“Danger Will Robinson – I see low quality video”

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.” – John Glenn

Although things worked out for astronaut John Glenn, I was reminded of his famous quote when I saw this posted the other day:

Poor Quality

As consumers, all of us try to find the best value for the lowest price. But at what point does the price become so low that the quality suffers? Having a nicely produced video on your website is vital in today’s marketplace and that video is a crucial portal to introduce your business/school/group/organization to prospective clients/students/members/donors.  So of course, the goal should be to make a good first impression with a video that portrays you in the best light.  You may offer high quality products or services but a low quality video will be a poor representation of who you are and may not provide an accurate reflection of what you offer.

When it comes to initiating a video project, it’s not that hard to find good value for a fair price.  However, simply going with the lowest price may lead to this sort of outcome:

Always someone who will do it cheaper

So when considering a video production professional, be sure to ask to see samples of work from their portfolio.  Also, be sure to ask about the experience and background of the producers, crew, editors, and other team members that will be working on your project.  In addition, an experienced video professional should be knowledgeable enough to offer insight about the resources needed to produce a cost effective video that accomplishes your goals and stays within your budget.

Wishing you a safe landing with all of your video project ideas…

Thanks,

Mac

Mac Chorlton

“Building” your video

We sometimes have people tell us what budget they’ve established for their video project idea before they tell us about the idea itself.   Although we try to work with any size budget, this situation can be very challenging for us, because the client has already decided what they are willing to pay — before they know how much it might actually cost.

My wife and I are in the process of building a new home.  It’s our first time building and it’s been an eye-opening process.  But what has helped us along has been the plan we developed with our builder.  The initial estimates our builder gathered for us from his subcontractors were based on information we provided to our him about our lot size, floor plan ideas, square footage, etc.  Throughout our building process, those initial budget allowances have provided us with a blueprint for what we can (or cannot) afford in our new house.

I’ve found myself making a lot of recent comparisons between our house plans and the scripts/outlines we create for each of our video productions.  Collaborating with our clients to establish a project outline and develop a budget is an important initial step because many factors (the length of the video, the need for music, graphics, voice over, etc.) can influence the cost of video production.  So getting these variables worked out in the planning and scripting phase will help ensure that everything runs smoothly as the production process moves forward.

If we told our builder that we had a budget of $100,000 and we wanted to build a 5,000 square foot home, we would have ended up with a huge house with no drywall, no plumbing, no lighting, etc. because that 100K would only get us so far.  So if you have some video ideas, give some thought to creating your own “building blueprint” so you can establish realistic expectations for what you want to create — before you set the budget.

Things keep changing.

The new year has brought us a new video camera here at Tweedee Productions.  And with a new camera, of course, new technology.  Well, kinda.  We’ve already been using Panasonic’s P2 technology for a couple of years.  Our new camera, Panasonic’s HPX500EFP is actually a compliment to our well used and reliable Panasonic HVX200.  Both shoot amazingly good, eye popping, high-definition 1080i video.  The 500 has a few more bells and whistles, and comes in a more traditional shoulder-mount, Betacam-style configuration.  So far, I love it!  In addition to shooting great looking video in several HD and SD formats, there are also loads of other menu settings that allow the user to customize the “look” of the camera.

The most amazing thing to me is the recording media.  Both the 200 and 500 record video and audio onto a P2 memory card.  We can record about 2 hours of high-definition video onto a 64gb card about the size of your average smart phone.  This technology is a far cry from when I started in the business.  (OK, I don’t want to sound like an old guy here – so no stories about how I used to lug my 25 pound video camera and 25 pound 3/4 inch record deck 5 miles through the snow.  Uphill.)

When I started working my first job as a video photographer, videotape field recording had just started reaching markets like Madison, Wisconsin.  Three-quarter-inch tape was the industry standard back then, employing a two-piece camera/record deck setup, and recording standard-definition video onto a 3/4 inch videotape cassette.  We were able to record a whopping 30 minutes of two-channel audio and SD video (yes, in color!) onto a tape about the size of a small Gideon’s Bible.  Years later one-piece Betacams came along with a smaller 1/2 inch tape cassette, then even smaller DVCPro and mini-DV tape formats with smaller cameras.  Today you can record fairly decent HD video on a cell phone.

So now that we are digital and tapeless, what’s next?  My colleague Dan Presser and I where just discussing the “next big thing” in video production technology while getting coffee last week.  You see, the weak link in the whole video aquisition-input-edit-output chain has always been the time it takes to transfer recorded media into an editing system.  In most cases videotape has to transfer in real-time.  With digital, large HD files may take several minutes to copy onto a hard drive.  Sure, there are some costly solutions now available that will speed up the process.  But what about this – a field camera/recording system that moves recorded images live, wirelessly, and as they are being recorded right into an edit system!  Sound far-fetched?  Yeah, well so did recording HD video onto a playing card sized device way back in 1980.

A 3/4 inch videotape is much bigger than a P2 memory card.

Gregg Schieve, CEO and Founder

show it to me

Sandy shedding some light on the internets.

a friend pointed some research out to me… The Nielsen Norman Group, a consulting firm whose founder was deemed by the New York Times to be “the guru of Web page ‘usability,’” has done extensive research into what makes websites successful:  1)nothing higher than a sixth-grade reading level on the home page;  2)more “scannability” — highlighting, color-coding, bullet points; and  3)one idea per paragraph.

but maybe the most interesting bit was if you’re trying to reach young people – they don’t have the reading ability, patience or research skills to successfully complete what they set out to do online. kids now-a-days have a very different learning style. they don’t read, they watch – tv, youtube, web video.

my take-way (from reading all those words): the best way to reach your online audience? VIDEO.

no one, if you’re 8 or 80, wants to spend tons of time wading through a boatload of verbiage.  get my attention, get to the point and don’t waste my time.

we tried this experiment with the tweedee productions website. instead of a bunch of words, we did videos, lots of videos. we kept them short, interesting (in my opinion) and entertaining. we tried to eliminate as many written words as possible.

some of our clients have seen the light. they’ve started doing video newsletters instead of emailing newsletters full of words, articles and clip art. the vnl allows them to highlight their important industry news and map out articles of interest that drive clients to their website for all the details.

with the holiday season upon us…. instead of bogging up your snail mail with cards you’ll toss in the trash, we’re sending out this video greeting. no natural resources wasted. its short, sweet and filled with the spirit of the season.  happy holidays.

now if you’ll excuse me, i have to get back to my youtube.

It’s the people, stupid!

We just had an excellent initial meeting with a potential client here at Tweedee Productions.  As our meeting went on, I began to realize what a great team of people I work with.  I also realized that I didn’t have to do much during the meeting.  I was free to relax, listen to our new friends, react when I needed to, and not think that I had to “make” the sale in the end.  As many small business owners know, this is not always the case.  Usually the owner has to make the sale, perform the work, and then take out the trash at the end of the day.

When I first started out in business 12 years ago, I often thought that being a product driven business would be preferable to a service based one.  I thought that by selling a product I would see immediate results.  How many widgets did we sell today?  How full is the cash drawer?  How many customers came in today?  Immediate results.  Buy product – resell – buy more – repeat.  But, as we all know, selling a product is not always a guaranteed success.  Remember Circuit City anyone?

Tweedee Productions is a service based business.  As such, I’ve finally come to realize that what we sell (or what our customers buy) is “us”.  They buy “us” because we provide a unique service that’s not widely available for one thing.  They also buy “us” because of our unique talents and abilities.  But most importantly, I would suggest that they buy “us” for who we are as people.

It’s interesting to note that our potential client never asked about our technical capabilities – apparently not an issue for them.  I believe that first and foremost, they liked us as people.  Sure, we can provide whatever technology they need, that’s the easy part.  But the most important thing to them was working with a company that can tell their story.  That’s what we do best.  We are a company of individuals with strong storytelling skills and decades of combined video production experience – things that you can’t learn from a book or acquire from a software program.  We are also good people.  A big “thank you” to all of my co-workers for being as talented as you are.  Now it’s time to take out the trash.

The Tweedee Team

Gregg Schieve, Founder, CEO and guitarist, Tweedee Media Inc.

The Value of Online Video

I read a recent study that showed 0% of internet users would be willing to pay to use Twitter.  I don’t use Twitter myself, but with all the talk out there about Twitter these days, I was quite surprised to see that even those who use it don’t really see any value in it.

Establishing value is an important tenet in any business so here are some simple valuation points for our business:  Website video and professional video production services

1)    Video combines sight, sound, motion, and emotion to provide the most optimum format of communication.

2)    Video is a great way to introduce yourself or explain a complex issue in understandable terms.  Given the choice, most folks would prefer to watch a two-minute video instead of slogging through pages of text on a website or PDF.

3)    Video provides  a great avenue to engage your prospective clients and stay on your website longer.  People search the web for information on products and services they want to buy.  Video allows you to present information about those products and services in a more accessible format.

4)    Better communication with your customers and clients leads to other benefits.  Product videos can help increase sales and online video has also been shown to reduce return rates for retailers by 60%.  If a customer can see the development of a product, its features, how it works, etc. before they buy it, then that decreases the potential for wanting to return the product once they actually purchase it.

5)    On-line video can be repurposed to use in sales presentations, trade shows & conferences, events, investor relations, television commercials, website pre-roll ads, in-store video, etc.

6)    Three out of four respondents reported watching some type of short, professionally produced videos online regularly (Online Media Daily, June 2010)

7)    You can share videos.  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.

8)    You can drive people to your website by sharing links to your video in your company newsletter, your press releases, and your Social Networking sites (including Twitter!!!).  The more places you post your video the more people you expose to your message.

9)    Mobile video continues to grow and will only get more popular as more and more people begin to use SmartPhones and other mobile devices like the iPad.

10)  Video is awesome!!!

Mac

Telling the Story

My husband is a big fan of the Discovery Channel’s show MythBusters.  We don’t have cable, but he recently discovered he can watch some episodes instantly through Netflix.  So he’s been watching MythBusters.  And on occasion, I watch along with him.

I, too, like the show, though not quite as much as he does.  If you’ve never watched it, allow me to bring you up to speed.  MythBusters sets out to either bust or confirm various myths or urban legends.  According to the website: “Hosted by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage — and co-hosted by Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara — the MYTHBUSTERS mix scientific method with gleeful curiosity and plain old-fashioned ingenuity to create their own signature style of explosive experimentation.”  I like the show because they investigate some pretty interesting topics, but even more than that, they tell a great story.  Each episode starts with an explanation of the myth or myths that will be explored and ends with a summary of what conclusions can be drawn from their experimentation.  Often, as they are investigating a myth, they will get sidetracked, and on rare occasions, someone will fully investigate the tangent, leaving the rest of the team to explore the original myth.

I came across an interview with the two main MythBusters, Adam and Jamie, this morning, and I was surprised when they referred to telling a good story.  After all, these guys are just trying to prove or disprove some urban legends, right?  Here’s the excerpt:

Sometimes, it seems like what you wind up investigating isn’t the same thing you were originally testing. For instance, testing skunk-smell removal methods wound up being as much about trying to get skunks to spray you in the first place as it was about how to rid yourself of skunk smells. How much do you veer off onto different paths when they come up?

Adam: Well, you’ve honed in on what I think is the single most favorite part, for both me and Jamie, about doing the show. Which is that the narrative really is guided by what we’re interested in determining. And that is also informed by our desire to answer the original question we set out to answer, but if there are other things along the road that help to illuminate something for us, we’ll absolutely make sure that gets into the episode. And that’s fantastic, because it’s not like you’re leaving a bunch of stuff along the wayside that you’d like to be tackling; we’re tackling all of that.

Jamie: It does, however, cause a bit of a conflict here from time to time. In particular, I’m notorious among the staff here for being much more interested in the little side trips that we run across than the central story, and we have to be able to tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and is relevant. So production’s not about to let us just get halfway through something and then do something else.

So it does highlight the fact that that is, really, often the most interesting part of what we’re doing, is the little tangents on the side.

Both of them say that they’re telling a story in each episode and with each investigation.  In case you missed it, Adam says, “the narrative really is guided by what we’re interested in determining,” and Jamie adds, “we have to be able to tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”  Jamie goes on to say that “production’s not about to let us just get halfway through something and then do something else.”

I think it’s great that they are aware of the story they are telling.  And they allow themselves to get off track without venturing too far.  Or rather, they trust their production team to keep them on track, telling the story they started to tell.  That’s what a good production team does: it lets you tell your own story by helping you figure out what story you want to tell and then making sure you don’t start telling a different one.

Those MythBusters guys are so funny!

TiVo wants to be the Google of TV

I’ve talked about this before: the way we watch TV is changing.  I watch some TV shows live (LOST), and I watch some online after they’ve aired (Glee).  I watch other TV shows after they’re no longer on air – either on DVD (Six Feet Under) or streaming through Netflix (Dexter).  Now Netflix allows customers to watch streaming videos through their Wii console, which is much more convenient than hooking up your computer to your TV.  I don’t have a DVR, but I know a lot of people who do and use them to record shows and watch them when it fits into their schedule.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving to work, I heard a story on NPR about TiVo.  You know TiVo.  In fact, if you have a DVR, you might say you TiVo’d something, even if your DVR is not a TiVo.  Well, it turns out that Tivo wants to streamline all of our TV-watching options:

Joe Miller, TiVo’s senior vice president for retail sales and marketing, touts the new box as the “Google of television.” .

Take a popular show like House. Right now, you can watch it live on Fox, record it on your DVR, stream it on your computer or even download it from a service like iTunes. It’s possible to do all this from home if you have the tech savvy, money and patience — plus a bunch of wires and remote controls.

Miller says the new box, dubbed the TiVo Premiere, can do all of that: “Your TiVo would find you House that’s on broadcast, House that’s in syndication, all of the past seasons that might be on Amazon or another service.”

Also, the TiVo Premiere, which starts at $299 plus service charges, will find any House episode that’s on YouTube and let you listen to the soundtrack through a music service. And, Miller says, it will play on your TV with one box, one set of wires and one remote.

It will be interesting to see if TiVo Premiere becomes the phenomenon that the company is hoping for.  And although I like the idea of using just one device to watch online videos and TV, I don’t think I’ll be getting a TiVo Premiere.

(If you’ve read my previous post, In a Flash, you might be interested in reading Steve Jobs’ open letter regarding Adobe Flash.  I don’t know if Adobe has responded, but if it does, I will link to their response here.)

Using SEO Video to increase traffic to your website

For years, many companies have been using simple keywords as their main Search Engine Optimization (SEO) technique to increase website traffic and their rankings in search engine results.  But there’s been a lot of talk lately about how Google and other search engines are increasing their use of blended media types (articles, pictures, video, & other content) to provide more relevant search results.  The importance of video in those search engine algorithms is helping many websites that have video content increase their traffic and wind up on the first page of those search results.  In fact, according to a recent study by Forrester Research, the use of SEO Video makes you 53 times more likely to end up with a “Page One” ranking on Google.

Right now, it’s hard to separate yourself from the pack, because many competing businesses are all using the exact same keywords within traditional SEO.  But adding SEO Video to your website helps set you apart from your competitors and increases your likelihood of being ranked above them in search results.  Posting non-SEO video to your website, or to YouTube, or to a YouTube embedded player on your site is good start, but it won’t necessarily increase the search engine rank results for your website.  In fact, that strategy may actually just create search engine results for YouTube and ultimately send people directly to YouTube instead of your website.

But posting SEO Video to your website is the best scenario of all… Using keywords and key phrases in your video’s file name, the captions, etc. as well as incorporating other traditional SEO techniques along with your video is the best strategy to bring people directly to your website and generate additional traffic.

Also, USAToday.com small business columnist Steven Strauss recently wrote an article citing “research indicates that if you have video on your homepage, up to 80% of your visitors will click that first.”

That’s right:  If it’s an option, 80% of your visitors will be drawn directly to the video on your website as the first thing they want to click on.  So if you plan to add video to your website in 2010, you want to make sure that 80% of your visitors are seeing a high quality, professionally produced video that accurately portrays the message of your business, organization, etc.  Of course, that’s one of the most important things to remember as you develop your ideas for incorporating video into your website.

Mac Chorlton

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!”

For me, part of getting into the Christmas spirit involves watching the animated Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! I remember, as a kid, lying on our living room floor surrounded by my sister, brother, and parents as we all watched.  As an adult, I usually miss it when it airs on TV, but I make sure I take the time to revisit it sometime before Christmas.

With the incredible computer-generated animation by the likes of Pixar, the hand-drawn animation of The Grinch seems so boring.  So flat.  Why, then, do we return to it year after year?  How does this short video gain a new audience with each generation?  It’s because Dr. Seuss knew how to write a good story.  The story draws us in.  And that’s true of all good videos.

At Tweedee Productions, we are storytellers.  What story do you want to tell?

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