evidence of next week

Dogma 2001: The New Rules for Internet Cinema

Putting a film designed for festivals on the Internet is no more Internet cinema than putting housework on a stage makes it theater. This is a different venue, with different requirements: The Internet has severe bandwidth limitations, there's a lot fighting for the viewer's attention, and there is a significant community aspect unique to the medium which should be taken into account.

This is not a theater.
Here, the viewer is in control.

Accordingly, true Internet cinema follows these ten rules:

  1. Total running time should not exceed five minutes.
    This is the Internet, not television. This is usually a desk, not the living room. Time and attention are compromised in this venue. Know it, live it.

  2. Something interesting must occur within ten seconds.
    In a theater, the environment forces the viewer to focus their attention on the screen, allowing the movie to take its time establishing itself. On the Internet, viewers are often at their desk with a cat on their lap or the phone ringing or kids needing attention or cooking something or whatever. And even just inside the computer there are many distractions: incoming email, IMs, other interesting apps to play with. To compete successfully for the viewer's attention in this environment you gotta act quickly and decisevely. That "something interesting" need not include an explosion (someone please call Hollywood and let them know), but it must capture the user's attention. Research indicates that computer users will click away if they don't get some useful activity within ten seconds.

  3. It can only require the four most common plug-ins.
    That means Flash, Real Player, Windows Media Player, or QuickTime. Anything else has a market penetration too small to be worthwhile for the general public. Requiring people to download one more plug-in is so very rude and only hurts yourself: a more polite world is only a click away. And of course we're talking about one version behind whatever the current one is; requiring folks to get a more recent version of a plug-in than what they're likely to have is just as rude. It takes about 18 months for a new version of a plug-in to become dominant.

  4. It must be sized between 320x240 and 640x480.
    Anything smaller than 320x240 is too small to be interesting. Anything larger than 640x480 is too large to be downloaded by most people.

  5. Compose for your delivery size.
    This is a small screen, so don't compose long shots in which essential detail may be lost.

  6. Movies should be downloadable.
    If you think streaming is somehow more secure you're kidding yourself. The image quality of streaming media is far, far behind downloadable movies. Don't make people suffer pixelated images and out-of-synch sound. Understand that any electronic media can be shared, then get comfortable with that. Put a copyright notice on it and let it go.

  7. It should be double-sized.
    Setting the movie to double-size gives twice as much viewing area without increasing file size/download time. If you use good compressors like Sorensen in a downloadable movie, even at double-size the quality will still be much better than streaming.

  8. There must be a URL which can direct others directly to the movie page.
    The Internet is about sharing. If you take the time to make media available, take just a little more time to think through how easily folks can access it. Frames do not normally allow direct URLs to go to a specific page. Frames are allowable only if they point to a frame set or a CGI or some other means lets folks paste a URL into their browser to get to your flick.

  9. Credits must be a single frame at the end of the movie.
    See #1. Folks care much more about who contributed what to a movie after they've seen it. Let Hollywood do what it feels it needs to do to satisfy those egos; here it's about the viewer, and the viewer's time is the most precious commodity. Don't waste it. A single frame at the movie will last exactly as long as the viewer wants.

  10. Provide an email address in the credits.
    An interesting movie will warrant inquiry. It's only natural that someone viewing a movie on a computer will want to contact the author via email. Leaving out your email address only makes the earnest fan jump through hoops with WHOIS to find you. Extra bonus points if you make the email address clickable (e.g., <mailto:info@neocinema.com>).