Sunday, May 24, 2009

Video on the Web

YouTube, MSN Video, YahooVideo, Google Video, AOL Video and Flickr, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to options for displaying your productions on the web. In addition to simply “showing” your videos there are resources to help you create, format, upload, display, organize, distribute, advertise...

...even monetize and edit - all on the web, some from your web site others hosted, some free, others for a donation or for pay, all the time. The premium runs from free & cheap to affordable & expensive. Many, many of these options are so simple even I can do it - and that, dear readers, is saying a lot.

As you know from reading my previous post I am in the process of gathering up sample clips, organizing them to reflect the wide diversification of my available services, improving their presentation, content and quality - and attempting to update all this content in an easy-to-find, easy-to-view approach. I'm not “there” yet, but I AM working on it. Part of that process has been researching the many “options" and that, in turn, has led to this article offering links to a huge variety of web video sharing resources.

Here’s what I have discovered in no particular order or preference: Many of you have heard of some of these, while others may not realize there’s much beyond YouTube. At any rate, I'll post what I have and you can take it from there. Comments welcome.

While YouTube is arguably the Big Daddy of video hosting sites, places like BlipTV, Vimeo, Atom Uploads, and Revver have offered viable alternatives. Preferable, actually, for many. Revver also offers its users the opportunity to “monetize” their videos, as does Google Video.

So does Youreeeka, a company now advertising a “patent-pending technology (that) enables you to maximize revenues distributing digital content online directly to your viewers.” With that in mind, you also do not have to invest a lot of money into services like this, as Michael Wright, of Windy Hills Video, North California, discovered recently. No, don’t ask, just check out FaceBook, Twitter and a few other PVN sites such as WedVidPro - the guru of new appliance discoveries has posted it just about everywhere.

First Western Digital’s HDTV player system, now this new gadget - what are you going to discover next, Michael? Guys like Michael Wright, and Jay Michael, are two of many who stay on top of new technology, and share their knowledge and discoveries regarding all things video. By the way, Jay says is cool, and I have to agree.

Added note: Another reader, Shane, noted that I left out Film Rookie. After his comment mentioning FR I visited and liked what I saw - to the extent that I immediately joined and uploaded a test clip. After HOURS of uploading, and being told the upload was successful, NADA. No clip to be found anywhere! I also attempted twice to contact FR via its "report" form and both times it failed to authorize clearance using the code I carefully entered. Like I said elsewhere, I'll try again when I have some more time to waste.

Speaking of Twitter, the micro-blogging site that is gaining eyeballs by the tankers full. The site can help after you’ve posted your clips elsewhere. Look at where the site says short links and tiny ads can generate a “big payoff.” This thing inserts into individual updates and you can get paid based on impressions and clicks. Also, if you don’t know already, check out Cligs, or - all sites that help you cut down on those lengthy URLs for Twitter posts. They also include reports you can use in assessing your content’s effectiveness.

In addition to FB & Twitter, there are other social sharing sites that might help you in some way. Again, a lot of you know about them, but if you don’t, take a look at and - expand your horizons, readers!

Getting back to web video options, marketing, posting, advertising and distributing. Once you have joined such sites as GoogleVideo, Revver, BlipTV, YouTube and others, you have got to check out Tube Mogul where you can upload to all these sites in one shot. Tube Mogul also has tools that help you track which sites are getting more eyeballs.

I read in another place where YouTube is soon to introduce live streaming. Visit this link to see what that’s all about. But the perennial web video hosting site is a bit late to the game when you consider iTunes possibilities, as well as U Stream, and a host of others. For those who have produced commercial/creative or art video productions, and are looking for ways to advertise, distribute and sell using the social sharing networks like FaceBook and Twitter, along with Film Specific, Brave New Theaters, even Amazon or Film Baby, the last two offering order fulfillment, can possibly discover a way to recoup costs, break even or even make money selling their productions.

While many of the above, and those I will soon mention in this article, range from little or no costs, to fairly expensive, I at least want you to know the range of options at your disposal. I will be experimenting with these and others I find along the way, en route to my own web site video sharing goals, including the use of Michael’s recent appliance “discovery.”

Here are a bunch more options, choices, and brief comments regarding some of them, and other places you can go to see what’s out there in terms of making and sharing your video clips. Sites that could make possible marketing, distribution and monetizing efforts that work the way you want them to.

Fliqz web site claims it helps you to “harness the power of video” tracking each viewing and providing reports with useful information. Amazon’s Create Space assists you in uploading your creative content and getting it listed as a regular title. This can make your production (not just video) available to millions who stay connected with the powerhouse company.

In addition to standard definition content, places like YouTube, Vimeo and even FaceBook now provide for high definition. Others as well. But keep in mind that YouTube currently has a 10-minute limit on clip length. You have options elsewhere to pay more, or less, or nothing. Each has its own rules regarding what you can or cannot show. Many of them hold the line at porno (nobody here doing any of that, right?), guard vigorously against copyright infringement, or react if somebody reports an infringement to them. Others are mildly non-reactive, even lethargic.

For content enhancement check out Yanobox Motype for text animation, Red Giant Software’s Trapcode Suite or even Digital Juice.

More streaming services are available at Telestream’s WireCast. There’s also Justin TV. You should at least visit Stream Hoster. There’s also Clip Stream, but it is currently only for Windows. I don’t know about Reel Time but it might offer something of interest. Mogulus is worth a look-see - also known as Live Stream or Live Stream Pro.

Don’t shut down your computer without also looking at imeem, jibjab (remember them?), Pandora TV, VidiLife (not really ALL that good, but) Zippy Video, Zoopy and Eye Spot also is pixelfish. Grouper is now Crackle, but still in business, as is, and there’s V Social, but it currently can only create 320x240 video rolls.

There’s Bright Cove,, Gubb.TV, DropShots and Big Contact. The Clip Shack, Daily Motion, Myubo (a wireless 2.5G/3G upload site).

You’ve got FlickLife, but I’ve got to warn you it is full of totally raunchy stuff that might detract from your wholesome production clips’ contents. Live Video also sports some raunchy content.

There’s flukiest, and GoFish (now for 13 and under) is now pitching as an alternative. Kewego is there, if you understand German. You do have an English option, however. Look at Self Cast TV, Tuberoo and Shout Wire, Viddler, Video Egg and UVouch.

Motion Box and Dabble were/are in development stages and may, or not yet, be publicly available. You should look at Cast Post, Bolt, DiviCast and Blinkx. If you haven’t yet gone loopy with all these sites, try Glide Digital, Loomie, Mefeedia, Pop Cast, Photo Bucket, Break, Buzz Net and Gawkk.

Alas, Jump Cut, offering an easy large window experience will soon be no mas, discontinuing service as of June 15, 2009.

Let’s see...
...I’m going to check out and for myself, so you might want to look there as well. Check out BoinxTV’s software solutions.

I will leave you with these, hoping that in your spare time :-) you will find the desire to check out a few, or all, maybe even comment upon them here or elsewhere. Until then, I am busy working on the options for my own web site(s) clip updates and revisions using some of what I have discovered among the possibilities.

Remember: If You Market, You Will Make It! © Earl Chessher

Friday, May 15, 2009

Marketing: Full-Time Commitment

I have been remiss in upholding the number one commandment regarding marketing, branding and effective sales generation - maintaining a full-time commitment to marketing.

While I am torn between many fronts, all demanding my time, I spend too much in some places, not enough in others and avoid the obvious when it comes to what needs the most work, attention, time and effort.

And my business web sites? Don’t even go there. Well, not literally don’t go there, but if I visited them one-tenth as often as others, and spent a twentieth of the time I spend researching, talking, blogging, forum browsing, personally e-mailing, talking on the phone with my video business friends across the country, designing a new production demo DVD, sending out contracts, shooting, editing and producing video product...

...well, you know where I am headed with this. I have realized for quite some time that I am not maintaining a core element of my overall marketing approach - my web sites.

I am not cleaning up broken links, upgrading outdated clips, revising basic information, improving and enhancing aesthetics or developing smoother navigation aspects. If my current range of web sites is as confusing to my visitors as it has become to me, I am in deep...
...fill in the blank.

While I do not adhere to the philosophy of so many others where entertainment, cutesy graphics, page after page of smoothly introduced non-information, overwhelming rhetoric and teasers or philosophical poetic passages seems the focus, I do admit that I am not maintaining my site with dedication, much less vigor.

This is all soon to change, folks. In a few more weeks, between a relatively light first quarter 2009, a medium-heavy second quarter in progress, and an anticipated ALWAYS HEAVY third quarter summer production schedule headed up by graduation events, followed by summer youth sports, dance recital, martial arts events and more, I intend to upgrade my clips, make navigation of my various business web sites more user friendly, update my pricing and available services information, make everything tighter, more eye-pleasing and easy on the brain.

This, of course, must be done in conjunction with, and continuance of, all my other ongoing marketing efforts. The blog must roll. The Twitter and Facebook posts must continue. The direct mail campaigns must remain uppermost on my list. The new promo DVD (DVDs actually) must get done and get out. The phone calls to and from must continue, the e-mails answered and comments/questions sent or answered, and the contracts signed.

All this and more sums up a significant and successful marketing strategy. No one of the above, or any of the other possibilities I failed to mention, will keep you rolling along, keep the cash flow flowing in and of itself. You need it all. You need to find the time and dedication to do it all. And, most importantly, if you never spend a moment fretting over what it takes to get your search engine rankings above page 10, you absolutely must find and schedule the time to update, change, adjust, improve or simply remain familiar with your web site(s). Weekly, if possible.

If You Market, You Will Make It! © 2009 Earl Chessher

Friday, May 08, 2009

Not Every Company Knows Video

Take a look on YouTube. Do a search for just about any combination of business description you can think of and you will likely discover a bounty of examples to study. If you are an independent professional video services provider, and interested in trying something other than weddings for a change, a little research on the business uploads at YouTube, and other video sites as well, will encourage you to offer your services. Why? Because not every company knows video, or has employees who produce video as well as you.

The sound is often "boomy" or full of hollow, tinny output that makes listening to these messages a pain. Very few put much effort into sound isolation or control, opting for on-camera microphones in a room full of audio bouncing surfaces - no dampening. No close, direct, wireless or quality miking.

Lighting is all over the place. Colorization is all over the place. Visuals range from washed out to bloomed out, to darker than the backside of a lens cap.

Few get beyond the concept of center shots for that deer-in-the-headlights effect, paying little, if any, attention to the rule of thirds. Virtually none vary their shots, opting for one position.

The presenters often read, or do some seriously amateur extemporaneous speaking, with cutesy jokes, casting of the eyes and false-sounding inadequate attempts at sincerity.

It is difficult enough to take using sites like YouTube seriously as a vehicle for serious professional business promotion, what with all the amateur wannabe entertainers doing their thing. The baby, pet or odd creature flicks. Gads.

The irony is that YouTube, provided you know what to do to drive traffic to your videos there, provided you have a reasonable professional quality presentation with quality information that proves of interest to the market and demographic you want to reach, can be highly effective.

This is where hiring an independent professional video services provider to do the work comes in. This is where you come in. You know how to mic for quality audio. You know how to light to create a nice set. You know about trying to maintain a static background, minimize movement, use a tripod. And, you know how to create product that professional business clients can appreciate and will pay for.

If you are a dedicated video production professional, and you want to expand your business base, and you are not pursuing video services offering clean, quality audio and visual content to this market at a reasonable price - dear reader you are missing one heck of an opportunity to establish yourself as the "go to" video producer in your service area for a vastly under-served market.

Why? Because the "big guys" in video production are targeting the "big companies" while the people keeping America above water in these economic times - the small business owners - are in desperate need of your services at prices they can afford, so they can invest in areas of marketing they otherwise cannot reach. Or, they are so desperate to get into the YouTube arena they settle for poor video production and presentation that makes them come off anything BUT professional in their chosen field.

Coming soon - a complete business guide to marketing, producing and making a profit selling your services to small businesses. That and more, my friends. That and more.

If You Market, You Will Make It! © Earl Chessher

Friday, May 01, 2009

Montage Work Can Be Profitable

Somebody who likes doing photo montages and wants to develop this enjoyment into a business asked a few questions recently. Primarily, he wants to create "good" montages. He wants "advice" for creating them. And, he wants to create productions that cannot be reproduced. My response follows:

First of all with today's technology and the boatload of computer wizards "out there" it is highly unlikely that you can afford the really good copy protection services for the level of distribution montage work is going to generate. Notwithstanding the fact that even the really good copy protection stuff can be broken. Anything less, even the current level of DVD duplicators that offer some type of copy protection scheme, can easily be broken by even amateur hacks. So, get what value you can for your montage creations and don't sweat the copy protection - not worth the time, money or mental stress.

I produce an average of 300 or more montages a year. They are reasonably priced, and at a level where I usually get orders for up to 10 or 20 copies, depending on the event. In my case, mostly memorial montages for favored family pets as well as humans.

There are, IMHO, two ways to generate montages. Well, maybe three.

If you are pursuing this work as a creative labor of love, to enjoy and experience as an outlet for your inner artist, the "story teller" in you, to heck with the time it takes, and profit is of no interest or consequence, then by all means tell a story, use specific select transitions and none of "those crazy transitions" and put in hour-upon-hour of amazing editing skills and creative talent for something a few will appreciate, none would be willing to pay the actual costs of, and that will become obsolete as soon as the next upload to YouTube.

If you are seeking to establish branding for your productions, using special creative designs, massive Ken Burns style movements, ebb and flow story telling techniques that BUILD your production beyond standard production levels, even utilizing 3D elements with heavy Photoshop influence. If you eventually hope for this branding to establish you as the "go to" montage artist for high end, high dollar creations, and want nothing to do with the day-to-day needs of millions of people out there...

...well, that is certainly a commendable direction to take, and there are some who have successfully pursued that level, although the few of whom I am aware are still trying to figure out how to get paid for the time and effort required to create these productions. I personally am aware of ONE creative and highly skilled producer who puts up to 3 months of intensive labor - his and people he hires - to create outstanding song/topic based 3D visually magnificent montage productions and says he cannot hope to recoup the thousands of dollars invested in time, software (mostly the time) and people power to achieve this level of production quality. Almost the same as the paragraph above, huh?

If, as I have, you want to pursue this as a valid and viable money-making (dare I say profit generating?) business, a specialty if you will, then you need to find the blend of time invested, software needed, and production quality desired to get your production expenses to a level where you can establish prices that are affordable for the millions of people who might be willing to go to you for their montage work. There are a bunch of options out there, including the two web sites I mentioned in my previous response, for generating GREAT looking, entertaining and quality montage productions without having to invest into the rather esoteric, lofty approach as mentioned by numerous others (no offense intended those who differ). There is nothing inherently wrong with taking the high road, but there are certainly many starving artists over the years who discovered that the high road doesn't put beans on the table, a car in the garage, or a chicken in every pot.

My success with montage creation, marketing and sales is largely due to a VERY low (I would call it reasonable) price, with affordable copies, and packaged with high quality complimentary graphics for the DVD surface AND the full-color library case inserts.

I have honed my production time to a level where I can generate up to four of them in an 8-hour day, running anywhere from 8 minutes to 15 minutes (sometimes even longer for special personal productions for a family - converting a family heirloom album of old and antique images from family roots in Germany, England, etc.) The family heirloom, "storied" productions however, DO require much more work, bring in much more money, and call for things from special musical segments for certain groupings, to a LOT of Photoshop image touch up, enhancement or even repairs. That is a whole different creation than the day-to-day montages that keep my cash flow at a comfortable level. Back to the basic 4, perhaps as many as six, in an 8-hour day.

These are simple and straightforward, using photos that for the most part FILL the screen (it is the picture they want to see, enjoy and remember NOT the moving backgrounds, postage-stamp-sized images or flash past images that hardly stay on long enough to register in the mind of the viewer). I average up to 50 images per song. I average three songs per production. I offer an opening, and closing (same title) title. And I use virtually EVERY transition in the book, some I have created on my own and many others that are not as "crazy" to the client, as they might seem to be to the artistic video production purist.

SIDE NOTE: What I find curious and interesting, also sometimes a bit entertaining, is the parroting of some basic rules of video production and creation that students or others have heard in a stilted classroom far removed from production and business/marketing reality, or read in tomes written by long-ago semi-famous producers, etc. who expound on the need for little if any transitions, the use entirely of cuts, dissolves and the occasional white flash, and the "enhancement" of production value by adding those moving backgrounds, diminishing the size of the image of interest, etc. For one thing, sir, it is a MONTAGE, not a movie with dialog, action, movement of actors, and such (not often that is at the consumer level - Ken Burns and others notwithstanding). The purists are FLAT WRONG, sorry to say, when they expound against using a BUNCH of diverse, interesting, even sometimes TACKY transitions in basic consumer montage production work for hire.

OK, back to the lesson based on many years of experience specializing in what I call, but my associate HATES to hear, "down and dirty" montage production for profit.

1.) The average photo-montage clients are primarily interested in seeing their photos, nothing more, nothing less, and will complain often and loudly if you reduce the image in favor of the background, or take away from their perusal of the photo in favor of the many moving elements that actually distract the eye from its desired focus.

2.) The average PM clients are NOT willing to pay the equivalency of an arm and leg for massive retouch, image enhancement, color correction or image repair. They have had many of these photos for many years and drag them out of the box or album occasionally to view- so much so that even the wrinkles, fades, tears, water damage and more have added to the personality, if you will, of the images, further enhancing each photo's particular "story." Rare is the client who is both willing to pay for such service, and has expectations of seeing a pristine, perfect rendition of their photo as opposed to the actual photo they included in their project.

3.) The average PM clients LIKE, if not LOVE, a multitude of transitions. Granted there are some that are way too wild and wacky, especially if used repeatedly, but for the most part, use of as many as 40 differing transitions is totally acceptable. I use a blend of perhaps 25 percent dissolves, 10 percent cuts, 5 percent page-turns, with the rest being unique and specific either to the rhythm of the music, or a comedic photo with high humor value, etc. I use slower, smoother transitions for slower, easier music, and quicker, faster, abrupt even transitions for music with a steady or occasional fast pace or beat. Follow the rhythm with your transitions and virtually any and all of them will work, be appropriate, and LOVED by the client.

4.) Paying attention to the pacing and rhythm, keeping the photos the dominant image, using some hand-adjusted Ken Burns style movements where it fits, or for bringing in, up or onto screen larger images that have to pretty much be moved up, down or side-to-side to view it all at a size worth viewing, and smoothly going into or out of each song selection are the primary "secrets" to successful and a high perceived production quality of montage videos.

5.) Remember the packaging. Complimentary or customized art for the DVD surface AND the DVD case insert are important. Very important if you want to develop a solid duplication business without people simply copying their own (and they can, and do, and will - all of them...unless). Unless you give them a quality of product AND a professional quality of packaging they can easily or readily duplicate. My clients will often make copies of their own, but I have significantly increased my sales of copies, and reduced the number of pirated duplications simply by offering them a completed production they cannot replicate easily. I will often get orders for as many as 20 copies of memorial montages, milestone birthday montages, milestone anniversary montages, first born, etc. - at $25 per copy, for a job that might have taken me three hours tops to produce beginning to end, is lucrative.

If you figure out a way to quickly and easily develop basic montage productions, get the word out, make them affordable because you didn't HAVE to invest a huge amount of time and effort into their creation, and don't give in to thinking you HAVE to make every image look perfect (unless, of course you are being compensated for this), and develop a reputation for being what the marketing community says is impossible - able to do this fast, affordable and good (even GREAT), you would likely have ALL the business you could handle for the rest of your business life. It is said that a consumer can only have two of the three - fast, affordable and good, but you are in a position to deliver on all three, believe me.

One last comment, I promise! There are arguments that with the wide availability of do-it-yourself software, usually included free or somewhat, over the internet or with the computer they purchase, montage work is not desired, not profitable and consumers will not pay for something they can do themselves. Well, yes, and no. Many do not have the skills you do, or will develop over time. Many do not have the time, or desire to learn the program, simple as some of them are. Many will become frustrated somewhere along the way, and are so technologically challenged that they cannot figure out how to get their creations onto a DVD that will play properly on their players. Many cannot get past a silver recordable DVD with black marker title on its surface in a cheap, scratched up, clear plastic CD case.

There's a difference (or should be) in what you do and deliver, even if it is "down and dirty" and what the average consumer is capable of doing. Go for it!

Remember: If You Market, You Will Make It! © Earl Chessher