Before Market7 started, I was a frustrated in the customer role of getting video produced. These projects tend to involve people not used to working together, each bringing different areas of insight and ignorance, and needing to bridge the gaps and get productive quickly. The problems are of course most stark when the project starts. We are working with some customers on great ways to launch projects with key information conveyed and materials organized, without confusion, from the start.
Being the resident video producer here at Market7, you might think that I would be crazy about the Academy Awards but I am not. I have them on as background noise, occasionally glancing up to see who won for sound editing (I still struggle with why there is both a “sound mixing” and “sound editing” category) There was one segment, however, that had me riveted to the screen: the reunion of the Brat Pack. In a tribute to the late John Hughes, all but one of the infamous Breakfast Club Brat Packers was in attendance. (Emilio was apparently too busy picking up trash with his half-bro & coaching little kid hockey to be bothered with such tomfoolery).
The Breakfast Club was my absolute favorite John Hughes film, why? Because it was the movie that said “it’s ok to be different. It’s ok to feel awkward. We may all be “brain, athlete, basket case, princess, criminal” and are all not that different” (as long as you were Caucasian that is…a sign of the times back then I suppose). It followed the antics of the brats during one Saturday morning high school detention.
So what happened to our favorite brats since they famously walked in step along the library wall of their high school in Shermer, Illinois? Most of them had fairly pedestrian careers consisting primarily of made-for-tv-movies and Hallmark specials. Emilio has had the most successful career but has switched to working behind the camera. As an actor the geek, Anthony Michael Hall, seems to have had the next most successful career.
My personal favorite is Judd Nelson. He played John Bender, the “criminal” who famously told the principal to F-off, smoked pot, and scored the princess (albeit just a kiss as far as we know) as TBC’s bad boy.
Oh Judd, how far hath thee fallen…He showed up Sunday night looking like he’s skirting the bottom (which is possible since his best job recently was on “Infected” a straight to DVD release that I can’t even find a link to). It wasn’t just his look, which in his defense looked like a barely bcleaned-up crazy person. When he opened his mouth, it sounded like he had run the jack and coke dispenser in the green room dry prior to the show. Really Judd? Travolta made a comeback, so can you. It’s not too late you self-proclaimed bad boy. It’s crazy to think you were one time as popular as Johnny Depp when he was on 21 Jump Street. That’s like looking back when Toyota and GM used to trade at the same stock price.
Despite my Judd bashing, I felt a great sense of nostalgia well up in me when I saw the brats again. Way back when everything was still in front of me and I had nothing but time to kill on a Saturday morning.
For those of you following some of our tweets and blog posts, I have been working as a producer on the Dreamforce Keynote video for Salesforce. The video has been a ton of fun so far. Here is the evolution of one of our shots (420) as it goes from physical production to composite. Thanks to Salesforce and Pixel Corps for allowing us to use this footage.
This first video shows behind the scenes on set. You can see the shot is set up to sweep around the talent who is standing on a pedestal on the Greenscreen soundstage at the old ILM facility, (now Kerner Optical). We are shooting on a Red camera which is mounted on a circular dolly track.
The second video shows the result of that shot in its raw format. You can see we have burned in the frame numbers for the director so he can easily pick the frame range we want to use (which keeps us from wasting time keying, roto’ing, and tracking frames we will never use). The triangular markers on the back wall are to track our shot in 3D space so we can put a CG background behind our talent later.
The final video in this series shows the rough composite after we pulled the green key to make an alpha channel, tracked the shot, and added our CG background and our Salesforce logo (which transforms into a flying hoverboard of sorts). This is an early stage composite which still needs some contact shadows for our talent and the Salesforce hoverboard to make them appear as if they are in the environment. We also need to clean up the key on the talent so the hard lines of his shirt are less pronounced and other tricks that will help him blend into his artificial environment.
A common question for producers and clients alike is about compressing video (aka ‘encoding’). You don’t want your final video to be too big because no one is going to wait for 30 mins for your product video. Too small and you sacrifice quality. The good news is that you can decide how best to encode at the last minute IF you do one, very important thing: Record the highest quality source material.
Although the Market7 software encodes into flash for viewing and feedback, we are optimized for viewing and feedback which is probably not the same considerations you want for your video.
Four things to consider
1. Type of file Compression/Decompression (aka ‘Codec)
2. Dimensions of video
3. Quality (aka ‘Bitrate’)
4. Container (Quicktime, Windows Media, Flash, etc.)
1. Codec – The codec is just the way the video is compressed. It is a bunch of math rules used to reduce the video’s size. On the receiving end, the reverse calculation is done to restore the video as close as possible to the original. Different codecs = different math (and a different result) I prefer the H264 encoding as the best all-around codec but it is relatively newer than, for example, MPEG codec so some computers may not be able to play videos with the H264 codec.
2. Dimensions – This is really a matter of preference. Smaller dimensions = smaller file size (faster loading) but it also means pixelation if you try to display it at a larger dimension than which it was saved at.
3. Quality – This is a tricky one especially since you can have variable bit rate and frame rates. This is where you can make small adjustments to get your video looking just right at an acceptable size. Lowering the frame rate will make the video appear choppy but for some videos this is fine. Lowering the bit rate will reduce the quality of each frame.
4. Container – Your consideration about container should be what the audience is willing/able to view. You should only be using containers you are sure won’t be a problem. Flash, Quicktime, Windows Media, and AVI are the most ubiquitous. For purposes of comparison and utility, all of the above videos were in the Flash Video (.flv) container. This is the same container we use in the Market7 service for the same reason: To ensure everyone can watch the uploaded content.
Independent producers in this economic client are facing some tough challenges. Much like a once storied ballplayer whose career is in twilight. What should this great player do? Become a manager!
That was the major theme from Philip Hodgetts session on the future of Web Video Business Opportunities here at the DV Expo. Philip (recently reclassified from “resident alien” to “resident” – congratulations Philip) is a prolific blogger, speaker and author on a variety of independent producer topics.
Philip had some great advice on where the market for independent producers is heading and how producers should reframe their mindset as entrepreneurs. According to phillip, our focus as content producers should be on creating business opportunities (Manager) rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves (Player). Managers study the tape for upcoming games. Locating niche opportunities to exploit (audiences hungry for content on a specific topic).
The player just waits at the plate for the pitch: The producer calling upon an agency or enterprise to see if there was commercial opportunity (“Have any work for me?”).
The manager anticipates the pitch and puts the right leverage at the plate to create an opportunity: Create content around a niche interest, develop an audience and leverage the value (“Wait until you see what I have for you!”).
Yes, this is more difficult but it’s also more lucrative. You are cutting out the intermediaries that might suck the profitability out of your hard work. Also, you get compensated for recognizing a trend rather than waiting for someone else to ask you to act on it. Who do you think will come to come to next time?
And if you have trouble finding someone interested in your idea, you can always monetize it yourself (10 to 99 cent range). If you have chosen wisely, you have content that people want and will pay for. The “Big Hit” will continue to decline and the long tail (niche content) will continue to rise. Additionally, how and when content is consumed will diversify along with storytelling formats.
Pretend you want to build a nice, 2nd story deck for your home. If this deck was your video and you spent $10,000 on it, where would your money go?…
$1500 to hire an architect (Writer) and a contractor (Producer)
The script is like the plans for the deck. Writing this blueprint is one of the smallest costs so it is especially important to get this right.
How to keep costs under control in this area (pre production) -
Take your time hiring the right producer/director for the job
Hire a writer who is also a producer. (Architect + Contractor in one)
More time scripting = less confusion during production (accurate plans)
Get everyone in planning meetings so you have fewer of them. (fewer cross-town trips)
If you need a studio, hire a company that has one
If you need to shoot in a specific format (like HD) hire someone who has the equipment
$3500 for the contractor and his/her team to build the basic structure (production day)
There are a lot of resources needed at a place and time for the production to go well. Most crews and talent are booked for the day so there is no discount for finishing early.
How to keep costs under control in this area (production) -
Make sure you have all client stakeholders sign off on the plan for the video. (Homeowner AND Spouse)
Make sure everyone agrees on the details. (don’t assume they won’t care about the stain)
Schedule a rehearsal, show the client. (A “tester” sample of the work)
Record excellent audio. (Like wiring your deck for lighting as it is built)
$4000 for the contractor to complete and finish the deck (editing and sound)
Cost here is sheer time it takes for a good editor to do his/her work. Many hours are spent sifting through footage and cutting together the best video for your review. Included in this cost is the sound design (music and sound effects) and output rendering.
How to keep costs under control in this area (post production) -
Don’t shoot extra during production, just capture what you need
Collect the entire list of feedback before the editor makes any changes
Descriptive and specific feedback (“can you make the deck more intense?” doesn’t say much)
Deliver assets to editor on time (logos, stock footage, etc.)
Deliver music to editor beforehand (if applicable)
$1000 or more on the finishing touches
Costs can vary significantly for finishing visual and audio effects. It is also not only the hardest to estimate, but costs can quickly spiral out of control.
How to keep costs under control in this area (post production effects) -
Completely script graphic sequences like open and close beforehand
Take precautions during greenscreen shoot so that you can pull a nice key later
Hire someone that knows what they are doing for complex visual effects
Eliminate any other special effects that don’t contribute to the story
For our $10,000 project, here are some sample additional costs
- Greenscreen on location $1000 per day
- Greenscreen studio $2000 per day
- Matchmoving $1000
- 3D modeling $1500
- Music track $750
- Voiceover track $750
- Sound Effects $500
- Compositing $1500
- Motion Graphics $1500
- Cleaning up poorly recorded sound $750
Now, you have built your video and it is sturdy and stunning. Now you are ready for the party!
What is a longshot? No, not my favorite pony bet. It’s a camera framing description. Here I break down all the different types of shots and what they look like and when you would want to use them. I have also provided a cheat sheet so you can impress all of your friends at your upcoming video production parties.