Thoughts On Recent Avid/Ovum Press Release

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Like many others, it was with great interest that I read the 7/23/13 Avid Press Release titled: “Broadcasters and Media Organizations Leave Revenue on the Table, According to Global Consumer Study by Avid and Ovum”.  The press release makes reference that there is more to the study, but what is mentioned has been an obvious ongoing trend for the past several years.

Yes. Consumers want to see everything, everywhere, at any time. And for free if at all possible. Business models continue to be an ongoing process trying to best monetize that content. And while the survey is more about broadcasters who own or have licensing rights to the content, the democratization of the filmmaking process for independents has been going on in earnest for the last 5-7 years. And because of that, there is even more content to “discover” via a myriad of distribution platforms.

If the recent stories regarding musician’s royalties from services like Spotify and Pandora are true – it paints a potentially grim future for filmmakers trying to make a living doing what they love. Musicians already take their show on the road selling not only tickets, but also any related content directly to their audience to increase revenue such as t-shirts, etc. These distribution platforms rely on having a lot of content since their revenue is based on the aggregate of all content sold or subscribed to – which is very different than a filmmaker relying on the revenue of their own content. Avid has a marketplace – could it extend to anything and everything including sales and distribution of content? It could. My thoughts on Avid Marketplace as it stands today.

That same strategy can exist for filmmakers; driving city to city four-walling their films ala Kevin Smith. But even in Kevin Smith’s case, there was corporate sponsorship covering the costs of a city-to-city road tour as a form of marketing for the companies themselves. Curating and presenting content is an expensive endeavor if the content is expected to make a profit for anyone. An ongoing marketing effort is the one service that none of these independent distribution platforms offer, leaving that up to the content owner or consumers getting lucky via a Google search.

Social Media is only one marketing tactic and cannot be relied upon as the only means of getting the word out. At the very least, Kickstarter and IndiGoGo  are based on a pre-sales paradigm putting your marketing efforts and costs up front while letting you know exactly whether you’ve met your stated budget’s break even point– and if that budget includes a salary for everyone contributing to the project, you’re golden. Filmmaking for the most part is still a labor of love for those who take that path.  Sadly, it’s mostly true when I hear: “there are a lot of first time filmmakers, but not a whole lot of second-time ones” when it comes to making a living at the craft. I hope that ongoing technology innovations and business models will let filmmakers find their audience as well as an audience finding their content that benefits all.

Then I get to the second part of the release where it speaks to the popularity of the “second screen experience”. I can only be reminded of the twelve-year head start Avid squandered in the MetaSync technology allowing content creators to create any type of “interactive timed” secondary experience in context of the editorial process.

In 2001, when MetaSync was first introduced, the “platform concept” allowed program producers to create interactive experiences and metadata hooks into the content regardless of distribution channel. The functionality allowed for disparate creative teams to work simultaneously. The program editors working with the creative interactive team via a simple “sequence refresh” over the Internet allowing the interactive content to be viewed and updated directly in the Media Composer timeline. The interactive content metadata tags could either display the video on a webpage, or be an overlay on the video itself all in real time while editing in Media Composer.

MetaSync allowed for any interactive link to be timed to the frame, or a span of frame as a form of very smart GPI triggers. The editor could manage the interactive elements directly on the timeline, dictating “when and for how long”, or sync the interactive elements to the source clips and forever follow that clip anywhere on the timeline. A user could even establish a “open in native application” allowing the asset it was pointing to to open in whatever application it as associated with. It could be used to directly access an original asset in a LAN/WAN database via a “right-click” operation – perfect for rights management on any frame or span of frames tracked as source or as new rights management in the timeline itself.  A user could create up to 24 tracks of interactive design with each track supporting interactivity as spans or single frame events that could overlap. Third parties had access to the XML schema to create these triggers beforehand. An XML export from the timeline converted interactive timings to all video frame rates as a form of interactive universal mastering.  With a user created interactive asset, the user could to take any sequence and reference it via any MetaSync element to start a branching storytelling authoring tool while managing all the changes that are common with video content creation.

Was it everything to everyone? No, but it was the first pass at Media Composer being an agnostic interactive platform for what could be the future of storytelling. Imagine where that feature set would be today with continued development over the past twelve years. It would be perfectly poised for the two screen plans of the broadcasters, not to mention the single screen-viewing environment as more and more of video consumers are using web based video devices.

But it’s one thing to not develop a solution over a number of years, but even sadder to be quietly pulled from the code in Media Composer v6 at the time “second screen” was gaining steam in the industry.  Media Composer v7 offers “spanned markers” but is so restrictive in its implementation that its overall value is pretty limiting and pales in comparison to what an expanded MetaSync solution could have been.

Perhaps there is a bigger plan in play, something better and much more streamlined. We can only hope there is such a vision to what will be Storytelling 2.0. But seeing as one can still sign up to be a development partner could mean Avid is still in the game, or they have not cleaned up the website of all MetaSync references.  This also brings up the topic of Media Composer as a platform in general, and that will be subject of a future blog entry.

While I am most familiar with Avid Media Composer workflows, others companies could be doing more as well in this area. Adobe has all the components that could tie video content creation and marketing with online authoring tools, distribution, and reporting back to content owners. That remains to be seen in future versions of Premiere Pro CC integrating such solutions. But for now it seems that Premiere Pro is trying to be Media Composer, and Media Composer is trying to be Premiere Pro. Apple could do well by taking their DVD authoring code and adding it to iBook Author to further extend interactive authoring, publishing and delivery of converging video, sound, graphics and www links in their mobile entertainment devices for the future of media publishing.

Meanwhile, startups like FlixMaster (soon to be renamed Rapt Media) are creating tools for interactive and branching media for web distribution and being well funded in the process. Perhaps there is something to all of this?

One Response to “Thoughts On Recent Avid/Ovum Press Release”

  1. The Editblog » Linkage: August 2013 Says:

    […] Here is a very interesting read as to where Avid might have gone with the whole second screen and metadata stuff. If only. […]