The title may be a misnomer – the revolution is already well under way, digital is mainstream and is everywhere. All aspects of our lives now contain some hint of digital. From grocery shopping, weather forecasts and transport to every facet of entertainment, there is some part of it that relies on and benefits from digital connectivity.
For younger generations, this is the norm – those born since the mid-nineties have not known a world without the World Wide Web. Children born in the last 10 years have grown up with the sum of all human knowledge at their fingertips. For those of us who were born in earlier times and who have seen these changes happening, it is an unfamiliar concept to try to hold to.
We may wax lyrical about the time before digital but let us not allow this to distract from what is in the here and now. Broadband speed and quality has been added to the list of essentials to check when moving house, not just gas, water and electricity. Digital has allowed us to enhance what we as humans have always done – communicate, collaborate and create.
Education is a sector that has not been the quickest to embrace digital technology – but it is now catching up and fast. Many educational establishments are using online learning platforms for schools as standard and interactive whiteboards are increasingly found in every classroom from primary school upwards. The children being taught today are already as savvy with this tech as their teachers and all levels of education must keep up with the pace of development or risk being seen as irrelevant by their students – it’s a difficult enough task to hold a classroom’s attention without this added burden.
This is why digital learning platforms and more specifically virtual learning environments are key to giving educators the best opportunities to engage and teach their students. There are things that a digital education platform can just do better than a traditional one. Channels for communication between student and teacher are part of the package and this is paramount when so much of a teacher’s time is taken away from students with non-teaching duties. Completed work is instantly accessible to teachers without students having to physically hand it in – all backed up and safe from hungry dogs. Dynamic digital learning platforms allow instant feedback for students with adaptive learning to give help where and when it’s needed. They also allow for seamless changes to the learning material and presentation for teachers. And don’t forget all that human knowledge can be embedded in most online learning platforms for schools as well as external links created to whet the appetites of the more curious so they can explore further.
More specifically for those teaching filmmaking – digital really does have to be the platform of choice. Get your students used to working this way from the very start – after all, almost every part of filmmaking happens in a digital environment, the only analogue parts happen in front of the camera.
The path to becoming a next gen media maker gets easier every year but not necessarily clearer. Gone are the days of sharing VHS tapes and booking public broadcast airtime. The YouTube uprising is in full swing, 13-24 year-olds watch more content on YouTube than they do via their television screens. Nurturing young media makers today means preparing them for the online world but what exactly does that entail?
The Digital Platform Revolution has changed the kind of content people care about. It’s also changed how we want it to be delivered. Traditional media companies are either struggling or drastically altering their business plans. The pending purchase of Time Warner by AT&T will soon pair up 130million+ mobile customers with Time Warner’s large offering of content – including Warner Brothers, CNN, HBO, and more. Meanwhile, YouTube’s partnership program is allowing next gen media makers to become celebrities, and highly paid influencers, all from the comfort of their bedroom – or their local Youtube Space. (If a YouTuber has more than 10,000 subscribers, they have free access to sound stages in nine major cities!)
In 2016, people live on-demand lives. Their schedules don’t allow them to catch their favorite shows at airtime – and why would they when television ad breaks are becoming more and more frequent. This increased advertising is supposed to make up for the loss in viewers but common sense tell us this will have the opposite effect. Cord-cutting is on the rise and there are over 47 million U.S. Netflix subscribers – 87 million worldwide. With the rise in on-demand services, media makers have a wide array of platforms for content distribution, most of which are free to use – and monetizing content has never been easier. Product sponsorships and pre-video advertisements are easy to set up, and if you’re a larger channel the companies will come to you – this is how influential, and widely viewed, online content has become.
The dark side of all this prosperity is that there are instant critics who will shoot down videos the second they are posted. Competition, and the dating of video trends, mean that next gen media makers need to have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the online world. For students whose aims are more towards the traditional TV and Film industries, the Digital Platform Revolution means that it’s never been easier to get noticed. Producers are interested in viral videos and fan campaigns. If you have a following then they will listen.
Alongside the shakeup of video distribution is the revolution in camera technology. Today, most students carry around a smartphone which is well equipped for shooting low budget pilots and shows. These students should still be taught the old ways of doing things but there should also be case studies on the kings of online content, like Casey Neistat (5.8million subscribers, 1.3billion views) whose genre defining vlogs have shown the world that internet video can be serious business. It can’t be long until there’s an Academy Award for best online video. For next gen media makers, learning how to manage digital platforms can be just as important as film theory.