After 5 years as the President of the BC Professional Videographers Association, I’ve decided that it is time for me to step-aside and allow a new leader to lead this group of professional videographers. My wife and I are also have a baby in January so the timing was good too. Below is my closing address to our members at our year end dinner. This year I threw in a bit of economic Andersonian economic theory to explain why video acquisition and distribution fits the “Free” model and why this change actually raises the value of the video producer.
Last year I got up before you and spoke about the evolution of the video industry, our professional video association, and the dramatic changes technological advancements have allowed in our industry.
Well this year, in preparation for delivering this speech, my annual address to our video association, I got to thinking about some of the most exciting trends in video and what they mean for our own video production companies and the current and future generations of video producers.
Let me start with a trend that in the last five years has had a fundamental impact on the way we deliver video. The trend and this discussion is an homage to my favourite economist’s latest theory – Chris Anderson, editor and Chief of Wired Magazine, and author of the Long Tail and most recently Free, the Future of a Radical Price.
Traditionally we acquire and delivered video on tape. The problem with that is that the costs of duplicating a VHS tape back then and today could only go so low. The reason: Tape costs money and the duplication process was analogue and linear, which simply means that to copy an hour of video took an hour and the video signal suffered a generation loss. Sure you could set-up racks of VCRs and copy more than one at a time but in the end there is always a significant bottleneck that prevents the price from approaching zero.
With the rise of the DVD, the major bottle necks – copy speed and the higher cost of the VHS tapes – was no longer an issue. DVD burners are now rated at 24x, which means you can burn a DVD 24x faster than it used to take to duplicate a VHS tape. Granted most of us stopped upgrading at 8x but the difference makes the time to duplicate DVDs almost a non-issue. The cost of the blank DVD is also pretty close to being free – we pay roughly 30 cents for a blank DVD and DVD duplicating towers allow us to duplicate multiples with less space requirements than the old racks of VCRs used to.
But this isn’t the most exciting way the cost of distributing of video is approaching free. Online video distribution has finally brought the cost of delivering video from something that we can measure, to something that is simply too cheap to meter. Serving video online is now free. Not in all its forms and variations – but in certain situations we can now deliver video to our clients over the internet and without delivering them a physical product. Our customers can then watch these videos online, on their iPhones and video iPods, and even streamed directly to their widescreen HDTV. All this is possible without using any physical atoms and entirely in bytes and bandwidth.
The same holds true on the acquisition side as well. Many of us have switched to tapeless videotaping, which in itself is an oxy-moron.
So what does this mean for our industry and more importantly for our video production businesses? Our entire pricing model and structure was rooted with the assumption that both the acquisition and then distribution of our videos required physical consumables, like tape or DVDs, that were used-up, and thus incurring a cost.
Now in certain situations we no longer have any consumables or variable costs that we can attribute to our video productions. So the small impact is that as business owners we can return slightly higher margins than when we did have consumables. But the big impact is that now it is possible that it costs the same amount to acquire and distribute video regardless if it is for one individual, thousands of viewers, and even millions. That is the beauty of what happens when the cost of video distribution is truly free.
By nature video wants to be viewed, wants to be shared, wants to be relived again and again and to more and more people. With video acquisition and distribution that is too cheap to meter we are now able to let video achieve its nature and be free.
Now this doesn’t mean that our video production costs are free – our time and equipment is still valuable – but it does mean that our business models are becoming more simple and I think this is a good thing.
We used to base our value, and hence price, on both the time it took, equipment we used, and products we delivered. This was a complicated process as our value changed with every additional VHS or DVD tape we sold and consumed.
Now with fewer variables it is much easier for videographers to calculate their value with the left-over variables – time and equipment but more importantly it creates room in the equation for us to value our skill and expertise in our craft as a tangible that needs to be valued.
The work we do is important. We capture and preserve memories, tell stories, and communicate messages. We work with a medium and it stimulates our visual and auditory senses. However this medium also evokes emotion, an appreciation for the past, and change – and those are powerful things.
I’m proud to be part of such an important industry and to be working with such an exciting and powerful medium. I’m also proud to have been able to lead this group of professional video producers through my role as President for 5 terms. Video has undergone so many changes in such a short period of time and with it so have we, and I’m really excited to see what the future has in store for video, for the BCPVA, and us individually as video producers now that video has been freed and us as producers truly valued.