Scott Link Blog

New Project!

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this here, yet. I’ve been so busy with everything else, I’ve let you down. Here’s the deal. Some major news on the filmmaking front!

I’ve got a new major project. It’s a documentary film about competitive speech and debate. Here’s the pitch:

If My Judges Are Ready? is a documentary film project following a group of homeschool speech and debate competitors from Texas through the 2017-2018 season of competition as they work to reach and win the national tournament. The story is the personal struggle of each competitor to overcome their own limitations, perfect their pieces and navigate the tournament schedule in order to compete in the national tournament at the end of the season. More important than how they place is how they will grow and mature through the process. The film will give the audience a glimpse into the life of these competitors, show what it’s like to be in a club, to select content, practice and practice, be judged on performances, win, lose, and learn.

It’s a huge project. It will take a year to shoot and months to edit. But I’m excited to tell the story. Follow the link to the website to see production updates. Or sign up for my email list and get them right in your inbox!

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Sigma 19mm DN Art f2.8 Amazing Lens with a Video Auto Focus Problem.

The very first lens I bought for my Sony a6000 was the 19mm Sigma DN Art f2.8. For under $200 you get a lens that is super sharp. According to most reviewers, dollar for dollar, it outperforms the competition.

Flag over Washington (Half Mast)I have been very happy with it. I’ve taken some great pictures. On an APS-C sensor, the 19mm is a handy focal length for catching pictures of kids inside the house. It’s not too bad for wider landscapes. Or shots like the one above.

There is a problem, however, when you use it with AF turned on for video recording.

I didn’t notice it for a long time. If you’re running hand held, you might never notice it. On Youtube it’s not easy to see, unless you’re looking for it. And I wasn’t. The I pulled up the footage on my computer. How could I miss this?

But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t look at any footage on a tripod or slider without seeing it. What is it?

Here’s a video that shows the issue very clearly. Watch the edges:

Slowed down like this, the jitter on the edges of the frame is very visible. I pulled down a few videos I shot with it. (But not everything.) But every video I’ve checked has the issue. I’ve used the lens for several videos, but none were reviews of the lens. All were about something else, so I didn’t notice. they look fine where the center of focus is, where your attention is drawn. I don’t “pixel peep” with most of my gear. The center of the lens is sharp, and looks great. But with the autofocus on, the edges shake and jitter.

When I was researching this lens, every review was positive. I didn’t find one mention of this issue. Now there are a few posts about it. Some videos like the one above. I’d hate for someone who wanted this lens for video to not know about this issue, so I’m doing my part.

I love this lens for pictures. But I can’t recommend it for video.

Captioning for Amazon Video Direct (using Adobe Premiere)

I have previously written about Amazon Video Direct (AVD). It’s an awesome opportunity for indie filmmakers to get your content in front of a large potential audience, and it pays better than Youtube. For stand alone or episodic content, it’s a great outlet.

One thing might slow you down as you start to publish your videos on Amazon: Captioning.

Amazon Video requires that all content be captioned before they will publish it. Period. That can be a bit scary. A few years ago I paid about $2500 to a captioning/delivery house to caption and deliver 10 episodes (22:30 each) to a TV network. Now, they captioned the shows in both 708 and 608 captions, and delivered the files in HD to the network and gave me copies of the .scc 608 files so I could use them later. But still, $250 per episode. I’m making indie films with budgets less than that.

Luckily, Amazon suggests a few online captioning services which are much less expensive. One, Rev.com, offers captioning for $1 per minute and delivers in various formats. They can provide captions that are AVD compliant. They even have a free caption converter, should you need one. That means my 22:30 shows would cost about $23 for captioning for AVD.

Still, $23 is money you may not want to spend. What if you want to make your own? You can, but Amazon is very finicky about their files. I will share what I have learned. I have 1 season (10 episodes) of a show and 2 short films available right now, with 1 more short film in review. (Now published)

Adobe Premiere has the ability to create and export closed caption files. But getting a caption file that AVD likes is not simple. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Create a 608 Caption file. Premiere will do 708 files, but Amazon does not seem to like these 708 files. I have only had success with 608 files exported from Adobe for Amazon. Premiere can even import existing .scc files, allowing you to edit them.

Export .scc or .srt. When exporting your video file for upload, export a sidecar caption file as either an .scc or .srt. If you have content that is 29.97 use the .scc format, otherwise use the .srt. AVD says they will take an .stl file, which Premiere will export. But I’ve not had any luck using that format.

If you’re lucky, that’s all you need to do. Just upload and publish.

For my last short film I was not lucky. I was exporting a 23.976 fps file using .srt, and I could not get AVD to accept it. It was exactly like a previously accepted caption file for a previous short film. What was the problem? After trying multiple files over multiple days, I was frustrated. I turned up this post in the Adobe Community Forums. Scrolling through I found 2 solid things to try.

1. The timecode of your captions cannot overlap the same frame.

In Premiere you can see where one caption ends and another begins. Here’s a screen shot from premiere of my latest short film:

If the 1st caption you see ends at 00:00:20:08 and the next captions starts at 00:00:20:08, AVD has a problem with that file. So you need to go through all your captions and make sure none of them overlap.

2. Remove extra content.

During the exchange in the post in the Adobe Forum “Joshb88988268” says, “open the .SRT file with notepad and do a search for this: or the word font color. Delete any that pop up.”

As a mac user I found a free program called Brackets and was able to open the .srt file. Sure enough there were 2 lines with the tag and some extra info about “font color”. I deleted those lines and hit save. My captions in the code editor looked like this:

No extra tags or words. Just number of caption, timecode, and caption content. Brackets should also be able to open a .scc file.

So far that seems to have worked. At this point I have to ask myself, if I’m uploading a 4 minute short film, is it worth spending $4 to bypass all this effort? It might be. But since I have the captions done, I would like to be able to use them.

[Update: while I was typing this post, Amazon has begun approving my video. Looks like the latest captions with these changes worked.]

What to Do When a Copyright Claim is Initated on Your Youtube Video For Music You Have the Right to Use

If you use music from royalty free libraries or websites on videos for your Youtube channel, there is a high likelihood that you will eventually get an email with the subject “[Youtube] A copyright claim was submitted for content in…”

Don’t panic. It’s not personal. No one is targeting you. And while it’s annoying to be accused of stealing music, the Content ID system is automated.

Here are the steps to fixing this.

Read the email. In most cases you are in no danger of having your channel shut down, or even seeing the video take down. Most of the time the claimant just places ads on your video and has the money sent to their account. That’s an annoyance, but any money that is collected while the claim is in place will revert back to your account once it’s removed. Still, I normally take the video out of public view, setting it to “unlisted” so only people with a link can see it.

Note the content that has been claimed. Who is making the claim, etc… Is it AdRev? If so, then your dispute process is very easy.

Check your content. Do you in fact have the rights to use it? I’m sure you do. But dig out the library you took the music from, find the name of the track. If you can find the receipt, even better.

Research the claimant and the company making the claim. Every single time I have been flagged for copyright on my monetized videos it has been an individual making a fraudulent claim through a 3rd party. There is a guy in Denmark or somewhere that has claimed dozens of tracks from Digital Juice‘s library, and he uses AdRev to make copyright claims online. He does not own the content.

The last claim I had was from a Canadian using a French Canadian company, so much of the communication was in French. (Thank goodness for Google Translate.) This gentlemen had exported a Digital Juice audio track and added ambient waterfall and bird noise. Then he put that track on an album that is available through iTunes and Spotify. His record company was policing the content they think he owns. So a video using the same track (which I purchased from Digital Juice just like he did.) was claimed.

Contact the company making the claim. You’re first instance will be to start a dispute through the YouTube process. That process can take 30 days. And YouTube is just acting as the intermediary between you and the company. I normally go to the company first, and then start a dispute in a few days. I find that the claims are released wishing a few days.

If the claim was made by AdRev, just go to their website, and scroll to the bottom and click “contact us.” They get so many emails about this they have their contact page set up to hear your dispute. They have now added a place to upload a copy of the license for the music in question. in the past, regarding the Digital Juice tracks, I have just explained the origin of the music and reminded them that the person making the claim does not in fact own the copyright. They know this, they have heard it many times. But they still keep him as a customer and make fraudulent claims against legally used music. In every case so far (so far) the claim has been released within 24 hours. I have had to dispute music like this over a dozen times with AdRev. (One caveat, if you are using a MusicBed track, the account rep from MusicBed must contact them, otherwise they won’t release the claim.)

In other cases, with different companies, I have simply emailed and explained the mistake. I outlined where the music in question was taken from, what library and what track title. I explained the rights to use the music as it was in the video had been purchased from the company owning the library. And pointed out that the person making the claim did not in fact own the rights or have the legal right to claim the music as his own work. And asked for the claim to be released.

In the case of the Canadian, I also pointed out the differences in the audio. I had not used all of the stems from the Digital Juice tracks, and had not added the ambient noise. It was literally impossible for me to have stolen his recording and used it in my idea. the audio in my video did not actually match his. The claim was released the same day.

File a dispute through Youtube. I almost always file a dispute through the Youtube process if the claim is not released after the initial contact. Once you file a dispute, the company making the claim has 30 days to respond. If they don’t respond, the claim is removed. If they do respond and do not release the claim… well, I’ve never had that happen.

Every single time I have ever contacted a company and explained where I got the music and why I legally have the right to use it, the claim has been released. According to Youtube, if the claim is not released, you can appeal. There is another 30 day period. If the appeal is rejected a 2nd time, and the claimant requests a takedown of the video your account will get a copyright strike.

Most of the time you won’t get to this level. I never have. You can find horror stories online, but normally companies are not that difficult to deal with.

For whatever reason, some people think that buying Royalty Free music and using it in some sort of creative work means they have the exclusive right to use the track. They don’t, but their misunderstanding means you may have annoying claims on your videos. Stay calm, and politely state your case. Most of the time you can get them released without too much trouble.

Why I Entered the Rode Reel Competition Even Though I Don’t Expect to Win- And Why You Should, Too

The Rode Reel short film competition is one of the largest in the world. Entries from 88 countries are all under 3 minutes long and must have been shot using a Rode microphone. In 2017 the prizes total over $500,000. If you watch finalists from previous years, many of them are just amazing looking, amazing sounding.

How can you or I, average independent filmmakers, compete? Why should we enter if we probably won’t win?

Perfecting your craft. Experience always teaches you. I made my first actual short documentary film. I learned a ton in the process and got to experiment with a new genre. Every project you complete has the potential to help you learn and improve. Do you think those Rode Reel finalists just woke up and magically were amazing filmmakers? No, they worked and worked. This is a chance for you to become a better filmmaker.

Exposure. We all have a sphere of influence. We have an existing audience, whether it’s just family and friends or something larger. But entering the Rode Competition will expose your work to potentially thousands of new viewers. Viewers who will meet you for the first time, who might find your social media contacts, who might subscribe to your channels. Viewers who could be fans of your work. And those viewers are available for free.

Free T shirt. And maybe more. If you’re among the first 1500(?) entries Rode will send you a nifty Rode Reel T shirt. Sometimes they throw in some of their small products. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

Deadline. Most of all, committing to enter places a real deadline in front of you. Talk is cheap. If you are actually a real filmmaker, what films are you making? A deadline puts a real goal in place. I wanted to enter last year, but I never committed. So I never entered.

So, want to see my entry?

You can watch it here: https://www.rode.com/myrodereel/watch/entry/3102 Hope you enjoy it. If you did, please take a minute and put in a vote for the People’s Choice award.

Before I submitted my film, I watched some of the finalists for that category in 2016. They were awesome. None of them were telling a story of an event. They were more like showcases, testimonies with nice B Roll. After completing my Rode Reel entry, I know why.

Trying to tell an actual story in 3 minutes, a non scripted story, is extremely hard. My film has a beginning, middle and an end. (Spoilers) There’s a mid point crisis and turn into the 3rd Act. But it all happens in 3 minutes. So it’s fast. I cut so much good stuff out I’m seriously considering an expanded version at a later date.

It’s not perfect, but it isn’t terrible either. And I can guarantee my next documentary will be better because of what I learned doing this one.

[Image courtesy of Greenleaf Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

6 things I Learned Shooting My First Short Documentary Film

I’ve been working on a short documentary about my son’s last speech and debate tournament, specifically focused on the Team Policy debates in which he competed. It was a guerrilla style shoot. I had permission to shoot his teammate, but no one else. I could not disrupt the competition any more than any parent with a camera might. No extra lights. No extra people. Just capturing the event in real time with my Sony a6000, 3 prime lenses, and a Rode Smartlav+ microphone recorded into my phone. It was a true Run & Gun situation. Here are a few things I learned…

Story. Doing an actual documentary is different than most of the work I’ve done. I know how to shoot and edit a testimony video, but that’s not a documentary. Before the tournament, I spent time mapping out the structure of the short film. While I didn’t know what would happen, I did know the sequence of events, so I laid out the possible plan and tried to capture the actual events as they happened. As the tournament progressed, I could see how things would fit into my traditional story structure.

Pack Light. Because I was a one man crew, everything I needed was with me, all the time. I had gone through my gear, and left much of it at home. But I was still carrying around a medium sized camera backpack. And I still had gear I didn’t need. In order to grab my camera for a quick shot, I had to take off the backpack lay it down somewhere, open it up and pull out the camera. To downsize a bit more, and make access to gear a bit faster, I just ordered a camera sling bag. It’s large enough to carry a camera and a couple of lenses, etc… But smaller than a back pack and you can sling the bag around to the front, and access the gear on the run.

Invest in a zoom. Lens swapping is a pain. And real life doesn’t wait.

When shooting on a set, there is always time to swap out a lens. In between takes, you can switch over to a different focal length of the super fast prime you have. But in a documentary shoot, people aren’t waiting. Life is happening, the event is going on. Not only do you have a chance to miss the shot, but you might also disrupt the very event you’re trying to capture. During one debate round I was using my 19mm lens, and wanted a tighter shot. I was so nervous that opening my camera bag would be noticed by the competitors. I hope that didn’t happen, I tried to be so quiet. With a zoom, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Which zoom? On the Sony E Mount system, the reach and quality of the 18-105 F4 G series (SELP18105G) would seem to be a good fit. The longest lens I had with me was a 50mm, and I was wishing for longer options. It’s a constant aperture. I wish it was a bit faster, but it would only be a problem in the most dim rooms. I found that most of the time I was shooting f3.5 to 5.6. Of course the ISO was almost always at 1600 in the classrooms. Assuming I can continue to push the ISO that high, losing a couple of stops of light might be a decent trade off for the extra length. But at $500+, it’s out of reach for now.

Another option would be to adapt an older zoom of similar reach. You can often find vintage 35-105mm zooms for cheap. Just read the reviews on each one and make sure you have the proper adapter. Of course, you give up all automatic functions with these. I just ordered a Vivitar (Made by Koburi) 35-105mm f3.2-4 Macro lens for $26, shipped. I already own the right camera mount adapter. It won’t be as sharp or easy to use as the Sony 18-105mm. And I wish it was a constant aperture, but I’m hopeful it can fill the gap until I can swing the money. I’m sure I will still carry the 19mm and 35mm primes I have, but the 35-105mm could be my go to glass for future shoots.

A shotgun mic would help. Prior to the event I though I had worked out how to use a small shotgun (Rode VideoMicro) and record it into my phone. My goal was small footprint. I did not want to call attention to myself. I didn’t want to set up a full size shotgun with an external recorder. I tested the small shotgun, and would have sworn that I had the cabling worked out. But the day before the event I was charging batteries, and set up the mic to test it once more, and discovered that it was not passing signal. I needed a special cable to convert the TRS connection to a TRRS for the phone input. (Rode sells one: the SC7). I didn’t have time to get the proper adapter, so I punted. I ended up using the omni directional Smartlav+ to record audio. And, while it’s not as good as… pretty much any directional microphone at a distance, it was a lot better than the on camera mic. With some post work, some of the audio will be usable. But a shotgun mic would have been a huge help.

A camera with an audio input would help. My a6000 is a solid mirrorless camera. But it isn’t perfect, and one of the flaws is that it lacks an external audio input jack. While I would probably still use the Smartlav+ with my phone, having an on camera shotgun, recording directly into the camera would be good. Even if the small shotgun had worked, mounting the mic to my camera and then extending the cable to my phone would have been awkward at best. A much simpler solution would be to shoot on a camera that actually has the ability to record external audio. Of course the simple solution costs hundreds of dollars.

Get permission. I mentioned that this was a guerrilla style shoot. I got verbal permission from the judges in the room, and competitors. But the competitors are minors. So in order to actually use the footage I shot I cannot show any faces of minors since I don’t have permission from parents. They cannot be recognizable. I won’t identify the location, or even the organization. I knew that going in, so I shot accordingly. It would have been infinitely better to have the written permission from the event organizers, the location, and every parent of every student in each round. That wasn’t feasible for this project. In the future, I want to do more to get permissions, so I won’t be as constrained on the shoot.

As I’m closing in on the final edits of the project, I’m fairly well satisfied with it. Assuming I do similar projects later what I’ve learned with help make them even better.

[Image courtesy of Greenleaf Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

The Promise of Christmas: Rod and Root of Jesse

[2nd and last part in a series called “The Promise of Christmas” that looks at less well known prophecies about Jesus’ birth.]

When is the last time a small child ran up to the manger in your local nativity scene and exclaimed, “Look, dad, it’s the rod that came from the stem of Jesse!”?

I’m guessing it doesn’t happen very often. In Isaiah 11 we find this prophecy about the coming of the Messiah:

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Is 11:1 ESV

rodstumpThe KJV says “rod” from the “stem” of Jesse. The word for stem is “geza” and it means stump. The rod or shoot is a sapling. You may have been walking in the woods and seen a stump of a tree that has been cut down. Sometimes, from that stump, new trees will spring up.

In it’s most basic sense, the prophecy is fulfilled in the genealogy of Jesus, found in the first chapter of Matthew.

Matt 1:6
“and Jesse the father of King David.”

Also see Acts 13.

Acts 13:22-23
“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.”

Jesse was father of King David. Jesus was a descendant from the line of David.

But what does it mean? A new tree springing from the stump of an old tree? To understand it, we need to look back at how Israel got its first king.

In 1 Samuel 8 Israel demanded a king. It had never been part of God’s plan for them to have a king. At the end of the time of judges, the elders of Israel complained to Samuel that his children were not fit to be judges. They took bribes and perverted justice. So they rejected the judges and asked for a king. One of the reasons given was so they can be “like other nations” even though Israel was never supposed to be like other nations.

After Saul, it was David who became king. He was the greatest king Israel would ever have. But the monarchy that came through Jesse failed. By the end of Solomon’s reign, things were going downhill fast. Israel split, and Rehoboam ruled Judah like a dictator, and the Northern kingdom never had another godly king. A little over 700 years before Christ’s birth, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians. Around 600 years before Christ, Judah fell to the Babylonians.

2 Kings 24 records how Jesse’s tree was cut down, leaving a stump. God protected a remnant, and from this remaining part of Israel, Jesus comes.

Why is it a stump? We know that’s what did happen, but why? Why not from a healthy tree? Why was the kingdom of David’s line destined to fall?

Part of the reason is because the Law leads to death. People are imperfect, and we cannot live the life required of us without Christ. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:

Romans 7:10-11
” I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”

So is the Law bad? Paul answers this as well in the same chapter. and ends up describing the war within ourselves, as sin and holiness fight.

Romans 7:21-25
” So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

No matter what happened to Israel as a nation, humanity would always need a savior. Not just Israel, but all of humanity. Imagine what would have happened if the kingdom of Israel had stood. The Messiah would have come, and literally been born into the earthly throne of David. Jesus Christ isn’t the king of Israel, he is the King of Kings and Lord of all. (Revelation 17:14) His purpose isn’t to rule and earthly kingdom, but to make a way for humanity to be reconciled to God.

Look later in Isaiah 11:

Is 11:10- 12
” In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush,from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”

The Messiah is also the root of Jesse. Jesus was born a man in the line of David, Jesse’s son, but he has always existed, and as Col 1:16 reminds us, Jesus created all things, including Jesse and his line of descendants. Revelation 22:16 also shows Jesus referring to himself as the root and offspring of David, Jesse’s son.

In verse 11 of Isaiah 11 the Lord reclaims his Remnant. It’s through the work of the Messiah that the people of Israel can be reclaimed. The Hebrew word for “reclaim” can also be translated “redeem”. It refers to something you pay for, or get in exchange for labor or payment. Jesus Christ is the redeemer.

From this rod of Jesse, a branch that bears fruit. Think about the cycle of plant life. Seeds grow into a plant, the plant reaches maturity and fruit is produced. Within that fruit are more seeds. It’s the beginning of new life.

The Old Covenant, the Promise of Christmas, the Promise made to Abraham, matures in the coming of Christ. And in him are the seeds of new life, the New Covenant.

The Law is the measuring stick that lets us know we have sinned. Because the Law exists, we know we need a savior. The Law shows us the no earthly kingdom can succeed in fulfilling the purpose of Christ’s coming. It is not through allegiance to Israel or a king on earth that salvation comes. Jesus is a different kind of king.

Make no mistake, the coming of Christ seals the fate of those who refuse to follow God. It is the fulcrum upon which everyone will be judged.

Matthew 25:31-33
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left.”

And he is judging the people of every nation, not just one. God didn’t plan for Israel to need a King, but they wanted one. They didn’t understand God’s plan. Centuries later when the Messiah finally came, most of Israel didn’t recognize him because he did not come as an earthly King, but as a spiritual one. The wise men went to Herod first because kings are never born in smelly stables. His birth doesn’t make sense if we expect him to be an earthly king.

Why was there a sapling from the stump of Jesse? What is the purpose of Christ’s coming?

Luke 19:10 says it plainly-
” For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”

It is this action that fulfills the promise we talked about in the first part of this series. It is his nature that enables him to do the work, and accomplish his purpose. No one else could do it.

The Messiah is not an earthly king, he does not act like we expect kings to act. This king came to earth in a manger, in a smelly stable. His kingdom will not pass away, but will endure for ever and ever.

The King of Kings humbled himself:

Philippians 2:8
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

The King of Kings- who will sit on his throne and judge us all, the greatest of all rulers, through out time- humbled himself, and did the work that only he could do. Fulfilling the promise made to Abraham, he made a way back to a right relationship with God. Only he is the root and the rod of Jesse.

Merry Christmas indeed.

The Promise of Christmas: Seed of Abraham and Isaac

manger-hero-980x380[This post is more ministry than media related, but I hope you will enjoy it.]

If you have been around church at Christmas time you always hear about the virgin birth, and being born in Bethlehem, etc… But when was the last time you heard some one point to the manager and exclaim, “Look, it’s Isaac’s seed!” It’s not often that churches focus on prophecies that describe Jesus as the Seed of Abraham, Seed of Isaac, and Jesus being the way that all nations would be blessed through Abraham.

To be honest, normally when I think about biblical prophecies surrounding Jesus, whether from birth or life, I normally focus on the part where Jesus fulfilling them helps to prove he was who he said he was, and is who we believe him to be. But, while the prophecies do that, they are made for a reason, and in a time period. They have meaning and context. They have significance that spans eternity . I thought it would be interesting to see what the significance of some of these other, less well known Christmas prophecies were.

1. Seed of Abraham.

I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you.  And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:7-8
 In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed… Genesis 22:17-18

On the surface, this prophecy is fulfilled in the 1st chapter of Matthew that records the genealogy of Christ, and lists Abraham as an ancestor. Galatians 3 goes further:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed who is Christ. And I say this: The law, which came 430 years later, does not revoke a covenant that was previously ratified by God and cancel the promise.  For if the inheritance is from the law, it is no longer from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise. Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. Gal 3:16-19a

This was a promise made by God to Abraham. A promise made before the Law was given. God is establishing the Covenant here. This is the Old Covenant in the Bible. He promises to multiply Abraham’s descendants, and he promises that a seed from Abraham would bless all the nations of the earth.

In many ways the Bible is the story of how God kept this promise to Abraham.

Before this, there was no Israel, no Jewish religion. Abraham didn’t join an existing organization. He heard God’s voice, and responded. Through this man’s line of descendants God eventually brought Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus, who truly blesses every nation by offering a way back into relationship with God. It is the Seed of Abraham that fulfills God’s promise.

2. Seed of Isaac.

“Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. Genesis 17:19

Again,  Matthew 1 provides the surface fulfillment of this prophecy.

At first I didn’t think much about this. It seemed like a simple continuation of the promise God had made to Abraham. God promised Abraham would have descendants like the stars. That promise is continued through Isaac. Then I remembered that Abraham had another son…

He first had a child called Ishmael through Sarah’s servant Hagar. But God was clearly saying that it was through Isaac, not Ishmael, that the covenant continued. Paul wrote in Romans about this:

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Romans 9:6-9

Though Abraham’s “ill conceived” (bad dad joke) son had his blood, Ishmael was not the line from which God would bring the Messiah. For the very first time, God is saying that it is not blood that maintains the covenant. It’s not simply a physical thing. There is something more to the promise.

(On a side note, Abraham and Sarah did not trust God, and tried to do things their own way. Then when God worked according to his own timing and Isaac was born, they cast out Hagar and Ishmael. Islam, one of the fastest growing religions in the world, claims the seed of Ishmael. They reference Genesis 21 where God said he would make a nation out of Hagar’s child, and trace their start back to Abraham’s first born son. What if Abraham and Sarah had fully trusted God? Would Islam still exist? Or if it did, would it be a different sort of faith? Those are questions we can’t answer. But we do know that sometimes our decisions can have impact for generations.)

Why is this prophecy important? This is the first time we see that the relationship with God is not tied to the physical blood in our bodies. Romans specifically says it’s not about “physical descent”. Not every person with Abraham’s blood is included in the “promise”. And conversely, as we see in the New Covenant, the promise given to Abraham is not limited to just Jews. Jesus. who is the Seed of Isaac, makes a way for people to be included in the Promise, regardless of blood.

3. Blessing to all nations.

Referenced in Genesis 22, but earlier mentioned here:

Then the Lord said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham?  Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him.” Genesis 18:17-19

The book of Acts records how this was fulfilled:

 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.  Acts 3:25-26

This prophecy happens right in the middle of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. God wants to tell Abraham what he is about to do to those sin filled cities. Both the Genesis and Galatians passages reference the behavior of those who will come after Abraham. How will the promise be kept? The children of Abraham will follow God’s ways. How will nations be blessed? Each person will turn from their evil ways. And in Genesis 18 God is about to wipe out two cities to make sure this happens.

We look at this through the glasses of a modern history where Jesus has already come and changed the world. It offends our sensibilities to think that anyone could just decree such death, but God is the only being that has the right to do it. God is the judge of who lives and who dies. He can judge everyone because of who he is. Even so, God relented when Abraham asked him to spare the cities if he could find just 10 righteous men. But there weren’t even 10 righteous men.

So why did God do this? Because Sodom and Gomorrah were sinful. But also, because God wanted to keep Abraham and his children on the right path. God obviously doesn’t destroy every haven of sin in the world. Look at Chapter 19. Lot had already begun to slip away, moving from the outskirts of the city to being a city leader. Later in the chapter, the influence of Lot raising his family there can be seen when his own daughters chose to get their father drunk, after the fall of Sodom and death of their mother, and lay with him (so they could bear children), rather than trust God would provide.

Throughout history God has taken extraordinary measures to preserve Israel until the birth of Christ. God protected his people, the line of Abraham, the descendants of Isaac. Even in exile, there was always a remnant. Why? Because through this line the salvation of the entire world comes. The entire world, all nations. Not just Israel, not just those tied to Abraham by blood. But all nations will be blessed by the promise God made to Abraham.

God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and protected Abraham’s descendants throughout history, so that they could keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, and the promise would be fulfilled.

ALL the nations of the earth. Jesus is for all, the GOSPEL is for all.This is the first time we see that God desires that every person in every nation be reconciled to God. This is only a prophecy related to Jesus birth because it is through Jesus that all have the opportunity to be saved, to be blessed. All families of the earth can be blessed if they will turn from their evil ways.

How serious is the “All” ? Christ’s return will not happen until all nations have heard.

Matt 24:14″This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.

So here are these 3 prophecies, all tied together. All made thousands of years ago. Look at the progression:

  1. The fulfillment of the great promise God made to Abraham is the coming of Jesus Christ. (The Seed of Abraham)

  2. Being part of the promise God made is not tied to a physical relationship (bloodline), it is a spiritual state. (The Seed of Isaac)

  3. All people can be a part of the promise God made to Abraham through the work of Jesus Christ, if you will turn from your evil ways. (All nations will be blessed)

Has God kept his promise to Abraham?

There are 2.2 Billion Christians in the world today. There have been billions who have come before now. As that kids song says, father Abraham truly did have many sons. But there are more “nations”, more people-groups to be reached.

Are you a part of the promise? I’m not asking if you’re Jewish, or a member of a church. That’s not what the Bible says is required to be a part of the promise:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:26-29

The only determining factor: Do you belong to Christ?

How can we be part of this blessing? Belong to Christ. That happens by acknowledging that your sin has separated you from God, and that there’s nothing you can do to fix that relationship. But, if you believe that God sent the Seed of Abraham and Isaac down through the centuries of time to make a way back to himself, through his son Jesus Christ, and you are willing to accept that and turn away from your evil ways as described in Acts 3, then you can be a part of the promise, you can belong to Christ.

3 prophecies made thousands of years ago, foretelling the coming of Christ, and the fulfillment of a promise God made to Abraham. And we can be blessed, and be a part of it.

Will the Karma be the Death of GoPro?

Last week GoPro recalled all 2500 of its Karma drones because they might randomly lose power and fall to the ground. There’s no doubt that a recall of this magnitude on it’s first attempt at a new market is bad.

Is GoPro doomed because of this? Massive recall. Major embarrassment. Major hit to the brand.

GoPro makes small HD sport cameras and tons of accessories. That’s what they are known for. They are like Kleenex or the defunct Flip camera. Their product name defines the device class. People buy cheap “GoPros” from China. No matter who makes the sport camera, people call it a “GoPro”.

GoPro owns the small sport camera market.

Unfortunately the recall comes shortly after other bad news:

“It was the second negative announcement coming out of wearable camera maker: a few days before GoPro reported declining sales and immense underperformance. Sales were down 40% compared to the same time in 2015.”

Flip died because they saturated the market and never really improved on their product. Other cameras/phones ate up what little market they had. My iPhone 5 was a better Flip camera than Flip ever made.

You can see GoPro trying to break into this new market as well as trying to improve the main thing they sell. That’s great for cameras and maybe even stabilizers, but the drone market is really full right now. it’s very competitive.

When the Karma was announced many people thought it would be “the” $1000-ish drone to buy. It had some cool features and you could take the stabilizer off and use it hand held.

Then DJI dropped the Mavic Pro announcement. And reports  Karmas were having issues started to surface. The reviews of the drone were not great. Drifting, gimbal tilt and other complaints began to circulate.

Turns out, people who buy a drone want it to work as advertised. The stabilizer and ability to use the camera on other things is great, but if the drone doesn’t work right… and now is recalled… It’s bad.

What’s next for GoPro?

According to their website they still plan to sell the Karma after they fix things:

“GoPro is committed to providing our customers with great product experiences. To honor this commitment, we have recalled Karma until we resolve a performance issue related to a loss of power during operation. We plan to resume shipment of Karma once the issue is addressed.”

It’s important to note, this isn’t a “send it in and get it repaired” recall. This is a “return for full refund” kind of recall. This is also a “We will give you a free Hero5 Black for your trouble” kind of recall.

They are serious about getting these back and giving everyone a Hero 5 Black. A free GoPro camera will go a long way to soothe hurt feelings. But it won’t fix the trust issues with the drone. And if the financials indicate the market for GoPro’s main product are slowing, they need a new market fast.

They can’t just fix the Karma, they need a new Karma that’s a “Mavic-killer” out within a year. Or they need some other new product. Otherwise, GoPro might become the next Flip.

Getting Paid via Amazon Video Direct

IMG_7243I got my first very small payment from Amazon Video Direct. It’s small because of my content, not because of anything Amazon did. I see people complain about the $75k limit Amazon imposes on their payments. I would love to have the problem of hitting that limit. If you have a film that is generating that much revenue, you don’t need to be on Amazon Video Direct, you need a different (larger) distribution option. But for most of us, this is just fine.

But I got paid. And I got paid more than I did on Youtube. On Amazon I have a total of 13 videos, all dramatic content. No DIY or how to videos. I have over 100 videos on 2 accounts over at Youtube. Those 13 videos in the month of June earned more than the 100 on Youtube. The next month was even better, so I will see a “larger” small payment. The July payment will be larger than any month ever in Youtube payments. Part of that is because this content is new to a new audience.

The evidence from these past few months is that the Amazon outlet has the potential to bring in more even than Youtube, in general. If you can generate short content on a consistent basis, you could see a steady stream of small payments. The video that has been watched more than any other in my library is a 2 minute comedy short. I have no idea how people are finding it. I have promoted the others to my network more than this one. But it is, organically, doing better.

It’s a bit of a hassle to jump through the hoops to get content on AVD, but it looks to be a real outlet to get your content in front of another audience, and to get paid something for it.