Software will eat Hollywood, bringing two risks with it
Not everybody’s software, by the way. Not if things remain as today.
Two of the world largest film studios, WarnerMedia and Disney, are moving most, perhaps all, of their premium movie content to streaming platforms. The move, as explained at ZDNet, will forever change the way film and television is produced, monetized, and consumed.
It’s the software, baby
Much of that disruption is due to software, with COVID-19 only playing the unconscious accelerator. A traditionally produced blockbuster movie can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and take up to a year in computer graphic processing and other tasks after the last shot.
Software continues to cut those and all other all costs hugely, together with production times and economics risks. It’s software that makes it possible to produce and distribute a whole eight-episodes season of The Mandalorian, advertise it online and make millions of people worldwide watch it at a cost of about 120 USD millions. Because it is only thanks to software that giants like Disney can have:
- entire production happening in one “highly controlled studio environment, where the physical sets are blended with backdrop scenery, in real-time, projected onto massive LED display units*
- everything rendered and reviewable in real time, without reshoots, or waiting for fair weather, or the right sunlight
- cheap, but extremely controlled distribution via streaming
- very cheap marketing, via social media
- less and less middlemen in all stages of the chain, or fleshy staff that needs salaries, food or rest. Including actors, in the medium/long term, thanks to “deep fake” video techniques
Working in this manner, “Instead of a few big-budget feature films per year, a studio like Disney can produce eight or more different series in episodic format”. It seems almost certain that “every single major film and TV studio will [work in that way] within the next few years”.
At home, more of the same
Interactive tech deployed to keep movie viewers locked will bring in every living room:
- orwellian advertising to every screen: “Do you love Baby Yoda in this scene? Buy his stuffed animal from Disney’s store, instantly.”
- real time chat about what we are viewing, with its interpreters or our friends. Theoretically, this may be a way to implement the [fact-checking I dreamed of 11 years ago, actually
- theater-grade audio at bargain prices
The same things will decrease attendance at movie theaters. The bad side will be losing great side shows by total strangers, or laughing with them. I still fondly remember waiting in a theather the beginning of Attack of the Clones, 21 years ago, sitting aside a dad holding a 3⁄4 year boy on his lap.
Five minutes before the movie started, the boy suddenly grabbed both of his dad’s thumbs and started making loud noises, which made dad estatic, and bounce in the seat. Until her wife, on the other side, yelled “Stop playing the damned podracer!!!”
Families and friends will also lose those great bonding experiences that are only possible in movie theathers:
On the plus side, deserting movie theathers could mean no more rude people around us, that use smartphones during movies. Hmmm, maybe not.
The REAL problems here
The revolution in movie making and viewing that has just started will have negative and positive effects. That’s OK. Change is like that, and happens all the time. A revolution like this, however, has two potential effects that I particularly dislike, but are likely to happen.
The first is to make movies, TV serie or documentaries, and everything else in between go down the same drain as newspapers: producers of clickbait, continuously changing screenplays to chase or pacify social mobs, in a race to the bottom. Like, you know, this, but for movies.
The second problem is the very concrete possibility that making movie production much cheaper will not usher, as it should, an explosion of real creativity. Once movie-making becomes “real cheap”, the copyright madness we still live in will be the only weapon left to Hollywood & Co to stifle competition.