I just read an interview with 1970’s film gurus George Lucas and Steven Spielberg predict that VOD is the future. This is something that they could have safely predicted in the 1970s. So I thought I would add a few more obvious observations on tech trends for the film industry. Where to begin? I think I will start with games before moving to piracy and maker culture.
Games: The above interview includes an old school chauvinist film bias that video games cannot provide an emotional experience. Some might flip that around and say that film action can be less engaging than game action and that Hollywood should retrofit every classic movie with game play levels. Alternately, there are a wide range of ways to increase emotional engagement in games. One way to bring life to video games is to hire live actors from around the world to perform within video game worlds. Live haunted houses make use of live actors and actresses, and are forced to pay them first world prices. There are obvious wage asymmetries around the world that can bring a live cast into a video game world for pennies on the dollar. Another obvious way to bring human emotion into a video game world is to populate games with friends and families. Warcraft Guilds and Modern Warfare networked game play already demonstrates the emotional power of this type of engagement. With dramatic game design that allows for multiple overlapping objectives this type of play can be broadened into a wider emotional range. If you put this style of game onto an AR LARP platform that includes fantastical graphical layers on video chat feeds or real world environments we could have types of cinematic costume parties with stylized emotional games. If you put this type of game play onto a social graph and interest graph you could drive social collision in fantastical dramatic emotional cinematic ways. Film directors and dramatic improv directors have an advantage for this type of game design. They are expert at motivation and think in terms of drama. Film industry refugees should keep this mind.
Piracy: There are no closed systems in nature. Data attack outpaces data defense. As the information age progresses the free flow of data becomes cheaper than restricting the flow of data.
If you went to the “What’s Next?” event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a few years ago, you would have heard the former head of technology for the NSA warn the industry. 20th century premium content IP monetization based on creating a huge demand (marketing) and limited supply (limited release windows) is obsolete. Using coercion to defend an obsolete IP monetization model is expensive and has limited range. Attacking attackers (even false targets like distribution rival Megaupload) has limited range. Premium display like 3D IMAX and dome projection cannot compete with emerging domestic consumer display. A head mounted display like Vizux goggles can emulate a 1000 foot tall movie screen. Movie studios are stultified by the inertia of tradition and guild contracts. Meanwhile super agile mafia capitalists and bored hackers can and will hijack any networked IP and will iterate new ways of slicing dicing and mashing up the data into get rich quick schemes. Tom Cruise doesn’t want his likeness in herpes medication or machine gun ads? Guess what? The Russian mafia does not care, Nigerian teenagers with advanced coding skills don’t care. Contracts prevent movie studios from chopping their film library into 1 million animated .Gifs with embedded bootleg viagra commercials? Some one else will get that money.
If the film industry wants to stay in the game they need to provide the best possible platform for their product. They need to aggressively compete within the possibility space on convenience, price, and utility. Anything less is death by a thousand cuts. Price and convenience for pirated content is free and instant. So that leaves utility.
Here is the big paradigm shift. Everyone in the modern world has a networked video camera in the pocket. Right now everyone wants to be able to create premium content with their camera. Everyone wants to be a movie star. Right now the toolset that bridges the gap between Youtube garbage and slick TV and Cinematic productions does not exist. However it will exist. Templates and software to bump up the quality of smart phone videos are an emerging trend. One way for premium content creators to increase the footprint of their productions is to feed maker culture. Use their premium product as a magnet for makers. Fuel their fan fiction. Give them templates. Host their home made videos. Use premium product as a social collision machine to inspire more makers. Offer 3d files for all the films elements online. Offer chatbots of all the main characters. There are a wide range of apps that can bridge the gap between amatuer maker productions and pro content. Trends across all digital media are directed toward ease of use and universality. A feature film or reality TV program can inspire thousands and thousands of hours of free content and user engagement. See the above examples of dramatic game play to increase the engagement and flow of maker drama.
So far these ad hoc self assembling maker-culture initiatives have been chaotically flowing around premium content. Studios have been forced to ignore them. Perhaps they will be ignored to the end. Or perhaps they will become a more active part of the monetization.
If the collapse of the music industry and the print industry is any indication of the future….
The real path forward is — premium Film and TV content as gamification storification maker toolkit.
Sometimes a good demo is needed to convince people that human civilization is entering a new paradigm.