Kevin Kelly: State of Cinema address
(MS note: What follows is the State of Cinema address Kevin Kelly offered on Sunday, May 4, 2008, at the San Francisco International Film Festival.]
The SFIFF is America's longest presenting film festival, and the 61st edition just concluded continues its reign as the premier film festival in North America.. First, it IS San Francisco, after all, and it has retained the signature quality that makes it also the most important film exposition in the country, and maybe even North America. (Toronto, New York, Sundance. even Telluride all have their own claim to the cinematic crown). This year Kevin Kelly gives the State of the Cinema Address, and while I witnessed Peter Sellars incredible vision of what the cinema is all about, last year at the 50th edition of SFIFF, here Kelly gives his own sense of just what the cinema means to our culture and to the future of the arts. Read on. That is, if you give a damn. And, you must. If you don't, then the hell with you.- MS
Welcome, welcome, welcome! This lovely theater here got dark and I thought, "Oh, great! It’s a movie! I can just sit back." I completely forgot that I have to give a talk. I would just love to sit here. Thank you to the San Francisco Film Festival for inviting me to speak on speculations on the future of where motion pictures are going. My role, I think, is to describe what I see as a little bit of an outsider. My method for doing this is very simple: to come [at it] as an outsider. We’re sitting here in a fantastic movie theater, but in fact more people see movies in airplanes than watch them in theaters. Airplanes and portable DVDs. But the movies aren’t made, usually, with that in mind. So what I’m trying to do is listen to the technology. Carver Mead, a technologist said, "Listen to the technology; see what it wants to say." And for the next 45 minutes, what I’m going to try to talk about is what I think the technology is telling us. The technology around moving pictures, motion pictures. Then we’ll have a chance to have questions and answers, which I look forward to, and hopefully I’ll take you to a place that I think is one possible scenario.
So, first of all, if I showed you an image on a screen [he points to slide] and I asked you, "Is that a movie being shown? Is it a TV [show]? Or is it a game?" We can’t tell right now. It’s actually very hard to tell because these things are kind of converging. What I wanted to talk about is the ways in which this media is spreading into everything. For a very long time, there were basically two screens. We had a movie screen, and we had TV. What’s happening right now is that it’s starting to spread everywhere. So we’re seeing larger and larger screens at the same time as we’re seeing smaller and smaller screens. And the screens are being distributed, and they’re being plastered everywhere in our lives.
We have things like the iPod. Not just the iPod. We have other handhelds that people are actually—much to my surprise—watching movies on. Not only movies but some hi-def movies. What’s interesting about the mobile phone, of course, is that it’s two-way. Most of them have cameras, and two years from now Nokia is going to put a high-definition movie camera in a camera phone. So not only will it play movies but it’s actually going to film movies. I’ll come back to that later.
We see this mushrooming expansion of the screens, and we see them everywhere in our lives. We see them in the grocery stores at checkouts. We see them in airport waiting rooms, even the gas pumps and ATMs are starting to have little screens. Anywhere we’re waiting, there are screens. So it’s almost like a life force that’s penetrating into all the possible variations of the environment. And big screens. Big screens that work. Big screens that are not a piece of wallpaper or chart. This [he points to slide] is actually a big screen, and people are working in front of larger and larger screens, [at] kind of a mid-distance, sitting back rather than closer up. And, of course, in Minority Report Tom Cruise is in front of this wrap-around thing and he’s gesturing, interacting with the screen. By the way, you have different thoughts when you stand up and work than when you’re sitting, and I think this is going to change the workplace a little bit as we have these kinds of large screens.
At the small end, there are these little tiny screens that are being put onto eyeglasses and nice frames, and there are actually dozens and dozens of examples already. These [he points to slide] are just a couple, where you actually have a personal movie screen in your eyeglasses. In some cases, these are overlaid, and I’ll come back to that—where you have an augmented, overlaid screen on top of your normal vision. But they’re getting smaller. This is how small they can get. And this [he points to slide] is how big they can get. This is in Shanghai, along the Huangpu, and we’re seeing—this is Times Square and beyond—we’re seeing screens the size of buildings. As LEDs become cheap, organic LEDs, they will start to cover larger and larger surfaces, and some day most buildings will probably have an outdoor display, change their skin, their color, particularly at night, maybe even during the day. So the screen is unlimited in terms of what we can imagine. The best way, I think, to imagine it is just to imagine all surfaces in our lives becoming potential screens.
These [he points to slide] are some prototype personal projectors. Little things about this big and they project, so when you don’t have a screen, you can actually make a screen by carrying around one of these. You have your personal projector. At the other end [are] of all these [he points to slide] screens here. This is a state-of-the-art home theater. Why do we go to theaters now? Because of the projection and the sound system. But there’s a whole underground of fan groups, hobbyists, who make state-of-the-art and even better home theaters, and that’s catching up, although it never catches up [entirely], with the state-of-the-art professional theatrical environments. But you have to ask yourself, will people in [such] homes [ever] go to theaters?
Well, what’s interesting about that is that in India and places like that people go to the theaters. In India and places where there’s rife piracy—you can get any kind of a movie you want for almost a dollar or less—why do people go to the theaters? They go to the theaters because they’re air-conditioned. So they’re buying air-conditioning and getting the movie for free. I think there’s always something ahead in the Western developed world; that’s probably going to be 3-D. These home theaters that I just showed don’t have 3-D. Three-D is the next thing that wants to bring people into the theaters. There’s Dolby [and] a couple of other companies making it, and there are 60 major features slated to be released in 3-D in the next five years. So they’re betting that this is something that will move people into theaters, away from their very elaborate home theaters where you can get almost anything you want through Netflix [and] now Blu-ray. And, of course, these home theaters will catch up. This [he points to slide] is a Samsung HD/3-D TV going out in big-screen. Always behind the theaters will be the home theaters trying to catch up but never quite catching up.
The other place that we see the expansion of [the] motion picture [environment] is in [terms of] time. It’s in the duration. Long ago, the timeslots in which such things were made were dictated by the venues, by the distribution opportunities, and we had things like shorts—15 minutes or so—and we had commercials, which were kind of mini-stories, and we had 90 minutes on average for a movie. But what’s happening now is that, because distribution is wide open, there are many, many more possibilities for the length of films. So we see this kind of YouTube thing of two to four minutes taking off. And we see longer and longer films in terms of serials, particularly those that have a continuous narrative, like Lord of the Rings was 12 hours. I think we’re seeing the beginning of a new era of extremely long films like Lost. Lost, when it’s done, will be a 100-plus–hour movie. It has a single story. Very complicated. In fact, this [he points to slide] is a diagram of one of the episodes and all the fans around it. The complexities of these things challenge even the greatest novel. We haven’t seen how long some of these will be. And it’s been developed because we have the ability to rewind them, to restudy them, to see them at our own schedule. You can’t play a 100-hour movie in the theaters—it’s impossible—but when you can look at them when you want that makes these very long narrative stories possible.
There’s another way in which the motion picture is expanding its environment. I call this one "quality." At the high end you have, of course, the Hollywood-produced, the professional, the state of the art, the [artisanal] masterpiece and at the other end you have home movies. That was basically the range. You made home movies or you made real movies. What’s happening is that we’ve opened this up—and I don’t disparage them; I’m just trying to say that there’s a continuum between the two ends. So we have in the middle, this hard middle of things [where] the quality is sort of in between. It’s more than a home movie and it’s less than a masterpiece. There’s a huge range in there, and it’s not clear oftentimes where things are. Because what’s really interesting is that we’re coming up to the point where the tools used by the amateur and professionals are basically the same.
We shouldn’t be surprised by that because that’s what we have in writing. Writing requires some tools, but the tools that J.K. Rowling uses are exactly the same as any of us could use and it’s all about what they produce. For a long time the tools for making film were much different. There will always be more expensive, state-of-the-art technology, but nonetheless there’s some level at which a basic set of tools that you can use to make a presentable motion picture will be available to most everybody and then the quality difference is really not tool-based or distribution-based but really [dependent] on the talents and skills and ambition of the artists. This center area is really where most of the exciting work is happening in the future of motion pictures.
There are only about 600 major, studio-produced films made in a year. There are billions and billions of these [nonprofessional films]. The scale of [the] quantity produced is startling. And in this area, more is different. It actually makes a difference when you have so many things being produced. I think one of the problems that TV had for a long time was there wasn’t enough bad TV. It was mostly mediocre. The costs of making it and the distribution channels were so constrained that you couldn’t make really, really horrible stuff because nobody would let you, nobody would fund it. So most of it was made in the middle, [and was] mediocre. And it also prevented anything really great being made. One of the correlatives to having really, really great stuff is you have to allow a lot of bad stuff, a lot of really horrible stuff. So that’s what we’re getting right now, and that gives us actually a chance to have some fantastic stuff being made because it’s wide open and anything is permitted and anything is possible. It’s not just sort of rough, coarse quality—which YouTube is mostly right now—it’s very rapidly again going to go into the area where we have the full high-quality experience. Hulu is one of the earliest sites that’s now giving you a sense of what online video quality can look like. They’re trying, again, to explore different models.
Perhaps my last example of the expansion of this world into the environment is in the way that we consume it. Traditionally, in the new media, there were two stances: You were either leaning back in a movie theater and having the story told to you, or you were leaning forward into the screen and you were interacting with it in the computer. In one, the narrative was paramount, and in the other one, the environment was really what you were engaged in. I think now we’re seeing [something] in between. Again, it’s turning into a continuum rather than a binary, polar world. There’s everything in between. We’re seeing it with some of the games, like Grand Theft Auto, where there’s a narrative going through it, and the production values and the intensity, and the attention to that is very, very strong. They say you can expect to play about 60 hours to finish the game. It’s not a 60-hour motion picture, but it’s 60 hours of something that’s very related to that and has some of the elements in it. So there is again a blurring between those media. [Another example is] Cloverfield, which is J.J. Abrams’ movie about a monster where you don’t see the monster. But it really wasn’t [about] the monster. The movie was a ride because it was so immersive, and the narrative, again, was not really the central aspect. It was more [about] being in this world. So there was a sense of it being an experience rather than being a story.
I think what all this is leading to is the way in which computers are changing the nature of motion pictures. There’s a field called computational photography, which is about how you can do a lot of the things that the eye does with computers. This is really the crux of what is happening. This is listening to the technology. This is where I’m looking—how this technology, between computational photography and filmmaking, is changing and how the technology will change our culture. One of the things that we see with computational photography is the fact that the more traditional way of making a movie is you film lots of scenes on analog film, little linear strips of things, and then you have to edit that into a longer narrative story. The computational process flips that around and says we can start with a minimum amount of film and we’ll just computationally take it apart into its elements and then reassemble that into many different things. You could actually take a film, extract out the person, which we do with blue screens and green screens, and then reassemble that to make the story that you want.
In some sense, animation [films]—like Ratatouille and others—have taken this to the apex. That’s what they’re doing. They make everything and they’re starting with just numbers. They’re reassembling these numbers into the scene that they want. But, in fact, even some of the live action films are to a certain [extent] being animated because they’re being constructed and manipulated almost frame by frame, and all the ingredients in those frames, all the layers, are being generated and they’re being assembled in a certain way, Star Wars being a great example. It looks like it’s live action but it’s really not. The set is not real. The figures are not real. The light sabers aren’t real. Everything is being taken from a few bits and being generated into a film. As there’s color correction going on, there’s actually very few parts of any frame that won’t be manipulated in some capacity with computers.
There’s even some new things coming out. There’s something called a depth camera. This is based on a chip called ZCam for the Z-dimension, and it’s not a stereoscopic 3-D, it’s actually a single-lens camera that has a chip in it that actually measures the speed of light coming back [and therefore] can tell how far away things are. It generates a 3-D depth image with a single camera. So you now can make 3-D images on a cheap webcam, and as that moves into movie cameras you’ll be able to, again, start to layer and un-bundle the image before you into its parts.
Already people who use Avid and Final Cut Pro, they’re dealing with a million little pieces when they’re making a movie. All these pieces are becoming more and more elemental. They’re being unraveled into smaller and smaller individual primeval elements, and then they’re being recombined into the linear narrative story. Each step we go in this digital adventure unravels these bits more and more down to an object that’s a naked object. Then you can add the lighting that you want, then you add the location, you can add textured skin, you can change the colors, you can do everything with it. So you end up with a set, a database, of very small elements.
Now, when we think about films, we normally think about the masterpieces. What I would call the handcrafted [artisanal] films. The films that people come here to see. But what I want to remind people is that in the great scale of motion images, this [he points to slide] is a very small, tiny, tiny little apex. A tiny part [at] the top. Most of the images in our lives that we see, that we’re swamped by, that we’re surrounded by, are not those. And that base is becoming bigger and bigger and larger and larger. While the story will never go away, and the importance of the story in the narrative-driven film won’t go away, the fact that it’s surrounded by a greater and greater ocean of other visual motion pictures influences [the top] and has an effect. It has an indirect effect on that.
What I’m talking about is in a certain sense the rest of the visual world, directly. I make the analogy that it’s a little bit like writing. Again, if we think about our lives, even in this darkened theater, of course, there’s text on the screen right now. I see some text back here. You can open up [the program] and see printed material. We’re living in an ocean of text around us and there’s so much of the written word and the alphabet around us that we don’t even see it anymore. But that makes our culture. That’s what our culture is based on, and it’s everywhere. We have a lot of tools that we’ve evolved, and skills, to work with that literate culture that we’re swimming in without even perceiving it. We can parse things. We can index them. We have all these ways to search and browse text, manipulate and annotate things, and re-sequence. And that’s just for using it; that’s our response to it. We have all these tools [to] cut and paste and other things to actually write text. Of course, it’s ubiquitous. But that’s the important thing. We both read it and we write it, and we write a lot of text just for ourselves. A lot of the writing that we do is written for the audience of one. Just us. We’re steeped in this environment of the written word.
What I’m suggesting is that that’s where we’re going with the visual world, with moving pictures. It becomes ubiquitous in our culture, and what we’re trying to develop—what we will be developing, what we’re just beginning to develop—are these tools that will allow us to index things, browse them and search them and manipulate them, annotate them. That the moving image becomes as ubiquitous in our culture as the written word was until now. OK?
I call that the Gutenberg Shift. We’re going through the Gutenberg Shift in the visual world, in what I call “vizuality." If you saw the Harry Potter movies and *The Daily Prophet*—when [Harry Potter] takes out the daily newspaper—the images on the newspaper are moving. We’re going to do that. We have already e-ink. We see some of the e-ink in the Kindle and these readers. Eventually, we’ll get to the point where we’ll have electronic digital ink on a book page, a flexible book page that you can turn, or a newspaper. You have your favorite newspaper and it changes all the time. If it can change the news, it can certainly support a moving image on the page, and there’ll be moving images on your newspaper. The moving image will become part of our literacy. That’s already happening.
Here’s [he points to slide] an example of Seesmic, [a] Web site where you post videos. The way you comment on the videos on this site is you make another video. So you have videos commenting on other videos. It’s a video conversation. That’s only possible because it gets easier and easier. You have built-in little cameras in your laptop. As you make these tools more ubiquitous, that kind of facility for making a video as easy as typing something, that’s where we’re going. That’s what we want, in a certain sense.
What are some of the ways we can do this indexing and parsing? One of the problems with the moving image, the motion image, is that it has a penalty, a temporal penalty, which means it takes a long time to watch it. You can have a book or an article, and we have something called the abstract. You can read the abstract of the article. What’s the equivalent in film? What’s the abstract of a film? How can you browse films? How can you search films? That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what’s happening in the labs right now, and these [he points to slide] are some examples of different experiments in trying to summarize, to condense, to digest, to in some ways abstract a clip or a frame or a small movie.
We see that YouTube has one way, which is they take the center frame in the exact middle of the clip and that’s what shows up, so that gives you some idea but it’s kind of elementary. Here’s another one—they took a center slit in all the frames and they compressed those together. That’s the one on the top. Then another one is you can just do a little storyboard. You just do every nth frame and show that as a storyboard. Another experiment just took, again, slits of the frames and maybe one image, the standard image, a kind of Cubist attempt there. There’s another one called a collage. They took all the frames—this is a pan going across—and then showed just a little edge of it, so you get a collage view of this section of a scene. There’s another one that’s really hard to see. It’s almost like a time-lapse, where the camera is on a tripod and isn’t moving, so you have all the movement on one still. These are some experiments in trying to do this.
Here’s another. It’s called a salient still. There’s actually a company that does this, where they compress a movie into one image. This is my most interesting one—MIT Media Lab—where they actually made an extruded volume of an image, of a motion picture. So you can actually see the bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, in different ways. Or you can see there are sailboats on the lower left, and there’s a crew on a river in the lower right. It’s a way to begin to get this tool, this literary tool that we need to browse and abstract motion pictures. These are some of the other ways that we can do that right now. We can have a cover poster of a film, gives you some idea of what it is. You can have a storyboard. You can have a slideshow. You can have collage. And there’s actually a way you can fast-forward. People have been trying to see how fast can you watch a film and still understand it. It turns out that you can go up to 200 times faster. It can just go by so fast and you still get some comprehension, about 30 to 50 percent, of what it’s about at 200 times. Or you can have a skim or trailer. A trailer is actually a very crafted version of the film, and you could imagine some computational ways to actually make trailers automatically out of films. So that’s one way.
What I’m trying to give you is a sense of how this medium is going in the direction of becoming our new literacy. One of the things that we want to do is be able to annotate things within a film. There actually is software now that has face recognition. A computer can look at a film frame and say, “Here are the faces." They can do that now. What’s coming up now is true visual search. If you’re searching for something right now—the way Google searches works is it finds the words associated with that picture, but it’s not actually looking into the picture. But that’s coming. To actually say, “Find me a rabbit" and it will go and recognize rabbits in the images rather than just ones that were tagged by humans. What can you do with that? Well, right now, maybe you could link to a film, maybe you could link to a little clip of a film, but it’s very hard to link to a frame in a film and it’s almost impossible to link to something within the frame itself.
But that’s what you want to be able to do if you want to have this new “vizuality." If you’re doing something about fashion [and] you want to be able to link to bow ties [he points to slide], you want to be able to bring the hyperlink right into that. Or if you’re looking at a fez [he points to slide], you want to be able to point to it not in just that one frame but as it goes over an entire scene, as it’s moving, so that you follow that. Or, if you’re interested in old pianos [he points to slide] and you actually wanted to annotate that piano. So those kinds of things—within [a single] frame and things across frames—is what we’re headed towards. There are again some experiments trying to figure out the [right] language and the mechanism, so we can actually do that [kind of] annotation as things are moving through [a scene] and we can actually point to something that is temporal as well as in a frame.
All the things that are now kind of out there in YouTubeland—sampling and remixing and mashups and appropriating, and this new idea of generating things—these are all part of the new Gutenberg language, this Gutenberg syntax, grammar, for dealing with motion pictures. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we see happening. And it’s this liquidity that’s actually the great attraction. A lot of people who were concerned about file-sharing in music and the reason why people were going to the free music, were confused. A lot of the reason why free music was very important was not because it was for free—that was only part of the story. The main thing that was happening with the free file-sharing music was that it was liquid—you could do stuff with it. You could take, like in iTunes, [and] you could make your own playlist. You could reconstitute an album. You could take parts of the song and do things with it. You could make lists. You could make it into a database.
It was that fungibility, that liquidity of the parts that was the great attraction. And that’s what’s happening now in motion pictures. We’re taking it apart. It’s now become this very malleable medium. It’s so malleable that it actually bleeds over into things like painting. Photoshop is really fantastic in this sense. Some of these things are less of a photograph and more of a painting. You’re seeing the same thing happening again in the medium of motion pictures, where it can become painterly. If you think about 300, the movie 300, it’s as if it was painted. It was so graphic, like graphic-novel graphic, that it was in some senses a kind of art, painted art.
So we’re seeing this thing and we’re also seeing it with text. It used to be that the division between a frame and text was very severe. We didn’t meld the two. It was very hard to read things on a TV. We didn’t want to interrupt [the images] because you couldn’t stop to pause, to do the things you want with reading. You couldn’t go back. So they were kept separate. But now, when we have a bit more control and the resolution is fine, we can actually bring text into the medium as well. These [he points to slide] are just some examples of a Web tutorial, and credits on a movie, and some hip-hop videos and some DJ stuff, where text is now part of it. As we imagine The Daily Prophet, and we imagine the world where all these high-resolution screens are, there’s no reason why the text should be divorced from motion pictures, why it can’t be part of it and bleed over into it. That’s all going to be possible. In fact, that’s one of the things we tried at Wired, was assuming the text and the still picture shouldn’t be separate, and we’ve already seen them come together. What’s happening now is the motion picture is going to do the same thing. I call this TV that you can read. We see that in commercials and movie credits and that kind of stuff. And we’ll see more of that—motion pictures that you read.
Maybe it’s not happening a whole lot in the story-driven narrative. But it will happen a lot in the rest of this huge, huge thing of “vizuality." One of the biggest movements in our culture was the movement from oral culture, orality, to literacy. Gutenberg. The impact of the printing press and literacy and the word and the written text and books made Western civilization. That was the foundation. We’re going, basically, through the same thing right now—another transition, from the written world into this “vizuality" world. That’s the big thing. That’s really what we’re talking about.
As I was saying before, it’s the combining of a little bit of text—and we’ll have plenty of music, so it’s audio and aural in that sense, there’s no real film without soundtrack. There’s also another level in which we can take that layering of information in films and project it on top of the world that we see—it’s called augmented reality—through our little glasses. That’s yet another way in which these things are combined. Some people call that the metamedia. Meaning it’s the larger media. Or even—and I like this word—the intermedia. It’s the media of all media. This intermedia is what this new “vizuality" is really about.
Let me just tell you briefly, in my remaining few minutes, [about] the environment in which this intermedia is happening. First of all, this intermedia is a copy machine and anything that can be copied will be copied. Once it’s copied it will flow, like super-distribution, on wires, and never be eradicated. So there is this supra-intermedia, the copy, where the copies become so abundant that some people call it the free economy. People are really concerned about, you know, things being free. How do we make movies when things are free? What do we do? The business model is a big, big factor in this shift. When you have this superabundance of copies and they’re really worth not very much, the only things that have value are things that can’t be copied.
What kind of things can’t be copied? Well, immediacy. If you wait long enough, you can get a copy of this film, but if you want it right now as soon as it comes out you can pay. And you will pay. People will pay. They’ll pay for the immediacy of getting it now. Or personalization. Yeah, you can eventually get the soundtrack or the new Coldplay album, but if you want it customized or personalized to the acoustics of your living room, OK, go pay. What about authenticity? If you buy a piece of software—you can get free software anywhere, but you’re not really concerned about that; you really want to make sure that it’s the authentic version of it. So it’s worthwhile to you to make sure that it’s the right one. Maybe there’s a knockoff band that does something, but you want the authentic one, so you can be willing to pay because authenticity cannot be copied. It has to be generated. So this personalization has to be generated for you. It can’t be copied.
Patronage is another one. Lots of times, people want to have a relationship with the creator. They don’t care about the copy. They want to patronize, they want to support the creator, so they will pay in that sense. And then there’s interpretations. There’s the old joke about software: The software’s free, the manual’s $1,000. To interpret it, to actually maintain it, to use it, to figure out how to use it, you pay. The copy’s free but you’re going to pay for this interpretation. Accessibility is another one. OK, it’s all free but you can’t find it. Alright, well, you’ll pay for someone to direct you through, to bring it forward, to have access to it 24 hours, seven days a week, whatever it is. The copy’s free, but the accessibility costs. Or embodiment. We see this with singers. Copy’s free, but if you want to see me perform, embody the music . . . Or, you can get the text, PDF, for free, but some people like the artifact, the embodiment of the book. They’re going to pay for the book, even though they can get a copy for free. And findability—I think I mentioned that already. It’s not quite the same as accessibility, but it’s very similar.
So these are generatives. These are things that aren’t copyable. They have to be made at the time. Therefore, those are the things that will become most powerful in this economy. The only scarcity, really, in this abundance of copies, is things that dwell and focus around attention. A lot of people are concerned about the new media economics, but I can say very, very surely that wherever attention flows, money is going to flow later. That’s what we see happening right now. People don’t read newspapers, they’re reading online, so the money for advertising is moving online. [It’s] the same thing wherever attention is generated. And stories have a fantastic power to hold our attention.
This is a world in which we have all the screens going out into our environment, piling up, and what’s interesting about these screens is that they’re all connected in some ways. They’re all online more and more. Even our phones are connected to each other. It’s not too hard to imagine all these screens, all these computers and all these gadgets, form one large machine, as if my cell phone is just a little transistor in a larger computer. When all these things are connected—and what’s happening is everything we make is being connected online, so we’re basically taking these things and they’re forming the little parts of a very large computer, of one machine. And it’s all running on the Web, and basically if it’s not on the Web, it’s not there. And all these screens are literally windows looking into the same machine. Basically they’re all looking, we’re all contacting the same one machine.
That is now being called cloud computing, which means that a lot of times, in the future, we’re not going to be doing our computing on this machine. It’s probably just going to communicate with computing that’s done elsewhere, where our movies are stored and our music is stored, and we won’t even have to carry [much] around. It’ll just be a little interface, like the cell phone, to everything in the cloud. Eventually, in the goodness of time, every single bit that we produce will go onto the Web. I like to think of the Web as this black hole. It’s just absorbing everything that can come down to it. Every little gadget we make is being Web-ized and it’s on the Web. If it’s not, it doesn’t count. It becomes the center; it becomes what happens; it becomes the platform that everything is done on.
Every little thing that we make—everything in that picture, for instance—is beginning to have a little chip as smart as an ant but no smarter. Dumb as an ant, but it’s connected, and that makes, like a hive, something smarter than the parts. Everything is being connected to everything. Literally, we almost have an Internet of things. Right now, we have all these words and documents linked to each other but we’re going to do it with visual motion pictures. All the parts of motion pictures will be connected to each other in this new literacy. The parts won’t be separate. It’s almost like a database. It’s like the World Wide Database. The World Wide Database of things and film parts. There’s actually a guy, Lev Manovich, at UC San Diego, who calls this Database Cinema. You unravel everything into a database and then you reassemble it from the parts. You have a million billion parts.
What’s interesting is these parts don’t have to be parts that you made. It can be other people’s parts. That’s the important thing. Movies become like software, software programs that you compute from your database of parts. All possible shots of everything and every lighting will be in this database. Again, you’ll be using things that you don’t necessarily make yourself. When we write a novel, we’re using words that are common to everybody. We may make up a few words, but most of the words are just coming from words that are out there. We’re using other people’s words and we’re recombining them. Right now on Flickr—I just looked—there are 151,000 shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s every possible shot. In fact, you don’t need to take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has been done in every possible way. Right now they’re tagged. We don’t have a really good way to find what we want, but that’s what I’m talking about, those tools that are coming.
But imagine everything covered like that, and not just in the still photograph but actually a little movie done by you. Here we have the Google 3-D Warehouse. It’s not just the things that exist, but it’s also these wire-frame 3-D models, all for free. The complete Shanghai waterfront buildings were all done. Every city in the world. You can get the full 3-D rendered, ready-to-use version for your film. It’s already done. That’s out there. Eventually every house will come that way, too. By 2010, there’s going to be four billion camera phones in the world. Those are four billion eyes recording everything. And they’ll be in high definition. That will be going into the database, the cinema database, and you—this Time Magazine “you"; what I call the Wikipedia “you"—will be sharing all this stuff. We’ll be making films from all this stuff together. A lot of people will be making films together. That is where we’re going.
Like words in a book, these parts are going to be reassembled and remixed and read and cogenerated by others, and then annotated and quoted and owned by us. So everybody will soon be making films and motion pictures, in that sense of just [being] something we’re doing. Sometimes we’re making one big movie. It’s one big movie, basically all these parts and one big movie with six million edits. That’s what we’re going to. A lot of people think, That’s impossible! You’re just making this up. It’s craziness. It’s so far away. However, I want to remind you of just one little thing as I end here. One little thing. This [he points to slide] is the Web. The Web has changed our lives. All the things we have. It’s only 5,000 days old. The Web is hardly 5,000 days old. All this stuff—Google, [iPhones], Flickr—it’s all less than 5,000 days old. I was around when we started talking about it, and people said there’s not enough money in the world to make the Web happen. It was literally impossible. It was inconceivable. All this stuff could not happen. There’s not enough money to actually make it work. But here it is. It’s possible. It happened. I think one of the things this is telling us is we have to get better at believing in the impossible. Wikipedia was impossible [yet] there it is.
What’s going to happen in the next 5,000 days? The main thing that’s happening is that we’re moving from being people of the book to people of the screen. Right now, you’re looking at this little screen here. It has some pictures and there’s text. It’s in a movie theater. It’s part of this new culture of the intermedia of the screen.
And I thank you for your attention.