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DPP unveils major new industry research

The DPP has today unveiled a major new industry report, The Creative Revolution: Is Digital Technology Changing Creativity in TV?’ The report is the third in a trilogy investigating the challenges facing the television industry in the digital age. 

The report explores the relationship between digital technology and creativity in the production and delivery of TV programming.  Written by Mark Harrison, Production Futures lead for the DPP, and Controller of Production for BBC North, the report draws on research conducted with a wide range of contributors from across the industry and was produced in association with Mediasmiths International.

The new report follows the publication of ‘The Bloodless Revolution’ (May 2012); the DPP’s report on digital workflows that aimed to help producers and suppliers achieve a smoother transition to fully digital production; and ‘The Reluctant Revolution’ (September 2011), which aimed to break down barriers to digital production.

From the outset, the research sets out to provide an insight as to whether the technologies that exists today bring any benefits to the creative programme making process.   The report asks some probing and perhaps controversial questions on the subject and comes to some interesting and thought provoking conclusions:

  • End-to- end digital production doesn’t in itself bring any creative benefits

Producers are finding new digital tools, such as digital cameras, edit systems and post production software, of huge creative benefit.  Meanwhile, there are great logistical and business benefits for production companies and broadcasters in having fully joined-up, tapeless production workflows. But this ‘joined-up-ness’ doesn’t in itself generate its own unique creative benefits. Nor are commissioners or producers seeking to do anything creatively that requires any new technical capability from continuous digital systems.

  • Creativity is a messy business: tidy it up and you close it down

Digital production environments work much better if workflows and formats are standardised.  To do so is good practice, efficient and common sense. But it comes with a hefty risk. The whole point of being creative is to try something new – and that includes trying new bits of production kit. Creativity is by its nature disruptive. So if we create digital workflows and systems that are too locked down and inflexible, we will kill creativity – simple as that.

  • We’ll need to help a social coating to form around beautifully made stories

Everyone in our research sees storytelling as paramount. It’s what we do best; and it’s what audiences love. But those stories are now being consumed by viewers who are connected in a highly socialised consumption environment, which requires us to think creatively about how we facilitate social activity around our stories.

  • Creativity in the shaping and supply of real-time data will be rewarded.

Every programme has data that people want – from cast and crew details around a drama to player stats in sport. Currently audiences tend to access, share and discuss that data from separate suppliers. There are huge creative opportunities for broadcasters to become more pro-active in the generation of user interfaces around that data.

  • Television is a discipline not a device

There is already a generation emerging that sees no need to buy a television set. They still watch television – they just do it through a computer or smart mobile device. Meanwhile, TVs themselves are now connected displays. Once producers and broadcasters accept their content will be found and viewed in a computer interface they will need to think differently. They remain storytellers-in-chief; but their stories have to surface in the ocean of the Internet. 

  • The creative opportunity is to make less, brilliantly, for more.

Digital production and delivery tools enable producers to generate more creative bang for their bucks. The mistake would be to think this means we should make more, for less. Volume of content was important in the linear world of the television EPG. But in the connected world it’s quality, not volume that matters: quality floats to the stop, and it stays there. The creative opportunity presented by digital is to make less content, for more money, to enable even more brilliant storytelling.

Helen Stevens, Chair of the DPP and Director of Strategic Projects and Business Delivery for ITV, said of the research, “I believe the DPP gets so much support and commitment from everyone, as we try to establish how to get the best out of digital, because we all sense the potential for new and different ways of producing – and even, for new and different kinds of output.

“That’s why it felt so important to the DPP to take an in-depth look, with our colleagues, at just what the digital revolution could mean for the creativity of our business.  As the report suggests, the next few years promise to be turbulent, and exciting. But, it is a privilege to be part of this revolution and to carve out the path with so many knowledgeable and insightful comrades-in-arms.”

Mark Harrison, added, “As a former producer who now tries to drive production modernisation, it felt important to me to gain a deeper understanding of what digital technology really means for our creativity. There have been so many bold claims made in recent years – but they never come from real conversations with real content makers. The DPP has finally put this right, with a proper, evidence-based piece of work. And the results both destroy some myths, and offer some guidance to what really matters for producers, broadcasters and audiences in a connected world.”

The report is supported by a film (available on the DPP website), in which a number of leading producers and executives, including Danny Cohen, Director BBC Television, Andy Sandoz, Work Club, and Magnus Temple, Garden Productions, discuss the subject. 

The Creative Revolution will be presented as a free ebook via the DPP website and the iBook store, and the subject matter will be debated at a special Creative Revolution launch event on 1st May with a panel of senior TV executives.

Including the full report, the ebook also includes a series of essays by senior industry players including, David Abraham, C4, Kim Shillinglaw, BBC, Kevin Macdonald, Film Director, Stuart Murphy, BskyB and Anthony Rose, Zeebox.