Sib Law's poetry, photography, and other musings

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Posts Tagged ‘Webseries

Free 3D Modeling Tool Enhances Digital Video Production

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Recently, while perusing the archives of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, CT—where Saxon Mills is based—I came across something interesting.

Model from the American Shakespeare Theatre (1950s)

It was a contact sheet for a set of photographs of a model of a set, which was to be built on this hallowed stage in the mid-1950’s. I quickly saw the corollary between these giant stage productions and the productions of webseries, music videos, and other intentional online video content.  3D modeling of sets is clearly nothing new. What is exciting is how accessible they are for the cost-conscious producer of online video, today.

Google Sketchup from "Good Night and Good Luck"

The 2005 film, Good Night and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney utilized Google Sketchup. In 2006, production designer James Bissell was quote as saying, “I’ve used SketchUp to design movie sets for almost two years and I love the ease with which I can add to an existing design. Making quick edits is crucial to the movie production process and this software delivers on its promise of ease and accessibility.” The ease and accessibility is exactly why Google Sketchup is such a powerful tool in the creation of online video.

There are so many different reasons and ways to make the most of 3D modeling for production. However, this post is focused on how our team has reduced time on location by utilizing this free tool.

Twice I have had access to my ideal location with very limited time to set, shoot, and strike. In both cases we beat the allotted time by 15 minutes only because we had spent considerable time on location virtually in Google Sketchup. Google Sketchup comes with an expansive library of models to pull into the virtual location, including Arri and Kino Flo lights & stands as well as models of architectural elements such as Pella windows and models of people in various shapes, sizes, and colors.

Google Sketchup Model from Wishing Music Video

For the music video Wishing, we created a restaurant counter and a back wall and loaded in pre-existing models of actors, stools, and diner-booths. From there we created a lighting design including the specific lights we planned to use. Prior to the shoot, cast and crew received a copy of the 3D model. When shoot day came, set, shoot, and strike took two hours and forty-five minutes. A similar

Still from Wishing Music Video

process was used when the team had one day to shoot twenty-two pages of script in the Hersham Acorn Newspapers offices for The Oligarch Duplicity.

Knowing that we didn’t want to move lights during the shoot, we were able to load in pre-existing models of the lights we planned to use and office furniture as well as models of people.

Google Sketchup Model from Wishing Music Video

We created an entire storyboard of shots with the lights in place. Though the team spent less than eighteen hours to set, shoot, and strike the newspaper office, it was only possible because we had spent more than eighty hours on location virtually.

Google Sketchup Model from The Oligarch Duplicity

There are many reasons to create 3D models prior to production. This is something they knew at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre more than fifty years ago; back when the slide-rule was the tool of quick calculations. Now today, when productions are viewed around the world simultaneously from small and large production companies alike; it’s great that such a powerful tool is available to take advantage of the latest technology to do the same thing. What should be exciting for the online video industry is that budget or lack of it is not a barrier to use.

You can find Google Sketchup here: http://sketchup.google.com/.

The Definitive YouTube Guide

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Building an Audience, Optimizing for Search, and Making Money

The title to this post is fairly tongue-in-cheek. The reality is that if you catch any well-known so-called “you-tubers” off-the-record, they’ll tell you that all bets are off. Even panelists from last night’s YouTube Partner’s Meet-up, which was held at Google’s New York City offices, confided that the ubiquitous platform and it’s community seems to be very different from year to year. Panelists included: Michael Buckley (What the Buck), Ben Relles (Barely Political), Kevin Nalty (Nalts), and William Hyde (TheWillofDC). Each of these guys gave varying perspectives on their success and have taken different approaches to their content, much which I love. However, the most helpful part of the evening were two sessions lead by Margaret Healy, Google Partner, and what she shared about how their platform works and how to make the most of our shows. What follows are some of those insights:

Michael Buckley, William Hyde, Ben Relles, and Kevin Nalty

Building an Audience

Early in the evening, Healy posted a TubeMogul pie chart depicting statistics about where video views come from (no, not from the lettuce patch). Additionally, a number of statistics were thrown out to the audience, like the fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine (ostensibly second only to Google), that 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that 40% of online video views happen on YouTube. Interestingly, during the Q&A, one partner asked about securing placement on the YouTube platform. Healy’s response was that videos didn’t get popular because of a YouTube spotlight. Essentially, YouTube’s perspective is, “you need to build your own audience.” There was encouragement for partners to network, collaborate, and even form friendships. There was a lot of talk about inbound traffic to YouTube utilizing video embeds, links, and the new email option that partners were encouraged to ask their subscribers to opt-in to (note: it’s a multiple-click process to opt in). There was talk about how to share subscribers and a ton of talk about interaction. Buckley pointed to how much time he spends interacting with his audience via the comments on his videos and that he is less focused on his website than on his YouTube channel. When a follow-up question was asked about how many hours a day he spends responding to comments he emphasized: “A LOT!” I was quickly reminded of a conversation I had last year with Joe Swanberg (Young American Bodies) when I asked him how building an audience was different online than it was in film. He responded to the affect that building an audience was just the same online: one viewer at a time. So, back to the TubeMogul pie chart: while 45% of video views come from within the site, 44% came from inbound traffic (ie. blogs, links, etc.). The next obvious question is, beyond sharing subscribers and getting people to link to a video or embed a video, what can you do to find an audience?

Optimizing for Search

How, exactly, does one rise above the noise and get her video found and seen? Healy had some interesting thoughts about optimizing for search (note the earlier statistic about YouTube being the second largest) and that Google search results now include video. Healy went onto say: “I know a lot of you guys spend about 10 hours perfecting you video,” boy, does she underestimate, “and about 10 seconds writing a description for your video.” That was when she introduced Al (short for algorithm). She explained that while the YouTube Algorithms do not watch the videos, they read all the text available (title, tags, and description). She gave CookingWithDog as an example of the kind of specificity needed in descriptions to help optimize a video for search. She did a quick Google search for “cooking bento” and the cookingwithdog video was available above-the-fold. Once on the video page she opened up the description and there was the entire recipe. Then she offered a tip for those of us with text rich videos: turn on auto-captions, copy and paste the captions into the description, correct the captions, save, and then turn off auto-captions. Other things that impact the YouTube Algorithms? Any of the following will help: inbound links, frequency of posting (the more you post, the more Al will like your video), and getting included in official playlists. Also, note that the algorithms are designed to identify spam and misleading behavior as well as copyright infringement, etc.

Making Money

Once you’ve figured out how to build an audience all on your own and how to optimize your video so people will find it when they search for related stuff, of course you’ll want to know: HOW DO I MAKE MONEY?  If you want to make money on YouTube, you need to first apply to become a YouTube partner. Once you’ve done that, there’s a lot of stuff to know and figure out:

The first question is how exactly one makes money on YouTube. Very simply: advertising. Wait. No. The TWO ways to make money on YouTube are advertising and rentals. Oh, but wait…the THREE ways to make money on YouTube are advertising, rentals, and paid placement. Yes, the list is still growing. But, don’t worry…there is no comfy chair! (Special note about the third: YouTube allows partners to get paid for product placement but due to recent FCC regulations requiring the disclosure of paid content, please check the box during upload that says: “This video contains a paid product placement.”) However, the main way that video on YouTube is currently monetized is with advertising (pre-roll, post-roll, and overlays, and in-stream ad-insertion in videos longer than 10 minutes, as well as with AdSense).

YouTube has three ways they package their video inventory for advertisers.

  1. Category – When you go to upload your video, you should select which category your video is best suited for. Sometimes ad buyers will buy the entire category.
  2. Video Vertical – This is determined by all the metadata on a per-video basis (ostensibly based on views, content, and other qualifying factors such as extensive descriptions)
  3. Custom Packs – YouTube has an unlimited number of custom packs of videos that advertisers buy. Special interest right now for YouTube is video content geared toward moms.

Please note that the algorithms on YouTube/AdSense are designed to weed out racy content and other kinds of content that advertisers might find objectionable. It was difficult to get a clear read on what, exactly, racy and objectionable might be; but one must assume that objectionable will trend with the sensibilities of the culture at any given time. Healy’s suggestion was to make videos TV-ready to make them appealing to advertisers.

There were approximately two hundred partners in the room for the session and many of us “old timers” could be heard saying things like: “oh, I didn’t know you could do that now; that’s helpful.” Clearly, this was a great step for YouTube toward helping to build its collection of partners into a community. Hopefully, there will be many more YouTube Partner Meet-ups and YouTube will continue this more personal flow of information. I, for one, believe that it’s incumbent on we the Partners to build our community.

Why the Streamys Matter

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Much has been written about the fail-factor at the Second Annual Streamy Awards. Inaugural IAWTV member Kent Nichols wrote about it on his blog and Nominee and Radio Producer Chance McClain wrote about it from the nominee’s perspective on his blog. Rightly so. Even though I laughed-out-loud at the streakers, the unsavory jokes, etc., I cringed with Chance McClain at the thought of bringing my son to such a show (my eight-year-old and I are working on his first webseries and he is completely excited!). I hope he has a reason to attend the 3rd Annual Streamy Awards. What felt most disappointing, having flown from Connecticut as an attendee and member of the IAWTV, were the persistent industry-self-deprecating jokes from the stage. Like my work or don’t like my work, much of it has been viewed by the millions (though admitted some by only the tens). The truth is that it takes a dedicated team of people to craft a webseries. But, to make a REALLY compelling webseries takes even more than that.

Why They Really Matter

My first year as a voting member of the IAWTV, I had the privilege to view and vote on the many, many webseries that  were up for awards. Here’s what struck me: the high quality of the work that was nominated. Sony posted some great work (and wins, for that matter), but so did those charming musical kids from Radford, VA. Here’s me with Michael Gregory’s Aunt in front of the theatre:

The women of OzGirl respresented from down under tapping the unofficial network of indie web television, blip.tv, to achieve the self-described “web’s hottest drama’s” global reach.  Nominated were compelling dramas, incredible documentaries, laugh-out-loud-funny comedies. These works set the standard for what people will strive to compete with and exceed this year and subsequent years. Many of these works display the fruits of lessons learned in traditional media as well as from the years that YouTube reigned supreme in online video content.  Working against the running industry-self-deprecation joke was the fact that there was an award for Best Branded Entertainment where the international brands joined the competition (competitors included: Topps, Altoids, IKEA, Lexus, & Spherion). If it wasn’t clear during the event, it should be clear by the line-up of nominees that online video is important to major entertainment companies (Sony, MTV, etc.) and significant international consumer brands alike (see the aforementioned nominee list). Every winner in every category has done something unique and special and set a mark to be bettered. Every year new technology and techniques develop but as they do, they have history to improve upon. The slate of nominees and winners have set the stage for even better webseries in years to come. Simply put, that is why the Streamy Awards matter.

Putting on an awards show or any major live event is not like creating online video. There is no POST production, save the after party and a good postmortem. Budgets help. So does experience. With promises to sponsors (and an improved event in year three), budgets will grow. The show will improve…no doubt. What remains constant is that when there is an opportunity for the best and brightest to compete, it compels many of them to even better works. I, for one, am looking forward to the Third Annual Streamy Awards and hope to be assigned a seat next to my son, who will be nine.

New Media is “Like Film on Speed!”

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Rocket’s Tail spends a lot time talking with the people who make online video possible from the business standpoint. But, there are some fantastic creators out there who are putting their ingenuity and artistic predilections to entertaining the rest of us. They play a critical part of the development of this industry. What do they expect when they get involved in online video projects? How do the projects stack up to their expectations? This past week we caught up with some of the people who have created O-Cast (Anne Richmond, Leah Johnston, Kate Kuen, and Turner Smith). They and others have put a lot of time and creative energy into the NYC online video hit O-Cast. Here is what they had to say:

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