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Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?

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Timothy J. Allen
Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 15, 2010 at 10:01:23 pm

These days, I sort of play the role of marketing department more than video production. I have access to a staff of video professionals that are very talented... and very busy fulfilling production and post production requests of all sizes and scopes.

We don't pay the production department outright - it's covered with institutional funds - but they do track requests through paperwork we submit to them for different jobs.

These guys work fast, but it sometimes takes a short while for the paperwork and the schedule to fall in place for the team to get started on certain requests. This is completely understandable because they have everything from high-end broadcast quality productions to low-end videos (intended for one-time use at internal meetings) in their cue.

Recently, one of my clients asked me to put together a "slideshow-type music video" from a group of still photos for a fast approaching meeting. I'm sure most of you in the corporate world get this type of project request often. They just wanted to give people a way to see the images and get them excited about the event the photos had captured... and music videos with motion effects are more exciting than slide shows, right?

Anyway, rather than going to our staff video team, I pointed my web browser to a folder of photos that I had on my PC and had a website service "automatically" generate a music video from those photos. In less than the time it would have taken me to fill out the paperwork and submit the formal request to get this edited, the website (I'll call it "the robot") provided me with a completed music video that actually fulfilled the need we had pretty well.

No paperwork, no overhead, no glitches and no wait.

But the question remains... as a potential client to our video group, am I the bad guy in this?

If our video staff had the time to do this and had been able to make it a priority, they would have gotten credit for one more production request fulfilled. But, I estimate that because of the deadline, it would have resulted in several hours of late night "busy work" for whichever Editor had been assigned to do the job... and although the request was urgent, there was a lot of leeway given regarding the "edit design" of the final product.

One more point - I AM still going to the video team for productions that require expertise that can't be automated. If this had been a project that needed a specific order of shots or timing, custom graphics, a voice over, scripting - anything that requires creative expertise - I certainly would have gone to the professionals rather than "a robot." (I actually have three other projects in the cue now with that same production team that will certainly require creative and technical talent.)

In my mind, getting the "robot" to do the menial job frees up the creative staff to focus on productions that robots can't do. On the other hand, as someone who has edited hundreds of "corporate music videos" myself "by hand", I still get the sensation that I should feel a little guilty handing that particular editing task off to a non-human.

What do you think?


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 15, 2010 at 11:00:29 pm

Hey Timothy,

I wouldn't worry, if it wasn't you it would be someone else making your video department redundant.

Only problem you have is that your client will expect the same quick service next time around - that will be more fun for you as in: "why can't your system not deal with doing interviews?" or "Why is there random pictures of people with no clothes on our video?" or how about "We have put your editor forward for an Emmy" :-)

The results are endless - can't stop progress, but be careful for what you wish for, you might just get it. Even if it is as fast as doing the paperwork. Just remember to have the right clearance for all those stills.

On a happier note - maybe Getty Images and Artbeats are about to make a lot of money out of you?



All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Here used to be a big video - now you can watch another one here:
http://www.macmillion.com/showreel.htm

Mac Million Ltd. - HD Production & Editing
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 16, 2010 at 1:43:57 pm

Mads,
This particular video was "compiled" from images taken by one of our staff photographers, so there were no rights issues. That said, Getty Images, Artbeats and iStockphotos also get plenty of business from me and I recommend those resources to anyone.

The website (which I was calling the "robot") is http://animoto.com/

Once you pick your "theme", and music, you don't really get any other editorial choices, (unless you hit the button for another "mix"), but for what we were wanting, it worked out well.

Oh, and I'm not worried about the client finding out. I'm always transparent about such things and even pointed the site out to the client so they could see the route I took to ensure they got what they needed when they needed it.

I'm not worried about cutting myself out of the process. On one hand, it seems more ethical to do this than count a half a day credit against their institutional overhead for a product of this type. 10 years ago this would have take several hours to keyframe, but technology moves forward and if they are willing to take the tradeoff for the simplicity and speed, I want to give them that option.

To mangle an analogy... If they want some crawdads from the backyard creek, I can show them how to catch them with their own hands and bucket. If they need a season's worth of Alaskan King Crab, they still need to come to us professionals.

My hope is that the clients they will see that I'm not there to charge hours to their budget, I'm there to solve their problems. When they need something that really requires a Producer, Scriptwriter, Graphic Artist or Editor, they know where to find me and the video team. :-)



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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 17, 2010 at 1:00:16 pm

Hey Timothy,

I hear you. But there was a real danger for younger less experienced people to misunderstand your previous statement "I pointed my web browser to a folder of photos that I had on my PC and had a website service "automatically" generate a music video from those photos."

I wonder what would happen if one pointed it to the C drive and said use any JPeg or gif - 12 months of browsing history might suddenly show in the final result... :-)



All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Here used to be a big video - now you can watch another one here:
http://www.macmillion.com/showreel.htm

Mac Million Ltd. - HD Production & Editing
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Steve Brunton
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 15, 2010 at 11:35:00 pm

I wouldn't worry about the video team. When I was working as an editor inside a corporate company, I did lots of work that didn't tax my creativity, and to be honest, if I had a robot to carry that weight I would have used it. I don't need credit for video work like that.

I would only feel a little guilty, about giving it back to the client and charging them. lol
Coz it could be seen as cheating ...a little bit.
But if you get away with it, keep your head down. In fact, delete all evidence of admitting to using a robot, and have a coke and a smile :)

Where did you go to find the robot btw? ehem...

http://www.twitter.com/stevenbrunton
http://www.vimeo.com/relievo


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 15, 2010 at 11:44:29 pm

Even though most of us hate the idea of being called "button pushers," from time to time, projects do come along that require absolutely zero creativity, and even a smart chimpanzee could probably execute them. I've tried to train my dog Augie to do those jobs for me, but he's colorblind, so he can't figure out the FCP keyboard. I'd use a robot if I had one. Lord knows, I feel like one when doing that type of work, so why not?

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™

EPK Colorist - UP IN THE AIR - nominated for six academy awards

A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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grinner hester
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 16, 2010 at 1:24:27 am

Evolution happens, Tim. Congrats on being a part of it. Don't beat yourself up. Those around you are evolving as well. They'll be a part of the new waves, knowing waves change.
Surf on, brother.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:54:23 pm

I don't know why you didn't just set it up in imovie or iphoto: either one could do the same thing as the web-based "robot" service. Unless you didn't have a machine free for that.

I'll give another "not guilty" verdict on this one, because what you are providing is a "service". How you execute the service, to fit the client's needs and budget, is based on your expertise and judgement, and THAT is what the clients pay for. Do you feel guilty when you do a high-end edit and use a plug-in that is *perfect* for the script, instead of hand-coding an effect from scratch? I don't. It's knowing about that effect, where to get it, and how and when to properly USE it, that is part of my expertise, and not theirs.

They are paying me to know what is best to do in each custom situation that arises. Sometimes that means fine custom hands-on craftsmanship. Other times, it may just be knowing what off-the-shelf solution is best. Lord knows, if you client, without any background, had to look up a solution and figure out which option was best and take all that time, it would take more time and money than just asking YOU what's the best way to do it. This time they didn't need to know how to build a clock: they just needed to know what time it is. Next time, they might need something more advanced. Either way, they come to YOU for the answers and choices because that's YOUR expertise. I know I payu moer at 7-11 for a snack than if I make it at home, I'm paying extra for convenience.

So I don't think there's anything that needs excusing there. You freed your team to do more meaningful work and satisfied the client anyhow. If you can also bill for that, it's a damn good day!

I don't know that I would fess up to the clients just how I solved the problem, if I didn't have to. Usually, they really don't care HOW it was done, just that is IS done and done well and on time and budget. If the clients are smart, they will understand why it was done the way it was. If they are not great clients, or borderline grinders, then telling them the robot did it could lead to bad things down the road, because the bad client will make false assumptions about the context of your decision that one time, and extrapolate decisions down the line that are bad for all concerned. They'll decide you are a middle man that can be dispensed with, instead of a communications consultant and resource. Its one thing for YOU to use an easy tool under experienced supervision; the results can be less than satisfactory when "civilians" take up the tools without the context. As you know if you've ever had to edit someone's flip video home movies into something airable.

If you can walk that tightrope with the clients, all should stay satisfactory.


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Kris Merkel
Re: Am I the bad guy... or is the robot to blame?
on Jun 22, 2010 at 3:00:57 pm

You cannot own the blame. I would call it evolution of production. After all, the "Robot" is in all of our edit suites. It checks our spelling, reminds us of meetings, production schedules, ect. It can perform more tasks simultaneously than I could do in two days (if i tell it to) While I could satisfy my creativity and spend time creating a simple effect in AE, I, nowadays, reach for a preset in order to keep up with my production schedule and flow.

It makes little sense to not use tools that make our work productive.

Kris Merkel
Quad G5
OS X 10.4.11
FCStudio
CalDigit Raid


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