The Great Video Disruption

From YouTube to live video streaming apps, the video universe has radically evolved in the past decade.

One after the other, entire sectors of our economy are being transformed by the digital revolution. After music, press and radio, it’s now the turn of cinema, television, transportation and the hotel industry to be swept by a digital wave combining connectivity and ongoing mobility. As proof, the Internet is a medium on its own—a meta-medium. Meta because the Internet is not a new medium that has started competing against others. It’s an ogre that swallows and totally transforms all of them.

The emergence of streaming

The world of filmed media is symptomatic of this profound disruption caused by the network. It experienced its first disruption some ten or so years ago following the launch of the first streaming platforms, i.e., YouTube and DailyMotion. These platforms suddenly allowed everyone and anyone to upload their own videos online and gave them the potential of being seen by the entire planet (which is not possible with restrictive local TV systems).

Today, YouTube generates more than 300 hours of video content per minute and functions as a real ecosystem with its internal channels and revenue-sharing system that over one million advertisers use to broadcast content.

In August 2014, Variety magazine published the results of a survey that indicated that YouTube stars are today more popular than Hollywood’s stars among 13 to 18 year olds.

Smaller and less expensive cameras

The second disruption that shook the world of filmed media was brought by new video recording tools. In the space of ten years, they became smaller and less expensive to produce. GoPro’s success is testimony to the public’s interest for high-performance products (HD and 4K) priced at under $500. Brands such as Redbull and the NHL do not hesitate to use content recorded using such cameras in their web- and TV-based promotions.

As with digital photography, the future of video recording would appear to lie in our pockets. After having eradicated from the market low- and mid-range still cameras, the smartphone may very well end up replacing low- and mid-range video cameras.

Today, mobile devices can be used to produce very good quality video recordings and there are hundreds of products available to equip one’s smartphone with semi-professional functionalities (tripods, zooms, travelling, etc.).

Excluding the high-end market (for example, Hollywood cinema), an increasing number of small and medium productions may very well be recorded using mobile devices equipped with professional lenses. At the 2015 Sundance festival, the film Tangerine by Sean Baker raised visitors’ curiosity seeing as it had been completely recorded using an iPhone.

Image credit: Tangerine

Automated editing

The third disruption concerns the editor’s work which was relatively well protected up to very recently. Even YouTubers quickly realized that they had to learn the basics of the profession as well as the visual grammar to successfully produce interesting content. Today, the era when learning FinalCut was a must is coming to an end as automated editing services are being made available.

For example, Evergig is a French start-up that offers an online automated editing service. Evergig’s algorithms enable users to retrieve several video streams (on YouTube, for example), assemble them and produce a dynamic video of semi-professional quality.

Evergig initially offered musical content services. Beyond video calibration, Evergig’s algorithm has the capacity to retrieve all streams filmed and shared online during a same concert, to identify and keep the concert’s best moments and to assemble a video clip of the performance recorded live by fans. The start-up also holds the patent for an algorithm that enables the production of an optimal musical score by synchronizing all of the musical scores recorded using mobile devices.

May we recall that video production—whether designed for television or the web—is faced with the reality of ever more limited budgets and increasing competition. Doing more with less is a constant prerogative and the industry’s actors must therefore reinvent themselves or they risk disappearing.

Professional editors—like high-end cameras—are not expected to disappear. However, the fundamentals of their profession are being redefined and the cream of the crop will be in high demand to sign more ambitious productions.

Live streaming within everyone’s reach

Live streaming represents the most recent disruption. Only ten years ago, this technology was extremely expensive and reserved for a handful of professionals. The arrival of free platforms like Live Stream, Ustream and Twitch made things easier for everyone.

Today, live streaming is definitely heading to mobile. During SXSW 2015, the Meerkat app was the object of a great deal of interest namely among journalists. Connected to Twitter, this app enables users to film and share content directly from their phones. The content is available on Twitter. As evidence of the interest for this technology, Twitter counterattacked by buying back Periscope, an unknown entity whose app had never reached past the beta stage.

That is what is meant by the great disruption of the video medium. It’s a revolution led by the Internet and mobility that leads to a democratization of media, recording/editing/post-production material and live streaming. What used to be ten years ago the preserve of a few professionals has become openly available to anyone holding a mobile phone.


Fabien Loszach
Fabien Loszach holds a doctorate in sociology specialized in social imagery, art and pop culture. He works for the Brad agency as its director of interactive strategy and as a consultant in the media and digital fields. Furthermore, he contributes as a commentator to the digital culture show La sphère broadcast on Ici Radio-Canada Première. Each week, he discusses a current issue from a sociological perspective.
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