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The State of Internet Video

While at the NewTeeVee Conference, Justin made a good observation, saying -- "It kind of feels like it's a frat house, and while we're guests at that frat house, no one really knows who we are." Or why we didn't bring any beer.

Generally, we didn't mind. We can't really compare ourselves to anyone, even Goodnight Burbank -- a good show -- isn't really like Break a Leg. In fact, most of the internet video community is either vlogging, people talking about vlogging, people satirizing vlogging, or people just talking to a camera -- which, really, is vlogging. Or flogging, as Larry would say.

Everyone vlogs and flogs and no one makes any money -- or they do, but not a lot. And then we hear things like, "There's no money in internet video." My theory is that there's no money in internet video because there's no quality in internet video. In other words, most of internet video is horrendous.

The current community prides itself for not being like regular TV. And so it has created a funny community where everyone knows each other and holds gatherings like the Winnies, and pats themselves on the back, but really, we're promoting sub-par material.

Okay, before I get lynched -- I'm not saying everything out there made by independent creators is sub-par. I'm just saying that everyone pats each other on the back and doesn't push their cohorts into making something better or different. So what happens? Sub-par material. Okay, maybe I was saying that.

It's a funny time. Because it feels like the independent creators are stubbornly holding on to making cheap, easy things that look, well, not so good by, say, professional standards, while professionals try to make their own professional videos look hip and bad, so that the internet loves them (I'm looking at you, Quarterlife.)

When people ask me what I watch online, I have a really hard time answering. Honestly? I watch Space Wasters -- which is a local San Francisco show that's generally just starting up (I'll write a blog on them soon) and it's, I think, really funny and a lot better than a lot of stuff that's out on the internet. Can it get better? Of course. It can have better sound, sharper cuts, etc. But the same can be said about Break a Leg -- and both we and I'm sure, Space Wasters, try to improve on each episode.

And that's really what I'm getting at. It feels like no one is trying to improve. Every idea is: "OKAY SO THERE'S THIS WEBCAM." or, "I'm going to make a mock news show... on my webcam." Someone, for the love of God, just buy a damned camera.

Until the community stops patting itself on the back and rallies together saying -- you know what? Let's stop complimenting one another on how cheaply made our show is. Let's actually work hard on creating interesting characters, plots, stories -- art.   

Am I saying Break a Leg is an example of what I'm saying? I think I'm saying that. And if you, for a moment, think I'm arrogant for saying so -- well, you may be right. But the fact that Justin has to pencil in his girlfriend for a date or that we have to sneak a few hours here and there to relax and play a video game once in a while shows that we're dedicated to this quality thing. Because we're dedicated to this entertainment thing. Because we've been raised to believe that mediocrity is not acceptable. Because, once everyone realizes it -- the future of the internet isn't thousands of vlogs or hundreds of sleepy kittens, it's interesting, well-put together entertainment that can make you laugh, cry and sit rapt in front of your screen, waiting for the next installment of whatever you're watching to come out.

If only we can get there already.


Addendum: Two things.

One, I'm not really speaking to your general YouTuber or any of you guys that are just making videos to be part of a community, to talk, to have fun, etc. That's not at all who I'm speaking to. In fact, I think it's great that the Internet provides that kind of access and I support it wholeheartedly. I'm talking about the people who dedicate themselves to creating internet shows, specifically, to entertain audiences. I feel they have a certain obligation to push themselves to get better and grow in everything they do.

Secondly, I definitely like more than one show online. I'm a big fan of Joey and David, Robb's show, Life from the Inside is good, a lot of For Your Imagination shows are unique and fun (and I'm not just saying that because they're our marketing guys -- I honestly mean that. Plus, they're our marketing guys!)

Thirdly, I love the word addendum. I don't even think I know how to pronounce it, but boy, is it pretty.

Posted on Thursday, December 6, 2007 by Registered CommenterBreak a Leg | Comments6 Comments
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Reader Comments (6)

But yuri!
When would we have time to complain that vlogging doesn't make money if we were working so hard for quality?

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKai

I agree with you completely, Yuri.

This is what attracted me to BaL, it was funny, and it seemed professional.

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNick

what nick said.

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

So I figure I'll add my two cents into here, being a part of this whole production we so lovingly and mercilessly dedicate ourselves too.

We definitely are living in an interesting time, it's a time where just about anyone nowadays can grab hold of some equipment (I'm thinking film, but I suppose all the porn sites might be thinking something else), come up with an idea, and get some content out to anyone who cares to see it. This content ranges from amazingly horrible to just plain amazing, but tends to, as Yuri so subtly pointed out, lean more towards the horrendous.

Now having worked on Break a Leg so long and being an editor, I've been learning as I go some of the concepts behind making a successful film product (at least I like to think so, successful is rather relative, at the moment my idea of successful isn't including money, but it sure would be swell if it did :0).). One of the main concepts I've stumbled upon being the line that is walked in creating something new and refreshing vs. going with something that has already proven to be successful. Go too far towards something that's already worked and it'll just be the same old stuff, boring, people have already seen it. On the opposite end go too far towards something new and inventive and people won't be able to relate, too unique isn't usually marketable. So the line has to be walked between creating something that people will love, yet is just different enough that they don't feel like they've already watched it. This is why pretty much every movie or TV show or whatever form of entertainment that comes out is pretty much the same old story, just with new characters and plot.

Ok, I don't wanna babble on that for too long, I'm getting sidetracked. My point being that pre-internet era, our access to entertainment was limited to material that went through a vigorous screening process by folks who looked for exactly what I'm talking about. Material that will appeal to the masses, preferably enough of the masses to make the people putting this material out a boatload of cash. But now the times they are a changin', and depending on your perspective it's either glorious or horrific, probably both. Now we're seeing the rise of YouTube and MySpace and Blip.tv, and Revver, and so on and so forth down the line. Sites where people come together to release content, a whole slew of different content. So what we get, is opportunity. Opportunity for folks like us to put out a show to you kindly people (or not so kindly, I'm looking at you mr. "Gay!" commenter, unless you mean it in a good way, I'd hate to misunderstand). But with this opportunity comes the lack of someone to filter the content for us (Well, sort of, there are of course people behind what videos are featured and so on, but this is largely based on how many people are watching, it's a democratic popularity contest driven medium), so we get to look amongst this sea of content and decide for ourselves what we like.

Anyhoo, at the moment we're still kind of stuck in no-man's land. It's a giant mixed bag of content, the majority of it still independently produced, and the majority not living up to the quality we expect from mediums such as Television and Film. But that too is starting to change, big networks are making their move, we've already got full length high quality shows being placed on the net (not just the pirated kind mind you) and it won't be long till this may even become the standard, I'm visualizing TV's connected to the net, think DVR's but with more control and freedom. Actually I believe that's already been done, but I don't think it's been done in a format that caught on.

So where does that leave us? Me personally I think it's great that the internet allows for such an outlet, I can't complain, as it's what's making our show possible, and opinions are never set, I'm sure there are people out there that may think our show wouldn't make the cut if we were to crack down on the net's material (that opinion is of course wrong). That passive statement being said. I do think that there is a large possibility for quality content to be distributed on this new wild frontier of interactive entertainment. And I'd hate to see it all go to waste on repetitive boring and/or stale material. I think shows like Quarterlife are a step in the right direction, in that they're going for actual plot meaning and quality, but I'm not a huge fan of the show, it's trying to hard to be hip, and to fit into this whole vlogging culture. That's more a gripe about the quality of the story as opposed to the quality of the production however. I know there are people out there capable of creating quality entertainment. I've seen it, I'm with Yuri on Space-Wasters, and I've seen a number of other shows and shorts that fit the bill. There are a lot of talented people out there, and I want to see that coming out. I think we're starting to make the move, but let's see it happen already. People are worried there isn't any money in internet media, but I don't think that's the case. Plenty of people are already going to the internet for their entertainment, and granted most people in this ADD culture can't watch anything longer then 5 minutes without bursting into flames. But I think that too can change, I've seen plenty of people watching full length material on the net (especially in working situations) the ability to pause and resume is pretty freeing after all.

So there's this giant heap of potential and opportunity out there, let's see people start pushing for quality. We can keep the kittens, there's nothing wrong with a little cat nap every now and again, but that doesn't mean we can't have some quality long form entertainment too. It's just like TV, you've got your Reality garbage (disgustingly entertaining in it's own way), and you've got your Pushing Daisies or Rescue Me or Dr. Who or 24 or Californication or Sopranos or... see how long I can go on? Let's see some of that out there ;0).

that may have been significantly more then 2 cents...

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDashiell

That was like forty dollars worth, Dash.

December 6, 2007 | Registered CommenterBreak a Leg

This whole "quality" internet show thing is still pretty new. But it's catching on. Of course, I'm not talking about the "how-to" shows or the niche podcasts (a lot of which have really raised their game lately). I'm talking about pure entertainment. Building a show from the ground up. Not simply piggybacking on the popularity of preestablished characters or fan bases.

Right now this is pretty much relegated to the intrepid independent Internet producer who labors out of love and a vague dream that someday the money will come.

And it will.

But a precedent needs to be set first. A precedent of good content that results in an audience (i.e. revenue). And there are a few shows that are helping to set that precedent (BaL is definitely on of them).

When we started our show, that was one of our goals as well. To show that you don't need a huge budget (or ANY budget) to have good stuff on the Internet. And I think people are starting to figure that out. Since we started our show, at least 200,000 other shows have sprung up online. And they're getting better. When we first set out to do our show (a year and a half ago), I scoured the web for other people's content. What I found was laughable (and not in a good way). A few people were making valiant attempts, but no one really put any real effort into it (there were, of course, one or two exceptions). But now people are starting to realize the potential for this medium.

And the major studios are starting to realize it too. Sure, they’re producing “low-quality” stuff right now, but eventually they’ll want to tap into a broader market. That’s where the quality will come from. The studios will be able to call upon the full power of their marketing machines to actually get people to watch (especially when they produce something that they’re proud of). And that will be it. We’ll have crossed the threshold. The line between “online” content and “network” content will fade away.

The independent producers will be pushed out, and the cycle of life will continue.

Wait, where was I going with this?

...Oh, yeah, do we really need another freaking stupid internet “The Office” rip-off?! What’s with that?!

Yeah, I think that’s what I was trying to say.

December 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobb

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