Rocket's Tail

Everything Visible from the Ground as an Industry Lifts Off

Launching an A-Lister’s Web Series – Bryan Singer’s H+

leave a comment »

Yesterday Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) released the first two of forty-eight episodes of his dystopian near-future thriller, “H+”. Basic premise is that people now get chips implanted in their bodies. These chips basically replace their mobile devices. In one scene in a parking garage, a driver almost runs into someone. Wife suspects, then states, that he must be still watching the game. He explains that it’s in overtime and that he had “the opacity down to five percent.” Then, people start falling over dead and meyhem ensues.

The headline in The Wrap has Singer claiming, “We will change the way people view online content.” Unless he’s planning on selling the products of H+ himself, the claim is a bit…much. From Caprica’s Hollo Bands to Jesse Cowell’s Status Kill, the notion of accessing another world or transferring one’s device features to something that connects directly to the body/mind experience is nothing new. Don’t get me wrong; Singer is, as always, masterful at telling a story, creating an environment, and delivering very high quality production values.

FIRST EPISODE OF “H+”

I think his quote might have been better stated: we will tap into the way that people view online content, because they certainly do. It has long been understood in the online video industry that every episode is an entry point into a series. In The Wrap article, Singer explains, “You can reorganize the episodes, collect them and interact with the show.” This postmodern, non-linear approach to storytelling may not be completely original, but it’s darn smart. And we can be certain, given his pedigree, that Singer will be the master of it. Prepare to use your YouTube Channel’s playlist function to create your own collections, orders, etc. Going with the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats, here’s to hoping he’s very successful in this endeavor.

A final note on something I usually find valuable: how did they preview and promote the show? Assuming there’s a good PR engine operating in the background (note the article in The Wrap, above and numerous articles on release day), from a purely preview and release standpoint here’s what a quick search on YouTube uncovered:

Videos and Views a Day After Launch

Said another way, that’s essentially nine videos to launch a 48-episode online video series. All that and countless articles in publications ranging from USA Today to Wired Magazine and the view count on the first two episodes the day after launch is at just over 50,000 views. One could begin to fret for Singer at this low view count for what was surely an expensive production by online video standards. However, there are still 46 more episodes coming, who knows how many additional supporting videos, and who knows how many re-orderings of the episodes on how many different viewing platforms? Time will tell if this plotline about something going viral will turn into the series going viral. But, I think we’re only beginning to see what will be a long build for H+ and Singer’s forray into online video.

Copyright © 2012, by J. Sibley Law

THE STATE OF SEXY: Nudity, Expletives, and Other Stuff YouTube Finds Objectionable

leave a comment »

Recently, Brendan Bradley (Squatters) started posting a new series (Brief Coverage) on his channel. Of the six videos currently posted, thumbnails show the female host in various sexy underwear. Two of the thumbnails include her face. The thumbnail for one of these videos recently prompted the question on Facebook, “is this porn?” A heated discussion followed.  For me, it became an opportunity to share some recent observations on the state of sexy.

For a long time, the going thinking regarding YouTube was that success was all about numbers, specifically numbers of views. Since hot-sexy (however that was defined by viewers) has tended to drive the highest number of views, videos with those subjects have driven views and notoriety. The flip-side of that coin is that the YouTube community (in some instances) and the YouTube advertisers (in other instances) have prevented material that some find offensive (in either category) from receiving monetization. In some instances, videos (like at least one in #BriefCoverage) have been completely removed from the site.

The impact can be broken down into two basic categories:

  1. Stuff that gets removed from the website or sent to the purgatory of 18+ content
  2. Stuff that doesn’t receive monetization or gets low CPMs…

My sense with #1 is that you’re on your own, it’s community driven and you’re videos remain posted at the mercy of the viewers (and YouTube internal reviewers, which number in the far-too-few). However, with #2 you are at the mercy of the advertisers and the demand for content in certain categories. We have two shows in the Ziz Comedy Network that each received monetization over the past month. One show goes after the thriving male-interested-in-slightly-sexy-content. That episode (The Largest Penis in the World) received something in the neighborhood of 22K views over a thirty-day period and made somewhere in the neighborhood of $26 – $30. The other video (Bun in the Oven) received approximately 2K (yes, two thousand) views during the same period and made virtually the same amount of money. What was the difference? This second video is aimed at new moms with a comedic message of women empowerment consistently targeting this audience with content, title, tags, etc. The other difference is that the first video captures the same audience as a gazillion (that’s the literal number) other videos on youtube while the second is doing something that is a lot more unique (relatively speaking).

You can define success in a number of ways. There are great reasons to go after high view counts or high cpm rates (or both). YouTube (though often thought of like a utility) is first and foremost a business that needs advertisers to sustain itself and needs to grow beyond its reputation outside of the webseries community: as the place that you don’t want your 13 y.o. to go alone. In that context, it’s easy to understand why and how certain things happen on YouTube. Unfortunately, for now there are three basic categories for YouTube videos with anything that a user or advertiser might find objectionable: undiscovered, adult, and removed. My sense is that as the broader community of online video viewers evolve so will the rating system and the ways that certain kinds of content finds its way to users. As that happens, it will make room for a much broader range of high quality content that, while not necessarily perfect for the Disney set certainly might be perfect for a differentiated, intelligent, and discerning audience.

Whether or not Brief Coverage is designed to do more than showcase the assets of Liz Katz, I leave to the viewer to decide. But, the conversation it fostered on Facebook reminds me of a question our start-up consultant asked me when we were first forming as an organization: “Are you planning to do porn?” Perplexed and surprised by the question we answered with a resounding: no. “Good,” came an immediate response from our smiling consultant. “There’s just too much competition.”

Cool IAWTV/YouTube Panel, This Wednesday (New York): Lights, Camera, Action! Emerging Technologies and How They Will Affect Our Space

leave a comment »

The IAWTV is continuing our monthly panel discussions with YouTube on April 25 (NYC).  This month’s subject will be “Lights, Camera, Action! Emerging Technologies and How They Will Affect Our Space.”  This panel will introduce you to some professional DPs and gear rental experts who will discuss and recommend pieces of equipment for your productions. They will especially inform attendees about the best valued camera gear that is within your budget.

YOU CAN ALSO BRING GUESTS, BUT THEY NEED TO REGISTER ALSO!Registration for New York http://bit.ly/IAWTVYouTubeNYApril

Google Office

Conference Room will be sent to attendees

AFTERPARTY: Gaslight Lounge in New York

Date:     April 25 for New York

Time:     7 – 9 PM New York

Panelists:

New York:

Michael Getto:

Michael Getto is the Festival Director at the New York Television Festival where he oversees operations, digital activation and creative brand strategy for the company, now in its eighth year. In addition to new business development and the execution – both legal and technical – of Festival development initiatives, Michael facilitates the delivery of Festival content for all NYTVF industry partners as well as the physical screening requirements associated with the annual event, which in total includes over 500 selections in the last seven years. Prior to joining the New York Television Festival, Michael worked for a number of leading film, music and comedy festivals across the country including the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, AFI Fest, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Kelly Mena:

Kelly Mena is a New York City based filmmaker with experience in both documentary and narrative films. Currently, she is a Video Pro User in B&H Photo’s marketing department and has just finished working on the production and execution of their largest trade show, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). She has several years of experience as a videographer and editor, specializing in high-end weddings. Kelly managed a top New York event studio before breaking out on her own as a freelancer. With a background in film production and a degree in psychology, her approach to filming and editing video content and weddings is focused on bringing together a visually appealing piece with an equally completing story.

Dutch Doscher:

Dutch Doscher is a Freelance Director of after school specials, music videos and short films, For clients including Deloitte, Pfizer, National Geographic, HCCS, Sunburst and Prentice Hall.

Dutch Doscher began his career as a Casting Director for industrials, commercials and after school specials, expanding to music videos and short films.. After years of casting, one of the educational producers was impressed with Dutch’s ability to get the best performance from young actors. She decided to give him a chance to direct. He has given first acting jobs to some of the biggest young stars in the business like Frankie Munez (Malcolm In The Middle) Katrina Bowden (30 Rock) Scott Terra (Daredevil) and Lady Gaga (Pop Star), just to name a few.

Andrew Osborne:

Andrew NamChul Osborne is a freelance filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York with extensive production experience, ranging from feature films to web based content.

Andrew earned a BFA in film production from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with a concentration in directing and editing. In 2009, Andrew was a producer on the feature film “Toe to Toe” that premiered in competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was theatrically released by Strand Releasing in 2010. Andrew continues to freelance as a director, cinematographer, producer and editor for Pureland Picutres, Inc., a Brooklyn based film and commercial production company founded in 1999 by award-winning filmmaker Emily Abt.

Andrew is the producer and videographer of Capture Your Flag, a web based interview series interviewing a set of up and coming leaders annually, charting their development over time so viewers may find relatable stories to gain insight into how aspirational careers actually develop. Interviews are segmented by theme and question, creating knowledge rich and thematic driven video learning experiences used by millions worldwide. In just under three years, Andrew has produced over 2,000 videos for Capture Your Flag.

Daniel Gurzi:

Daniel Gurzi is currently Director of Digital Cinema at Adorama Rental Company. He is responsible for understanding current and developing technologies to properly plan equipment inventory for Adorama Rentals. After graduating in 2005 with a degree in Film and Digital Media for UCSC in California, Daniel began working in camera rental departments while freelancing to gain both on set equipment experience along with pre-production planning and budgeting. Daniel has negotiated deals for full length feature films, long form TV Series, documentaries and Commercials shooting on everything from 35mm & 16mm Film to 35mm Digital Cinema, 3D, 2/3″ broadcast and DSLR camera systems.

J. Sibley Law (moderator)

J. Sibley Law, who goes by “Sib”, is the creator of a dozen online television series ranging from cooking shows to animation series to political spoofs to comedy. One of the first YouTube Partners (ever), he is currently launching two networks (TangoDango and Ziz). He is an Official Honoree of the Webby Awards and regularly creates commercials for broadcast (seen on ESPN, etc.). Additionally, he co-founded the NYC Web Series Writers Group for the IAWTV. His book, Streaming Media Delivery in Higher Education is available on IGI Global. His articles about the online video industry can be read on his blog (rocketstail.com) and on other industry publications. He is a co-founder of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (CT) and was its executive producer from 2005-2010. In addition to all this, he recently joined the web television dream team creating a television pilot called: Drifter (http://mobcaster.com/project/drifter).

Written by rocketstail

April 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

ANIMATED SERIES DELIVERS SANTORUM RESPONSE IN LESS THAN FOUR HOURS

leave a comment »

Stratford, CT/Richmond, VA–Puppet John Law–an online series about the process of running for president and the name of the show’s main character–did something unheard of last night. It delivered a response to Rick Santorum’s announcement that he was leaving the race for President in less than four hours, a process that normally takes weeks for an animation of this length. What makes this so impressive is that the response is animated with 3D characters, of both Puppet John Law and a puppet version of Rick Santorum. What also makes this response impressive is that the creators were able to make it by building atop freely available tools.

How They Did It

The series is the brain child of J. Sibley Law (Official Honoree of the Webby Awards), who has a long history of political spoofs. Once he knew what he wanted to  do and how he wanted to do it, he contacted Jason van Gumster of Hand Turkey Studios. What makes the partnership a perfect match is that van Gumster is the author of Blender for Dummies; Blender is an open source (free) animation software that can literally be run from a thumbdrive on most any computer. The two devised a plan that put their joint creative juices in the same…blender. What they came up with was a collection of virtual puppets, of John Law (Law’s visual alter-ego), each of the candidates, and a hand which has yet to appear on the series. When asked why he took this approach Law explained, “lampooning anything in politics is a game of timing, but when you are poking fun at the process itself, timing is that much more important.” If last night’s response to Santorum’s announcement is any indication, expect to see very pithy and timely observations of the political process.

The series has already spoofed President Obama’s press conference on the birth control issue and campaign finance issues. However, the series got its start with an official announcement that Puppet John Law is NOT running for president. In that video he states: “I plan to cross this nation of ours and carry the torch for all manner of puppetry, from the highest of marionettes to the lowest of sock puppets. I know that one day all puppets in office will be able to serve this land openly. Thank you.”

About the Production Companies

Saxon Mills, Stratford, CT, is a both the production company behind the series and the engine behind the YouTube network that it is a part of (ZizComedyNetwork). Saxon Mills was founded by Law in 2005 and has been on the forefront of mobile and web television since then. It currently operates two YouTube Networks TangoDango and Ziz.

Hand Turkey Studios, Richmond, VA, is a full-service animation studio based in Richmond Virginia. It is helmed by Jason van Gumster who is both the author of Blender for Dummies and an expert at pooling large groups of animation talent to create high quality animation at lightening speeds.

Puppet John Law is a collaboration between the two production companies.

Puppet John Law

Santorum’s Love Affair: Bows out of Race

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vPEXBOW2pk

Written by rocketstail

April 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Love Politicians and What We Can Learn from Them

with one comment

We are headlong into the silly season of presidential campaign politics. If you doubt it, it’s time to crawl out from under that rock you’ve been sleeping under. Then, once you plop down on the sofa with your laptop, smart phone, or in front of your television, you’ll figure out who the key players are. This week as we launch Puppet John Law, a series lampooning the process of running for President of the United States, it makes sense to explore why I love politicians and what we can learn from them.

 

I have worked in an integral way on numerous political campaigns; sometimes on the winning side, sometimes on the losing side. I count a number of politicians—in both political parties—good friends. Despite what you might think about their political positions, my experience indicates that (most) politicians start out wanting to make a difference and do right by their constituents. They believe they can further the cause of their electorate, that they can best represent their constituency, and that they will serve the people better than their opponent.

Money and influence sully campaigns and have since the beginnings of democracy. But even today, with all the influence and money that flows through political campaigns, one truism can be gleaned from politics and applied to web television.

“How do you win an election? One vote at a time.” One only has to think back to the George Bush/Al Gore election to remember just how true that is. Even today, we see the Republican primary contenders traveling state-to-state, fair-to-fair, house party-to-house party. Why? To meet people! Raising money is part of the equation, but the goal is to win the support of opinion leaders in communities (communities of people living together, worshipping together, or country-clubbing together, or who share a common ideology). These politicians take their message out to various communities and make the case for how they are unique, different, and better than the rest.

When you listen to top YouTubers talk about keys to their success, it’s not so different. Many of them spend inordinate amounts of time responding to comments and fans, outreaching to communities that would resonate with their show, and working to convert the passive viewer into an active fan who likes, shares and talks about their show. It’s about what makes their show unique, different, and better at connecting with an audience.

Some may argue that the key is to simply create great content. But, discoverability also comes from knowing who would likely connect with that content and helping them find it. How do you build an audience? One view at a time. That’s a great place to start.

Puppet John Law is created by J. Sibley Law with animation powered by HandTurkey Studios.

Follow the facebook fanpage here!

Elements of a Hit Web Series

leave a comment »

Steeping Success in Online Video

with 4 comments

Blip.tv asked one of the world’s leading research firms to find out more about web series audience behaviors by surveying 1,500 of its users. Then they shared the information with the public. Sweet!  But as a show creator, I want to know what their data means for me! Specifically, I want to know how I can parlay this into increasing the profits of my shows.

“We discovered that people really jump around and watched all kinds of content.”
— Joseph White, Digital Research Manager, Blip.tv

Speaking by phone, Joseph White, Digital Research Manager for Blip.tv, highlighted what jumped out at him from the study. He said this would be the year of cord shaving. In his mind, the general public probably would not cut the cords to their cable boxes or satellite dishes. However, many of them would spend less time watching broadcast programming and more time viewing online video. Of special note was the fact that viewers weren’t just niche viewers. “People and advertisers like to think that video game viewers watch that kind of content, and drama series watchers want only that kind of content. But we discovered that people really jump around and watch all kinds of content,” White explained. “We believed this was happening and the study confirmed it.” He went on to say they discovered that peak viewing happened during prime time, which “makes sense, because the largest bulk of people’s free time comes at the end of the day.”

Advertisers are concerned about when people are watching certain kinds of content. Obviously, if you are Boston Market, knowing that your ads will be seen by the highest number of people during the dinner hour is a tremendous benefit. Dailymotion’s VP of Content, David Ripert, confirmed that his network saw 6-9 pm as their prime hours, but the second highest viewing for them came at lunchtime. However, when trying to ascertain what that means for the creator of online shows, he explained, “Users are looking for entertainment and news; whether in clip form or full length, the quality expectation is higher and higher.”

Digging deeper into data about online video viewership, the Nielsen Cross Platform Report (Q1: 2011) is chock full of information about how people consume media and on which platforms. Though on the whole, television viewership increased by 22 minutes per month, some interesting facts emerge at the edges of the viewership. Generally speaking, the highest consumers of online video watch the least amount of television, and vice versa. To some that may seem like an obvious statistic, the kind worthy of a “doh!” But layered into that fact is who they are: women age 18-49 spend 4:57 watching online video each month, while their male counterparts spend 7:02. However, when broken down by ethnicity, the amount of time spent watching online video showed a wide spread: Asian (10:19), Hispanic (6:24), African-American (5:52), White (3:37). It’s no wonder that shows like Tony Clomax’s “12-Steps to Recovery,” “EastWillyB” created by Yamin Segal and Julia Grob, and “Odessa,” written by Jorge Rivera and James Peoples have found audiences and/or development opportunities. Certainly high production value and great characters help to surface these shows, but so do the racially diverse casts and the multiplicity of issues.

12-Steps to Recovery: EP 13 – Catch Social

When asked about the disparity of online viewership by ethnicity, Jorge Rivera said, “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that in general, audiences are finding stuff online that meets their viewing interests in a way they aren’t on finding on traditional TV… That’s not to say that writing and casting ethno-centric content is the magic bullet, but it’s one small example of the greater experimental spirit of the Internet that makes it creatively more appealing…to everybody.”

East Willy B: EP 1 – You’ve Been Served

For her part Julia Grob suggested, “One reason may be the median age of the Latino population which is 27.4 years, vs. 36.8 median age of the US population as a whole. 22% of the Latino population is under 18! This means, the majority of Latinos are under 30.  We don’t remember a time where there wasn’t the Internet. We are trendsetters, on the cusp of new technology & new media — which would contribute to the higher number of hours spent viewing online video vs. the mainstream populations which is older and more likely to access video through old media methods (cable, dvd).”  While Rivera and Grob are mindful of these issues, Clomax took it a step further, saying, “The most important thing is to make sure that your content and subject matter crosses racial and socio-economic lines. If you’re producing something that everyone can relate to and you are appealing to all these different people, it will contribute to the success of the show.”

If [sci-fi fans] are as technology-forward as many suggest, Nielsen’s data
indicates that they are the super-users when it comes to online video.

Other niches of people also are known to spend copious amounts of time online. Shows like “The Guild” have capitalized on them. Many believe that sci-fi fans comprise their own grouping of technology-forward people who spend more time watching shows online than other groups. If they are as technology-forward as many suggest, Nielsen’s data indicates that they are the super-users when it comes to online video. “Mercury Men” (SyFy), “Ark” (Hulu), and “RCVR” (YouTube/Machinima) delivered their own slants on the genre, while at the same time adhering to a trifecta of high production-values, strong characters, and intriguing stories.

RCVR: Episode 1 – Little Green Men

Blake Calhoun, one of online video’s early and prolific show creators, is betting that he can find this niche and titillate them with his new show “Continuum.” (The first three episodes (of eighteen) are being shown exclusively on the show’s Facebook fanpage.) When asked about his audience, Calhoun said, “Genre shows and/or niche shows seem to work best online. This was definitely a consideration when I was developing “Continuum.’” He explained that releasing the first three episodes is part of a broader buzz marketing plan that includes the good fortune of having had the teaser trailer selected to play at Comic-Con. But is that enough?

Actress Melanie Merkosky as "Raegan" in Continuum

Answering that question, Steve Lettieri, who runs SciFinal.com says, “Character always wins the day for most successful web series, sci-fi or otherwise. Does the series have characters worth watching again and again? If so, then things like production values, visual effects, etc., can help separate you from the pack.”

“Don’t have unrealistic expectations about the early stages.
And, don’t ever, ever, ever stop because one person
—or one hundred people—are not jumping in to lend a hand.”

— Rob Barnett, Founder & CEO, My Damn Channel

In trying to read the tea leaves of this steeping cup of data I turned to Rob Barnett, who has created a lean and extraordinarily successful online video channel. When Time Magazine ran its article on the best websites of 2011, My Damn Channel was prominently featured. Barnett had some interesting things to say about what makes for a successful online video: “The old days of putting up great video and wishing for virality are over. The amount of new online video is growing at a pace too fast to fathom. If you’re in the business of figuring out how to use video to promote yourself, or an idea, or a cause, or a product of any kind, then you’ve got to create a business model and a game plan for every video that includes marketing in every possible way.” He even gave some hard data about what works in terms of length for online videos: 2-3 minutes max. He suggested that show creators need to gain permission from the audience to dive deeper into characters and produce longer episodes, but only after the audience wants it.

My Damn Channel’s: Dicki – The Boyfriend

Julia Grob and her team took that approach when they created the EastWillyB (with episodes in the 2-3 minute range). Then, their fans responded. “After launching the pilot, we received feedback from fans asking for longer episodes and more content,” she explained. Deeper dives into the characters and longer episodes may just be in the offing.

When asked what advice he has for show creators, Barnett’s passion is clear: “the best advice is always to follow your own inner voice. Our road was paved by finding great partners to help get us to every next step on the path. We only hired talent and staff we knew were as intensely committed to creating the best work as we were. Realize that every creative partnership has to have equal shares of trust, hard work, and commitment from every member of the team. Be about the ‘long money.’ Don’t have unrealistic expectations about the early stages. And don’t ever, ever, ever stop because one person—or one hundred people—are not jumping in to lend a hand. Relentless, passionate, constant pursuit of your goal always wins out in the end if you never bail on your desire.” Passion. Commitment. Quality.

[For web series success] “You should focus on five things: produce content regularly,
think about earning your audience rather than deserving your audience, target a niche,
go after a community that will embrace your content, and constantly interact with your fans.”

— Dina Kaplan, Co-Founder, Blip.tv

Back at Blip.tv, co-founder Dina Kaplan punctuated her thoughts saying, “The most exciting thing to us is how savvy producers are getting about producing and marketing shows. Two good examples of series doing things right are “Girl Parts” and “Vinyl Rewind.”

Blip.tv: GirlParts – The Wake Up Call

Kaplan continued, “They get that shows should have strong enough production values but should also really engage their communities of fans.” To do this Kaplan gave some insightful marching orders: “For a web series producer to be successful in 2011, you should focus on five things: produce content regularly, think about earning your audience rather than deserving your audience, target a niche, go after a community that will embrace your content, and constantly interact with your fans and even let your fans interact with other fans. This is how you will get the great multiplier effect that turns a series from a hope into a successful, sustainable business.”

Easy to say. And as online video begins shaving off bits of traditional broadcast viewership, there are great opportunities for deserving show creators. Those who factor in these many variables will inevitably have greater chances for success.

Written by J. Sibley Law.

Copyright © 2011, by J. Sibley Law, all rights reserved.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers