Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

The Good Enough Principle

Shawn Wood, Experience Pastor at Seacost Church wrote a post a few weeks ago that I found very interesting. His topic: The Good Enough Principle. Later that week I read an article in Wired about the same thing. There seems to be a movement afoot to make things good enough.

Shawn Wood, Experiences Pastor at Seacost Church wrote a series of posts a few weeks ago that I found very interesting. His topic: The Good Enough Line. Later that week I read an article in Wired about a similar concept. There seems to be a movement afoot to make things good enough.

Now, if you’ve read this blog at all before, you know that I’m all about doing it right. I aim for excellence in what I do. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Lately though, I’ve started wondering if good enough is in fact, good enough.

The Wired article I mentioned referenced a study done by Stanford University. They have been testing incoming freshmen to see which they prefer; the sound of CDs or MP3s. They are played the same song twice–once from the CD, once from an MP3. Interestingly enough, over the last few years the trend has been to prefer MP3s. Audio engineers everywhere are now up in arms, but as it turns out, MP3s are good enough.

The article also talked about the 20/80 principle. In the church, we’ve hijacked that phrase and say that 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. However, the phrase originally stood for 20% of the effort gets you 80% of the results. Put another way, to get to the final 20% of results, it takes 4 times as much effort as the first 80%. My experience indicates that the same applies to dollars, at least generally (though it’s probably more like 60/90).

Examples of Good Enough are everywhere. When I started in video production, the golden standard was “Broadcast Quality.” Images that were broadcast over the air were the pinnacle of excellence. Obsessive engineers spent hours tweaking Betacam SP decks to perfection. If you were trying to sell a new piece of gear, you slapped “Broadcast Quality” on the sell sheet.

Today however, Broadcast Quality means whatever image we can get on the screen. Though we now have HD cameras that make absolutely beautiful images (and put the Broadcast Quality images of old to shame), CNN, Fox and other networks regularly broadcast cell phone video. Why? Because it’s good enough. It tells the story. When we can’t get a hi-def camera to a remote part of the world, a cell phone is better than no image at all–it’s good enough.

The reason for the shift from highly-tweaked near perfect video to jerky, grainy and out of focus cell phone video is simple; we have shifted emphasis to different measures of quality. Rather than spot-on color, we now emphasize getting an image on the screen.

Going back to the CD versus MP3 debate (and throw vinyl LPs in there if you want), the reason we have a rise in the acceptance of MP3s is because the qualities we now value are portability–the ability to listen to our music wherever we are, and sharing. MP3s make that easier, and the quality of the music is good enough.

So that’s where we are today in the world. What does that mean to us in the church? That is the topic of the next post.

6 Comments

  1. dave@creativechurchmedia.net

    Mike,

    This has been a lesson I learned the hard way a few years ago. I had to learn that sometimes a project was good enough. This was difficult for me because I valued excellence in my work. I wrongly believed that excellence meant it had to be the best. The best in the world. So I would spend way to many hours tweaking a graphic, a video edit or motion graphics. I always felt frustrated that I could have done more. That it could have been better if I only could have (fill in the blank).

    But I’ve since learned that excellence is doing the best with what I have. What’s the best product I can produce with the time (Sunday comes every week and we’re never planned as far ahead as I’d like), with the resources I have (I can’t spend 2 days shooting a testimony with 3 RED cameras) and with the talent I have (I’m jack of many trades and king of none).

    Good enough is also essential when it comes to technical production and projects. Knowing system A may be the best in the world but system B gets you 80% of the way for 20% of the budget. Not to mention you may not have the talent (on stage, behind the mixer or in the seats) to notice that extra 10-20% of performance that cost you 100-400% more money.

    Glad to hear your new job is going well. Enjoying the blog as usual.

  2. dave@creativechurchmedia.net

    Mike,

    This has been a lesson I learned the hard way a few years ago. I had to learn that sometimes a project was good enough. This was difficult for me because I valued excellence in my work. I wrongly believed that excellence meant it had to be the best. The best in the world. So I would spend way to many hours tweaking a graphic, a video edit or motion graphics. I always felt frustrated that I could have done more. That it could have been better if I only could have (fill in the blank).

    But I’ve since learned that excellence is doing the best with what I have. What’s the best product I can produce with the time (Sunday comes every week and we’re never planned as far ahead as I’d like), with the resources I have (I can’t spend 2 days shooting a testimony with 3 RED cameras) and with the talent I have (I’m jack of many trades and king of none).

    Good enough is also essential when it comes to technical production and projects. Knowing system A may be the best in the world but system B gets you 80% of the way for 20% of the budget. Not to mention you may not have the talent (on stage, behind the mixer or in the seats) to notice that extra 10-20% of performance that cost you 100-400% more money.

    Glad to hear your new job is going well. Enjoying the blog as usual.

  3. jan@theviewfromher.com

    There’s also an element of “rawness” or authenticity that adds to the value of cell phone video – particularly for the news. I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between the highly produced (over produced?) “excellent” church services of the last 5 years and a perceived growing desire in people for more authenticity – real people/speakers/elements, not perfection, that are “good enough.”

    Great post – lots to think about.

  4. jan@theviewfromher.com

    There’s also an element of “rawness” or authenticity that adds to the value of cell phone video – particularly for the news. I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between the highly produced (over produced?) “excellent” church services of the last 5 years and a perceived growing desire in people for more authenticity – real people/speakers/elements, not perfection, that are “good enough.”

    Great post – lots to think about.

  5. robb.mactavish@me.com

    I think it comes down to using the right tools at the right time. Everything can be over and/or under produced.

  6. robb.mactavish@me.com

    I think it comes down to using the right tools at the right time. Everything can be over and/or under produced.

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