Amazon Intant Video, CreateSpace, Aggregators and Episodic Content

{Update: You should now look into Amazon Video Direct. Fixes a lot of issues with Amazon instant Video.}

handy videoI’ve been looking for ways to get the episodes of Peculiar onto streaming sites. There are a few aggregators out there, but many require you to fork over several hundred dollars in order to have the content submitted. Then there is a chance it won’t be accepted.

One place that will take anything you submit is Amazon. If you send it, they take it. And Createspace offers a simple way to get your content online.

But it’s not perfect. The workflow of the Createspace submission is: Create a project, burn a DVD (!) and mail it to them. They rip it. They place it online and share the sales with you. Sorry, no Amazon Prime access for your content. That’s right, you must make a standard definition DVD of your video project and they will rip their file from that compressed mpeg2 file. There is no way to upload your content, and no way to sell HD content through Createspace.

But it is free and fairly simple.

If I had a movie I would probably have already just sent it in. But I have 10 episodes of a show.

When I asked about sending episodic content in, I was told they no longer allow that.

That seemed odd, since there are tons of TV shows grouped together as seasons on Amazon Instant Video. And from that phasing, Createspace used to allow indie producers to group their content together as well. So I asked why.

In true major company help desk fashion I had to ask three times. Every time I asked why they don’t allow indie producers to group episodes, I was told what they allowed. They said, that’s right, we don’t allow it. On the fourth try I finally got an answer.

It seems that some users ruined it for the rest of us. A few people were uploading movies broken into multiple parts, and asking customers to buy multiple installments. Customers complained. The hammer dropped. I personally think it’s a bit of overkill for what had to be a small problem, but it’s their company.

I was preparing to submit each semester of the show (6 episodes for the 1st, 4 episodes for the 2nd) as a separate movie, when I ran across a new aggregator. This one is called Kinonation. I’m still researching them, and waiting to hear back if they allow episodic content, but on the surface it seems like a good thing. no upfront fees, just a split on the backside. For a project that may not see huge sales to recoup lots of submission fees, this seems like a good deal. Oh, and the submissions are eligible for Amazon Prime.

So, I’m waiting to hear back, and ready to move toward online distribution of the show.


Peculiar Fundraising Update

cover supportWe have been in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign over at IndieGoGo for new episodes of my show, Peculiar.

We have 19 days left. We are 22% toward our goal. We passed the 2nd donation level… which means we released a 2nd Reveal Video. When we hit certain levels of donations, we reveal a little more about the new episodes. This one exposes a few of the themes for upcoming shows:

And in case you missed it, here is the first level Reveal Video:

So now you are up to date on the campaign! Next Reveal Video will be out when we hit $2000.

We need your help to make this happen. You can do something “Peculiar” and support Independent Christian TV! Even if you decide not to give any cash, you can use the tools on the page, right under the video, to share the campaign with your friends.

A Quick Pluraleyes 2 Review

So, since I’m in post production on my show with a truncated timetable, I wanted to get a program to speed up syncing all the video with audio. I had heard great things about Pluraleyes.

So I snagged a fully functional trial version. (I used Pluraleyes 2 because 3 wasn’t out yet. Looks like they released version 3.)

In a word: Awesome.

When I shot the pilot it took me 3 days to sync all the cameras and audio by hand. I synced 5 entire episodes in a day and a half. Really, it was more like 8 or 9 hours. I cannot tell you what a big deal this is. I can now be about the business of actually editing the scenes together.

I will be buying the retail version.

My workflow: Shoot with two HDSLRs and record audio to a Zoom H4n. Convert the h.264 raw files from the HDSLRs to Apple pro res 422 in Mpeg Stream Clip (trim and label each clip as I go). Import into Final Cut Pro 7. And now use Pluraleyes to sun two cameras and the Zoom audio.

Couple of warnings: You can push the program too far. If you have a lot of similar sounding clips, it can confuse the program. I had a few clips it just couldn’t sync. but they are easily placed by hand. It takes a lot less time to place a couple clips than to place them all.

Also, make sure your audio guy is rolling before the cameras start, and after they stop. If the audio is shorter than the video clips, you will end up with two synced videos and an unsynced audio clip. You can go back and placed the two video clips by hand, but it’s simpler if you just make sure the audio is rolling before and after each take. Plenty of pre- and post- roll on your audio tracks will help Pluraleyes do its job.

Caught in the Middle

I think I’m experiencing what many Christian filmmakers go through: The struggle between making the show you think you should make and making the show you think people will like/support with money/allow to be on their station and making the show somewhere in between.

I know, we shot the pilot for next to nothing. And the next 5 episodes will be shot for not a lot more. We have the capability to do that, but long term that’s not going to work. We have to come up with donors, investors or sponsors. Or some combination of the three.

It’s appealing to think about the established Christian TV model. Make a heartwarming, if somewhat cheesy, story attached to a non profit and watch the donations pour in. But that model is doomed. There’s some life left in it, but it’s not a long term solution. And really, who wants to make shows like that?

Or you could just do what you want. Don Miller and the people who made “Blue Like Jazz” did the movie they wanted. When I was watching I wasn’t sure I liked it. I really thought the main character was a coward. Then at the end, they totally got me. I finished the movie thinking this was the first Christian themed movie that a non Christian might watch without being coerced into it by their Christian friends. It had a lot of content that makes Christian movie watchers/makers uncomfortable: swearing, drugs and alcohol, and a main character who is a lesbian. And then it didn’t go on to condemn or show life transformation on all those people. We finish the movie with the lesbian still being a lesbian. Not a common Christian film.

Of course, it wasn’t accepted by a lot of Christian viewers. Not a big problem when you land distribution through a secular company. That would be a major problem for my show. We have the Youtube channel, but if we want to get broadcast, then we are looking at Christian TV. I don’t think many religious TV stations are going to broadcast anything close to Blue Like Jazz.

Of course, I’m not making Blue Like Jazz, or anything close to it. That’s not to say we are not dealing with issues that many TV shows shy away from. Last night we taped a scene which honestly answered questions about why God would send people to hell. One episode deals with sex and abortion. We’ve got bullying, cheating, politics, Christian sub-culture and even Halloween. But still, these are tame compared to Blue Like Jazz.

If you took Blue Like Jazz and put it on one end, and took the movie Courageous and put it on the other end, then placed my show in the spectrum in between. We would be so, so much closer to Courageous. Neither movie is bad, in my opinion, but both are aimed at different people. Both are telling different stories.

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with someone about the show, and I had to describe the target audience. I said my goal was to make a show that 13-25 year old believers wouldn’t be embarrassed to watch. One they could tell their friends about.

That means that I can’t be super safe, and make a bland story, following the traditional model of funding and distribution for Christian TV. I want to deal with real issues, and show real people. But I can’t move too far down the continuum or I won’t be able to utilize any of the existing distribution channels. So I’m caught in the middle. But we are getting the show done.

We are working to tell a good story. In doing so, we are showing what it means to really try to live out your faith in the world. We are putting on display the life of a new believer who is trying to develop a biblical worldview. It’s a lot of hard work. And when we are done I am sure that some will say we should have gone farther. And some will say we have gone too far. But in the meantime we are doing our best to tell a good story and follow God’s call on our lives.

First Days of the Rest of My Life

So, you may have been wondering how the last few days have been going. How has life been since I left my media pastor position, and started working on the show full time, picking up freelance gigs to pay the bills.

Well, the first few days After Church, or AC as I’ll refer to it in this post, were very busy. I spent three days running camera for a Christian women’s conference here in Orlando. Decent pay, but man, don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s a breeze to do that all day. The cameras were way back in the room, so we were running at the far end of the zoom for most of the event. You couldn’t breathe on them without shaking the image.

That kept me pretty busy, so really yesterday was the first full day of AC work specifically on the show. I finished up my weekly freelance job producing a small TV show, got everything uploaded and mailed. Then ran a couple of errands. I had a meeting where I developed some contacts for both future ministry with small churches as well as the show. And I worked on an executive summary package for fund raising.

Oh, and I made a trailer for the show. Not an iMovie one, a real one:

So, pretty busy day. Today, I need to get my car worked on, so I will do some work in the waiting room, then probably work on the Kickstarter project for the show. Life AC is full of stuff to do.