Digital Media Academy

Inventing In The Forever-Changing Digital Space

Technology is the key influence on entertainment. At the beginning of time, we as a species have been entertained by story telling, and have since been on a search for the best means to share our stories with the rest of the world.

What began as sharing stories around a fire has evolved over time, from first books and newspapers, to then radio and television, to computers, and now—smartphones.

YouTube, the online video publishing site that everyone on the face of the earth has watched at least one video from, was created when I was in the 5th grade. And the first iPhone ever released came out when I was in the 7th grade. Before that time, the phrases, “YouTube it” and “I’ll pull it up on my phone” did not even exist!

Now, today 98% of the Generation Z (those born after 1997) population owns a smartphone (GlobalWebIndex), and on average, one-third of all Gen-Zers watch at least one hour of YouTube videos a day (NOLA Media Group).

In less than 15 years, the way we as people consume content has changed dramatically. And, as technology continues to evolve, so do the ways we entertain ourselves. For example, the invention of television took the spectacle of the theater, and brought it into the comfort of our own homes. With technology forever evolving, the question becomes, “What will become the new television?”…

I had just finished working in the writers’ room of the Tracy Morgan TBS comedy, The Last O.G. when I got word about a very interesting and unique fellowship program being offered by Instagram and Buzzfeed. The concept of the fellowship: to educate storytellers on Instagram’s new vertical video platform, IGTV, and fund a variety of vertical video pilots to premiere on the platform. All the videos posted to IGTV would be presented in a 9×16 aspect ratio— the same aspect ratio of a smartphone screen.

I was so fascinated about the concept of the platform, and confused about how it would work. All my life I believed movies were filmed horizontally— in 16×9— like how you see them in the theaters or on TV. Filming any other way just seemed weird and different. However, I always get excited about breaking the rules, so I sent over a treatment for the program I wanted to produce, and my producing partner and I were accepted into the fellowship. Within weeks we were working in Buzzfeed’s LA office to write and produce the show!

There were so many challenges to filming a show vertically that we had never dealt with before. First, we had to create a stage for our show, and realized that our stage would be viewed from top-to-bottom in our video, as opposed to left-to-right. So, we worked on creating a stage that would be fun and exciting from top-to-bottom as opposed to side-to-side. This process also taught me how to edit videos vertically, which was a very unique, but fun experience.

Our program, entitled “What’s Up North”, premiered internally for Instagram and Buzzfeed in early March, and will premiere publically online in early April on the Instagram handle, @WhatsUpNorthTV.

YouTube uploaded its first video when I was ten years old. Now, 15 years later, 300 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded to the site every minute! Apple sold roughly 1.4 million iPhones in 2007. Today, over 200 million iPhones are sold a year (Statista).

Technology is ever evolving, and therefore, so are the ways in which we create and share stories with each other. The most popular video service of 2030 likely doesn’t even exist today. Which means that we as creators should always be forcing ourselves to think differently and create what hasn’t been created before.

Vertical video may possibly be the future of how we watch videos on our smartphones. And after that, who knows what will follow?

You are the ones who will decide!

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