CINEMATIX HD

Adrenaline Captured in High Definition – Atlanta Video Production

Totally New Blog Site

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 12.25.01 PMI’m very happy to announce that I have launched a stand alone website for my blog. Not only that, but my blog is now totally video based. Heck, if you are going to preach that the Internet is video driven, you ought to practice what you preach.

The new site HDPros.net is a combination of video tips for video marketing, as well as tips for people in the video business on how to do what they do, even better.

Thanks!

Jim

Our Camera Stabilizer Has Arrived!

A way of staying “state of the art” is by investing in new gear and equipment. This week we up’d our game by acquiring a new DJI Ronin camera stabilizer.
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This wonderful piece of technology allows a camera operator to hand hold a camera while keeping the camera extremely still. This was previously achieved most commonly by utilizing a Steadicam. But a Steadicam is expensive and bulky. It also takes a great deal of practice and the operator needs to be quite an athlete. (Been there, done that, have the chiropractor bills to prove it!) Fortunately cameras have gotten lighter and smaller. So the engineers at DJI figured how to stabilize a camera weighing less than 15 pounds with a motorized gimbal.

Rather than explain it, it’d be easier to show it. Please note that I did not film either of these videos. These were done by DJI.

Here is a short film created to show off the Ronin.

And here is the Behind the Scenes video to show how they did it!

I am excited to have added this wonderful piece of technology to our “kit” and you can be certain you will be seeing lots of slick adrenaline footage acquired with it!

Jim

Power of Video Continues to Grow

Ahhh, the figures on the growth of Internet video and its affect on consumers continue to impress. Although sites like YouTube have not even been around for a decade, and that the majority of video currently on the Internet did not exist even five short years ago, over 80% of web surfers polled by Google stated they would rather watch a video than read a web page.

That’s not surprising given the current populations’ love of motion pictures and television. And it is not just the young. Forbes Magazine found that 65% of C-Suite senior executives feel the same way. They would rather watch a video than read a webpage.

Consumers’ appetites for video continues to climb. Websurfers no longer simply prefer video to traditional webpages, they demand it. More and more polls and statistics show that when it comes to reaching your prospect you MUST use video to catch, and keep their interest. Video has become a necessity.

But that is not bad news! Because video is shown to increase conversion to sales. Google’s poll also stated that people are much more likely to make a decision to purchase after seeing a quality video about the product or service they were interested in. But note I said “quality”.

Google’s poll found that the majority of web surfers make a judgment call on the credibility and trustworthiness of a company based on the quality of its website. You can be certain that includes the perceived quality of the video contained there as well. So just as a shoddy website will turn off prospects, a shoddy cheap video will turn them away.

But, again, that is not bad news! Because getting a quality video made for your company has never been more available and affordable. If you work with a reputable professional production company like CinematixHD, that is. Because there are plenty of production people who are producing affordable video, but not “quality” video. All video production is not the same. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Walmart may be cheap, but you don’t expect anything you buy there to last or be of very high quality. Same with video production. Cheaper almost always means lesser quality, so do your research.

If you have been putting off adding video to your marketing, the time has never been better, or more urgent for that matter, than now.

How Much Should You Budget for Your Business Video?

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If you haven’t read the blog “How much does video production cost” I suggest you read it FIRST and then come back here, as this blog will make more sense if you already know how budgets are affected. So given the knowledge that your video will largely be determined by how complex the filming and editing will be, then how do you determine what you should spend on your production? It is largely dependent on two things that are very interrelated:

#1 The ROI (Return On Investment) you hope to achieve, and

#2 The best way to showcase your business based upon your audience.

A video should give you a return on the money you spend on it, known in the business world as ROI or Return On Investment. It should build sales, train your employees, provide leads, and yes, even win awards. No matter what is does, it should do something for you worthwhile. You will find, however, that ROI goals are quite varied. Compare the ROI of an independent accountant looking to gain five new clients, versus a huge accounting firm wanting to represent Fortune 500 companies. They are very different.

Similarly the way you showcase your business differs depending upon your business, clients, and market. Take the example above. Both are accounting firms. But the video targeting small businesses and the one aimed at large corporations will definitely not look the same.

Let me give you some examples. I have a client, David Walker, who is a business attorney. He spent $1,500 on his website video. It’s not flashy, it’s very simple. Yet, he tells me it nets him several leads a month and it has paid for itself many, many times over throughout the course of a year. That is a fantastic return!

Now take Stateside Capital. They are an investment firm that wanted to convince large company CFOs that investing in Low Income Housing Tax Credits did not amount to supporting government slum-like projects. They needed to show that these communities were safe and wonderful places to live. We spent several days shooting with crane jibs, Steadicam shots, on-site interviews and much more, to showcase the several properties created using the Tax Credit program. It was a significant project that cost well over ten thousand dollars.

The result? Stateside President Rick Beacham tells me that the video convinced a major logistics company to invest a significant amount (let’s just say the number had a lot of zeros) that resulted in a huge profit for Stateside. And that wasn’t the only client the video netted. Would a less expensive $1,500 video project like David’s have done the same? Not according to Rick.

“It was the beauty of this fantastic video that won these clients.” He says. “The shots are just awesome. I show it to everyone and they are just awed that this is public housing and they are convinced straight away. It paid for itself multiple times with the very first client, and there have been many more clients since!”

Stateside could have done a simpler project. But it would not have had the punch that the cinematic images of the properties had. They simply would not have had the same success with a small budget production because the message they needed to convey and the audience they were trying to reach demanded a production of higher value.

But for David’s small practice those types of shots just weren’t necessary. A higher budget would not have made a significant difference. His target market were startups and small businesses. A fancier production could even have scared potential clients away because they might think they can’t afford him. However, had David been looking to attract large corporate clients that would literally be spending millions of dollars a year, his simple video would not have been appropriate. He would have had to present his company differently to impress those companies, and a higher production value would not have only suited him better, it absolutely would have been required.

How do you know what to put out to your audience? One easy way is to see what your competitors are doing. Your successful competitors that is. Another barometer are your products or services themselves. High tech, for example, better be accompanied by a high tech presentation. If you have luxury items, your production value better match the tastes of your audience. If you are in the bargain basement? Then lower standards of production may be ok, and in fact necessary.

So, to recap, you need to consider:

#1 What ROI am I looking to achieve, and

#2 What is the best way to deliver my message based upon my audience and that ROI?

Then decide how best to showcase whatever it is you do. Since you may not have a clue how simple or complex your ideas are, talk with your video production team. Tell them your ideas. Get feed back. Sometimes what you think is complex is easy and vice versa.

Another helpful thing is to tell the video team what you would like to spend. I know this is tough for a lot of people. They think if they give out a number they will be taken for suckers. But you would never tell a realtor that you want a home “But I am not going to tell you what I want to spend!” The realtor needs to know your budget. Video production is the same. By telling the production team what your budget is, they can tell you what can be delivered for that amount.

That’s a wrap for this issue. Stay focused!

Thoughts On “Doing It Yourself”

 I often get calls from people I know who ask me for advice on how to do video.  I equate this to being an attorney and always having your friends and family asking you legal questions. Their intentions are usually good, and it always involves “I can’t afford to hire you right now, so I want to do it myself.”   Now that I equate to asking a doctor on how to perform your own surgery because “I can’t afford to hire you right now, so I want to do it myself.”

This little video sums up my thoughts on doing it yourself. Enjoy!

Why your web guy says video is not important.

Anytime something new comes out, there will be naysayers. Remember when websites were first gaining popularity how some pooh-poohed the Internet saying it was a fad? Even within your own company I am sure many said it was a waste of time and money. Often these people were in marketing. The awful truth was that many were naysayers because they saw websites as a threat. I am not kidding. Think about it. A website would take resources from them. It would take money from their budgets. It involved people with expertise they didn’t have. All of these factors made them downright anti-web. For most they either learned to embrace it, or they fought it and ended up looking somewhat foolish in the end.

History has a way of repeating itself. As video is gaining momentum on the Internet there are a lot of companies who are embracing it full force. Some companies, like auto manufacturers, are going as far as to reduce expenditures on traditional marketing avenues such as print and television, and moving it to the Internet. Many, such as Ford have created YouTube channels and created entire series of videos aimed exclusively at the Internet audience. Millions of dollars are being pushed into video as more and more companies realize that video online is now mainstream.

Despite this growing popularity, others are not so eager to get into video and consider video to be a fad or a luxury. They will flat out tell you so. And many on the “no video” side of the fence come from a surprising place – from within the Internet industry, particularly those involved in web design.

I talk to web designers all the time, and I find that they are about equally split on their thoughts on video. Half know that video is an absolute necessity, and the other half will insist it is a waste of time and resources. I’ve had debates with web developers who tried to tell me that video on the home page was a mistake. On one debate I had a client present with the designer of his website. My client had made the fellow place the video I made on his home page several months earlier, to heated objections from the web designer. The designer said it should be in a gallery, or under a “video” tab. I advised the client to make it the first thing a prospect saw when they came to his website.

Now, many months later, he was telling this designer how the video had raised his sales 40% and increased traffic and rankings etc, etc, yet nothing would sway this web designer. Several other people joined in the discussion that had also had similar experiences with their Home Page videos. Despite a table full of people professing their successes this guy told all of them they were making a mistake. They were all wrong and he was right. Videos were just fluff and should be relegated to a gallery. Reality be damned. Sounds like arguing politics, eh?

To me, at first it was incomprehensible that people in the know about SEO and current Internet trends would downplay what is, without a doubt, the current driving force of the Internet. How can you argue with the overwhelming statistics that show video is not only what viewers want, they demand it? But since I had already seen the same thing back in the 90’s when I was in the web design, I could recognize that this was once again about egos and feelings of being threatened. Even if this fellow didn’t realize it.

Just like those marketing people, these web developers see video as a threat. Right now they are the lead singer, so to speak, of your Internet presence. Here comes video, threatening to make them a back up singer. After all, if video is the new star, then that leaves them out of the spotlight. They want to be in control. They want to be the focus of your Internet marketing. And, to put it brutally honest, they don’t want to share your budget with others.

Other web developers don’t see it that way. They see video as a something that is inevitable and they are looking to partner with video firms to provide their clients with what they need. Some are even providing video services. (Personally I think this is a mistake as they should stick to what they do best. I don’t see podiatrists adding a dental chair since you also need a dentist. No, they stick to what they do. I don’t try to be a web developer, I stick to what I do best. And so should they.) But these video embracing web designers also know that video is not going to make them obsolete. You will still need them. You still need SEO. You still need a nice looking site with great text content for the search engines. They know that even a video driven Internet will need website developers.

Anyway, back to your web developer. If you are talking to your web guy and he is telling you that putting a video on your website isn’t a priority, perhaps you need to have a chat with him about reality. Google states that video on a home page increases search engine rankings dramatically. You are 57% more likely to get a first page ranking. Google also says viewer retention is increased 400% and duration increased over 800%. Conversion to sales is up 35%. Video not important? Puh-lease!

Audio Is As Important As The Picture Quality In Your Video Production.

We’ve all seen it. The TV commercial or some other video with the great image. It’s recorded well, lit well, but as soon as the person on the screen opened their mouth you cringed because they sound like they are talking from the bottom of a well or a coffee can because it was taped in a empty office, or on hardwood floors or somewhere that the audio is now echo filled and horrible. Or there is a hum, or A/C roaring in the background, or the water of a fountain is drowning out the speaker.

The most overlooked part of video is the sound. Sound quality can make or break your production. I cannot understate the importance of good audio for your video production. Yet I witness so many productions that seem to have considered sound a non issue.

One of the hardest things about sound is that you often don’t pay attention to it. You don’t realize that the A/C in your office building is literally a dull roar. You have become accustomed to it so you don’t “hear” it anymore. You don’t pay attention to the traffic outside your window since you have been working there for three years. To you, your office is quiet. It has all become white noise to you. When in reality most work places are full of noise even when empty.

One of the reasons I suggest clients shoot in studio is because we can control the sound. There are times when you want to shoot on location, but there is a lot to be said for getting your narration or interview footage on a set where there is absolutely no sound but your voice. It exemplifies your professionalism. Those computer cooling fans humming in the background scream UN-professional.

But if you must shoot on location then remember that the audio quality of your production is just as important as the video quality. Be sure your production company knows steps to take to reduce or eliminate noise. Make sure they are using the right equipment, choosing the best locations, avoiding the pitfalls of bad audio. Ask them what they are doing to ensure the audio is high quality. If they tell you not to worry, that noise is not a problem, you might want to start worrying.

A quality video is the sum of many parts. If you remember that audio is a major part of the production and take the proper precautions, you will be much happier with the results.

Jim

Having No Video Is Better Than a Bad Video

During a creative session with a client I checked out a video they had on Youtube. I won’t be specific about the content but let’s just say it was pretty bad. Bad camera work, bad audio, bad editing, I mean it was all around bad bad bad. I know, say how I really feel and stop sugar coating it, right? It was a video that a friend had done for nothing. A friend that happened to have a cheap video camera and the time to film this awful video that made a drunken home movie look like a blockbuster.

My client laughed and joked about how the price was right- free. And that “I guess it is better than having no video at all, right?”

He could immediately tell from my expression that I did not feel the same way.

“Take it down. As in yesterday.” I told him. “It is not better than nothing, it is hurting your image. Get rid of it and do it now.”

It may be the age of video on the Internet, but having a bad video is like having OJ as your spoke person –it does you more harm than good. It hurts your image and makes you look like an amateur. And I am not talking only about the really crappy videos shot by your secretary’s high school son for a media project at school. I am talking about any video that is not professional.

If you made the mistake of hiring a low cost firm to do your video, did one in-house, got your daughter’s wedding videographer to shoot your business video, or have made the big error of doing the “Hi, it’s me, and this is what I do” talking into the web camera narration video as so many people have, these videos are killing your image. They are not better than nothing, they are much worse.

You only get one chance at a first impression, so if the current media on your site or on Youtube isn’t professional, then trash it. Your video needs to be representative of the quality of product or service you have to offer. If your video is of low quality it makes YOU look low quality. It will make you look like you have low standards of quality as well.

Think about that! After all, if you were happy with a poor representation of your company in this video, then your performance must reflect that video, right? That is what prospects are thinking when they see it. If your video looks cheap, you look cheap! Now don’t get me wrong- it doesn’t have to look expensive. It DOES, however, need to look professional.

Would you send out a business card or a brochure with misspelled words on it and say –“Oh well, it’s better than nothing.” Of course not. So why are you not as critical of what you use to represent yourself on the Internet?

What makes a video look unprofessional enough to pull it? Here is a quick and dirty checklist:
* If it is glaringly obvious that it was shot by an amateur.
* Spots on the lens? Puh-lease! Nothing screams amateur like a dirty lens!
* Not using a tripod or other support. Handheld cameras are for awful reality TV shows.
* The audio is awful, too soft, too loud, too noisy, etc..
* Terrible music- any of that MIDI stuff or it sounds like a bad 70’s porn.
* Using copyrighted music- it’s illegal, people! If you are using copyrighted music like U2, Lady Gaga, or the theme to Rocky, you are inadvertently telling the viewer you are a thief and cannot be trusted. Think I’m kidding?
* Jumpy and jerky shots because the camera operator is unsteady.
* Jumpy and jerky edits because the editing is poor.
* It is sooooo boring. C’mon, now. If YOU think it’s boring and it’s about your company? Then for Pete’s sake you know others do.
* It is nothing but a slide show of photos, or a PowerPoint with a voice over. If so see the point directly above.
* The video is poor because a poor quality camera like a Flip or other camera was used.
* If you or any of your staff find it embarrassing. In fact, if you are not anxious and proud to show it to everyone you know? Lose it.

That amateur video is actually costing you money in lost clients. Put a stake in its heart. Kill it. Delete it. Bury it. Then go out and hire a professional to create a video that is engaging in content and professionally filmed, edited and scored. It will pay for itself many, many times over in the revenues it generates for you.

Jim

The Per Finished Minute Rate MYTH

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What is with this per minute rate I keep getting asked about?

Of course I get phone call inquiries about how much a video will cost based upon project scope. It’s to be expected. But, occasionally, I will get the dreaded “What is your “per finished minute rate” question. It never fails to amaze me. Because there is no such thing.

“Hi Jim, I love your work, so I was wondering what is your per finished minute rate?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a per minute rate.” I always reply. “Production costs are not based upon time, but resources needed for completion. If you were to tell me a little more about your project- ”

This always results in the caller cutting me off mid sentence as they lecture me about how every firm has a per finished minute rate. Yet after a dozen years in the business I have never worked with, or known, any firm that has a per minute rate. Not one. Period.

Now some of you might be asking “What is the per finished minute rate?” The mythical per finished minute rate is “the cost per minute you can expect to pay for finished video.” For example a per finished minute rate of $1,000 would mean that to create a five minute video about your product or service would cost you $5,000.  i.e. 5 x $1,000 = $5,000. Now you might also be saying “That sounds like a wonderful formula!” And yes, it DOES sound like a wonderful formula. You simply decide how much money you want to spend and find the best per minute rate and hire them! But unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple.

If the per minute rate held any water then every movie made in Hollywood would cost exactly the same. After all, most movies are two hours long. So why is it that some movies cost tens, even hundreds of times more? Because the length of the movie has little bearing on the cost. It is the resources that it takes to create the movie. Video is no different.

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I’ll give you an example to illustrate my point. Let’s create a one minute video of your resort hotel. I could sit one of your clients down on a sun chair and film her talking about how much she loves your resort. She could give a wonderful testimonial for 60 seconds. Just her talking, nothing else. Boom! We’re done. Cost for that one minute? Peanuts.

Now instead of this boring “talking head video” let’s make this a video people will remember, and one that will have people calling your resort to book a room: As the woman is talking in the exact same 60 seconds, we add: a helicopter aerial shot of the property showing off the gorgeous grounds and amenities, and crashing waves on the beach. We then cut to scenes of the couple golfing, cut again to scenes of them having a romantic dinner in the restaurant, she and her husband are dancing afterwards at the nightclub, we see room service delivering them breakfast in bed the next morning illustrating just how romantic the night before was. We see the woman plunge into the pool and an under water camera shows her swimming in slow motion to her waiting husband who embraces her. Meanwhile the kids (what kids?) are having a great time in the arcade and hotel staff is pampering their every need, leaving Mom and Dad to have a great time.

By now I am certain you are saying “I get it, Jim.” As you can see that the length of a video has nothing whatsoever to do with what it took to fill that time. It is what happens DURING that time that determines what a project will cost due to the resources it takes to capture those images. Filming all those extra shots will take considerable time, planning, and execution, and YES expense. Yet the piece would still be the same length. So the length has no bearing on the cost.

I hope this helps to clear up a lot of the expense mystery of high level video and film production. Else this it just my 600+ word way of telling you not to call me and ask what my per finished minute rate is. 🙂

Cheers!

Jim

The Difference Between a Videographer and a Cinematographer

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In April 2010 I in was in Africa sitting at a table with a group I was going to film on a Safari adventure. The organizer, also my client, was telling everyone what they could expect on the trip. He then introduced me.

“Jim Ross, our cameraman extraordinaire, will chronicle our journey.” And then he added with a smile,  “Oh, and please don’t call him a videographer. Once you’ve seen his work you’ll understand why.”

I smiled and chuckled, because it has kind of become a joke with me and my clients. They know not to call me a videographer.  I am a cinematographer.

What do you picture when you hear the term “videographer”? Probably a fellow in a sport coat or golf shirt with a camera on a tripod shooting a wedding. Or standing at the back of a room video taping a speaker at the podium. Once upon a time I was a videographer. That was before I spent over 10 years studying, researching, reading. That was before I spent weeks and months learning from professionals on film sets and TV productions and working with other talented cinematographers every chance I could get.

Go to Best Buy, get a video camera, and stand there with your camera shooting for someone else and you too are a videographer. 99 out of 100 video production companies in this city are videographers. Anyone with a video camera in their hands is a videographer. But not everyone with a video camera in their hands is a Cinematographer.

The primary difference between a videographer and a cinematographer is the skill set that the latter has learned and honed through years of study and experience. I’m not saying videographers lack experience, I’m saying they lack experience or knowledge of how to shoot cinematically.

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Cinematically? What the heck does that mean? It means shooting as if for television or film- i.e. the cinema. Cinema is where the term cinematographer is derived from. There are many ways to shoot cinematically. Skills like lighting, camera composition, moving the camera, multiple camera angles, special effects – all work together to make the final production look different than a “video”.

Take lighting. My friends often ask me why their videos look like home movies even though they might have a really nice HD camera. I tell them the biggest difference is not the camera at all. It is how you light. Famous filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and James Cameron have said many times that lighting is EVERYTHING. A cinematographer lights the scene properly. This means controlling the light to enhance the look and feel. Most videographers just plop some lights down near the person they are filming and press record. Which is why their business videos looks like, well, a plain business video.

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Another major factor is how the camera is used. There is more to just setting up a tripod and hitting the record button. There is composition- how the shot is composed in the camera. Every shot can be framed in multiple ways that make it have more punch, more drama, and be more visually appealing. Rarely in a film or TV drama is a camera just set square in front of the talent, but this is how most videographers shoot.

Camera motion is another differentiator. In film and TV the camera moves. Whether on a crane, a jib, a dolly, a Steadicam  or what have you, the camera is moving a lot of the time. This is because a camera in motion is more effective visually. Cinematographers know when and how it is appropriate to move the camera. They also have the tools to do it well.

Now there is nothing wrong with being a videographer. Many times you don’t NEED a cinematographer. If you want to record someone on stage as he gives a speech, a videographer is what you need. Need a deposition for a law firm? Hire a videographer. Simple commercial of someone standing in front of your car dealership with a mic talking about the latest sale? A videographer will fit the bill. Daughter’s wedding? Videographer. (After all, do you really want me circling the bride and groom wearing a Steadicam rig as they give their vows? Nah.)

But don’t expect your videographer to be a cinematographer. Think about some memorable commercials you’ve seen that were really professionally shot. They were filmed by a cinematographer. If you want to portray your products and services in action and you want it to look like something from film, or at the least from the History Channel, Travel Channel, or other high quality production, then you need to have someone that knows how to do more than set up a tripod and some lights.

Now you might be asking “Do I need it to look that great?” The answer is “YES!” Of course you want it to look professional. A company video is all about instilling a desire to utilize your products or services. Any sales person from Zig Ziglar to Donald Trump will tell you it is all about getting someone involved emotionally with your offer. A professional video will do just that. An amateur video will have the reverse affect.

Make sure your video production portrays your company in the best light it possibly can.

Jim