I am a video tech geek. So for me, the rapidly advancing and changing landscape of video technology is an exciting challenge, one that keeps me champing at the bit to see what new developments are coming tomorrow.
As a business owner who works with actors, however, I have found that not many actors I meet share my video tech geekiness. They show me this by the questions they ask me about demo reels, video auditions, and even headshots. There’s no shame in not understanding the difference between high resolution and highfalutin’, but there are tech terms that are increasingly imposing themselves on the business side of show business, and savvy actors should arm themselves with the knowledge of what they are. You will enhance your standing as a serious player if you show some awareness of the lingo. The following definitions are not comprehensive; they are designed to be of practical use to actors.
1. Format. For actors, this is a term that usually refers to what recording standard their stunning acting performances are preserved in digitally. The list of possible formats includes NTSC, PAL, HD, SD, M4V, MOV, WMV among others. When you ask a demo reel editor to create your reel, you’ll be asked “What formats are your various clips in?” It’s very helpful if you can supply the answer. And if you say VHS, you will be invited to first visit a conversion house and then come back once that footage has been digitized.
2. Digitized. We now live in a world of 1s and 0s. Once the engineers were able to reduce information to 1s and 0s (in their world, “information” means anything that you can see or hear, as it is reproduced in a medium) it made the previous technology—analog—nearly obsolete. Your headshot jpeg is a digitized representation of your sparkly eyes and dimpled cheeks. Digitized videos are, similarly, arrangements of 1s and 0s.
3. Medium. The way I like my steak, but it’s also where all those 1s and 0s live. USB Flashdrives use flash memory (the medium) to store digitized information on solid-state circuits. A common example is a thumb-drive (called so because of the size comparison), which can be very useful in transporting large files between computers. CDs (not the famously “busiest people in the world,” but the disc upon which you might have your headshots) are a medium, as are DVDs, which have become the answer to the trivia question “Which video storage device was relevant for the least amount of time as the way actors showed their demo reels: VHS or DVD?”
4. Resolution. Not the one you broke on January 2, but instead, the playback quality of the video. High is better than low, but hi-res files can be humongous.
5. Files. These are represented on your computer by an icon and a name, which will end in .doc, .docx, .mov, .jpg, .pdf, etc. Your video clips are best delivered to an editor as files, usually a QuickTime .mov file (the Apple product) but there are others. These files can be delivered via a thumb-drive or over the Internet through FTP.
6. FTP. File transfer protocol. You may be familiar with Dropbox or YouSendIt, services that allow you to transfer large files from one computer to another over the Internet. A question I get all the time is: “Can I email my demo reel/audition to someone?” Usually no, since the file is too large for most email programs. The way to send video files to someone is by using FTP.
7. Capture. If your video is not available to you as a file, it will have to be recorded, or captured, as it’s being played back on a computer. It can be not only difficult but also illegal to capture a copy protected video. But for the actors who perform in the footage, I am willing to do what I can to give them access to their work, a job the producers too often fail to do.
8. TRT. Stands for total running time. The TRT for an effective demo reel has evolved in the past few years to barely longer than 60 seconds now.
9. Host. For digital purposes it means where the files are stored for playback on websites. YouTube, for instance, has ginormous machines that host all those cat videos.
10. Embed. Once your demo reel is hosted somewhere you can usually have it play on another website (yours, for instance) by embedding it there. You don’t have to download, upload, digitize, FTP, change its format, or burn it onto a DVD.