Video camera The teenager next door is doing it in his bedroom.

The grandparents up the street are doing it in the park.

The school guidance counselor is doing it in the auditorium.

They're shooting video, and sometimes even editing it.

But who cares? Video plays everywhere. It's ubiquitous. It's so omnipresent as to be ordinary. It's about as surprising as a text message, as novel as a horseless carriage.

This never used to be the case, but as with all things technological, the extraordinary becomes ordinary faster than milk sours at room temperature. Is anyone surprised that you can add electric light to your dark living room with just the barest finger pressure against a plastic switch? Perhaps not, but if you lived in the middle of the 19th century, you'd be totally amazed.

Video has mutated into new, strange forms of micro-modernism and also harkened back to older forms that have been transmogrified into contemporary dialect.

Let us not even speak of embedded YouTube links. There's no point in deconstructing the value propositions for different creative groups to choose Vimeo over Vevo, Dailymotion over The Daily Show. The issue is that as the new lingua franca, video will eat itself if it cannot remember its origins.

Remember writing? Photography? Music?

What's interesting is how much those disciplines and countless others continue to play essential roles in the modern video lexicon, even if their cultural pedigrees are often buried under push-wipes and snap-pans and other electronic filigree.

The lament is that video's ubiquity has dampened the power of the medium. Like the thrill of seeing electric light for the first time in a world's fair pavilion, lightbulbs have no thrill at all when you're stumbling for one in the middle of a twenty-first century night. Video has only become omnipresent in the past decade.  Insofar as it's a tool available to millions if not billions of people, I have to wonder if the trend going forward is not the evolution and development of newer, better videos, but irrelevance. The moment we are inured to the power of something -- lightbulbs, for example--the moment they lose their hold on our consciousness. Video isn't there yet, but it was only a few years ago when it was an extraordinary thing to click on and play a video link in your web browser. Now it's ordinary to gulp down entire seasons of episodic television on a wireless tablet sitting on your couch or a stiff airport lounge chair. Sometimes I even catch a glimpse of people doing this in traffic, stopped at a light. (Put that phone down, please.)

Clearly there will continue to be new stories and new storytellers who bring all sorts of invention and power to this rapidly changing medium. But the era of amazement and thrill stemming from the medium itself has long since past. What's left to separate signal from noise, as it's always been throughout the history of creative enterprise, is the value of the content. Content is always king. Now that the dawn of the video era is over, no one can foretell what the long day of video's ubiquity will bring.


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Video? Bah!

Last week I mused about the value of photography when everyone's snapping shots willy-nilly. In the age of YouTube, Vimeo, and countless other outlets, does video provoke the same questions?

Nope. Video is not photography in motion. Moving pictures are different.

Okay, I know someone out there is going to bust on my ontological parsings. Someone's going to assert the obvious: videos and photographs are certainly closer than tomatoes and bulldozers. Fear not, this is not an academic deconstruction.

But video and photography not the same.

This is to say that video's ubiquity reflects a different phenomenon. Where photography freezes time, video extends time. Video is not so much the capturing of a moment that can be repeated in motion, but  a technique for reliving an experience, or experiencing it vicariously. When time stops for a photograph, we must stop too, even for an instant. We spend time with photographs considering single, immeasurable instants. No matter how briefly we flip through photographs we always spend more time with them than the asymptotically short amounts of time it takes to freeze that image.

Moving pictures have no such gravity. They're ephemeral, like sound. Unless they have either an unusual value afforded by some rare scene they've recorded or (and this is more to the point) a particularly refined aesthetic sense about their presentation, video is just a time-suck, a drain in the day, a deadening thickness of air.

Wait. What? Video? Time-waster?

Yes, video IS one of the biggest parts of our production company. And…why, yes, we DO think we're really, really good at it.

But video demands consumption of time differently than photographs. If you turn away from a photograph you've just seen, the singularity of that image has already been imprinted. If you turn away from video…you're missing it as it happens. People watch video while doing other things, no doubt, but they're not watching intensely, deeply. You cannot ponder what you do not fully sense, and you cannot fully sense visual media without seeing it.

So, does video ever have a place in fine art? Does video ever matter? I believe it does. But it's not the same as a photograph in motion. Video excels at telling stories, at narrative trajectories and passage of time. Photography captures feelings and moods. No doubt each discipline can steal air from the other's balloon: video can evoke moods while a picture can tell stories in single frames. But if you're asking someone to invest time in a moment you consider important enough to share, be sure you've chosen the right tool for the job.


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