Viewfinder: Video's Greatest Value

Where can video provide the greatest value? Since the inception of moving images, many people have derived meaningful benefits from watching videos and movies. For the first 100 years, moving images appeared as motion pictures projected on the big screen in theaters where large groups of people would gather.

The small screen of the television changed how people viewed moving image presentations. The screen was smaller, so the groups of people gathered to watch TV was much smaller, typically a family. The TV screen was available inside people’s houses so they didn’t need to travel to a theater, making it much easier to watch moving image presentations in a home. There were no tickets to purchase – the investment was lowered – so now the audience was not quite as captive; the viewers could come and go as they pleased, simply by turning off the TV.


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The attention span of a person in a theater might be two hours, but at home, it became more like half an hour. Long form motion pictures and films gave way to short form programs and TV shows. Midway through the first century of moving image presentations, smaller groups of people were now watching shorter presentations. But that is not all that changed.

Compared to motion picture film, the video that appeared on television screens is far less costly to deliver. The cost to produce and deliver each minute of video is tiny compared to a motion picture film. The most expensive motion picture can cost almost $3 million dollars per minute, while the most expensive TV show averages to about $50,000. The average TV show costs less than $20,000 per minute.

Now we have three factors that impacted the value of a moving image presentation. TV screens were smaller so they were conveniently located inside a home with smaller audiences and the cost to produce one minute of video was very low. As odd as it may sound, these factors dramatically increased the value of a moving image presentation.

Smaller audiences and lower costs changed the TV production strategy. Rather than produce big budget blockbusters like the 1997 film Titanic, television producers created low budget programs like a children’s TV show. While it is hard for an audience to place a value on their viewing experience, most would agree that tens of millions of people were entertained while watching Titanic. However the tens of thousands of kids who watched Sesame Street got a far greater value by learning to read.

The process of increasing the value of producing video is continuing today. Very small audiences can now learn important lessons like occupational training for farm workers. Even smaller groups in lesser-developed countries can now watch short videos about cholera prevention. You are a part of this revolution! Get out there and make some video that has incredible value by serving a very narrow audience!

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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