It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.
– Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)
In my lifetime there have been a handful of historical developments: the end of the Cold War, the Digital Revolution, 9/11, The Great Recession. I want to talk about the Digital Revolution, especially as it relates to me personally.
First, let me define the Digital Revolution (or DR for short): starting in the 1990s a host of technological and infrastructure developments converged to create a new cultural, economic and media environment. These developments included the internet, cell phones, digital audio recording and CDs, digital photography, software such as PhotoShop, AfterEffects and ProTools, and websites such as eBay, Amazon and Google. These were soon followed by the various social media platforms: blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram etc.
This digital confluence has profoundly reshaped the world in the last 25 years, and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call it revolutionary. As a matter of fact, it’s played a major role in shaping my career. Put simply, my career in production was made possible by the DR. The first place I worked (starting in 1997) was an animation studio that made its living translating and transforming the techniques of classic cel animation into the digital world, using PhotoShop and AfterEffects instead of acetate cels, paint, cameras and film to get Bugs Bunny to mess with Elmer Fudd’s mind yet again. It was now possible to produce something very near to the classic animation of days gone by at a fraction of the cost.
So I started my production career in the new digital world, working in a newly digital form of animation production. This was a blast and lasted for quite a while but, like everything I suppose, eventually ended.
Luckily for me, DSLR cameras, inexpensive production lighting, desktop editing & graphics and, perhaps most importantly, the internet made possible a new career in video production.
The proliferation of websites and other digital platforms mean that there is a constant demand for content. Video is perfect for this environment. Video’s flexible – it can be used to communicate just about anything, really, from straight marketing and promotion to arty weirdness, from personal experiences to corporate branding.
At MBM we tell people that we “produce short marketing and promotional videos for businesses, universities and non-profits.” But just a mere 15-20 years ago, a business like this wasn’t possible. The internet has created both the demand and the means of distribution for the kind of videos we produce, and the various digital production technologies mean that small groups with limited schedules and budgets can create videos that would have taken vastly more resources in the past.
And the changes keep coming. We’re now in the early days of 360/VR video, and everyone’s back to square one, trying to figure out how to use the new tools and what to use them for. I think it’ll take a little time to figure it out, but in the meantime the possibilities are very exciting. We recently dipped our toes into these waters and produced a 360 video about Arabia Mountain, a beautiful and relatively unknown state park near Atlanta.
Video’s simple power to turn images and sounds into something moving, not just literally, but also emotionally, is very exciting to me. My colleagues and I are storytellers. We try very hard to use the power of video and digital technology to tell stories that will resonate with viewers. I feel very fortunate to be able to do this for a living, and to think how the DR has been ever-present in the majority of my career is kind of strange, and a little sobering – I’ve certainly been lucky. I wonder what’s next to come as the DR continues?
Photo credit: First Apple Computer / Source: Parade
Photo credit: Understanding Media book cover / Source: McLuhan Galaxy
Photo credit: Rabbit of Seville/ Source: Dr. Grob’s Animation Review