From Seth Godin – five steps to succeed for just about everyone and everything:

The number of people you need to ask for permission keeps going down:

  1. Go, make something happen.
  2. Do work you’re proud of.
  3. Treat people with respect.
  4. Make big promises and keep them.
  5. Ship it out the door.

When in doubt, see #1.


Questions for Prospective Production Clients

It starts with a phone call or email: “We’re interested in producing a video.” Sometimes, the project details are very clear with little room for changes.  Other times, the media need is more vague, with the client only knowing what they want to accomplish with the video production.  Most of the time, however, it’s somewhere in between–the clients knows generally what they want and how they want to accomplish it, but needs help getting there.

Helping the client understand their audience and how a video production can help communicate their message will build a very strong foundation for the project at hand.

To best understand what my client wants to accomplish with this video, I have a list of questions I ask them:

  1. Who is your target audience? Who do you want to watch these videos?  Customers?  Investors?  Clients?  Businesses?  Mangers?  Can you define your target demographic (people your trying to reach)?   What is the social target: age, income, marital status, number of children, education level, etc. Is this video for a particular region (east cost, city, state, etc.), or nationwide, or global?
  2. What are you wanting to communicate through this video? Brand, company stability, services, offerings, value, training, a new product, etc.?
  3. Is it more like a documentary (facts, information and education), or more of a narrative story (fiction, storytelling, hypothetical use, etc.)?
  4. What are some emotions or feelings you would like to communicate? Trust, confidence, strength, etc.? List some adjectives that you’re want to convey about what you’re wanting to communicate through this video.
  5. How many separate videos do you need, and what is the estimated length of each video?  For example, “I want one video about 8 minutes long.” Or, “We need a series of 4 videos, each about 2 minutes long.”  If you don’t know exactly the length, then estimate the range, like 8 to 10 minutes long.
  6. Do you want to interview someone — company leaders (CEO, president, manages, etc.), strategic partners, random audience or customers, or a mixture of those? How many interviews do you expect per video or total?
  7. Do you want live action coverage shots (B-Roll) of certain things happening — factory lines, people at work, customers in their environment, etc.? If so, what are you looking for, and what do you want others to see?
  8. Do you need any special graphics or animations to demonstrate a technology, a process or something futuristic that’s not created yet.
  9. Do you have an estimated budget for this piece, or range of budget?
  10. What distribution options are your considering? Website, YouTube, DVDs, Broadcast, etc.?
  11. Do you have a format preference:  Standard Definition (SD) or High Definition (HD)?  NTSC (Americas) or PAL (Europe)?

I use these questions with every new client when putting together a corporate video project.  After these questions have been answered clearly, we have a much better understanding of the client’s needs.  And, with this information, we can now begin budgeting the project much more accurately.

We then take this information and begin putting together the client proposal.  We find that our proposals are simply their information provided back to them in our own format.


Russ Pond is the owner of Top Pup Media — a corporate video production company based in Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas providing production services for commercials, tradeshow videos, promotional spots, training media and a variety of other services.


Mapping online video content into the television business model doesn’t work

This morning, I was reading a blog about the Television Industry’s response to online video content.  It was a fascinating article by Clay Shirky called “The Collapse of Complex Business Models”.  He shares an example about a web series so successful that the television industry acquired the content and tried to map it into their current business model, but the project collapsed.

In spring of 2007, the web video comedy In the Motherhood made the move to TV. In the Motherhood started online as a series of short videos, with viewers contributing funny stories from their own lives and voting on their favorites. This tactic generated good ideas at low cost as well as endearing the show to its viewers; the show’s tag line was “By Moms, For Moms, About Moms.”

The move to TV was an affirmation of this technique; when ABC launched the public forum for the new TV version, they told users their input “might just become inspiration for a story by the writers.”

Or it might not. Once the show moved to television, the Writers Guild of America got involved. They were OK with For and About Moms, but By Moms violated Guild rules. The producers tried to negotiate, to no avail, so the idea of audience engagement was canned (as was In the Motherhood itself some months later, after failing to engage viewers as the web version had).

The critical fact about this negotiation wasn’t about the mothers, or their stories, or how those stories might be used. The critical fact was that the negotiation took place in the grid of the television industry, between entities incorporated around a 20th century business logic, and entirely within invented constraints. At no point did the negotiation about audience involvement hinge on the question “Would this be an interesting thing to try?”

Either the television industry needs to adapt its model or collapse under the weight of their inefficient, bloated system.  Things have to change.  He talks about what we can expect:

In the future, at least some methods of producing video for the web will become as complex, with as many details to attend to, as television has today, and people will doubtless make pots of money on those forms of production. It’s tempting, at least for the people benefitting from the old complexity, to imagine that if things used to be complex, and they’re going to be complex, then everything can just stay complex in the meantime. That’s not how it works, however.

The most watched minute of video made in the last five years shows baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger. (Twice!) That minute has been watched by more people than the viewership of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, and the Superbowl combined. (174 million views and counting.)

Some video still has to be complex to be valuable, but the logic of the old media ecoystem, where video had to be complex simply to be video, is broken. Expensive bits of video made in complex ways now compete with cheap bits made in simple ways. “Charlie Bit My Finger” was made by amateurs, in one take, with a lousy camera. No professionals were involved in selecting or editing or distributing it. Not one dime changed hands anywhere between creator, host, and viewers. A world where that is the kind of thing that just happens from time to time is a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.

When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse, their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to. It’s easy to see the ways in which collapse to simplicity wrecks the glories of old. But there is one compensating advantage for the people who escape the old system: when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.

Dallas video production company, Top Pup Media, produces a variety of media projects for businesses and corporations. Productions include corporate videos, marketing videos, tradeshow videos, promotional spots, commercials, educational and training videos.


Putting together your Demo Reel

Some more great information from Phil Cooke’s Blog

The Truth About Demo Reels

Let me set the record straight about “demo reels” because I’m tired of seeing the wrong thing. Filmmakers pay attention. Here’s what producers are looking for:

1. Finished pieces. We want to know if you can tell a story and if you understand the totality of a project.

2. Specifics. Tell us if you ran camera, if you directed, if you were production manager, or whatever. Don’t send us a commercial you catered and lead us to believe you were the director. Trust me, we’ll find out sooner or later.

3. Easy to watch. Send us a link, but don’t make it a tiny thumbnail screen. Make it big enough to view. Vimeo or Wiredrive size is fine. We don’t need DVD quality right off the bat. First we want to know if it’s something we’re interested in. Send a DVD and it will sit on my desk for a month or two lost in the stack. Send a link, and I’ll watch it pretty quickly.

4. Make it current. If your graphics and effects look like the 80’s, get it off the reel.

What we don’t want:

1. Those quick cut “compilation” reels of your life’s work set to a hip current song. Total loser strategy. You can compile anything and make it look decent – especially if you’re pulling from your last 25 projects.

2. Someone else’s work. I had a director send me a reel that included spots I had directed. Boy, was the meeting awkward for that guy.

3. Appropriate stuff. Don’t send me hot tub spots if I’m looking for a director of serious drama. In fact, don’t send me hot tub spots – ever.

Edit mercilessly. Think about it. It’s not about how cool you think your work is, it’s about what a producer is looking for at that moment. Step back, breathe, and take it all in perspective. I love Francis Ford Coppola’s quote after he directed Apocalypse Now. He said that after 2 years up to his a*s in alligators, a star having a heart attack, and the nightmare of shooting a Viet Nam war movie, after the screening, the first thing the audience thinks is “OK, where should we go eat?”

I’m not sure what that has to do with demo reels, but I love the quote… :-)


Style Guidelines for Media Producers and Video Editors

This is a great article from Phil Cooke about creating content into today’s culture. Great information!

From Phil Cooke’s blog

In a media-driven culture, we are bombarded with advertising messages on a regular basis – some say as many as 3,000 per day. It’s a complex media jungle out there, and the truth is, that clutter is why so many programs fail today – they just can’t get noticed. Today, to “cut through the media clutter,” the best method is often a whisper, rather than a scream. At Cooke Pictures, we’ve been working lately with our clients on some guidelines for video editors to help them understand how to make their programs contemporary and effective. In that process, I was talking to the video editors at Cooke Pictures on some tips to help video editors give their programs more impact. Here’s their thoughts:

1. As a general rule, stay in touch with current television, web design, and art. Secular TV will especially expose you to current style trends and ideas. We want faith-based programming to be up-to-date, contemporary, and relevant, and keeping up with current styles and formats is the key.

2. As a form of practice, record several hours of television and watch commercials, frame by frame if necessary. We recommend you begin by copying others work and style exactly until you are able to produce the same quality. Turn off the sound, and you’ll begin to focus on the production techniques and style. Look at graphic effects, and graphic animation. At the time of this writing, “subtlety” is what’s hot. No raging, blaring graphics – just simple, clean, and stylish.

3. Enjoy art of all kinds from traditional to current. Have a “deep bench” when it comes to your own personal knowledge of design, camera framing, and art.

4. Read the latest trade magazines. Production and post magazines from the entertainment and media industries help keep you up to date on what’s working for other organizations and give you new ideas.

6. Refer to fashion magazines for the proper use of current colors and fonts. Oddly enough, these types of magazines use color and font choices well. They are a great source of ideas.

7. Keep graphics clean and simple. Again – not screaming graphics. Today, people are expecting something much more unobtrusive as they watch the program.

8. Lower 3rds and graphics should not be busy. Make them readable and clear at first glance. Lower third does not mean lower two thirds. Use you screen space wisely, and if you have too much information, either change to a full page graphic, or use two successive lower thirds. Don’t be afraid of white space.

9. Rule of thumb when creating a spot or graphic – If you don’t understand it the first time, it’s failed. Meaning: If a viewer doesn’t understand it completely on first viewing, it doesn’t work. Chances are, the audience will see your TV spot only once, so you need to be clear and simple with your art, ideas, and info.

10. Use Avid or Final Cut vendor plug-ins that make sense, just don’t use a plug-in because you have them or because they look cool. We recommend not using any until you can push pure creativity to it’s limits. The top editors rarely use plug-ins. The key thing to remember regarding the “look and feel” is that it must reflect the story you’re telling. For instance, don’t use a grainy look just to make it different. In a similar way, “wacky cam” works wonderfully well on a movie like “Man on Fire,” but on “The Gilmore Girls” it would be a huge mistake. Your shooting and editing style should not be chosen in a vacuum. It must reflect the story you’re telling.

11. Use music to enhance your work, and use it to tell a story and accentuate the visuals. Today, music is a key element in all spots, segments, and programs. Choose your music cuts carefully and be very selective. Once again – use music to help you tell the story.

12. Keep to the style guide. The programs ALL need to have a uniform look and feel. If your church or ministry has a logo design and style guide, chances are, they were created after a lengthy branding and identity process and with many factors in mind. Therefore, focus your creativity on telling a great story, or capturing a powerful message, not creating unusual and unique graphics. All producers and editors need to work together to create programs that reflect the new branding direction. Having the Photoshop and/or After Effects elements determined ahead of time will free you up to focus your time and creativity on the program itself, and not be bogged down in creating graphic templates.

We encourage all the producers, directors, and editors to have a real desire to grow and be the best you can be. The media industry is changing at light speed, and if you’re not learning, you’re falling behind.

Let’s commit to focusing our efforts on becoming the leading edge of television, and creating the format and template for what television should look like in the 21st Century.