Thursday, July 29, 2010

Op-Ed: Illegal Video from SDCC

Last week was Comic Con and thousands of people flocked to the San Diego convention center to see and hear their favorite artists, directors and actors live and in person. This event is extremely popular and by every means crowded, but it always fun. One of the best parts to SDCC is the ability to see exclusive footage. Studios and directors put together special exclusive clips just for attendees to see and enjoy. Stuff that is shown to generate interest and word of mouth exposure. Footage that is only for fans in attendance. Sadly too many people are illegally recording this footage and posting it to you tube or other various media outlets. These people who disobey the rules could end up forcing the powers that be to stop bringing the exclusive footage to Comic Con and other media related conventions.

When you attend SDCC there is a special mysticism in the air. No, not just the wafting smell of some unbathed fanboy, but a general consensus amongst thousands of people that we are witnessing something special. When the lights go down and exclusive footage is shown we are seeing something no one else has seen. Then you look to your right and some dick head has his iPhone out and is trying to record the footage. He later posts the footage to youtube for others to see. There are a few reasons why this is a stupid stupid move.

Number one, you are seeing the exclusive footage in the worst possible way. By some 3.2 megapixel camera that ends up making a highly refined image look like junk. One big blurry mess. Not to mention it reduces the sound quality. Speaking from experience I know fans go crazy when they see these bits of footage, and if you are recording it, you're probably recording all of the screaming drowning out the audio from the footage. I don't know why these people record the stuff, it never looks anywhere near as good as it is suppose to, so why do it? Don't you think telling and describing to your friends about exclusive footage you've seen would get them more excited then showing them some crappy shaky cam? That is one big aspect of what SDCC is all about anyways, spreading word of mouth interest. Getting other people excited about movie only you and 5,000 other people saw footage to. That is why it is called exclusive.

Another reason recording and publishing the exclusive footage to the net is a terrible idea is because eventually the studios will stop bringing it. Listen, they cut specific footage to get fans excited. They don't have to do it. They could just roll out a trailer we've already seen. They do it to generate interest, but they can always refrain from bringing footage and just roll out cast and crew instead. Then SDCC will be nothing more that a Star Trek convention with stars talking about what they've done, but never showing us any footage.

A good example would be AMC's "The Walking Dead" panel. Listening to the cast, crew and creative team talk about making the series was very interesting, but when the lights went down and exclusive footage was shown, you could tell something very awesome happened with the crowd. Every single of them knew they had seen something special. Seriously goosebumps. The series looks spectacular and the footage shown made a believer out of the entire room. Now I've seen a few sites have posted a shaky version of the footage and they should be ashamed. The iPhone capture looks horrendous and goes against everything we know to be right. Websites that are posting this kind of footage should be banned from the event. Why should they be trusted to return if they are going to exploit some of the best parts only for mere traffic on their websites.

Studios this year offered a smart alternative to combatting the illegal footage posting. Studios like Disney and Warner Brothers debuted alternate trailers following their panels at SDCC. For instance a "TRON: Legacy" trailer was released on Yahoo Trailers immediately following the panel on Thursday morning. Warner Brother did something similar by releasing a shorter trailer for Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" on Apple Trailers than what was shown in Hall H on Saturday. Offering these alternate trailers works both to getting fans not in attendance excited while also generating interest in attending SDCC. The way I see it, if you want to see the exclusive footage, you need to attend otherwise you're only going to get a fraction of it.

Today footage from Marvel's "Thor" panel was leaked and quite a few major movie websites posted the footage. This case is a little different from a shaky cam taken by a cell phone or digital camera, but the fact remains that they are posting illegal footage for nothing more than to generate hits on their site. The "Thor" footage that was shown to Hall H on Saturday was in 3D and the leaked footage is in 2D. If this was a cam taken during the Hall H panel, it would look like you were watching a 3D movie without the glasses on.

Now I haven't watched the leaked footage and don't plan to but the fact that this footage has leaked seems a little odd. Why hasn't Marvel just cut together a trailer and released that? If this leaked footage came from someone at Marvel, someone is getting fired, but why else post this trailer other than to generate traffic? The sad fact is that some of the very same sites that have posted or linked to illegal footage already have hordes of traffic and don't need to stoop down to a lower level.