Things Are Getting Better

This past year Tweedee Productions has done work at several manufacturing companies throughout Wisconsin.  We’ve crisscrossed our great state from Fennimore to Green Bay, Milwaukee to Rice Lake for various clients.  Most recently we shot at a plastics manufacturing plant in Baldwin.  The news that we’ve been hearing is that “things are getting better.”  Companies are hiring, working multiple shifts and cranking out products.  The owner of the plastics company told us that they have been working 24/7.  In some cases, employers cannot find enough qualified workers to fill the jobs they have.  Not a bad thing in the short-term.  Nationally, recent economic reports have been encouraging.

It’s been interesting commiserating with other business owners over the tough times we’ve all gone through.  Many have told us that 2008-09 were the bad years which was also true for us.  In some cases business virtually ground to a halt and many of us wondered if it was wise to keep the doors open.  In our case, I’m glad we did.

During what has been called the “great recession” the thought occurred to me that the companies that are able to weather the storm will be stronger in the end.  When operating in a bad economy, you learn real fast what works and what doesn’t.  You learn that all major decisions are critical and that there’s not much room for error.  Ultimately, you learn to have faith in your skills and that things will get better.

Fortunately for us, our business survived.  The lessons learned over the past few years have paid off.  The last two years have brought us great success as we’ve experienced sustained growth for the past 30 months.  We’re now able to do the things that I love to do like rewarding our employees and giving back to the community.  I realize that many folks have suffered, careers were lost and companies closed.  I’m grateful we have been able to continue on.  I feel the best is yet to come!

CEO/Founder, Tweedee Media Inc.

“So, how much will that cost?”

We get that question a lot!  Usually it comes after a brief, five-minute phone conversation with a third level office assistant charged with “getting a number” for his or her boss.  The caller typically has very limited information as to what production elements are needed for their video.  Yet, they expect us to spit out a number that we will have to live with moving forward.  At times I’m tempted to say, “Good news!  We have a web video special running today only.  For the low, low-cost of only $1995 you get the web video, a thirty-second TV commercial, and…”  These jobs usually do not go well.

Our business development guy, Mac Chorlton, recently sent me a link to a LinkedIn discussion about production rates for web videos.  It was interesting to read about how other companies deal with the tricky issue of asking someone to pay a fee for what we do.  After reading the string of comments, I concluded that others in our field have similar problems dealing with this issue.  Obviously, there is no easy, one size fits all, answer to this question.  However, it is reassuring that Tweedee Production’s rates and the way we charge for our time are in the “video production ballpark” as compared to other video production companies around the country.

When it comes to giving a client a ballpark number for producing a video, some providers use the “per finished minute” concept in pricing.  This number typically ranges between $1,000 and $1,500.  I don’t like pricing projects this way because there are way too many variables in what we might have to do to produce a successful video.  Jack Trammell of Dallas/Fort Worth contributes this brilliant observation on the LinkedIn discussion, “Paying for a produced video by the minute is like paying for a car by the pound.  There are just too many variables that make that equation unrealistic for most productions…”  A post by Scott Frangos reads, “Rates in Portland, Oregon range from $1500 per finished minute to $4500, depending on size of team, scope of concept, and production values.”  Quite a range!

Our approach here at Tweedee Productions is to ask a lot of questions.  So, before you pop the question on cost, have a good understanding of what you are trying to accomplish with your video.  Be specific, usually the “one size fits all” approach results in a watered down, ineffective, generic video.  Once we know what the intent is for your video we will prepare a detailed budget based on fairly standard market rates and pricing concepts.  We structure our pricing the same way that Rich Dubek’s company does in Phoenix, “We bill based on set rates for full day or 1/2 day, and hourly rates for logging, script writing, and editing.”

Most of the story-based, interview-driven web videos we produce are in the $5,000-9,000 range on average.  Again, even within this narrowly defined video category, there can be a number variables that will determine the ultimate cost.  So, if someone tells you after a five-minute phone call that they can do your video for $1995, ask yourself if you will be getting a video specific to your needs.  Lauri Oliva of Miami confirms what we all know, “I always refer back to the old adage, you get what you pay for.”

Producing a web video.

Gregg Schieve

the flu sucks.

not just because you can’t eat, you’re puking and your fever is so high you can’t get comfortable. the flu sucks because it gives you too much time to think.

maybe it’s just me.  but whenever i’m sick or unable to sleep i obsess about stuff. trying to figure out how to do a project differently, maybe more creatively, maybe more efficiently.

some of my best thinking happens when i’m sick or sleepless. not that i’m encouraging people to get ill. but i do encourage, mostly myself, to just take a moment of quiet time. a moment to just let my body rest and my mind work.

might be easier if i just meditated.
i’ll have to think about that.

sandy just needs a minute to think about it.

sandy just needs a minute to think about it.

Viral Videos, Thanksgiving, & Turkey Testicles

Anyone who tells you that you need to make a “viral video” is not giving you good advice.  We’ve produced hundreds of videos here at Tweedee Productions and the only one that has truly gone “viral” did so by sheer luck.  A few years ago, we produced a short video feature about the annual Turkey Testicle Festival in Huntley, Illinois.  We posted the video to YouTube and it got about 200 hits in the two years it was up.  Then last November, some national blogger looking for something to write about leading up to Thanksgiving stumbled across our video and posted a link on their blog.  From there, the video started getting passed on, forwarded on, re-posted, etc.  Suddenly, I was receiving e-mails from people in Florida, California, and Colorado with links to our video.  The video has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times (truly a viral video with those kind of #’s).

But aside from posting it to YouTube, we’d done very little to promote this particular video.  In fact, most videos that go viral do so under similar circumstances to ours.  So basically, there is no guaranteed method to create a video that will go viral, and anyone who tells you they can help you make your video go viral is probably not leading you down the right path.

A true “viral video” is a rare phenomenon, but a video doesn’t have to go viral to be effective.  A recent video we produced about a new medical device is being distributed to a targeted audience of physicians and health care administrators.  Going viral would not necessarily benefit this particular company but showing the video to specific people with the means, the authority, and the need to purchase the device does provide a huge benefit.  The company just received FDA approval to officially sell their product.  However, they’ve been out showing the video to potential clients for almost two years so they’ve already laid the groundwork for a successful product launch.

However, if you still have your heart set on trying to create a viral video, just follow our successful blueprint:

1)      Tie your video into a National Holiday

2)      Feature people eating some sort of fried avian testicles

3)      Find a four-leaf clover


the perfect client plans ahead

it’s probably pretty obvious, but i think video is the best way to tell your story…

sandy kowal - trying to stay on top of things

but before you come in to chat about your production here are six things all clients need to think about:

first of all, who is your audience and how will they watch it? is your production something the whole world will potentially watch on the internets or is it for a more local audience? do you need a TV commercial or do you want a DVD to hand out to your clients? there may even be ways to make your project multi-purpose… we can help you brainstorm all the options.

#2: what’s the focus of your story? will you need scripting help or will you provide the script?

#3: where will we shoot your video? do you have a location or do we need to find one for you?

#4: what style are you looking for? do you want an active documentary style story or something more highly produced? will you need a green screen? if you’re not sure we can provide some direction for you.

#5: will your production need graphics? will you need graphics that are animated? are you able to provide us with your graphics? we’re more than happy to help if you need some creative input.

and, finally #6, what is your budget? some of the stuff we’ve already talked about will have an impact on your bottom-line. it’s a good idea to come in with a general idea of what you’d like to invest in your production.

congratulations!  you are now the perfect client and we’re ready to give you the perfect production… let’s get started! we’re ready to help you tell your story.

TV Online on TV

Amy's looking for something good to watch

I don’t know about you, but I find myself watching more and more TV on my computer.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I’m a big fan of Glee.  However, I am usually not home when it airs.  And even if I were, I couldn’t watch it because we don’t get FOX.  (We don’t have cable or satellite TV, and FOX’s over-the-air signal doesn’t get to us, for some reason.)  In order to get my Glee fix, I have to watch it online.

Last week, CSI did a trilogy that started on CSI: Miami, continued on CSI: NY, and concluded on CSI.  I was intrigued and wanted to check it out.  But I knew I wasn’t going to be home to see all of them.  So what did I do?  I watched them online.

My husband also wanted to watch these shows, and watching them on one of our laptops is far from ideal.  Fortunately, we are able to connect a laptop to our television, allowing us to watch the online episodes on our TV.  It’s not a perfect situation, but it beats watching them on a 15″ laptop screen.

And in the past year, online video quality has improved.  Last week, YouTube announced that it would have videos in full HD 1080p.  A lot of the networks already post their shows in HD.

On my way home last night, I heard a story on NPR about watching TV on your computer on your TV.  They talked about how easy it is to hook up your computer to your television, and they also talked about some products that can be a permanent addition to your entertainment system.  It was good timing, because I knew I’d be watching the final installment of the CSI trilogy later in the evening.

But it also got me thinking about the increasing importance of the quality of online videos.  As more and more people watch videos online and as more and more people watch those online videos on their televisions, the videos need to look good.  That starts with the format used in the shooting of the video and ends with how the video is encoded for the web.  That sounds very technical, I know, and it can be easily overwhelming.  When clients come to Tweedee Productions, we start by asking them what the video is going to be used for, how it’s going to be used, and where it’s going to be viewed, and with that information, we can make sure the finished product will look great, no matter where it’s viewed.

Online Video Contest

In mid-June, the pastor of my church, knowing that I work at Tweedee Productions, asked me to help produce a video for a contest sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  Any ELCA congregation or individual could upload a video showcasing the theme “God’s work. Our hands.” and be eligible to win a $5000 (for a congregation) or $2500 (for an individual) grant.  My pastor thought this would be a great opportunity to spread the word about the garden ministry with the added bonus of potentially winning $5000!  So, we set about the production: had a pre-production meeting to discuss ideas and visions, did a couple hours of shooting on 2 days, used the video and still photos to edit the story together, and uploaded the finished product.  224 videos were entered in the contest.  Two would win (one congregation and one individual), and two would be runners up.  People could go to the website, watch videos, and rate them.  Winners were to be announced at the churchwide assembly in mid-August.  The ELCA used video to generate interest and spark creativity.  People launched voting campaigns to help their video make it into the top 20 with hopes of being the winner.  I admit that I, too, told people about the contest, the video I helped produce, and I asked them to go watch it and rank it.

Now, most people don’t associate church with video or with technological savvy.  But the ELCA recognized that people use sites like YouTube or Facebook to share videos or photos all the time.  So they put out a challenge: tell us about the ministry happening at your church.  They posted their own videos as samples and inspiration.  And congregations around the country met that challenge, creating and sharing videos.  They told their stories using video.

If the ELCA can do it, why can’t you?

(For those of you who are dying to know, the video I produced was the congregational runner-up.)

Amy holding tight

Amy holding tight

Stolen Artwork & Being a Cat Thief

The Concert by Jan Vermeer

"The Concert" by Jan Vermeer

On St. Patrick’s Day 1990, The Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed. Jan Vermeer’s most famous piece (which isn’t saying much since he has only 35 oil paintings in existence–pfft) titled “The Concert” was lifted in the middle of the night. To date, this piece has not been found and there is a $5,000,000 bounty for the rescue of this famous piece of artwork.

Very few pieces of artwork of this caliber have been taken. Or have they?

For every great piece of work, there are imitators. Seeing opportunities for profit makes it easy for advertisers and broadcasters to hand-wring. For every “Care Bear” there’s a “Gummi Bear”. For every “E.T.”, there’s a “Mac & Me”. For every “Jaws”, there’s an “Orca”. Even “Six Million Dollar Man” had an episode based on A Christmas Carol.

We’re all creators of media, therefore are responsible for what we produce. As an editor, I always ask the same question for pieces of artwork: 1. Is this original work? 2. If it’s bought, then how is it licensed? The responsibility lies with all of us to insure that we are doing due diligence in terms of paying royalties and filling out paperwork to retain the rights.

Inversely, we should be protecting our original material. Logos, visual branding, sonic branding, specific colors, etc. all tie into who you are and how you should be protected. If you would like to safeguard certain pieces from infringement, it’s important to register and maintain trademarks and copyrights.

My personal amiga Mindi Giftos is an intellectual property attorney and she has many insights into this very topic. She advocates taking care of all intellectual property issues at teh outset of a project or branding endeavor. While it may seem like a hassle at the time, it is always easier (and cheaper) than trying to sort through ownership or infringement issues after potential problems arise. It is also valuable to get a handle on what is protectible intellectual property and what is not. Personally, I get a little geeked out about IP Law and how it applies to me and my clients. Since I’m probably the last technical clearing house, I should have a good education on some of the fundamental practicalities of IP. Some of her pieces are insightful and enlightening about this very topic.

That being said, what do I like to take away from great art? How do I steal great art? Creating a message that’s creative and speaks to us as consumers–it’s something that is built upon the shoulders of past work. Salvador Dali (back to art) once said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you have done work with us or have worked for us. Therefore, you are part of the process to create the stories that help our clients. If you see something that inspires you, don’t be afraid to imitate it or become inspired by it. Share it with us. Make us take part in re-creating that feeling or look that could help us grow as artists. Is there a commercial or movie that you would like to share?

It may be simple or it may be complex. Sandy showed us a few days ago how “The Closer” (TNT) uses their opening graphics. It gives me a true visual how Sandy would like to use graphics in an upcoming piece. Having that evidence helps move the project along quicker. With the advent of online video, it has become easier to make this type of producing easier. Maybe too easy!

Finally, I just want to tell you that I understand that there are deep, legal issues embedded in the limits of Intellectual Property but let us grow creatively from the achievements of past work. It’s easy to do and this creates a very real representation of your vision to a project or campaign!

All Great Cat Thieves Wear Tight Black Outfits and Carry Goggles Just In Case.

All Great Cat Thieves Wear Tight Black Outfits and Carry Goggles Just In Case.

How do people discover video online?

Blogs are actually one of the most popular ways to discover video on the web.  In fact, a recent study by TubeMogul found that 44% of all online video is viewed after initially being discovered through a blog.  The study also found that 45% of video views are the result of a direct navigation to a video site (i.e. going to YouTube and running a search or clicking around the featured or related videos).  So really, unless someone is specifically looking for your particular video, or a specific video category, then one of the best ways to get exposure for your video is to get coverage in the blogosphere.

A video interview with David Burch from TubeMogul further explains the results of the study (Hey I just provided a link to online video in my own blog.  How ’bout that!!!).

But basically, the study shows that blogs are the biggest referrer of on-line video views.  So if I include a link in this blog to our recent video of the baby falcons nesting in the Madison Gas & Electric generating station then more people are likely to see that video.

Or if I blog about the video we produced for the innovative FlameDisk product as an alternative to traditional charcoal then that video should also get more exposure.

Come to think of it, if I blog about the video we created for Thrive that promotes the incredible regional advantages making the Greater Madison area a great location for business and pleasure, then the video should be seen by more people.

Then again, maybe I should blog about the public service announcement we created to help educate the public about the new simplified method of compression-only CPR so more people can learn about this new procedure.

Hmmm… Maybe there’s something too this blog thing.  Hopefully, it will catch on someday.

Slumdog Millionaire

I watched Slumdog Millionaire this past weekend.  I thought it was a great film – beautifully shot with some truly heartbreaking moments.  I was struck by the relationships between the children of the slums.  Despite living in squalor – mile after mile of improvised huts surrounded by garbage and raw sewage – these kids played.  And laughed.  And idolized movie stars.  Just like I did, minus the squalor part.  Amazing how resilient the human spirit is.

Since the film was released, the filmmakers have been coming under fire for not doing enough to raise the child actors – real Indian kids from the slums – and their families out of poverty.  They have also been criticized, by some Indians, for misrepresenting India.  But “[s]creenwriter Simon Beaufoy wrote Slumdog Millionaire based on the Boeke Prize-winning and Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-nominated novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup. To hone the script, Beaufoy made three research trips to India and interviewed street children, finding himself impressed with their attitudes. The screenwriter said of his goal for the script: ‘I wanted to get (across) the sense of this huge amount of fun, laughter, chat, and sense of community that is in these slums. What you pick up on is this mass of energy.'” (source)

Beaufoy could have easily adapted the novel for the screen without his research trips to India.  Did these research trips make him an expert on India or Indian culture?  No.  But those trips did provide him with firsthand experiences.  Experiences and knowledge that can only be gained when you go and do something yourself.

When you undertake a video project, you can read and gather information from other people.  You can research a product, a company, a market, or a medium.  But sometimes there is no substitute for going out and learning about something firsthand.  At Tweedee, we use what our clients tell us to create a script for their video project.  However, we don’t hesitate to do our own research trips when necessary.  Our lack of knowledge when we start our research allows us to bring fresh eyes and a sense of curiosity and objectivity to our projects which in turn helps us to create clear, engaging, effective videos.

Gaining life experience.

Gaining life experience.

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