Evolution of the below-the-line training cycle, culture of tradespeople vs culture of technicians
The older cusp of the game generation (now in their mid-thirties) have entered their productive years as journeyman technicians and content creators. These technicians and artists came up in an infrastructure and training cycle married to film but sleeping with video; an infrastructure and training-cycle that is infiltrated more and more by electronic acquisition and digital post. The phenomena is the result of the explosion of world wide cable and a desire to stem the rising cost of production.
I remember having the opportunity to compare formative experiences with Dedo Weingert, inventor of the dedo light, at a lighting expo one rainy night in New York City five years ago. One of the biggest differences between my own and Mr. Weingert's apprenticeship is that he saw film dailies for almost everything he lit.
How did I get to spend so much time talking with Mr. Weingert? No one showed up to the event, except myself and a few other below-the-line technicians. In fact, one executive at a prominent rental house in New York City recently mentioned to me that attendance at seminars has declined over the last few years. This phenomena, according to some elder technicians, is evidence of our arrogance as the younger generation. The generational gap, however, is more likely the result of the globalization of the media and entertainment sector; the advance of digital post and acquisition technologies; and ultimately the evolution of below-the-line training cycle.
Today digital cinematography and end-to-end digital workflows have reached critical mass. The culture war I came up in, between film and "video", has given way to hybrid projects with newer formats that incorporate the best of both worlds. The change is liberating because digital workflows feel more natural to my sensibilities, even while I have to admit they complicate the creative process with a multitude of technical variables that influence image quality.
In his aptly titled book, The Rise of the Creative Class, urban planner Richard Florida identifies the emergence of a new economic and social class of "thirty eight million Americans roughly thirty percent of the entire U.S. workforce, whose creativity is the driving force of our nation's economic growth." 
The key difference between the creative class and other classes, according to Florida, lies in what they are primarily paid to do. Those in the working and service classes are paid to execute according to plan, while the main economic function of the core of the creative class (which includes people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, entertainment, and the media) is to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content - in other words intellectual property. 
In addition, around this creative core, exists a broader group of creative professionals in business, finance, law, health care and other related fields, who engage in "complex problem solving" that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital. 
The creative class in the United States today is larger than the traditional working class. The service class, totaling fifty five million workers or forty three percent of the U.S. workforce, is the largest of all. The growth of the service class, according to Florida, is in large measure a response to the demands of the 'creative economy'. "Members of the Creative Class, because they are well compensated and work long and unpredictable hours," writes Florida, "require a growing pool of low-end service workers to take care of them and do their chores." 
I have outlined the work of others as it relates to the creative economy elsewhere on this site. Here is a quick summary of three of its important aspects:
The 'creative economy' has substantial scope.
John Howkins categorizes the creative economy to include fifteen creative sectors - such as research and development, software, design, and content industries like film, music, and video games - that produce intellectual property in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks and proprietary designs. The annual global revenue for Howkin's fifteen identified sectors was $2.24 trillion in 1999. The U.S. share represents forty percent of the market with revenue totaling $960 billion. The U.S. share also accounts for more than forty percent of research and development, forty percent of television and radio, and thirty percent of film. Howkins calculates that core copyright industries will be worth $6.1 trillion internationally in fifteen years. U.S. dominance in these segments - more than productivity improvements related to new technology and new manufacturing methods - is responsible for much of the nation's global economic competitiveness since the nineteen-eighties. 
Creativity is Mainstream.
More Americans work in art, entertainment, and design, than as lawyers, accountants, and auditors.  In the United States, professional artists, writers, and performers have increased three hundred and twenty-five percent from 525,000 in 1950 to 2.5 million in 1999.  Graphic designers outnumber chemical engineers by four to one, and more Americans are directly employed in film production than in the steel industry. 
Creativity is Expensive and Time Consuming.
The production of commodities in the creative industries, which include film and television, is said to suffer from "Baumol's disease". Costs in these sectors tend to climb faster than the rate of inflation, chiefly because creativity is dependent on highly specialized human capital and inherently labor intensive. Labor costs in the creative sectors also tend to rise more rapidly than others do.
In many respects, the demands of the creative economy have flattened the business model of most major industry sectors, requiring firms to capitalize on the greater efficiency gained by the creative factory and subcontract manufacturing systems(translate that as outsourcing).
Stephen Barley has noted in The New World of Work that the entire economy has moved towards a more horizontal division of labor and hyper-specialization among firms. "The digital business environment that Kodak is transitioning to is more horizontal in construct" says Antonio Perez, CEO and President of Kodak: "It requires alliances, partnering and, to a certain degree, acquisitions to move quickly into new markets." 
A natural outcome of this development is a "horizontal labor market" with people tending to move laterally instead of vertically. "Climbing the corporate ladder is not much of an option," writes Florida: "Perhaps because there isn't as much of a ladder in many of today's leaner, flatter firms - and it is liable to shift or vanish before you're halfway up." 
In fact, Americans now change jobs on average every 3.5 years. This figure has been declining steadily for every age group. Workers in their twenties switch jobs on average every 1.1 years.  The phenomenon is also coupled with a tendency towards hyper-specialization among individual occupations, just as it is among firms. Those "in authority no longer comprehend the work of their subordinates," notes Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Friedman in The Horizontal Society, because occupations themselves have evolved into "clusters of domain-specific knowledge." 
The game generation (the older cusp of which are now in their mid-thirties) have come of age professionally and technically in the midst of this evolving labor market, which is evermore dependent on them to act as the "work horses" in their respective creative sectors. "In most Creative Class occupations," writes Richard Florida, "people manage their careers by 'front-loading' - working excruciatingly long and hard at the outset of their professional lives in the hopes it will pay off in greater income, marketability and mobility later." 
Moreover, people today not only tend to identify themselves with their occupation or profession instead of the company that they work for, but they also bear more of the responsibility and risks for their careers. This means individual workers invest more of their own time and resources into education and skill acquisition now than any other time before.
The trend is particularly acute among new media professionals, who, according to Rosemary Batt and Susan Christopherson of Cornell University, spend an additional 13.5-hours per week obtaining new skills - all of it unpaid. This has become an individual responsibility, "both because the interactive nature of computer tools allows new media workers to learn new skills at their own pace and within their own learning style, and because formal learning programs have not kept pace with skill needs in this fast-changing industry." 
In fact, digital technology has transformed 'economies of training', so that "the training cycle is now longer than the life cycle of the devices in use," says Bill Drury Senior Consultant formerly with IBM EMEA, when I interviewed him this year: "That means companies cannot afford these long training cycles any longer."
In the new labor market, it no longer pays for companies to invest significantly in developing their people's skills and capabilities.
Consequently, the game generation has different organizational values and attitudes about professional roles than their predecessors. In their groundbreaking book, Got Game, John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade argue that entertainment software has shaped the organizational ethos of gamers and profoundly influenced how they approach their work - well beyond the scope of those influential meta-forces mentioned above like hyper-specialization and the flattening of the labor market, both of which have emerged from the creative economy and the technological convergence of digital technology and business.
One first has to comprehend the profound penetration of entertainment software usage among individuals under the age of thirty-five. This demographic has spent "billions of dollars, and billions of hours, in the virtual world[s] created by these machines," and despite the prevailing boomer amnesia on the subject, games, like the television to boomers, "are a universally shared, technology powered experience." 
According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer is thirty-three; and despite assumptions to the contrary, thirty-eight percent of gamers are women:
Beck and Wade also add: "One survey found ninty-two percent of children ages two to seventeen in the United States have regular access to video games, and eighty percent of U.S. households with children have a computer...And games, unlike computer and Internet usage, are not limited to the socioeconomic elite." 
Video games are big business. According to Beck and Wade, "Today's game market is huge because nearly every kid is involved." 
Secondly, according to Beck and Wade, video games are powerful training tools:
This responsiveness has made gamers more focused on value-added than their predecessors. According to Beck and Wade, "All that experience with video games has made these people passionate about added value. You have to look closely, at first, to see that passion. Initially, what you see is the value gamers put on skill...They understand that their only real job security comes from their capabilities and continued productivity.
A corollary of the authors' argument is that the game generation's propensity for role-playing is partly responsible for the dot com era, just as much as the flawed business models of the firms headed by these 'Sim City' CEOs were responsible for the bubble; for, the game generation believes that as long as they have the right tools, they will can do and be anything. Beck and Wade write:
No industry sector is immune to these developments (including film production and post). Although, the effects are more apparent in the latter. I would argue that the breakdown of the traditional apprenticeship system in media and entertainment content production is a result of this trend toward a more horizontal labor market, the emerging creative economy and the ethos of the game generation.
Granted, film production has always relied on "domain specific knowledge" between departments. Even intra-departmentally, the division of labor is quite specific, although customarily cumulative in breadth. This division of labor is part of the traditional apprenticeship system. "It's always been an industry of apprenticeship," says Bob Harvey, Senior Vice President of worldwide sales at Panavision when I interviewed him this year, "and people grow up from being loaders all the way up in the camera department, and I think all the departments. I don't know if that's going to continue and that's too bad."
"Many of the individuals who participate in an entertainment production would refer to their skills as a trade, notes the 2001 Department of Commerce Report on Runaway Production, "Traditionally, practitioners often developed their trades in a union environment, which facilitate an individual's development of the necessary learned skills through apprenticeships and on-the-job experience." 
The dramatic increase in worldwide demand for cable content coupled with the high production cost inherent in the creative industries has lead to an amplified need for cost-effective digital production, a growing trend towards production outsourcing (translate runaway production) and a concurrent rise of non union production over the last fifteen years. These are transforming the below-the-line labor market from a culture of tradesmen to a culture of technicians.
As I already noted this phenomenon is keener in postproduction, where transition to digital technology has been more apparent and complete. "The changes in the tools that are utilized to perform these post-production functions," notes the 2001 Department of Commerce Report on Runaway Production, "have presented opportunities for new post-production markets to appear with newly trained workforces that have bypassed the historical 'apprenticeship' programs that have existed in Hollywood for many years. This new workforce consists of individuals who have attended technical schools or government-sponsored programs that provide the required training to operate the new generation of equipment."
Just as the flattening labor market of corporate America has seen a trend towards self-education, so too has the labor market of below-the-line technicians. Part of this is a result of the increase in electronic acquisition and the advance of digital acquisition and post technologies. "In the past, when you got into the film industry, very often it was from art school, or you went to a school and studied photography or film. You seldom went to liberal arts schools and got into the industry. Some did, but not very many. I think that changed with your generation," said Director of Photography, Michael Falasco to me last year: "Everyone absolutely believes that they can take Avid courses and Final Cut Pro and come out and be editors."
According to the 2001 Department of Commerce Report on Runaway production, historically
Ripples are also felt in the world of production, especially in the cable TV market, where the demand for low-cost content is insatiable. Lower cost digital cameras and editing equipment have made production cheaper and lowered the barriers to market entry. This lowers capital equipment costs and the labor requirements for low-end production. For television broadcasters, the lowering of production costs has made it more economically feasible to produce docu-reality content aimed at narrower audience segments.
In terms of high-end digital cinematography, one of the obstacles towards seeding the future is access to the tools (in other words, getting one's hands on the equipment). "They need access to be able to learn how to use it and how to get the best from it," says Steve Shaw of Digital Praxis, "The most difficult part at the moment is getting hands on experience [with high-end digital acquisition]."
Another aspect of the new training cycle is simply the lack of uniformity amongst the large chip cameras and the increase in variables that affect image quality along the digital supply chain. "When I was coming up," remarks Director of Photography Michael Falasco:
Beginning with my generation of film technician, access to viewing film dailies for the apprentice technician decreased in inverse proportion to the increase in electronic acquisition. This fact alone functions as a hole in the traditional film training infrastructure. Certainly one of the biggest misunderstandings about large chip cameras is the fact that one lights them like motion picture film. That requires the expertise of a skilled lighting technician. In most respects the skill sets are transferable. Moreover, people often forget that lighting for motion picture is not merely about exposure, but also an important part of storytelling.
Beyond the changing nature of content brought on by new media, there is evidence of an evolving aesthetic, arising from the introduction of lower-cost digital acquisition and post technologies and the evolving ethos of the game generation in relation to these tools. That fact alone will have a continuing effect on the nature of content and the training cycle of below-the-line technicians: As Mark Chiolis, Senior Marketing Manager of Thomson Grass Valley's Strategic Marketing and Business Development Group, remarked in an interview I conducted with him earlier this year, "Today there are a number of thought provoking questions that are being asked. What happens when there is a true RGB 4k (there isn't one today) sensor that rivals, if not exceeds, that of today's film stock? One of the arguments for film is that people like the "look" which includes the grain and movement through the gate. What happens when the "game-boy" generation takes over? Having grown up with "video" is this the "look" they want to see? Will they have a different set of standards to compare to?"