NOT Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

By Tom Peters |

movie cameraThroughout nearly all of the twentieth century, large companies controlled the creation, dissemination, and viewing of video information. Motion pictures started first, with television added as another layer in mid-century. Video really was a carefully controlled broadcast medium. The phrase, “Coming Soon to a Theater Near You!" captures in a nutshell how public anticipation for a new release of a movie was carefully orchestrated. Time-shifting, place-shifting, and format-shifting generally were not encouraged.

Early in the development of the motion picture industry the companies controlled the production, distribution, and screening of their products—until the U.S. federal government broke up those vertical monopolies.

Of course, throughout most of the past century, smaller companies and individuals could produce motion pictures, videos, and even television shows, but what they lacked were distribution systems and screening opportunities. Unless you could get beyond merely roping your family and friends into your den to watch those “hilarious" home movies, your video efforts would not have much impact. Late in the century, community-access channels on cable TV systems changed that a little, but not much.

When the VHS tape and then the DVD became popular, libraries—in a small way, in the grand scheme of things—participated in this rather constrained production and distribution system.

But this situation may change rapidly in the twenty-first century. The technological and financial barriers to creating video content have declined dramatically, and new Web-based distribution systems have popped up. In the 1970s, everyone seemed to be a poet. In this decade, everyone seems to be his or her own video-production "team."

Honey, They Even Shrunk the Theater!
Theaters used to be huge, with large screens. Then the multiplexes with smaller screens came along, about the same time that viewing movies in one’s home became equally popular. The future of video playback may be on portable playback devices, such as the iPod, the PlayStation Portable, and the new Zen Vision:M device just announced by

Screencasting (e.g., a video that basically captures what’s happening on your computer screen with voiceover), vodcasting (video podcasts), and vlogs (video blogs—a rare instance of a contraction squared, because "blog" itself is a contraction) are taking advantage of the new emerging video world order.

For several reasons, librarians need to pay attention to these developments and respond accordingly. Librarians should seriously consider getting into this new video business, if they haven’t already done so. For example, screencasting would be a great way to create and distribute brief video tutorials about how to use many online library systems and services, from doing an author search in the online catalog to using your library’s virtual reference service.

Also, library patrons soon will expect more video content from libraries, well beyond the major motion-picture releases and educational films supplied by the major video vendors to libraries. Video productions from local organizations and individuals could be archived by the local library. The need to establish and maintain some sort of “videographic control" over this new wave of video production is significant.