Small-Screen Video Demands a New Creative Language

Opinion: As with blogs and Podcasts, the success of small-screen video players depends on original content, much of it produced by amateurs.

Weblogs, Podcasts and video blogs have one thing in common, and that commonality explains their phenomenal success: They allow the creative individual to express him or herself with minimal technical overhead.

Lets face it: Production values in our modern, super-sophisticated media environment have become such that it usually takes a small army and the gross revenue of a minor nation to produce any of the popular, widely distributed media formats.

/zimages/3/28571.gifThere is now an Emmy award for video content on emerging video platforms. Click here to read more.

So its not surprising that small-screen video is sparking so much excitement around the world. Here is a new medium that has no rules (yet); even better, most of us probably already own the tools necessary to produce content for this new platform (just combining a few still images in iMovie with voice-over can be enough to produce intriguing results).

The most stimulating part, however, is that this new medium is crying out for a redefined creative language.

Just as the movies imitated theater, and television copied cinema, small-screen video is starting out by down-sizing what worked on television. Sure, some of that works—sort of.

But once you have watched a few TV programs on your iPod, and downloaded the current crop of video Podcasts, it becomes painfully (or excitingly) clear that the language for this new medium has yet to be invented.

What works on blogs and Podcasts—personal opinion, expressed in words—feels surprisingly lame when you add video to the mix. Producing professional-quality video is much tougher than producing acceptable sound recordings.

This is in part due to the fact that we havent figured out what works well on such a small screen. Podcasts took off so rapidly because we can listen during activities such as commuting or working out at the gym.

Video content is different: It needs to be interesting and engaging enough to warrant all of our attention.

The next few years will see an explosion of new content. Once we have realized that this is not just TV on a small screen, there is ample room for experimentation—and interesting opportunities for software developers to boot.

/zimages/3/28571.gifAdvertisers are tuning in to the new video platforms. Read more here.

And while the screen size of iPods is likely to increase on future models, once the market has fully embraced the idea of video on a handheld device, small screens are not going to go away. Video-capable cell phones, for example, will always use comparatively small displays.

From a creative perspective, the most interesting angle remains video or animated blogs. Just as blogs have found their niche by eschewing the look and reporting style of magazines or newspapers, small-screen video must find its own path away from television and cinema.

There is a lot of potential here. We are going to exciting times for creatives—and for the audience as well.

Andreas Pfeiffer is founder of The Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies. He can be reached at

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