Fallout

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Anime, Culture

So Shamus recently made a post on, to put it broadly, the direction of the arts industry. The whole thing was apparently sparked off by an ongoing conversation on some other blogs about anime, “fansubs,” the open source movement, programming and art.

On the one hand, the process of creating anime as we know it does require a certain scale which makes it infeasible for anything but a well-funded company to produce. On the other hand, I’m pretty skeptical of accounts that fansubs substantially cut into profits. Granted, the extent of my knowledge of fansubs consists of watching a few clips on YouTube, and in interacting with rabid anime fans. My impression from the latter is that, outside of the corporatized piracy which is rampant in Asia, fan subtitled videos don’t represent a serious threat to anime sales in America. Fansubs seem to be thought of a stopgap allowing the truly rabid fans to get their fix early, but these fans are also the same obsessive personality type that insist on owning the releases anyway.

I guess I’m getting on a bit of a tangent from where I wanted to go. Darin, a commenter on Shamus’ site observes:

I have seen the end of Hollywood, and it is Open Art. CGI is getting very good at presenting realistic characters. And maybe you don’t even care how realistic they are. What happens once we get to CGV? Computer Generated Voices on the par where they sound “close enough”. And if computer power keeps increasing, I say that we’ll reach a point where someone will create a movie software package. Design the actors (CGI & CGV), write the script, gather the CGI scenery, and plot the movements and camera angles. Turn the crank and out pops your “movie”.

This strikes me as correct. I think we’ve still got another ~10-15 years before it becomes plausible for your average obsessive compulsive creative genius to make their own CG movies. It’ll probably take another 20-30 years or more before it becomes accessible enough for all but fringe elements. The confounding factor here, I think, is that it’s doubtful that existing media will survive that long. We’re already seeing a transition in how media companies distribute (and, to a lesser extent, create) their content.

Even though I can see a future where the bottom drops out for current media companies, I think it’s pretty unlikely we’ll ever reach a “tragedy of the commons” situation where all our resources (in this case, anime) have been exhausted. Human beings crave culture and entertainment, often in specific forms. I find it exceedingly unlikely that a sudden end to existing business models would wipe out a cultural movement that’s got, say, thirty years of material built up and generations of people weaned on its specific style.

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