The manufacturers and marketers of television technology are in a unique position because in order to be successful they not only have to make sure that they're making high quality and reliable devices, but also that there's programming to be viewed on those devices. Not only that, but the programming has to be captivating enough for the owners of the devices to want to invest in the device to begin with- something that the manufacturers don't have any direct control over. This hasn't been much of a problem overall since TV has been around for over half a century and both manufacturers and producers have a pretty good idea of what they're doing, but now that devices with smaller screens are available the entertainment industry is scrambling to figure out how to take advantage of them.
At first glance it may be difficult to understand why there's any problem with displaying video on portable devices besides the basic problems associated with the technology itself. The natural impulse would be to assume that as soon as the technical problems of streaming video to mobile phones and portable media device via wireless networks are resolve, anyone with the right electronics and the right service would be able to enjoy TV and other video in a much wider variety of places. The problem with that reasoning is that it overlooks the fact that a lot of video just doesn't look that good on screens that are as small as the ones featured on these devices. For one thing, the majority of mobile phones have screens with aspect ratios of 4:3 or narrower which, combined with the small size of the screen itself virtually rules out wide screen programming. There are also a lot of subtleties that simply can't be portrayed with the limited amount of detail that the screens of mobile phones are subject to.
Then the circumstances under which the video would be viewed has to be taken into account. Especially in the case of mobile phones, any video that's viewed on them will probably have to be relatively short for two reasons. First of all, video tends to drain the batteries of mobile phones extremely quickly. Second, most people watching video on their mobile phones will probably be doing so in between other things- they simply won't have the time or want to get involved in a longer more detailed video.
As a result of these limiting factors, the producers of videos that are geared toward small screen devices are having to rethink how they make the videos. Some, including Robert Redford of all people, are embracing the limitations of this technology as an incentive to reinvent short movies. Many are abandoning the subtleties that can be conveyed through larger, more detailed screens in favor of exaggerated gestures and movements.
Of course another barrier to widespread use of video over wireless networks is the need to find a way for it to pay for itself. While some people are willing to pay for subscriptions to services that supply mobile video, the number of people who are willing to pay the extra fees for such a service are limited. More likely videos will be financed by advertizing that comes with them and there's a good chance that the more widely distributed videos will be advertisements themselves. Regardless of how it plays out, mobile video is likely to be an increasingly prevalent form of entertainment in the years and decades to come.
Posted by larry dixon at 15:22:00. Filed under: General