Where Should You Host Your Videos?

We recently conducted an (unscientific) survey of media professionals to answer the question “Does self-hosting videos on a website make them appear more professional than embedding them from a service such as YouTube or Vimeo?”  Responses fell into three major categories:

  1. “Use a video hosting service.”

    A plurality of respondants felt that there is no longer a stigma of hosting videos on external services like YouTube and Vimeo and that, in fact, using these services provided additional benefits such as ease of accessibility and avoided the undesirable characteristics of a walled garden model.  They strongly preferred service-hosted to self-hosted videos.

  2. “It doesn’t matter how you host it.”

    The second, smaller group were agnostic to the hosting method as long as it was quality content.  They asserted that the credibility stems from the creator, not the delivery mechanism.  This suggests that while the hosting of your videos may not matter, the rest of your web presence should project an air of professionalism if you want your videos to be viewed that way.

  3. “It depends.”

    The final group of media professionals felt that the circumstances mattered a good deal.  One respondant pointed out that signalling theory (as in economics or biology) applies to the degree that if an organization can waste money on self-hosting, then they are signalling economic health by showing that they have money to waste, in the same way that an opulent lobby is a signal of economic prosperity. While this might be of important to some organizations (investment banks for instance), others (such as non-profits) might be negatively impacted by the appearance of profligate spending.

    As for individuals and job seekers, the entire third group agreed that YouTube, Vimeo, and other video hosting services were perfectly acceptable solutions for portfolios of creative work.

While perceptions of self- vs service-hosting may be different outside of the media industry, it does seem that, among media professionals, there is only a percieved benefit to self-hosting in very specific cirumstances.  In general, the old adage still reigns: Content is King.  So focus your efforts on creating good content, and take advantage of the work others have put into providing ways to host it.

Shorts from 48HFP:DC

Two weeks ago, we featured a series of interviews with the team leaders of three films entered in the 48 Hour Film Project in DC. Two of these films were selected for a second screening in the Best Of DC series, but all three are now available online for your viewing pleasure. The perfect distraction for a Friday afternoon. If you don’t see the clips embedded below, click through to our site.

Validation in Short Film

Here’s another inspirational short film.  Films of this quality are easily produced in a technical sense, though not easily written, and a perfect example of how an engaging story and good acting trumps the cost of your camera.  I find this kind of film both uplifting as a viewer and encouraging as a producer.


If you’re trying to figure out who the lead is, that’s T.J. Thyne, most well known as Dr. Jack Hodgins from the TV show Bones.

Post-Election Roundup

Barack Obama: A mosaic of people Image from tsevis’s Photostream

Tuesday night, as I skyped into Teague’s election night party taking place a few hundred miles from my own living room. . . two things hit me: (1) I’m a dork for using skype to attend someone’s party and (2) That won’t be true in 2012.

Right now, across the country, pundits are figuring out exactly what “lessons” we should learn from this election. The biggest lesson of all? Smart media is here to stay. The NY Times places a heavy emphasis on the role of the internet in this race. I feel the best way to sum up the “sea change” is that whereas in 2004, there was a campaign, and a campaign on the internet, today, the campaign lives through the internet. Technology is moving faster than the election cycle. It’s foolish to think that in four years, kids will still think that YouTube is cool. The internet isn’t just a nifty gadget, it’s a country unto itself – and if you don’t know the right customs and etiquette – you’ll get laughed out of the game.

The big question now is whether President Barack Obama (wow, I will never get tired of typing that), will continue to use social media to govern. Tweets from senior staff? A presidential YouTube channel? The possibilities are pretty endless – it’s all a question of how the Obama administration (again, never gets old!) will choose to engage with constituents.

What kinds of information do you want from the federal government? How do you want them delivered? Now that this election is over, what do you want to say to the people about to take power?

Lucky There’s Seth MacFarlane

Family Guy Graffiti Image from Cheryl’s PhotostreamI used to be a pretty big Family Guy devotee (back in that golden age when it was only shown on Adult Swim). While I’ve personally gotten a little tired of the manatees-with-idea-balls approach to storytelling (just watch the South Park episode), I think that MacFarlane’s talent for tapping into everything from Victorian literature to modern art and coming up with a poop joke is kind of impressive in its own way.

And that leaves us with MacFarlane’s latest venture, Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy. These are mini episodes (1-5 minutes a piece) that seem like deleted cutaway scenes from Family Guy.

Now, if you read the URL in that link, you’ll notice that you can find this Cavalcade at www.youtube.com/user/bk – Burger King’s YouTube channel. Every episode is branded with the Burger King logo and a snippet of an animated version of BK’s King character. That is in addition to the regular YouTube logo that plays in the lower right corner of the clip window.

The Cavalcade is branded in three ways: (1) Seth MacFarlane, (2) Burger King, (3) YouTube. It’s an innovative approach to producing web media, but one that was phenomenally popular in the early days of TV and radio. Comedian Jack Benny was sponsored by everything from Canada Dry to Lucky Strike cigarettes, and the show was labeled as the Canada Dry Show, The Grape-Nuts Show, etc. Philip Morris used to sponsor “I Love Lucy” – and characters, or animations of those characters, actively hyped their cigarettes on screen before the show. This level of corporate sponsorship, in which the sponsor’s brand is equally or more visible than the brand of the show itself, might be exceedingly valuable to indie and mainstream producers trying to get their shows on the web. It also creates some problems.

Up until now, the internet has not been an epicenter for high-quality, original, intentional humor. “Charlie bit my finger” was and is much more typical of online comedy than, say “Nobody’s Watching.” But well-established celebrities producing web exclusive content is going to mean higher production values, actual scripting (gasp!) and possibly even some steady camerawork. This means that maybe, just maybe, your well-scripted, innovative comedy has a chance to shine out there too.

However, while Seth MacFarlane can get away with a foul mouth when he’s sponsored by a “hip” brand like Burger King, I’m sure a sketch about transfats and obesity would not be welcome. Finding a patron if you are not already on the inside will be an uphill battle. And patron-sponsored content may mean sacrificing some ideas to preserve an overall brand image.

Would you go the patron route with your own web TV series? Or would you rather get your content out there, and find funding later?

Virtual World Creation Gets Democritized

In an interview with Information Week, Raph Koster talks about the Metaplace project.

“As [game] technology has risen, it has been harder and harder and harder for ordinary people to contribute,” said Raph Koster, the founder and president of Areae. This has driven budgets up “and the result is less creativity, less innovation, and fewer worlds,” he said.

“So we want to democratize this by doing what the Web has managed to do, which is push content creation tools to a much lower threshold,” said Koster.

The vision of bringing the technology behind virtual worlds to a level that allows non-technical users to easily create new content is akin to the dropping prices and lower thresholds in video equipment that fuel YouTube and other UGC video sites.

Virtual Building Blocks Image from fdecomiteThe difference, of course, is that democritizing virtual world creation is a matter of software design and usability, not governed by Moore’s law. Most modern computers are already powerful enough (rendering time aside) to create and run a virtual world. The difficulty is in designing the tools. Given Raph Koster’s previous successes, we’re optimistic that the future holds a signifigantly lower barrier to entry in the virtual world department.

Favorite Gaming Moments YouTube Contest

Pirates fighting with swords
Image from thebusybrain
iBUYPOWER is sponsoring a contest where filmmakers can submit a video to YouTube of a real life re-enactment of any event that happened in a computer or console video game to be voted on for a chance to win a $2,000 gift card and a $1,800 iBUYPOWER PC. One submission, any length, must be over 18, and various ‘decency’ rules apply. See http://www.ibuypower.com/WinAPC/WinAPC.asp for the complete rules.

There are plenty of fun possibilities for this contest. Lazy folks could probably get away with something from a sports game. People with a lot of time/money could try for something like the Neill Blomkamp’s live action Halo shorts. Personally, I would vote for anyone who re-enacts the insult sword fighting from Monkey Island.

“You fight like a dairy farmer!”
“How appropriate. You fight like a cow!”

I want my MTV, I mean. . . YouTube

Weezer is just so cool. . .

They made a video that’s a super impressive mash-up of every YouTube trend in the last year. Some of these are reproductions, but many appear to have been shot with the original YouTube “stars.” In fact, those people have their own videos about being on set with Weezer, or promoting the new Weezer album.

Congrats to Weezer for figuring out how to work an existing system, rather than push against it. This is a HUGE improvement over bands that have allowed fans to compete to make the “official” video (Tori Amos had two such contests). Those contests push against the flow of information. If 25 fans make videos, hardcore fans will watch all 25, and non-fans will probably watch. . . none. Weezer (or whoever came up with this concept) is going to suck in people who have no clue who they are (if you’re 14 today, the Blue Album is 18 days older than you). So while you probably didn’t blast “In the Garage” with the windows down on your way to watch the X-Files, you probably have seen “Evolution of Dance” and “Chocolate Rain.” And if you haven’t, you can watch them all instantly, and get in on the joke.

That’s probably the greatest power that YouTube has. The “ooh, come look at this!” factor is unparalleled in any other media. I guess you could also call that “viral,” but I’m starting to dislike the negative connotation of the word. It doesn’t really express the inside-joke factor, or the psychic reward when you pick up on a trend before anyone else.

Also, the new Weezer song isn’t half bad. . .

Can you wear leggings with that?

So, the Producer’s post got me thinking. First of all, thanks to SXSW for the shoutout! Second of all. . .

I read this article in the NY Times a while ago. To sum up: Steve and Barry’s is setting out to be the cheapest, most fashionable chain store ever created. They’re using celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker to design fashionable outfits that sell for less than $9. Are these guys going to put Chanel and Oscar de la Renta out of business? No way. They’re doing the same thing that the big studios are doing right now: Taking the most popular trends from high fashion (or its most popular public faces) and co-opting them for the masses. Warner Brothers, Paramount and the other studios seem to be angling to be the Target and Walmart of new media: You like Steve Carrell in that arty Little Miss Sunshine movie? More Steve Carrell! Steve Carrell for everyone!

Now, the difficulty here is that everyone, absolutely everyone, needs shirts and pants. The content of those shirts and pants (color, cut, pattern) is all up for grabs. So if Target can make cheap shirts and pants that look like something out of Sex and the City, then that starts to look like a pretty good deal. However, not everyone needs movies. Not everyone enjoys movies (I know, I’m as shocked as you). So what happens when the economy is a bit shaky, and people start thinking that their $9 is better spent at Steve and Barry’s than at Landmark Cinemas?

Vaudeville. If you were around in the 1890’s, and you went to the theater, you could see a vaudeville show consisting of comedy, drama, dance, music and some seriously weird stuff (does this remind anyone of the CW’s Monday night lineup?) – it was affordable for the middle class, and acts traveled all over the country. There were people whose acts inspired the same kind of fannish devotion as any modern-day Miley Cyrus. But the advent of this cheaper form of entertainment called “film,” plus that nasty financial incident in the fall of 1929, forced theaters to turn into movie palaces. Vaudeville’s best talent headed for Hollywood. If this interests you, PBS put out a really good documentary on vaudeville for American Masters.

Film didn’t kill theater. It just changed the nature of the theater-going experience. Now it’s unlikely you’ll see variety shows trying to attract a mass audience. Theaters had to adapt to appeal to a specialized audience. Target hasn’t killed high fashion, either.

Are films going to die? No. Art doesn’t die. It gets chopped up, rehashed and made into a collage somewhere else. Just like fashion – everything comes back into vogue eventually. When technology gets ahead of the curve of theory and critique, people get all agitated. Right now, nobody is reviewing YouTube videos in the New York Times. No academics have cannonized it, no critics have turned it into a comparison-fest. In vaudeville, there were some trashy, mind-blowingly stupid acts roaming around the country. But what we remember now are the geniuses – the people who influenced generations to come.

Eventually, we’re going to see great art, really great narrative art, come out of these weird little platforms. I agree fully with the Producer: It’s a great time to experiment and make something new.