From my conversation with Crap Mariner, producer and host of The Grid’s Honest Truth, on the possibilities and problems VWTV has to overcome to have a future…
The Grid’s Honest Truth started with line by line snarky tweets, which came out of snarky blogging and then just making it micro. I collected the tweets and put an audio track to it. The podcasting came because of my habit of making audio. And then the audio got turned into machinima and that got turned into a live performance. So it’s kind of evolved through all of it, really.
And the TV aspect of it — when I would download stuff like Paisley’s show or Metanomics, I very rarely watch the video. I would work and just listen to the audio. There was no value added in the puppets waving their hands. I got nothing out of that. Unless they were showing off stuff, which was very rare, it was just sitting on couches and talking — that’s audio. So what do I need to watch it for?
One of the things that we put into The Grid’s Honest Truth, Zen Paine added in the ticker in the lower thirds and the other stuff to add value to the video. Otherwise, why bother watching, it’s just an audio thing. It was very cool how they gave value to the video presentation. The other productions very rarely added any value to their shows, video-wise. I don’t ever watch the video, very few people actually would. You know, they’d be playing the audio and vacuuming their house or preparing dinner or whatever.
I also kept it brief with Grid’s Honest Truth. We wanted it to be just three minutes long. That was our goal and I think we hit it. Sometimes we’re a little shorter but it was fun. We wanted value in the video and keep it quick so that people would not walk away or get distracted. Have a laugh and on with the day.
I don’t know what the future is. The problem is, does it scale? When cat videos that have Maru jumping into boxes have millions and millions of viewers, is it going to replace that? I don’t think so, because this is like small potatoes. Every now and then the established media might tap something and bring it up. With the CSI:NY episode thing, it’s a splash in a pan. The hype happened for a bit. The Gossip Girl stuff was hyped and then – nothing. But the video production in-world and audiences, that’s not gonna happen. That’s not gonna be big.
But with stuff that’s posted to the web, if it’s an interesting, engaging, tells a story — maybe. Maybe.
Jonathon Coulton offered up his songs in creative commons for people to make machinima off of it, and most people used World of Warcraft to do videos of his music. That kind of thing – a partnership between an artist and the public through crowd sourcing — that might happen. But the problem is, you’ve already got established fans, even if it’s net fans, there to tag on to.
I don’t think VWTV is going to be as gangbusters as other producers think, as quickly as they think. But maybe people will play around and make their own videos in OpenSim. If people want to do animation, sure. But for TV shows like talk shows and chat shows — nah, I don’t think so.
We’ve seen with Paisley’s show, there was no money in it. Fail. Because of the amount of time it takes. And we’ve seen a whole bunch start up and whole bunch fall. People will try it anyway and do it for a few episodes and have fun, and if they got nothing better to do and it’s a fun hobby they’ll keep going for a while, but is it gonna stay? With Zen Paine and I, it cost practically nothing. We were just flying by the seat of our pants and having a blast. I think he already had the editing software. And I bought him a space navigator, a 3D mouse as a gift. But I give those out as gifts anyway, so I was gonna him one anyway. So he’s had fun with it. It really didn’t cost us anything in addition, but for those folks doing the chat shows and all that, if you’re doing that stuff, it’s gonna cost. And paying people to do this and that – that business side of it, now you start to throw bad money after worse.
That’s why I do my stories, it’s cheap to host it. When I do the live stories, it costs nothing. The land that I have in Second Life, a buck a day. And I do the podcast and … it’s fun. And it’s worth it, to me. It’s money for a hobby. But these folks were spending way more than what you would consider a hobby, and you’re not going to make a living off of it.
Now the problem is so many people want to do the same thing, the same genres over and over, and they don’t want to explode out. The problem is the market that you’re aiming for is virtual worlds, so you’re not expanding out from there. And how do you break out? I don’t know. Is anyone?
Compared to real television, it is cheap, it can bring people together from far distances, it can educate. The fact that you’re not showing your face, people who are disabled or possibly visually unpleasant but with nice voices can put on an appearance. You can do things that are impossible in real life. You can do a medical show and demonstrate with a patient and walk through and do a talk and that kind of thing. It’s so inexpensive compared to television production and yet you can get some high values out of it with the animation – if you know what you’re doing. Also you can bring together so many talents that aren’t in New York and Los Angeles — there’s kind of a country in-between those places — you have so many talents throughout the world that they can collaborate, too. You can get exposure and have fun with it. I think that’s a hoot, and people can have fun together with it.
But the biggest drawback, of course, is even though it’s relatively inexpensive, if you get really, really wrapped up in it, it’ll drag you down and you’ll find yourself with maxxed out credit cards in real life and oh, shit, I need to go get a job. And a lot of people have a lot of pipe dreams on these things. And maybe I had the dream of still doing television type stuff without all the bastards of the business. You know, cut all that crap out and just have fun. Just showing the humor, and if it’s ten people that watch it, if it’s a thousand people that watch – who cares. I don’t even check stats on my podcast. A group of us just do stories and have fun with it. And they keep coming back. So God knows if I’m getting 10,000 downloads and I should be putting ads on there and writing books and — whoops! I’m too busy having fun, man, forget that monetizing crap.
But folks that actually tried to make something of it, you see the stages of it, where they have initial outlay, they get the sim, they get the this, they get the that, they’re paying staff and they have to cut back, then cut stuff off of this, then they cut back on sims, they move around on other people’s space, then they’re like could you sponsor this, can you sponsor that? And then gone. And you see it in other businesses; if you’re not producing compelling content that has people paying for it…
I think machinima may end up being the future – not the chat shows and all that, but the stuff that people produce and put together. Chat shows are chat shows. And really, who’s going to watch it? Maybe if it was like the thing about The Phoenix Firestorm Hour. Phoenix is one of the viewers for Second Life and they talk about the upcoming stuff, the problems that they have, new stuff coming out, issues with Linden Lab and their third party viewer policy. So they have a talk show with question and answer about the developer and it’s got a niche audience – the Phoenix users, the Firestorm users. So that kind of thing; it’s a Q & A show, but it’s kind of a town meeting. So that kind of format works because it’s like public access for Second Life. That’s kept its audience, but the rest of them, I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know if people really watch them.
What do the Phoenix people get out of it? They enjoy making the viewer. They’re not making any money off of it. So if they love coding and they love having fun with it — they’ll keep going. Because, you know, what are they spending? So that kind of thing will continue. Will it break out into real life? No, because you don’t need a Phoenix view of the back of a car. But if other stuff does, if people do demonstrations of stuff, like the medical things or technology stuff –– if their interviews are with interesting people and it has interest outside of Second Life. You know? It could work.
I’m very pessimistic about it though. I don’t see it breaking out.