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Video as Judge, Jury, and Executioner

With the entire world watching, scenes of triumph, devastation, violence, and heartbreak have recently unfolded online. So much so, that social media apps have adapted their technology to stay in line with the rapid influx of civilian shot video being uploaded to the web, documenting the world’s latest headlines. In today’s internet-driven society, video has now become proprietor for the world’s social commentary. Audiences will tune into YouTube channels for current events before turning on the television or picking up a paper. Online video allows the public to give immediate opinion on world events and have dialogue with others, internationally, all at the touch of a button. These opinions have begun to shape the way that society as a whole functions. The court of public opinion now has major influence in politics, social change, psychology, and marketing, and video has given audiences the tools to become judge, jury, and at times, executioner.

Take for instance Donald Trump’s recent calamities involving video of him making sexually inappropriate comments regarding women. One particular video went viral immediately and has fueled an already controversial campaign’s implosion. The public took to the internet to respond to his comments, leading droves of Trump’s GOP colleagues to revoke their support for him. As social media posts were shared and commented on regarding his remarks, political opinion was swayed primarily against the Republican candidate. With this case, the public was shown evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing, deliberated as a group, and passed forth a sentence of potential death to his political career. The immediacy with which information traveled and that audiences voiced their criticisms prompted a swift form of “internet justice” by which Donald Trump was held accountable in the public eye, and both he and his supporters were forced to answer for his actions.

Several similar cases arose over the past couple of years, but more dynamically over the past several months involving police shootings caught on civilian video. Most notably is the Philando Castile shooting live streamed on Facebook. An unarmed, compliant African-American man was fatally shot while in the car with his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter in the back seat. Facebook’s adaptation of the live streaming feature due to the surge of video posts had just recently been released when the shooting occurred. After a series of controversial shootings of African-American men, Mr. Castile’s girlfriend began live streaming the police stop to her Facebook account. As the video recorded, the audience was able to react in real-time to the event as it unfolded. In the aftermath of the tragic event, comments continued to fly across the internet, with protests erupting and further shootings occurring in the months following. Using the video as a “smoking gun,” the public lambasted the officer for poor training and an itchy trigger finger and demanded charges be filed. However, in this case, the “jury” was unable to sway the “court” enough and the officer was placed on administrative leave then returned to work on desk duty.


Paper Chase

More than ever, printed media outlets are turning to digital production to dispense news. With facets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, classic paper media is quickly becoming obsolete. Consumers want information at the speed of light and won’t wait for tomorrow’s headlines to get their fix. When a bomb explodes in New York, millions of people check their phones and hit the internet to get the up-to-the-minute details of what occurred. Viewers can turn on their televisions, but are now able to hit “go” on their browsers and stream live feeds from war torn villages or hurricane stricken neighborhoods as disasters happen. This immediacy is pushing print into antiquation among communication media and sending traditional journalists chasing jobs now going to digital journalists and “bloggers.”

Paper media has lost its footing in the race against technology. With information readily available, many find it more time consuming to utilize physical print than to merely click a button and have everything at their fingertips. News outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have all steered their material online to give technologically inclined readers a mobile option, preventing subscriber numbers from plummeting. Some publishers have attempted to maintain their traditional format but found that without a digital interface, sales have fallen so low that no choice was left but to lay off staffers or shut down completely. Such was the case with USA Today’s printed format in 2015. The then 33 year old printed news publisher had to offer buyouts to over 90 veteran employees and cease print on its weekend edition due to budget cuts related to low sales and the rise of digital media. This led to a revitalization of their website USAToday.com, originally launched in 1995 with moderate traffic. After refocusing its content toward digital material, traffic increased significantly. In June 2016, the site reported nearly 88.3 million visitors and 870 million page views.

Websites such as BuzzFeed and Huffington Post have made their journalistic name via digital video and digital print media respectively. These online content giants are leading the march out of the “Dark Ages” of traditional print and into the “Golden Age” of easy access information. The public wants news now and media outlets are answering the call. Both print and television companies have made bold endeavors to capture online audiences with energetic, contemporary material. For staffers of more familiar publishers like TheBostonGlobe.com and WashingtonPost.com, there is a more daunting task of maintaining journalistic integrity built on the foundation of traditional media, while adapting to the lightning fast speed with which stories must be put out for public consumption. While these reporters tread a fine line documenting events, information distribution among bloggers and digital journalists allows more leeway with content accuracy. This gives way to the slow eradication of formal print. When one can simply hit edit or delete to correct an error in an instant, the idea of paper publishing seems less cost effective in an age of global technological innovation.


Digital Marketing: Under New Management

In this age of technology, audiences are looking for information and engagement at the speed of light. They want content at the tip of their fingers and to be entertained in even the most ordinary of locations. Businesses are setting their sights on bigger populations of consumers, requiring a need for continual content distribution with faster production turnaround times. In order to familiarize the public with their brand, companies are utilizing video production to market their business to consumers with otherwise limited product exposure. These production companies provide high quality content with rapid output at lower costs then formal marketing firms. Creative control lies in the hands of the client, allowing for a more personalized message to the public.

Enlisting the help of video production companies gives clients the freedom to post their marketing and content across varying platforms. Gone are the days of depending on ad airtime slots for high consumer views. Now, businesses have 24 –hour access to a wide demographic of customers, even internationally. Videos can be shared between audience members, edited and re-edited based upon platforms, and downloaded and re-watched at the touch of a button. Specific demographics can even be targeted with the aid of “like” and “share” data in real time. That means that a video campaign can be distributed to customers specifically searching for a company’s product at that moment. Take the 2016 Summer Olympic Games for instance. Companies have plastered the internet with video content in an effort to gain viewership and attendance from a broader audience than ever before.

In addition to quality work at the consumers’ fingertips, video marketing can be used to create what’s termed “FOMO,” or Fear of Missing Out. The action of live events, viral video, and commercial content are happening in real time. Audiences are viewing content and distributing it to the masses immediately, creating a variety of social movements. The excitement created from these movements keeps consumers anxious about missing out and prompts constant digestion of material. Unlike standard print, television, or radio marketing, streaming video and platforms like YouTube and Facebook allow viewers to stay connected on the go.

With Millennials consuming most of their news and content via social media, the need for video marketing is at an all-time high. Mobile apps and devices have created a decline in desktop internet use and have led to companies creating mobile-first content. Gen Z has also become a leading marketing demographic, as the internet savvy youth have taken more of an active/participatory role in content creation. Whereas Millennials are primarily focused on absorbing as much information as possible, Gen Z audiences want to be a part of the action. According to a Reuters survey, 79% of the leading digital companies have plans to invest more into video marketing in 2016 than they had in 2015. In order to stay in stride with the growing trend of digital media, companies are realizing the need to deliver video content at the rapid pace of their audience’s consumption.

Food truck

Video Production…The Food Truck of Entertainment Media

Working on a friend’s food truck over the 4th of July weekend, it came to mind the way in which food trucks have taken over and become a kind of new, trendy restaurant. Convenient, sometimes at your door service, comparable to or lower prices than dine-in restaurants, and hip, made-to-order cuisine. Similar to this shift in dining approaches, video production is charging forward as the new method for creating movies, documentaries, corporate media, and commercials. With more readily available services and costs challenging large film companies, video production has changed the face of entertainment media.

Innovative creators can now have access to studio quality equipment and programs without breaking the bank. Even crowd-funding for production projects has turned to video in the forms of Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo. Samples of filmmakers’ works can now be streamed easily and passed from one person on the production team to the next. Companies can have commercials and informational videos made at a fraction of the cost, without sacrificing quality.

In the same way that food trucks use small staff with changeable menu items, video production houses use small, specialized, and freelance staff in order to offer a broader menu of services. Video production’s rise also mirrors that of the food truck industry in that the communities within which these companies work (be they art or cuisine) have given their financial support to help them thrive. A new job market has even been opened due to the entrepreneurial spirit of these two trades. Both industries providing a service to the community have helped businesses treat their staff during special events and provide information to attract clients, feed filming crews and provide equipment for projects, or feed guests and create a production of a couple’s special day.

Documentarians have especially taken hold of the more easily accessible resources video production companies supply. Important historical information and politically relevant news have been delivered to the public through documentaries that would have otherwise required far more financial assistance to be produced, or may not have been produced at all. In December of 2015, a small production company named Synthesis Films helped make the documentary series, Making a Murderer. What started out as a simple production, became a Netflix sensation out of nowhere. Not spending millions on this docu-series demonstrates that entertainment hits can be made using less-familiar but equally reputable production companies, such as Click Play Films.

Just as the future of cuisine, catering, and dining-out is being changed by food trucks, entertainment and commercial media is being changed by the a la carte services provided by smaller video production companies.

360 Camera

360-Degree VR: Virtually Changing the Face of Entertainment

Since the 2015 Sundance Film Festival’s premiere of VR shorts Lost, Birdly, and Project Syria, the world of storytelling has dramatically changed. Audiences are now able to virtually immerse themselves in the story world created by filmmakers through the use of 360-degree virtual reality camera technology. 360 VR is becoming the latest trendsetter in video and film production. Taking viewers everywhere from cliff diving in Peru to fantasy robot worlds in the latest festival favorite, 360 VR is setting the stage for a transformation in the way we interact and engage. Combining science with entertainment, companies like Oculus and Facebook’s Story Studio have revolutionized the way artists and gamers create media.

Lost VR

Using overlapping areas on multiple cameras, videographers are able to capture images in a 360×180 field. These images are then stitched together into one panoramic video, similar to a “world map” geometric projection in 4K resolution. Other projection effects include the “little planet” and circular fisheye effects, for more immersive dome theater viewing. Programs such as VideoStitch Studio can be downloaded in demo mode from the web for free, however; without paying for the associated license, a watermark will be present on the output videos. Completed content will be in the format of regular video files or stream. This content is then remapped to show only the field of view seen by the user. The product comes ready to use and works with most up-to-date browsers and Adobe Flash Players.

While most smartphones can view HD 360 videos in native applications, the battle continues between two major companies, LG and Samsung, as to who will dominate the VR smartphone market. While LG’s 360 VR headset (compatible with the LG G5 phone) is lighter weight than Samsung’s Gear VR brand (compatible with the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7 and the S7 Edge), its design creates awkward viewing for the user by comparison. The Samsung Gear VR unit also affords viewers more VR content due to its association with the Facebook’s Story Studio and Oculus’ VR library. LG’s VR unit has also proven to perform poorly in comparison, with only low resolution video quality and distorted pictures. Gear VR was proven to have limited to no bugs in its newest inception and is cheaper than the LG unit, making it more user-friendly and desirable to buyers.

Samsung Gear VR Headset

From the 360-degree VR innovations come the need for production companies that can combine this new format of footage with dynamic effects and editing in a way that will fascinate audiences. YouTube and Facebook have joined the race to support uploading high resolution 360 VR content. As the technology quickly advances, these social media giants must adapt more rapidly than the other to attract the frenetic demographic clamoring to capture their experiences and share them with the world.

360 Camera

Reel to Reel

Help Wanted: Old Souls in Entertainment

A very conspicuous hole is being left in the wake of so many film and music creators and contributors passing away recently. Where an equally talented and spirited thinker should be stepping up as successor to these empty thrones, there sits no one. The charisma, star quality, artistic genius, and quality of material in the entertainment industry have left much to be desired. The wells of “old school” heart and appreciation for the arts in their purest forms are running dry. Can you remember the last time someone was deemed a true legend? Who, in this millennial generation, can be thought of as a replacement for any legends recently lost? Take David Bowie and Prince for instance. And who would be chosen for Wes Craven? For Joan Rivers or Whitney Houston? There is a noticeable decline in the originality of the work produced in the 21st century. Everything comes from a book, is a sequel or reboot, or has been auto-tuned to the point of sonic anguish. With so many advancements in technology, the amount of labor expended to create and mold a sound or image has become miniscule, especially in comparison to the time-consuming effort involved in much earlier times. These conveniences minimize the need for one to do their homework in regard to the art being created. An immersion in information builds passion and gratitude that is translated in the work produced. In this world of billions, sounds and images are being shared with the young. From decades past, from the inception of that particular style, this history is planting the seeds of inspiration.

What we now need is a resurgence of enthusiasts for the countless filmmakers and musicians currently struggling because they care little about the bottom line and would die for their art. The kind of artists and supporters who aren’t working for likes, shares, or downloads, but rather because they’ve devoted everything to creating and nothing else will feel the same. We need more people who love their work as if it were a best friend or child, who’ll protect it from artificiality and insincerity. And, who will press every allowable ounce of passion into it so that audiences get palpable waves of the soul expended to create it. Blockbuster ticket sales and Platinum status have become more important than quality of content, with marketability reigning supreme over substance. While music and film production companies do exist that want to create genuine art, they are relegated to the background because they aren’t afforded the same funding, connections, or air time as more capital driven brands. It’s companies like IFC Films, Concord Music Group, and Click Play Films etc. trying to return content and quality to the production industry. There’s still hope for entertainment. What it needs to flourish, as it has in the past, are curators and audiences not willing to settle for the latest trend or the easiest moneymaker. What it needs, is a hero with a young mind and an old soul.


Catching the Buzz: Buzzfeed Content Takes Internet by Storm

Social media information sharing has a new leader, BuzzFeed.com. Originally started in 2006 as a kind of “Cliffs Notes” for online content, Buzzfeed has quickly launched itself into the spotlight with engaging and share-worthy media like: Listicle, quizzes, and DIYs. Today, the information sharing giant now includes 700+ pieces of content in over 25 categories. The site now incorporates investigative journalism, current event analysis, as well as the items trending the most on the internet. Buzzfeed recently reported that the majority (over 75%) of its content comes from off-site entities: 50% from Snapchat, 27% from Facebook, and 14% from YouTube views.

According to Tubular data, 5 out of the top 20 most watched videos on the internet are Buzzfeed articles. This data also revealed that while the brand has more views on YouTube, Buzzfeed’s Facebook engagement is much higher. The site has also reported that only 5% of videos streamed are from Buzzfeed itself. The majority of the combined video content from the brand has been uploaded to YouTube (46%) versus uploaded to Facebook (37%) or other platforms such as Vine or Instagram (17%). The viewership on YouTube is unsurprisingly higher at 8.2 billion (53%) versus 6.8 billion (45%) from Facebook. Facebook, however, accounts for 61% of all shares, likes and comments in comparison to the 38% from YouTube. Videos like “Cookie Dough Dip” and “Banana Nutella Sushi” were among the highest ranked for engagement.

Last year, under the umbrella of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, there were an estimated 2,760 videos uploaded to YouTube (about 53/week) that generated the combined 6.5 billion views. Buzzfeed also uploaded around 3,103 videos to Facebook last year (about 60/week), a 122% increase to the social media network. This increase is higher than the average all-time upload rate from the previous year. With Facebook playing such a dynamic part in the success of the Buzzfeed brand, President of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures has stated, “Facebook’s decision to lean into auto-play has really fundamentally changed the way we think about the first five seconds of content.” With the rapid-fire scrolling used on many social media platforms, viewers need to be engaged immediately. This has made eye-catching visuals key in grabbing audiences and keeping them interested enough to hit “share.”

Buzzfeed has been social-sharing focused from its inception, and founder, Jonah Peretti understood that relieving the boredom of millions of workers during the day would be a success. The site claims to use its posts and videos as a means of communicating and not just as content filler. Peretti has stated that he would like to extend the brand into TV and film, and with $200 million contributed by NBCUniversal, it’s expected that Buzzfeed will makes its mark beyond the internet.