Monday, January 26, 2009

Part 2

OK. So finally I'm getting around to an explanation of the previous post.

My current - I'd use the word dialemma, but it's not. It's more a trilemma or quintalemma or something - is (somewhat) about copyright. The laws are fairly complex as what we're doing here is basically a live theatre venue, church, theatre company, video, dance and creative arts training and production centre, bible-school, and a few other things too. The people who were supposed to be taking care of the whole copyright thing have been doing a really poor - or at least misled - job for a number of years now, either that or else no-one ever bothered even trying to figure out what taking care of it really meant.

We're slowly getting there, I think, I hope. But currently I find myself saying more and more "no, sorry, you can't do that, that's illegal", without really having much viable alternative to offer.

And that sucks.

Part of the thing is what is copyright law really saying?

"This is mine, for me, and not for you, or for God. It's mine. Shove off."

Which people object to, obviously. Thus an argument often raised is

"Well, the artist who made this is a Christian, and so wants to glorify God, right, and we're trying to glorify Him too by using it, so we're fine to copy and edit it..."
Well. If the artist wanted you to just use it for whatever you want without checking with them first, then they wouldn't have put "Copyright 2003. For personal home use only. All rights Reserved" on it...

It gets worse with the internet.

"Hey, my pastor just sent me this really cool video I want to show in the programme tomorrow!"

"Well. The music backing to it I recognise, it's a song by Hillsong UK, and there is no copyright notice anywhere in the clip at all, one of those opening still-pictures you can see has part of a copyright label in the corner, but half cropped out, so we can safely assume that many of the images are taken uncredited from the internet, and even the one you can half read it's web address isn't being credited properly. That interview clip with the kids outside the theatre is almost certainly just filmed without their parents consent, and you want to show this clip to paying public?"

"But they played it at my church last week!"

"So?"

"So it must be alright!"

"Wrong."

"What can we do instead?"

Indeed.

So now the whole issue of making our own material. Last week a couple of the programme staff went out with a camera and asked a bunch of random people on the street questions, then asked me how to edit it (for 2 days later). So I kind of pulled stuff together, found an old recording of a couple on-board musicians jamming which kind of fit.

The end result wasn't great. In any sense. It shouldn't even have passed my own quality control.

Nevertheless, I'm trying to get the programme staff to come to us, the AV team, when they want multimedia materials, rather than them spending hours and hours making them themselves improperly, and then asking us to either fix it, or show it anyway.

Trying to build up relationships and trust and the kinds of working interaction I believe is vital for where we MUST go.

*sigh*

A big part of me wants to scrap using most video stuff altogether, as most of what we have, or can do, sucks. I want to have a very high standard, and just drop anything that fails to reach the bar.

But I want to do that with other live programme material too. Skits, songs, dramas, sermons, personal stories (yes, most personal "testimonies" suck. It's not that the people telling it have anything wrong with them. But they suck at telling it.).

So, if we want to "compete" in the world of mass <-> mass media (to coin a phrase), then we have to have some standards. Most of the visible world seems to not care tuppence for copyright, and is happy enough to disregard it on every corner.

Likewise for many issues of video "quality". Framing (putting peoples faces (and everything else) in the correct size/ratio in the right part of the screen), using tripods, cutting "with" rather than "without" the backing music, colour correction, audio normalising, S/N, compression, codecs, details, details, details.

We (in both terms of the ship, and the world), seem to have become very used to absolute crap video production quality, and to absolute crap copyright and control quality. Many argue that we should join in the mass production of media as publicity from us. I've thought about it myself, it would be very cool to have weekly video "podcasts" from the Doulos.

But can we get the video quality (including copyright) sorted out and good enough to actually DO this at a "good" level?

And production of videos for on board? Even showing of videos on board?

Is my refusing to show a video because it (to me) looks shoddy just interlectual snobbery due to some small background in multimedia?

Is my refusing to show a video because it breaks copyright me being pigheaded and daft over laws which (honestly), no-one in the room watching cares about?

So, personal integrity, and God.

Does God care if we break the law?

I think so.

Does God care if we show crap videos?

I think so too.

"But it's powerful!"

So are many things. I don't think it's stretching the truth to say a vast majority of the church and their spirituality would benefit from being more relaxed, but we're not going to start distributing tranqulisers.

6 comments:

Tim said...

re: standards quality, I understand where you're coming from. I've taken over doing AV for the Cafe Church event at the church because I am unbelievably picky about things running smoothly. And I've checked and hopefully set into motion the process of us getting the licenses to use video and audio clips...

Tim said...

An interesting question was raised by a friend of mine on a [slightly] related ethical note.

I love Firefox's 'adblock' feature. I think it is absolutely wonderful. I don't object to google ads, but I find full-colour ads a right pain. And popups even worse. Is it ethical to use adblock to view sites that depend on advertising revenue to exist?

Claire said...

I am not prepared to comment on the whole of the topic in your posts, however - I have a comment regarding the issue of quality. You know me, and how critical I can be. I would love for everything to be of the upmost quality - and that is the standard I set for myself. I realized, though, when visiting certain countries where quality took a backseat, that I was imposing my own standard on others, and, well, it's not a biblical or theological imperative. Of course God calls us to excellence, but culturally, people have different tastes, and what seems rubbish to me actually really speaks to someone else. What to do, lah. I found myslef considering the application before the media - and was this thing (video, song, ppt, etc) making an impact on this specific audience. **We can't set a western standard on a non-western world.** This of course is regarding quality - not the other hot topic you have brought up in your post and which I don't want to comment on :-)

Claire said...

Follow up to the last post - I still set the same high standard for myself as always, so a project that I have control over would always have to be as good as possible with the resources I have. So please Daniel never lose your passion for excellence!!

Richard said...

When I first came to the Middle East I took a cultural approach to quality. Some of the video production that looked rubbish to me was on some of their 'prestige' films so I thought [like Claire] we cannot impose our western perceptions of quality on them. This is what they like.

Some time later a Middle Eastern film producer who had become a friend was extremely annoyed with me and hurt in our arrogance. 'You have been putting up with the rubbish we produce and not saying anything...' His feeling was that was a form of imperialism - allowing rubbish quality because it was 'good enough for the natives'.

It is arrogance to assume that people from another culture have no concept of quality and its 'good enough for them'. When God created the universe he said 'It is good' not 'It's good enough for them'. We create because he created us, as worship to Him, not for the acclamation of what we have done.

Richard said...

An addenda to the last comment...

Striving for excellence can become an obsession with quality. People [especially AV people] can get into the realm of 'only an SSL or Neve is good enough' and the opposite 'Beringher is rubbish, cannot do anything worthwhile on Behringer gear'.

I've mixed audio on SSL, Neve, Calrec, Midas, Digidesign... and Glensound, Audio Developments, SQN, Yamaha, Alice, Mackie, Soudcraft... and Studiomaster, Allen & Heath, Tascam, Edirol, Shure... and Behringer. I personally prefer Neve, SQN or Digidesign; but all of them can produce excellent sound if used well.

It's the creativity and the quest for excellence that is the key.