Observations and arguments.

Archive for Videoblogging

Vloggercon unKeynote (transcript)

A few weeks back I made a video of an imaginary keynote speech I might have liked to have heard at this year’s Vloggercon. The composition was all wrong (why did I think I needed to hide my eyes?), and the audio mix, intended to replicate the echoes of the woodtastic Swedish American Hall sounded more like a low-rent voice of God effect, which was oh so very far from the idea let me tell you.

I’ve decided to include the transcript here. As you’ll note it was written before the present Rocketboom unpleasantness.


We are making media.

We make media in our kitchens, in our basements, in our yards, our living rooms and beds. We make media in cars, on bikes, on planes, on subway trains. Everywhere we are, we are making media.

We are making media in partnership and by ourselves.

We are telling stories, and showing moments.
We are speaking out, and bearing witness.
We are making music, and we are lifting it. Mashing up and mixing.
We are making cinema. We are making television.
We are making something else entirely.
Home movies. Work movies.
Information. Education. Exhortation. Advertisements, art, and porn.
We are forging a brand new international cinema of cats.

We are making connections.
We are reaching out.
to audiences large and small.
and to no one but ourselves.

We deserve to be excited.
It is an exciting time.
It is a revolution,
a seismic shift in human communication.
We are moving faster than theory or industry can follow.
And we are only just beginning.

Those of us who’ve made it here to San Francisco are finally together in the same location. Synchronous. Fully disintermediated.

Our personal space can now be shared. Our words can overlap. We can laugh with each other over a drink in “real” time.

You whom I have known only at two hundred forty pixels high. Or only as a voice. Or from a comment that you made when I needed it most.

I thank you.
For revealing to me a glimpse of your world,
your voice, your vision, your passion,
through the media you have made.

And they are scared of us.
Or if they’re not, they’re fools.

Because every three minutes I am watching your vlog are three minutes I am not consuming the products of the corporate mega mass media. I am living outside of their business model. I am stepping off the media grid.

Already I will set aside three minutes of my week for you. And you. And you. And you. And you. Or Rocketboom or Minnesota Stories, fifteen minutes of my week. The PAN, Seventy-five.

But listen up.

Someone watching this stream from far away will start a videoblog today. Or a dozen someones. And tomorrow there will be a dozen more. And more. Again. More people in more countries in more walks of life gaining access to the means of production, the tools for creation and consumption. Access to the worldwide media conversation.

Soon thousands will become tens of thousands. Then hundreds of thousands. Then millions. All making media.

But with all these voices, all these videos, how will you possibly watch it all? How can you keep up?

The answer is: you can’t.

Already if you aggregate the media made by everyone in this room it is probably more than any one person can watch.

Soon, I predict, that as important as the makers themselves will be the recommenders. People who can let me know which episode of Chasing Windmills I should watch this week. Which DriveTime I will not want to miss. Because I will not, you will not, no one will have time to watch it all.

These are Josh’s Picks. And Ryanne’s ReVlog. “watchthis” at del.icio.us. Vlog Soup and VlogDigest and Podcast Salad.

And this might sound like a return to the old world of tastemakers and gatekeepers, but it’s not. It is the worldwide intersection of social networks. I pay attention to what my friend recommends. She relies on someone else, who trusts someone neither of us knows.

YouTube understands these things. MySpace. Digg. Others are learning. Social networks are the future.

Social networks will still create their own superstars and megahits. But social networks stoke and sustain the fires deep out in the long tail. Social networks allow me to ignore what’s been rated highest, or watched the most, to focus on what my trusted friends imagine I might like.

Look around you. These people are your network. These people are your “friends.” The relationships you build and take away from here matter to the media you make.

I believe some of you will burn out this year. I believe some of you will launch new vlogs, new shows, new projects. Bigger, more ambitious, more surprising. I believe the most exciting work will come from people who are not in this room right now. Who’ve never even heard of us.

And so I find I have some things to ask of you as founding revolutionaries.
As those who to this point have helped to lead the way.

Three things I would ask you to do less of.

1. Stop making vlogs about videoblogging.

We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.

We don’t watch tv hosts talking about the greatness of tv. Or listen to deejays spouting off about the importance of radio.
Authors don’t use up space in their novels writing about why they love books. Your passion may be videoblogging, but find another passion to make videos about. The medium is the message all by itself.

2. Get out of the Yahoo group.

The community is far too big and getting bigger and that. is. what. we. want. But you are expending too much of your time, your fuel, your flow. Block it out. Hold onto your two cents. Make another video.

3. Stop dismissing YouTube.

Yes the videos look like crap and too much of what is there is stolen. But dig a little deeper, and you will find thousands of media makers. The break dancers and the lip synchers and the chin puppets and the diaries and the dogs on skateboards. All contributed by media makers, like you. Even the teenage girl peeling her clothes off for the camera is a media maker. What does it mean to posit she belongs here in this room? What could you say to her that she could learn from? What could she say to you that would change what you do? Plus YouTube has text posts. RSS feeds. Video comments. They’ve got it all, plus sharing and social networks to boot. It’s simple, transparent, and it works.

Three things I would ask you to do more of.

1. Make more media.

If you’re publishing a post a week, what can you do to make it two? How can you push yourself to work faster, leaner, smarter. Release yourself from the tyrannies of perfectionism and polish. Make it good enough. Put it out in the world. Move on to the next one. There is no one who can tell you you’re not ready for prime time.

Or make twice as many videos as you publish to the web. We learn from each mistake, misstep, or failed attempt. The more media we make, the faster we accelerate our own learning curves.

2. Expand the audience.

My FireAnt is full already. I won’t add you to my queue. In terms of your audience potential, I am a dead end.

So promote yourself in the offline world. Tell others what you do. Your family and coworkers. Your technophobic friends. Find people who have never heard of Rocketboom, and get them to subscribe in iTunes or through TiVo.

Pull more and more people off of the corporate media teat. Expose them to alternative forms of media to consume.

3. Show someone how.

Teach your dad to videoblog. Your nephew or your niece. Someone in your moms’ group. The neighbor up the street. It takes so little of your time to help them see the light. To reach that “aha” moment when they get it, and they cross over to where they can begin to make media for themselves.

The rest, my friends, will take care of itself.

– end –


New Home Cinema

Home cinema” has in the past two decades been a consumer sales term used to make “home theater” sound more upscale. It uses the term “cinema” as defined (archaically, or perhaps merely in Britain) as a theater at which one would go to see a movie (as distinct from a theater at which one would view a live dramatic or dance production).

Whether due to my late 20th Century suburban California upbringing or my bachelor’s degree in Film, I tend towards the use of “cinema” as more broadly the art of motion pictures, or a subset therein. E.g. “Classic Hollywood Cinema”, “Italian Neorealist Cinema”, “New German Cinema“.

For me, then, “Home Cinema” is a broad term encompassing the full breadth of consumer “home movie” making, starting (according to Kodak) in 1923 with the release of the 16mm “Cine Kodak” Camera and the Kodascope Projector. In the 1930s, 8mm film cameras and projectors were introduced, lowering prices, and quadrupling the number of minutes per reel. Super8 followed in the 1960s, further democratizing the process of home movie making–a simple cartridge made film loading easier, and allowed for automatic ASA settings within the camera. Battery powered cameras eliminated the tiresome hand-cranking of older formats, and made light metering, zooms, and ultimately sound recording possible.

Still, the cartridges only lasted a mere 3 1/3 minutes, and editing remained for the most part in-camera. (It was possible to splice film with tape and/or cement, but since the film stock was reversal, a bad cut was irreversible.)

With the advent of “portable” video cameras (the camera was portable, but carrying the tape deck on your shoulder–murder) came the new term, “home video”. What was most revolutionary about this new format was the ability to take long, uninterrupted takes on a single two-hour tape. This further broadened the appeal of home movie making, and diminished the appeal of home movie viewing (say what you will about the blurry jitters of Super8, its length forced users to exercise discretion in their shot length, and even the most boring films were over after just a few minutes).

Editing remained a practice of the persistent, but those who invested in editing solutions, or even those who hooked two VCRs together were rewarded by the ability to edit without damaging your original source tape, and to dub a secondary audio track underneath the live sound.

Adobe Premiere helped bring home video editing to the personal computer in a limited fashion, but the shot heard ’round the world in the home digital video revolution was Apple’s decision to ship iMovie and a FireWire port with its consumer desktops and notebooks (iMac and iBook). Sony, Canon, and others had already been selling MiniDV cameras with IEEE1394 (FireWire) out ports, but Apple made the connection useful to the standard consumer–offering sophisticated digital effects, transitions, and titling without any degradation in video or audio quality. Yet with the addition of iDVD and the synchronization of the two applications in the suite called iLife, the final audience remained trapped within the living room.

Fast forward to 2005, and RSS2.0-with-enclosures–the choice of podcasters for syndication and distribution–has been adopted (along with modern blogging tools) by a small band of videomakers as a way to publish their short videos via the internet to a distributed audience. Among these pioneer videobloggers and video podcasters are parents, who use this confluence of technologies to convert the home movies of yesterday into a new digital mass medium.

This is what I call the New Home Cinema of the 21st century.

As a videoblogging parent myself, I am interested in exploring this wave of media: its aesthetics, its meaning, its economics, even issues of ethics and safety. What motivates its creators? How is this affecting children’s development, and the emotional life of the family? How does it reflect or respond to the larger culture of “reality” television programming? How does it differ or how is it the same as home movies in the past? Is this just a repackaged “America’s Funniest Home Videos”?

I hope to engage in dialogue with mediamakers working in the New Home Cinema. I’ll begin with the world of “videoblogging”, after which I hope to explore video destination sites such as Video Google and YouTube. I’ll primarily focus on videos featuring children, but will probably sidestep into pet videos and domestic-themed videos (gardening, cooking, etc.).

I expect that I will draw the line before I get to performative videos (e.g. amateur narratives, comedic sketches, lip synching) or audience-address videos (e.g. personal diaries), but the borders are often blurred and overlapping. These are of course also only possible with consumer access to the technology and tools, and as such could be included under this rubric, but I am most interested in the depiction/portrayal/simulacrum of domestic realities of home and family, so that will be where I direct my focus.

We’ll see where my exploration takes me from there.


Which, I am wholly unconvinced that “vlog” will make it into the mass market lexicon, despite the best efforts of its linguistic advocates.

But the age of video blogging is upon us, making simple (and low cost) what was previously time-consuming enough that I had pretty much given up on the mini-movie venue I had begun back in 1999.

But it’s alive today, with the aid of Blogger, OurMedia and the Internet Archive, Creative Commons, and the instructive tutorials at freevlog.org.

Thus Matchbook Films is born again.

The vlogger community appears to be quite supportive of each other, and of new efforts. But one curiosity of note is a blurring (notable among some of the key vlogger personalities) of the distinction between video blogging as a medium of expression and “vlogging” as a genre as within the medium.

So when Senator John Edwards recently launched his own video blog he met with a couple of vloggers, including the redoubtable Michael Verdi (co-founder of freevlog.org), who then spent a key portion of their three minute meeting attempting to show Sen. Edwards how to hold a DV camera at arm’s length pointing back at himself.

The coming explosion, I believe, in videoblogging, will be coming in genres other than “vlogging,” which features a great deal of this walk-and-talk direct camera address. Another hallmark of the genre appears to be a tendency away from quick-paced editing. In some cases the absence of an edit creates tension that is ultimately paid off by a moment of small revelation–a refreshing feeling of un-mediacy. It’s a tough balance, and one that can’t possibly be explored in commercial media.

(My favorite explorer so far: Josh Leo, college student vlogging from Grand Rapids, MI)

Don’t know that I’ll be jumping into the vlogger genre, but I’m hopping onto their bandwagon.

Short bits. Some repeated/repurposed from before.

So away we go with RSS 2.0.

With enclosures, no less.