The tale of a digital hoarder: Videos

By Matt Cornock

Videos are the new photos, in much the same way that black is the new black. For many, taking a video of an event is now just as easy (if not easier) than taking a photo. This is why the vast majority of mobile phones have a video function as well as a photo function. But what happens to these videos after their initial novelty has worn off?

Video quality: video for the masses

Whilst the top end video cameras are getting better and better with advances in lenses, resolution and CCD technology, the bottom end of the spectrum has stayed the same. OK, so the manufacturers of mobile phones can now add on a 5.0 megapixel camera instead of a 1.0 megapixel camera, but I’ve yet to see these match the quality of the equivalent megapixel digital camera of ten years ago. One of the reasons is the flimsy tiny plastic lens, which is what is required on mobile phones for size/weight.

Clearly the purpose of these cameras is not to capture the most amazing shots using your mobile phone (and quite often the ‘flashes’ are a joke too). They’re convenience add-ons, for novelty more than any thing else. You see a friend doing something stupid, whip out your camera phone and away you go with either a laugh and a giggle, or a nice sum of blackmail money in your account. We’ve all seen the reports of ‘happy-slapping’ because of the prevalence of camera phones. So am I proposing then because of the quality of the camera itself, the ‘quality’ of the content also goes down? I suppose so. However, the converse is not always true. Just because the quality of the camera goes up, doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of the content does as well…

However, video for the masses has a reason to exist. It allows ‘everyone’ to be creative, to record moments important to them, and to have ‘fun’. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, all I’m saying is that we end up with so much inane video footage that we don’t know what to do with it (aside from creative clip shows for TV).

What I’ve found particularly interesting over the last few years is the increase in what the media industry called ‘user-generated content’. This is where viewers of TV news and readers of papers are invited to submit their own video footage recorded on their mobiles for use either in broadcast or on online versions of that media outlet. It’s a very cheap way of creating content and is both popular with those who want their 5 minutes of fame (or 5 seconds) and media companies who are trying to engage with an otherwise disinterested audience. I have very mixed feelings about user-generated content for very important events. Luckily, the decision hasn’t yet been made to solely rely on mobile phone footage for news stories and professional footage is still taken. But it’s also clear that in the heat of the moment, those that do capture a brief event using their phone do a great service where a professional camera outfit might be several minutes away.

Permanently mobile

Take a look at your phone’s stored media and you’re bound to find a number of old photos and videos that you probably forgot you took. Unless you’re ok with Bluetooth or have a very specific USB cable, the likelihood is that you won’t be transfering this stuff from your mobile to a more permanent location. Once again, we talk about the reason why you’d want to save this stuff at all? Perhaps it’s best left on your mobile anyway.

The curse of facebook video

Facebook photos and videos stats for one user: photos 145235, videos 251

This is one of my most scary concerns. I’m not a fan of Facebook’s rules about letting anyone post a photo or video of you without your consent. It’s just one of the plethora of Facebook privacy stances that I don’t agree with. Just like mobile phones, Facebook is a place where photos and videos linger forever more.

Whilst more and more data servers are added to YouTube and Facebook (to name but two), more and more videos are left sitting there without purpose. I create some of them (!).

I would encourage then an annual video purge. If every person who has used such services was encouraged to clean out once a year in a digital spring clean, who knows what the effects could be?

Perhaps an increase in profits for Facebook and YouTube as server space is reduced. Maybe even a slow down in the melting of the Artic as less power is consumed by data centres who reduce their storage capacity instead of expand it. Hey, digitial spring cleans could even become a green eco-movement.

There’s one small thing stopping that though: willpower of those who have mass media storage to actually clean it all out.

Video production and hard drive space

I produce a handful of videos each year. Each three minute video may have three hours of recorded footage used to produce it. All this gets stored on my hard drives, just incase I want to re-edit or re-use some old footage. I admit that I’ve not yet gone back to re-edit any of these videos and the attempts I have made occur after I’ve moved them all around and the internal footage links in the editing program have all been shot to pieces.

I don’t like deleting original footage however. I’m very conscious of the fact that once they’ve been encoded to DVD, a lot of the original, off-the-camera quality has been lost. It’s another reason why I still use digital tape (like most professionals) instead of hard-drive or direct-to-DVD recording. Hard-drive and direct-to-DVD compresses footage (normally under MPEG) and though your manufacturer may promote that you can store a lifetime’s worth of videos on the drive, in reality the quality isn’t as good as digital tape.

My hard drives are therefore full of videos I can’t bring myself to delete or to compress. That’s a crazy situation to be in! Still, like those using online media storage, in order to prevent myself requiring more and more hard drives I should really do a spring clean… maybe next year. 

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