It’s mid-October as I write this. For those of us who still work in the delayed-gratification world of print publishing, that means we’re putting another year to bed here. This means it’s time for our annual “Best of 2008” issue, in which our writers address the products that stood out for them this year and the trends they believe defined our industry in 2008.
Kind of Blue
When we launched EventDV in 2005, the biggest story was the release of the Sony HDR-FX1, the first HDV camera that matched up with our segment of the market. But that didn’t necessarily mean it was time to start shooting HD any more than the introduction of HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc meant it was time to start delivering HD. One of the biggest obstacles to investing in HD disc production equipment disappeared when Toshiba withdrew HD DVD in February. But eliminating one format didn’t remove the lingering issue with delivering HD on disc, regardless of the format: Very few consumers had Blu-ray playback equipment installed in their homes.
This is changing, however slowly. And with Blu-ray being the only disc format standing in the world of HD social event video, it’s not too outlandish a sell to recommend to clients that the delivery of their wedding event video marks the perfect occasion to upgrade to Blu-ray. And anecdotally, this year found more videographers making genuine Blu-ray sales, Steve Jobs' self-interested "bag of hurt" slights aside.
A key factor in this trend is the availability of two great Blu-ray-capable authoring tools that were introduced this year: Adobe Encore CS4 and Sony DVD Architect 5. Although “big” Sony and the Sony Creative team behind Vegas aren’t as intimate as you might imagine, Blu-ray support in DVD Architect seems like a natural, in part because of Sony’s close identification with Blu-ray, but also because the Vegas/DVD Architect engineering team works in the same Madison, Wis., facility that developed Blu-print, Sony’s Hollywood-caliber Blu-ray authoring solution. Encore CS4 is actually the second version of the Adobe suite staple to offer Blu-ray support, but it’s the first edition to capture the other thing that’s really cool about Blu-ray: pop-up menus. Nothing makes DVD seem more old school in our digital TV/TiVo home-viewing world than having to jerk the viewer awkwardly out of a movie to access the menus we’ve so painstakingly constructed. Blu-ray pop-up menus bring the DVD experience into the 21st century. Kudos to Adobe for being the first company to make it work on a prosumer level.
What’s more, you’re in a very nice niche vis à vis Blu-ray if you’re doing high-end weddings and social events. You’re dealing with clients who can afford HDTV—they probably already have it. You can also make money with Blu-ray without getting into volume production, which means prohibitive AACS licensing fees if you have to send a disc to a replicator. From what I can tell, virtually none of you are sending Blu-ray Discs out for replication. If your company isn’t named Universal, Sony Pictures, Disney, or Warner Bros., I suggest you keep it that way.
Birth of the Cool
One key trend in the wedding and social event video industry is the “cult of cool” surrounding WedFACT and Re:Frame. Even though “being cool” isn’t so much what these groups are about as a sense that what we do is cool, it’s part of the vibe, and it isn’t a bad thing. For wedding videographers in particular it’s been a long journey, perceptionwise, from obtrusive and amateur to respected and professional—let alone to be recognized for talent and artistry on a par with photographers. WEVA, for one, has done vital work in changing this perception over time.
Key to this idea of professionalism has been an “unobtrusiveness” that verges on invisibility. It’s easy to see the logic in that, but lurking within it is the notion that you, as a videographer, have something to apologize for.
Sometimes you need to be noticed. The same-day edit is probably the best way to show the crowd who you are, but it’s not the only way. In recent years our industry has grown much more aware of the importance of a brand identity that’s keyed to your personality and style. WedFACT and Re:Frame’s version is a sort of “film school cool” that’s rarely been associated with wedding and event videography. Prime example: WedFACT-er Jason Magbanua, a hip, young wedding filmmaker who has style and substance in abundance, work as good as any in the world, and seamless branding that extends even to his t-shirts. He’d be too cool for school in any business.
Granted, most cults of cool come with a measure of exclusivity and take pains to point out who’s cool and who’s not. That hasn’t been the vibe of Re:Frame so far, and it’s much less the vibe of WedFACT than it may have been at the outset. If a new image of event videographers as hip filmmakers can sweep out our old and undeserved reputation, that will benefit everyone. Even for those of us who may never rack up many cool points on our own, a little “cool by association” could still be great for business. Imagine a world where brides who don’t even “get” the value of video are booking high-end videographers just because it’s the hip thing to do. It’s not exactly what we’ve all been working toward, but it sure would be cool.
Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV.