Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Robbed in College; What Didn't They Tell You About Video Assembly?

Have you ever felt that you were robbed in college? I was certainly robbed.

Click for larger picture
There are a lot of important things that my media rendering prof. failed to tell me. And one of the most important is that even though Photoshop and Premiere seem to have unlimited numbers of layers that are available, you shouldn’t make it your goal in life to try to use as many as you can.

“Why is this?” you might ask. Well, thanks for asking and here’s the answer. Because the more layers you use, the longer it takes your machine to render and the larger the footprint on your hard drive and storage media the file takes up.

Even though it might mean much faster assembling of a video on the Premiere time line if you simply keep stacking scenes all the way to the moon with a fast and dirty transition dissolve between each one, your 35 clips will add up to over a hundred layers (channels) if most of them average over two clips per scene. When rendering that video, the Adobe Media Encoder that automatically opens adjacent to Premiere when you click the short cut CTL+M has to look at and handle each channel (layer) even though there’s mostly nothing in them. You’ll find yourself spending hours slicing and moving things out of those upper 75 layers in order to dump the unnecessary MBs of useless, empty channels.

The better way is to try to keep the stack as low as possible. I have been working on a 3 minute video for
Dell M6600 Mobile Video Production Work Station. Main editing suite
used by Specialized Media, Kelso, Washington.
one of my clients and even though there are many scenes and their corresponding fade-to-white transitions, the 18 scenes with 75 separate clips only stacked 16 layers high with 3 audio trax.

This allowed my machine* to render the video at 3MB/Sec in less than the 3 minute finished production.
If your computer keeps hanging up every time you try to render, be sure to look at your timeline assembly work flow for one of the problems to fix.

There’s a good handful of other functions that can also hang up your machine in playback, pre-rendering and rendering, so feel free to contact me with any questions and comments.
Thanks for reading.

* My machine is a late model Dell M6600 Vid Prod Mobile Work Station. It’s very fast.
§  Professional AMD discrete graphics with 4GB of dedicated memory

§  DDR3 memory; 16GB of 1600MHz 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Loyalty is Missing in American Employment

Enhancing one's resume is only one part of enhancing one's career. Without genuine gratitude for one's employer, the resume' is virtually pointless.

Company offices of EZWebPlayer near Chicago
I am self employed. I pay my own taxes and provide my own benefits. But, I am gainfully employed largely because of my largest client; EZWebPlayer, Inc. Without that regular paycheck, I would have long ago become another Employee, punching a clock somewhere and rolling across the pavement twice a day like most Americans.

I completely appreciate the regular paycheck I get from my “employer” (aka largest client). I have worked with EZWebPlayer for about 9 years. All of the tasks I handle could be done by virtually anybody with my education and background. All though I do carry a unique set of skills and my history of work experience makes me a perfect fit for this situation, guys like me are almost a dime a dozen. Many years in broadcasting, lots of writing experience in advertising, and some sales background. I greased the tracks of the digital switchover by going back to school and getting a BFA in Multi-Media and Web Design from a prestigious school in the Midwest. So really, how unique am I? Not so much.
EZWP could have replaced this 55-year-old carcass long ago for someone with virtually the same skill sets and education, and paid them far less. Companies all over the country often operate that way, and they do it without apology; citing The Bottom Line as the all mighty God of decision.

But, I was loyal to EZWebPlayer very early on, probably because I learned by then the importance of loyalty. I met the CEO of the company when I was in my 40s; not in my 20’s like most college grads. So I understood to fully appreciate what goes into an agreement that culminates in me getting paid.
Loyalty to one’s employer goes beyond simply not “…biting the hand that feeds you.” It should be closer to, “The Employer is always right”. Though I am often criticized for this old fashioned and currently not favored opinion of The Employer, I am convinced that America needs a good old fashioned dose of renewed ethics on the part of the employee, not just the employer.
And here’s why I think that:
  • It is the employer’s cash that operates the business that stays operating whether you show up or not.
  • It is the employer’s wagering and gambling on his product’s viability in the marketplace that created this company in the first place.
  • If you lose your job, you can always go get another one; in this economy, hundreds of thousands of individuals do this regularly. But, if your employer loses his business, he can’t simply start a new one just like the one he lost. It takes years and sometimes decades to create viable, lasting businesses.
  • Your job provides for your family. Your employer’s business provides for dozens and sometimes hundreds or thousands of families.
  • It is your employer’s responsibility to keep the doors open and profitable. Without the business showing a profit on a regular basis, there is no business. Which, of course, means no job for you.

Labor unions served a great purpose in reforming the employer/employee relationship in this country by the leverage of collective bargaining. But, labor unions are also the source of the poor attitudes that often prevail on the manufacturing line. This working man is constantly reminded by the labor unions how important he is. But, how often does the labor union remind its members that without the business owner, there would be no labor, no union, no job.

I salute the collective bargaining that leveraged past robber baron employers into a better wage. But I condemn any system, policy or individual that works towards undermining the business owner’s ability to keep their establishment profitable.

The greatest thing that any employee can do towards his/her own income longevity is to work as hard as possible towards making his/her boss more profit. The second is to pass on this attitude of loyalty to those around him or her.

Several years ago, I managed an RV retail store for one of the largest RV dealerships in the Midwest. At one time I was approached by the lion’s share of the employees there to support their effort in a strike to get higher wages. After I stopped laughing, I explained that I did not operate that way. I thought that the best way to make more money was to bring more money into our boss’s economy.

This entire scenario occurred without any union. As far as I am aware, there is no RV Worker’s Brotherhood. So, it wasn’t the RVW Brotherhood that generated this mindset of dissatisfaction. The workers did that all on their own by observing union-generated strikes from past history in other industries.

Within several months of that un-attempted strike (there never was one), the owner fired me one day when he was in snit over something. After three years of loyal and hard work, he got mad and fired the manager of his very profitable store that I had made that way. He ended up hiring younger people and it took two to replace me. But, I still appreciate the over three years of a regular pay check that he had provided to my family; to this day. One of my best friends still works for him and makes a great paycheck doing so.

Staff and management
Pontiac RV Retail Store, in 2010
Literally thousands of RV customers from Canada to Florida and everywhere in between count on this
RV dealership on Interstate 55 in central Illinois to provide them with great service and value. And dozens of employees’ families have made a living working for this dealership from shortly after it was started in the founder’s garage to today when it takes up several acres along the freeway and possesses multiple locations in Central Illinois.

Business owners have a right to do what they want with their assets. And, the sooner that us assets learn this, the sooner we raise ourselves from mere assets to important components in a viable business.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Cloud Video 101. Why use video links instead of downloading?

If you see this and say; “Well, duh!” Then you do not need Cloud Video 101 information, do you? The bulk of business operators wonder why we techies do what we do. They need to know the basics so that when we explain that we just saved them $500/month, they LIKE us instead of tolerate us. Don’t cha’ think?

A thirty second video of high resolution can be several MBs. But, a link is only a few KBs; a difference of from 90% to 1,000% and more. Your viewers watch a streaming cloud version of your crisp, clean video via that link, instead of having to first get the giant video file emailed to them which takes up gigantic bandwidth and time (if it makes it at all), then they have to dedicate all of that video space taking up their hard drive, when they really don’t need to.

Video links can go virtually anywhere that text can.

  • Email
  • Text Messages
  • Live Chats

How does it work?

The video is rendered and immediately uploaded to a network of servers that are positioned globally. When you want to share the video, you send your viewers a link to that video; basically you are simply pointing to the video, instead of handing them the whole thing. They watch the video from the closest server located geographically nearest them.

In this way, someone in Australia enjoys the same speed of service as the guy in Seattle. Singapore to London, Miami to Anchorage.

It just makes more sense to use a giant, affordable network instead of trying to make your single computer act like a network server.

  1. Stop mailing discs
  2. Stop emailing video files
  3. Start using Video Links

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Your Church on the Web: Clear Message, or Private Joke?

There's more to getting your church on The Web than just techies and a little extra loose change.

We have all experienced the story of the 1950s broadcast clown at the end of the live show, who thought his microphone was shut off, making the offhand comment to the stage hands, “That ought to hold the little %@#&-ards  for a while.” See note*

Of course, after the phone calls started coming in, and the TV station manager got wind of what had just happened, it wasn’t long before Uncle Don or Bozo probably had a solid grasp on the concept of the difference between what can be said in front of a narrow audience of co-workers, and a broader audience of thousands of consumers.

The same lesson needs to be grasped by those organizations testing the waters of the Internet for the first time; for example, making their church services public by publishing them to the web via MP3 Audio, Archived Video, or Live Streaming.

A church can be like a small club; folks become comfortable with the handful of those founding the group. You’re close friends who share few secrets. In a few years the club is larger and things are done a little differently because with larger crowds comes more responsibility to propriety and information handling. The difference between private jokes and public information is vast, thus more decorum is needed.

After a while, the numbers can grow even more, therefore the responsibility grows to the level of a civic responsibility among neighbors and community leaders.

When the progression is in steps and gradual, these graduations are more natural. Learning different ways to handle information, imagery and punctuality comes as needed and at a measured pace as the crowd of the audience advances from single digits to dozens and then to hundreds and beyond.
But what happens when you release your church services to the world at large in one giant step; all at once? There are no graduating steps. There are no months of learning new procedures and finding the right individuals to write just the right words in the weekly bulletin, the newspaper ad and general announcements.

Going from ten to a thousand can happen overnight if the church is plugging into the local cable access channel or being invited to take over a large radio station’s prime Sunday time slot that was recently vacated. When this happens, those responsible for the church’s reputation will be very happy later on if The Message is crafted carefully and dressed in decorum and appropriateness.

When you click the start button on the software that turns on the live streaming camera and microphone, you are actually opening a magic window that lets into the very auditorium, people that you have been trying to invite for months and years. But you are also letting in everybody else as well. You are allowing in folks who may not understand everything that you and your group are about, and in this litigious society, it is not difficult to be caught unawares by forces bent on destroying your efforts at disseminating the gospel, as well as those who are simply disgruntled individuals with nothing better to do than make a point by “reporting” your words as they inferred them, regardless of your harmless implication.

So, remember not to be shocked by the first phone call or letter that comes from an unlooked for corner of your community with less than glowing candor. Better yet, prepare to avoid problems by narrowing down your public message to one that sticks closer to the authority that leads your decisions. For Bible preachers, this is a little simpler when they stick close to the message of The Gospel as it is presented in The good old fashioned Bible.

It is much simpler to explain a statement one makes publically when it comes directly from the pages of God’s Word.

And, the main content is not the only thing about which we should be concerned. Those young boyos back there running the sound booth are now in charge of the public’s perception of all that this church stands for. And without years of training and education, they have just graduated from the Assistant Pastor’s teenage nephew to the church’s in-reality video producer/director.

If you are now hosting a live streaming web service that runs simultaneously as your regular services, what words are they putting up over the screen while you’re talking? Even if the information is harmless, is it accurate?

Another thing; if your church web site is publishing a list of links from which the general public can download your recorded sermons, what exactly did you say about the President of These United states three Sundays ago?

Let me set some of my regular readers at ease at this point. I did not write this article from a personal need to make some point about any particular preacher I know; least of whom would be MY pastor in Longview, Washington. Pastor House is extremely circumspect in his public and private language and speaks clearly to everyone, but sharply to those he certainly intends to. (What exactly does that mean? Email me and I will elucidate for you.)
Bozo and Cookie. WBBM TV, Chicago

And, in our church, I am one of the sound guys that operates the live stream. I am 55 years of age and have a degree in Media from a recognized school back east. So, you see, I was NOT talking from personal need, but from career experience. So, take heed. Yes, especially you, Bunky.

From radio to TV, and from Live Stream to Archived, your message lives forever so make sure that you control those auxiliary outlets with the same care you prepare your sermon.

And, that clown on Chicago or New York TV and Radio would have been much better off sticking to
the format handed to him by the station manager.

Stu Marks works as a media consultant at large and is based in the Portland Oregon market.

*note: Snopes

 See about getting your church on The Web. Visit www.EZWebPlayer.com.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The 3 Big Secrets to Successfully Tweaking Your Social Media Marketing

From one of my LinkedIn friends I read a short article today that really could be presented as a multiple seminar series from coast to coast or even globally on advertising to social media and the delicate aspects of outbound frequency marketing. I suggest that all who market something (that means everyone reading this) should read the short article. Link at bottom*.

Added Advertising Opportunity

The basic rules of successfully marketing never changed one iota with the arrival and maturity of The Internet and its symbiont social media. But, it certainly did get more complexed. With the added opportunities of social media, email and now web video, the increased out reach marketing power has enriched mostly the small to medium sized businesses and enterprises as we can now all compete with "The Big Boys" who used to have a corner on the market in reaching the masses through syndicated national and global TV, radio and printed advertising initiatives. Yes, the Internet is that powerful. Like the small town hero bringing a gun to a New York street fight, the Internet has been the great equalizer.

But, what one does with this great power and how one does it that is the great decider of fate in the small business's future. It's because the Internet is not a single marketplace, it is the avenue upon which the various market places thrive and operate, that prohibits a simple approach that reaches for one saturation level, which used to be The Rule. Now, one needs to be savvy to the instant and short term results of one's Internet outbound initiatives; sometimes making weekly and daily changes instead of quarterly and monthly.

It is for this reason alone that social media gurus who have been hired to place their golden hands on the controls of Business's social marketing modules are demanding and getting the the big bucks. A position that used to be an afterthought filled by the secretarial pool/lobby receptionist/graphic artist hobbyist is now at least a $60k position to start in the big city; with dental.

The Golden Secret; Media Segmenting

So, here's the main rub, each social avenue: Face Book, Twitter, the company blog-- maybe a Word Press site-- has its own saturation level decided by how well one's outbound messaging is being opened and the calls-to-action are executed. If you noticed all of the qualifying layers in the preceding sentence, then you are getting an idea of the complexity of the social media marketing task at hand.

It takes a few weeks for a new operator to get a handle on what the next step might be in any given industry, market and business. After that the tweaking begins. Usually the successful operator will cut back in many areas but step up in others; carefully watching tracked responses from readers/viewers.

  1. Articles are written with relevant keywords that are chosen by searching for what buyers of the product are using in Google searches. These articles are published in the company's blog with just enough frequency: weekly, daily, etc, to elicit a high percentage of favorable responses without over saturating which tends to drop favorable responses over a short time.
  2. Email blasts are broadcasted to the harvested database of emails in possession of the company through Internet harvesting, forms and physical harvesting through offline marketing events like trade shows and  snail mail-outs. These are handled with their own eye to reaching that perfect saturation level. Too many email blasts in a month and the responses drop off. But, not enough and missed revenue becomes a factor.
  3. Web videos (videos created specifically for web viewing) are produced; often with alternative modules ready in the wings in case there is room for more frequency with changing content. Web video might be where the largest payoff is for those who have figured out the resources necessary and can recognize what works, and maybe more importantly, what doesn't.

Web Videos are the Real Gold Mine

Web videos are so powerful when done right because Western culture is so geared towards instant gratification, and video pays off in a big way, instantly. Good visuals with a powerful supporting audio track (or vice versa) are where the big payoffs are. And, fortunately for those funding these video gold mines, more is not better. Actually, the opposite is true; shorter is almost always better, to a point. And, the good news is that web video does not have to be prohibitively expensive. The old days of exclusively Hollywood type investments are over. The all important message for the week can be encapsulated into a 30 second to two minute web video for a fraction of what TV commercials go for. No more $10,000 production price tag for that 30 second TV spot that hasn't even reached anyone yet because you still have to buy the ad time for another $30k.

I operate a small media production unit in SW Washington. I am also on the executive staff of a web media hosting company based in Chicago that serves the globe through cloud hosting. Thus, I have a corner on the market for those small businesses to which closely I live and work.

It is much simpler for me to create a short display video for a local business and get that video in front of thousands of potential customers, than it is for that business to create a video and advertise locally on TV. And, I can do it for pennies on the dollar and still maintain a reasonable profit margin.

Just my existence in the marketplace proves that there are many more marketing options out there than there were just five or ten years ago. And, in a failing economy driven by factors that are much more Washington DC factored than locally based, this is a good thing from which all can profit.

Feel free to contact me for questions on marketing in this digital world.
email me at StuMarksez@gmail.com

*The mentioned article

Other resources

Monday, June 17, 2013

Another Bad Example of Local Advertising

Advertiser's name, phone and web address blurred to rob them
of free advertising at my expense.
Here's a great guideline for advertising at large. Look at the mailed card to the left, and don't ever mail out stuff like this for your business.

This is a scan of a real card that I got in the mail today.

When it comes time to look for a top shelf, professional and above reproach medical services provider, this company will be the last on everybody's mind.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Web Sites are NOT Dead

By Stu Marks

White Paper

Limelight Networks recently released a white paper on digital presence that announced that Custom Web Sites for your business are now dead. They are so sure that Facebook type templates are doing such a great job handling your branding and customer interaction that you no longer need to maintain your custom web site.

Limelight Networks Dead Wrong

Even though they are correct in instructing business owners that they need to engage their customers through their content, instead of just laying it out there in the electronic brochure which is what the custom web site really is, I feel that Limelight Networks is dead wrong in discouraging companies from using their custom web site as the information hub from which all of their digital assets are reached.

Here’s some reasons why;
A custom web site is under complete control of the owner. Facebook type social media (which is what Limelight is suggesting replaces the custom web site) changes often. Many of the changes create severe animosity towards Facebook. This animosity can easily transfer to the company that majors in social media instead of their own digital brochure.

In the world of marketing, Branding can be everything. It is on the same par with the age old, “location, location, location”. If you want to support free branding to Facebook, Twitter, Droid, LinkedIn, You Tube,  Vimeo and Google, that’s certainly your privilege. But the truth is, the largess and momentum that exists with the large number of users on You Tube’s juggernaut does more than simply provide you with that enormous pool of potential customers, it is also an enormous pool of competitors to which your videos are attached either by association, or Internet hyperlink.

You Tube, for example, is not a neutral vehicle upon which your branded videos can safely reside; The Internet, however, is a neutral vehicle and was designed precisely for that neutral purpose of being the everywhere-reaching, unbranded vehicle that we can all use for safely advertising our message.
These companies that are posing themselves as safe advertising vehicles have great value in most cases and should NOT be ignored. But the flaw in the Social Media Only plan is that, you are giving up complete control over your branding and the secure firewall that SHOULD separate your message from your competitors’. That truth is not going to go away anytime soon.

Here’s a detail about just You Tube that will make the light go on for you.
The public is used to taking a thought, and going to You Tube’s search field online and typing it in. Therefore, if you can be found on You Tube this scenario is what will happen possibly hundreds of times a week;

Potential customer here’s or see’s your company name or product model and goes to You Tube’s search engine to type it in. They get a number of choices in a long list from which to choose and they either choose yours, or one of your competitors’. Even if they choose yours, You Tube can easily display your competitor’s videos right next to yours that can be easily watched either by the PLAY AUTOMATICALLY tool that You Tube has turned on by default, or can be accessed by simply clicking on it at any time.

Face Book. Anyone can buy advertising space on Face Book. The same for LinkedIn as well as most others.

One of the safer ad buys is Twitter, for now. Check out your Twitter home page. No advertising cells there, right? Well, that can change at any time. But Twitter is also home to millions of users every week, and your customers and potential customers can be reached through that medium. I just wouldn't invest my entire marketing department in a medium that limits The Message to 140 characters. Using Twitter requires following some simple rules, but is certainly worth using if your goal is to point customers to your electronic brochure.

Yes, Twitter does have a measure of the same competitive drawback as Face Book and You Tube. The topic a customer is looking at, at any given moment, is sensed by Twitter and it looks for competing posts to list in your customers’ Discover window. No way around that, either.

The Answer

Use social media in a limited way to point customers to your company site. At your site, you can impart information, white papers, research, order pages, pictures and even your own videos without danger of them being led away by competitive messaging.

Host all of the content that is text or photos on your own server. But videos, since they are much larger in file size and require much more bandwidth and therefore cost and expertise to manage, can be hosted on a server owned by your Video management host, like EZWebPlayer.com.

Using someone like EZWebPlayer, instead of hard coding a player yourself, offers you the ability to virtually host your own videos, without the cost of having a programmer on staff.

Check out EZWebPlayer here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

End of a Year-long Project.

I just finalized the last episode of a project on which I've been working for one year. It was a patriotic, one-episode-per-day radio show featuring the book, America's History is His Story, by R.G. Yoho, the Western novel author.

Click on the picture to see more about the book.

The radio network on which the episodes air daily is here,
http://wvgvradio.com/. Look for the Program guide for times.

The book is a collection of little-known facts and well known American historical accounts expanded. It also fights against the face of history revisionists who just can't stand that America really is a Christian nation and that there is a reason that Washington DC is completely inundated with Bible quotes and scripture permanently embedded in the concrete and marble edifices that broadcast for all to see the truth of The Bible and God's involvement in the founding of this great country.

Best PhotoShop Tip for Your 2013 Vacation Photos!

My friend, Jim Harmer (more of a trusted acquaintance) has ferreted out a little known feature of PhotoShop that is a major find for the average vacation shooter.

You can take killer photos of cool structures without getting there at 5am to beat the other 10,000 tourists with the same idea.

Take a bunch of fixed, tripodded shots only a few seconds apart of the same scene, load them into Photoshop, and this little known feature will magically remove anything that was a moving object (like walking humans). I looked up the feature in my CS5; sure enough, it was there all the time. It even has a cool wizard that walks you through and even loads the right pics for you.

Click on the photos here to see Jim's article

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fit Every Video Perfectly Into Every Frame -- Every Time

Make it easy on yourself to get your video to web at the right size, the first time and every time.

A group of Player choices displayed by EZWebPlayer.com
The easiest way to handle fitting a video into a player on the Web properly so that there are no black filler bars on the sides, top or bottom, is to employ a web player that automatically senses your video's shape. My favorite web player is EZWebPlayer.com because it actually includes "Autodetect" as one of its default player profile settings. This is obviously a large help to all web video uploaders such as myself.

Creating videos that fit perfectly wherever they land is a lot like framing pictures. Nobody tries to frame an 8 x 10 portrait with a 12 x 12 frame. They don't match. You'd end up with something filling  the extra space by default; whatever was back there -- cardboard, paper, empty space -- whatever. And the same is true for fitting the video into its web player properly.

This short article explains a few basics so that the novice can get a better handle on how to proceed when placing videos on the Web.

Why the Confusion? Who's Idea Was This Anyway?

The video camera manufacturing community didn't have enough Monday morning planning sessions before they all started releasing their latest video camera creations on us, the buying public. Actually, the obverse is true; they are in hot competition with each other and each is trying to out-do the others in the never ending task of gaining our attention and more market share. Therefore, new features, formats and cosmetics are constantly being poured out the doors of Japanese, Taiwanese and Malaysian factories to be loaded onto the big ocean going cargo ships to be unloaded on California docks so that Best Buys all over The U.S. can eek out an ever decreasing profit margin to the millions of us who have to have the latest and greatest video gadget [ ** insert wind-sucking breath-rush here ** ].

Thus, we have a lot of different video cameras with a lot of different capabilities; including digital 35mm cameras that also double as really high end video cameras.

As far as frame size and shape goes, the result is that there is no longer a true standard default video frame size; it just no longer exists, because each manufacturer decided to have their cameras shoot in Wide as well as Standard, both of which can be anywhere from 1920 pixels wide and up, down to a postage stamp size of 100 pixels and smaller. There are some more heavily used shapes and frame sizes than others, but basically, the sky's the limit. This is actually a good thing as it allows us, the end users to have more choices.

So, when you pick up your video camera to start shooting for the first time, at what default size and shape is your camera set? Since no manufacturer is forced to follow the same "default" settings, there is no good all encompassing answer to this. You may not even know in what frame size you are shooting until hours of video have already been captured. And Heaven forbid that more than one person used the same camera, and someone changed the settings in mid project.

See the problem?

Compounding the issue is the fact that no two camera operators have the same level of expertise and understanding of

  • How video works in general
  • What will the video look like when it is deployed to the web or a DVD
  • Is there a way to standardize all of the videos after they have been shot
  • Why they were roped into being responsible for the company video in the first place
In reality, the higher number of cameras start out with a default video size and shape that will help your first video out of that camera to fit into either a 16:9 wide screen or 4:3 standard. But there is no guarantee.

Good news for existing footage.

There is some good news for the project manager who is stuck with minutes upon endless minutes of videos on one topic, but in eleven different size formats -- or even several different media, like VHS, DVD, 16mm film, etc. There are some streamlining ways to make good use of these different sized and formatted videos. But, the best scenario would be to plan ahead before shooting next time.

At the end of this article, I will briefly explain a "fix" for conforming several different video formats so that one can do something intelligent with them, in one project.

Getting it right before shooting.

Before shooting, decide how you want to share the video when it's all finished. Experienced producers have a grasp on what types of videos do well as Wide Screen, when one should use the standard 4:3 ratio, or when a custom size is preferred. After making that decision, one would set the camera to the desired format, whether it be wide screen, the older 4:3 ratio, or something custom.

If you do not have the luxury of choosing different shooting sizes because of equipment limitations, simply choose the highest quality that is appropriate and available so that you can post edit to whatever you need with as few quality issues as possible.

But, there are some things that you need to know in case you do have the ability to choose frame size and shape. The entire web and video industries are now geared for HD and wide screen. For all business purposes I wouldn't even consider 3D. Let's not go there. Unless you have a 3D-centric issue that requires 3D affects, stay away from it. 3D can severely increase the required post production and disc duplication budget, as well as critically reduce the size of the audience who will even watch your production.

All things being nominal, I would choose HD and shoot in the highest available quality with a frame size at 16:9 ratio, 1920 x 1080 square (1.0) square pixel shape. Shooting at these higher quality and larger sized settings allows for more choices in distribution.

I'm assembling an important project but have so many different source forms. What do I do?

The lowest common denominator for the highest desired production quality; that is your issue. You have a low resolution VHS mixed in with several higher res. DVD quality and higher sources. That lower res. VHS can be treated two ways to be useful. You can either keep it at its lower quality and include it inside the project as a smaller framed Picture-in-picture video, or you can bring the entire project down to the quality of the VHS. The second choice is not recommended, for quality issues.

I vote for the PIP option as treatment for the lower quality VHS clip. The audio will usually be very good, or at least good enough to understand everything, assuming it was recorded properly to begin with.

Other solutions of bringing all to one conformed post production style can include cropping, prerendering into a larger, more complex format like AVI before rendering down to your final h.264, or MP4, F4V or whatever you choose for your final render. Prerendering into an AVI codex, editing all in that form, and then rendering to an h.264 will allow you to adjust parameters like color level, hue, white balance adjustment, light level, black knee adjustment, etc.

These are all basics for a seasoned tech producer/director and should be handled by such if the project is important enough that it will be representative of a significantly important institution or company, and will be viewed by a large viewing audience, whether at an upcoming event, or to be made public in an archive reachable over a long period of time.

In the end, you will still have to make a decision when rendering for the Web to match your final render's size to the player size for the Web. If the player size for the web needs to fit into a 640 x 480 player, then the render should be at that size, or larger but at the same ratio, to avoid the video not fitting properly into the Web player.

"I thought you called this a short article", you might be thinking right now. Well, this is a relatively short article when one considers that for each type of video project, thousands of words can be written on work flow, audio tips, best rendering forms and codices depending on end use and archiving.

Today, a rough search and quick count using Google resulted in over 300 separate video file extensions. A file extension is the video file type in the form ".mov" which is a famous and well-used video file format created by Apple. Other examples are h.264, MP4, F4V, FLA, WMV, MJPG. Pages and pages can be written about each one of these, which I did not intend in this article.

Feel free to contact me with specific questions regarding video formats, editing, shooting and post production.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher to Return to Star Wars?

“Star Wars” fans, you can rest easy. Your favorite heroes are “pretty much” back for the upcoming “Star Wars Episode VII”.
In an interview with Bloomberg Business Week, the father of the “Star Wars” franchise George Lucas let a very juicy tidbit slip. “We had already signed Mark (Hamill) and Carrie (Fisher) and Harrison (Ford) – or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation.”
After he realized what he had said, he 

Who is it? And What are they coming back to?

Who are the three behind the podium, and what are they coming back to?
Reply if you know.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Life’s Proper Perspective: There when you need it

by Stu Marks

I have had many different careers, most of them mini-careers, as many of us have in these interesting and challenging times. I began in high school to study The Stage, performance art and entertainment broadcasting. I attended early college as a law enforcement major, and then dropped out to take a full time gig with a local TV station. TV stations don’t pay well to un degreed camera operators, floor directors and assistant weathermen. So, I almost always had a second job going on the side as I made my way through the broadcast industry as radio announcer, program director, production coordinator, etc…

One of the best lessons I've ever learned came to me from a Burger King owner. Bill Marks, who shares my last name by no relation (that we knew of), which I’m sure was the cause of many an hourly employee’s dark contemplation and discussions of my achieved Store Manager position, when I managed a store in central Illinois (store #9466). During one small fracas when we were running short handed for the lunch rush, my assistant manager (the best employee in the world, excepting her occasional temper) began to get a tad huffy and threatened to quit (to this day, my friend Michele still is not aware that in my mind, I quit that job every Monday at 6am). Good ole Bill happened to be in the dining room going over the books, and overheard the one-sided argument ensuing.

Bill rolled out of the mini seat that Burger King provides instead of real chairs, and came back to where we were. He first asked that we talk a little quieter or take it outside. Then he delivered to us one of the wisest statements in restaurantdom.

“Michele,” he said quietly to my assistant manager. “Calm down, it’s only burgers.”

I did have many moments of enjoyment in that job, which was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. But, what made it bearable was that single statement from Bill, “It’s only burgers.” Since “…burgers” is the main business of Burger King, let alone the company’s namesake, one could arguably cast serious aspersion on Bill’s corporate perspective. But when stacked against all of life’s daily, weekly and annual decisions, the sheer multitude of burgers that fly out the drive through window and over the dining room counter, reduce their worth to something less than life changing and career molding elements.

Truly, if this burger happened to be short one pickle slice, as presented by the irate customer standing at the counter, the offending short-pickled sandwich laying open-faced on the wrapper, just to prove his case that there were only two slices instead of three; a simple apology, a fresh new burger, and a refund for half the meal, and a smile is all it takes to get it right for the moment, and a promise to work harder for the future. Because, when it’s all said and done, it is only burgers.

That was about 14 years ago; a whole ‘nother life time for me. Since then, I’ve returned to college and finished a degree, began a new job with an online startup, migrated from Chicago to SW Washington State, and seen some grand babies born. But, I have had many occasions to go through some difficult moments in which I needed to take a deep breath, look more broadly at the situation at hand, and declare to myself, “It’s only burgers.”

Now, I’m not sure what Navy Seals and astronauts say to themselves for perspective; nor policemen and brain surgeons. But, in the world of streaming media, when things are constantly changing, and one is dealing with a single individual who’s Internet browser is running slow because they are trying to view seventeen videos on the same web page all at once, it comes as a very relevant comfort to take a breath and slow down for about two seconds, and tell myself, “No need to get angry, it’s only browsers.”

Most of the working world in our Western culture are thankfully not brain surgeons and Navy Seals. So, we probably have more of an opportunity to look at life with a more complete perspective during moments of high stress, where the Navy Seal simply prepares for stress beforehand and reflects on perspective at a later date, after the asses are thoroughly kicked, the names are taken, and the dust clears.

Correctly observing one’s place in the universe seriously affects the way we deal with those around us, which usually can make or break an entire career as well as one’s quality of life. The trick is balancing how to attack a job with full intent, sense of urgency and appreciation for doing one’s best, while keeping proper perspective to avoid being a tyrant to those under you, a bore to those around you, and a liability to those above you.

In case Bill Marks ever reads this, be it known that a large part of my life’s successes are due to his relevant points of wisdom displayed at the most opportune moments. Though my favorite is still, “It’s only burgers”, the better and all around best serving gem might have been, “Well, Stu, if you did it right the first time, you wouldn't be in this mess, would you now.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why Pay to Upload Web Videos When YouTube is Free?

by Stu Marks, Web Video Producer at Specialized Media Services, Vancouver Washington area.

We who use the Web to do business, spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on our web videos in order to present our important message to our potential clients and keep our customers informed and coming back. Just like we wouldn’t put up with a competitor or other distraction stealing our precious face time when visiting a customer’s business in person, why put up with letting outsiders dilute the message on the Web?

If a “Free” Provider is losing you customers and diluting your marketing assets, then every time you use a free provider, free may actually cost you a lot. Free could be costing you sales.

Here’s 10 reasons why it’s not a bad thing to pay for a web video provider:

  1. “Free” providers can dilute your message with distracting trails that lead to competitors and other distractors in the form of “like themed” video lists.
  2. “Free” providers usually force advertising on your viewers, further diluting your message.
  3. “Free” providers don’t offer you advertising pre rolls and post rolls to further narrow the message.
  4. “Free” providers often don’t allow you to create automatic page forwarding, like to order or shopping pages.
  5. “Free” providers almost never offer analytical information on your videos, providing you with depth of information regarding what your viewers like or want, or when they quit watching your videos and advertisements.
  6. “Free” providers are often branded. They are putting THEIR brand on YOUR product. Is this really a good marketing strategy for you?
  7. “Free” providers don’t offer you powerful organizational tools like Channels that group like videos together.
  8. “Free” providers do not allow you to create your own limitless playlist from which viewers can choose other videos.
  9. “Free” providers never offer you unlimited live streaming.
  10. “Free” providers never offer you customized player and landing pages that put YOUR logo and identity around your video.

I suggest trying a free week using EZWebPlayer.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Student Photography, Post 1

I began a formal course in professional photography from The New York Institute of Photography this year. Being self taught with a crash course introduction from west coast photo journalist Frank Bolling at my first TV station gig in Medford, Oregon in 1977, I have never had a formal education or even one class in photography, even though I actually served as a photo judge for a group of schools taking part in the PILOT competition program for a number of years. So, as I go through the course, I thought it would be interesting to blog about what I learn and how these lessons might underscore the things I learned since 1977 as I went on to work professionally in photography, TV camera operation, commercial work, network media and graphic arts.

What makes a great photo?
There is no tried and true set of laws or rules about what is a great photo that forces everyone to recognize the same photographic work as their favorite, or THE best. Any art form presented to humans is subjective, not objective. But photography that follows a certain set of rules, has and will certainly always evoke foreseeable results in emotions and reactions to the photo in question.

It is these sets of rules to which I aspire to learn from those who have gone on before; specifically, successful photographers that have and are making a living from the art form known as photography.

Lesson 1; The Eye of the Photographer. explained some generalities involved in good composing tools that photographers use to decide where they will crop the photo as they look for where to point the camera.
Some important key visuals include;

  • Keep the recognizable main subject easy to see by using focus, natural eye drawing lines, color, light and dark tones and angles to draw the eye to the main subject of the photo.
  • All great photos have one main theme or subject. So, when shooting decide what the theme of that photo will be before firing the trigger.
  • All photo compositions can usually be broken into thirds horizontally and vertically, equaling nine indistinct zones to fill when composing. eg, 3 x 3 = 9.
I knew all of this, but it was extremely gratifying to see this underscored. Doing something because it works is one thing. But doing something that works and finding out that the most prestigious photographic institute in the US has been teaching that to all of their students for decades is quite another.
So far, I am enjoying going back to school again (I went back to school at the age of 47 for a four year degree in Multimedia-advertising and web design, gaining a BFA from the Illinois Institute of Art at Schaumburg/Chicago Art Institute).

More next week, or as I have time to complete these modules. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Longview Landmarks: Day One-- Sea Otters

These life-size brass see otters are guardians on one of the four corners
of the Allen Street bridge in Kelso, WA.
Starting a new project today;
Longview Landmarks. The unique geographic landmarks of Longview Washington.

When I'm finished, I'll have an exhaustive collection of the most unique and well-loved images that make this area so interesting visually. Up and down Commerce street, is a large collection of handmade sculptures. This bridge has four unique wildlife sculptures done in brass. There are unique structures of antiquity, vintage and modern origin. The Lewis and Clarke bridge alone is an historical wonder. I believe that this collection will be an extremely important addition to my archive and one of the most fun to enjoy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

YouTube Channels? Not so much

The following article on YouTube Channels is perfect justification for a 3rd party web video management solution like EZWebPlayer.com that release's one  of your full time employees from the labor investment that it takes to maintain your important video presence on the Web, for a fraction of the cost of that employee.
Unless you’ve been living with that Russian family cut off from human contact since before World War II, you may have noticed that pretty much every video worth a watch on YouTube has an ad in front of it.
This, of course, is not an accident. This is a carefully built and highly profitable scheme created by the good people of Google, and one that's been netting top YouTubers annual salaries of well over a hundred grand per year.
That’s right, that dopey guy with the Justin Beiber haircut is making around four hundred thousand a year for essentially talking into his webcam about nothing. Do yourself a favor and try not to think about what kind of money the Annoying Orange is pulling in—it’s hard enough getting to work on a Monday as it is, and knowing that the world's most abrasive citrus is pulling in more than you are isn’t going to help.
The latest twist from the brain trust at YouTube, the idea of the paid channel, has taken a page from the book of, If it Ain’t Broke, Let’s Try to Break it. When Ad Age broke the story, a collective “WTF?” rang out across cyberspace.
Remember TV? You know, it’s that thing you watched The Sopranos and Homeland on. AndGame of Thrones and Dexter and Girls and Boardwalk Empire... see the pattern here? Well, the gang at YouTube saw the pattern, too.
They saw premium cable charging a hefty monthly fee, and they thought about all those millions upon millions of views their popular channels get, and it was only natural to do the math. Apparently a few billion views at a few dollars a piece is just too much money to pass up. I’m sure they then all did a good round of back patting and buying each other overpriced cocktails at whatever painfully trendy mixology speakeasy bar the YouTube guys go to after work. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Print Labs Exposed

Jim Harmer recently finished a great research project that alone, would be worth the price of one of his classes. But darned if he didn't go ahead and release it for free anyway; to everyone.

Printing labs are a big deal if you are shooting portraits and selling them to consumers.

Check out this article comparing leading print labs.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Preparing for Killer Outdoor Photography Shots

Patience, Gear Knowledge & Experience are all important elements in a photographer's tool box

See more of Marcel's work here.

Getting dynamic photographs of nature or humans doing awesome things comes in basically two types of preparedness; 1) patience and planning, with a heaping extra portion of more patience on top of patience slathered with extra patience sprinkled with… etc., or 2), really, really lucky.

The really, really lucky method is, by definition, not something that can, or even need be planned for. So, I won’t offer any tips for that, here.

The How-To that goes into capturing those shots that illicit comments from your fans like, “How do you get those shots?”, and “I didn't even know owls could do that”, are a composite of several elements, and the recipe reads like a Navy Seal’s mission preparedness outline.

All though there are no guarantees,