Since last year’s San Diego Comic-Con (2015), movie and TV studios have been releasing more and more of the footage shown at their panels to the public, either during or shortly after the panel. For Hall H, a sort of “Holy Grail” for comic book movie news and footage at San Diego Comic-Con, this has especially been the case.
The reason for this seems to be because of the tendency of the audiences to film the footage on their smartphone, camera, or other video recording devices, and then put this footage online. The studios are really against this behavior for very understandable reasons. Comic-Con/Eddie Ibrahim explains that this footage is specially cut for the Comic-Con Hall H audience, and while we can talk about the footage with our friends and such outside of Comic-Con, it is not to be recorded.
Further explanations that have come up are that this footage is not completely finished, meaning perhaps not all of the CGI effects are complete, or it might even be so far as this footage is test footage and might not even be released in the final cut of the movie. So in a way, Comic-Con feels like a way to show some “test-footage” for a movie, and allows the studios to judge the reaction of the crowd as they watch said footage. So it does make sense that the studios would not want this to leak out to the public – if the footage is not well-received, then it could damage the excitement for the movie’s release permanently.
Additionally, when footage is shown from a smartphone, camera, or other device, the ambience of footage is lost. One reason for this being that there is a degradation of the quality of the video and audio due to the secondary recording. But I think the more important reason is that the ambience of the crowd is missing. When there are 6,000+ people seated in a hall, all of them having been in line waiting for hours to see a glimpse of some trailer or footage for an upcoming movie they are excited about, it is very hard to disappoint this type of crowd. Almost anything shown, unless it is utter garbage, will receive a positive response. However, watching this same footage, at home, on a grainy, shaky video recording with choppy audio, the reception will be quite different, and likely not go over nearly as well.
So what solutions do the studios have at Comic-Con?
Studios Could Not Show Anything At All At Comic-Con
This would be the most disappointing solution for Comic-Con, and could already be taking hold. As indicated in this article on theverge.com, Fox indicated that they were not showing up because of this leaked footage problem Comic-Con is having. Sony, Lionsgate, and Legendary were also missing from Hall H this year, which could in part be due to the leaked footage concern.
This solution would certainly take some of the sparkle off of the Hall H draw, especially for Saturday, which is the big movie studio day. Hopefully this would not be a trend moving forward.
Studios And/Or Comic-Con Provide Higher Security Measures
Another solution that seemed partially evident at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con is using higher security measures. This year, Violet and myself had been talked to repeatedly while in Hall H and Ballroom 20 regarding footage on our camera, despite us following the rules, not filming any footage on the screen. In fact, we weren’t recording anything, we were merely taking pictures, and only when there wasn’t any footage being shown. Having the staff be more vigilant is certainly a solution to stopping people from leaking footage, but this also causes innocent people to be harassed a lot more despite following the rules. Additionally, people who want to break the rules will always find a way to do so. Out of 6,000+ people, there will likely one guy/gal who will be able to pull off the recording. This is very unfortunate, but also reality.
Higher technical means of handling the problem is probably a better solution. D23 Expo requires people to seal their phones in a bag, which makes for a difficult time recording footage. Additionally, Cons have begun using infrared devices, which are supposed to be able to determine if footage is being recorded.
Furthermore, perhaps Comic-Con could begin to use other devices, which cause video recordings to be scrambled when recorded. Such devices exist, which is described to some extent in this article. Of course, people set on recording the footage that are technologically advanced enough might be able to come up with a way around this security measure, but I would imagine these people would be few and far between. Then again, this is Comic-Con, a convention essentially for “nerds”…
Studios Only Show Footage They Plan to Release During/After Comic-Con Anyway
This solution happened quite bit this year at San Diego Comic-Con, especially with the Warner Bros. panel. All footage shown during their panel was released immediately after the panel concluded. This meant the footage was polished enough for the general audience to see it, and since the studio released it, people looking to watch these videos outside of Comic-Con are able to watch a much better video recording, since it is not being watched from some dude’s video recording he decided to upload to the internet.
This solution is probably one that Comic-Con is not too happy about. This takes away some of the allure of Hall H, since the footage is not as “exclusive” as it would have been if only Hall H was supposed to see it. But still, people in Hall H are in a crowd of 6,000+ people all with like-minded feelings, so the excitement of seeing the footage is probably a lot more fun when seeing it in this group setting. But still, there is an element of regret when you walk out of Hall H, and see online that everything has been released to the public, so those hours of toiling in line for a glimpse of footage feel wasted, since I could have seen it anyway, doing other things at Comic-Con or even at home.
At the same time, it is nice to have others that could not attend Comic-Con be able to see this footage, and this is probably good marketing for the studios anyway, if they feel the footage is going to receive a mostly positive response.
Which Solution Is Best?
Finding out which solution is best is a tough situation to pick apart. It also depends on which perspective you look at it from. For studios, probably releasing the footage online, in a controlled manner, that they don’t mind thousands to millions of people seeing, is probably the most beneficial. This has the widest audience for their footage to be seen, and with the hype of Comic-Con, plenty of eyes will be looking for the footage anyway.
As for Comic-Con, keeping the solution as “exclusive” as possible makes the most sense. But this of course will depend on how much enforcement they want to use to prevent people from “pirating” the footage. I would assume the technology to scramble the images if they are recorded is not an inexpensive expense, and Comic-Con might not have the funds to really shell out for this. But if footage is going to be posted online anyway, the desire to attend Hall H might be dampened.
For people like me who want to see Hall H, this is probably the best solution as well. By keeping the footage in Hall H exclusive, it makes getting into the Hall feel that much more exciting. I have serious doubts I would want to put this much effort into getting into Hall H if the footage will be online anyway.
What Does This All Mean?
It looks like studios are trying to decide how they want to move forward. Some aren’t attending Comic-Con at all, like Legendary and Fox. Others are releasing footage online, as Warner Bros. did. Marvel, on the other hand, decided to keep a lid on almost all of their footage, and seemed to succeed in doing so, as I did not see any leaks myself online. It feels like a tumultuous time for Comic-Con’s Hall H, and I am curious to see how next year plays out. Will we have fewer studios next year? Or will there be some other solution that will attract the studios back to Hall H for San Diego Comic-Con 2017?