It isn’t even “who knows you.” The secret is increasing the number of potential clients “who know what you know.” You may be known as “good old Bob.” But, “Bob” isn’t going to get nearly
the same amount of work as “There goes Bob – he’s an absolute After Effects wizard!”

Jonathan Handel made an interesting comment on The BuZZ when he said: “The industry thinks it’s more progressive then it really is. While it’s politics may be liberal, it’s hiring practices are actually one of the least progressive in America. The industry has a very poor record of diversity hiring.”

2. Editors that define themselves by the tools they use will lose work to editors that define themselves in terms of the results they help clients achieve or the stories they can tell.

You don’t hire a carpenter because he uses a Stanley hammer. You hire a carpenter who can build you a lovely new kitchen.

Computers and software are critically important in media today. But to choose to use, or not use, particular software for “political” reasons is akin to cutting your nose off to spite your face.

3. The trend to online delivery of just about everything will continue to accelerate. If you are not conversant in the web, you will be left behind. The new frontier is streaming live and recorded media via the web direct to the consumer.

Consumers are inherently lazy. It is becoming harder and harder to get them to go places and do things when, with a few keystrokes, just about anything can come to them. Businesses are not far behind. The rate of change today in any tech-related industry is so great that no one has any time to waste. Anything you can do to save your client’s time and decrease their stress will win you work.

4. For better or worse, production and post will revolve ever more tightly around The Cloud. The sad corollary is that hacking will only get worse.

2014 is the year that personal privacy died, Net Neutrality became open to doubt and the realization that if private data is posted to the web there are very good odds that it will “accidentally” become public.

On the plus side, creative teams no longer need to be located in the same geographical area. This means that you are competing with the world, not just the guy down the block. Broaden your marketing. Leverage social media. Think and market globally – work locally.

5. Broadcast TV and cable distribution are not going away, but more and more high-quality programs will make their first appearance on the web. However, making sufficient money to support high-quality programming via web distribution won’t happen in 2015. The big money still rests with broadcast and cable.

Use the web to build an audience, then leverage that audience either via web-based subscription, or traditional cable and broadcast distribution. Provided you’ve got the money to fund the start-up, the web is a great programming test bed.

6. The line between production and post-production will continue to blur. Companies will increasing seek to provide both production and post services through acquisition and expansion. Corollary: Small companies are more likely to survive than big ones because small companies can respond faster to industry changes.

7. High resolution is the trend of the future – from cameras through distribution. Whether most of us need it, or can even use it, is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about.

As Mike Horton noted, “everyone is talking 4K.” Michael Kammes stressed that, with all the new 4K gear, there will be a “rise in really bad 4K” and, in spite of bold marketing promises, broadcasting 4K will be non-existent. The Internet will be the primary delivery vehicle for high-resolution images.

Ned Soltz also feels that the reign of DSLR cameras to achieve a “cinematic look” is winding down. Existing video camera manufacturers are releasing products that are easier to use, require less out-board gear and create similar looks.

8. Industry change will continue to accelerate. Manufacturers are desperately afraid they will miss on the “Next Big Thing.” Except, they don’t know what it is until it’s here. So, to be safe, they are moving in all directions at once.

However, there is a growing push back from media professionals to manufacturers who insist on changing standards faster than most people change their socks. For example, we are seeing a demand that all professional devices support ProRes, plus whatever proprietary format the manufacturer is pushing this week.

Michael Kammes made the point that standardization will continue to elude us, manufacturers will try to leverage proprietary systems to lock in customers and that custom workflows will be the norm in the coming year.

Ned Soltz said he is seeing a clear trend where customers are increasingly reluctant to buy anything new for fear that it will be obsolete in a couple of months.

This means you need to plan on faster obsolescence of core products. It isn’t that your tools will stop working. Just the opposite, in fact. Gear will last longer than ever. But the rate of change will obsolete the technology long before the equipment itself stops working mechanically.

9. A major developer of video editing software – who’s name begins with an “A” – will release a major new upgrade during 2015. OK, so that’s a gimme. But there’s been a lot of hand-wringing this year that [insert name of company here] is giving up on the market because they haven’t updated [ insert name of software here ] for the last [insert time duration here].

Development takes time. Much though we would like major updates to our software every week, that just isn’t possible. Currently, Apple, Adobe, and Avid are all releasing major updates several times a year. That amazing track record is faster than anything we’ve ever seen before. I expect the rate of change in key media software will continue to accelerate.

This is both good and bad. Yes, we’ll get new features on a regular basis, but it will be increasingly difficult to learn how to use them before the next release changes “everything.” Annual operating system updates only make this learning curve more confusing, as we try to integrate different systems each running different versions of the OS with different versions of software.


Everything we didn’t like about 2014 is about to get worse in 2015. On the other hand, everything we liked about 2014 will probably continue.

As media professionals, we have two options: give up or gear up. If you are someone who is most comfortable when everything around them is stable and steady, then media is the wrong industry to be in right now. Because “stable” is a word that no longer applies.

Our survival rests in constant learning, constant marketing, constantly seeking new ways to do things to make the most of the gear and skills that we already have.

Media is a team sport – our industry has long been one of partnerships and relationships. That has never been more true than today. Partner with people who know what you don’t. That way, you both learn from each other. At the same time, create a relationship with your clients. Enable them  to stay in touch with their customers and they’ll provide you the money you need to continue to grow and learn.

2014 was an amazing year – both good and bad. I fully expect 2015 to be the same – only more so.

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