Video: Not Just for the Small Screen

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Originally published, November 12, 2009

“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.”
- CBS News anchor Edward R. Murrow, speech to the RTNDA, October 15, 1958.

Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow. Photo courtesy of the Library of American Broadcasting, University of Maryland.

As anyone who produces video content knows, “television” is no longer “merely wires and lights in a box.”

Video content long ago left the small screen. It now lives online, on hand held devices, and — as this article about Obscura Digital illustrates — on just about any surface you can imagine.

And, the definition of “content” has changed. Audiences don’t want a one-way conversation; they demand an interactive experience.

A while back, I was fortunate to work with White Design Studios, who produced a organizational overview video for Battelle. The “video” plays on a “simple” Obscura screen in the corporate lobby of Battelle’s the Columbus headquarters.

The video screen is actually three 16′X9′ panels lined up end-to-end. The center of each screen utilizes an advanced touchscreen technology that reads the electromagnetic pulses in visitors’ hands – offering a hands-free touchscreen. Sensors detect users’ walk paths, moving content and audio to wherever the visitor might be standing.

Plainly stated, it’s just flat out cool!

battelle lobbyFrom the White Design Studio case study:

“The lobby … features an interactive video installation that has 4 modes. A sleep mode plays a subtle animation 5’ tall by 30’ wide. The follow mode tracks users with a branded animation which entices people
closer. The user mode is a content-rich playful way for multiple users to find out more about the scope of Battelle and its contributions. The presentation mode shows a series of monumental video presentations,
triggered remotely. The seamless integration of these, together with the depth of information accessible, makes this installation unlike any

… The interactive wall tracks you from up to 20 feet away with an animation, beckoning you to approach and discover. It then invites you to touch it. When you do, you discover that there is a wealth of animated content that tells a rich story of the history and capabilities of Battelle. White Design Studio, in conjunction with Obscura Digital and Murphy Catton developed a device that can track the movements of three individual
users, in three dimensions, to deliver a personalized conversation between the user and the brand. The leader of a large group can remotely command the wall to play from a selection of monumental videos that take over the entire width of the 30 foot screen and all six channels of audio.

And, yet, for all of the incredible technology involved in the projection and display systems, Battelle’s video succeeds because it tells a powerful story.

As technology changes, so do storytellers tools. Yet, as Murrow so elegantly stated, video can — and must — teach, illuminate and inspire to remain successful as a medium.

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