YouTube Budget, Hollywood Dreams

Posted on by Larry

Commentary2.jpgYesterday, I attended the first day of the CineGear Expo. Held on the New York Streets set of Paramount Studios in LA, CineGear is designed for the production geek in all of us.

There were maybe four software displays; five, if I’m being generous. And hundreds and hundreds of hardware exhibits sprawled over block after block of New York sidewalks; um, in LA, though.

Every conceivable piece of grip, lighting, and camera gear had its own stand somewhere on the lot. If you could connect it to a camera – or get it within shouting distance of a camera – you could find it there. Audio? Missing in action. Software? Bah. This showcased the “hard” in production hardware.

Wall to Wall Toys

CineGear began in 1996 with a couple of vendors sharing donuts and coffee and talking about camera equipment. Over the last 21 years, it has exploded into “the opportunity to discover state -of –the- art technology and techniques including content capture hardware, workflow software, support equipment and the latest production services.” (CineGear website) It attracts over 16,000 attendees from 60 countries.

What impressed me about this year’s show was how arcane most of this stuff is. If you are new to the industry, your brain will explode as you wander the show asking “what is all this stuff FOR???”

CineGear highlights the fact that there is more to media creation than a great story, an iPhone and YouTube.

I enjoyed walking the show, but it is overwhelming; seeing all the different production hardware we use to make story-telling appear effortless to the viewer. Thinking about CineGear today, I was struck by the contrast to another show I’m visiting in two weeks: ACE.

ACE (Association for Communication Excellent) is “an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists. The organization offers professional development and networking for individuals who extend knowledge about agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.” (ACE website)

The ACE annual conference is the week of June 13 in Memphis, Tennessee. They’ve invited me to conduct a day-long session on video editing technology for their members. I’ll be teaching video editing to people who are not full-time media people.

The contrast is striking. At CineGear, I was having conversations with cinematographers, directors  and vendors who regularly create major-budget feature films and network television shows; where crews are large and specialized, gear is transported in multiple tractor trailers and production schedules are measured in weeks.

Then, in Memphis, I’ll talk with people who create programs to catch the jaded eyes of viewers using far smaller crews, gear and budgets. The range within media creation continues to amaze me. Tools are becoming more affordable, but we still need to train students and new filmmakers in how to use them to tell stories.

It isn’t simply explaining how the gear works, its explaining why you should use it in the first place.

The merger of technology and story with persuasion.

How do we train the next generation of filmmakers? How do we explain the importance of story-telling when young filmmakers are dazzled by all the gear? How do we encourage filmmakers to think outside the “Hollywood box” and discover opportunities for media creation that don’t feature characters from Marvel comics?

It is an interesting set of questions that I’ve been wrestling with for a while. Last week, I was given permission to teach a new course at USC on Visual Communications. Traditionally, this was an elective class for seniors. During the course, I teach students how to use a variety of software tools – Photoshop, Final Cut, Motion and Dreamweaver – to improve their visual communication skills.

I’ve taught this course over the last five years and always enjoyed it. But, increasingly, I came to realize that this course should not be offered to seniors, but to freshman. Students today are awash in images on the web and social media. Yet, they have no idea what makes a compelling image or how to create one themselves. They don’t understand the underlying “grammar” of an image or how to use it. They are on YouTube, but clueless.

As one student wrote: “In this class, I learned a lot more about details. I always thought I paid attention to the details, especially because I have a YouTube channel and have to be on my game 24/7. But, then, in this class, I discovered I knew absolutely nothing. It was awesome to learn more about what really goes into video production.”

None of my students will grow up to be filmmakers. But they will grow up to be visual communicators – not just in college, but for the rest of their life. Every business today communicates visually. Not to know how to use images effectively to communicate handicaps a student in school and after graduation.

It doesn’t take all the gear at CineGear to communicate. But, without an understanding of how to tell stories with pictures all the gear at CineGear is pretty, but useless.

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with the ACE folks in Memphis, and with you, as I continue to develop these thoughts and this new course.

As always, let me know what you think.

2 Responses to YouTube Budget, Hollywood Dreams

  1. Ron B says:

    Wait, is it possible to make a movie without Marvel or DC comic characters? When did that happen?

  2. LGrant says:

    Looking forward to watching you explore this area. As a long-time high school broadcasting/media technology teacher, I too have struggled with the cool technology vs. the basics conundrum, and since I’m a nerd, I worry I have let the technology take control of my thinking at times.
    One of the people who I think has a lot of good ideas on this subject is Casey Neistat of Youtube fame. I’ve been watching him since way before he started his daily vlog, and he has always been adamant that Story is Everything. Two of his vlogs that deal with this issue are “Casey Neistat’s Guide to Filmmaking” and the second half of one called “It Happened Again.” He’s also an interesting character –he left the LA scene after finding some success in film and TV because he was so frustrated with all of the layers between himself and his viewers. He ultimately went with Youtube because he could reach his audience so much more directly, and he’s doing very well there. He’s an excellent storyteller, too. He has a habit of using these crappily hand-written graphics on random pieces of paper to help him get things across that I think is very effective. One of my favorites where he uses this technique is “The Surprise in South Africa,” where he goes to visit his girlfriend. You might want to check him out to see if he says anything you’d like to use in your class since he’s talking on their medium. Oh, and “Bike Lanes” is one of his most entertaining stories if you just want a good laugh!

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