Viewfinder: Device vs Feature

At the dawn of the filmmaking industry, creating moving pictures was achieved via highly specialized devices. The equipment required to make a motion picture around the turn of the 20th century was large, costly, highly complex and very unreliable. A slew of devices was required including movie cameras, lighting gear, microphones and movie projectors. Each of these was a discrete dedicated device. None of them could be used for anything other than motion pictures.

The movie camera weighted hundreds of pounds, early film chemistry was crude and required extremely bright lighting, and film stock was expensive to purchase and develop.

Fast forward to the present where making video is not dependent upon discrete dedicated devices. Making video is now achieved via the use of features on a multipurpose device, even a mobile phone. These are inexpensive, easy to use and highly reliable. As recent as the turn of the 21st century, making video required a camcorder, a video editing deck and a TV. While we have all witnessed this evolution slowly over the years, we have assimilated something, which is absolutely amazing and truly miraculous.

When creating video content evolves from requiring dedicated devices to relying upon a simple feature of a common mobile phone, society experiences a major paradigm shift. After the turn of the 20th century, a few dozen motion picture producers produced films for millions intended for audiences of millions. Today hundreds of millions of video makers are creating content for much smaller audiences, as few as a dozen people.

Now that shooting video is accomplished with something as common as a feature in a mobile phone, nearly any event occurs within close proximity of a video camera. This has been a boon for the news genre. It seems that every TV network has a show entirely comprised of (or at least including several) short video clips of unlikely occurrences. People falling down, dogs catching a wild Frisbee, automobile accidents, near misses during airplane flights or extra long basketball shots all now appear on TV or websites regularly.

There are other effects of video shot by a mobile phone. The truth is more visible because video aids in transparency when used to document abuse transgressions or other debatable activities. I admire the organization called WITNESS, which devotes itself to using the power of video and storytelling to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses.

There are many aspects of the video revolution, which have collectively democratized the medium but perhaps none are more dramatic as the videos being made to better meet the needs of people trapped in poverty. In many places around the world, right at this moment, people are suffering as the result of the lack of information about agriculture and food production, healthcare, civic engagement or conflict resolution. Charities are producing short video lessons aimed at educating those people living on less than $1 a day. This is perhaps, the crowning achievement of the simplification of video content creation.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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