Wk26: I’m Looking Thru You: Movies vs TV vs more

Is it a film or a TV show?

Trent Reznor said something wonderful once about the changes of music in the last couple of decades. Since the invention of the CD, all musicians have just been creating software*. And now it’s the visual mediums turn to face the same freedom/dilemma. The lines between TV, Movies, Webisodes, Vodcasts, Streams and more are blurring. Is it inevitable that they blur behind the scenes as well? And what about for us?

The biggest weirdo in the whole visual world is movies. And making a movie is a lot like signing to a major label. They have the advantage of marketshare and better publicity. Movies get hundreds of millions for production, because hundreds of millions of people go to the cinema. And pay over $10 a ticket usually.

What sets movies apart is distribution. And that gain is corroding – slowly.

I for one hate going to the cinema. If anything, it’s gotten worse in the face of multi-platform distribution. The chains are the worse – badly run malls with no food anyone with a brain would eat, with shit seating options and no projectionist. And the cost! But it could also be that I’m getting old. And it’s competing against watching a movie in the comfort of my own home, with no one chatting next to me.

So we are left with three advantages for the cinema. 1) The EVENT-ness. Lets face it. I do actually want to get out of the house sometime. There is a joy of experiencing something with a crowd (sometimes). 2) The screen size. 3) The release date. They get it first.

2). The screen. Hard to beat that one. Especially IMAX or 3D – although it seems 3D is waning. And technology will catch up. Because a lot of projectors are not that great, crisp or bright. Yet big TVs are getting cheaper and Blu-Ray is starting to look like it’s here to stay. And 3D TVs are coming to our homes.

Which leaves 3). The release date. It used to be that cinema got a clear 17 weeks if not more before anyone could see something anywhere else. Last year, Alice In Wonderland was almost banned from Odeon Cinemas in the UK because they were going to release the DVD 12 weeks after release date. At the time, I thought it was a backwards move by luddites (owned by Guy Hands, btw).

But when you break it down, that release date is so important to cinema, and no wonder they fight for it. But the fight is getting harder. So many movies get made, and not all get a cinema release. Docos and indie films are getting DVD releases closer and closer to their cinema date. They are the kind of films that make their money on DVD anyway.

People are talking about movies going all “day and date” in all formats. It will be an interesting world. Fewer cinemas (hopefully good quality ones) for those who want to head out. A stream or a DVD for those who want to watch at home. It would destroy the maths of how these things work. Will it earn Hollywood more money because more people are seeing new releases at their convenience? Or without those expensive cinema tickets, or the wide audience that cinema draws, will it mean that budgets have to go down?

If you don’t go to the movies, and you watch at home, then what’s the difference between TV and movies? It seems the idea that hundreds of millions also watch that movie, and hence it was made with more money.

Can the digital revolution increase TV audiences – and more revenue? Why does TV shows have to be tied to TV sets anyway? And are budgets starting to catch up? The pilot or Lost was the most expensive at the time. Now we have Game Of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire blasting it out of the water. And more to come.

There’s an audience expectation. There used to be an idea that TV production quality was well below the movies. Not anymore. Look at the best special effects shows on TV and they are great. Not Avatar great, but still pretty great. And the talent is going to TV. The planet’s best crew, writers, directors and actors can be seen on TV.

Distribution gave Movies the advantage over “TV”. Those distribution models are merging. When Lost ended, the producers claimed that you will never see such high production quality on TV ever again. They were wrong. We are going to see more of it than ever.

(They said the same thing about the Matrix too.)

On BBC’s wonderful iPlayer alone, Doctor Who gets around 1-2 million viewers an episode. As this platform grows, that figure will grow. So how soon til we get to the point where we can sustain a decent quality show that is never broadcast on TV?

Webisodes exist, tied to regular TV shows or movies. Some have their own stories. But they don’t have huge production costs because they use the same sets and stuff. Then there was the web only Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. It used an existing set and low budget, with a great script to make something great. And it’s sister show, the Guild, fits in the same world.

It is only going to get easier to make these shows, if you have a head start on the production. If you have access to cameras, set, and actors. You can get something made, and out without dealing with TV channels or film distributors.

And then the next step is for completely punk rock, no production skills stuff to make it onto these channels.

The shape of movies, TV and video in general is changing. It is all becoming one big visual blob. Take Michael Winterbottom’s recent project “The Trip”. Was it a movie, or a TV show? Depends what country you’re in. In the UK it was a 6 episode BBC series, in the US and Australia it was a movie. And there was absolutely no difference in the production for either.

And that might not be the only production that could be recut. Could they make Cloudstreet into 6 half hours? Or one movie? Game Of Thrones into a 3 part movie trilogy like Lord of the Rings? It really comes down to how you want to send it out into the world. And even that is starting to feel the same.

Amazon and many places online still splits up “Film” and “TV”. They put them in the same place, but it’s a double term. Maybe we need to start thinking of one term that groups it all. Video seems the obvious one, but seems to talk more about a format than a work. We don’t call music “audio”. So Audio is to Music, as Video is to….?

Someone has to come up with something soon.

A nice Dr Horrible fansite – http://doctorhorrible.net/

* I think it was Reznor. I’m sure it was. But can’t find the source. I have used this line for five years. If anyone can find a source let me know.

Wk17: Why We Pirate – the big debate

Here is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

Is this really what the piracy debate has come down to?

This is a complicated issue. And first we need to define some terms.

This is not a piracy fight. It’s a debate.

And the term “Piracy” is a bad one. Because it suggest people who download illegally are “pirates”.

For me, the term “pirate” suggests someone who profits from illegal downloading. And a big, big, big majority of people who download illegally do not make money from it. They just enjoy the content.

We don’t pirate because we want to go out of our way to screw musicians, actors, directors, screenwriters etc. If anything, we pirate because we don’t want to get screwed ourselves.

So, why do we pirate?

Here’s what I can think of.

We don’t want to wait
We don’t want to over pay
We don’t want to run around to a shop
We don’t want to search through a shop
We can’t get what we want
We don’t want a physical copy
We don’t want to pay at all

If you can defeat all those points above, you will end digital piracy.

It’s that simple.

But sometimes it isn’t.

Why must we wait?

It is worse for TV. Boardwalk Empire premieres in Australia six months after the US. Why do they make us wait for it?

Even a week is too much. The latest episode of Doctor Who had a big twist in the first ten minutes. They kept it secret till the UK broadcast, but it’s a week before the AU one. And if you wanted to keep the surprise, you would have to literally stay off the internet.

I have Doctor Who as one of my likes, and one of my news feeds. I am a fan. And as soon as I logged onto my Twitter, my Google and my Facebook, I saw the twist. Luckily, I downloaded and enjoyed the episode already.

I didn’t do this in the UK. I didn’t watch it on TV their either, but the second after the episode finishes, it is available to watch, free and on demand, on BBC’s iPlayer. I would say that there is no downloading of Doctor Who in the UK at all. Simple none.

Why must we over-pay?

Books are full price in digital, and it’s cheaper to buy them in shops mostly. DVDs can fall into this trap – big movies selling for £3 in the UK, but £15 on iTunes.

And that’s digital vs. digital. Paying $30 for an album for one track? Please. Who wants to do that? Then if you have advanced tastes, there’s the imports game. We’re talking too much money – and we know you are ripping us off.

Why must we go to a shop?

Video stores and CD shops are going if not gone. The video above suggests we should buy DVDs because they are better. How do I even do that? How do most people do that?

And why get a DVD and sit through trailers and crap? The video above suggests that downloading is dodgy and takes a long time. That has not been my experience at all. It’s easy, fast and reliable. Why can’t film companies be like that?

Especially as you still screw me with region codes!

Why must we dig through a shop?

What stores that are left are badly stocked. Where the internet is an infinite shelf.

Even if you live near a store. Even if you live IN a store. Will that store have everything you want?

Why can’t we get what we want?

Why the fuck is Nashville not available on DVD here? Why did I have to search high and low for Sweet Inspiration, the Songs of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldman on CD? All those sweet Criterion DVDs….unavailable.

How can I get them then? Well, why they are right here online. At my fingertips.

And let’s go beyond official releases. The internet has such great live sessions, bootlegs and more. I want to hear it – why can’t I?

And then there’s TV. Why can’t I watch the Daily Show? Because of some archaic contract and red tape?

Why must we own physical copies?

I have thousands of good CDs on crap jewelcases. I have ripped them, and thrown away the cases, keeping the discs and booklets, for a lot of them. You want me to go buy some more jewel cases now?

I watch and listen to far more now than my house can fit. We have seen how much stuff is out there (thanks internet). You expect every home to own every CD and DVD? Insane.

Why must we pay at all?

This is the tricky one.

I think most people would like it if the people who created the things they’ve enjoyed gets paid for it.

But we don’t necessarily want to be the ones who pay them.

But there are ways of hiding that cost. Advertising. Subscriptions.

There’s no easy answer to this one, but think of it from another angle.

Can we really go back to a model where we pay for everything individually? We are just into too much music and TV these days.

My 8 points for why we pirate. We need a solution that covers them, and piracy would end. A global BBC iplayer. With every show ever. As soon as they are released. Ad supported perhaps? Or subscriptions.

The solution is not that impossible. We can almost see it. Let’s go for it.

Or else the world will just keep on downloading anyway.

UPDATE – James rightly points out that another reason to pirate is so you don’t put up with that stupid trailer to not pirate just to watch a DVD you bought.

I have to say, this expands out into another reason it is not easy. Stupid trailers and ads are coming into DVDs. Stupid menus I never liked. And then just the fact the DVDs might be a box downstairs. Sure, I can go get it, pop it in the DVD player, wait for it to load, play me an anti-piracy ad, navigate the menu and make it to my show.

Or I wish I could have subscribed to something where I can just type in a name and click it and play.

That video above is so bad. And it misses the point completely. And the point is this.

Piracy is easy.

And we like easy.

If there was something easier than piracy, we would take it.

But it’s not as hard as that exageratted nerd in the video. And it’s about the content. I’ve watched downloaded TV shows with my friends in a living room and enjoyed it as much as a DVD.

People often ask – how do you compete with free?

The answer is you’re not.

You’re competing with easy.

Slashfilm podcast about the PSA video – http://www.slashfilm.com/filmcast-dark-ep-143-antipiracy-psas-tragedy-commons-guest-scott-mendelson-mendelsons-memos/