Producing for the small screen

If you need a reason to think about producing content for mobile devices, consider this:  The cell phone industry estimates 30 million people in the U.S. will be video subscribers in 2009.  That’s 30 million people available to watch your stories on the go.

So, what do you need to do differently to capture this new audience?  It depends on who you ask.  At the Broadcast Educators Association Convention in Las Vegas, Sean Thomas, Senior Producer for Disney’s Hollywood Studios told the audience, “Don’t change a thing!”

“Stick with what’s appealing, what works on television will work on the Web or on a cell phone,” says Thomas.

But Thomas also cautioned against producing long-form content.  “By the third minute, you’ve lost your audience,” Thomas went on to say.  Instead, he suggests you produce shorter stories and then create a link to additional content for people who want to go deeper.

On the other hand, Bonnie Buckner, president of MicroFocus Media, suggests that “small screen production requires you to expand beyond the limitations of the technology.”

Approaching small screen production requires more than simply scaling down a visual display, whether Web Page or movie.  Because the size and amount of available visual information is reduced, and the often distracting and attention-demanding settings in which small screen productions are viewed, there are more challenges to our ability to perceive and comprehend information on a small screen.

Certainly, TV journalists are used to competing with distractions – but now we must also think about producing stories that work both on the wide screen and the small screen.  Do you have to re-think the way you create graphics if you know someone will be viewing the story on an iPod?  Does this increase the pressure to produce visually strong stories?  The answer is probably yes, but the end result may be more effective television that can break through the clutter we often find on the air.

So, who is doing it right right now?  Garry Hare of Peer English Networks says check out the Discovery Channel and its podcasts


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