The Revolution Comes Home


The hand that rocks the cradles… also holds the video camera….

Mary Sturges.

Home schooling mother of 8 from South Carolina.

Not exactly your idea of revolutionary.

But when the video revolution reaches here, you know its real.

It’s one thing for NYU film students to pick up a video camera and a laptop and start making content, but when it hits the real grass roots of America, you know something big is happening.

Something big is happening.

Mary was one of our 5 TJs, or Travel Journalists, for 5Takes Latin America. So we gave her the camera and the laptop and some basic instruction on how to shoot, edit and upload. Which is all fine.

The amazing part was when her husband, Jim, started writing to us. (Where he also gets the time to write while staying at home with the 8 kids, working and lately running the home school is beyond me, but I think there’s a new TLC series in here somewhere).

In any event, he is exteremly video literate. He’s shooting and cutting and uploading video stories to their own site.

He’s also got a webcam plugged into the family plasma screen so that he can video link to Mary as she travels across Latin America with all of us, and the kids can see it and talk to her live, en masse, 8,000 miles away.

About 3 years ago, when we were just starting, I told Al Gore and Joel Hyatt that the best way to ‘seed’ Current would be to do a national tour of college campuses to find a few students with video cameras and laptops who were doing this. We did the tour, and I was astonished to find that there were thousands and thousands of them. They feed Youtube. The revolution was already underway.

Now that revolution has percolated down to every household in America.

Once again, the people, are way ahead of the media.

So while Matt and Katie might still think that they’ve got a lock on video and television and online…..that its’ a monopoly…. I think that Jim Sturges… and millions like him, are already way out ahead of them.


14 responses to “The Revolution Comes Home

  1. Mary’s down to earth personality really smacks at the teeth and hair talent that pervades today’s shows similar to 5Takes. I find it refreshing and I applaud her for being down to earth and real in her work so far (The video on Columbia really made for great watching)

    If this is what we can expect for the rest of 5Takes series as a whole, I know I’ll be watching every chance I get – Kudos go out to all of the crew – you are creating something that is real and offers a unique POV for a show like this.

    Keep up the great work!!! 🙂

  2. when millions of people are creating video who has time to watch?

  3. What camera is Mary using. I was in your TCA class and was curious. Trying to buy, what a daunting task. Help. Would like HD capable.

  4. Matt and Katie have millions watching them, still. Jim Sturges has how many?

    Yes, there are more producers of video content. That content will continue to grow/explode.
    But I will not have time or energy to watch more than a few each day. Sorting through the videos will be impossible. That is more true for the general public. They will never sort through the millions of video posts produced each day.

    So I – and the public – will turn to the major league outlets most….and to the minor league outlets once in a while. Individual producers will not have a mass audience.

    Minor league players don’t make much income. If they are passionate, and talented, they will reach the major leagues.

    This is certainly interesting. I encourage content production. But it is true that not everybody that shoots video, and posts it online, will make a living, or be seen by enough people to matter.

    Those with outstanding content will rise above.
    Those with truth on their side will rise above.
    Those with talent and creativity will rise above.
    The rest will be average or below average, and never make it past pee wee league, or minor league.

    I don’t want to discourage Jim, Mary, any of the 5 Takes crew, or any other VJ. Really. I encourage anyone to create quality video content! I will try to look at their work this weekend. This has nothing to do with them or their work. I am only making generalizations.

    But my guess is that there will always be major leagues and minor leagues. Matt and Katie are still major league, right? Ten years from now, who knows. I know things are changing. I work for CBS. Trust me, we are fighting harder than ever, as is every one of the old school media outlets.

    I think the major media players will NEED to focus more on quality video content. Sure, personalities sell the product. Personalities bring in viewers. But CONTENT keeps them.

    Content and quality.

  5. Mary is using a SONY HDV camera. My own pref is for the Canon AH20. also HDV, about 1200.

    As for Matt and Katie, they were, of course, playing before there were any leagues, so they got in first.

    I think the analogy here is to print. Matt and Katie are pre-Gutenberg, when only the Church (or networks) were able to scribe the books. With the advent of the printing press, anyone can now write and publish. Is the vast majority of what a free press produces junk? You bet it is. But can quality still surface in a world with millions of people writing? I think so. I think we would prefer it that way to a world in which only an anointed few got to publish anything. no?

  6. I think the print metaphor goes a long way. Today, anyone can pretty much publish anything — even on high-end printing presses in short runs. You can self-publish. But there’s no doubt that having a marketing department behind you and an editor to help you hone your work helps. Getting access to the bookstores and getting booked for speaking tours — all that networking stuff helps goose demand for your work. But it doesn’t stop the small niche publishers from plugging away and serving their unique audiences, and it leaves open the possibility for the niche book to hit a cultural nerve and make it big, perhaps even years after its original publication.

    What I’m hoping for, personally, is that the big “publishers” of video today (the Katie and Matt channels) re-learn the value of public service and earnest hard work. The networks/channels/established players work very hard at getting the best equipment and the flashiest graphics and the right hair and teeth. But it’s all so very fake and plastic and divorced from reality.

    I just stumbled across a site last night — — that has VJ-style worked being shot in Baghdad and getting delivered over the web. I saw it on iTunes, subscribed, and watched it on my AppleTV. Compelling stuff. No “hair” or “teeth” talent in sight. Video quality well below HD. But riveting, and it allowed the human story from this war-torn place to play out over several minutes — something I would never see on TV. Except, perhaps on PBS in a few rare instances or maybe on 60 Minutes (but even that would be overproduced). I was spellbound for several minutes, feeling like I had a private window on the world; I was learning something new, and there wasn’t a flashy graphic or a vapid smile anywhere to be seen.

    So let’s hope the print publisher metaphor works well, but let’s also hope that the most offensive TV people in the business get their assess handed to them as the revolution makes their way of TV too expensive to support. We, as a democracy, need it to die.

  7. Sorry for the long post but, speaking as a Jim Sturges, think that a point of clarification is in order.

    Mr. Rosenblum kindly included me in a post about real VJ’s like the ones on 5 Takes – that is, those who are producing content for a wide audience as a profession and have their content viewed on actual television screens in living rooms.

    The Jim Sturgeses of America are, right now, only providing laughs for their friends and family, while enjoying producing video for its own sake. However, the actual point of Mr. Rosenblum’s post is right on. Those who use the VJ paradigm for a broadcast or cable outlet ought to be a source of concern for the Big Guys. Just the sheer number of potential VJ’s (fueled by inexpensive gear as previously noted) almost guarantees it. Eric is right that the web is full of junk now, but the revolution is under way; it just needs a way to get the good stuff into your house or web browser (plug 5 Takes here…)

    Allow me to draw a parallel. In the early ’90s you could send limited email over your 300 baud modem to those few who knew what that was. By the end of the decade, the web had been populated with tons of sites, nearly all junk. Even today, it’s estimated that about 100,000 blogs are created a day, and you and I will never read even one of them.

    But, in 1999, two grad students, running borrowed hardware out of their offices at Stanford changed the world forever. Sure, with Yahoo, you could maybe find a site that contained what you wanted (Yahoo didn’t even have a “search” box until it bought Inktomi in 2002). With AltaVista you could get page after page of junk. But Google was different. Google used an algorithm to find the good stuff, and everybody wanted to use it.

    Can you imagine a world without Google? It’s not just a clever tool, but a complete paradigm shift that the world takes for granted. Now you would never go to the library to find out where Manaus is: you just open up wikipedia (wikipedia is highly regarded for the quality of information it contains, yet it is populated by thousands of little guys) and type it into the “search” box.

    I think we are on the cusp of having web-delivered, highly specialized, just-for-you content (probably as an add-on to broadcast content – some will stay on the sofa). You’ll be able to fire up your browser and find just the stories you’re looking for, filtered by relevance and quality.

    YouTube does not give us that – it’s like the Yahoo’s or AltaVista’s of old, full mostly of junk with only a few nuggets of gold that you’ll probably never find. Even Google hasn’t figured out how to serve up good video – yet. But, with their 1.65 billion dollar acquisition of YouTube, you can bet they are putting a lot of effort into figuring out how to do just that. Smart cable networks, such as the Travel Channel, are working hard to keep up by including as much video content on their websites as possible.

    So, just because the web is full of junk does not mean that the perfect way of serving up the good stuff isn’t coming. Google pulls in a billion a year and makes no product. If they don’t figure out how to sort out what you want from everything else, then someone surely will.

    Eric switched the topic from grassroots VJ’s that are part of a program with a professional producer (with a side note about an amateur), to web delivery – paid or amateur.

    It’s easy to do because the line is truly blurring – we now have not just VOIP, but now IPTV – we’re getting down to just one wire (or fiber) into your house. Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch want this very much – Microsoft’s Vista OS and X-Box 360 already include IPTV support and Sky TV is being delivered over broadband in the UK in a partnership with Microsoft. Additionally, the brains at Google have storage space out the ears and desperately want stuff to put in and serve up (with handy Ad Sense ads; now coming with, guess what, short video ads). There are some big boys ready to play.

    Maybe it won’t be Google, but now that the potential to make a billion a year without having to produce a product is already being done, someone will come up with a way to keep Eric from wasting his time. It’s coming.

    Meanwhile, VJ’s keep gaining experience and viewership and, as this blog has reported many times, the momentum is growing.


  8. All media is moving to the net. The opportunities and imperatives of targeted advertising make that an absolute certainty.

    But the migration is not as straightforward as some imagine. The net is a non-linear interactive medium whereas the nature of video is linear and non-interactive. This creates a profound dichotomy.

    Being passive while we watch TV is fine – we sit back to watch TV. But we sit UP at our computers – its a totally different experience.

    Short clips work fine but longer presentations suffer, particularly if they lack compelling visual elements.

    Even more so if the videos are designed to appeal to the more affluent – the ones the advertisers want to target – they tend to be more time conscious.

    It takes 60 minutes to watch an hour long interview and 20 minutes to read a transcript – less if it is properly formatted.

    The answer is fairly obvious – the content must be formatted for the new context. Longer pieces can be broken into chapters, text synopses can be added etc. The rules will become clear over time.

    But to even look for these rules we first have to understand that new media is not just old media transferred to the net.

  9. !’ll take exception to what peter just said about “we sit UP at our computers- it’s a totally different experience”.

    we laid out on our patio yesterday with 2 laptops on comfy lounge chairs and surfed and sunned our tails off… couldn’t do that with tv.

    so, you are definitely right that it’s a totally different experience… it’s better!

    even had the senior citizen neighbors over to try it out and had them vowing to set up a wireless network of their own.

    told them to just leech off ours.

  10. ! – agreed. My comments are really directed towards information-oriented video what I call “value-added video”.

    Watching feature films or sitcoms where the emphasis is on the experience not the information is essentially the same on TV or the net. Modern hardware can make the experience 100% identical.

    But as I said new media is not just old media on the net. Guardian Unlimited is consistently (3 years in a row) recognized as the best news site on the net. Very little video on that site as of 05/07 – but those folks understand new media better than just about anyone.

  11. Last year saw more notebook computers sold than desktops for the first time in history – that speaks volumes about how mobile our society has become with access to the Internet.

    I do sit at my desktop computer for my day to day editing work, but when it comes to viewing content online, I pull out my laptop and go sit on the couch or lounge chair outside.

    Nothing like having a wireless network 😉

  12. Cliff

    Thanks for helping me refine the idea. How about this:

    TV is like food for donkeys and cows – they might move to a different patch of grass (channel surf) but grass is all they want to eat and they never play with their food.

    web is like food for lions and tigers – you never know what they are going to eat next. It might be you.

    what do you think?

  13. Cliff Jima and !

    Thanks for helping refine this idea. How about this:

    TV is food for donkeys and cows. They might move to a different piece o, Jim and ! grass (channel surf) but grass is all they want to eat and they never play with their food

    The web is food for lions and tigers. You never know what they are going to eat next. It just might be you.

    What do you all think?

  14. Nice analogy, Peter 😉

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