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Posts Tagged ‘workflow’

Attention Spans Waning, or Too Many Choices?

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Rebecca Greenfield over at the Atlantic reports the following story:

The Internet’s Attention Span for Video Is Quickly Shrinking

The bulk of the piece is focused on MixBit, a new app offering in the works by the gentlemen who originally developed YouTube. Given that success it’s fair to assume that they have something here, but I think there are two problems with the piece – the headline and the implications of the MixBit app.

The headline I think is misleading at best. Yes, a year and a half is a lifetime in the internet age, but a drop of two minutes attention span on average could mean almost anything. Are producers shortening their videos and therefore the average piece is now down to five minutes instead of seven? Is there more video in the aggregate and more people watching, therefore there’s an impact on the averages even if people are still watching plenty of video? What, in fact, do they mean by “watching video?” If I sit down to a Netflix session with a 45 minute episode of Dr. Who, I’m there for the duration; if I’m goofing around and catch some viral thing that bores me after 30 seconds, I’m gone no matter how long it lasts.

I’m not specifically questioning the methodologies of the ComScore report – I don’t generally care to dig into those and I wouldn’t understand much of it if I did. The question of attention span may matter, but the big question I always ask of pronouncements and trends like these is “What does it mean to me?” Averages matter, but the corporate or enterprise video producer cannot and should not be driven by trends and statistics. You have a story to tell, and audiences to reach – keep focused on that and let the length run to whatever you need to tell the story best. No, you’re not going to reach your targets with a 30 minute homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. You probably also can’t reach them with a 6 second Vine and get them to purchase your products. Make your best editorial decisions when you shoot and edit a piece, and don’t worry too much about the length, as trends are trends and only provide general information.

The second issue revolves around what turns out to be the bulk of the article, which makes the headline doubly misleading – it should have been titled “YouTube Founders Build Another Video App”. In the end I think MixBit is just another editing tool – in Ms. Greenfield’s words, “MixBit goes even further with its social tools by allowing people to create hour-long videos by splicing together up to 256 of those 16-second clips” [emphasis in the original]. While I grant you the 16-second base clip of MixBit is longer than both Vine and Instagram Video, I’m not entirely certain what makes this app especially revolutionary. Yes, you can make longer clips out of existing video pieces, but why would a serious production team leverage this tool to make long video pieces? If the audience grows outrageously, yes I guess it’s one more outlet, but the competition with existing tools is frankly too great for me to consider this a particularly helpful addition.

While I applaud every new opportunity to bring video to the viewers, it’s important to keep your team’s eyes on the prize. In the end, especially for the enterprise video team, these micro-video tools should be used sparingly and as a supplement to the larger efforts of the group. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype around new features and distribution channels, and that’s what makes it all the more critical to focus your attention on the goals of the organization. A new editing tool like MixBit may be great for the general user, but if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on equipment and editing suites, what benefit does this add? Yes, Instagram now lets you upload your own videos (as opposed to shooting within the app) – does this actually mean you’ll reach more of your target customers there? Make sure you answer those questions properly no matter what the trends say.

DSLR Video Production

July 21, 2011 1 comment

I finally caved in a month or so ago and bought myself a DSLR camera – a Canon T2i.  The family cameras until now were a series of mid to upper level point and shoots, which served their purpose well.  We got plenty of quality pictures of birthday parties, school events, etc. and there was nothing wrong with them.  Still, my last real camera purchase was my film-based Canon AE-1 back in the 1980’s, so I surrendered to my camera lust and settled on the T2i.  I LOVE this camera – not that I really know what I’m doing yet, but the pictures are beautiful and the features are very robust, especially for someone on the lower end of the DSLR learning curve.

I settled on the Canon for a simple reason – the quality of the HD video is very high, and I wanted to be able to take full 1080p video.  Nikon does offer some HD abilities, but my research suggested the Canon would meet my needs better, so I went in that direction.  Which of course provides fodder for a blogpost on the use of DSLR cameras for Enterprise-level video content creation.

There’s a whole universe of DSLR video, and the internet provides a lot of discussion, demos, how-tos, etc.  (Neumann Films is one source I found recently.)  At the Enterprise level, more and more organizations are taking to DSLR platforms for at least some of their production.  A CMMA colleague produced a large chunk of an internal message using a DSLR platform, and the results were fantastic.  So the big question for anyone in the space is how to approach the use of DSLR within their environment?

The first step is to assess current production levels and processes.  If you’re outsourcing every step of your video production, you’ll certainly save money if your team can shoot, edit, and produce in-house.  The camera costs are pretty manageable, as are the editing and production suites.  That of course assumes your existing team can handle the work you’ve been sending out – the equipment here is much less important than the overall skillset and time availability of your own staff.

If you’re already doing work internally, you have to see what your team wants to do.  There’s certainly a lot of value in equipment that can handle both still and video production, but your videographers have to be prepared to work with a completely different platform. There are benefits to smaller equipment footprints, but it’s an adjustment for videographers who have been working in a certain way for a long time, and certain features will be different or absent moving from a pro grade video camera to a DSLR.  You still need to worry about lighting, sound quality, and all the other parts of a good video production, so the DSLR on its own does not mean you’re suddenly set to go with an equipment bag 1/3 the size of your gear before.  Another thing about a switch –  you either have to buy enough equipment to enable the still guys and the video guys to work at the same time, or be prepared for scheduling conflicts and adjustments.

I think the essence of a move to DSLR is that it’s really just another piece of technology.  It’s certainly improved life for tinkerers like me – one piece of equipment provides the features of two, and produces a high quality video result.  But for a professional space, managers need to look beyond the affordable price and small-footprint package. You really need qualified staff to develop high-quality pieces more than you need equipment, no matter how attractive it seems. Good videographers & editors can produce great material with almost anything decent (leaving aside the cheapo handheld video cameras for now.)  Untrained shooters and editors will turn out bad work even when using the highest quality cameras.

In the end I suspect most enterprise media departments will simply add DSLR shooting to their arsenal alongside their other tools.  It provides a quality image capture at an affordable price, and it can allow staff with some videography skills to fill in if primary personnel and equipment are unavailable.  It’s important for media departments to learn something about this new world of video capture and consider it as a part of their tool and skill sets.

Cloud-based Transcoding

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the sessions I caught at Streaming Media East last week (c104 for anyone keeping score) was on the subject of cloud-based vs. in-house transcoding.  Transcoding is simply the process of converting from one video format or flavor to another – the sort of thing you need to do if you’re delivering multiple file types, in multiple bandwidths.  As an example, we had a Windows Media infrastructure internally and a Flash structure externally – both for very good reasons, which I can get into at another time.  Creating those multiple formats is hardly glamorous, and more importantly it hogs up resources that should best be spent doing other things. Read more…

Busman’s Holiday

January 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m back from a too short vacation with the family out to warmer climes – most of all I appreciated the chance to skip shoveling snow for the first time this winter.

While we were out West I took the chance to mix in some business, and I had an opportunity to tour a CMMA colleague’s shop out there (thanks, AG!)  They’re a bigger outfit than we are, in terms of geographical spread, staffing, and demand.  Where we do about 20-30 live teleconferences a week, they do about 75 per DAY.  Needless to say they need more staff than we do, and they’ve completely custom built their networking, endpoint, and UI infrastructure.

Despite the differences, what I took out of it is that we’re all feeling the same pressures, and we’re pushed by the same needs.  We have scheduling issues, they have scheduling issues.  They have pushback from clients, we have pushback from clients.  I admit to some jealousy, as they do have more resources than we do to manage their needs, but the reality is we’re only different in scale, not in practical experiences.

It was nice to get away, but it’s also nice to see how other people are working and how we match up.

IT and Streaming Media – Part II

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The first post got a bit long, so I’ll continue here for those who want this in more digestible chunks.

Situation 3: Let’s Webcast, everybody!

In this common situation, someone gets the bright idea to offer a new service or communication method without quite understanding it and without explaining themselves to the underlings who have to make it happen.

Our fictional VP of Marketing decides that the organization needs to start webcasting based on hearing the term at a seminar.  The competition is webcasting, so we have to as well.  A kickoff meeting is held with senior representatives of multiple business departments and IT and the VP lays out this grand vision of webcasting everything from CEO presentations to the annual company picnic.  The execs leave the meeting with an action plan of assigning people lower down the food chain to realize this vision. Read more…

Distribution

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

One of my main responsibilities is taking all of the content created or acquired by our group and making it available to end users.  Needless to say we look at web delivery as our primary distribution outlet, since it offers many advantages:

  • Load once, play many times – there’s no realistic limit on the number of views of the same file, though of course there are bandwidth issues
  • Simple cost structure – we’ve either paid for the servers already, or we have a standard cost with our CDN for service, so there’s no item-level cost (again other than bandwidth & overage) for streaming a video
  • Ongoing metrics – since we monitor the servers, I can easily determine usage
  • Control – by and large you maintain the only copy of the file and can keep ownership
  • Anytime, anywhere experience – there’s really nothing special needed other than a standard PC to watch the video (we’ll save the format and platform flavors for a later discussion when I’ve figured out what the heck to do with iPads) Read more…

Prioritization

December 5, 2010 Leave a comment

One of my biggest issues is prioritization.  It’s by no means a unique issue to me or to enterprise video, but it’s a monumental challenge to manage.  Generally I don’t like it when people say “oh, we’re so busy”, especially in a meeting – you should be busy, or why are you here?  But at a certain point you can genuinely get so busy that it can really feel like you’re just not capable of getting it all done.  My task list right now has about a dozen separate projects in various stages of the process, and I admit to feeling overwhelmed by all the work to be completed.

This is a situation where I don’t really have a great solution to offer, certainly nothing a reader couldn’t figure out on their own.  Prioritizing work is by itself a task that has to be one, and one we often ignore while trying to solve the actual work issues.  In fact, however, it’s vital to take an hour out of your schedule to look at the work you’re doing and try and get it and you organized.  I’ve been in situations where steps like this are looked at as a waste of time, and I’ve argued that an hour or two of my time now will save dozens of hours later.  Sometimes those arguments fall on deaf ears, but you still have to try and make the case.

Some priorities are easy – requests from higher up the food chain almost always come first, even if they’re not objectively more important for the organization.  Obviously if you’re in a position to negotiate a deadline it’s a good idea, but my experience shows that’s rarely the case with senior people.  Other priorities can be arranged by the amount of work involved – it can be much more beneficial to crank out a large pile of simple tasks quickly as opposed to finishing off much more complicated work.

In the end it’s just a matter of finding a way to slog through it all.  I’ve asked for the next few weeks to be left alone as much as possible – reduce the number of meetings, don’t take on any new projects, and ignore what can possibly be ignored.  It’s unlikely to work as completely as I’d like, but there’s still a half a chance that I’ll be able to plow through the pile over the next few weeks.  I’m open to other suggestions – how do you prioritize everything you have to do?

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