Thursday, December 12, 2013

Technology's Big Costs

A digital trade paper informs us:

The entertainment industry is having to invest heavily in new technology in order to keep up with consumer demand for their favorite music or television show on any mobile device at any time.

Over the next five years, digital content will account for 87 percent of the growth in spending in the entertainment and media business, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Those revenues will come from digital advertising, sales, licensing and other internet-based forms of capitalism.

But all that profit will come at a price.

“We’ve reached a tipping point that requires companies to make significant investments to stay on top of the technology,” Cindy McKenzie, managing director of PwC’s entertainment, media and communications practice, said. “The exponential growth in the amount of digital content and the number of formats being used is causing a fundamental shift.”

Overall, information and technology spending in the entertainment sector will hit $60 billion by 2017 and will increase at a compound rate of 9 percent per year, the study finds. That spending will go towards enhancing the way that entertainment companies distribute their content and make it accessible across a dizzying array of devices and internet platform. ...

I've been hanging out in entertainment biz a long time, like since Ullysses Grant was President. When I started, there were three delivery systems for cartoons and/or live-action: Network TV, local TV, and movie theaters.

The TV part came out of a box in your living room or bedroom. There was a big, fat picture tube in the center of the box that showed garish color images. Usually there were tinny speakers. The other distribution point was the downtown movie theater, where you hoped the sound was okay and there weren't too many scratches on the film.

That was then, this is now. Today it's cell phones, tablets, and wall-mounted flat screens, as well as computers on every desk and lap. There's movies, TV episodes and music on demand, straight from the cloud to you. The theft of content is rampant so entertainment has to be priced so that people will pay for it. And the appetite for content is ... well, voracious.

Our fine, entertainment conglomerates are running to catch up. They aren't the all-powerful gatekeepers anymore; not only do they have to sink money into varied distribution technologies and battle copyright infingement, but they have to upgrade internal infrastructure. In Cartoonland, paper is over, pencils are so twentieth century, and you damn well better know the latest upgrade to the hottest software for your Cintiq.

The simplicity of the low-tech 1970s are over ... and all but forgotten. Cathode ray televisions aren't coming back, neither are storyboards on paper, editing machines with sprockets, or 35 mm film. No self-respecting television executive will peer at a production board when there's an animatic with sound effects and music close at hand. As a veteran board artist lamented:

The old, simple storyboards with held poses don't work anymore. Bill Peet, if he were alive, would have to put "101 Dlmations" onto digital story reels with a lot more drawings. If a drawing is on-screen for more than two and a half seconds, production executives get itchy. ...

It's not just a brave new high-tech world for corporations. It's an ever-changing set of challenges for employees as well.


Unknown said...

Why solve problems creatively, simply, and efficiently with an artistic solution when they can spend millions on expensive technology that will be outdated next year? Transient media delivery systems (the world "transmedia" is complete narcissistic b.s.) won't solve the very serious QUALITY CONTENT problem.

Which is where artists come in. We can do something most tech people can't do: Imagine, design, and entertain. Foolish executives who put more faith in technology rather than the artists because they don't know better or even care are a dime a dozen--and therein lies a very big problem.

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