Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Media Logistics

I started my working career in media logistics.

Every morning I would go down to the Rank Labs shipping office in Soho at the crack of dawn and pick up the developed film from the day before, carry them back to the special eff cuts movie company I worked for, splice and reel them and have them ready in the screenig room for when the staff arrive in at around nineish.

During the day there would be more media logistics, taking exposed film to the local lab, finished productions to ad agencies and production companies and preparing and versioning various versions of productions, sorting out the content and trying to build a library for s company that had grown rapidly and moved from one production to the nxt with scant regard to yesterday's production (sounds familiar ?).

Thirty years on I'm doing the same job. Only this time I have a cloud based platform that can do everything at the click of a button. Or even without clicking a button. I can do it on a massive scale on a global basis.

(As I walked through the streets of London's Soho today I reflected that one of the things that hasn't changed is the industry's proximity to the smuttier side of life. back when I was twenty it was the prostitutes hanging out in Soho looking for a trick. now it's an inadvisable click in your browser that takes you there.)

But I digress. 

In these thirty years the media industry has seen sweeping changes. Expensive physical media such as film became cheaper digital media such as tapes and disks. These gave way to files that could be distributed via iTunes or similar platforms (or pirated on BitTorrent). Now files are giving way to streamed delivery, where the file never needs to be copied.

The world of media logistics moves on.

Technology is awfully good at two things, bringing economies and making people redundant.

Uber, AirBnB and plenty of other multi billion dollar business are successful because they have reinvented inefficient industries where the price point is too high due to inefficiencies in the marketplace. 

But they're not good for employment. True, today Uber provides work for tens of thousands of drivers all over the world, but tomorrow they will operate driverless cars. 

The lesson of this for the media industry is very important. The industry is renowned for poor pay, especially at the bottom of the ladder (and this has resulted in the past in a great deal of bias in the media towards those with monied backgrounds), so people are plentiful.

Have you ever been on a film set and ask 'what do all these people do?'. Well, everyone has a closely defined specialism and the process of producing content is, actually, pretty efficient, even if a four person news crew thirty years ago is now a single person.

But it's when you get back to base that you have to start wondering how efficient the industry is.

The company I worked for hit the rocks very early on in my career. By then I was a Special Effects Editor, but we were a film company and suddenly video appeared with all its computer processing. I bailed to become a cameraman and the company went bust.

Media logistics changed. And this evolution is still going on in the media industry.


So, today TV Everywhere produces clod based systems that handle media logistics, from the storage and delivery of programming and other media to the management of rights.

And I can sit in the same cafe in Soho where I sipped coffee thirty years ago ( a luxury given my meagre earnings then) and reflect on what happened to those runners, those ladies of the night, all those film cans and rushes and ideas and dreams. I know what happened to mine.