2-Minute Warning

Tick, Tick, Tick... Like it or not, the clock is ticking that is rapidly turning the Internet into a visual environment that will be dominated by players who are savvy enough to realize that text-only is the surest way to lose your online audience. The bad news is that those sites that continue to resist the trend toward video inclusion are going to find browsers and buyers going elsewhere. The good news is that it still isn’t too late for you to get with the YouTube crowd before the clock runs out. In fact, with a little bit of practice, you may soon find out that online video could well be the best thing that ever happened to your company. 

Did You Know that:
n       In November of 2009 31 Billion videos were viewed online in the US.
n       85% of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video in 2009.
n       The average online video viewer watched more than 5 hours of video (in one month!). 12.2 hrs. per viewer in 2009!
n       98.9 million viewers watched 5.9 Billion videos on YouTube (that's 59.2 videos per viewer per month!)

The first thing you have to understand before you rush out to buy a webcam is that bad video is worst than no video at all. What works on paper can be as boring as watching paint dry. That doesn’t mean it takes Steven Spielberg to turn out must-see online TV With a little practice, almost anyone can create corporate videos that are some of the best sales tools a business could have. What follows is what you need to know in order to create and deliver a marketing message by telling a story so that your audience will remember the message and act upon it.
 Best of all, we can even show you how to do this on a shoestring budget.

Lights, Camera, Online Action!

Online it’s all about production value, not airtime The first thing you have to understand is that Web video is completely separate from the world of broadcast television, where the cost of airtime is at a premium and show formats are from 30 to 120 minutes in length. “A typical 30-minute block of television airtime includes 22 minutes of programming with 6 minutes of national advertising and 2 minutes of local (although some half-hour blocks may have as much as 12 minutes of advertisements)." 

We've all had to gnash our teeth while sitting through the now all-too-familiar 3-minute commercial break, wondering if we are even going to be able to keep the dramatic train of thought sustained long enough for the programming to resume. Fortunately, the world of web video doesn’t work that way. There aren’t any commercial breaks during a typical web broadcast, the length of an average YouTube clip being anywhere from two to five minutes. With that kind of format, there isn’t time for a commercial.

That being said, an argument needs to be made for discipline when creating an online video presentation. The way to format an effective video is to do it in the most efficient and memorable manner possible. No-Frills Filmmaking at its Best is about telling your story, whether it's a thirty-second elevator pitch or a five-minute web TV microcast. If you don't tell a story you aren't communicating your message effectively. Best of all, since YouTube doesn't require you to purchase airtime, your video presentation once uploaded, is available 24/7 for all to see, anytime, as often as they want.

Since you have so much freedom of expression when it comes to online video, what you need to ask yourself, is, “What is the best way to make my point?” If you follow the standard television format and drone on for half-an-hour all you are going to accomplish is boring your viewers to tears? The best format for successful Web video is to hit the viewer right between the eyes and deliver the message in an unforgettable way.

Just as with most things in life, discipline is very important when it comes to video production. Particularly when it comes to video shorts, the producer needs to stay focused. Lose this focus and you won’t just lose the viewer, you could very well lose track of your shooting budget as well. Time is money on the set. Unlike producing a show for broadcast television where ads and episodes are timed to the second, when it comes to web-based video you have the freedom to fudge the timing to meet your needs. Online, it makes no sense to cut a presentation because it runs fifteen seconds too long, or to add filler because it runs fifteen seconds short. However, it is still sound practice to create a structure that allows you to build a presentation that works. This means just as in any TV or Hollywood production, your video must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  More importantly, it you also need to tell a story that will grab the viewer’s attention.

What I have done below is create a simple formula for web video production.  It’s loosely based on the standard, three act Hollywood treatment, scaled down from a one hundred and twenty minute movie to a one hundred and twenty second video short. 

Put On Your Producer’s Hat

Before rolling tape, the first thing you need to learn about video is that for every hour you put into preproduction, you will save two in post. What this means in a nutshell, is that you want to have the production well laid out before you shoot video. This boils down to either writing a script, or at the very least laying out some talking points that will give your production structure.

Act One introduces your hero.  It also needs to create an object of desire. This is what’s known in literary circles as the hook.  It’s the hook that creates viewer interest, holds the viewer’s attention, and generates suspense. 

Act Two is all about establishing conflict and building tension by creating an obstacle that provides the motivation necessary to resolving the problem.
 It also plants an element of doubt in the viewer’s mind.  Will the hero carry the day?  Will he get the girl? 

Act Three involves the payoff which resolves the conflict.  The best payoffs are ones that not only save the day, but also plant a seed in the mind of the viewer that leads to the hero’s next appearance.  This is how Hollywood makes most of its money: the sequel.

Production: Armed with either a script or talking points, you can now lay out the meat and potatoes on tape.  Usually this involves scouting a location, assembling cast and crew and shooting your video.  However, one of the things you are going to quickly discover about location shooting is that you can’t control the environment.  Having produced hundreds of videos, I can’t tell you how many times the weather, or someone running a leaf blower, or simple traffic noise has spoiled the best laid production schedule.  That’s why I now shoot about seventy percent of my productions on green screen.

Regardless of how you shoot it, you will need to shoot at least two takes of the script, preferably from different angles. (example: one medium and one closeup)  This way you will be able to cover any gaffs on the part of the talent by cutting away.  This is also the way in which most people are accustomed to viewing TV shows.  Plus it helps hold the viewer’s attention.

Postproduction: Once you get the tape back to post, you should first lay out the rough cut. This means laying out all the action first. Don't worry about narration, music or titling, as these will all be added later. Use transitions with discretion. Too many can give your video an Amateur Hour look. On the other hand, you definitely want to add some cutaways that reduce the “talking head” action so common to amateur videos.  Transition from time to time to a photo, a graphic or even another video clip, anything that helps break up the monotony.  Once you are happy with the flow onscreen, then you can work toward the final cut by adding narration, titling and music.

Post-Postproduction: The best part about web video is that you distribute them free of charge on any number of video hosting sites that have sprung up like weeds since the inception of YouTube. In upcoming posts, I’ll tell you how to use YouTube as an alternative search engine optimization tactic to provide not only content for your website, but also added traffic as well.

Just keep in mind that one of the best ways of adding web video to your repertoire before the 2-Minute Warning runs out, is to call in the video marketing professionals at Jacksonville Video Production  - 904-234-6007.     
Video Samples:


Put a Little Pep In Your Online Step

Baby, it's cold outside...unless like me you live in Florida.  Alright, so it's a brisk 73 outside.  Brr.  The point I'm trying to make is that during the holiday season there's a chill in the air that puts a rosy glow on your cheeks and a little extra pep in your step.  So why not use the reason for the season to step your blogs, vlogs and social networks up a notch or two.  Why let the big boys have all the fun.

Spread a little Holiday Cheer

As you know, nothing online has a higher probability of going viral than humor.  I mean, 10,500,000 funny cat videos can't be all wrong.  So why not use the touchstones of the holiday season to spice up your web presence.  Madison Avenue and Hollywood have been featuring Santa, elves, and/or a snowman or two in their advertisements and motion pictures for years.  You don't have to be David Ogilvy or Stephen Spielberg to get in on a good marketing schtick when you see one.  Just roll up your sleeves and join in the fun.

Lights, Camera, Sleigh Bells

For instance, last year we shot a humorous video featuring Santa Clause asking a 12 month old toddler what she wanted for Christmas.  (See the video below)  While the video didn't exactly glean thousands of views, it did generate a lot of  good-natured responses from those who viewed the video, which was broadcast on our social networks and newsletter.  It was also clearly passed along to friends and family of many viewers.  We also tagged the videos on Twitter with #santababy which helps to promote it beyond the local neighborhood.  We also rebroadcast the video this year.

Santa Baby Part 2

So this year, we thought we'd try the Santa Clause theme once again.  So we rented a Santa suit and hired an actor to play Santa.  Only instead of using an infant, we decided to opt for a little eye candy, in the form of a vivacious 25-year old blonde actress.  Once again aiming for a tongue in cheek approach, we asked  Santa Baby the same question as we had the little girl from the first feature.  Her answer, along with Santa's surprising response, is sure to make this video an even bigger draw than the one previous. (See below)

You Can't Get Enough of that Jolly Old Elf

While we had the suit, we also decided to shoot a third video, this one showing how the Internet has clearly effected Santa's business in 2011.  We will drip this video (below) and the one above out over the course of the Christmas season.  All told, the entire project set us back less than $200.  Ho ho holy mackerel, what a jolly good deal.

The bottom line is that if you get into the spirit of the season and employ a little creativity, there is no telling what you can come up with to entertain both prospects and customers while simultaneously promoting your business.

I think next year we'll give the Grinch a shot.

Have a happy holiday from all the elves at Access-JAX.com.

When Carl Weiss isn't directing jolly St. Nick, he helps clients maximize their results online.  If you want to find out how you stack up online, go to either of Carl's sites at http://access-jax.com or http://jacksonville-video-production.com and sign up for a FREE Web Presence Analysis today.  

Feeding Your Facebook

While many of you understand the importance of using Facebook to build an audience, precious few realize that there are a number of facilities built into the platform that can make the endeavor more proactive.  Below are a few Plugins to help you feed your facebook.

Plugin#1: Adding the Like/Send Buttons

Facebook offers a set of widgets called Social Plug-ins that you can drop into any web page.  One of the first you will want to familiarize yourself is the Like Button.  Adding the button isn’t all that difficult as long as you follow the instructions.  First you need to go to http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/ and look for the dialog box under the heading Step 1 – Getting the Button Code.  By simply copying and pasting the url of the page you wish to add the button and hitting the button that reads, “Get Code,” facebook will return both the Java and html code you need.  Simply paste the code where you want the button to appear and then follow the instructions below.

Direct from Facebook

The Like/Send buttons lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user's friends' News Feed with a link back to your website.

When your Web page represents a real-world entity, things like movies, sports teams, celebrities, and restaurants, use the Open Graph protocol to specify information about the entity. If you include Open Graph tags on your Web page, your page becomes equivalent to a Facebook page. This means when a user clicks a Like button on your page, a connection is made between your page and the user. Your page will appear in the "Likes and Interests" section of the user's profile, and you have the ability to publish updates to the user. Your page will show up in same places that Facebook pages show up around the site (e.g. search), and you can target ads to people who like your content.

I know what you’re thinking…“What the heck is the Open Graph Protocol?”  Don’t panic, it isn’t as complicated as you might think.  Follow the steps below to add the Like/Send Buttons it to your website.

To use Open Graph protocol, follow the following steps

 Step1: Add following tag just before the <head> tag on your web page:
<html xmlns=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml” xml:lang=”en” xmlns:og=”http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/” xmlns:fb=”http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml”>

Step2: Add following open graph protocol meta tags in the head section (<head>…</head>) of your web page:
<meta property=”og:title” content=”Enter title of your web page here“/>
<meta property=”og:type” content=”article”/>
<meta property=”og:url” content=”Enter the URL of your web page here“/>
<meta property=”og:image” content=”Enter image URL which represent your object here“/>
<meta property=”fb:admins” content=”Enter your facebook user ID here“/>
<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”Enter the name of your website here“/>
<meta property=”og:description” content=”Enter one or two sentence description of your web page here“/>

Step3: Once you have added your special meta tags, you can now add the code of ‘like’ button into the body section (<body>..</body>) of your web page. You’ll need to include the JavaScript SDK on your page once, ideally right after the opening <body> tag. (Copy this from the top box of the “Your Like Button plugin code:”)

It should look something like this:
<div id="fb-root"></div>
<script>(function(d, s, id) {
  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
  if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;}
  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1";
  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>

At first blush all this sounds like a lot of work, but once you have done it even once, it takes less than 5 minutes.  Just make sure you dot all the I’s and cross all the t’s. You'll know right away if you have left something out of the equation, since the plugin will not display.   If you want to see what the finished product looks like, go to my blog at http://jacksonville-video-production.com/onlinetv.html  By right clicking and hitting “View Page Source” you can see what you need to include to get the buttons up and running.

Why should you add the Like/Send Buttons?   

This is a great way to increase your distribution with the click of a mouse. Whenever a Facebook user visits your site and clicks on the button, a link to your page will automatically be added to their activity stream. This also means that all of their friends can see and click on it which will send them to your page. Better still, when the friend arrives, the Like button shows which of their friends have already clicked it, and when they click on it, a link to your page gets added to their stream.

When someone Likes your page, it does more than just pass the link around. For instance, if you are an author touting a book and  I go to your fanpage and “Like” your book, Facebook will add a link to your book’s website in my profile. If I keep a list of my favorite books in my Facebook profile, a link to your website will be added there.

Now here’s the part you are really going to like.  Once you have the page configured per the instructions above, it is a snap to drop other plugins onto the page.  Below are a couple more that I use to increase readership.

Plugin2: Recommendations
The Recommendations plugin shows personalized recommendations to your users. Since the content is hosted by Facebook, the plugin can display personalized recommendations whether or not the user has logged into your site. To generate the recommendations, the plugin considers all the social interactions with URLs from your site. For a logged in Facebook user, the plugin will give preference to and highlight objects her friends have interacted with.

You must specify a domain for which to show recommendations. The domain is matched exactly, so a plugin with site=facebook.com would not include activity from developers.facebook.com or www.facebook.com. You can specify multiple domains and the results will be mixed together.

To add this plugin to a page, go to http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/recommendations/

Plugin3: The Registration 
This little beauty allows users to easily sign up for your website with their Facebook account. The plugin is a simple iframe that you can drop into your page. When logged into Facebook, users see a form that is pre-filled with their Facebook information where appropriate.  The registration plugin gives you the flexibility to ask for additional information which is not available through the Facebook API (e.g. favorite movie). The plugin also allows users who do not have a Facebook account, or do not wish to sign up for your site using Facebook to use the same form as those who are connecting with Facebook. This eliminates the need to provide two separate login experiences.

Go to http://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/registration/ to obtain the code needed to install this plugin.

Plug This In

For a complete listing and description of available Facebook Plugins, go to

Carl Weiss has been plugged into the Internet professionally since 1995. He owns and operates Access-JAX.com and Jacksonville-Video-Production.com among other sites.  If you want to turn your website from an E-brochure to a lead generating, cash register ringing machine, go to either of the above sites and click on the Free Web Presence Analysis form to find out how plugged in your company is online.