Thinking About the Future of Video Editing

Posted on by Larry

There are people who make a living predicting the future. I am not one of them. I’m pretty grounded in the here-and-now. My focus is on what we need to know today to complete our projects and pay the bills.

Still, I want to share some thoughts about the future of video editing – as much to read your comments as to reflect my thinking.

COMPETITION & AI

In the past, those of us who earned a living in this industry needed to worry about lower-cost competition stealing our clients and lowering budgets. That pressure hasn’t changed. One of the most common ways to launch a career in media is to do the same work cheaper.

What has changed is the rise of wholly new competition: Artificial Intelligence (AI). I was reading an article in Ars Technica this morning that “[w]ith neural networks now tackling text, speech, pictures, video, and now handwriting, it seems like no corner of human creative output is beyond the reach of generative AI.”

Personally, I find AI both interesting and troubling. Mostly, troubling. As Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, said recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast, “One of the real concerns about AI is that it will be very difficult to tell the difference between information and misinformation.”

As exciting as the new capabilities of AI appear to be, I expect that, instead, we will quickly get inundated with deeply deceptive misrepresentations of the truth. (Worse, because AI can easily create seemingly-real video, clients will think they can do without us and simply let “AI” create their projects. They may even be right.)

While I do think there is a bright side to AI, we have a very challenging time ahead of us before that arrives. In the absence of any clear regulation or sense of propriety on the part of developers or creators, there are some struggles ahead of us. I am not looking forward to it.

FRAME SIZES WILL INCREASE

I read somewhere that the human eye sees essentially a 12K image. My guess is that we are ultimately headed for a 12K frame size; though there will be an intermediate stop at 8K. Already, I’m getting notes from producers and editors who are regularly shooting or editing 8K.

Now, the point could be made that we don’t NEED 8K. (As a test, name any actor that wants their face in a closeup with 8K of resolution.) Nor, for that matter, can we perceive 8K in any mobile, computer or living room display; even large-screen theatrical may not have a big enough screen to show an 8K image at full resolution. However, I do think that for many media productions, we are heading for masters at 8K, and production in 12K.

Our computers are fast enough to edit these formats, but our storage needs to get bigger and much faster.

NOTE: 8K ProRes 422 (8192 x 4320 pixels at 30 fps) requires 2.5 GB/second for playback. Thunderbolt 3/4 tops out at 2.8 GB/second. 8K also requires 1.1 TB/hour for storage. Hard disks and servers can easily hold this much data, but they are nowhere near fast enough.

COMPUTERS & STORAGE

Computers are finally fast enough for any video editing we need to do. While visual effects still benefit from more computer power, media editing no longer requires state-of-the-art hardware. We may want it, but we don’t need it.

The challenge is not maximizing our computer core counts, but maximizing our storage. As frame sizes and the amount of media shot for each project increase, the amount of storage, along with need for high-speed storage, become ever more critical. Hard disks can be used for long-term storage, but editing will need to shift to all-SSD storage

NOTE: It would be really helpful if LTO drives were cheaper and connected via Thunderbolt, rather than SAS; but I don’t see any push for that happening.

Thunderbolt 3/4 is fast enough for single camera editing, but we will need a faster protocol and storage for multicam editing as frame sizes reach 8K, then exceed it.

PRIVACY

Privacy will either become regulated or it will disappear entirely. Too much of the software industry is built on a business model of selling user data to the highest bidder.  To shift away from that model will require us paying more for software. Whatever happens to limit privacy, though, will be driven from outside the US, because the largest tech companies (which are based in the US) provide too many obstacles to create an effective regulatory environment here.

MAKING A LIVING IN MEDIA

This, to me, is the biggest challenge. Competition is nothing new, but the rise of AI makes it much more complex. When AI can create images and videos that are “good enough,” where does that leave us?

In the past, success depended upon the relationships we built with our clients and leveraging them to find new clients. We still need to do this, but it is no longer enough. I think the key is that we need to know more than just media production and editing. I tell my students that media should be their minor. They need to major in a subject that they then use media to express.

That’s good advice for us grown-ups, too. If all we know is how to edit, we are a tool easily replaced by something cheaper. If we know a subject – say, farming, or mathematics, or history, or any field of study that needs to explain itself to the world – that knowledge becomes a fundamental asset we and our clients can tap into to provide more informed video projects.

It is critical that we know more than editing to differentiate ourselves from the competition – both human and computer – that we face today. AI can parrot, but only we can create. We need to be more than an editing “tool.” We need to inform that tool with our creativity and our knowledge of the greater world.

I’m interested in your thoughts.


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21 Responses to Thinking About the Future of Video Editing

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  1. Barry Shea says:

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.
    – Albert Einstein

  2. Barry Shea says:

    In typical technology parameters, it seems I’m late to the party (4 days!).

    Aside from projecting to very large screens, and mapping planets, I don’t understand the push to get more and more pixels onto a sensor. How sharp does a sitcom need to be?

    I was flipping through the channels the other night and came across yet another hospital drama, New Amsterdam. My den TV screen is 32″. It’s hard to explain, but the picture was so sharp it distracted me from the show. I just kept marveling at how I could see the skin pores of the actor’s faces in a 2-shot.

    The one thing about movies shot in 35mm film, especially that gorgeous Panavision, is that they aren’t super sharp on the big screen, and it’s that quality, or rather lack of it, that creates that feeling of fantasy and wonder.

    I’ll take a great story over a super sharp story any time. And after watching an episode of that hospital drama, and the same characters and plot lines (handsome doctor and beautiful nurse are so unsure of themselves in each other’s presence!), the sharpness didn’t help.

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Barry:

      Yup. It continues to astound me that “I Love Lucy” was ever a success. It had only 1/15th the resolution of a 4K frame. Resolution is not storytelling g.

      Larry

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