Sunday, February 06, 2005

I want my personalized video media on demand!

It will be interesting to see how the trend to personalized media from mass media plays out in the video world. In audio, everyone can easily mix and match their favorite play lists, including e-books and MP3 lecture files, from hundreds of albums on their iPod or other digital audio player. The devices, tools, capacity, cost and ease of use allow millions to run their audio on demand.

After accessing and manipulating all existing audio media, the next step is being able to create it. With podcasting we can easily create audio files, with other recording equipment and on-line tools, music files. Though of course not everyone wants to create music files and additional tools could still make it easier for people without musical training to create music.

With video, there are more complications like the DMCA and other copyright protection and the much larger files require more storage and aren't as portable yet as audio files. Once these roadblocks are solved, we should have the same access, manipulation and control over video files as with audio. But this only pertains to existing video files, the full body of existing video content. The real power will be when we can create custom video content.

There are many underserved audiences for current video content. The target market for movies made in the US is teenage boys and the theme of these mainstream films has shifted from (already not illustrious nor widely-appealing) sex to violence and crude humor, probably somewhat because sex is widely available for free on the Internet. As a result, women, already in mostly underwritten sex kitten roles, are appearing even less in mainstream films. There is a huge market for more people to see actors similar to them in gender and age navigating issues that are real in their lives, including work, cultural, family, friends and personal issues. Independent films and changes in distribution have helped to create and disburse a broader range of content, but probably the dramatic shift will be when more can be done via computer rather than with real actors. We will likely see the advent of personal actors hired for short to long custom stints performing in a black box to which the computer adds background and context, similar to the vid actors Neil Stephenson describes in Snow Crash. Extending this, real actors and computer automated characters will be hired for a multitude of purposes from entertainment to learning to caretaking to companionship/friendship/relationship.

With new virtual reality applications, entertainees can view/experience a typical film or series either selecting or being surprised by the characters, background, storyline, issues and emotional range. There will also be many other applications at a variety of levels of interactivity such as learning knowledge and skills, running simulations of real or imagined situations (e.g.; asking for a raise, discussing an issue with a family member or friend, competing in an athletic, gaming or other context), and interacting with other humans or characters in a more robust way (e.g.; one small example is superceding the limiting Sims Online or Second Life instant messenger text bubble interactions).

As William Gibson points out in Neuromancer, you can dial up any channel you want on the entertainment console, even one for being bored and not knowing which one to choose. In our future, the concept of entertainment may be redefined as a multifaceted ability to create and experience content and interaction.