Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Guerilla Reflections on Sundance – Part 2:
Why You're Crazy Insane if You're Not Podcasting

One of the more interesting panels I attended was on Podcasting and Vlogging and how it’s changing the media landscape. For me this was a must-attend panel, because I think that people (in and out of the industry) have no real clue of the huge impact that this technology is going to have on film and tv business models, advertising, and distribution. I'm definitely, going to put a few pages in the book about podcasting.

*NOTE: For sake of brevity I’m using the term podcasting to cover all the new portable forms of video including cellphones, PSP’s, Palm Pilots, iRivers, etc. They are all different devices that more or less do the same things in similar ways. (Full Disclosure: I own a whopping 2 shares of Apple stock. That's about $160.00 worth!)

The Sundance Podcasting Panel included:

Jason Calacanis (moderator): CEO/founder of Weblogs, Inc. which recently sold to AOL for a very healthy sum.

Susan Buice: half of the team of filmmakers of the popular Four-Eyed Monsters podcast which serializes the struggles of making their feature film of the same title.

Anni Rudegair: a.k.a Soccergirl: Visual/Performing Artist and "blue" comedienne of the popular Soccer Girl Incorporated podcast

Mika Salmi: founder of Atom Entertainment as in the Atomfilms.com video site

Ken Rutowski: a consultant and podcaster

I could tell you about the panel, but Randall Bennett who blogs for the good people at DVGuru.com already wrote a thorough article and posted a quicktime file of the actual panel discussion. Click this link for Randall's Sundance Podcast Panel coverage and video coverage.

So as not to be too redundant on covering the panel, especially when you can watch it for yourselves, I'm just gonna wax poetic (i.e. rant and rave) about my thoughts about podcasting and the unfolding portable video revolution. Enjoy...

With the proliferation of broad-band internet access and portable media , creative and bold independent’s can now cut out the middlemen and gatekeepers to communicate and get their work directly to an audience.

Obviously, nobody can really say exactly how a new technology will play out, but the very real possibilities already happpening include:

a) film and media makers finding corporate sponsors for online projects

b) building a “viral” audience that is able to rapidly spread the word about a project, build buzz, and/or even directly support the project financially

c) attract potential distributors who always follow the smell of audience money.

Now you could argue that video on the web is nothing new and you’d be right. However, podcasting has made it 10 times easier for consumers to find, get, and control their viewing experience.

They aren’t tied to their computers or at the mercy of their internet connections once they download the video. Video consumers click a single button to subscribe to a podcast, and from then on, it’s delivered to their computer/iPod automatically every time it’s updated and waiting for them to watch when they're ready and how they want. One click! That's it!

To help you understand the full implications of podcasting for guerilla media-makers, I sat down one-on-one with two of the panelist who are at the bleeding edge of this new podcast distribution model: Soccergirl a.k.a. Anni Rudegair and the Four-Eyed Monsters filmmakers, Susan Buice and Arin Crumley. If you want to know why some big media executives are pissing in their pants just look at the numbers for either of these podcasts that are less than a year old:

Each has more than 50,000 downloads per episode.

Wanna know how they did it? You'll have to check back and peep the interviews I did with them as soon as I'm done editing. We covered a lot of ground in both interviews, so I think I'll give them their own post when the interviews are ready. Below is my rendition of what the links would look like if I were done editing:

Soccergirl Interview
(Still Editing -Video coming!)

Four Eyed Monster Interview
(Still Editing - Video coming!)

I know a lot of people in the industry are caught up in the whole screen-size thing with podcasting (and similarly with the Sony PSP). “The screen is too small! Whose gonna watch a movie on that small screen?”. Listen up people, forget about the f-ing screen! If you are hung up on screen-size in the portable media revolution, you’re missing the boat, man. Here’s why:

  1. Not one, but two, whole generations of young people have spent their entire lives staring at small portable game screens and have little issue with great resolution on a small screen. The basic trade-off for portability is size. (How many times do you see the words "large" and "portable" in the same description? Portable = small… always has.

  2. If you’re stuck in this screen-size camp, you’re also overlooking a major feature of the video iPod… it plays video out to any tv with standard RCA inputs (the little yellow, red, and white ports). It is not restricted to a small screen. All you need is a $15-$20 cable and you will discover what the video iPod really is… a tiny Portable Tivo Unit.

As I write this the quality of iPod video played out to a TV is a little below VHS, but we’re talking the 1st generation of a machine from a company who updates and improves their products at an exponential rate. I’m betting that it’s only a short matter of time before that quality goes up and people begin to realize the true potential of the video iPod and similar devices which is as a portable and universal media player/recorder.

The exact same way that many people have sold off or boxed up their cd collections once they had their music on an iPod, is the exact same thing that will happen to dvd’s and possibly even Tivo units once people realize they can have all that media in one- portable and always available place. There are already deals to download content direct from Tivo and other DVR's and soon I suspect, you'll be able to record video signals direct from your tv or camera right into the iPod.

Show clients your demo reel or entire body of work anytime, take your entire movie collection with you everywhere you go, catch up on your tv shows on the plane, watch training videos during your commute… are you starting to get it now? Now imagine broadcast-quality tv output. How about wireless capability? Am I blowin' your mind yet?

I would equate the video iPod in it's current incarnation to that quiet librarian with her hair up in a bun and the nerdy glasses reading a classic novel, who at the end of the week let's her hair down, losses the glasses, and starts pounding margaritas and dirty dancing on the bar. Just like that quiet librarian, the video iPod's full potential is just below the surface. (Actually, that sounds more like my Soccergirl fantasy!)

Anyway, the point is this portable media/convergence thing is just getting started. Smart film and media-makers had best jump on the bandwagon, because as I write this it's last call to ride this new wave and grab some attention for your project, before everybody and their mama has a podcast and the Studios jump in wholeheartedly to exploit and lock down this new medium for all it's worth. Guerilla Filmmakers this may be your last chance to bypass the gatekeepers and get your voice heard unfiltered, uncomprimised, D.I.Y., down and dirty, baby!