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Digital Media - What You Need to Know

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Defining the indefinable – Digital Media!

The definition of Digital Media production is constantly changing as the boundaries of technology expand each day. There are endless possibilities as the space expands and converges. Some think about Digital Media as consumer experiences on a screen and across a range of platforms: web-based or mobile, on computers or televisions, smart phones, tablets or game consoles. Digital Media also includes work in 3-D animation, digital video or music, mobile or online videogames, podcasts, e-anything such as e-books, e-mail, e-commerce, e-learning, etc…

Digital Media

Ask any five people working in Digital Media what Digital Media is, and you get five different answers. Why? Because Digital Media encompasses so many different things. Digital Media's purpose casts a large net, to entertain, inform and educate. Some find it easier to think of interactive Digital Media industry as encompassing two sectors:

  1. Content creator – any person or company that is involved in creating "digital content". A simple way to think about this is work that ends up on a screen for you, "an end-user", to look at or actively participate with. Maybe you'll be watching a movie, downloading a mobile app or playing a videogame. Screens could include cinema, TV, videogames console devices, computers/internet, media storage devices like PVRs, mobile and handheld devices.
  2. Creation & distribution enablers – There are so many kinds of workers required to get a digital project or service "to market", to you, the consumer's hands. Behind the scenes, the "back-end" process involves computer software engineers and programmers, who might have specialization in areas such as artificial intelligence, graphics, physics, animation, network, or user-interface technologists, etc… These are the tech people who design the applications allowing for the creation or distribution of the content to you, the user. Business people who assist and facilitate in the sales, marketing, distribution, public relations, human resources, financial and project management of Digital Media projects are also key. There are countless occupations and opportunities!

Basically in Digital Media production, digital files are created, enhanced, encoded and distributed using different methods of processing via computer, hardware and software applications. Digital Media content creators rely on creative content production and cutting edge technology to produce goods that are cultural in nature, such as interactive games, virtual worlds, cross-platform media and other forms of interactive content and environments.

What do Digital Media people do?

So what do Digital Media people say they're doing? Delivering and presenting information in new ways; creating an interactive mix of visual media, like digitally enhanced animation, graphics, photography, video and/or sound. They might create "new media", like websites, multimedia authoring or computer games. Digital Media workers might be creating apps, visual effects sequences, programming or coding the back-end of what a user can see on their screen. Individuals who make a career out of Digital Media are working on the cutting edge of what's new and exciting. Will Digital Media be your career path? Then create your own definition. Chances are – in this new and constantly changing industry – you'll be right!

Digital Media

Where did Digital Media come from?

Let's try to understand where Digital Media came from. Back in the 1980s, media outlets depended on print, art, and old-school audio techniques to communicate and entertain. As the boundaries of technology were pushed, the face of media and how it was produced changed dramatically. It evolved into a constantly moving art form that incorporated the use of computers, specialized software applications and creative technology workers.

With this change, the components within film, television, music, journalism, advertising and personal communication evolved. Digital Media production has become a process in creating what the world sees, hears and absorbs each day.

Job Opportunities

What's the industry like in Canada?

Did you know that Canada is a world leader in developing digital technologies?

"Canadian interactive Digital Media companies are highly innovative, investing significantly in research and development (R&D) and producing on average 65% of their projects based on internally developed original intellectual property (IP) – with the balance produced based on IP acquired from or held by another company.

Up to 62% of staff are reportedly dedicated to artistic functions linked to R&D, accounting for 60% of total remuneration. The games industry in Canada is also said to be highly innovative, with just over half of all companies reportedly committing over 75% of their total production budgets to IP."
MDR, Canada's Interactive Digital Media Industry, CHRC (2012): p.6.

Canadians have better access to computers and the Internet than many other people around the world. This means that Canadians working in Digital Media today are at the very cutting edge of technology, "pushing the envelope" of what's possible and new.

Canada is currently recognized as having one of the most talented Digital Media workforces worldwide. What does this mean for you? You have the opportunity to leverage and learn from a maturing industry and professionals who have paved their own career paths out of the Digital Media industry. This is a great environment for "ideas" people with energy and enthusiasm.

Show Me The Money!

The interactive Digital Media industry is advancing Canada's digital economy, creating jobs and fuelling growth through innovation in Canadian cultural and creative industries. These industries are said to have contributed 3.8% to Canada's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2007, contributing approximately $46 billion. The sector's total footprint, including direct, indirect and induced contributions was estimated to be $84.6 billion, or 7.4% of the country's GDP, employing over 1.1 million people.

"One of the factors cited in a recently published study on the interactive Digital Media is that Canada's highly skilled workforce contributes to Canada's demonstrated value proposition to employers. The study found that the future growth and economic contribution that the interactive Digital Media industry can make in Canada relies on continued access to a highly skills workforce.

Our profiles of successful Digital Media content creators…demonstrates that ICT skills and artistic skills combine in this industry to create highly innovative products that are finding their success in domestic and global markets. As new expressions of culture through digital content emerge on new devices, applications and services, ensuring that companies have access to these skill sets is a necessity particularly in sufficient numbers to respond to demand. A number of studies have found that in the absence of a strategy aimed at education and training of workers, Canada risks losing its competitive edge in the future." to IP."
MDR, Canada's Interactive Digital Media Industry, CHRC (2012): p. 36.

Canada is in a position of leadership as a key player in the global interactive digital content market. Energetic, resourceful young people like you continue to be needed. Canada has a distinct "digital advantage!" Take advantage of this thriving sector and contribute to its growth.

The Canadian government offers some support to Digital Media as creativity, knowledge and access to information are increasingly recognized as powerful engines driving economic growth and promoting economic development. Some programs provide tax subsidies in some areas of Digital Media, transmedia project subsidies and SRED: Scientific Research & Experimental Development subsidies. Look at funds like the Canada Media Fund, the National Film Board of Canada, industry funds and even angel investors.

People working in interactive Digital Media are typically highly skilled and well-paid. For example, interactive Digital Media workers earned on average $49,000 in 2008, significantly more than the average salary for Canadian workers across the economy, which was $29,000.

What are the jobs?

Careers tend to center around the entertainment arts, education & training, marketing, informational & social networking / services. Digital Media includes simulations and interactive e-learning, advertising and promotional content, branded entertainment and product extensions. If you enjoy being social online then a career in social networking, interactive information or social services might be for you!

Digital Media includes DVDs, virtual reality, chat rooms, digital TV, email, e-commerce, podcasts, blogging, DVD and on-line, mobile and console videogames, e-zines, webcasts, web-conferencing, interactive kiosks, distance education, digital special effects, 3-D animation, digital video, digital music production, photo enhancement, electronic publishing and… more!

Here is only an overarching list of sub-sectors that Digital Media has under its very wide umbrella:

  • Entertainment Arts
    • Game Design and Development
    • Interactive Narrative
    • Original Art-based Interactive
    • Cross-Platform Entertainment
  • Education/Training
    • Simulations and Interactive Training
    • Curriculum-based Interactive Education
  • Marketing
    • Advertising and Promotional Content
    • Branded Entertainment
    • Product Extensions
  • Information/Social
    • Social Networking
    • Mash-Up Engines
    • Interactive Social Services
    • Interactive Information Services

Source: MDR, Canada's Interactive Digital Media Industry, CHRC (2012): p. 49, Appendix 1

Make an impact

Digital content and technologies are critical to almost every activity in our economy and society. These applications enable businesses to be innovative and productive; help governments to provide services; and allow citizens to interact, to transmit and to share information and knowledge.

Random access – Work for everyone

Are you interested in social media, mobile applications, digital art, computers and the Internet but aren't a "techie"? Then there's great news for you. Creators, communicators, entertainers – these people are flocking to Digital Media. Why? Because it is the cultural "place" that reflects the values, issues and attitudes of our society. No matter what your artistic interests, Digital Media will give you an opportunity to use your style, vision and creativity in exciting and dynamic new ways.

Digital Media

What kind of work is available? Many Digital Media workers are self-employed entrepreneurs. Although it may be possible to get full-time work many people decide to free-lance and are hired to work on short-term projects. Also, expect only a modest and often unstable income at first. You'll need to gain technical and business skills and experience to earn more in Digital Media. The amazing thing is that people in this space are passionate and excited about what they do. Want to be excited to go to work every day?

Rapid change & the intersection of art & technology

What's driving the success of the Digital Media content creators? There is a unique skill convergence from the creative arts, information communication technology and business sectors. Digital Media workers are in demand because teams mobilize artistic ability, technological invention and business acumen to drive product, process and business innovation. Seasoned Digital Media workers often have a breadth of technical, artistic and business know-how which make them valuable and in-demand!

Digital Media

Rapid change is a part of daily life in Digital Media. New technologies are being introduced all the time, while users' expectations of program quality and originality are rising. If Digital Media is in your future, be prepared to constantly improve your skills. You could be a video director who has to brush up on the latest digital editing system or a computer software programmer who has to learn a new coding language for a particular project on a particular platform. Pro-actively improving your skills with a life-long learning approach to your career is one of the most important keys to a successful Digital Media career.


A big trend in Digital Media is entrepreneurship. That's when individuals or small groups of people with great ideas for products start their own companies. Today's technologies make it possible to have a business in a basement while delivering products or services almost anywhere in the world. With a quality computer, and some decent software, anyone from anywhere now has the capability to easily make and share innovative products with the world.

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Are you an independent type?
  • Would you enjoy working to your own schedule?
  • Do you think you could live without a regular paycheque?
  • Are you a hard worker who is persistent?

People who've started Digital Media businesses say there are great opportunities out there, but success requires business skills, a lot of energy and terrific persistence. Courses in marketing, project management and finance will help you develop the skills required to run your own small business.

Canadian Digital Media companies have an opportunity to reach global markets. Since start-up costs can be low and there is relatively easy access to global markets, thanks to the internet, you have the opportunity to build a global business.

Interesting stats

  • In 2012, there were 2,960 Digital Media companies in Canada involved in both content creation and enabling activities, employing over 52,000 people and generating $3.8 billion in revenues.
  • Half of these revenues are attributed to content creation.
  • Over three quarters of Canadian interactive companies are SMEs, defined as companies earning less than $1 million per year or less.
Source: MDR, Canada's Interactive Digital Media Industry, CHRC (2012): p. 32, 2.2.2)


  • The Entertainment Software Association of Canada predicts that 77% of firms will be hiring new graduates in 2013, as compared to 59% of firms in 2009.
Source: MDR, Canada's Interactive Digital Media Industry, CHRC (2012): p. 8.

Labour Market of Tomorrow

With every new platform and a growing consumer base for new types of Digital Media content, the growing opportunities for Canadian companies in the international marketplace for Digital Media are incredible. As the industry matures there will continue to be intense competition for qualified workers. As time goes on, experienced industry people will be increasingly sought after. You have every opportunity in front of you! Students who seek out work-study experiences, preparing them for "real world" research and development (R&D) and innovation experiences will be continue to be a valuable commodity.