The pandemic changed how we make content. Some might say its most positive aspect is that it led to better collaboration. Software designers created new tools. We repurposed old tools into staples of the new process. Each one promises better collaboration, but do they deliver? Can true collaboration even happen in a digital framework, or do we need to get back to face-to-face creation?
For example, the Zoom platform was a simple video chat platform in early 2020. Today, Zoom is the destination for all video calling. It’s even a verb: “I’m Zooming with the boss at 10.” Adobe has been an innovator of cloud-based workflow for some time. When we were suddenly under “stay at home” orders, apps like Premier and After Effects became vital. We discovered programs like Frame.io that allow you to upload video and get comments and approvals from a team. (Adobe actually acquired Frame.io in October 2021.) Sony has a similar app called Ci that they upgraded and touted during the pandemic shift.
These tools, and many others, gave us a platform for collaboration. Producers, directors, camera operators and editors can all do their independent work remotely. There are even Studio-in-a-box solutions like the one from Quicklink. These are all-in-one camera units that we can send to an interviewee or talent and control completely remotely. They even have lights and teleprompters built-in. Physical location is no longer a limitation.
Collaboration vs. cooperation
Of course, we have to ask, is this really collaboration or simply cooperation? For clarity, we can look at the assembly line. A person at the first station attaches a certain part and sends it down the line to station two. If part one isn’t attached correctly, the person at station two can’t attach their part. Each station’s work is interdependent, but it’s not a real collaboration. True collaboration is more like jazz music. Each musician plays a part to enhance the other. The primary goal of each is the best possible performance of the full song. True collaboration is in the shared vision and values of each member with the goal of the best end result.
Video production needs to move forward with these new tools. However, the creative process flows from true collaboration and not merely cooperation. One of the industry’s greatest examples is Pixar. Their very building is designed so that everyone is constantly in contact with each other. There are common spaces and pass-throughs that put employees face to face all day long.
Sharing the same “breath space”
And how important is that shared space to real collaboration? Some would say it’s vital. Video creation, from movies to news, relies on ideas birthed from a simple conversation. Ideas sketched on napkins in a restaurant or spoken into a voice memo at the backyard barbecue. The spark of creativity can happen anywhere and often doesn’t happen in isolation at a desk.
As the dust settles from the pandemic, technically, we are better equipped to collaborate than ever before. The goal should be for us to connect and create. It can happen on a video chat or at the local coffee house. It’s time for us to let it happen.