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Software-Designed Visual Storytelling

15/11/2019

By Andrew Cross, president of global research and development at Vizrt

Jenny Priestley 2 days ago

By Andrew Cross, president of global research and development at Vizrt

target=_blank title=Share on LinkedIn class=share-linkedin> By Andrew Cross, president of global research and development at Vizrt

https://www.tvbeurope.com/features/sdvs-telegraph-road title=Share via Email class=share-email>

those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. John F Kennedy

The future isn't on the horizon, it is well underway. Sitting in our chairs, comfortably immersed in the 21st century, it is all too easy to overlook an incredible revolution changing the world before our very eyes. We can be left behind on the curb wondering what just happened, or ride along as passengers; but do we have an opportunity to take the steering wheel and be part of the transformation.

Let's look back over relatively recent history to gain a wider perspective.

#1 Telegraph Road

Commercial use of the telegraph arrived around 1830. Before that, long-distance communication technology involved dispatch riders and carrier pigeons. We fervently hoped our messages arrived in time, and learned of remote events belatedly if ever. With the magic of the telegraph, messages traversed thousands of miles at virtually the speed of light, even thousands of miles at virtually the speed of light.

Important news and ideas spread like wildfire. It took about 80 years for the telegraph to arrive in the furthest corners of the world, available to nearly every social strata and human pursuit.

This changed the course of history, by delivering a better, more accurate story. We learned of news shortly after it happened, often from multiple sources and in more detail. This changed our reality, affecting our views and actions.

#2 Phoning Home

The next big revolution arrived in the early 1900s.

The telegraph required specialist skills and necessitated a trip to the telegraph office but the telephone allowed anyone to talk and talk back! No longer forced to accept the story as told, we ask questions, discuss details, debate meaning. Since we do so in real-time, the story (or our story) can affect events even as they unfold.

Still, again it took about 80 years before the telephone was a common fixture in most homes. (Despite its wireless advantages, cost and complexity prevented tow-way radio from enjoying a similar adoption.)

Looking back, we see that while the telegraph has been relegated to period dramas, and radio serves only niche applications, the telephone still dominates technological and societal change well over a century later.

#3 The Video Revolution

During the 1950s and 60s we see the rise of television. The 80s and 90s bring personal computing, and the internet.

Accelerated commoditisation delivered these to the masses quickly, over just about four decades. We could argue, though, that compared to the telephonic revolution these play only a supporting role.

The romantic notion many have of The Golden Era of Television', the family basking happily in the glow of a cathode ray tube is really only relevant in the affluent West. As you read this, the majority of the global viewing audience is watching television' on their mobile phones. In this respect, the development of television or the internet that the western world were not the big revolutions often claimed. While they played a role in bringing us to this day, TV, personal computing and the Internet didn't even reach much of the world until the mobile revolution.

Leveraging those advances, mobile' conquered the planet as its devices appeared in every home, hut, pocket and purse.

It's easy enough to identify earlier technical revolutions in hindsight. It is harder to recognise them in their infancy.

We must look deeper to see past countless lesser glitzy details vying for our attention to understand where it's all leading. While significant milestones, rolling out thousands of miles of copper across the seabeds, converting analogue data to zeros and ones by the trillion, and building Clouds to store them all in were not in themselves revolutionary. These were just the building blocks of real transformation. Having laid these foundation cornerstones, what did we erect on it?

#4 A Technology Convergence

In less than a decade beginning around 2010, the confluence of computing power, broadband networks, and software providing stunning integrated video production tools led to this singular moment, when almost anyone in the world can broadcast their story in the blink of an eye using the fastest, most impactful form of communication ever devised (we communicate most effectively face-to-face and visually, evaluating subtle cues impossible to sense when merely hearing or reading humans have literally evolved to communicate face-to-face).

The majority of mankind can now explore the universe and its wonders better and faster than the best-equipped scientists of even the recent past. You can watch your kids play football when far from home, and they can be in their grandparent's daily lives even when oceans separate them. Teenagers in many lands not only have a TV and a camera in their pocket, but are broadcasters with their own personal TV network. And the resulting explosion of content is profoundly affecting our understanding of the world.

(Admittedly this also raises some concerns. It can be a big challenge to distinguish fake news' from truth. And as we have seen, this really matters, because the medium is so potent that the stories directly shape societies, for better or worse.)

Note closely, please, the greatly accelerated pace of this latter revolution. It took many decades and nation-sized budgets to lay wire for the global telephone system under oceans and over mount
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