YouTube, SchmooTube

I want to know why YouTube thinks they’re going to take over my TV. Actually, to read that post it sounds like they expect to take over my freakin’ life. But have you watched a lot of long-form video on youTube? I don’t think I’ve successfully watched anything over ten minutes. I tried to watch some longer stuff, like political documentaries or some such, but it’s blurry and the content wasn’t interesting, and that is not the future of my TV.

And the rest of it, that’s not professional material pseudo-legally posted onto the site? Crappy home videos and shit. Sometimes literally, shit. I mean come on now. This cannot stand!

The future of my TV should be stuff like Dr. Horrible. Professionally (if rapidly) produced and acted, with good production values that looks awesome (ok at least passable) on my giant HDTV and sounds awesome on my surround sound stereo. I want to see laser beams and shit!

Not literal shit.

Shit as a metaphor for “more stuff like laser beams”.

I guess what I’m saying is really that I lament the idea that sometime in the future the only way to satisfy my entertainment jones, which mostly consists of science fiction, documentaries, and lifestyle television (y’know, like Project Runway and Mythbusters and Top Chef), will be watching short-form videos shot on consumer-level equipment (you know, real TV cameras cost like $100k), written, if they’re written at all, by amateurs, performed by amateurs, directed by amateurs, sound recorded by amateurs, lighting by amateurs, set-design by whoever’s house it was shot at, post-process done on somebody’s MacBook, etc. etc.

Granted, YouTube’s video quality will improve, bandwidth will increase, equipment will get cheaper (but it’s a function of size sometimes, lenses are physical things that have to be a certain size to be really really good). But that really doesn’t matter if the people making the material aren’t of a professional grade.

I want to be entertained by professionals, or people who have skills at a professional grade. Amateur videography, when it’s entertaining, is almost alway entertaining only because it’s shocking or unusual. Like crazy people who have cable access shows. By and large, amateur videography is not good drama, it’s not good sci-fi, it’s not good comedy. It’s usually the video equivalent of listening to a college radio talk show. UGH!

I think this is often because amateurs just don’t know how hard you have to work to make something professional. In their own day jobs they might know what a professional standard is for, say, making paper. Smooth, rich, creamy, perfectly bleached paper with little hearts printed in faded out pink at the top. But how far you have to go in some other industry is just plain lost on so many people who refuse to acknowledge their own ignorance.

How do you get that pristine video look, like watching The Big Bang Theory in its pristine glory in 1080i? The set is decorated with lots of detail that plays into the characters and backstory. The actors are dressed in complementary colors that go with the set and play up their character features. Everything is well-lit for the camera, everybody has the appropriate amount of makeup on to look natural on camera. It’s a professional job by a team of professionals.

Now, it could very well be that somebody might make something on a recurring basis that is amateurishly presented and yet hilarious, or gripping. Maybe people feel that way about Lonelygirl15. But we know now that the people behind that Web show are pros. And we have an idea, from interviews, how much time, thought, and work went into making the show work. And I would bet dollars to donuts that they’re constantly struggling to make the next piece, financially and creatively. It’s hard.

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. And that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I dread the day. Dread. It.

I think YouTube is the Great White Hype of entertainment. The professional entertainers are over there smoking and drinking and getting all fat, and betting on themselves anyway because they know the amateurs when it comes down to it just don’t have the skills to compete.

God I hope I’m right about that. Or if I’m not right about that then I hope I’m wrong about the other thing too, and amateur videography/filmmaking turns out to be just wonderful and content-rich and the blessing of my existence.

I invite examples that assuage my fears.

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2 comments

  1. I don’t know if I agree with you 100% here. I don’t think YouTube is ever going to replace regular TV, but its appeal, at least to me, is finding the occasional diamond in the rough. Of course nearly everything on the site is stupid and unwatchable, but what I appreciate is that it gives amateurs a voice and place to display their creativity. Nine times out of ten, that “creativity” will be singing along to a song because someone else did it first. But before the internet, there was almost nowhere that a non-professional could show their work. I’ve seen some really good short films on there that I never would have seen otherwise. I like a system that circumvents the traditional bullshit methods of becoming a “professional,” the same methods that gave us the Disaster Movie guys and Jessica Alba. YouTube is at a different level. I’m not saying it’s better than mainstream entertainment (though it’s hardly much worse) – I just like the fact that an alternative exists.

  2. I don’t disagree with that at all. But the point is that YouTube isn’t anywhere near being able to supplant all of my television “needs”. And diamond-in-the-rough is great as far as it goes, but without professionals there’d be no Jurassic Park, and they’ll pry Jurassic Park from my cold dead hands before I’ll let them take it away.

    It’s true that you can be professional-level and not be a “professional”. We know that from making music that would stand up to any songwriter, if not any production engineer. But to say imply that the future is in the amateur production (“13 hours is uploaded every day” or whatever it was) is really just distressing when I think about it, though when I think about it I quickly calm down, because I know that it’s not going to happen.

    The signal to noise ratio, if all video is YouTube video, will be really aggravating unless there are ways to cut through the dross– which there would be.

    Maybe the point is that YouTube (and hopefully its competition– which hardly exists right now) might someday be the only venue for video work pro or amateur, and I’m not certain that’s a good thing because people almost never have any idea what it takes to really be up to par with today’s best presentation equipment.

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