Editorial: pick a format any format

It wasn't long ago that a programme made for television would just be shown on the box, or a film made for cinema would just be shown on the big screen and maybe the small screen some time later. Now a video shot for one format could end up anywhere: in a cinema, analogue TV, digital TV, on an aeroplane, on a computer or on an iPod.

It wasn't long ago that a programme made for television would just be shown on the box, or a film made for cinema would just be shown on the big screen and maybe the small screen some time later. Now a video shot for one format could end up anywhere: in a cinema, analogue TV, digital TV, on an aeroplane, on a computer or on an iPod.

Last month, I was interviewed on the BBC children's news programme 'Newsround' as the representative of Flipside, the IET's magazine for young teenagers. The news story was in many ways a trivial one: a 'battle' between Avril Lavigne's 'Girlfriend' music video and a comedy routine called 'Evolution of Dance' to be the most viewed video on YouTube. My first reaction to watching them was: 'Who cares?' - hardly a response worthy of broadcast on national TV. But when you understand that the hits for each of these videos are nudging 100 million and that Lavigne's music-making machine expects to make around £1m from plays of just that one video on YouTube, it underlines that the market for video really has moved beyond the TV.

A film made for the big screen could end up being watched on the back of a car seat, or a programme made for television might be viewed on a mobile phone on a bus. Directors can't be sure how their work will be seen. In the first of this issue's features on broadcasting, we take a look at what this means for programme and film makers in "From reel to reality". Directors may direct differently for different formats. Sometimes the differences are quite unexpected and subtle.

The largest screen in Britain is the Imax in London's Waterloo. One of the films showing when it opened was an introduction to what Imax is all about. It was presented by the comedian John Cleese, who demonstrated some of the things that should never be done in Imax films by doing them. Close-up head shots, for example, are used a lot in conventional film but Cleese said you won't see them in Imax films because the Imax screen is so big that they just look scary. And he then goes on to demonstrate how awful it looks. He was right. I have never seen another head close-up in Imax since and hope that I never will.

We all know that films made for the big screen are often not quite the same on a small screen but it can be true the other way around as well. I was once at a seminar on digital cinema where various technologists were discussing the exciting possibilities of live sports broadcasts: cinemas could receive live match broadcasts by satellite and project them onto their wonderful big screens.

Then a director pointed out a problem. TV programmes are edited differently from big screen films. There are more rapid cuts for example, and more following shots, in which the camera arcs after the ball as it's hoofed from one end of the pitch to the other. These look fine in a box in the corner of the room, but in a cinema, he explained, the audience would be throwing up into their salted popcorn. Stand too close to a pub's screen showing a football match and you can replicate a mild version of this nausea. I've noticed it too while standing next to plasma screens showing fast action sports at trade shows like CeBit.

However, I don't think it would make any difference where you viewed those top videos on YouTube. 'Evolution of Dance' isn't very funny and Lavigne's record is truly awful in any format. I didn't mention that on 'Newsround', mind you.

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