Vodcasting: Poor name, poor quality

Desperate to get in there first, Wired has done an article on Vodcasting. Vodcasting? Why, podcasting but with video of course.

Why Wired decided to grab this name, I don't know, because I doubt very much whether it will stick, but anyway there is definitely something afoot with this video on the Net stuff. And Wired provides an interesting array of facts about it.

It will be interesting to see what happens with video. It is, of course, the combination of Internet technologies, broadband Internet links and the massive drop in digital recording technology that has made all this possible, but then video is a very different beast to blogging – where you just type – and podcasting – where you just talk.

Editing blogs is very simple – you just change words. Editing podcasts is harder and you need to learn some basic radio skills. Plus the quality of podcasts varies massively and if you want to do a good job you have to have good equipment and learn more skills.

Video is an even bigger jump than the one from blogging to audio podcasting. You have to have the camera. You have to understand filming techniques if you want it to look anything but amateurish. You have to learn a lot more about file sizes and formats. You then need a piece of editing software which you have to learn, and then you have to learn about editing pictures, and cutting them with sound.

It is very far from simple blogging and podcasting and it is also much more expensive. Which means, inevitably, that fewer people will do it. So I don't see the same explosion happening. And this appears to be borne out by what there actually is on the Web at the moment.

There is YouTube, which is, or was, the first stop. And Blinx which appears to be a professional job but is a bit irritating in that I can't ever seem to find something I want to watch, and it has annoying American ads. And then of course Google has got in on the game. And then there are some smaller ones.

I've checked them all out and, frankly, they're amusing for 10 minutes or so but you soon tire of them. Basically it's low-quality news clips, five-minute Japanese animations and occasional “You've Been Framed” idiot moments. There are some spoofs which range massively in quality – with most in the low-end.

There was one great spoof for the sequel to Titanic: “Titanic: Two the surface”. But these gems are few and far between. Google has spawned a miniature culture of people miming to pop songs which is amusing but will disappear into Net folklore in next to no time.

But it has great potential. Joitchi Ito for example has put a full-length TV programme on his blog (most of it is unfortunately in Japanese) about Creative Commons and himself and so on. This is clearly a wonderful step forward – but it still required the skills of a director.

Are millions of people going to learn how to do complex filming and editing? I doubt it very much. But then who cares, because what the Internet is doing – all over again – is opening up the whole market. If you are good, if the films you make are original and interesting you *will* be found by the industry. That is a wonderful gift to budding film-makers.

Which is why I find it strange that there aren't a massive proliferation of film-maker websites. There is one at Undergroundfilm.org. But I have to say I thought the top-rated short was pretty poor. Still, I imagine we'll see lots more of these.

And good because I have been itching to join this revolution. I went on a BBC filming course late last year for this very reason. I can't wait to get my book finished so I can go buy a video camera and start knocking out high-quality videos – interviews, reviews, daft shorts and so on.

The BBC is also leading the field here because it isn't worried about being ripped off like the commercial providers. For example you can already get some BBC2 programmes online, repeats if you missed a programme and so on. If you have video editing software, you can grab these programmes and save them on your hard drive and then share them over P2P networks of course – opening up the TV industry to the exact same issues facing the music and film industries.

Of course from the industry side of things, it really, really needs to learn the lessons of the past and spend less time and money worrying about the impact and then trying to curb it through the law courts and instead build its own high-quality system which it can add small charges to.

After all, most people do prefer the real thing to piracy – but more importantly, they can't be arsed to go searching around the Internet finding bits and bobs – they want to go to one place and just check out what is there. The simpler the industry makes that process for the average Net user, the less it has to fear from digital piracy.

As for Average Joe who wants to makes videos and stick them up online however, the big, big stumbling block is that making video costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. And that means if the financial rewards aren't there and adequate, it is not going to be possible to step alot of time doing it. We shall see if people are willing to pay for video in a way they aren't for blogging and podcasting. It's possible. But I'm not holding my breath. Internet users would much rather laugh at a woman falling over while trying to throw a javelin.