Now We Are All Filmmakers


Take a good look at the image above.

This is a screen grab from my Instagram App.

This is where I hit the ‘search’ icon, just to see what pops up.

What pops up, over and over and over again, is video.  Lots of video.

In fact, by my totally unscientific count, video now outnumbers still on Instagram by almost two to one.  Sometimes far more.

In the frame above, of 11 offered ‘stories’, 9 are video. Naturally, there is the all to ubiquitous cat video upper right.

Instagram began as a platform for sharing still photographs, and almost overngiht, its popularity exploded.  In 2014, according to Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report, people uploaded an average of 1.8 billion digital images every single day. That’s 657 billion photosper year. Another way to think about it: Every two minutes, humans take more photos than ever existed in total 150 years ago.

And that was four years ago. By Internet standards, those numbers are positively ancient.

What drove Instagram, more than anyting else, was the advent of marrying cameras to phones. It used to be that to take a photo, you had to remember to take your camera with you. And of course, unless you were a professional photographer, you looked like an absolute geek walking around with your Nikon hanging around your neck on a strap.  As a result, most people simply did not bother.

The advent of phones that were cameras (and more properly today, cameras that also happen to be phones), changed all that forever. Now, everyone has a camera with them 24 hours a day, every day.

The other big change was that in the olden days, you were limited to 36 exposures per roll of film, and then you had to send the damend thing off to Photomat and wait a week to get the prints.  And that is what you got – a pack of prints. Try sharing those with anyone except your spouse (and not too often if you want to stay married).

The marriage of the phone and the internet meant that a) no developing and b) instand sharing with the world. Hence, the extraodinary numbers for Instagram.

Of course, professoinal photographers were pretty much driven out of business.

Well, what happend to photography is now happening to video – and fast.

Smartphones today shoot 4K and they too share instantly. So the idea of hiring a professional crew is about as germane as the idea of hiring a professional photographer.  And, (and this is the more interesting point), the idea of becoming a professional video or film producer, in a world in which everyone is shooting video and posting it all day long, makes about as much sense as beocming a professional photographer does now.  Which is not a lot.

This may be hard to countenance, but it is true.

And it is no bad thing.

The advent of the printing press 500 years ago meant that suddenly everyone could become a writer and a publisher.  Scribes were suddenly unemployed, as were legions of Monks.

But writers, who could write and publish things that they felt passionate about (as opposed to the scribes for hire), created the novels and the books and the newspapers that we all read (or read – past tense).

Freed from the constraints of expensive gear and complex production techniques, people are now equally liberated to begin to create videos about things for which they also have a passion.

Let us hope that it is more than cats, however.


The Road to Auschwitz was Built on Hate but Paved with Indifference


The Future of the News Business: A Monumental Twitter Stream All in One Place

great insights into the news business here


Anna Soubry Silkscreen 28×60


New Location for Blog



This blog will now be part of our new website at for a better experience, more community interaction, and more features.  This location of the blog will no longer be updated.

Please update your links and RSS feeds – see you there!

Ski & Shoot


Could you go back and do that again?

I didn’t learn to ski until I was 40.

My ex was a Canadian, and started skiing at the age of 3.

Her parents had a ski house in Sugarbush, Vermont.

I spent unpleasant hour after hour on the bunny slope, learning how to ski.

When you are 3 you have no fear of death. When you are 40, you can only see yourself wrapped around a tree.

Private lessons, goup lessons, frostbite.  After four hard years, I was finally starting to get it. Then, in one triumphant afternoon, I made it down my first black diamond run!  Success!  I was so delighted, I found my ex and told her what I had just done.  I black diamond!

“Which one?” she asked me.

I told her the name.

She paused.

“Oh”, she said. “That used to be a blue. It’s not really a black”.

You can see why I filed for divorce.

Thus, it was with some trepedation that we signed a deal with Vail Resorts to start running Travel Channel Academies in conjunction with ski vacations.

Now, I am glad we did.

March 7-10 we’re going to be running our first Snow Video Bootcamp at the world famous Keystone Resort in Vail Colorado.

This will be great. What better combination than skiing and video making. And evenings around the fire for our famous group screenings.

This is only the first in series of new locations and franchises for the Academy. We’ll be posting lots of other exciting partnerships and locations as we take TCA into the world.

Meanwhile, I had a pair of custom fitted ski boots made a few years ago. The kind where the blow foam into the boot and shape it for your own foot.  Unfortunately, I left these at the Sugarbush ski house.

If anyone runs across my ex, maybe you could ask her for the boots?

Welcome to the Video Revolution


call now. operators are standing by…

The Travel Channel Academy is a great course, but its also expensive.

$2000 is a lot to commit for a novice, (not that we don’t have our share of novices in the course).

But what we do have is a lot of folks who would like to get a sense of what this ‘video revolution’ is all about without having to spend four days in intensive bootcamp-like training.

So we’re going to do just that.

In partnership with the City University Graduate School of Journalism, Jeff Jarvis and I are going to offer a 1-day course on the basics of the video revolution.

Learn and see what it’s all about.

First class:

Date: Saturday, March 28
Time: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
219 W. 40th St., New York, NY
Cost: $195 (10% discount for CUNY J-School alumni)

Chain Reaction


Chicago reactor team. Enrico Fermi, first row, first on left.

For more than a year, physicist Enrico Fermi and his team had been building a pile of blocks under the racquet courts at the University of Chicago.

The pile was made of alternating bricks of uranium and graphite.

Inserted into the pile were cadmium coated rods that could be withdrawn.

This was the world’s first nuclear reactor and no one knew if it would work.

On December 2, 1942, Fermi and his team began to withdraw the cadmium rods.

Cadmium has the power to absorb neutrons.  The uranium, being radioactive, gave off neutrons. And each time a neutron from the deteriorating uranium hit another uranim atom, it caused a small reaction which gave off both heat and an addition three neutrons.  As neutron hit atom and each atom in turn went from U238 and U235, the newly formed atom of U235 in turn gave off an additional 3 neutrons.  One became 3 became 9. 3 to the third over and over and over, each giving off more and more energy and the reaction took off.  The pile went critical and the reaction was self sustaining for 28 minutes.

The world’s first chain reaction.

The successful experiment under the University of Chicago’s football stadium was the foundation of the Manhattan Project and the basis of the Atomic Bombs that the US would ultimately drop on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki three years later.

New technologies do not occur in a vacuum.

Once unleashed, they, like the pinging loose neutrons in Fermi’s pile, begin to set off a series of chain reactions impacting on other technologies and industries until those industries and technologies are also changed… or simply explode.

Take the Internet.

The Internet itself was the product of the US military’s desire to protect command and control from the power of nuclear weapons. As warheads grew ever larger in megatonnage, the military had initially responded by burying their command deeper and deeper in the earth.

It soon grew apparent that it was far easier to ratchet up the megatonage of the bombs than keep digging deeper into the earth.

So the military went to the Rand Corporation and asked them for a solution.  They came up with a rather novel one: networks.

If you build a network of nodes, they said, connecting the nodes together, then even if one or two or four nodes are destroyed, the others will continue to function.

The US Dept of Defense did just that. Under their  Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA, they built something called ARPAnet. A network of mainframe computers joined together by phone lines.  Think The Forbin Project.

This ARPAnet was to become the Internet.  Opened to the public, it’s network growing far beyond its initial 8 nodes to what we know today.

As each new node was added, as each new computer and user and server came online, as each new functionality was added, the national network of the web, formerly Arpanet, now grew, a bit like Fermi’s pile in Chicago. Each begetting more and more and each new line of code or added function or added computer adding more and more, larger and larger, until it hit critical masss itself.

Had you told the people building Arpanet for the Defense Department that their 8 mainframes and dial up telephone links would one day destroy the newspaper business, they would have thought you insane.

But it did.

Had you told them that it would destroy all the television networks in the country, they would have had you institutionalized as a raving lunatic.

But it will.

Had you told them that it would one day render Bell Telephone worthless because you could use VOIP protocols for free, they would not have had the vaguest idea what you were talking about.

But all of that was to come true.

It was the inevitable result of the chain reaction set off the day Bolt Beranek and Newman, the engineering firm hired to build Arpanet, turned it on.

As Andy Grove, the Chairman of Intel said, “listen to the technology. It will tell you where to go”.

Look at the confluence of technologies impacting now on the television and journalism business.  Cellphone with video cameras inside. A web that carries video content globally for free.  Listen to the technology.  Where is it taking us? It may not be where you want to go, but most assuredly, this is where we are headed.

And unlike Fermi’s reactor in Chicago, there is no way to turn it off or to slow down the reaction.  We are rapidly approaching critical mass.


Much hysteria on the blogosphere of late as first WUSA in Washington, DC and then yesterday KPIX in San Francisco announce that they are going VJ.

The quality! The quality!

The quality will suffer!!!

Viewers will leave in droves because without a professional cameraman, the quality will deteriorate.

As if this were a given.


I have spent a good deal of time this week screening the finalists for the Concentra Prize for Videojournalism.  $15,000 to the winner, and a breaking news winner as well.

We had several hundred entries from all over the world.

Now we are down to the final 50 or so, and I am still screening.

Above, one of the local entries, from John Munson from the Newark Star Ledger. Munson was a still photographer who picked up a video camera.

Take a look.

Do you really think the quality has suffered?

Does this look like Youtube?

Does this look like he really would benefit from having a camerman accompany him? How about a reporter?

The day of the two man team is rapidlly drawing to a close.

But ‘quality’ does not seem to be suffering too much from what I can see.

in fact, as with the coming of the Leica and 35mm film to photojournalism, I think we are in fact at the beginning of a much more interesting period for television and video journalism.

KPIX in San Francisco goes VJ


Two down, three to go…

KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco announced today that they are moving to a VJ-driven newsroom.

The official press release today said:


Feb 11, 2009 3:58 PM ESTKPIX management told the staff today the station intends to go VJ within a year, pending union contract re-negotiations.

The station’s GM said voluntary training will begin in the near future, with lightweight cameras and servers to follow.

The current AFTRA contract permits on-air staff only limited use of technical equipment except in emergencies. The station’s technical unions gave up jurisdiction some years ago.

Reply With Quote
This is hardly news to any of us who have been with the VJ movement for a long time.
In the next few months prepare to see more and more stations in major markets going to VJ as well.
This is the inevitable upshot of the combination of economic necessity and technical reality on the ground.
There is simply no longer any justification for the old 2-man crews and big heavy gear.  As we said a long time ago,
this is going to happen, and it is going to happen everywhere.
Ironically, only yesterday, The Wall Street Journal ran an article pointing out that local TV news stations were in real danger of simply disappearing altogether.
If they have any hope of surviving, they are going to have to cut their costs and make their operations vastly more efficient. The days of employing 150 people and putting 8 cameras on the street are simply over, not that they ever made any sense.
AFTRA’s San Francisco local has vigorously opposed members performing technical duties at KPIX and has threatened sanctions against those who do.The station’s GM said the decision to use VJs as part of a mix with traditional crews was his alone and was not the result of a CBS corporate edict. He said he recognizes the very real possibility of failure but something needed to be done to reduce expenses.