8Oct

Five Tips to Produce Quality Video for the Web

We do a lot of broadcast video and corporate films, but we also do a fair amount of video designed for the web. So I’ve learned a few things about how to do web video right.

Web Video Tip #1: If you’re still shooting using interlaced video- stop that! You shouldn’t be shooting interlaced anymore, anyway, unless you’re shooting sports videos. Even corporate videos deserve progressive-scan video signals, and web videos look a ton better when you get rid of that ugly “1980s” look by shooting with a camera that can shoot progressive, not interlaced.

Web Video Tip #2: Shoot to deliver your video at 24p. It looks way more filmic and cool.

Web Video Tip #3: If you’re going for a cinematic quality (and you should be, to stand out), try to minimize shaky camera moves. They scream “cheap amateur”. This is why you invest in things like tripods, dollies, and Steadicams.

Web Video Tip #4: Make sure you expose properly! You have no idea how much crappy video we see, here. Usually we’re asked if we can fix it. If the video involves blown-out highlights, we can’t fix it at all. Some places to watch for blown out video: foreheads of men. Noses. Anything that gets too shiny when you shoot. And yes, some video has blown out backgrounds. That’s usually not so bad, it doesn’t look as amateurish as blown out faces.

Web Video Tip #5: Audio quality matters! If you can’t use a dedicated soundman, then at least record with lavaliere microphones and listen to the audio as it’s being laid down. Ideally, you’ll be recording into a separate audio system. Why? Because most cameras’ onboard audio sucks. Sometimes, we run a mike into the camera and still record a separate, higher-quality mike into our dedicated audio recorder. Then, in post we use software that automatically syncs the good audio to the camera audio. Then again, we almost always use a dedicated soundman, too.

Upon reflection, each these tips applies equally well to almost any kind of video you create, if you’re going for a quality look for your message. But many companies and organizations don’t put as much thought into creating a web video as they do when creating, say, a corporate film or a TV commercial. As the web becomes the dominant medium in our culture, learning to do your web video correctly will help you stand out, and give your message the best chance possible of connecting with people.

5Oct

What’s a Minute of Video Worth?

According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester research (and really, he’d know, right?), a minute of video is worth about 1.8 million words. That’s something like 36,000 web pages. It’s a stack of novels. It’s… well, it’s a lot.

I’m not sold on a minute of video being the equivalent of almost two million words. But a well-crafted video that really shows off your company is an incredibly smart investment. It makes sense- the average attention span of an adult is now hovering at around 8 seconds. What’s going to grab and maintain that interest- reading words, or watching a well-made video?  Video engages like nothing else: over 70% of consumers online watch online videos, and experts say that the amount of online traffic that’s video-related will jump to 90% by 2013.

That’s huge. You want a part of that for your business, right?

Now, for a company that wants to put its best foot forward and engage its customers, video’s a win. Pretty much everyone knows that. But a problem still remains- how do you stand out from the competition with your video? I have a few thoughts on that, but they’re for another post. Stay tuned!

1Oct

4:2:0 Has Got To Go (Quality Matters)

We’re in the middle of a pretty large project that involves CEOs from major companies from around the globe. I wish I could say more about the project, but I cannot. I can say this: the corporate video departments of these multibillion dollar corporations really ought to invest in some quality video equipment, especially with regards to new cameras. Much of the footage we’ve received has been in the dreaded colorspace 4:2:0 that cheaper HDV cameras put out. And that’s a problem.

It’s not only a problem because the footage comes in as interlaced video. We can fix that. But 4:2:0 video doesn’t key well, and many of the shots we’re dealing with involve greenscreen keys.

I feel bad for the corporate videographers shooting this stuff. It doesn’t matter how hard they work it, they’re stuck with a colorspace that makes their video look bad.

As for us, of course we shoot on RED. Which is a digital negative, basically a 4:4:4 full colorspace image. The difference is startling. Yes, it costs a lot more. But it’s absolutely worth it to get rid of that cheap video look that 4:2:0 gives. That’s technology from the early 2000s. It’s time for it to go.

And yeah, it’d make this project a lot easier if we could have gotten quality video footage. Ah, well. We’re not just great cinematographers, we’re also pretty handy in the edit suite. We’ll make it work, and we’ll make it look outstanding.

28Sep

MidasMount SnapFocus Prototype

Brandon, our friend at MidasMount, has been working on a special new prototype SnapFocus/Shoulder rig for our RED MX camera. We’ve got one of the very first prototype SnapFocus devices, which allow us to pull focus on the fly as we shoot, without needing a second person to pull focus, like traditional film cameras do. The SnapFocus is a huge advance, and will let us get some amazing shots that previously wouldn’t have been possible.

I’ve donated the shoulder pad support from our Birns & Sawyer shoulder mount to the cause, and Brandon’s bringing out the acetylene torch and the welding kit to build us a one-of-a-kind, RED MX version of his awesome invention.

Stay tuned for pictures, as this project develops.

27Sep

TV Ad vs. Web Ad: Which Is Better?

A couple years back, AdWeek wrote about a study by Dynamic Logic on the effectiveness of reusing your existing TV commercials on the web vs. creating new, web-focused video advertising for your brand. The results? Both have a place, and you can use both effectively. Original web video does better on converting people to customers, though. Here’s a link to the original article.

And a special shout out ‘thank you’! to our friends and colleagues at Explore Media in Indiana for pointing out this ‘oldie but goodie’!

26Sep

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (On Leaving Website Design Behind)

I’m one of the pioneers in the world of website design. My company was one of the first 12 web design companies on Yahoo!. I’m responsible for a lot of Internet and web firsts- the first rock concert on the web (Moist, Matthew Sweet, Hootie & The Blowfish, and Blues Traveler at the 99X Chinese New Year concert in Atlanta, 1993), the web’s first live news event (Freaknik news coverage, 1994), the web’s first large-scale corporate rollout of multimedia technology (BellSouth, with Shockwave), groundbreaking virtual reality web projects (The Olympics, Major League Baseball), and so on. It’s been a wild and often wonderful ride, helping to create some of the best websites in the world.

And this week, my agency dropped ‘website design’ from our list of services.

Why? Because I don’t think websites in and of themselves matter so much, anymore. What matters is content, and connecting with customers. A website is just one way to do that, and it’s not even a very effective way nowadays. Moreover, the vast majority of website designs bore the heck out of me. It’s like we stopped innovating years ago- “put the logo at the top, put the navigation across the top or down the left side…” etc. The only cool thing lately has been the movement to embrace web standards. But it’s not enough to hold my interest. Web design has become, with some notable exceptions, a commodity.

And we all know commodities suck.

The one exception I am making: I love working with startup companies on their digital strategies. It’s been a lot of fun working with positive-minded people to help get their ideas off the ground. And designing a killer website is usually part of that, so we’ll keep on with that aspect. But general corporate website design and redesign projects? No thanks. I need more, to stay interested. And I need more, to make a difference to a company’s success. And I like making a difference. I like helping clients do good things for their businesses and their communities. Helping clients create great digital content that tells their stories gives me that.

In the past year, we’ve had an absolute explosion of projects here that are still web-based, but which are more content-related: things like creating quality digital video, and interactive content and applications for use on mobile devices. It’s been a blast helping our clients tell their stories these ways, and thanks to things like YouTube, I get to reach a lot more people this way than I ever could with a website.

I still believe in the web as a medium, of course, it’s just that I’ve found better ways to work with clients and make a difference than by designing websites for them.

Many of you won’t be surprised at this shift away from website design. After all, we started positioning ourselves as digital storytellers over three years ago.

I’m thrilled that storytelling has finally taken its rightful place in the online world, and in a big way, this shift is less of a retirement, and more of a re-focusing, it’s a return to my roots- I began my professional life as a multimedia designer with clients like The Cartoon Network, NASA, and the Department of the Navy. I’ve always liked to tell stories and help clients tell their stories, in a variety of media and platforms. So I’ve decided to refocus my agency on doing exactly that.

24Sep

Unpaid Internship: Bad Idea

Allison Morris helped create this infographic, and I think any student looking at an unpaid internship should give it a look.

That said, it’s absolutely expected that in the video/film industry that you’ll work for free, for a time. Sometimes it makes sense. But it makes my blood boil when huge multinational entertainment conglomerates do the “free internship” thing. And they do it regularly.

For us, when I produced my latest film, “Unlaced”, I made sure we paid every person who worked. To me, it was a respect thing.

 

Internships Infographic

 

Attribution to OnlineCollegeCourses.com With This Graphic

20Sep

New Video & Film Projects

Ever have one of those periods where you’re so busy that you don’t have the time to talk about the cool stuff you’ve been doing? That’s how it’s been here for us, lately. I just got back from New York and a nice shoot at PepsiCo, where I teamed back up with my was-LA, now-New-York-based camera assistant Katie for a few days of fun work. Now, we’re headed to Taco Bell world headquarters to do a shoot. And earlier this week I was at UCLA doing a video shoot for their new MBA program. On top of that, my movie “Unlaced” is starting to apply to film festivals.

Meanwhile, Jeff finished an important web design project last week that’ll make life around here a lot less stressful. And we’ll be starting up some end-of-year housekeeping for ourselves around here towards the end of November, after our web client PLUSdoc’s next revision is complete and rolled out.

So it’s been really busy, but pretty fun here. I can’t wait to show off some of the stuff we’ve been working on.

18Sep

How Do You Compete?

Our friends and colleagues at Rowboat Media posted an interesting blog today about avoiding the commodity trap. It’s a good read, and not just for digital agencies, but for every kind of business. The main points they make are:

  1. If what you sell is commodity-like, you better add goodies onto your stuff so it looks like a better deal
  2. No matter what kind of thing you make, you must take action to be sure you’re doing everything you can to tell the world about what you do
  3. If you have the goods and the guts, don’t compete at all on price, and don’t be a commodity at all- rather, focus on quality and differentiation (a theme we touch on quite a lot around here)
  4. Make sure you explain why what you make is better than the commodity-like competition

We’ve talked about how competing solely on price is not something any business (in any sector) can sustain. Sure, you might undercut the competition today, but you’ll be undercut tomorrow. Soon you find that your hard costs can’t be covered, and your business goes under.

And while I absolutely agree with everything Rowboat’s saying, I find myself gravitating towards their third point, making sure that everything we create is special and cannot be replaced by a commodity, that it comes out at an extremely high quality, and is easily differentiated from the competition. We decided long ago to not be an assembly-line driven, commodity shop.

I’d like to claim that it was an astute business sense that led us to that decision, but really a big part of why we chose that path for PatrickOrtman, Inc. was simply that it’s far more fun to create really cool stuff that truly helps our clients succeed than to go in half- hearted and create crap.

 

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