Technology Thoughts

Rewind 2012: YouTube

YouTube Rewind 2012

YouTube has come a long way since its birth in April 2005 and since people learnt how to get more views on Youtube, but what does its meteoric rise mean for the worlds of film and television?

When a young man posted a video of himself in a San Diego zoo in early 2005, no-one could have predicted it was the beginning of a revolution in on-line content.

Whilst what would become YouTube had antecedents (such as iFilm) it was a combination of timing and Silicon Valley connections that really sent it into the stratosphere, culminating in its acquisition by Google in October 2006.

Its explosive growth over that year and the sheer amount of copyrighted content being uploaded led to speculation that it would be sued out of existence.

That didn’t happen, largely because Google had the money to legally defend itself, but also because the first media corporation to take legal action (Viacom) had their claims of copyright infringement struck down in 2010.

Although they can still appeal, it looks like YouTube’s official takedown policy and their large legal budget will cover them on this front.

Perhaps more interesting is the partnerships that the site has engaged in with more traditional media organisations like the BBC and CBS (the latter who are owned by Viacom).

YouTube has become like a default TV station for the entire web.

As of January 2012, Reuters reported that it was:

…streaming 4 billion online videos every day, a 25 percent increase in the past eight months,

…According to the company, roughly 60 hours of video is now uploaded to YouTube every minute, compared with the 48 hours of video uploaded per minute in May.

A lot of this is copyrighted material, but a newer generation are growing up with the site as a regular outlet for films, television and music, but also as a launchpad for memes, funny animals, activism and all kind of weird and wonderful stuff.

Their review of the most popular videos of 2012, featured a neat interactive timeline.

The collection shows the sprawling nature of content on the site, which is now so vast that it boggles the mind to think where it will be in another seven years.

More importantly, what are the future implications for longer form content?

Will our collective attention span gradually reduce as we get used to more short-form content on mobile devices?

And what effect will this have on professionally produced shows and films?

Live sports and music won’t be immune either as the site has already made headways into streaming live cricket and concerts.

Is it conceivable that in the next few years (as broadband speeds really increase) YouTube could buy the English Premier League football rights? I certainly think so.

For the film business it represents crisis and opportunity. At a recent Hollywood Reporter round table discussion, several studio executives held forth on the state of the business.

But it was long-time veteran Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks Animation who perhaps had the most interesting things to say.

The full discussion is below but click here to go directly to his answer about the future (i.e. next ten years) of the industry:

Katzenberg’s analogy with sports is astute and the discussion of the release window also hints at the underlying tensions that are still ongoing between studios and exhibitors.

Whilst the conversation about home entertainment and video on demand is often dominated by Netflix and local sites such as Lovefilm (UK) and Hulu (US), YouTube is perhaps the most fascinating VOD platform for the future.

The sheer scale of content, infrastructure and legal bills paid by Google, are likely to make it an interesting barometer for the state of the film and TV business over the next decade.

> History of YouTube
> Time Magazine article from 2006


Watch Life in a Day on YouTube

The crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day is now available to watch in full on YouTube.

Depicting life on July 24th 2010, the film consists of over 80,000 video clips submitted to YouTube and is credited to director Kevin Macdonald and ‘the Youtube Community’, with Ridley Scott as producer.

Editor Joe Walker along with McDonald had the daunting task of whittling down over 4,500 hours of footage from 140 countries into a coherent 95 minutes.

You can watch it all here:

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival back in January and the premiere was streamed live on YouTube.

It was also announced recently that a follow up film called Britain in a Day will be made from videos from the public about their lives on November 12th, 2011.

> Life in a Day’s channel on YouTube
>  YouTube at Wikipedia and Facebook
> Find out more about Britain in a Day on YouTube


YouTube Five Years On

Although this video is a YouTube promo, it is also a telling reminder of the extraordinary journey the site has been on in the last five years.

When it was founded in early 2005, who would have thought that world leaders, rock legends, famous directors, old age pensioners and funny cats would have all used the site as a platform?

News Technology

Pre-roll Ads on YouTube

YouTube logoDifferent UK broadcasters are going to test pre-roll ads on YouTube just weeks after the fiasco of ITV somehow not making any money out of the Susan Boyle viral video.

PaidContent report:

Separately to the renewal of its partnership with BBC Worldwide today, YouTube has agreed to trial pre-roll ads, and not just the usual display banners, on short-form UK TV clips offered by it BBCWW, Channel 4, National Geographic, ITN and Discovery partners.

Partners are able to place their own inventory, but the extent to which each is doing so varies.

Ads can last up to 30 seconds, at broadcasters’ discretion, but 15 seconds is the guideline and clips with ads must last at least one minute, YouTube told paidContent:UK.

Initial advertisers include Warner Bros,, Activision, Renault and Nissan. It kicks off with C4 running ads for WB’s The Hangover movie – but embedding of these clips is disabled.

ITV – surprise, surprise – doesn’t have a UK YouTube partnership and isn’t part of the trial (maybe not surprising given that outgoing chairman Michael Grade thinks it a ‘parasite’)

YouTube had been reluctant to use pre-rolls as they annoy users but apparently is going to test them again.

Perhaps short pre-rolls could work, but the length is debatable.

I tend to think ads around the video are a better option (from a user’s perspective) but advertisers obviously want more impact.

But can someone tell me why embedding is disabled?

This video from Channel 4, plugging a TV series called Embarrassing Illnesses, has a pre-roll ad for a new Warner Bros movie called The Hangover. (Again it can’t be embedded, so you’ll have to click through on the link). 

It is about 19 seconds long. Is that too much? Will it become the norm?

I’ll be surprised if it does.


YouTube blocked in China

China has blocked YouTube after footage of soldiers beating monks and other Tibetans appeared on the site.

BBC News report:

The date and location of the footage, posted by a Tibetan exile group, cannot be ascertained.

A Chinese government spokesman would not confirm whether YouTube had indeed been blocked.

China has a history of blocking websites which carry messages it views as politically unacceptable.

In most of China, YouTube has suddenly become inaccessible.

The site has been carrying a graphic video released by Tibetan exiles, which shows hundreds of uniformed Chinese troops swarming through a Tibetan monastery – a group of troops beat a man with batons.

Here is a Reuters report featuring the footage that got the Chinese government upset:

> Find out more about the dispute between China and Tibet at Wikipedia
> BBC News on how Pakistan blocked YouTube last year

News Technology video

Download videos on YouTube

Interesting things are happening on YouTube, as you can now officially download selected videos from the site.

One such video is President-Elect Obama’s recent weekly address:

The above is an embed but if you view the video on the actual site you will see more options.

Obama address on YouTube regular

For example you can also view it in HD:

Obama address in HD

But on the bottom left of the video you will see a link saying ‘click to download’:

Obama address on YouTube download linkIf you click on it then you can download the video as an MP4 video file to your computer. 

[Link via Lessig]


Barack Obama’s Weekly Video Address on YouTube

Notice how Barack Obama‘s weekly video address is now making use of YouTube’s new 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. (The high quality version looks particularly good)

News Technology

YouTube goes widescreen

You may have noticed recently that YouTube videos have switched to a widescreen ratio

Or to be technical about it, they have changed the aspect ratio of their video player from 4:3 to 16:9.

This appears to apply to all videos, so the 4:3 videos are screened in a pillarbox format.

They also now offer some of its videos in true HD format, with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels.

Videos uploaded with 720 pixel resolution can be viewed in this format by adding &fmt=22 to the web address.

The changes were announced yesterday via their blog:

“We’re expanding the width of the page to 960 pixels to better reflect the quality of the videos you create and the screens that you use to watch them.

This new, wider player is in a widescreen aspect ratio which we hope will provide you with a cleaner, more powerful viewing experience.”

This is an eager user describing the benefits of widescreen:

(Here is a playlist of BBC videos that look nice in the widescreen format)

What this development suggests is that they are getting ready for streaming movies and TV shows via their site in order to directly compete with Hulu and Vimeo.

CNET have a theory with regard to the former:

YouTube parent Google may be trying to duplicate the success of competitor Hulu, which has become the top outlet for watching full-length films and TV shows on the Web, and is reportedly generating as many ad dollars in its first year in business as YouTube, which will mark its fourth birthday in February.

They recently signed a deal with MGM to stream films and I would be surprised if they didn’t have plans with other studios in the pipeline.

Warner Bros and Sony would seem the likely candidates given that Fox and Universal are joint partners on Hulu, Paramount are owned by a company (Viacom) that are currently trying to sue Google, whilst Disney appear happy to go down the iTunes route.

is it possible that all of them may partner with the video sharing site in the future if it can help them?

Reuters recently reported that the UK production company FremantleMedia (behind numerous reality shows, game shows and other entertainment) have plans to produce shows exclusively for YouTube for an undisclosed revenue split.

But what about Google?

Despite owning the most successful video site on the web, YouTube remains something of a conundrum for it’s corporate parent.

Although massively popular and possessing a great brand name, how do they monetise it effectively?

Google are still gushing money but there are still question marks over the copyright issues that have infuriated the likes of Viacom and how advertising will fit in to the general ethos of the site without making it suck.

According to a Fortune article back in March delivering free video wasn’t cheap:

YouTube sends a staggering 1,000 gigabytes of data every second, or nearly 300 billion GBs each month.

Several industry insiders estimate that YouTube spends roughly $1 million a day just to pay for the bandwidth to host the videos.

By that number, YouTube downloads would account for roughly 3% of Google’s $11.5 billion operating costs for 2007. 

Here is a video from June of CEO Eric Schmidt talking to Ken Auletta about the future of YouTube (go to 6.20):

My guess is that they will start showing more premium content alongside the user generated videos but somehow find a way of importing their lucrative text-based Adsense model into video.

Is the shift to widescreen a move in that direction?

> YouTube blog post announcing the move to widescreen
> A playlist of widescreen YouTube videos from the BBC
> CNET on the story
> Find out more about Widescreen at Wikipedia


Halloween Theme

The theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween as played by YouTube user Doctor Gradus.

> Check out the trailer for the 1978 horror film
> Find out more about John Carpenter at Wikipedia

Interesting News Technology

W. Mashup Contest

Lionsgate and YouTube have partnered for a W. mashup contest in which users can create and submit their own videos based on the upcoming Oliver Stone film about the 43rd US president.

The director himself explains the contest in this video:

Submissions close on October 17th and you can find out more at the film’s official YouTube channel.

W. opens in the US on October 17th and in the UK on November 7th

> Official site for W.
> Oliver Stone discusses the movie with GQ
> Check out images and on set footage from W.

Interesting Technology

BFI YouTube Channel

I’ve only just come across the official YouTube channel for the British Film Institute (BFI).

If you aren’t aware of their good work, Wikipedia defines them as ‘a charitable organisation’ established by Royal Charter to:

  • Encourage the development of the arts of film, television and the moving image throughout the United Kingdom
  • To promote their use as a record of contemporary life and manners
  • To promote education about film, television and the moving image generally, and their impact on society
  • To promote access to and appreciation of the widest possible range of British and world cinema
  • To establish, care for and develop collections reflecting the moving image history and heritage of the United Kingdom.

If you live in the UK or London you may have been to see a film at the NFT or IMAX cinemas which are both run by the BFI.

Their YouTube channel now has a lot of videos from their extensive vault, which (according to them) is the world’s largest and most diverse film and TV archive.

There is some very interesting footage from a football match in 1901 between Newcastle United and Liverpool:

A short film called ‘Springtime in an English Village’ which offers a snapshot of rural life in wartime:

You can also explore their videos in Google Earth and if you are in London you can view 1000 complete films and TV programmes from the archive for free at the new Mediatheque at the BFI Southbank.

[Link via Speechification]

> BFI YouTube channel
> Find out more about the BFI at Wikipedia

Documentaries Interesting Technology

No End In Sight to screen on YouTube

The Oscar-nominated documentary No End In Sight will screen in full on YouTube from this Monday (September 1st).

The New York Times report:

The Oscar-nominated documentary “No End in Sight,” which chronicles the early months of the American occupation of Iraq, will be available on YouTube starting Monday and continuing through the presidential election on Nov. 4.

Charles Ferguson, the director of the film, which won the Documentary Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, said in a statement that he had underwritten its screening on YouTube because “I wanted to make the film, and the facts about the occupation of Iraq, accessible to a larger group of people.”

He added, “My hope is that this will contribute to the process of making better foreign policy decisions moving forward in Iraq and elsewhere.”

This is a very smart move – not only will it boost audiences and awareness for the film but I also think that it could actually help future DVD sales.

Although this might sound strange, think of those who have never heard of it but watch it on YouTube and then reccommend it to a friend, who in turn buys the DVD because they prefer that format.

Whatever happens, the publicity generated by being the first feature to officially (i.e. legally) screen on YouTube will give the film a timely boost ahead of the US presidential election.

> YouTube channel for No End In Sight
> No End In Sight at the IMDb
> Find out more about the film at Wikipedia and check out some reviews at Metacritic

Interesting News Short Films

The YouTube Screening Room

YouTube announced last month that they are creating a online resource for filmmakers called The Screening Room.

Check out this promo video:

The idea is that it will be a new platform that will enable independent filmmakers to a wider global audience.

Although the video sharing site already contains a lot of user generated content, this is a new dedicated section that also makes more authored short films to stand out.

Filmmakers can opt for their films to have a ‘Buy Now’ option next to their work for DVD or digital sales and they can then share in the majority of ad revenue generated from views.

To submit you just send and an email with information about your film to [email protected] (although you have to make sure that you own all the digital rights to the work you are submitting).

Each week, four new films will be selected by an editorial panel and then uploaded and highlighted in the Screening Room section.

According to the Associated Press there is already proof that YouTube can help a young filmmaker gain valuable exposure:

“Hopefully as they see thousands of people watching their films, it’s going to be a very eye-opening experience,” said Sara Pollack, YouTube’s film and animation manager.

Among the first eight titles to be showcased are “Love and War,” a stop-motion puppet movie by a Swedish director; the Oscar-nominated short “I Met The Walrus,” about an interview with John Lennon; and “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?” by performance artist Miranda July.

YouTube said people whose clips regularly attract a million viewers can make several thousand dollars a month. The bigger prize can be exposure.

When YouTube featured the nine-minute short “Spider” by Nash Edgerton in February, it became the fifth-best selling short on iTunes, Pollack said.

The creators of the full-length feature “Four Eyed Monsters,” Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, got their break when more than a million YouTube views helped land them a TV and DVD distribution deal, she said.

“They ended up doing really, really well, ironically by putting their film online for free,” Pollack said.

Although it is early days for this venture, I think it is a great idea. Last year when I was at the Cannes Film Festival, I met several people at the Short Film Corner (a section dedicated to directors of shorts) and what struck me was that it was hard to actually get to see their films online or on a DVD.

Although, directors can already upload to sites like MySpace and YouTube, this new section appears to be more filmmaker friendly and makes it easier for quality shorts to get exposure outside the usual avenue of festivals and late night TV slots.

Some of the most recent examples to be showcased are:

For more information check out the submission page of The Screening Room.

> The Screening Room at YouTube
> Interview with Sara Pollack on the FilmCouch podcast
> – Resource for filmmakers
> Short Film Corner at Cannes
> Download the first chapter of Shooting People’s book about Short Films (PDF)

Viral Video

Weezer’s Pork and Beans YouTube video

Weezer have done a video for their single Pork and Beans which features a number of people who became famous on YouTube.

Look out for:

> Official site for Weezer
> A timeline of Internet Memes at Dipity

Interesting Technology


YouTomb is some kind of research project by the folks at MIT Free Culture that shows videos taken down from YouTube for alleged copyright violation.

If you look at the stats section you can see which companies are asking for their clips to be taken down from the world’s biggest video sharing site.

How long before this actual site gets taken down?

Or will it be an interesting test case of the limits of fair use?

> YouTomb
> More on Fair Use at Wikipedia

News Viral Video

Chris Matthews vs Kevin James on MSNBC

Just days after Bill O’Reilly’s timeless meltdown was leaked all over the web, here comes another contender for the YouTube Hall of Fame.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is having a debate with a conservative radio host named Kevin James.

The subject was President Bush’s recent comments in the Knesset, that compared Barack Obama to Nazi appeasers like Neville Chamberlain.

A couple of moments to look out for:

  1. Why are you screaming? (1.14)
  2. What did Neville Chamberlain do wrong in 1939? (2.18)

> The Huffington Post on Bush’s comments about Obama
> More on Neville Chamberlain at Wikipedia
> Official site for Hardball with Chris Matthews

Interesting Useful Links


TimeTube is a very cool mashup of YouTube and the interactive timeline site Dipity.

This means that if you do a keyword search it will bring up relevant YouTube videos in an interactive timeline.

So, for example, if we wanted to to a TimeTube search on Steven Spielberg, type in the keywords ‘Steven Spielberg’ and then watch it build up a timeline of videos related to the director:

Then select the relevant video you want from the timeline, such as this BBC interview Spielberg did with Jeremy Isaacs around the UK release of Schindler’s List in 1994:

Then you can watch the video:

You can also check out parts two, three, four and five of the interview.

> Check out more video timelines at TimeTube
> Steven Spielberg at the IMDb

News Useful Links

YouTube goes down

I’ve just realised that YouTube is down.

Server problems? Or perhaps the Pakistan government somehow taking it offline again, like they did back in February?

Paul Glazowski at Mashable has some thoughts:

First highlighted by Allen Stern at CenterNetworks, the outage seems to have stretched the globe, with reports from people spanning the US, the UK, Estonia, and places elsewhere.

A few simple requests by yours truly for YouTube clips via Google Search this morning return links to unresponsive pages. (The Australian site is down too, by the way.)

Not good, not good. Maintenance gone wrong, is it? Who’s to say? Google’s not talking, neither on the company blog or, more specifically, on the official Youtube Blog.

UPDATE at 15.15 GMT: It is back up in the UK.

What about where you are in the rest of the world? Leave any comments below.