Get ready for an increasingly visual economy - Photo by Luis Quintero from PexelsThey’re calling it the world’s most important video call of 2021: US President Joe Biden trying to build a new US government administration, from scratch, via Zoom. You may disagree it’s the most important call. However, if there’s anything the ongoing global health crisis has told us, it’s this. We humans cannot work effectively with each other unless there is a strong visual element.

Speaking of the crisis, many people consider this animation to be the most important infographic in the world.

This is the constantly updated COVID-19 dashboard hosted by Johns Hopkins University. Hailed as the leading source of global centralised pandemic data, with at least 1 billion hits so far and counting.

As an enterprise leader, you’re probably not trying to build an administration or fight coronavirus. But you definitely need fast-delivered and flawless rich media to help foster collaboration and drive your organisational imperatives. You also need to be able to satisfy this ever-growing demand for visual content, at scale. In 2021, you’re also going to be doing this in the context of several transformative trends relating to visual imagery.

As we continue to channel more of our physical lives online, we see the use of video in particular gathering considerable pace. With each video published, there’s technical admin associated with creation, organising, storing, sourcing, editing and delivery. Every video, interactive digital advert, or consumer experience must arrive at the right channel. At the right time for each user’s specific context, and at mass scale. Even with standard video formats, orchestrating the asset lifecycle for an organisation’s full video library is a huge effort. And it becomes Herculean when incorporating user-generated content (UGC) or managing the operational complexities of remote teams and distributed workflows.

Video-related 2021 trends

With that in mind, here are some video-related trends to watch out for in 2021.

Once hyped VR/AR is coming to a living room near you

Advertisers have been tempting consumers into immersive experiences like in-store virtual shopping since Minority Report. But commerce is just the beginning. In our endless lockdown, it’s now possible to watch a game – not just from the cameraman’s view. But, as if we are there in the stand or touring a resort. Those who prefer spectacular nature scenes, can ‘stand’ in front of Victoria Falls from the safety of their living rooms. You’ll be seeing more and more 3D video, shoppable video and VR/AR in the mainstream, not just as CES demos!

The momentum here will affect multiple industries in 2021. Marketing teams will use storytelling campaigns to build deeper relationships with users. The possibilities across gaming and entertainment, travel, tourism, and publishing are tantalising. As you explore the possibilities in this area, consumers will want to play an active role in designing and even contributing to experiences.

AI becomes key to managing video

The potential to use video to improve engagement and outcomes is virtually limitless. UGC adds a layer of authenticity and trust a brand might struggle to achieve through its own content alone. And while it would be convenient if brands were able to accept UGC without active management, that’s just not possible. Fortunately, AI technology is now production-ready to assist. Automation can more effectively at scale, moderate content to remove spam and irrelevant content, and worse, unacceptable, and inappropriate content. AI can help catalogue, move, and optimise video to run fast and appear optimally on any device, browser, or social media platform. With the amount of video most brands publish, it will simply no longer be possible to manage it manually and provide a competitive UX.

New video formats for the modern web

Enterprises continue to rely on digital content to deliver rich experiences and improve engagement. However, we need to ensure these experiences do not degrade overall website, application or service performance and the overall CX. AI is important here. It can evaluate each media file based on the delivery context. This ensures that it gets delivered at the maximum quality and in the right file type to convey the message well without affecting performance.

But we’re also going to have some standards help. AV1, is becoming more important in this context. AV1 is a new video coding format for transmitting high-quality video efficiently over the Web that consumes less mobile data. More importantly, this royalty-free video coding format has the support of tech players: Apple, Amazon, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Netflix.

In parallel, Versatile Video Coding (VVC), also known as H.266, MPEG-I Part 3 and Future Video Coding promises to cut the cost of streaming 4K video in half. This is particularly important as consumers bought high-end TVs last year to make lockdown more tolerable. As a result, this consumer product category is getting cheaper and cheaper. Furthermore, as 5G become more available to handle the increased bandwidth. The ability to reduce content size while increasing quality will be critical for enabling greatly enhanced visual programming and campaigning.

Headless takes hold

Finally, “headless architecture,” a relatively new software development approach, is rapidly taking hold – with good reason. The concept is all about separating the front end (the UI) from the backend (the application logic). This provides greater flexibility and control of the overall system. For example, headless should enable developers to more quickly and effectively deliver mobile-first user experiences across any devices. I believe the next 12 months will see more and more CIOs and CTOs looking to pivot to headless architecture structures. This will eliminate system friction by integrating best-of-breed capability. while giving users access to great new features..

Bottom line

The tech I’ve mentioned here, from next-gen video technologies to AI and headless architectures, are already available. All the technologies are mature and ready for brands that want to blaze a trail into a new era of visual-first storytelling and digital engagement.

Cloudinary LogoCloudinary’s mission is to empower companies to deliver visual experiences that inspire and connect by unleashing the full potential of their media. With more than 50 billion assets under management and 7,500 customers worldwide, Cloudinary is the industry standard for developers, creators and marketers looking to upload, store, transform, manage, and deliver images and videos online. As a result, leading brands like Atlassian, Bleacher Report, Bombas Grubhub, Hinge, NBC, Mediavine, Peloton, Petco and Under Armour are seeing significant business value in using Cloudinary, including faster time to market, higher user satisfaction and increased engagement and conversions. For more information, visit


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