One of the projects I’ve been focusing a lot on the last 3 years has been Sebastian Siegel’s Love Sex God documentary series. I co-produced, edited, and shot the first installment, Awakening World. It’s lighthearted and thought provoking short documentary about some of life’s deepest questions: Love, intimacy, heaven, hell, and purpose. It’s been playing the festival circuit recently and been received quite well where it has shown, so much so we’re now crowdfunding the resources to make the 2nd film in the series, Spirit of Evolution. Spirit of Evolution will cover religion, god, spirituality, and how our beliefs can often change and evolve over time. Get a DVD copy of the first film by supporting the 2nd one below!
Forget DSLRs. Forget RED. Forget Alexa. Forget IMAX. The perfect camera is finally coming: under $10k, 16 bit, 4:4:4, RAW, 18 stops of latitude, a larger than full frame sensor, light-field technology for perfect focus, and up to 1200 FPS of over-cranking. More perfect than film, in fact, it’s more perfect than the human EYE, the ultimate image capture and acquisition tool.
It’s revolutionary. It’s cinematic. It’s the great democratizer of an industry. And of course, it’s not yet real.
But it will be.
Link bait aside, it seems like everyday a new camera is announced and a bunch of people begin arguing online about how it is or isn’t perfect. That is all fine and great, I’m addicted to the whole process myself. I love seeing technology evolve. I love seeing film evolve. So what’s up with this bullshit post?
There’s no doubt that the day is coming when we will have image acquisition tools that really do capture everything perfectly. True “raw” in the sense that focus, resolution, color, and fidelity will be so finely captured, and with such complete flexibility that never again will we miss another scene because focus was off, never again will we have to use generators and miles of rigging to light a scene, never again will we make sacrifices in acquisition at the cost of the story.
Like it or not, it’s coming. Crews will get smaller and the technical barriers to capturing stunning imagery will disappear. And even well before that we’ll be at the point of good enough: the mp3 of filming will emerge and serve 99% of our needs (hell, you could even argue we’re already there in some respects).
And it’s not just in film that’s it’s going to happen, but in many many industries and sectors. The perfect photo realistic game engine. The home television or VR glasses that render at resolutions greater than the human eye can see, the car that drives itself and never needs maintenance. The industrial age is passing, and will continue to slowly taper off and ultimately change everything.
Art. The Economy. The Environment. No aspect of reality will be left untouched. The disappearance of manufacturing jobs in the last decades was only the beginning and it’s going to get much worse, and frankly, that’s scary. 30 years ago if you invented the ultimate toy and everyone wanted it, you had to DO more work to make more of that thing. No more. Next weekend I could crank out the next great game on the iphone and that 30 hours of work can be instantly and forever replicated without me putting in another second of my time, energy, or anything physical. I don’t have to build more factories, ship more stuff, or hire more people. 1′s and 0′s are easy to replicate. (an exaggeration but you get the point)
Yet, as with anything, it’ll be at a tradeoff. For decades cinema’s barrier to entry has been huge: massive crews, expensive gear, time consuming post production.
Boom. That’s all going away. It’s going to be easier than ever, in the technical sense, to make movies. And the second that external “things” cease to be the barrier to entry, INTERIOR “things” suddenly skyrocket in value. Creativity, Integrity, and more than ever the ability to tell compelling stories that reflect a diversity of values that folks connect with.
When everyone has access to the same tools
…then having a tool isn’t much of an advantage.
The industrial age, the age of scarcity, depended in part on the advantages that came with owning tools others didn’t own.
Time for a new advantage. It might be your network, the connections that trust you. And it might be your expertise. But most of all, I’m betting it’s your attitude.
This is obviously spot on for the film industry, and for any industry that involves technology or a scarcity of knowledge. Jobs that once existed because only a few people had access to certain physical means of production are going to just keep vanishing. Staples will begin printing 3d objects next year. Need a follow focus? Print it. It breaks? Go make another. There’s already a whole world of torrenting going on for 3d printing designs and plans.
The point is, gear, and the means of production for most art are going to be “good enough” and “cheap enough” that almost anyone will be able to create world class content VERY soon outside of the traditional structures and systems that have already been built up. Now obviously there will always be amateurs and pros, huge companies and underdogs, and billion dollar marketing budgets vs single youtube channels, but things are changing.
The Attention oriented network economy is upon us. In the perfect (and yes still unlikely in many ways) world outlined above, INTERIORS become infinitely more valuable than EXTERIORS. If me and every person with a bit of spare cash can suddenly have the means to create stunning audio or visual content, it ENTIRELY shifts the premium from the EXTERNAL STUFF, the gear and production tools, to the INTERNAL stuff: the values, creativity, and ability of a group to work together to make something beautiful.
The days of being an asshole that no one wants to work with just because you know how to use some super exclusive piece of gear, or own some ridiculously expensive piece of equipment are ending. Learning is getting easier. No matter what you know how to do, there’s going to be someone else out there that can probably do it better than you and for less money to boot. Being the type of healthy, integrated, and creative person that people WANT to work with: because you communicate well, work hard, and have values that people respond to and want more of is only going to become more and more important.
STORY becomes the complete and utter king again. And what is story other that the ability to share a meaningful expression of what it means to be human. How can your next action movie mesmerize me in a way that I’ve never been before? So far we’ve been relying visuals to show us things we’ve never seen before. But soon that won’t even be enough. It’s going to take more. A new perspective on the world, a completely authentic emotion, a layer of reality never before witnessed. Frankly, I’m excited. We’re getting really close to having figured out how to do the “form” part of my favorite arts (cinema and video games), and when that’s off the table the pivot to “content” is one I’m hoping I’m in the right time and place for.
I’ve personally struggled since moving to LA and trying to “break into” the film industry. Many times I’ve questioned my wisdom in not heading out here straight out of college and working my way up a production ladder. There’s a LOT of technical “stuff” I just don’t know how to do, and certainly not as well as others.
Lately, however, as I shift more into creation mode, I’m starting to appreciate the fact that I took my 20′s to go “figure myself out” and do work to grow up a bit as a human being. The more I step into writing and directing, the more I’m finding having even a modicum of understanding about how we as humans behave is a tremendously useful.
My podcast, blogging here, writing screenplays, shooting short scenes, building a self owned sustainable business: everything I’ve been doing this year has hopefully been helping to the lay the foundations for not having to worry about the forms or systems of creation, but simply getting to focus on creating content that audiences find compelling. Which is great because once I get that perfect camera I’ll finally have all the tools I need to tell an awesome story!Continue Reading →
Sarandos says Netflix makes more “data-centric decisions” than most networks. He was able to analyze how many subscribers like the series’ star, Kevin Spacey, as well as how many rented the BBC series on which the new production is based. “You get a very addressable audience. Better than that, I know exactly who they are.”
That’s Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos talking to his investors about one of the KEY advantages tech companies have over traditional media studios in the evolving film and television markets.
For a few years now I’ve been thinking that the real value of Netflix isn’t the content library per say, but the exhausting amount of specific data Netflix has on what its actual customers like and watch. With one of the most famous recommendation algorithms around, Netflix has always encouraged users to rate movies since they first began shipping DVDs in the late 90s. Since re-shifting their focus to streaming, they’ve also been able to collect even more default data – ie what shows and movies you started and whether or not you finished them, regardless of ratings.
As they shift into content production and with such vast knowledge of their users, Netflix can make FAR more intelligent and informed decisions about what to make than just about any company (save for Amazon) out there. Compared to the traditional studios that have absolutely no feedback loops with their customers other than tickets sold and DVDs rented, Netflix is years ahead of the curve. When Netflix now chooses to make a show or movie, they don’t have to GUESS what their customers want and don’t have to base their decisions off the hunch of programming executives. Instead, they can see, DOWN TO THE ZIPCODE, what genre of shows and starring what actors their customers are already watching. If they see that 10% of their customers devour Arrested Development’s 2 seasons in their entirety, it’s a no brainer for them to make season 3 – and at a budget that takes into account the actual numbers they can expect to see.
When I compare this to Warner Bros, Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and the rest, it seems to me they’re in big trouble. The single biggest cost for most “big hollywood” movies these days is marketing, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars for movies, and there’s little to NO actual data for how much a difference all those ads make. They can pour all the money they want into Dark Shadows, Battleship, or John Carter – and if audiences aren’t interested they FLOP.
The traditional studios are at a MAJOR disadvantage on this technological side, mostly because they’ve resisted the transition to digital delivery for so long, meaning outside companies like Apple, Netflix, and Amazon have been able to gain a significant foothold in the emerging market. They’ve built an infrastructure that can connect the data of what people are watching with the teams that are deciding what is being made. While Ultraviolet was a bold attempt to reclaim some of this lost ground, it’s frankly just too little, too late. As Amazon and Netflix continue their march towards original content creation, I’d suggest the studios find a way to partner up – and fast.
And if I was Netflix right now? Embrace your opposite – I’d open a series of small cinema cafes in all the major cities to act as communal centers for cinema lovers. I’d constantly be programming a diverse selection of screenings of classics, second runs, and indie movies that draw SPECIFICALLY from what the customers in that zip code like. Got an abundance of people that LOVE Firefly living in Chicago…screen the whole series over the course of a month! Have a coffee shop / bar attached so people stay and chat afterwards, and hang out to talk cinema there even when they aren’t see a movie. Cinemaphiles LOVE going to the movies. A home theater system still cannot replace the value of an audience sitting in a dark room together, seeing a picture projected larger then life. Fill up all those empty Borders and Circuit City stores and bring some culture and art back to communities. You’ve got the DATA to pretty much guarantee a healthy crowd at ANY screening in any major city, USE IT! I’d go!Continue Reading →
Very excited to announce the launch of a new podcast I’m co-hosting my with my brilliant friend Stan James: The 7th Kingdom – A deeper look at technology and life.
I first met Stan back in my Integral Institute days when he presented to our office on an exciting new technology platform he was developing at the time (which later morphed into Lijit). I was immediately drawn to Stan in that first meeting as he was already exploring the intersection of technology and human behavior. We quickly became good friends during the few years we spent living in Boulder together, and had many conversations about technology, human behavior, social and cultural evolution, and all the trends and patterns we saw emerging.
When I first started thinking about launching a podcast earlier this year Stan was top of my list as I figured “we’re already having these conversations, and they’re FUN!”. When I proposed the idea to him he quickly got as excited as I did, and hence The 7th Kingdom was born. In our new podcast we’ll be taking a deeper look at technology and life: how is technology evolving? how are we evolving? does it change relationships? health? productivity? is the breakneck pace of innovation good, bad, or both? We’ll be exploring all of this and more as we talk with each other, interview friends and experts, and explore the ways in which technology is affecting us as individuals, our societies, and our planet. We’ll be talking about new technologies, old technologies, and media of all types. With Stan up in Silicon Valley, and me in Hollywood, we feel like we’re at a unique crossroads between two of the most powerful industries in the US.
Please subscribe to us in iTunes and share with your friends. In our pilot episode Stan and I talk mostly about how the idea for the podcast came about, who we are and some of our personal technological histories, and introduce some of the topics we’ll be discussing in future episodes.
Welcome to the 7th Kingdom!
Happy new announce I’ve finally launched company and site, Attention Engine. The umbrella organization for all the business websites and video productions I do to pay the bills, Attention Engine is focused on media production for the digital age. WordPress Websites, Video Production, Custom Demo Reel Scenes, and Technology Coaching. Start Getting Noticed!
Logging footage is always a chore and it always seems like such a waste how many times the same information has to be input to tag a scene. This digital slate looks to ease some of that pain, with a simple and brilliant solution: digital slate with QR codes. Continue Reading →
Rebooting the site!
Saw a midnight screening last night and have been thinking about this film non-stop since. First off, I loved it, in a rather drab summer movie season, Inception is a great example of solid, thought provoking AND mainstream entertainment.
Now, on to my thoughts of the film. MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.
In my transition from Boulder to Hollywood, one unique crossover project I’ve had the pleasure to be Director of Photography on is a project with Integral Life in which we’ve been recording famed author Ken Wilber telling his life story. Ken’s work has been a tremendous influence on my personal life, and it’s been a true privilege to work with him and the producers at Integral Life on this very important project. It’ll be a while before it turns into anything, but I’m thrilled to be part of the team that’s capturing it!
This last weekend after nearly 2 years, I reunited with director Josh Shayne to film episode 4 of his web series Lowered Expectations. With some of our most complicated setups yet, this should make for an episode not to miss! I got to learn some new gear on the fly as we were using a Sony HDV camera that I was unfamiliar with. Luckily it was similar enough to the EX1 that I was able to pick it up fairly quickly. Will post the episode as soon as its available!