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Made-For-Torrents Sci-Fi Drama "Pioneer One" Debuts 321

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-tv-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it dept.
QuantumG writes "The first episode of the new science fiction drama Pioneer One has debuted and it looks like a hit. The pilot was shot for just $6,000, raised through the micro-funding platform Kickstarter, and the production is being supported through donations on the show's website. Donations can be made on a sliding scale with 'bonus' rewards for each level, such as an MP3 of the opening theme and deleted scenes. The show is being distributed through file-sharing systems such as BitTorrent and LimeWire thanks to VODO, the group that also helped produce it. Is this the future of television?"
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Made-For-Torrents Sci-Fi Drama "Pioneer One" Debuts

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  • Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:34AM (#32632390)

    Is this the future of television?

    No.

  • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:36AM (#32632410)

    Is this the future of television?

    Hollywood, and big $$$ actors sure hope not... commodities commodities...

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psiren (6145) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:39AM (#32632434)

    "This production was possible due in no small part to the willingness of talented, professional people working for free"

    I would have to concur.

  • Which part? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:47AM (#32632500) Journal

    Quote the website:

    This production was possible due in no small part to the willingness of talented, professional people working for free," explains Bernhard. "From actors to composers, they did this because they believed in the project and wanted to see it happen.

    That is going to nix any plans for scaling the production model to support a full season of one or more shows.

    But, if you're asking whether or not a bittorrent-based distribution model is the future of TV, consider this... Bittorrent works by doing what the bandwidth providers SPECIFICALLY DO NOT WANT YOU TO DO. That is, use all the bandwidth you can. It fundamentally breaks the over-subscription model. In short, this distribution model won't scale using the existing infrastructure and it will take major changes for it to actually work. This sort of thing only works in small amounts, not the volumes of people who veg out in front of the idiot box on a nightly basis.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:48AM (#32632502)

    But what if it kick-starts a world-wide audience of 1 million people willing to pay $10.00 for a season?

    All projects have to start somewhere. Whether it is seed money from an angel investor or sweat equity, it doesn't matter. If you're working on a project that you truly believe in (passion, political statement, future earnings, etc.), then working for free at the beginning might make sense.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:50AM (#32632514)
    But OTOH this isn't a bad way of unknowns to get some recognition and footage for when they audition. A lot of them tend to work in smaller community productions as is for practically nothing. It's really not that uncommon for an actor to be sleeping in his car while trying to make it big. Something of this sort isn't really that much worse than the status quo. You do also have people that enjoy cinematography and other trades on a hobby basis who'd be more than happy to get a slice of whatever comes of it.

    But, this definitely isn't ever going to be the main way that it's done. I just can't imagine there being enough consistency to make it a workable model. But OTOOH, Fox still makes shows, and this is a tad bit less completely insane than letting them make TV shows.
  • by RMingin (985478) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:10PM (#32632646) Homepage

    Every week, Hollywood produces hundreds of pilot episodes. These are screened and the vast majority (~99%) are dismissed, never to be seen by anyone beyond the test screening audience.

    If Hollywood had half a brain between the lot of them, they'd start a pilot episode channel via the different on-demand delivery systems (Hulu/Netflix/Comcast VOD/Verizon VOD) and get their pilots screened to an order of magnitude more people.

    The difference here is that Pioneer One has put their pilot up on TPB and the like instead of on some Hollywood stooge's desk, and they're greenlighting themselves for more episodes, no matter what.

    It's really not as different as it initially appears.

  • Personally the one good thing about this format is that if people LIKE the damned show they won't just cancel it because some asshat made a political move on another producer. I cannot count the numbers of times I've LIKED a show but it's been killed off, scheduled stupidly, or who knows what.

    I'm watching this now - so far I like it and yeah I think I'll contribute to it. I'd like to see the next episode for sure!

  • Of course not... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:21PM (#32632730)

    Bandwidth is becoming ever cheaper. Every year I get more bandwidth for less money. My ISP has upgraded me some five times over the last few years. Every time my bandwidth was increased so much that I could downgrade to a cheaper plan and still have a net gain in bandwidth.

    ISP's over here (Europe, the Netherlands to be precise) get their money by (trying to) sell tv-over-ip and telephony-over-ip. But basic internet connectivity and bandwidth? There is no money in that, it's practically free.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:29PM (#32632798)

    I watch more and more things like this.

    Every minute spent watching these is a minute not spent watching the expensive pro stuff.

    There is a serious glut of entertainment out there. More than we could ever consume in 10 lifetimes now. And every day another week of material is created.

    As the inexpensive or free stuff grows, it is crowding out the expensive stuff heavily laden with commercials.

    For me, it's more likely to crowd out cable than movie theaters. I can't duplicate the experience of sitting with 500 enthusiastic people on the first few nights. I can't duplicate the experience of the huge screen (tho I can come close).

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:43PM (#32632880)

    Maybe Firefly didn't capture enough audience to pay for the production costs *plus* distribution costs *plus* desired profit? Likely there was another show (dancing with stars? blech!) that was shown to make more money in that same 1 hour slot? I dunno.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by karnal (22275) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:43PM (#32632882)

    You also can't duplicate the chance of whiny kids crying for 1/2 the movie (happened to me for XMen 2) or random people whipping out their cell phones during the film. Even though most don't actually talk on their phones, the fact that the light attracts my attention away from the movie is a real distraction.

    Plus the fact that most of the larger chain cinemas feel the need to push the audio way too high. In Columbus, there's a place called the Movie Tavern. Has a bar and restaurant - uses what I would consider "cheaper" computer chairs and you sit behind a table so you can eat with a mild light. Another plus for them is that they don't crank the friggin audio. AMC @ Easton - yea, they crank it so bad my ears ring.

    I must be getting old. But tldr version - Big Chain Movie Theaters are usually not a good experience in my opinion.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:45PM (#32632894)

    Hi, I'm a sound designer who regularly contributes his work for free (or for very low rates) to the projects of newe filmmakers.

    I can tell you that if I didn't have a regular paying job working on commercial movies, there is no way I'd be able to contribute my spare time to freebees. Having a well-paying job allows me to keep my own equipment and have the savings necessary to spend time working for free, and being a member of my union (and relying on other people working and paying into the insurance pool) makes sure that I have health care when I work on freebees.

    I'm sure it works the same way in development, no? Programmers contribute there time to open source projects, but the most skilled programmers who accomplish the most work and make the best contributions are professionals who are doing so in their spare time. Amateurs might be good for testing or doing the sort of things in filmmaking we leave to interns, but production is a sophisticated profession and requires years of experience in a particular trade to have proficiency and cutting-edge skills, and if you aren't doing it all the time you just never have a chance to develop those.

    These projects are a great way for the creators and crew to network and get their idea exposed, but the goal is to secure funding and produce the show in a conventional way, after proving the concept is viable and commercial. BitTorrent is not a usable or profitable means of replacing television, but it might be a new way for studios to discover pilots.

  • slashvertisement? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:48PM (#32632902) Homepage Journal

    as much as I don't like seeing slashvertisements in general, this one is actually fairly on topic. I do hope they do well. It's in our best interest that efforts like this succeed in a big way, and send a strong message to the movie and media cartels.

    That, and getting a front page draw on a Sunday on slashdot ought to guarantee they shatter their fundraising goal over the course of the afternoon. Their servers are doing remarkably well considering what's hitting them. Would have been quite the epic fail had they been offering direct downloads instead of torrents.

    But on the downside, I bet their monthly traffic allotment just busted through the ceiling and into the gruesome "pay per additional bandwidth this month" point.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:55PM (#32632952)

    Is Dancing with Stars from 2002 in the top 10 current best selling blu-ray movie section on amazon.com? because Firefly is...

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:56PM (#32632956) Journal
    Fox said no, and yet the profit from the DVD sales alone (ignoring syndication) were enough to fund an entire new season. If the TV companies hadn't been involved, with two layers of indirection between the TV creators and the TV consumers (networks and advertisers), then Firefly Season 2 would have been a profitable proposition.

    I would have paid $10 into a fund to film season 2 and release it under a creative commons license. I strongly suspect that enough other people would have done the same for them to have been able to make a reasonable profit. If season 2 had been good, I'd have put another $10 towards season 3, under the same terms, and so on. Once they'd released season 2 under a CC license, I could have given copies to all of my friends and encouraged them to contribute towards season 3.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:58PM (#32632986)

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but good artists are much harder to find than programmers. Good production requires good set designers, lighting directors, casting directors. Not to mention that the AV equipment required and support staff to run it cost much more than a single computer and an internet connection.

    In LA a significant slice of the population owns equipment that can shoot 720p and has production equipment -- every other house in the Valley seems to have a garage converted into a studio of one type or another, so in some places it's definitely easier than others. But even that being so, very few good no-budget independent projects are produced here, no more or fewer than any other part of the US. The real limiting factor, as you indicate, is the human talent, particularly in the acting and writing. Even FOSS projects fail unless the lead developers are very talented and persevering, and know how to code, and lead others, and communicate well, and promote and market and support..

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @01:00PM (#32632998) Homepage

    Firefly didn't go because someone's short-sighted sites are set too high. Firefly was and in many respects still IS successful. The problem is that it was either not enough or too much of some metric that probably doesn't accurately measure quality or audience appreciation.

  • Which clone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @01:40PM (#32633248) Homepage Journal

    But youtube (and several clones) are already in that spot.

    Which clone do you recommend if someone is bothered by YouTube's 10 minute limitation or the potential of a two-week downtime for videos that contain criticism of a mainstream media work?

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @02:05PM (#32633396) Homepage

    That, and getting a front page draw on a Sunday on slashdot ought to guarantee they shatter their fundraising goal over the course of the afternoon.

    And what happens next Sunday with the next episode or with a different production? No buzz, no bucks.

  • Whatever (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @02:33PM (#32633586)

    I donated. I don't really care if _this particular show_ is that good or not - I can list the 'good shows' of today one one hand, and that includes Firefly. I figure if these people care enough about what they are doing that they will do it for free/little money, they deserve my support more than the corporate middlemen churning out Dancing With The Stars and American Idol. Even if this one turns out not to be so good (I'm about 20% downloaded now) maybe the support it gets will inspire another show that's better.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LambdaWolf (1561517) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @03:28PM (#32633996)

    Maybe Firefly didn't capture enough audience to pay for the production costs *plus* distribution costs *plus* desired profit? Likely there was another show (dancing with stars? blech!) that was shown to make more money in that same 1 hour slot? I dunno.

    The whole problem with is that not all audiences captured are of equal value any more, and studios are just now starting to learn it. One viewer that really loves Firefly and will buy the DVDs is worth more revenue than a viewer who kills an evening watching Dancing with the Stars because they're bored and then forgets about it forever. Unfortunately, the studio executives who killed Firefly didn't grasp this.

    I think they're starting to learn, though. I take the success of Lost as evidence—ABC knew that Lost's viewers really loved the show and would be buying DVDs later on. Lost got a lot of accommodation in the shooting schedule and such that most other shows wouldn't have, probably for this reason.

    Even so, it seems strange that TV broadcasts should still be important at all. Works that, we now know, will live on indefinitely as part of popular culture are having their budgets and running schedules decided mostly by one broadcast at one time, and fans that watch on the Internet—which many do exclusively—or buy DVD sets months later experience the consequences. Whether its replacement is Hulu or made-for-torrents series, that system will have to go.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @04:19PM (#32634334)

    I don't think that's it. I would bet the DVD sales wouldn't simply have translated to TV viewership. Do you really think more than 1 in 10 of Firefly purchasers regularly watch TV? Hell, many of them likely don't have a Cable/Satellite feed.

    And that's the real problem. The real people watching TV, the real viewers that networks target, are complete idiots.

    I doubt we will ever see a show of that quality on network television again. The place it will succeed is on the Internet. Those interested in such shows are slowly but surely abandoning TV subscriptions in lieu of services like Netflix (& Starz), Hulu, and Youtube. Spartacus is probably the most recent example of a show that would have failed on Network TV, but succeeded due to Internet exposure.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @04:44PM (#32634474) Homepage Journal

    One viewer that really loves Firefly and will buy the DVDs is worth more revenue than a viewer who kills an evening watching Dancing with the Stars because they're bored and then forgets about it forever.

    I don't know that that's really true. The point of network TV isn't to sell DVDs, it's to sell commercials. If Ford runs a commercial, and viewers go out and buy Fords, the show is a success, regardless of whether the viewers were really enjoying the show.

    It may be possible that if a person really likes a show, they're more likely to think highly of its advertisers, but I think the networks are really more interested in attracting the maximum number of eyballs, and the more gullible they are, the better.

    -jim

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drsmithy (35869) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (yhtimsrd)> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @04:56PM (#32634596)

    A one-hour scripted drama can cost anywhere from $1 mil to $5 mil an episode.

    What proportion of that goes into paying the salaries of a handful of well-known "stars", though ?

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skal Tura (595728) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:49PM (#32635368) Homepage

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but it ain't so.

    Everyone can be an artist (in a way), but not everyone can be programmer (requires atleast minimal level of logical competence).

    Finding good artists and GOOD programmers are hard. All programmers are not equals, just like in artists, there's a huge degree of change in quality and competence between programmers as well. Most programmers suck, just like most artists suck.

    A single computer, and an internet connection does not run quite a big project in a short timespan. Sure, a TV production cannot be done by single person, while as single programmer can do quite a vast project, but the programmer cannot finish either without UI designer, Graphics designer, set of specifications, testers, and a big collection of manuals, and other reference sources. Sometimes all of that culminates on a single person, just like it sometimes culminates into a single person on entertainment (think demoscene).

    You are putting TV production on a pedestal. Sure they are big, they need a lot of people, when done by studios. Just like products done by big corporations is not run by a single person.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:58PM (#32635438)

    Is Dancing with Stars from 2002 in the top 10 current best selling blu-ray movie section on amazon.com? because Firefly is...

    That really doesn't mean anything. In the end which generated more profit? I imagine Dancing with the Stars eats up far fewer dollars per episode to make and the advertising revenue is probably eye-brow raising.

    Admittedly, though, I don't really know how you find that out. Heh.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:59PM (#32635444)

    What proportion of that goes into paying the salaries of a handful of well-known "stars", though ?

    What proportion of the audience will flip the channel if they don't see someone they recognize? Seeing attractive celebrities is a big part of the appeal of television.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:13PM (#32635536)

    The point of network TV isn't to sell DVDs, it's to sell commercials.

    Don't forget syndication and spinoffs, though. Is Star Trek's value limited to the 1968 Fords it helped sell? That's certainly the case with reality TV, but dramatic serials are different.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:23PM (#32635610)

    Everyone can be an artist (in a way),

    Uy. Yeah everyone can be an artist, except in a way that's commercial. That's the tricky part.

    You maybe can write a short story but can you read a script and write-out the main character and still have something that makes sense and is entertaining, in a week? A friend of mine is a screenwriter and he had to do this on set a week before they started shooting.

    You can doodle but can you light a hallway and office set with 5 tweenies and a Kino-Flo?

    You can hum to yourself, but can you record and cut five reels of foley in two weeks? Or design six versions of a sound effect for an alien machine gun, and have all of them rejected and come back and do 6 more?

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:38PM (#32635686) Journal

    I remember reading an article by Whedon talking about possibly going this route with some Spike&Dru stories or Faith the Vampire Slayer. Basically selling swag to build up the initial cash (t-shirts, mugs, etc) and then selling the episode with a counter at the bottom telling how many more sales are required to pay for the next show. That way take the life or death of a show away from the suits (which look at how many decent Sci-Fi shows like Brimstone and Firefly they kill while putting on reality dreck) and giving it to the fans to decide if it is worth expanding.

    I personally looove this idea, as it would give those of us that loved non dumbed down drama and Sc-Fi a chance to get decent programming without having to appeal to the masses. I know I would have been happy to buy swag to help pay for Angel Season 6 (Angel in Hell if you've read the comics) and Buffy Season 8 (MUCH better than the last 2 seasons of the TV show, again if you've read the Whedon penned comics) instead of simply avoiding TV as I do now. I mean seriously, how many damned reality shows and spin offs of L&O and CSI CAN they spew out?

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:47PM (#32635746)

    What proportion of the audience will *not* flip the channel because they see some ho non-celebrity and think, "I should watch this for a bit and see who this fresh meat is" ?

    In other words, how did the talentless celebrities become celebrities? They were attractive, that's all it takes. Plenty of attractive people out there who aren't in a show yet, so I don't see a barrier.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:51PM (#32635768)

    That's because everyone has already seen DWTS from 2002, and want to watch Firefly instead. Or alternatively they are watching recent DWTS and there is no recent Firefly, so they buy it.

    I'm goin to further argue that DWTS and other semi-live reality shows are a social phenom. They get you to watch because your friends are watching, same as a support buddy keeps you exercising. The whole point is to experience it together from your individual private homes. Firefly and other shows are not engaging in the same way (they are in different ways lest someone argue that point).

    The shows that stay on are the ones that get people talking. Whether it's Survivor or Lost doesn't matter, people talk and the studios listen.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Macrat (638047) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @10:13PM (#32636466)

    The TV show didn't catch because it was originally aired out of sequence.

    Little more than that.

    The Fox execs just didn't understand the show and instead of showing the pilot episode that set up the universe, they forced Whedon to create an "action" episode to air first with the lame train robbery.

    Fox management micro managing a show they didn't understand.

  • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wrook (134116) on Monday June 21, 2010 @08:23AM (#32639266) Homepage

    Granted I (used to) work in the programming field. But I have to disagree somewhat here. The reason FLOSS became successful was not due to the increased presence of good programmers. I can tell you for a fact that the number of talented amateur illustrators in the high school I work in out number the talented programmers by at least a factor of 10 to 1. No they aren't pro-level, but then neither are most of the programmers who start out writing free software in University.

    FLOSS became successful based on a number of unique factors. The first was the fact that the means to program at a "pro" level was available to almost everyone who wanted it (in wealthy countries anyway). Especially at the start, programs were NOT complicated. You could spend 100 hours cranking out horrible code and somebody would want it. Things are different now, of course. But because getting in was easy originally, a culture was born that allowed FLOSS.

    In the arts, this is often not the case. Unless you have a big budget and a bunch of highly paid pros, you aren't likely to produce something that someone wants. And so it is difficult to build up enough of a critical mass of free/commons developers to support its own activity. We are flooded with cheap/free-of-charge art. And the standard is very high. It is extremely difficult to break into that.

    But I think this attempt (along with a few others that have proceeded it) is a step in the right direction. The reality is that *some* people don't care about having the highest level of production quality. They are willing to put up with quite a lot. Even if the percentage is very, very small, (say 1 in 10,000) in a large population it can add up to a reasonable number of people. 1 in 10,000 of 100,000,000 is still 10,000. It is insignificant compared to "real" arts, but it is significant enough (probably) to start something that is self-sustaining.

    That's the other thing about the time that FLOSS came into being. At the time, the internet was becoming available to the people doing this kind of development. And they could find each other and build small virtual communities. And thanks to the early efforts of a lot of people in the free software community, a set ethical agreements was reached that allowed people to contribute to projects without having to fear that this contribution would be appropriated some way.

    We're starting to see some traction in other areas these days. Creative Commons is unbelievably important in this endeavor. But just like it took at least 10 years before the average person could even begin to see the point of FLOSS, it will take time for free and open artistic endeavors to gel. I would be very surprised if 20 years from now we don't see this kind of thing as being relatively common (though, perhaps not mainstream) -- just like FLOSS.

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