han solo star wars

Videography dumbed down and doomed by technology? Han Solo gives us a New Hope

Videographers / directors / film makers, admit it, technology has you a little worried.

Worried because you’re seeing DSLRs and other cameras becoming better and more idiot proof, so that even the most average of Joe on the street can pick up a camera and get decent footage. You saw what advances in technology did to the photography profession: at the least, it disrupted the profession. At most, it destroyed much of it.

Cameras have gotten so good and so easy to use that the average consumer just doesn’t feel the need to hire a photographer anymore. Much (not all) of that work has dried up (most of the high-end work is still available, but the prosumer market / PT hobbyist photographer work has vanished). I can’t say everyone experienced the same thing, but I started in photography (rather than video) and most of that work tapered off once cameras started getting more advanced.   

If you shoot video for a living, you might be worried about the same thing: better, more automated cameras means less work. Worse, videography might take the same hit as photography because more and more DIY average Joes can use a video camera and won’t need you…us. That’s a little scary, isn’t it?

“I am starting to get a bad feeling about this.” [Blatant Star Wars reference].

Well, I started to get a bad feeling about all of this until something actually in Star Wars IV (A New Hope) reminded me that access to better and cheaper technology will not wreck the film market, so don’t worry, fellow videographers.

Remember the scene when Han, Luke, Ben, and Chewie first met at Mos Eisley space station on Tatooine? Of course you do.

Luke and Ben are the clients in this scene. They need to hire a pilot to transport them and the two droids to Alderaan.

Han and Chewie are like you and me: the vendors…the service providers who have the gear and who have the skill to service the clients.

Even though I’ll bet you know how the scene plays out, I’ll lay it out for you:

Han Solo. I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you’re looking for passage to the Alderaan system.

Yes, indeed. If it’s a fast ship.

Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?

Should I have?

It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs! I’ve outrun Imperial starships, not the local bulk-cruisers, mind you. I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now. She’s fast enough for you, old man. What’s the cargo?

Only passengers. Myself, the boy, two droids, and no questions asked.

What is it? Some kind of local trouble?

Let’s just say we’d like to avoid any Imperial entanglements.

Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? And it’s going to cost you something extra. Ten thousand in advance.

Ten thousand? We could almost buy our own ship for that!

But who’s going to fly it, kid! You?

It’s a cool scene to relive, but what’s worth highlighting in this dialog is Han’s last line, “But who’s going to fly it…?”

Think about this in the context of filming: just because technology is affording the average person access to better gear, does that mean they won’t need film experts? Going back to Star Wars, even if Luke and Ben actually had a Millennium Falcon, could they have flown it? The answer in both cases is “no.” A director…a pilot…is still needed.

So here’s an example, a dentist (yep you read that right, a dentist and not a professional film maker) showed me some some pretty damn-good GoPro footage shot using a gimbal while visiting a fishing harbor in New England. I admit, it was impressive stuff. However, after watching 30-45 seconds of the footage I was left feeling, “What is the point of all of this? Where is this going?” It wasn’t long before I got bored and moved on to something else.

Ultimately, there was no point to the footage—it was just eye candy. No message, no emotion, no story, and no thought behind what was shot—it was just “hit record” and see if I can put something together in post.

I suppose it’s possible for someone to pick up a high-end video camera and start filming after watching enough YouTube tutorials, but at best they’ll just end up with eye candy—like what the dentist shared with me. And sure, there are stock footage gigs that pay for eye candy footage, but outside of them, are corporate video clients, wedding gigs, music video clients, short film enthusiasts, and documentary lovers going to pay top dollar for just eye candy? No. They demand more: plot, story, a compelling marketing message, branding, structure, pacing, character development, etc. In short, they’ll demand that the video project keeps their interest. Cameras, at least right now, cannot be switched to “story mode,” so an experienced director necessary.

Going back to our Star Wars analogy, clients like Luke and Ben might have the ability (because of advancing technology and cheaper prices) to purchase something they have no business using (a starship, Red Epic, or Canon C300). However, in using these objects for more than a paper weight (very large paperweights), you need an experienced operator and not an amateur (sorry, Luke, you weren’t ready to pilot the Falcon).

Maybe someday you’ll be able to drop all of your footage into a Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, click the documentary, comedy, product marketing, or short film “button,” and after two minutes of rendering, out pops a piece that is visually stunning as well as compelling. Today isn’t that day, and I don’t see that day on the horizon either.

Don’t sweat newer, cost-effective, and better technology—it will help the work you do, and not take it away. Remember, “Fear leads to the dark side of the force.” Besides, there’s a bright future for talented directors who can tell a compelling story, stir people’s emotions, or even effectively sell a corporate client’s product/service. You’re going to be just fine.