Solid prose conveys facts. An image can artfully establish a theme. But video empowers messaging with magic to fascinate an audience.
There’s a touring museum exhibit about Harry Houdini currently in San Francisco. During the first couple decades of the 20th century Houdini rapidly rose to fame leveraging multiple media forms availed by the day’s leading edge technologies such as photography and motion pictures. Here is one of many film documentations of escape by this great artist and athlete.
It’s a strikingly sophisticated clip especially considering its period. Multiple shots and angles are used including camera rigging into structures looking straight down for a cool and distinctive perspective. Sharpness, brightness and contrasts are clear and artful across all of these perspectives with precise framing of key elements including during both horizontal and vertical tracking shots. Key information is smoothly documented such as the rigor of Houdini being bound into a straight jacket and the thousands assembled to witness his escape.
While the video is mystifying, it also exhibits how Houdini’s aim was in fact largely to demystify magic and escape. While he concealed some of his techniques, he conveyed others including in books, another medium leveraged for his prominence. In addition to the spectacle of achieving what seems impossible, it was often the cleverness of how that’s done, or sheer athleticism as in this video, with which Houdini amazed audiences.
Video can be similarly leveraged in these first couple decades of the 21st century. Contemporary audiences realize that tricks are used for amazing effects that advance a story or underscore a fact. But still we allow ourselves to be amazed so that video can make a message resonate like by no other medium.
We met Christopher Smith at a San Francisco event for people with media interests a few months ago. He is director of marketing of SFSDF, and a pioneering practitioner of augmented reality, and he blew our minds with what he shared about progress happening in that realm, and our mutual interests about facilitating better collaboration in work around this highly distinctive art form.
When I used to produce and production manage video, I’d hire hundreds of crew members and contract with dozens of vendors. Eventually I got to the point where I established relationships with certain crew and companies and they became my preferred production team. After ten years producing, I had a great set of resources to call on for each project. Unfortunately, there were two crew people who always came on board that I could never get rid of. They had odd names. One was called Somebody and the other was Someone. I never did meet them in person, but they were always around.
Once I looked out onto the set at wrap and saw the security guys were no longer around. I called over the 2nd Assistant Director who would normally know what was up. She informed me that Somebody told them they could leave early. I of course asked who, only to be told again, it was Somebody.
Another day the caterer was short ten meals for us. I know how many I had authorized on the call sheet so it was a mystery as to why we were short. Well, apparently Someone told the caterer the wrong head count.
These two trouble makers were responsible for many rumors also. Someone once told the crew they would be having a short day. Somebody, on another occasion told the crew we’d be working a 20 hour day.
It sure would have been nice to have web based collaboration tools like Market7 in those olden days of the 90’s. If we had such tools, the crew, the security guys and the caterer could all see the website for the production and would know that Somebody and Someone were wrong about almost everything said.