SXSW Reflections: The Video-Tech Dance

SXSW REPORT — If last year was the year of ‘Web 2.0′ at South by Southwest Interactive, this is the year that video killed the Internet rockstar. A total of fifteen panels at the conference are, for the first time, cross-listed in both the Film and Interactive conference schedules, and have featured the likes of Adobe, MTV, JetSet, Cinematech, Amanda Congdon and the producers of Lonelygirl15.

Not that there haven’t been great panels that are pure geekouts, like Phillip Torrone and Limor Fried‘s keynote yesterday. And frankly, some of the web video panels have been kind of boring. But then, if you only come to Austin for the panels, you’re missing out on most of the fun.

This is my third year covering South by Southwest Interactive, one of my favorite events because of the mix of tech and content, tool makers and tool users.

In 1994 — before my time — a “South by Southwest Film and Multimedia” conference was added to the popular music conference, already in its eighth year. The conference has since split into separate Film and Interactive programs that share space at the Austin Convention Center. But this year the two are beginning to merge back together, in spirit if not fact.

While there are certainly still distinct ‘scenes,’ with tech nerds still holding passionate arguments over the merits of XSLT and film geeks taping up one sheets wherever there’s a blank section of wall. But just as in previous years bloggers snuck into film screenings and filmmakers dropped by web video panels, there’s a good deal of cross-pollination going on. Vloggers have listened to the likes of Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez declaim on the filmmaking arts, and independent filmmakers are being introduced to new tools to distribute their work.

There’s certainly still plenty of tension and gaps of understanding. While in the panels and on the trade show floors, blue (film) and orange (interactive) badged necks mingle, at the parties, not so much. Old media speakers have tended to be less skeptical of DRM and more focused on marketing, and new media people are maybe too wrapped up in the possibilities instead of the realities. But my experience so far has only reinforced my opinion that the two camps are tending towards a merge, since motion pictures are motion pictures, after all.

Looking for video from the show? We haven’t seen a ton of it so far, but here’s a clip that illustrates my point:

Captured is a live performance and political protest by the Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping posted to YouTube by Interactive conference veteran Ewan Spence and filmed by vlogger Baratunde Thurston. Reverend Billy was in town to promote his documentary, “What Would Jesus Buy?” which is screening at the film festival. It’s the kind of cross-promotion and melding of mediums into one big infotainment soup that you can expect to continue for the foreseeable future.


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