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Does Length Matter?

  |  May 23, 2008   |  Comments

Junk food has its place in the online video world, but not all the time.

Video comes in all shapes and sizes, yet we haven't conquered that enduring question: does length matter?

Things are just a little too concise these days. Not that being specific is bad, but someone made the decision somewhere to cram as much information as possible into our screens. In every screen we see, sometimes in completely nonsensical arrangements, we're being overloaded with information.

If it's not a small interruptive ad on TV, an interstitial or overlay at one end of the spectrum, it's those infomercials droning on in a déjÀ vu mantra of tease-demonstration-offer-clincher slogans. Sorry, I just can't buy something that's been repeated to me. I don't hypnotize well.

What the online world needs right now is a good editor. A very good one.

It would fill a library to go into examples of great editing, but think of the last 10 films you thought were "different" and exciting in how they told a story in a visual vein.

Some might attribute this onslaught to the senses to the act of adaptation, in that the younger minds trained on video games and fast-paced cartoons will become bored with the evening news. Not so, I say.

There's another culprit, and it's right in front of you. The Internet. And it wants everybody to make stuff so the people who pay to produce it don't have to.

Over the past few years, the Web opened its doors to amateurs and let them revel in the spotlight. Our "embarrassment-ready culture" is relishing long and short clips of poor performances by silly people. Sometimes clips of themselves being silly. It seems that we can't get enough superficial enjoyment in our lives.

That's right, editor or no editor, we can't get enough of it. We face the possibility of devolving away from quality content. As if a tenderloin steak or a custard profiterole dessert just wasn't cutting it, you'd rather devour cheap sugar drinks and gummy bears instead.

Don't get me wrong, junk food has its place in the world, but not all the time, and not as a long-term consumption standard.

Analogies aside, we're still at the low end of the quality curve, at least in reverent editing and planning of streaming media.

And yes, lest we forget, a lot of TV shows are now available for you small screen time-shifters out there. Don't get me wrong, it's a good idea, but once again we're shoehorning one media into another. We should remember that all screen experiences are not created equal.

Some may disagree with this, and believe that we'll all be watching everything on anything flat and illuminated. In my tiny little opinion, I think that some content is best suited for the situation and some isn't. In time, we'll evolve this mass consumption of everything to a more refined state and not into this RGB (define) orgy we're enduring now.

Not all is lost. There are a few ways to make this all better. And like any great maxim, this one conjures up the famous "lead by example" advice, one of my favorites.

In a previous column, I spoke of Uniqlock, an apparel manufacturer that's utilized video in a way that blends experience and function, product, and benefit and made it available at low bandwidths. At last count it's won a D&AD and a Clio Grand award and others in several other international award shows.

What's funny about this site is that it wasn't a new technological breakthrough, or some amazing product. It was just an artful way to integrate several functions into one site in a non-conventional and entertaining way. Seemingly more art than marketing.

This example notwithstanding, we are encountered with the same problem all media faces; a proliferation of bad taste that's only effective for short attention spans. Format, editing, composition, and yes, even spontaneity, are essential to producing a quality act.

It takes a clear-headed troupe of thinkers and makers to create something that will remind us that if you invite everyone to the dance you should invite some pros just to make sure it's special.

Now all we need is a little music.

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Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet is the vice president and executive creative director of GSI Interactive who leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, e-commerce, and customer relationship management programs. His work has brought award-winning online solutions to such clients as Clorox, Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.

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