Listen to the DRM Panel from CES

The Center for Social Media at American University is hosting an MP3 of the (somewhat contentious) panel discussion on DRM entitled “The True Cost of DRM: What Can’t We Do Now?” which occurred at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. Digital rights management and what to do about it is an issue that affects media producers, distributors, and consumers. Basically, if there’s media in your life, DRM affects you.

Hulu Business Model Meets Skepticism

Michael Learmonth of Silicon Valley Insider, speculates that Hulu is selling ads at $25 CPM (cost per mille), and that their monthly traffic of 5 million viewers would translate to $125,000 after revenue sharing. He doesn’t cover what numbers he thinks Hulu has on the expenses side of the balance sheet, but does say that $1.5 million annually is not going to cover the costs of a venture valued at $1 billion.

Of course Hulu will probably gain viewers over time, but the catch is that, as viewers increase, so do the costs of bandwidth and marketing. Silicon Valley Insider has another post about why Hulu will fail. Both of these articles raise valid questions for anyone looking to distribute their own content. Even for people not hoping to make a profit large enough to live on, the requirement remains to have a model where you can increase viewership without incurring incremental costs greater than the returns.

So what’s the business model for your content?

Guerrilla Filmmaking

Guerrilla Filmmaking is a subset of indie films closely related to low-to-no budget films that is characterized by the attitude of “shoot now, ask later”. Show up on location, with a small crew and light gear. Shoot quick and dirty, and if anyone questions you, run away. (NB: I am aware that this is an exaggeration. Hold off on the flame mail.)

I’m not sure this is the best way to make a film, but it certainly is one way. Guerrilla Filmmaking Tips and Tricks has several resources for ultra-low budget films including a couple Top Ten Lists like TopTenTips [sic] for Movie Production and Guerilla Filmmaking. Ask any editor, and they will tell you to pay particular attention to #10.

A similar list is Dan’s TopTenTips [sic] for Short Film Makers which includes some of the same rules. I like this checklist for a short film. I have been guilty of violating at least some of those rules, but if someone had told me this before I started I might have done things differently.

Red One: 120fps footage

If you follow developments in digital video like I do, you’ve probably been drooling over the Red One for quite some time now. I won’t attempt to explain the impact of the Red One in it’s entirety just yet, but I thought you might be interested in seeing an example of the Red One’s new feature: 120fps shooting. This lets you get true slow-motion footage, rather than creating it by interpolating frames in your edit system.

Mike Curtis has graciously posted footage over at ProVideo Coalition of Spencer chasing tennis balls. It’s worth a look.

The Red One, although vastly more affordable than it’s competitors, remains out of the price range of most small budget independents (at about $17,500 for the body alone), but it’s being put to good use by the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Peter Jackson, and Doug Liman.

To get a sense of the effect the Red One is having on the industry, consider Soderbergh’s reaction: “This is the camera I’ve been waiting for my whole career: jaw-dropping imagery recorded onboard a camera light enough to hold with one hand. I don’t know how Jim [Jannard, Red founder] and the Red team did it–and they won’t tell me–but I know this: Red is going to change everything”.

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Gratitude on Being Indie

Thoughts on why being independent, small budgets and all, is something worth being grateful for.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” – Orson Welles

A huge budget and studio backing of your project does not bring you freedom. With all that money comes accountability to your investors. For the same reason that accepting venture capital as a business startup limits your control, getting financial backing doesn’t free you to do what you wanted to do with your film. It forces you to accommodate the opinions of the people who just bought into your film.

The drive to make your project financially successful can get in the way of taking risks with originality and stifle the art. Working on a small budget, and being forced to solve problems in the production of your film causes creativity to be a necessity. That creativity might just lead you into creating art instead of just entertainment.

(What is ‘Art’? That’s a bigger question. Feel free to sound off in comments.)

Slate has an old article (Neither the Power Nor the Glory, 2005) that goes into the economic differences distinguishing indies from studio films. There is one quote that pretty much sums up why I’m grateful to be involved in indie projects: “Studios…leave originality, and all the joy that comes from it, to the indies.”

Script Frenzy!

Are you in a screenwriting slump? Is that sunny spring weather calling to you to put away the laptop and frolic among the trees? Well sit yourself back in that office chair, buddy, cause it’s Script Frenzy season!

Script Frenzy is like National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, for screenwriters. You have 30 days to write 100 pages. This is their description:

“For Script Frenzy, the goal is to write a movie, play, graphic novel script, comic book script, or a collection of TV shows or shorts in 30 days. You can even do a screenplay adaptation of your NaNoWriMo novel!”

Before my laptop died, I was a NaNo participant, and it was a lot of fun. You’d be amazed how much you can write when there are people cheering you on, and the deadlines are concrete. I’ll definitely participate this year!