We spent most of yesterday screening submissions to a new television series we are producing for Discovery called ‘Show Us Your World’.
The concept is derivative of Current.tv, which I did with Al Gore a few years ago. But even in that small amount of time, the world has changed enormously.
The driving force behind Show Us Your World is that it is entirely composed of User Generated Content (UGC). That is, we invite the viewers to shoot, script, edit and produce their own content and upload it to our website. We then take the best of those submissions (or allow the web to simply aggregate the most popular) and create a weekly television program with that content.
When we started Current, not so many years ago, the content that viewers shot and submitted was pretty raggedy. You might get the odd ‘great’ piece, but for the most part it was pretty much Youtube. (Youtube is now as adjectival as Google is a verb). In other words, it was a mess.
How the world has changed.
On the first go-round, before the website was even up; before the show even airs, we recieved almost five hundred submissions. At first glance, I was hoping that of the 500, we might find enough to generate a pilot and one follow up show just so we could ‘prime the pump’. ie, “Look, here’s a few good pieces. This is what we are looking for”.
Instead, we were totally blown away by the pure professional quality of what ‘average’ people had submitted! Music, graphics, stunning photography, clever scripts. One woman submitted two complete animated shorts! And they were very very clever. It was a great watch all day long.
The world has indeed changed in just a few short years.
The technology for making very high quality video is now in everyone’s hands (at least everyone who wants it). HD cameras cost nothing. FCP does HD and you can start editing from day 1. But more than that, people are no longer emulating conventional TV in the stuff that they make. Sure, there are a few pieces that look like weak immitations of Today, or a GMA spot, or worse, local news complete with standup and mic in hand. But they are thankfully in the minority. Instead, there is a whole new grammar that is starting to emerge.
You can see it first in the fluidity with which people have taken to this, but you can also see it in the way that people are starting to blend music, content, text and graphics into their videos. They are far ahead of the rest of television. And I am sure this is only the beginning.
After a day of watching this virtual explosion of craft and creativity, we tuned in to The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Leaving all comments about the anchor aside, we were just numbed by the incredible predictability and banality of the packages. In a medium that is capable of doing so very much – music, graphics, editing, storytelling, video, narrative – they do so little, and it is always the same thing over and over and over. Thank God the “people” have finally gotten their hands on the medium. The world is about to change a lot. Stand by….