Saturday, July 26, 2008

BBC - "Web is the new home to innovation"

Sent: 30 August 2002 13:01
Subject: Re: David meeting with Stuart Murphy yesterday
Hi David,
I’m on the case with all this. Was really excellent to meet you.

It was for me a simple idea, glimpsing a future of the web; video online.

And for the hour or so with the commissioning editor of BBC 3 the future had arrived.

A film looking at young people in intel and plastic surgery in Ghana met with Stuart's effusive approval.

Both would be accompanied by web promos, viral, made for the attention challenged, which months earlier I'd used with some success working for Lennox Lewis, then gunning for the undisputed title against Mike Tyson.

But 2002 was not quite there; modem speeds averaged 56k and video journalism was to many an anagram for a sexual disease. TV ruled. Yeeah!

In 2004 became a sandpit to exercise my digital demons; test what could work: embedded video, zoo video, hyperlinking, mash ups, a push from where once video journalism occupied the frayed edges of the media.

It appeared to be working, if awards are an indication of that. Now the web was the only black.

BBC Ariel - Web Innovation
At the BBC today for a meeting, I picked up their in house journal: Ariel.

In it veteran TV maker Mark Harrison, who heads up their multiplatform productions, is extolling the BBC to harness new talent for making TV online.

Ariel's Features Editor Zoe Kleinman reports Mark saying: "that young people with creative ideas won't wait around for an exec producer to give them a TV commission and instruct them to stick to a format".

A similar point was made by the Corporation's Director General, Mark Thompson, when I interviewed him.

Mash up intro from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

TV is spent of new creative ideas, Harrison is quoted: "It's (TV's) scope for innovation has run out".

He points to Bloody Omaha - a youtube video by BBC graphic designers as the most visually exciting piece of work in the last twelve months.

All these hit the spot.

Video journalism, a craft in itself and Siamese of the web, requires different stanzas and visual themes that TV would still consider ill conceived.

Video hyperlinking dismembers the exposition, while the Outernet and multiple screens asks filmmakers to think beyond common visual parlance.

It's no surprise that in one respect graphic designers should be the ones to light Harrison and millions of us' fires. In Digital Diversity, an authored feature aired in Berlin cinemas (sorry Flash had no video controls when I made this so I'll have to re-export), and features such as Ones and zeros for graphic-based magazine's like Blue Print, I've waxed much prose about them.

"It was the graphic community who first got the net; consider what Hillman Curtis would do with a camera; Rob Chiu treats a canvas like he's Pollock; Nine months is the most seminal piece of web multimedia ever; and who can forget the original breakthrough movie 405 by Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt - the Blair Witch for online film making"

And the one thing all of the above have in common is they're all graphic designers or visual creatives.

Geekdom is cool
Ahh 1998 the cool era of geekdom, the dogtown of web films, when the geeks traded bit rates and bytes and as a subscriber to the first Computer Arts mag, Production Solutions and Video Age, I might actually make a confession today: " Yes my name is David Dunkley Gyimah and I was a geek, but I'm dry now and have been for many years"

There's something about spatial thinking, that unlike journalism which confides itself to a linear set of parameters: "who, what,when,how and why", allows visual linguists to see beyond the journalists' end point.

TV's 3d becomes the web's 4d, a kind of i-axis (one for the mathematicians - go on you know you want to) and an integrated multimedia video journalism approach to media maker.

"I must think spatial; I must think spatial".

Online then, the final product would be a compositional configuration unlike its TV delivery.

In part its boils down to the skill set within this this evolving construct; nothing is impossible with After Effects, Combustion, Commotion or Flash.

Here's a game: bark the last four pieces of software at a journalist friend and see how the react; then do the same for a graphic designer and listen to them tell you how Gladiator or Saving Private Ryan was created, or Tron, slash, my visual favourite 300 was eked together almost entirely in green screen.

Video Journalism is a sibling of the web age bringing together film making, motion graphics, code, tagging, 369, and an emphasis on right side thinking.

That much I have said in the face of raised eye brows and the odd guffaw.

But it can only be good for the industry to see other professionals, particularly within established media such as newspapers and broadcasters, thinking and rallying the troops.

It makes what we all do all that more acceptable.

Call to arms
Harrison's ask is for the BBC to think beyond TV schedules acknowledging that the skills for the future, as trained storytellers are already in house and that would be true for a vast organisation such as the BBC.

But the seeds for a departure from TV to Kansas-is-going-bye- bye movies, may not necessarily lie in the paradigms of traditional story telling. It may be a whole new discipline in itself and TV grammar style rules which make great TV, may not always suffice.

It would be a bit like a native Indian circa 1700 acquiring a musket for the first time and placing it within their bow, believing if it zinged and fire at the same time as a projectile ..... yep you're ahead of me.

The other story I like pulling out in my quasi comedy act, is that of travellers finding new land only to be met by natives who speak a 'primitive' language'.

Captain: "Giles go over there and communicate with those people, you're a linguist
Giles to natives: "HEY YOU ( really shouting) DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH, YES ENGLISH?
Natives: ( Stare with bemused expressions)

100 years on all the Islanders are speaking English - a superior alphabet-numero system
1000 years on historians discover those travellers wiped away a highly complex and unique language.

Perhaps in time, the new dawn could embrace emerging talent both within and outside the corporation with a whole new commissioning process.

For it's possible, history has shown us that the disruptive forces that have brought traditional and citizen TV makers, for want of a better word, together, now, may have a bigger surprise in store.

We're averaging 4-8mb at the moment.

In a world of 100mb standard we'll be hyperlinking ourselves through presence reality and a host of story telling techniques which will make TV, barely 50 years old, seem like a walk on the heath.

And then the next generation of young people may not even gives us notice of their intent. We'll need each other even more.

Disclosure: emails are a personal communication and as a member of and active endorser of Chatham house rules, I have only published a benign part of mt email exchanges with BBC 3's commissioner, Stuart Murphy.

David Dunkley Gyimah started his broadcast career with the BBC in 1987. He's now a senior lecturer and practicing VJ doing his PhD in storytelling innovation. He is one of the jury members at this year's International Video Journalism Awards in Mainz

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