"The Good Enough Revolution"
Recommended reading: Wired.com's article on "The Good Enough Revolution."
The writer discusses the Flip camera, MP3 files, the Predator airplane, Kaiser's micro clinics, etc., in the context of the Pareto 80/20 Principle.
As it pertains to our business I can see several themes:
#1: Cheap can be "good-enough," e.g. the Flip video that goes viral and gets more exposure than the expensively-produced tv spot. (Has anyone besides me had a client hand you a Flip video as a source tape?)
#2: "Good-enough" has made an esthetic impact. Stylistically, "simplicity" has come to mean "genuine." Apple's white-background spots are elegantly simple; Microsoft's cheap-computer-shopping spots are purposely shot to look like someone shot them with a Handicam.
#3: What's the video producer's entrepreneurial response to this concept? (Of course, I realize that if someone reading this does have a great entrepreneurial idea, we may not hear about it until he's protected it and launched it.) (I have heard of one response, from the wedding videography business: the "SDE" or same-day-edit. Very low production values, probably no multi-cam, but FAST.)
I don't think it's that much different today than 25 years ago. People have been doing low-budget video for a long-time, even before wide distribution of home-video cameras in the 1980s and 90s.
I'd estimate that 95% of our clients are overjoyed with projects that are "good enough." We're the ones constantly pushing them to do better graphics, to add light effects, to color correct, to use dolly and jib moves on shoots, to try new production equipment like 35mm DoF adaptors, to try new framing techniques etc. Most clients won't consider any of that, a few will.
Like Ron is always preaching on here, if people bring you work that you can't make money on, it's really not in your interest to do it. You can certainly help the person by referring them to people who might be able to do the work for them, but there's a point where "cheap" turns into unprofitable.
As for the Mac and Windows ads being simplistic or cheap. I doubt they're either. I imagine the two main actors in the Mac ads are bringing home high six-figure, possibly even 7 figure incomes annually for their part in those spots.
The Windows spots may look "off the cuff," but I guarantee you those are carefully choreographed, from searches for the people in them to shooting the entire thing. Visually they look amazing considering how they're shot, and the audio is superb in them. That's what talented and experienced DPs and directors do, make spots look like they just picked up the camera and said, "hey, let's go shoot somebody 'off the street' buying a PC."
There will always be people who understand the value of hiring pros to create videos and those who think the assistant to the marketing director can shoot and edit their promotional video.
A great analogy is if you've ever thought, "hey, I'll save a ton of money laying my own ceramic tile" when you're re-doing a 300 square foot kitchen floor from stripping 4 layers of linoleum and underlayment to laying and grouting the tile. It took me 4 full weekends (two of them just removing the old crap on the floor and leveling low spots.) The $1000 the tile company quoted me to strip the floor and lay/grout the tile sure looked like a bargain after more than 60 hours of work and a month of lost weekends. Not to mention their work probably would've looked better than mine (although mine looked pretty good if I say so myself.)
Magnetic Image, Inc.
With all due respect, Chris, I am pretty sure you didn't look at the Wired article, and as a result I think you misunderstood my post. It wasn't a whine session.
My point about the Apple/Microsoft ads was that they are designed to seem simple, perhaps as a result of the whole YouTube esthetic - not that they were cheap to produce!
The idea about discarding clients who accept "good enough" -- that's the surface issue, and I agree, sort of. I think Grinner got my main point, which is: if this is a major trend, how do we react in a positive way to it, as an entrepreneurial opportunity, rather than another thing to moan about.
These are youtube times we live in. I do offer great production value to my clientele but I can tell you, the viral marketing videos I make for my shows have proven that content rules... and quick content at that. I can spend weeks telling a warm and fuzzy story and adding layers of love. In youtube land that may get tens of thousands of views and many of those I am sure are not watched all the way through. Two reasons... a running time longer than 2 minutes and production value. Yes, production value can indeed be a reason for low web views. If it looks like a show, they'd rather see it on the tv. If it smells like a commercial, it's clicked away quickly. At the same time, man I can act a fool with a locked down camera without so much as a sound track and get a quarter of a million views. This is our ADD world. While it use to be quite the salary-capper to be a jack of all trades, brother I'm tellin' ya my one-man-bandisms are make me marketable today. Generally speaking, people don't want specialists now that authenticity is king. Does this mean we now have networks that advertise actuality and then script it? Well, ironicly, yeah. Shark jumpers are what make artists artsy.
Corporations are finding it very hard to fake spontaneous reality in casual, "home made" viral videos, and they tend to backfire with disasterous results. The youtubers get really flamey when they feel you are trying to "fool" them. See Sony for some examples.
As soon as I read that article I made a new entry on my blog. Really got to me. I am a vinyl fan and listen to almost exclusively vinyl. I also buy more vinyl than CDs. I appreciate quality, even at the cost of being less convenient.
Society, on the other hand, appreciates the convenience of iTunes even if the quality is less. The Flip HD is easy to carry around, even if it doesn't have the feature set of a bigger Sony HD camcorder. I might just get one for the trip to Disney World.
it's as easy to do a good job with it and insult nobody. Heck, for the longest, kids were trying to pop corn with their cell phones. Nobody got fussy when they learned it was a bluetooth promo.
The thing is, big companies make the mistake of letting their ad agencies spearhead these initiatives. It's something most of those intities know absoluetly nothing about.
Guys, I'm kind of surprised this is coming up at all. I mean, I understand why Wired thinks it's news -- they're easily 10 years behind with regards to our business, but that's the point. If we're honest, we're ALL in the "good enough" business.
Our key to success isn't forgetting this, or blaming our competitors who are more honest about it. Our only hope is to acknowledge, and market our a##ses off to make sure that our clients forget that they already settle for "good enough" in nearly every area of their lives. If you're lucky, you can dangle shiny things -- okay, and service, and skill -- in front of them long enough to distract them.
Here's a very, very short list of some of our "good enough" choices as professionals, in reverse order (from more or less now, more or less back in time). Ycu can argue about any one or couple of these, but you'll get the idea.
--HD has been widespread for 4 or 5 years now, but for most of my clients and deliverables, SD is good enough.
--Jim Cameron shot Avatar at 1920x1080. It's not 4K, but it's good enough.
--EX-3 and HPX aren't REALLY CineAlta and Varicam, but they're good enough.
--Blu-ray has a lot fewer features and much higher cost than HD DVD, but in the end, it's good enough.
--720 isn't 1080, but if it's good enough for half of the major networks, I guess it's good enough for me. (Seriously, does anybody even remember how het up we got about this, or why?)
--Final Cut Pro/Motion/Soundtrack Pro aren't Media Composer/After Effects/Pro Tools, but they're good enough.
--DV isn't Beta, but it's good enough....
--Beta SP isn't DigiBeta, but it's good enough.
--UVW isn't BVW, not even PVW, but it's good enough.
--It's 1995, and NLEs aren't especially high quality, they rarely stay in sync, but hey, they're good enough.
--This CoSA After Effects thing is MUCH less featured than...well, almost anything...and sloooooow, but hey, it's good enough.
--Wow, those Macs are sure underpowered, overpriced, and WTF? It's been 3 years, and those things are still in BLACK AND WHITE. I've spent more on expansion chassis than I did on my car, but cheaper than a dedicated workstation. I guess it's good enough.
I'm missing a bunch -- HDV, DVCPRO, ProRes and the DNxHD it's based on, XDCAM, LCD monitors on the dekstop/plasmas on the wall for color accuracy, etc. etc. -- but you get the idea. We can justify every one of these "good enoughs" as actually having some advantages...and they absolutely do...but some of those are definitely tradeoffs between quality and cost that we heartily embrace.
The wheel of karma, friends.
Okay, now on to the personal things that you and your clients have chosen.
--Wow, this 2008 iPhone drops calls like a mutha, you can only have one app open at a time, and you can't copy and paste. No video or photo SMS? Not even a video camera? WTF?
--These 2001 iPods are one-tenth the capacity of the MP3 player I've been using, support hardly any formats, and for pete's sake, Apple didn't even develop either the hardware or the software! They freaking BOUGHT it! It'll get better, right? But good enough for now.
--Love that DirecTV, but boy howdy, those macroblocks are the size of my nose, and I keep losing the picture when the weather changes. But it's good enough.
--CDs are sure convenient, but they really sound thin and metallic. I guess they're good enough.
--VHS isn't nearly the quality of Beta, and they both bite compared to laserdiscs, but hey, VHS is good enough.
--These bananas don't actually taste like I remember them tasting, but I ain't gonna spend for organic. These are good enough.
Again, I'm leaving out plenty -- remember when Japanese cars represented a compromise? At least they were cheap, and even cheaper to fill up. Add microwaves for anything but warming and popcorn, frozen food, etc. etc. Here, throw in convenience, but a whole lot of these "good enough" choices came down to money.
Oh yeah, and MP3s..and MPEG in general, and and and...
Revolution? You gotta be kidding me. Seriously. Good enough was the story of AT LEAST the last third of the last century, and every day of this one. The only way virtually any of us got into this business was because we were (are) "good enough" relative to people with far more expensive systems doing higher-end work.
That's not to say that we don't work harder and smarter, and haven't as a result had to rely on our wits...but hardly any of us are at the tippy top of our markets...which means that we're playing "good enough."
Again, I don't think of this as an indictment. That's just the way it is. We can distract our clients with service and skill, but eventually, they're going to go to someone else for the same reason they came to us -- the same way that they've made so, so many choices in so many areas of their lives.
Hey, and have a great day!
Peace, love, and chocolate, and how about them Red Sox? They aren't going to win the division -- not even close -- but it turns out that the wild card is......good enough!
dadgum, Tim. That was the longest version of "shut up and give em what they want." that I've never read.
What a great post. You have a way with words, Tim. I agree with a lot of what you say, but there's another side to this.
"Good enough" has to be, in truth, "better overall" than something else. Before it was "good enough" vis-a-vis DigiBeta, Beta SP was "the best" field format, and wiped out the vestiges of 3/4". MP3 players and digital downloads hurt CD players and CD sales, despite the tinnier sound, because the marketplace valued convenience and low cost (or free) over audio fidelity.
Your main point is "it was ever thus." True in some cases, but I think WIRED has it right, that "good enough" is more prevalent today than it used to be. A few years ago, computer marketers could get away with emphasizing megabytes and pixels; today, it's all about delivering utility, and notebooks are hotter than much more capable laptops, which are hotter than much more powerful desktops. Good enough has replaced "More Gigabytes!"
Applying "good enough" to ourselves and our work - wow, you are brutally honest, Tim. And Grinner is right that at times you simply have to "give 'em what they want." But as with other truths ("we're all going to die") it can be self-destructive to let "good enough" occupy any space in our own heads. For most of us, to achieve "good enough" status, we actually have to be "the best that we can be."
re: your point that there are advantages to many of the products in the "good enough" category, absolutely. So let me put it this way.
Good enough almost always wins, and the outcome of that victory is almost always good enough.
I still think that price is a big part of the appeal of "good enough." I could afford UVW BetaSP at $10,000 for the deck and $12,000 for the camera. Both gave me advantages over lower-end competitors, and allowed me to compete as...good enough re: the upper end.
The flip side of this is that buying "good enough" in one area can be smart if it allows you to buy more somewhere else. I spent many thousands a year on the absolute best music licenses I could find, which wound up winning me as many jobs as my video did.
[Bob Cole] "But as with other truths ("we're all going to die") it can be self-destructive to let "good enough" occupy any space in our own heads. For most of us, to achieve "good enough" status, we actually have to be "the best that we can be.""
Absolutely. I think we're the best we can be if we're honest. We're all going to die, so life is too short to work at a job you hate, or drink cheap hooch. You make better choices if you don't act like you're going to live forever. Have more "relations" with your honey. Kiss your kids more. Find ways to start doing NOW the things you'd do if you were retired, even if on a smaller scale. Time's a wastin'.
Ditto "good enough" work. Agreed about being the best you can be, of course....but there's no benefit to us to bemoan our business being eroded by the "good enoughs" under us. Most of us got where we are the same way. EXPECT it to happen. Build your business KNOWING that cheaper, faster, stupider, less skillful punks will be nipping at your heels. Every. Single. Day. for the rest of your career.
NOW, what will your business look like? Where will you put your time and money?
Or, as Bob Z might put it, when do you buy your hair net to work the french fryer?
Enjoy yourself now. Plan your next moves knowing what's coming. Because it is.
Be ready to find a new groove that's...good enough.
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I have to chuckle remembering that all the way back in 1994 when I bought my first Media 100 and a box of CoSA After Effects, that I was soon on digvid-l and vidpro-l arguing with some of the guys there that sure, my tools weren't up to par with the million-dollar-plus "big rooms," but they were good enough for broadcast.
The first three seasons of Nickelodeon's Blues Clues were done by a guy on a Mac using a Media 100, a box of CoSA After Effects, Specular Infini-D, and a box of Elastic Reality.
But while the Avid and Discreet/D-vision guys argued that their stuff was better (which was funny, as no Avid or Discreet/D-vision edit* back then was capable of online finishing), Viacom engineers signed off approval on the then-NUBUS Media 100. A picture which, as I recall, was only 640x480 -- but good enough for broadcast, said Viacom engineers.
At only 80KB per frame, it still had the best picture in the market at the time. Oh, and its slow-motion is STILL the very best that I have ever seen on any desktop system, nothing else over the years has even come close.
80Kb at 640x480 was good enough for Viacom engineers.
But I will agree with Tim, this is an OLD argument and I am glad to see that Wired finally caught up with it and think it so newsworthy.
But it makes me wonder if they have bought an Apple Laserwriter and a box of that new-fangled Pagemaker thingie, yet? They may only be 300 dpi and hardly up to snuff like a Compugraphic typesetter, but I think they are going to prove to be quite good enough. They may even change the face of print in the days ahead.
I think we'll call it desktop publishing. Remember to watch Wired for the latest news and updates...
[Ron Lindeboom] "only 640x480"
I can't believe I forgot 640x480!
I did a job with my UVW BetaSP and Media 100 for a couple of regional American Express spots. This guy was a notorious stickler, and he said to me, "This isn't going to be any of that 640x480 desktop crap, is it?"
I looked him right in the eye and said, "Your standards are famously high. I know that if the work I do for you the first time isn't good enough, there won't be a second time." He positively beamed with delight.
What did I give him? 640x480 desktop...not SO crap...indeed, it was...
...good enough. When he saw it, he beamed with delight.
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I have mentioned my dead dog tactic a time or two. Your beam with delight story made me remeber a time or two the client actually beamed at the dead dog. lol
This thread makes me think back to college. I was always amazed at the shoddy course work by some fellow students. Why go to college if you are just going to slack off and not get anything out of your time there, and great financial investment? I always found I had to work extra hard if I wanted to do an inferior job at something.
Assuming you have learned the skills and acquired the knowledge needed to complete the job, how could you do anything less than your best?
Yes, you always stand the chance of being undercut by competition. Although are hacks who charge too little for professional work really competition? Maybe not on the same playing field, but anyone who takes break from your plate is competition. As with the numerous grinders threads, sometimes you have to walk away.
the moral... If you're gonna take the time to go to college, freakin' party balls, man.
[grinner hester] "the moral... If you're gonna take the time to go to college, freakin' party balls, man.
Interviewer: "If you had gone through our corporate training program 2 years ago, you would be qualified for this position."
Interviewee: " Why did I go to college then?"
Interviewer: " Ya had fun didn't ya!!!"
Higher Ground Media
The last time I was told I was over-qualified for a job I responded with "yeah but I'm not gonna try very hard."
[Ron Lindeboom] "Oh, and its slow-motion is STILL the very best that I have ever seen on any desktop system, nothing else over the years has even come close."
I find it sad that Media 100 even knows that their motion function has been broken for a number of years but getting it back to where it once was has not been one of their priorities. I LOVED their old motion control and would really like to see it re-engineered to work with the current hardware. On this one "good enough" is a poor substitute for a feature that was once "great enough."
"Good Enough" also has to do with managing expectations. When the price point for the more cheaply-derived method result is much different, one tends to apply less rigorous criteria for "acceptable" .
Always unspoken in the phrase "good enough"* is the addendum
*("for the price").
As a guy who does government work, I wince every time at the old saw: "close enough for government work". That's a stereotype about relative value and quality I have to fight daily.
What we choose to use for any particular job can run the gamut of very simple and unsophisticated and cheap, to very refined and expensive, depending on what the job needs. It is all very nice to say you do every job at maximum quality. Whatever that objectively means. We put an equal effort at quality into everything we do, but often we scale the choice of tools and methods to the budget and timeline and manpower available, and the ultimate needs of the client.
It's never a simple equation, more like a Venn diagram of choices. Our circles need to overlap between time, quality, expense, and effectiveness. The clients know little of this, Effectiveness is assumed, and their Venn diagram would have just two circles: cost and timeliness.
[Mark Suszko] "Effectiveness is assumed, and their Venn diagram would have just two circles: cost and timeliness."
I agree, my clients with the highest standards were all in government. But I think that in the public sector, "effectiveness" is the place the "good enough" most comes into play.
Reminds me, though, of my favorite T-shirt ever, for the late-lamented Aron's Records on Highland. Not done in by MP3s, but by the one-two punch of a Virgin Records on Hollywood (kaput), and the wondrous Amoeba Records on Vine within a few months of each other.
This was the kind of place where there were highly articulate hand-written recommendations all around the store. The clerks weren't exactly snobs, but definitely judged you -- only they were too cool to say anything about it. I got a tiny smile once when I was checking out, as the guy held my purchase in his hands before he put it in the bag. Dude wouldn't even look me in the eye, but we both knew that he not only approved, but was kind of impressed.
I tell you all that to tell you this: The t-shirt said,
"Fast Friendly Service. Pick one."
Corollary to your t-shirt, Tim; Old fashioned barber shop in my town had a long line of cars in front of their crude eletric sign. It said:
"We fix $7 haircuts".
They charge more than $7, but to the customer, it is worth it.
Thanks for the posts -- very interesting ideas.
re the argument that "it has always been this way." History has to be written in the context of the time. Napoleon on a horse looks slightly humorous to us - but he looked like a VERY scary guy to his contemporaries. Similarly, imho some of the examples in this thread lack historical context. Re NLE's delivering low quality as an example of "good enough:" This looks truer in retrospect than it really was at the time. I was an early adopter, and I was not telling clients how compressed the image was - I was talking about the freedom to edit non-linearly, to tell better stories, and to spend most of our editing dollars carefully crafting a show, rather than hemorrhaging cash in an online suite. Nobody noticed the compression, so was it really inferior? Was it merely "good enough?" I don't think so. It was a terrific advance. (Besides which, until NLE's offered online quality, most of us used them to create EDLs for a much-shortened trip to the online suite, so there was no loss of quality at all.)
After reading these posts, I think the phrase "good enough" is unfortunate, because it connotes "poor quality," rather than "appropriate quality." A better phrase would be "results rule." If the end product is a 320x240 Internet video, it had better be really entertaining, because if you make a boring show, your Internet viewers are going to be clicking off of it faster than you can say, "But I shot this sucker on a RED and isn't that fabu-"
The Internet has contributed to a results-oriented culture. So have the advances in technology which have demystified the process of filmmaking. And this current recession has sharpened the client's focus on results.
Although this is a "business" forum, there are relatively few of us here who are PRIMARILY businesspeople. Most of us (me included) are really more oriented to the various crafts of production, which made us prone to be seduced by HD even while the marketplace was going Flash. If you take a macro view, the people who are involved with "real money" from video are not even on this forum. They're the businesspeople and entrepreneurs at Google, YouTube, how-to websites, Hulu, etc. I think they would agree with the notion that "Good Enough" is a growing ("disruptive") phenomenon, because the earlier they recognized it, the more money they made.
From my own experience, the emphasis on results has grown over the years. And I love it, because it has tilted the playing field in my favor. I'm still doing fine, even while the image-conscious post-production houses, with their personal chefs and plush sofas and great-looking receptionists, have had a hard time surviving. My clients don't seem to mind the spartan editing room... although I suspect they miss the great-looking receptionist. (For you MCP-haters ... I didn't specify a gender.) We don't have to worry, as we once did, about showing up with a smaller camera; appearances have given way to results.
I enjoyed Tim's application of "good enough" to us, not that I like it as a possible truth. Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful posts; I just had to share my curiosity about the WIRED article and I appreciate that it struck some nerves among more people than just myself. If you have relied on my interpretation of the WIRED article, you should look it up, because I don't think I did it justice. There are some interesting examples regarding health care and legal services in there too.
(still more likely to buy a RED than a Flip, no matter what WIRED says)