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Obviously, this will take several years: to develop the standard, to develop handsets and infrastructure that implement the standard, to roll out 3G commercial services that support the standard, and to migrate customers toward hi-res video services over 3G (or preferably, over WiFi-to-3G/GPRS roaming) environments.
This evolution is inevitable, and hi-res streaming video over public wireless will gain substantial adoption worldwide by the end of this decade. Wireless carriers’ futures depend on it. Slipping down the slope to commoditization of their underlying bearer services, they need sexy new apps/services to boost average revenue per subscriber. Hi-res video certainly qualifies as sexy (and let’s not get into the literal nature of that adjective applied to this technology and its for-sure adoption in e-porn—OK, I mentioned it, but that’s as far as I’ll go on that ramification).
Instead, let’s focus on hi-res wireless streaming video as a basic feature of most handhelds by the beginning of the next decade: the Teens. It will surely mark the beginning of the end of the camcorder market, just as digital cameras have doomed film cameras to obsolescence. Think about it: You’re on vacation, and you’re video-capturing everything you see and, not just that, you’re automatically streaming all that video in real time over the airwaves back to some persistent storage location that your 3G/WiFI wireless carrier provides you. Not just that, but you also have the option of granting others with real-time access to that feed—or playback from the persistent store—so that they can see what you’re doing on vacation while you’re doing it (actually, scratch that thought—if you’re like me, back in the days of photographic slides, you couldn’t stand being forced to watch somebody’s else’s vacation moments, all those indistinguishable sunsets and beaches and rollercoasters and overexposed red-eye grins).
Just as important, this hi-res streaming wireless video uplink technology is the future of on-the-spot newsgathering everywhere (er…everywhere they have 3G, that is). And the future of remote job interviews. And so on and so forth. Everybody will be able to muster up an on-the-spot video uplink—of steadily improving quality--from equipment that they carry on their person.
Awesome. Which, indirectly, reminds me of my favorite film of 2004. The line between “reality” entertainment and scripted entertainment is becoming blurrier (actually, I define reality TV as “gross, idiotic, humiliating stunts performed by shameless non-actors,” but that’s beside the point). Increasingly, people expect a streak of cinema verite (oh…ancient term…somehow, though, it feels more relevant than ever)—the shaky camera, the awkward angles, the spontaneous danger of ad-hoc reacting and venting—in even the most professional video productions (TV, movies, etc.).
My favorite film of 2004 was “Before Sunset,” directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (it was a sequel to the 1995 film “Before Sunrise” by the same team). The premise of both films is straightforward: a man and a woman, who’ve barely met, walk and talk and talk and walk through a romantic European capital (Vienna in the first film, Paris in the sequel), connecting deeply on a personal level, becoming ever more smitten with each other, but, mostly, just talking and walking and walking and talking, trying to beat the clock (in both movies, the Jesse/Hawke character has to leave town imminently on a scheduled/ticketed flight). The wife and I saw “Before Sunset” on DVD just before Thanksgiving, and it blew us away with the depth and reality of the conversation between the two characters—or, was it actually really a deepening personal connection between the actor and actress? The conversation/connection between Jesse/Ethan and Celine/Julie was so really real feeling that it was the most totally gripping movie I saw this past year (caveat: I haven’t yet seen “Sideways,” which I hear is also a quiet deep-personal-connection film of this sort; but I have seen “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which was also extremely brilliant in this same core way).
What does this movie review have to do with hi-res streaming video over 3G? Well, it occurred to me that, once everybody’s so empowered to stream their every conversation and footstep to everybody everywhere, we’ll start to get flooded with amateur and professional “movies” of the “Before Sunset” variety. It’s the most simple low-overhead video-production premise: this is just me/us, walking and talking, talking and walking. Though “Before Sunset” was filmed by a full camera crew with an actual director and script (largely written by the performers themselves), one can easily imagine that a lo-res version could have been produced by Linklater alone, just walking ahead of Hawke and Delpy through the streets of Paris, with a camera/mic embedded in a backpack.
Oh…the boundary between reality and script in “Before Sunset”: there’s a certain point in the dramatic heart of the conversation where the guy (Jesse the character is married but estranged; Ethan the actor is divorced from Uma Thurman, with whom he has two children) expresses disappointment with his unhappy marriage. He (Jesse) makes a stunningly acerbic comment about that marriage that is identical to a comment that he (Ethan) made (in Esquire magazine) about his relationship with Uma Thurman. That broke down the reality/script wall immediately and, for me, made this movie totally absolutely real. Ballsy.
It’s a masterpiece (and the original’s great too). Excellent date movies, and fine getting-older-but-haven't-lost-the-romance-in-our-relationship movies as well. See them with a loved one, current or prospective. Go rent—don’t rip--them. Artists gotta eat.