Just a Few Hours Left in the Crowdfunding Campaign

Less than 7 hours until my crowdfunding campaign ends.

To be frank this one has been tough. I put in more work setting this one up than any of the previous ones. I had the “large” donors set up to drop their donations in the first few days. And I had built relationships in communities that will be the target audience for the finished movie.

When the campaign launched, I had several large donations come in. But almost zero small donations. When I did the campaigns for my TV show I had lots of small donations and almost no large ones. A couple of the communities I was in were a bust. I don’t know what happened to the rest.

But a few larger donations have come in outside the campaign. I am under $500 away from reaching the goal.

It’s not likely that I will reach it, but I will have enough to make the film, and tell these stories. Later, I will try to figure out how I misread my audience so much.

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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.]

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]

Churches Should Produce Non Traditional Religious Programming

MY showI used to work for a church that has been on the air with a traditional TV program for over 5 decades. In the Orlando metroplex, they reach about 100,000 viewers per week with their Christian program. It consists of a song or two from the service, and the message from the pastor. It is a fairly traditional church television program. When I was on staff a few years ago and had access to the data, I saw that we were reaching a predominately older crowd (75% of viewers were over age 55.) It was, and still is, a good work and it ministers to a lot of people in central Florida.

And because of the nature of non profit educational license religious channels and networks, there will always be a need for preaching/teaching shows in Christian TV. But those shows will continue to reach older, religious audiences. And will continue to not reach younger ones.

What if you took the money used to produce the program and buy airtime, and used it to produce programming that appeals to younger audiences? The churches I’ve worked for with TV programs spent between $30,000 and $250,000 on airtime purchases every year. Plus they had one or more staff people who were primarily focused on producing the content for the program every week. Conservatively estimating salary, taxes, insurance, etc… let’s say $50,000 annually.  That’s quite a bit of money in the indie production world.

What if you invested that money into creating video content that reflected a biblical world view, but wasn’t a traditional worship service/preaching program? What if it was something that told a story and, like a parable, taught truth at the same time?

Who would it be for?

People who don’t watch traditional religious programming. More specifically, find a target demographic in a group pf potential audiences members that don’t already consume traditional religious programming.

According to Pew Research, Older Americans watch more religious TV. Younger Americans are engaging in religious content online.

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Young audiences watch a lot of video content. 18-24 year olds still watch over 16 hours of TV per week, but that number is declining. The TV that they do watch is not traditional Christian TV programming. And they are increasingly watching video online. The older the demographic is, the more broadcast TV they watch.

We don’t need shows that target the 65 year old Christian, we already have those. We need churches to develop programs targeted at younger audiences that do not already watch religious programming.

How much would it cost?

The cost depends on what sort of show you are making. I’m most familiar with narrative programming. But you could do other sorts of shows that are not preaching/teaching/worship based.

If you do narrative, obviously, your church probably won’t be paying scale for actors and crew. Most of the people involved will be doing it as a ministry project. But unless you have no money at all, you should try to pay people something. I’ve done a show for no money before. It can be done, but it’s not sustainable long-term.

What if you could come up with $100 per day for the main cast and crew? That’s not scale, and there would be taxes taken out, etc… but $100. I have generally been able to shoot an episode in 4 days or less. If you have 4 main actors, and a crew with director, camera, audio and PA, you are looking at $800 per day. $3200 per episode. Plus any gear, additional actors, insurance, food, etc… $5000-5500 per episode. That may seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to what network programming costs per episode.

At $5500, a 6 episode run would cost $33,000. 13 episodes would cost $71,500. This is assuming someone on your church’s staff is writing and producing the program, filling in the show running duties. And someone on staff would be doing the post work as well. One person cannot do it all, so you will need some help. Filmmaking and TV production is a team sport. Bare bones, on a shoe-string, you could make 6-13 episodes of a show for less than the cost of air time and a staff position in many markets. Other kinds of show may cost more or less depending on what all is involved in creating them.

How would people see it?

You just spent your airtime budget on production. How is anyone going to see it?

-Christian TV is begging for narrative content.

Literally begging because they can’t/won’t pay for it, but also begging because they want it badly.

It’s tempting to ignore broadcast television altogether. But even though the number is dropping, according to Accenture Digital Consumer survey, over half of TV shows and movies are still watched on TV. So it’s not a horrible place to be. And given the state of the religious TV market, you could have your show broadcast around the world for free. You might even get a little bit of money back to go toward the production of the program. One network my show was on was able to cover the cost of closed captioning. Traditional Christian programs have to purchase air time, but non traditional ones have a lot of effective, free options for broadcast.

Putting a Christian TV show on a Christian network is not way to reach the masses. The vast majority of viewers are Christians. I know that isn’t surprising, but I want to be clear that a program on Christian TV will be mostly seen by Christians. That’s OK, discipleship is something the church should be doing, and this is an avenue to disciple believers beyond the walls of your building.

You can produce programming that might appeal to non Christians, and broadcast it through non religious outlets, but it will cost more. Be sure to count the cost before you head down this road. There might be ways to mitigate those costs, but there will be costs.

-The internet is free.

It’s also very big. You cannot just throw a video on Youtube and expect it to reach thousands of people. If you have a video that has been seen by over 100 people, then you are in the top 30% of all Youtube videos. 300 hours of content is uploaded every minute! Youtube is massive. It’s the 2nd largest search engine, behind Google. So, most content is not seen by a lot of people. In order to be effective online you must have a marketing strategy. You need to develop an audience.

As a church you have a great foundation in your own congregation. Not only should you be mobilizing them to watch, but mobilize them to be encouraging their sphere of influence to watch as well. Last year my church did a campaign to get people to share their testimony through social media. It was not as successful as we had hoped. Still, I was able to locate over 80 videos that had been uploaded in the project, and I know that was just part of the ones uploaded over all. Those 80 videos had been seen over 200,000 times. Even if only a small portion of your congregation engages, you can still reach a lot of viewers.

Does your church have a ministry to help parents teach their kids about the Bible at home? How about developing a program that targets young mothers, and touches on subjects that they will have to face as they teach their own kids? Do a lot of mission trips? Send a video crew out with your teams, and produce a program that highlights the importance and impact of being in involved in missions.

Find something you are passionate about, that fits into the strategic vision of your church. Develop a program that targets younger audiences who would be interested in programming about that theme. Build a team, and make the show.

 

 

How To produce a Quick-Turn Highlight Video

You’ve got 24 hours to shoot and edit a video to show people what happened at an event. What do you do?

It could happen in any business, but this tight deadline, quick-turn video project pops up in church media quite a bit. There’s an event during the weekend, and you need to show the congregation what happened on Sunday. Or maybe you’re at a conference, and you want to show the highlights from the last few days in the last session? How can you do it, and do it well?

Pre production is the key to success. Just like any video you produce, taking the time to work the pre production process will make your video better. In this case, it’s crucial to your success. You won’t have a lot of time during the event, so you need to do as much as you can before the event starts. Pick music, decide on a style and look for the video. Gather the gear you need, double check your camera settings. Scout the location, find out if you can set up anything early, if needed. Pick an interview location. Gather/build your graphics. Check the schedule, is there anything you have to capture? Try to schedule interviews early in the event. Plan your time. Know what you want the final video to be, and get ready to create that video. This is the time to be creative.

Shoot what you need. Don’t shoot twelve hours of footage. You know what you need to finish the video, shoot those pieces. Make sure you have enough, but don’t shoot 5 minutes of the same repetitive action. Capture the basic wide angles to show the viewer what’s happening, maybe a couple of interesting angles, and then focus on faces. People want to see people. There is a reason people call these “happy face” videos.

Edit during the event. Once you’ve captured the start of the event, and hopefully any main interviews you need for the video, break away and lay down the base for the final project. Take half an hour or more to cut down the basic foundation for the video. If you have footage of someone thanking those who participated, lay that down on the timeline over the music you’ve already selected. Leave space for any special shots. That should give you a rough idea of the length of the video, and what you need to shoot next. You’ve seen the footage you already have, now go back out and shoot the rest of what you need. Depending on how long the event is, you may want to dump footage and sort it a few times.

You do not have time to catalog every clip. Place the clips logically on your timeline, and when you are assembling the final edit, pull from those blocks of clips. I recently shot a quick-turn project that had an interview, a special event, and two locations. I wanted to show the entire process of the event, and let people see the work being done. My time line had chunks of clips from each location, and each event. Plus I had set up a time-lapse to show the start of the event. I didn’t log every clip, I just scanned them to see what I had and dropped them onto the timeline.

Finalize the edit. By the time the event is over you should have a basic outline of the final video. Drop in the rest of the clips. Focus on tight action and faces. Keep things moving quickly. Once the basic edit is down, drop in the graphics and do any color correction. Hopefully, since you double checked your camera settings, you won’t need to adjust much. Do a quick audio mix, and get ready to render and export. Do not try to reinvent the project at this point. Work the original plan.

This will not be your finest work. But the audience will love it. If you need to, later you can go back in and do a more thorough edit, correction and mix.

What if you need to turn something in under an hour? Don’t panic. It can be done, within limitations.

One year for a Christmas production I shot video interviews of attendees waiting for the presentation to start, then edited and showed those clips to the same crowd before the event began. Crazy, but do able. First, you have to build a template. (It’s also a good idea to have a completed video from a previous presentation on stand by, just in case of catastrophe. I captured one of cast members for the first night, and then kept the one from each previous presentation loaded, just in case.) I shot for 30 minutes and then imported footage and cut for 15 minutes. I edited and rendered on the same computer we were using to play the video back. You need to really watch your levels when recording because there’s no time for fixing anything. Drop the clip into the template, render and be ready for playback. I sometimes cheated and kept the funnier or sweeter moments from previous nights in the current video, but I always used some clips of people from that same presentation.

Crazy quick-turns can be done, but you must plan ahead. these will never match the quality of projects you have lots of time on, but occasionally, it’s worth it to show something quickly.

Help! Some Company Called AdRev has a Copyright Claim on My YouTube Video! – How to Remove AdRev Claims

First, don’t panic. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s annoying, but your video is still viewable. But now there are ads on it, and that money goes to whoever owns the copyright (through AdRev) instead of you.

Now, I know you already have a license to use this music track in your video. Because you wouldn’t, ever use a song you don’t have permission for, right? If you are not sure about what I’m saying, do a search on how to legally use music in videos. This music is someone intellectual property. You should not use it without permission.

Since you have the license to use this music in your video, let’s get about the business of removing this copyright claim. And make no mistake, it is a business. It might feel personal, and you might want to rip off someone’s head and scream down their throat, but that won’t get the claim removed any quicker.

How did they pick your video?

They didn’t click through your Youtube channel and listen to every song. Companies like this use computers to scan the audio in the millions and millions of Youtube videos. if the computer hears part of a song in it’s catalog, it automatically places a claim on your video.

They do not send an email asking if you have a license to use it. this company uses Youtube’s own policies and that of the Digital millennium Copyright Act to pad their pockets. What that basically means is that when they identify a music track that they manage, they place a claim automatically. And you, and the person accused of infringing on the copyright of the music must prove that you have a license to use it. It’s guilty until proven innocent. Youtube is afraid of being known as a place where pirated music lives freely, so they, in my opinion, go too far with regard to copyright claims.

Youtube always sides with the person or company making the copyright claim. If you use the Youtube dispute option, it can take 30 days for things to be resolved. For a month AdRev will collect any money made from people viewing the video. Money that should be going to you. Money that they will pass on to the copyright owner, after they take their cut. For most of us, that’s a few pennies we lose. For a company that manages millions of songs, that adds up to real money. It’s not right, but that’s how AdRev stays in business.

How to dispute the claim quickly.

Luckily, AdRev is a company that does this all the time, so they already have a mechanism in place to resolve their mistake.

First, log into your youtube channel and copy the URL for the video. Copy the long one from your browser, not the short one from the “share” tab.

Then go to AdRev’s website. Scroll down to the bottom, and click on the “Claimed Video?” link at the bottom.

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That takes you to a form.Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 8.41.00 AM

Here is where you enter your information, and paste that URL to the video with the claim on it.

In your message, tell them that you have a license to use the video. You will need to explain where you got the music and license, and then ask them to release the claim.

The level of detail you need to use may vary. The first time I got a claim I gave them date and time of when and where I purchased the music library which had the track in it, and included a link to the license agreement for using the track. In other claim disputes I simply said where and when I bought the music.

Once I simply said I had a license without giving details and they asked for more information. So you need to give them something that shows you have the right to use the music. At the very least you need to identify where the music comes from. For instance, I have had tracks from Killer Tracks libraries claimed, and when I identified the source as Killer Tracks and said when we had the license to use the music, the claim was released. Each interaction may vary, since a real person is doing the review.

In the past 4 months I’ve had at least 11 claims from AdRev on music that I have licenses to use. It’s bordering on harassment. But each time I have gone to their website, disputed the claim and had it removed.

The most troubling part of this whole thing is that sometimes people use AdRev to make copyright claims for music they do not actually own. For instance, 5 of my claims have been for tracks from Digital Juice libraries. A man in Slovenia hired AdRev and listed some music tracks that Digital juice created as his own content. Digital Juice does not employ AdRev in anyway. I used one song as the bed for a promo for my show Peculiar. That one song has been tagged 3 times. Every time I have to go to AdRev and tell them that this is not owned by that guy, but is in fact owned by Digital Juice, and I have a license.

So, AdRev knows that there is a disagreement about who owns what with regard to these tracks, because I, at least, have told them every time. But they still have that song in their tracking catalog and still claim it for the guy. And they still get their own cut from each view of the claimed video.

Bad business, all around. It’s annoying. But normally it’s easily settled. Often the claim is released the same day you dispute it with AdRev.

What about songs I made in Garage Band?

I know this happens sometimes. It has happened to me. Garage Band is a fun program that comes with loops that you can use in your own musical projects. Sometimes people use those loops to create a song, and then want to protect their work. Sometimes Youtube or a company like AdRev will scan your video, hear the same loop that is part of their own client’s song, and make a claim. These can be harder to dispute. if this happens, explain that the music in question contains loops from Garage Band, and that the Content ID system has erroneously identified a part of your own work as belonging to the other person. The hope you get a reasonable person to review the dispute. When it happened to me, the dispute was released within a couple of days.

What issues have you had with copyright on Youtube?

Micro Syndication: Is this the Solution for Indie Christian TV?

tv imageI have written about this before, but I wanted to talk about it again. Christian TV is upside down. Content creators buy time on educational licensed stations so they can then ask for money from viewers. I never paid for airtime with my show, Peculiar,  but most of the time we didn’t get money either. Only one network gave us anything, and that was just to help with paying for closed captioning.

In most cases on religious stations/networks the most you can hope for is free air time. Your program costs money to make, and you want to sell it to them. They can’t sell ads to cover the time, so they aren’t buying. There are a few networks that could afford to buy programming, but they don’t. That’s a problem for shows that don’t ask for donations, because it still costs money to make them.

So what can you do with your program?

Micro Syndication. This is an idea I want to try with my next series. It will be a lot of work, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work.

The goal is to buy time on a for-profit network locally, and sell advertising during your paid programming. I went as far as pricing the air time on this once before. There are stations that will let you do it.

First you need a program. You’re going to have to have at least the pilot, and likely a few more episodes done before you can implement this. The program needs to be 22:30 with 6:00 of breaks. That’s room for twelve :30 spots. Your program must have space for advertisers, or it won’t work. And your program has to be something people want to see, or it won’t work for long.

Second you need a media buying agency. You could do this yourself, but once you get beyond a couple markets, the relationships your agency has will serve you well, and they can find deals you will miss. They know when and where you can find time near shows that are similar to yours. And you want that.

Third you need a sales agent to find sponsors for your program. They will get a percentage of each ad they sell, but they should be local to the station you’re trying to get on.  Their first calls should be to people in the pages of any Christian Business Indexes for the area your trying to broadcast in. They aren’t just selling spots, their selling a vision. You’re delivering viewers during a program with content they want to support.

The Process:

In a target market have your media buyers shop for a good spot for your program. Find out what it will cost per week. See if they can work in some ads to promote your program.

Once you know how much your program will cost per week, figure out how much to sell spots for. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You could just do a flat rate for every spot. Or you could charge more for different locations in the show. For instance, if you have a strong program in front of your show, one :30 spot right up top could cost more since they will be getting viewers who have stayed from the previous program. For the purpose of this post, let’s say they are all priced the same.

Example (Smaller Market):

  • Weekly airtime cost = $400
  • 12 spots at $50 per spot = $600
  • 20% of $600 for sales agent= $120
  • $80 “profit” per week.

That’s not much. And not a lot of wiggle room if a sponsor drops out. But you could get things off the ground with this. The goal isn’t to generate enough revenue from one market, but to get lots of markets bringing in revenue so you can afford to make more programs. Replicate this in 10 markets and you’ve got $800 per week. $41,600 annually. 20 markets is $83,200. There are hundreds of markets in America. Every one will be different, and will be very hard to expand into any of them.

Example (Larger Market):

  • Weekly airtime cost = $750
  • 12 spots at $90 per spot = $1080
  • 20% of $900 for sales agent = $216
  • $114 “profit” per week

Finally, sell the spots and buy the time. Gather the spots, embed in the shows and deliver them to the stations.

Make no mistake, this is a huge amount of work. And you’re not bringing in the kind of revenue that allows a big staff. And while you are managing all this, you need to be creating more content. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

How can you make this work better? Reduce costs.

Can you get the airtime for less per week? In the smaller example, at $300 for airtime you’re bringing in $180. That’s $2340 for a 13 week run. $9360 annually. From one market. But this is a balance. The better the time, the more expensive the time. Your buyer needs to be aggressive.

Can you charge more for ads? Your media buyers should be able to tell you what ads in your time slot would go for. Christian who are business owners may be willing to give a little more to support the kind of programming you are creating. $60 per spot? $75? With a discount for multiple spots in a program? I once paid $3500 for a :30 spot in the bottom half of the hour during a season finale on a major network. If you have the audience, people will buy the spots for more.

Work out a trade with a station. They give you the time, you provide the audience, and you split the ads spots. In the smaller market, you’d be looking at $300 per week in revenue. This becomes tricky with the media buyers, because you still need to pay for their services for that market. They will want, and you should be willing to pay for, their cut for buying the time. You should still clear more revenue per market, per week. But you need to show the station that you have an audience in their market.

This is going to be a lot of work.

Issues to Overcome:

Selling spots. You have to keep the spots sold, or you will sink. That’s it.

Placement. You have to have the program in the best time slot. Cheap enough to allow you to sell spots. Good enough that people will watch your show. 3:00 AM will be cheap, but no one will watch. Without viewers, it’s a waste.

Why not use a network? The key, at least initially, is local advertisers. It’s definitely possible to go to a cable network and buy time regionally and nationally, but it’s a lot of money. (Even Christian networks can charge $5000 for a 30-minute slot.)  You’ve got potential advertisers on the local level. But, they won’t pay to advertise their business where they don’t sell products. Until you can prove your show can draw a good audience, the regional and national sponsors aren’t going to be an option. You might have dreams of going to an Interstate Batteries or Chic Fil A for sponsorship, but they are going to want some ratings and proof of audience before they spend any money. So start local.

Why bother with traditional broadcasting? We know that online viewing and streaming is on the rise. TV viewing is declining. But it’s not dead yet. People still watch 140+ hours of TV per month. How to generate revenue online is a huge topic, and we should be working toward a sustainable model there as well. But in the meantime there is still an audience for your program watching traditional broadcasts.

Video Workload: You Get What You Pay For

quality triangleBased on a true story. Details have been changed and names withheld. Stories like this are too common.

Once upon a time there was a large church which had 2 staff members who, in addition to other duties, created videos for the ministry. The two staff members were overworked. They had completed over 40 video projects from start to finish in the last year, in addition to keeping the live video for services and events functioning, and other odds and ends projects. These two staff members almost always did all pre production, production and post themselves, without any help. None of the 40+ projects had any budget beyond a few hundred dollars in a catch-all line item of the organization’s budget.

Some of these 40+ videos were simple talking-heads, while others were much more complicated. The lead time on these videos ranged from as much as 2 weeks to as little as 24 hours. As you might guess, some of the videos weren’t as high quality as they might have been, and a few leaders on the staff wondered why that was. The two video staff members never sat down with their supervisors and explained what it would take to have high quality videos produced at a pace that was sustainable.

One day the leaders of the church were in meeting talking about an important video project. They decided that they couldn’t risk this video looking bad. It must look great, communicate well, and be professionally done. So they decided to outsource the video project to “professional” videographers. The leaders did not reach out to their overworked staff to handle this project, but instead took it upon themselves to hire a team to execute this production.

They asked the most vocal critic of the video quality of the church, a photographer, to produce this project. He hired some amazing talent to help; there was one of the best cinematographers in the area, a top notch editor, an ex news reporter to help with interviews, and of course the photographer would take pictures as well as produce the project. For this important project they were given a 6 week lead time. The professionals groused and grumbled about the lack of time to do their best work, but agreed to give it a try. The church leaders never asked to see a quote.

During the 6 week timeframe, the professional video team accidentally ruffled feathers and caused misunderstandings because they didn’t know the normal procedures of the church. The two video staff members were sometimes asked detailed questions about the video project, even by the same church leaders who decided to bypass them, but they we unable to answer. Much of the church leadership was in the dark about the project until it was revealed.

The weekend finally came when the video was to be unveiled. A video staff member received a download link with a message that music used in the video could not be broadcast or streamed on the internet. The message was delivered just hours before the video was supposed to be used in the service which was streamed and broadcast. They reported this to their supervisor, who told them to try to get the rights, and if they couldn’t, then ask the editor to replace the music. The professional editor didn’t have a grasp on how the end product was supposed to be used. The video staff spent Saturday afternoon negotiating with the publisher of the song, and came to an agreement on licensing. The cost for this license for one song from an unknown, indie-musician was almost $1000.

Church leadership had just received the first inkling of what this video was going to cost.

The video itself was a 7-minute masterpiece. Beautifully shot. Brilliant story interwoven with highlights and interviews. It was very well done. Everyone was pleased.

Then the bill arrived.

The final bill came back at about 1/2 the annual salary of one of the staff video guys. For one project. As the invoices came in church leaders were aghast. They certainly expected to pay more than they ever had for any video project before. But for the bill to total in the tens of thousands? What were they paying for? The supervisor of the staff video producers asked if these numbers were normal. With the exception of the photo/producer’s invoice which was inflated and the “interviewer’s” invoice which was absurd, the rest was not only normal, but the charges were less than they should have been for the time required. The rental was reasonable, and the day rates obviously discounted.

Most members of the professional team were trying to give the church a break, but the church leaders had no idea what it costs to do video projects of this caliber. The staff members who had been responsible for the video work had not educated the leaders who assigned the work. instead, they just did what they were told as best as they could.

In the end, invoices were paid (Though some were negotiated lower) and for a time church leaders had a better understanding of what it costs do produce amazing video content. But they didn’t increase the budget for any of their other projects, and within a few weeks the time lines for projects were as short as ever before. A few months later, the 2 staff members no longer worked for the organization.

What’s the moral of this story?

If you want high quality video it costs. It costs time and money. The quality triangle applies. Good, fast, cheap: Pick two, you can’t have the third. 

You get what you pay for. The producers on staff should have talked to leadership about how the truncated timelines with no extra budget were impacting the quality of their projects. And church leadership should have listened.

How many churches throw so much work on a tech that he cannot execute most of his duties with excellence, and then become frustrated with lower quality results… and begin looking for a replacement? How many techs are afraid to speak to their bosses about unrealistic expectations because they fear being fired or worse, sidelined?

Techs, save yourself the headaches of stories like this one. Talk to your team, your staff leadership. Let them know what your workload is, and how it affects your performance. Learn how to speak and explain in a way that they can understand. Ask for help if you need it. Church leaders want amazing ministry. We’re in this together. If something they are doing is impacting quality, they want to know. A lot of leadership (anywhere, not just churches) is allocating time and resources based on circumstances. Your boss can’t lead you if you won’t give him critical information about how you can best do your work, and deliver excellence.

 

How to Shoot a Short Film in 3 Hours

BRKN logoOn Saturday we shot my short film “BRKN”. It took right about 3 hours to shoot, not counting set up and tear down. I had thought it could have taken as long as 6 hours, hoped it would take about 4.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was planning to shoot a large project, over 2 days with a bigger cast and crew, with practical effects that would require equipment. I had gear and props, but I lacked people. Plus the abnormally heavy rains here in East TX would have made these outdoor shoots more difficult.

So, I pulled back. Quickly developed a new, simpler idea. on that I could shoot with less people, in a controlled environment. Even though it was a short script, I was surprised how well the shoot went. Not every shoot goes smoothly.

How did we shoot in 3 hours? I’m still learning how to be a good filmmaker. But these are some things that helped me for this shoot.

Pre Production

I didn’t have a lot of time. I needed a script that I could shoot with 2 actors and a one man crew. I use the Celtx online studio to help with all aspects of preproduction. I write, then do the break down, shot list, schedule and it automatically generates reports for each day of shooting.

Every minute you spend in preproduction saves many more in production and post. In this case, because I was shooting at my own home, I could really focus in on the shots. I still didn’t do storyboards, but I did walk every angle.

I have been on shoots without preproduction. The ones where you show up and there’s no gear. Where you desperately need lights or something, but you have nothing. The ones where the schedule is way too ambitious. Do yourself a favor. Do the work in preproduction.

Controlled Environment

I could walk the angles because I controlled the environment. I didn’t just scout the location, I was able to set up lights the day before and do tests. I didn’t have a big crew. In fact, the entire crew was me. I had to be in a controlled space. Because I had that access and control, this shoot didn’t have any surprises.

That’s not always possible. And that’s OK. You need to shoot where you need to shoot. But be aware of the location and make your plans. Knowing the location can keep unpleasant surprises from throwing off your schedule.

Good Actors

The two actors in “BRKN”, Anna Walker and Derek Henning, are really great. They didn’t just agree to do the movie for no money, they learned their lines and even got together and rehearsed before showing up on set. They had read the script, thought about it, and prepared for the shoot. Having the right people in your cast can make or break your shoot.

I wish I could say I have always had actors as good as these on set. I’ve had actors show up who obviously hadn’t looked at the script more than once. There are people who aren’t serious about it, or are just too busy. I’ve only had a couple of actors bail on a shoot completely, but that required major rewrites of a script at the last minute.

When you have actors who are not as good as they might be, you can adapt and overcome. You can feed the lines to them. you can adapt and overcome. But it takes time.

I am so grateful for Anna and Derek’s work on this project. Their professionalism was a big part of a this shoot’s success.

We were able to capture everything we needed fairly smoothly. There is no way to keep every problem from every set. Things will go wrong. Be flexible and solution focused. Get your project shot.

Now I need to get into Post production on “BRKN”. That will take longer than 3 hours.