Unsplash, the future of stock?

Unsplash, the future of stock?

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It's a controversial topic for photographers... stock photography.  And to make that even more complicated, in comes a company called Unsplash.  It's a newer company, in that if you ask around most people outside of the photo community aren't really aware of it.  I'd been reading about it here and there, but never really checked it out.  Then came Zack Arias.  Zack is a photographer I really respect and was very active in the "photo community" for a long time.  Then it felt like he fell off a bit.  But he was back with a splash, ripping on Unsplash.  I'll give you the 1,000 foot view, if you want to see all his comments head to here.  The headline "Why You Should Never Upload Your Photos to Unsplash" the top level read... model/property releases, rarely do you even get credit let alone paid anything, it's just bad bad bad.

He makes some great points.  As a photographer the last thing you want is to get sued because you didn't realize you needed a model release and a corporation uses an image and you get a process server on your doorstep.  Personally speaking, if you don't know you need a release you deserve said lawsuit but whatever.  The not getting paid thing is the interesting part of all this to me.  Is the exposure worth the free nature of the business.  That's a tough one because I first found photography through concert photos.  I shot hundreds of shows and ended up working my way to a world tour with a prominent band.  But if one industry has been completely destroyed by photographers working for free it's music photography.  I'll get into the details in a future post, but I feel the pain of people wanting to work in the industry and getting undercut by free.

However, that didn't stop me from creating an account to see what it was all about.  I decided to put up 10 images and give it 100 days just to see what would happen.  I didn't get all involved in the community, I didn't promote it anywhere, I didn't even add any other images.  Just the original 10.  The results are interesting. 

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I picked 10 random travel images that I thought might work for a variety of applications.  One of which was a pretty terrible picture of flags around the Washington Monument in DC.  I picked it because it is a crazy time in US politics and I thought someone might search for a flag shot. That one ended up being my most viewed/downloaded because it was almost immediately added to a collection by Unsplash.  As I type this it has almost 200,000 views and 400 downloads.  All together my 10 images garnered over 350,000 views and 1,500 downloads.

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So what does that mean?  Nothing.  People searching stock go through so fast that 350k views doesn't mean someone stopped and admired my photos, it means they skimmed over them.  I did some reverse image searches of my top 3 photos and even with 1,500 downloads they were used minimally.  And in most places without any credit to me or Unsplash.  So is it worth it?  Not really.  You're better off investing your time in building your Instagram where people can actually follow and interact with you than you are trying to use Unsplash.

What should I wear for our shoot?

The big day is almost here!  You're going to be "talent" on a set.  No need to stress out, it's prety straight forward.  One of the most frequent questions I get prior to a shoot is "what should we tell people to wear?"  Most of the people we work with are not professional talent, and we want them to be comfortable.  If they feel uncomfortable they won't give their best performance.  But there are a few best practices to follow.

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Sometimes the budget allows for hair and make up, but frequently with "non professional" talent that can be a little off putting.  It's already a situation where they're not totally comfortable and getting makeup when they don't usually wear it or being fussed with can hurt their delivery.  Plan to come ready to be filmed as you are.  Make sure you look nice, but are also comfortable.

WARDROBE

Someone wearing a suit, who normally wears just a button up shirt, will feel uncomfortable and that will come through on camera.  People should wear what they'd normally wear to a meeting with their boss.  Something nice, but comfortable.

Avoid tight patterns.  Big bold patterns are okay, but solid colors are better.  Small patterns can cause what's called Moire.  Cameras have a lot of resolving power, but tight patterns can wreak havoc especially for video where there's some motion to the shot.  Stick with solid colors, and avoid patterns.

For guys that usually means solid color shirts and sometimes ties.  Try to avoid wearing solid white.  A cream or solid color shirt will work better because it will have some color there.  If you love your white shirt, it can work depending on the background, but if you're going with white wear something over it (suit jacket, sweater, etc).  

For women, something similar works well.  Solid color with something on top with a solid color skirt or pants.  Again, avoiding white is ideal so that there's some depth to the outfit.

If you have a really light skin tone, don't wear a black shirt.  We'll adjust our exposure to what's best for your skin exposure.  Black can lose all detail if we bring down our exposure for your skin.  Similarly, if you have really dark skin tone, don't wear a white shirt.  It will glow when we expose for your skin.

One last thing to consider... you're probably sitting for your interview.  Wear well fitting clothes that aren't too baggy or wrinkled.  If your favorite jacket tends to push up in the back when you sit with it on, try something else or at least bring a backup option.

JEWELRY

Less is more in the jewelry department.  Why?  Because of audio.  Big necklaces can bump the lav mic if you're wearing one and lead to retakes.  Lots of bracelets on your wrist will bang and clank if you put your arm on a table or speak with your hands.

MAKEUP

As we said above, sometimes there is hair and makeup, typically there is not.  For women, this means they're doing their own makeup.  It's important that their makeup reflect what they'd normally do, but not be over the top.  You want to keep with tones that complement your skin and what you're wearing.  Avoid dark colors, smoky eyes, etc.  The camera will accentuate those and we want you to look your best.

For guys, make sure any facial hair is well groomed.  We capture everything in 4k so clean looks always appear best on camera.  We may ask you to pat down a forehead or cheeks, or maybe even add a little foundatoin to help.  That will give you more even skin tones and add to the final piece.

LOGOS

In a business environment big logos are branding aren't really an issue typically.  But if you wear your favorite team's hat every day or love supporting Nike, that's great.  Maybe try something different for the shoot.  If you really want to wear something, just remember that the video isn't about that brand, it's about your company.

If you love having your employees wear shirts emblazoned with your logo, those are okay.  But try to keep it subtle.  You want the video to be about the story, not the logo.

THAT'S IT!

We want you to be comfortable on camera so you give the best performance.  That is most important.  Don't over think things too much, and if you are... bring a backup outfit along.

Is Vero the Facebook / Instagram / Twitter Killer?

Is Vero the Facebook / Instagram / Twitter Killer?

By now you've seen the name Vero in one form or another.  The past week has seen instagram feeds fill with "follow me on Vero" posts.  So is it the killer they tout it to be?  Maybe.  We'll take a look at a couple of the key features that differentiate it and the main ways it falls short.

Signing Up

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First, if you want to sign up for Vero... good luck.  Their servers clearly were not built for the amount of traffic they're currently getting.  When I signed up last week it took almost 12 hours to get a code texted to me.  When I went to sign in this morning, it couldn't connect to the server for almost an hour.  When I finally did connect I had to re-send the post I tried to make 5 times before (I think) it went through.  It's the growing pains of a new social network that suddenly got hit hard.  If you want to try it out, just have some patience.

The People

While you've undoubtedly seen people asking for you to follow them, there's not really a lot of people on there yet.  That's literally changing by the hour.  I've been getting a few notifications an hour this morning about new people joining.  Until you get some more people on there sharing, it's a little sparse.  But that also offers opportunity if you're looking to grow quickly.  Some quality posting will help that going.

The Experience

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Outside of the server issues, the experience is interesting.  It feels much more 2018 design than most other social networks, which is to be expected.  But along those same lines it feels over designed in a very 2018 way.  There's a slider for who your posts get to, that WILL be a problem.  It's easy to accidentally share something with more people than you anticipated.  But it's an interesting way to set up sharing.  You can have people follow you, or set them as an acquaintance, friend, close friend, etc.  It's a nice way to keep a big network but limit who sees what.

Posting music / links / movies is interesting.  It pulls up graphics already in their system and does an overlay of your comment as well if you're watching it or recommending it or whatever else.  It's the same thing people do with Instagram, but it takes out the user photos.  I don't know if that is a pro or a con.  It's much cleaner looking but it takes out a little personality.

A Killer

So is it a killer?  Who knows.  That's not really helpful but there's not enough people on their yet.  That's where it's a little weird.  Facebook, twitter, instagram all grew organically.  I got on FB and Twitter early and I loved it and became an evangelist for it.  Vero seems like it's growing exponentially just because people don't want to be left out.  So it's tough to know if it will last or just be a flash in the pan.  They're claiming no ads, no algorithm, a better experience.  But until it reaches critical mass it's difficult to know if they'll follow through on their promises.

Should have trusted my gut

Should have trusted my gut

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I was talking to a former colleague and friend the other day.  We've both been working in the advertising / marketing industry for a long time.  While reminiscing about the past and current state of the industry, I realized something.  I came through about 10 years too early.  What does that mean exactly?  It means that the stuff I was proposing to people at the time was just too new for them to understand.  Here's the perfect illustration...

I'm not sure of the exact year, but it was a while ago.  Facebook was in it's infancy and limited to only a couple colleges in the North East.  I was dating a girl who went to NYU so she had an account and showed it to me.  My mind was blown.  The amount of information people put out there was crazy.  I immediately got a meeting on the calendar with the head of strategy at the agency I was working at.  McDonald's was our main client and I saw an incredible opportunity here.  I put together my notes, borrowed my girlfriend's log in, and went into the meeting.  Laid it all out about how we had to get in on the ground floor here and just from a data standpoint alone there was a lot our clients could do with it.  But if they were one of the first brands on there it'd be incredible for them.  I saw the potential for huge growth.

The "senior management" person I was talking to looked at me.  Looked at the screen.  Looked back and me and said something along the lines of "I guess it's interesting, but I don't see a future here.  I don't see anything we can do with it."  I left the meeting feeling a little dejected.  I was a super junior level person who just loved technology.  Maybe he was right and I was wrong.

Obviously, that wasn't the case.  But when I think back, I learned a lesson.  Trust your gut.  I KNEW Facebook would be huge, but I just filed it away in my notebook as an inspired thought not acted upon.  Now a days, I'd say screw that guy and find someone who could have done something cool with it.  That's one of the reasons why I left the agency life and started AV Collective.  I can control my own future, and act on great ideas.

Client Gifts Are Always Fun

Client Gifts Are Always Fun

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Like many companies, we send out Christmas gifts to clients around the holidays.  In the past we've done gift cards and thank you notes.  But this year we wanted to mix it up.  We wanted something that was kind of cool and that people might put on their desk and show off to other co-workers.  Why?  For two reasons.  One, we always think something cool is better than a run of the mill gift card.  Two, we want to be top of mind.  When someone thinks about a potential video project they have, we want them to look at their desk and say "oh yeah, AV Collective would be great for this!".  To help that along, we stuck one of our brand new AV Collective stickers to the back.  We didn't break the bank, but we found some fun "My Cinema Lightboxes", ordered up some stickers for the back, added in a USB plug so the people receiving it don't have to come up with 6 AA batteries, and we mailed them off via the good ol USPS.

So what will come of it?  Hopefully it will make someone smile and let them customize their desk a little bit to show off their personality.  And if it makes them think of us for a new project, that's an added bonus.  

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CASE STUDY: NAR Fair Housing

We want to start sharing some case studies to give you a glimpse into our workflow and projects on a more regular basis.  So here's a look into a recent project for the National Association of Realtor's Fair Housing Anniversary.

The Project Start

A lot of our work doesn't come directly from the end client, but rather through an agency who's doing other work for them and the project has a video component.  This one went that way.  We started by doing an estimate for us to go out to 5 cities and do a photo shoot and video shoot in each location.  Then we waited a while.  And a little while more.  That happens a lot where there's an idea but the project doesn't start for a while.

The Project Itself

So after a wait, we got the green light.  But the project had changed.  Instead of us heading out of town to capture everything, we were going to be using a hybrid approach.  The number of cities was cut to 3.  The client engaged a Miami company to do the filming / photos there.  They were also going to pick up video from a different project for the Chicago talent, but we would be doing a photo shoot with them.  And then we'd be traveling to Grand Rapids to film and photograph talent there.  Then we'd handle the editing of all the photos and executing post production on the video.  It's less than ideal for a few reasons.  One... video from 3 sources means three different codecs, three different lighting setups, and three different approaches.  With the photography it has less of an impact because they're stand alone ads.

The Talent

Before we jump into the shoots, I just want to say a quick note about talent.  Like most of our projects, the people we were featuring were not professional talent.  They were real people who'd done amazing things.  It takes a special approach to work with non-professional talent and we've been doing it for a long time.  You have to keep people comfortable in an inherently uncomfortable situation, while getting great content.  While these people weren't pros, you'd never know it.

The Shoots

Once we got a thumbs up, we had a couple days to set up a shoot in Chicago.  All we knew was we'd have a conference room to shoot in.  That can be problematic with big tables and lots of chairs and such.  But when we got there we were pleasantly surprised... they were able to clear EVERYTHING out.  Leaving just a HUGE room.  We were only looking for a simple solid color background as the talent was likely to be clipped out.  Frank got there right on time and was great to work with.  His office had been broken into, his phone lines tied up by people in the community and his house was even fire bombed.  For what?  For selling homes to black people where the predominantly white community didn't want them.  Crazy.

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The Miami shoot was the one that the client hired out.  We handled preproduction calls with the company, but in the end we had almost no control over the outcome or approach.  They shot on a DSLR with minimal lighting which wasn't ideal but we were able to edit to get a quality end piece.

The Grand Rapids shoot was one we handled.  We traveled out and did a photo and video shoot with the talent there.  We were in a tinnnny meeting room with a huge table we had to work around.  But we got some good stuff.

The Photos

These came out great IMHO haha.  We captured what the client requested and then got some stuff we thought would be a better fit.  Photo shoots are always a push and pull.  You need to accomplish exactly what the client expects, but sometimes you have a creative idea you want to try and think might work a little better.  In the end, they went with the setups we thought might better tell the story.

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The Video

The edit came out great as well.  It was a mix of stock, and footage from the three shoots.  But we were able to combine it all to tell the story in the best way possible.  The video was posted and sent out to NAR members around the country to get them excited about the anniversary of the Fair Housing initiative.

Conclusion

While this project had some unique challenges, we were able to execute final pieces that blew away client expectations.  Which is always our goal.  We love working with real people because they lived the stories they're sharing and that really comes across.  While the shots needed to be a more serious tone, we have to share our favorite photo from the project...

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Why the Sony FS5 is the best camera for the money right now.

Why the Sony FS5 is the best camera for the money right now.

This is a technical post for those folks who are making videos.  So if that's not you, come back next week for some less technical info.  With that said... The Sony FS5 is the best camera for the money right now.

The Competitors

Whenever you talk about the best in a category you have to look at the competition.  The Sony FS5 has been out for a while so there's a lot to compare it to.  The closest comparison is the Sony FS7.  It's a GREAT camera, we used one for a long time.  But it's very big, it's more expensive and adding RAW costs a ton.  What you get with that is a better codec but you can match it with the RAW > ProRes upgrade on the FS5 (more on that below).  The Canon C200 is another option.  But the non RAW codec for that is not usable for professional applications (in our opinion), plus it shoots CFast and those are expensive.  Blackmagic makes some great cameras if you only need RAW but it doesn't have the flexibility.

So then you're looking at stills cameras that double as video (GH5, Sony A series, Canon 5d Mark IV, etc).  When we first started we went that route.  You can get some great results, but in my professional opinion a hybrid isn't a great option as your A camera.  There are too many variables with audio connections, etc etc that can go wrong on set.  And they don't save you that much over the FS5.

Why It's Great

So then why is the FS5 so great.  Well, in my opinion it's the flexibility.  There are tons of sub $4,000 used FS5 on the market.  So already you're in about $3,000 less than the FS7.  Throw a $500 RAW upgrade on it, add in a recorder (like $1200 new) and you've got all your bases covered.  For events, quick turnarounds, small file storage, you've got the internal codec recording to cheap SD cards.  For something where you need broadcast quality 10bit 4:2:2, you send the RAW out to a recorder and go to ProRes.  For spots and high end work where you need RAW, you record that same RAW output as Cinema DNG and you're covered there.  You have flexibility and that's the key.  Throw a lens converter on it and you can use Canon, Nikon, or Sony lenses.  You can scale as the project needs it.

If you're looking for a video camera right now you'll be able to cover any project needs, save some cash, and have a camera body you can sell off and keep the peripherals when you want to upgrade.  To us, it's a no brainer. 

What Goes Into a Video Shoot

What Goes Into a Video Shoot

So, I sit here killing time as my footage from the last shoot imports.  And I'm realizing that people don't really know what goes into a video shoot.  Beyond the actual shooting (which I'll cover too) there are lots of tons of other things going on and being planned.  Wonder what?  I'll use a recent shoot for a client (see the finished product below).

PRE-PRE PRODUCTION

Every project starts with an email, phone call, or text.  It usually goes like this "Hey, I've got a project we're thinking about doing a video for.  We're talking to a couple people, but can you put together an estimate together and do you have time for this project?"  There's usually a call to go over what ever assets they have (script, storyboard, etc) so far.

The estimate is pretty easy at this point.  I know, pretty accurately, how much it costs me to have my office open for an hour.  That includes the office space, electricity, internet, computers, cameras, audio gear, lights, software, even the desk (it's called the Cost of Doing Business).  So it's a pretty simple calculation... how much time will it take X CODB + hard costs (VO, music, stock) = The total cost of the project.  There's some profit factored into my CODB, so if a client comes back and says "can you work with us on this?" there can be some flexibility.  But it makes zero sense for me to take a project way below my costs, so I pass on stuff from time to time.

TREATMENT / BIG IDEA

Everything starts with an idea and it's a good thing to know what you're getting into ahead of time.  Hopefully there's been a script or storyboard developed, but a lot of times we'll help with that side of things too.  It's important to get that idea down on paper so the right people can approve it.  For the shoot the other day, they were really buttoned up.  Beautiful storyboards and script.

PRE-PRODUCTION

This is the planning stage.  Most of the time, it's the most important part of the whole project.  It's when you go through EVERYTHING in the project and plan it all out.  For the shoot I was doing, it included two big things.  A call to go through the storyboard and put together a shot list with the client.  And the biggest part... finding a laundry room we can shoot in.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But think of your laundry room.  It needs to look perfect first and foremost.  But then you need room for a tripod and big camera, 2 or 3 lights, props, me and an assistant, a person to be "talent" (from the agency), and 2 or 3 agency people to approve what we're shooting.  It took a while to find.  I hit up every person I know, the agency went through people they know, I searched dozens of Airbnb listings.  Finally we found a great laundry room.  It was a little far from the agency's office but timing was tight.  We had like a week and a half for all of the pre-pro.

THE GEAR

Before I get into the actual production, the other part of pre-production is identifying what it will take to get the shoot done.  I also firmly believe in having a back up for everything.  Here's a list of what we brought...

  • Sony FS7 Camera - we were shooting 4k and needed slow motion
  • Canon 5d Mark III - brought as a backup and for stills if needed
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS
  • Canon 70-200m f/2.8L IS USM II
  • Metabones Speedbooster EF > Sony
  • Metabones EF > Sony - backup adapter
  • Kinoflo Diva - key light for the shoot
  • Astra Lite Panel BiColor LED - back / fill light
  • Lowell DP 4 Head Lighting Kit - backup lighting
  • Small HD 5" monitor w/ LUT support
  • Sachtler Tripod
  • 3x C-Stands
  • Leatherman
  • Gaff Tape
  • Lots of Batteries & accessories

THE PRODUCTION

The day of the shoot went pretty smooth.  My assistant showed up early and we got out to the location around 8am.  I like to show up at least an hour prior to the client arrival so that we can get stands, lights, cameras, everything up and checked before they walk in.  This is good for 2 reasons.  Primarily, I get to check everything before someone is looking over our shoulders.  We test before we head out, but it's a safety so we can solve any problems without the client being alarmed.  Secondly, it leaves less time for the client to sit around.  We want them to be in and out as smoothly as we can.

Client walked in, we tweaked lighting for the product they brought and got to the shooting.  During pre-pro we had set up a shot list and I'd ordered it into the most effective sequence for what we needed to get.  But we're always open to input and additional shots.  For this, we had a lot of those to make sure we were covered.

We shot for about 4 hours and sent the client on their way while we broke down.

POST PRODUCTION

So now the fun begins.  Most clients think you can jump right into the editing process.  In fact there's a half day or day of things to do prior to shooting.  Here are the steps...

  1. Take all the cards (which are well labeled for what order we shot in) and import them into the job folder.  Depending on how long we've shot, this can take a while.
  2. After that, I make disk images of every card.  If something gets corrupted during import or an emergency happens, I have an exact copy of the card we shot on and I can re-import.  I hold onto those until the project is completely wrapped.
  3. Once all that is done, the imported files are then renamed to match the project.
  4. Then everything gets backed up from my main working NAS to a backup NAS and an offsite NAS.  To lose something I'd have to have 2 drives in each of those fail all at the same time.  That's why I back it all up first.
  5. Then the footage gets imported and sorted into Adobe Premiere and we're ready to edit.

At that point I assemble a rough first cut that goes to the client via Wipster.  I can't say enough amazing things about Wipster.  Clients can comment directly into the video and it's matched to the time code.  It's amazing.  We go through a number of rounds of revisions and then we're wrapped.  When it's wrapped I send the clients MP4 and MOV.

So that's some of what goes into each shoot.  There are a million other little things, but if you're thinking about a video project you'll know most of what goes into it.  Here's the finished piece...

MacBook Pro (touchbar) vs Mac Pro (garbage can) - Part Two

MacBook Pro (touchbar) vs Mac Pro (garbage can) - Part Two

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Yesterday's blog took you through our decision making process.  In the end, it didn't matter a ton.  We needed something mobile as well, so we bought us a MacBook Pro.  We had an aging one and thought "why not see what all these dongles are about".  So, on Black Friday, we ventured to the local Apple Store and bought a 15" 3.1 GHz i7 w/ a 1TB SSD, and 16 GB of RAM.

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So I've been wondering how the Mac Pro we bought last year, and the MacBook Pro we just picked up would work out in a face off.  SO, I put together a very un-scientific test.  I picked a recent project.  Rendered it on my Mac Pro, then rendered it on my MacBook Pro and pointed a camera at it to record the amount of time it took.

The Project

This is a recent project I'm working on for a client.  It's 5:37 in length, and it's got a great mix of assets.  We only shot one of the 3 interviews, the client provided the other two.  So it's a mix of FS5 4k footage (native file), A7s II 4k Footage (transcoded to MP4), and 5d Mark III 1080 footage (native file).  It has still images in GIF, JPEG and TIFF.  Some of the footage has Lumetri Grading on it, some of the stills have Red Giant Universe Plug-ins on them, some Premiere transitions, some Film Impact transitions, there's a WAV VO and a MP3 temp music bed.  There are some stock video comps in MP4.  Oh, and there's a linked After Effects comp or two, also with effects applied.  It's just a crazy mix of stuff and I thought it'd be a decent test.

The Setup

So I was trying to figure out an even way to do this.  I edit off a 48 TB G-Technology Studio XL RAID.  It connects via thunderbolt.  So one at a time, I restarted the Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro and had only Premiere running.  I connected directly into the Mac Pro and via a USB-C > Thunderbolt adapter on the MacBook Pro.  Like I said... this is unscientific.  I'm sure I could have adjusted things to make everything perfect but I wanted a real world scenario where I'm working and rendering.  Both computers exported to the same H264 2 pass VBR file.

The Results

First up, the Mac Pro.  It took 20 minutes and 55 seconds to export the video to the full 1.06 GB MP4.  About what I anticipated as I've rendered that file a bunch of times throughout the project.  No pre-rendering anything, just fired through it.  I was surprised by the MacBook Pro's results though.  The same file took more than twice as long, clocking in at 45 minutes and 39 seconds to render the file.

The Conclusion

I don't know.  I'm not a tech person, I just wanted to get a feel for how things would match up.  It wasn't as even as I thought it would be considering the technology in the Pro is 4 years behind the technology in the MBP.  Did it make me want to rush out and return the laptop?  Of course not, it serves a certain purpose in our workflow.  But I will dive into settings a little more to see what I may have missed that wasn't even.  If they end up being 100% even, it makes me feel even better about the decision we made last year.

Why I'm Cancelling MoviePass...

Why I'm Cancelling MoviePass...

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I've had MoviePass for a week or two now and I had high hopes for it.  I run a video production company, and am very interested in all things cinema.  There are a ton of movies I want to see in theaters, but I don't go because of the cost.  For less than the price of 2 tickets, I can own the movie not just see it with strangers.  So when MoviePass came around with a movie a day for $9.99 a month, I figured I'd give it a try.  I've been to two movies in the last week, and I'm going to go to at least one more to see how it balances out but I'm pretty sure I'm cancelling.

My Viewing Preferences

Before I go into the breakdown of the whys it's important to know the who.  You're either going to want to keep reading or stop reading if you can relate.  I'm the type of person who typically watches a movie at home, in the dark, no popcorn, no phone, and usually after people go to bed.  I want to be able to sit and focus on a film.  I've seen maybe 3 or 4 movies in the past 10 years in the theater, but I get the gist of the appeal and updates.  It's not like I'm a hermit, I just don't think the cost is justified.

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The MoviePass Experience

I have to say, while I'm not enjoying the theater experience (more on that below) I only have one issue with the Movie Pass experience but it's a big one for me.  You can't select your seat ahead of time.  Yes, I knew that going in but I didn't realize the annoyance it would bee until I went to see Three Billboards today.  I got there about 40 minutes early (at noon on a Tuesday) and the only seat I could get was front row.  Granted it had nice reclining chairs but it was still far from ideal.  However I lived a half hour from this theater and didn't really have a choice.  It was either bail on it and drive back a half hour or deal.  I dealt with it, but it took away from the movie.  I'm not sure how they can fix this.  Heck, I'm not sure how they can stay in business.  But outside of that I booked a movie on my walk into the theater, 2 minutes later when I swiped my card it was all good to go.  From that standpoint it was seamless.

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The Theater Experience

This is where it all falls apart for me.  I'm not a social movie goer.  I'm not going to hang out with friends or whatever else.  In fact I don't really care to watch movies in general with other people.  So then when I go to the theater every little sound or whatever catches my eye.  I saw The Post and the women next to me checked their phones a half dozen times (and sat right next to me after coming in during the previews despite the movie theater being 1/4 full).  Today I saw Three Billboards... and every crinkle of a candy wrapper, every time the woman next to me covered her face, every time someone went to the bathroom, it all took me out of the experience of watching the film.

I'm not sure what the solution is, other than buying movies at home.  Which is an annoying process when Oscar films are rarely available for purchase before the Oscars (a HUGE miss IMHO).  But for now, without the ability to select a seat ahead of time and annoying people in the theaters, I think I'll be cancelling my MoviePass subscription.

MacBook Pro (touchbar) vs Mac Pro (garbage can) - Part One

MacBook Pro (touchbar) vs Mac Pro (garbage can) - Part One

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It's a battle!  More mild curiosity.  A little over a year ago we needed to swap a computer.  We had an iMac that had been a work horse but just wasn't cutting it.  And we were left with a tough couple decisions.  Mac vs PC, iMac vs Mac Pro vs MacBook Pro.  Waiting it out vs buying something. 

Mac vs PC

Since this was going to be my main work station, I can answer the first one easily... Mac.  As much as I want to try a PC out, I've been using Mac OS since like 1998 and I'm not ready to switch.  I just know the Mac world way better than the PC and when a client emails me they need a change I want to be able to turn it around, not be learning a new OS.

Waiting vs Buying

A long time ago someone said to me "you can't buy that camera, a new one is about to come out!!!!"  I said "oh, did they announce something?"  And the person said "no, but there has to be a new one coming."  I held off a week and then thought about it again and was doing some research and came upon someone saying something along these lines... "you can't capture content while you wait for a new camera".  That struck home.  I could wait all year for a new piece of gear, but in the mean time I'd miss capturing other stuff.  I bought the camera and it took 8 months for the "new camera".  In the mean time the one I bought had paid for itself.

Similarly with Mac gear.  I won't buy a new iPhone right before the fall announcements, but in general there's always going to be something new on the horizon.  When I was making my decision the iMac "Pro" and "redesigned" Mac Pro were rumored to be out.  But I can't make decisions on rumors.  From the time I bought a computer, the iMac Pro took over a year to actually get into hands (and then is ridiculously priced) and the new Mac Pro is still just an announcement with no ship date in sight.

iMac vs Mac Pro vs MacBook Pro

This is the real crux of the decision at hand.  I went Mac Pro.  I'm not even sure why, but so far I like it.  We went with a 6-core processor, knowing down the line we'd do an after market processor upgrade to the 12-core, 64 GB of RAM (from MacSales.com), 500 GB SSD, and D700 video card.  It's been speedy, despite being "old parts".  It's worked really well for us as long as we've had it.  And when something new comes up, we will have options.

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Which brings me to our next blog post... we needed options.  Recently we needed a more mobile solution and went with a MacBook Pro.  I'll put them "head to head" in my not so analytical, much more real world test.

We need this update immediately!

We need this update immediately!

Most clients understand that changes [revisions] take time.  But not everyone understands how video works.  This is especially true if you're working with someone new in the company or a client that hasn't done a lot of video work in the past.  It's not to say someone requesting changes is wrong, just that there are MANY more moving pieces to video than say changing a font on an ad.  It's important to help educate so that projects can go smoothly from all sides.  So... here's what goes into it.

The Timeline

This is the most important part of any project in my opinion.  Prior to the project start you need to make sure everyone is on the same page as to what is due and when it's due.  Things that people don't think would take time, could take a long time.  If you need us to get voiceover demos in, that's about a week.  We need to submit for demos, the talent needs time to record demos, and we need to get those in and review them.  And you want to make sure you have time to get multiple people's demos.  Music seems easy "hey, go find a track that sounds kind of like this popular track but it needs to build here and not there".  That can take a half day on its own.  You have to find the music, download a comp, see how it will edit together, put together options, send them over, etc.  Make sure everyone knows the timeline before the project starts.

We Work For You, But Not Only For You

This one takes some quality client management and a soft touch.  When we quote a project, that's what it will cost to get it done.  But that doesn't mean we're on call 24-7 for the whole duration of the project.  A quick 60 second video using stock footage might cost $3,000 (depending on many factors) and have a 3 week timeline with reviews and everything.  That doesn't mean for those $3,000 you're getting someone's time all day every day for that three weeks.  You're getting the portion of their time it takes to do the project based on the agreed upon terms.  If you need 24-7 coverage, that's certainly something we offer, but it's going to cost significantly more.

The Changes

This is where a lot of the confusion comes in.  Ask a graphic designer to change what a title says and it might take 5 minutes to make the change and save a JPEG.  Ask a video editor to make the exact same change and it might take an hour or two.  It all depends on what else is in the video.  A 5 minute video with lots of different formats, filters and linked After Effects comps might take 45 minutes to render.  So if you need that change made and we're sitting at our computer and can drop everything you're looking at 5 minutes to make the change, we need to watch the whole video at least once to make sure nothing else got moved inadvertently (another 5 minutes minimum), 45 minutes to render, 10 minutes to upload, then we send out the link.  That's over an hour (minimum) to make the same change that takes 5 minutes for a JPEG.  Then add in if we're working with a company's internal creative team and they need to make the change (maybe the fonts have been outlined).  You then have to factor in that person's availability and us getting a file and then starting our end.

So What Should We Do?

We're here to help and will do rush turn arounds as quickly as we can.  But in all our estimates and contracts we request 24 hour turn around for revisions.  That lets us manage work load, make sure the changes are done the best way possible.  If you know you'll need it sooner, give us some lead time so we can plan around that.  The last day of a project we anticipate last minute changes and plan, but mid way through that's impossible to do.  Know that without that planning there can be rush costs incurred.

What Should We Do Part 2?

The most important part to keeping the project flowing smoothly is sticking to that timeline we talked about up top.  We know things come up (holidays, vacations, emergencies) but nothing is more demoralizing than getting a last minute change so one last person can sign off on it.  Dropping everything to handle it and then the person who needed the changes "hasn't had a chance to review it" and we end up waiting days to get that feedback.  That will mean the rest of the timeline is off kilter as well and we'll have more rush days ahead.

So to recap... create a timeline everyone agrees to, stick to that timeline as much as you can, understand that while we love having you as a client and value you we have other clients we do work for as well, and be sure that when we do go above and beyond to get your changes done that the person who needs them can get to it in a timely manner.