Here’s a TV trivia contest. What TV show has been on TV everyday since it’s first episode ran? I think we can all guess the answer…”I Love Lucy”, which premiered on October 15, 1951, and is still running right now, somewhere in the world. There are two reasons the show has been so popular for over 60 years. The first is indisputably great content. The scripts, and acting on the show are timeless. Even in black and white, set in America in the 1950s, the comedy routines are timeless, with Lucy pulling off some of the greatest gags ever written.
The second reason we all take for granted. Great production. We watch the show, and don’t even give thought to the magnificent picture and sound quality that remains today.
But, there were many great shows from the early days of TV whose content was just as stellar. Think of “Your Show Of Shows”. The comedy of Sid Caesar, written by an all star team consisting of some of the greatest minds of comedy, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and a host of others, created some of the best comedy ever written. Why aren’t we still seeing this show in syndication?
The difference is the recording quality. “Your Show Of Shows” was recorded in kinescope, an early way of recording TV before the advent of videotape. It was done by setting up a film camera in front of a video monitor. The quality is not very good. “I Love Lucy” was recorded in 35mm film. A superior way of archiving content.
People want to watch, and hear good quality. Bad video, or a soundtrack that is difficult to hear, gets turned off. As good as the content is, it will not stand the test of time unless it is recorded right the first time. And, if the production quality is not good, it may not ever get watched the first time.
This week I attended Social Media Day San Diego, created and hosted by Tyler Anderson, and featuring some of today’s foremost experts in all things social media discussing the latest in social media platforms, such as Instagram and Periscope. I was so impressed by the depth of knowledge these people have, and how they were able to launch careers using and these platforms.
Mari Smith, Amy Schmittauer, Brian Fanzo, Sue B. Zimmerman, Ryan Steinolfson and a host of others discussed how to tap into the marketing potential of social media, based on their own experiences. They all discussed the most important aspect of using social media…Content. They told the audience, that first and foremost, you must be interesting, and engage your audience. That seems like such an obvious point. But with the access people have to recording tools these days in the form of cell phones and low cost cameras, and free access to YouTube, any amateur can produce a video. What this means, is that there is a lot of content being produced that is not compelling because they are not following the basic rules of engagement. And that was the main take away I got from the conference.
One message I would share with today’s creators is to also pay attention to the actual production quality, and all of the ecosystem that goes into it. Production techniques, along with proper recording equipment and editing programs, is an important aspect to creating a show that is watchable.
It is good that anyone can get a video onto YouTube. Voices that may have never been heard, are now heard. The bad part is that most people are not trained in content creation and production techniques. YouTube is fully saturated with less than compelling content and poor production. Quality content, produced with quality technique is the winning combination.
I am not saying that the production has to be professional quality. But the basics must be attended to. A content creator can have the best, most entertaining video, but if it looks and sounds bad, the message is lost.
Furthermore, no one knows what tomorrow holds. I’m sure that Desi Arnez would be shocked to find out that “I Love Lucy” is still running today. His heirs are delighted. If a Creator produces quality content, uses the best tools available, and archives it properly, it could live on forever. In 60 years from now, today’s creators could still be making money from the content produced today, and deliver the best experience at the start.
So, my message to the Creators…Pay attention to production. Fortunately, the equipment is not expensive anymore. And that is the beauty of the industry today. For an investment of under $1,000, you can produce a video that looks and sounds as good as a professional production. It will make all the difference in your success.
Do it right, and your show could be the next “I Love Lucy”.