Friday, December 12, 2008

Stock footage opportunities are everywhere...

OK, so that is most likely a very obvious statement for anyone in the business. But sometimes, even the most common things turn into what could be a top selling stock footage clip.. that is if you use the tools at hand, a little imagination and ingenuity. Happy Holidays and enjoy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Copyright thievery by well known publications...

If you are a person and you take a picture or shoot a video clip, you are by default called an "artist and copyright holder" when it comes to copyright.

Believe it or not, you as an "artist" retain all rights to that picture you just took or the video you just filmed. There are few exceptions where this may not be the case. The only one I can think of is, if you were contracted for hire as a camera person and it clearly is defined that the ownership and copyright belongs the employer or production company that hired the artist.

Along come the video sites. You know, the YouTube's of the world. There are more and more of them everyday. It seems to be the "hot thing" for just about every news company, publication and magazine out there. They want you to submit your work for their benefit. And is some cases only for their benefit and definitely not yours.

If you actually read the "Terms of Use" at most of these sites, they pretty much state that you give them the right to show your wares without much issue. YouTube clearly states that they have the right to "stream" your wares using various methods and also disseminate your wares using various methods. But they do understand who owns the copyright - you. They merely ask for the right to stream in many places. This is great for you as your wares may show up on various websites, links and so forth. But when all is said and done, they are smart enough to never directly profit off of you or your wares in a blatant manner. What does this mean? As an example, you will not find YouTube (Google) taking one of your videos or photographs, modifying it, and selling it for profit.

However, there are some companies out there that believe they have that right. And believe it or not, you actually forcefully agree to it. And most likely you aren't even aware of it. One example comes to mind and is the reason that this is being written.

Fast forward to National Geographic. National Geographic started a new site area called "Everyday Explorers". It is basically a YouTube like place for you to show your wares that have to do with topics that National Geographic typically covers. They actually have it broken down into four (4) video categories; Favorite Places, Green Tips, Weather and Wildlife and Pets. Neat.

I figured, what the heck, NG is well known. So why not share my wares with their audience. Why not show some of my really neat lightning footage and photographs with a demographic that is well defined. And that is about where it ends.

I proceeded to upload a couple of vids that I also have on YouTube that have to do with some really neat lightning stuff. I uploaded these in mp4 format, just as their site claimed that was a recognized format. Nice small compact files. But the site rejected them and claimed they could not be processed. Hmmm. They worked on YouTube. They worked on Revver... But Vimeo also had the same problem. Maybe their converter software isn't the latest and greatest? Maybe my codecs are too new? In any case, it stopped me dead and gave me time to actually do a little more reading on their site. One thing stuck in my mind however the whole time. I recall getting an error when I first tried to submit. It was unrelated, but did get my attention. It made me check a check box that made me agree to their "Terms of Use". It asks this every time you upload.

I proceeded to click on the tiny little text link titled "Terms of Use" to see just what those terms state. Sometimes, there is a clearer explanation on how to upload, formats etc... within such terms. No such luck, no tech stuff. But something else caught my eye;

It was under Section II item number 5 on their terms:

II. Intellectual Property Issues

5. By uploading material, posting comments, or providing other content to the Site ("User Content"), you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products. An NG Product is defined as "a product of National Geographic, a corporate subsidiary, affiliate, joint venturer, or licensee of National Geographic, in any language, which is associated with a National Geographic trademark and over which National Geographic has "Editorial Control." For the purposes of this Agreement, "Editorial Control" means the right to review, consult regarding, formulate standards for, or to exercise a veto over the appearance, text, use, or promotion of the NG Product. You also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

Read this carefully! It is a blatant hijacking of your rights!

It is my belief and opinion that this is a blatant hijack of your copyright! I am not an attorney, but I can read. When someone writes "you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you," you basically give up all rights! This is blatant robbery, hijacking, theft or whatever you want to call it.

As of today, I have written to NG about this as well as warned some fellow artists that may or may not have been aware of this. I am most curious as to their response. Will they change their tune? Will they try to start a legal battle? Will they continue on their unscrupulous path? Once I get a response, I will let you know the outcome. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 18, 2008

It was a Wednesday, not a Friday the 13th.

It was definitely not a Friday the 13th when this little, and I use the term "little" loosely, storm passed through my backyard. So to speak. This thing literally came out of nowhere in just a short time as monsoons typically do.

But this was one of the easiest times I have ever had in regards to capturing lighting in the form of hi-res still shots. So, now I wonder, is the 13th really a bad luck thing, or as some cultures believe, it may just be real good luck.

This storm passed through in about 50 minutes, or just short of an hour. The shots are in sequence, unmodified or touched up. Dramatic to say the least. Some of you will pick up on the fact of why I had to quit when I did. Just observe the last few shots. Yes, the strikes were getting a bit close, and very loud. Enjoy.

For those of you that are wondering just how to shoot lightning like this, here are some quick notes:
1. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
2. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
3. Use a tripod.
4. Use a camera that has a manual mode.
5. Set the shutter speed to "bulb" (keeps the shutter open for as long as you wish)
6. Set the F-stop to 8.0
7. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
8. Use manual focus!
9. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
10. Set the focus to infinity. (Don't over crank or you will get macro on most lenses, which will in turn give you out of focus, rotten, miserable, garbagey shots - not that this ever happened to me. ;))
11. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
12. Use a remote trigger so that you don't shake the camera.
13. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity, and by activity I mean specifically lightning! Wow, 13 steps. Coincidence?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Same story, different channel, different angle...

As a follow-up to yesterday's blog, the tragic story about the teen driving crash while under the influence was covered by yet another news reporter that I got to meet. This time it is Tucson's local channel Fox 11 & channel KVOA4 (NBC).

Now some may be asking, "why promote yourself like this?" - Well, in all reality, that is not the intent. The real intent in this case is to get a message out. It just so happened that as a stock shooter, I happened on the right place at the right time. And there is a lesson to be learned and a question to be answered:

Fellow artists are always pondering the question; "What makes good stock footage?" or; "what can I shoot that hasn't been shot before?", and finally "what will sell?" - I personally stopped asking these questions a while ago and simply just shoot.

The simplest reason is, you never know what you will get. The other concept is, we can not determine what sells and what doesn't. And is it always about selling?

I think not! In this case, my intent was to film a drive up a mountain, maybe do a time lapse with it and then enjoy an afternoon with the kids in the campground while putting some marshmallows over a fire.

Well, things don't always work out the way one might think, and sometimes you get sucked into an ordeal you never would have thought about in a million years.

The important thing to learn from this experience is to always have the camera at your side and be ready to shoot because opportunity may only present itself once in a life time. That is what stock photography and stock videography is all about.

And finally, if an opportunity such as this arises, do it for the public to help send a PSA out. Who knows, something like this may at some point actually save a life. And that is what this videographer really hopes for.

Shooting stock leads to other events, sometimes.

Yesterday while my family and I were simply heading for an annual fest in a mountain campground, I figured, what the heck, I'll shoot some stock while there. Maybe get some time lapse footage of the drive up the mountain? Get some nice wildlife? Great idea. The point is, when you shoot stock, there is always an opportunity to get real stuff. However, in yesterday's journey, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

About halfway up the mountain we hit a roadblock. So did hundreds of others. The reason? The local Sheriff's department closed the road due to an accident that happened at 4:00am. It involved drinking, driving and teens. Yes, unfortunately there were fatalities. In any case, we got word from the Sheriff's dept. that the road would soon open (it was now about 11:30-ish in the late morning). Then an officer noticed that I had a camera running and asked if it would be O.K. with me if I would film the wreckage as it came down the mountain on the tow truck. They explained that there had not been any local media at the scene and that it would be good footage to get for the sole purpose of sending a message to the public. "Show the end result of drinking, driving and being an inexperienced teen driver." - They recommended that I also contact the media afterwards as they may be interested in such footage.

Now I am thinking to myself, what an opportunity! I have the Sheriff on my side, making sure I am updated by the minute and given clearance and room to film this tow truck along with all the other commotion. Can't beat that! In my mind I am thinking, this is one of those moments where I have valuable footage for sale today that the media wants! Cool.

Of course, after shooting all the footage, and then having gone to the fest, I told my family that we had better head on back so that I can render this stuff and see what I have and contact the media as well. So we headed back down the mountain, past the accident site, which just gave us an eerie reminder. Luckily at one of the pullouts I spotted a local TV truck with dish and all. I pulled over and approached the nice lady reporter and cameraman and asked if they would be interested in this footage. Needless to say, they were. We exchanged numbers, information and deadlines. Now the clock was ticking....

I had until 8:30 pm (mind you this is a Sunday), to get this footage over to the station. It would be aired on the 10:00 pm news. Well, the rest is history. I didn't sell the footage, but "donated if" for several reasons:

  1. There is a very important public message involved - I consider it a personal message to all teens.
  2. I do not want to profiteer off of other people's tragedies.
  3. I figured the worst that can happen is that I make a new friend with a local reporter.
  4. I got a bonus - the local news station gave me credit on the air by putting my website on any footage that came from me.

Now that's an opportunity you can't pay for.

So, I suppose there is a moral to the story. One can't always expect to get hard cold cash for everything you do (or shoot). But if you give a little, you most likely will get a lot back. Think about it, where else can you get more exposure than on the news and on top of that, in essence for free?

So please watch this news report. The intent is not to flaunt my footage, but to send a message to teens. So if you have a teen driver in the family, make sure they watch this too.

Thank you to Linda Garrett and all the KGUN9 (Tucson, AZ) staff for allowing me to help them get the message out. Video News segment courtesy KGUN9 Tucson, AZ

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sometimes when shooting you get lucky!

Every once in a while a thought crosses one's mind when you prepare to go out and shoot something. This time I knew I was going to shoot some July 4th fireworks.

Of course one asks, "what's so special about fireworks?" Well, nothing really. I suppose they are pretty when they go off. They make nice explosive sounds. They go boom! But that about covers it. So how can a guy like me make this more exhilarating? More interesting? More...

Understanding that the possibility exists that I might get real lucky due to the monsoon season being in full swing, I thought; "Wouldn't it be cool if I could do a little segment on Man vs. GOD?"

You know, man's little firecrackers vs. the lightning of GOD? Now that would be cool! So off I went with camera (HDV) and camera (Canon XTi) and family in tow. Zoom lenses ready. Tripods ready. Tape loaded. SD chip loaded. Focus all setup - fixed at that, shooting up to 10 miles away! Tricky for sure.

Well, this time I did get lucky, but only after being patient for about 2 hours. Patience is a virtue and the payoff is great! Enjoy.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monsoons 2008 - A Preview

Just a little taste of what's to come this year. This is a small compilation of some new footage shot just a few days ago along with some older footage. I thought I would give it a bit of a latin guitar twist to enhance the mood of the southwest. In this compilation there is a combo of video stock footage as well as some still shots. All of this of course is available as royalty free stock footage from you guessed it, me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

2008 Monsoons are back and they are going to be bad...

From the looks of it we are in for quite a monsoon season this year. Hence, expect a ton of new storm footage, photographs and adventures. Just in the last few days, I have shot some pretty crazy stuff. But this year I started off in New Mexico on a little side trip. It all started last week while driving to Alamagordo and taking a quick peek at the White Sands National Monument. Of course we got there mid afternoon. I really don't recommend visiting the Sands at that time of day unless it is totally overcast. It wasn't. Talk about being snow blind.

However, that evening was absolutely fantastic. There was a special sunset tour and it was a full moon. However, we really didn't get to enjoy the moon as it was. A storm had worked its way in during the latter part of the day. But this made for some really awsome sunset footage and some really neat pictures. Here is a clip of the sunset in timelapse and HD! Sweet. (Yes, you can purchase this clip and many others as royalty free stock footage.)

Of course, that having been the beginning of this years monsoon adventure, there is nothing like driving through Roswell in hope sof spotting a UFO. We didn't :( Then on to Clovis, home of Cannon AFB and also my new Grand Daughter! I'm too young for this. Nanner Nanner.

But hey, aside from seeing this lovely newborn young lady, I did manage to get a little time to click a few shots of some awsome lightning. The storms on those upper plains are unbelievable. We even had a small tornado whip past us while eating dinner.

On the way back, once again we decided to make a quick stop at the sands, this time it was overcast and definately more bearable. I shot some neat timelapse of a gigantic storm front with lenticulars and cummulus all in one. Then off to spend the night in Las Cruces. Entering Las Cruces we got a free car wash from yet another nice storm with some really powerful lightning bolts. Of course I couldn't film those as I was the driver. Remember, it's not safe to fiddle with a camera, cell phone and a coffee all at once. :)

In any case, this Las Cruces storm was a monsoon, and it gave me an idea of what to look forward to. We got back to the Old Pueblo (a.k.a. Tucson for you "furners") and not even a day went by before the first storm hit. Cool.

So you all know what I will be up to for the next few months. It is afterall the annual monsoon season. So stay tuned as I will be announcing really cool things that I get on tape or as a still. And yes, you can buy copies, rights etc.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Widgets and Gadgets for selling stock footage...

In the world of stock footage or should I say royalty free stock footage there are numerous sites available to get some. VideoMaker magazine just did an article on exactly that in their last issue (June 2008).

Now comes along that didn't get into that particular article because, and sadly to say VideoMaker wasn't aware of them, yet. This of course is for a simple reason. Pond5 is pretty new and as in my last "frog" (OK, silly, I know, it's a "frame" with "blog" or or as it says "blog frames" in the title of this blog, but "blames" isn't as cute even though sometimes it may be appropriate) I introduced them by doing a simple comparison to another such site. They do have a certain appeal that others don't. But I won't get into that at this point.

So simply put, Pond5 now is starting to focus on marketing. In my humble opinion, perhaps not being in an article with everyone else may actually benefit them. They are not just another former stock photo site that is trying to force their software to fit the video model. They do only stock video at this time. That is their focus and they do it damn well. Being a submitter, ease of use is always a question. Efficiency is also a big deal. They seem to have that pretty much handled.

Now back to marketing. These guys have created some pretty innovative tools for that purpose. And these tools can be used nicely by submitters of such footage. But most important of all, it gives us, the submitter a chance to get focus. Now I am not talking about camera focus. I am talking about using these tools to send potential clients or buyers to the Pond5 site vie a pretty nifty "widget" and all while keeping them focused on the particular photag, (me for example) and his or her footage. This is cool. This is extremely cool. This, for the first time, actually gives me a shot at control should I decide to drive traffic to their site! It lets me drive traffic, show my goodies and if they buy anything, whether mine or not, still get that famous referral fee. Super cool.

This is a great way to do community marketing. These guys are ahead of their time. Now that may sound really cliché, but it is true for several reasons;

  1. A photag may be known for a specialty - shouldn't that be just as important and shouldn't a client that sought out such a specialized photag be presented with his or her specialty only for starters? Of course! This is focused marketing - some even call it SEO and SEM. Duh.
  2. If a photag goes through the trouble of uploading, clipping, describing, editing, etc, etc... should he or she have rights to the first shot of a sale?
  3. And finally if a photag is really known for their specialty and quality and drives traffic to such a site, from a really cool site that they took the time to build (hint, hint), shouldn't they be well rewarded in any case? After all, the entire community of any such site benefits from such driven traffic.

So here's my widget, cool huh?:

Friday, April 18, 2008 debuts at NAB 2008

So I met face to face with the people behind the “curtain” at (An interesting and nice bunch to say the least. ) These guys have figured out a very streamlined, efficient and valuable stock footage sales method. Pay the artist a nice chunk (50%), offer great customer service to both the customer and the artist (keeps both sides happy) and manage a ton of stock footage at the same time. What a concept, and what a chore.

These guys seem to have figured it out pretty well. I started submitting a little over a month ago with these guys, and to my surprise, when I returned from NAB, I already had sales! Now that’s making money while you are asleep, having fun or hanging out in Vegas at NAB. It just can’t get any better than that!

The Pond5 Guys and their humble booth:

From left to right: Steve Penafiel (I'm sure he has a title too.), Dana Tower (CMO), Tom Bennett (CEO)

Visiting NAB 2008 in Vegas – Quite a trip!

NAB (or National Association of Broadcasters) had an interesting phenomenon this year.. HD here, HD there, HD everywhere. Basically it was almost impossible to find anything of past resolutions any more. Yes my fellow photags, video gurus and film people – HD is here in full blast!

Sony had a gigantic booth. Canon had a large booth. Then of course there is Panasonic, JVC and so on. But Sony was from my point of view the busiest booth of all. The only problem with that was that I could not get any time with anyone to figure out my next “rig” purchase. Ok, so I may not be the most important videographer in the world. But it was virtually impossible to really get anyone’s time. And that is understandable by any means. Sony had so many toys out there, I felt like a kid walking into a candy store. Of course that simply made any decision more difficult too.

Actually, the whole show made me feel like I was going to have a sugar high. Everyone showed their latest and greatest. Cameras, cranes, and lights oh my! I can only say that I am glad not to be a journalist covering all this wonderful stuff. It would be overwhelming to say the least.
Stock footage is hot! If you shoot, then you should submit. There are many places to sell your footage, and many more to come. But this industry sector is learning quickly that what used to be common may not be so common any more. Competition is getting fierce between the various footage houses. Some have figured it out, and some are going to learn the hard way. But no one really does or understands the concept of automating the managed rights method yet, at least not efficiently for all parties.

Some of the facilitators are more cumbersome than others, and some need to let go of their ego to save themselves. It will be interesting to see how they stack up in about year from now.

B-roll, stock or whatever you want to call it, is here to stay and will grow immensely due to increases in the “Indy” world as well as more Internet based environments. Perhaps we will even see a legal battle in the film/video industry as we did in the music industry several years ago. Remember Napster? It’s all about staying legal, getting rights, and protecting copyright.

Now please don’t hold it against me for not getting into too much detail here. If I did that, this entry would be about 20 miles long and you would get bored. But if you really want to get the scoop on things, read, read and read more. There are plenty of journals, newspapers and magazines to confuse you, enlighten you and help you. Just my opinion. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review:Video Stock Footage Sites for Submitters...

So I have a ton of footage that I really would like to make some money on. Heck, I have so much footage that I actually have to go through some of it frame by frame to see what I have. Some of it is really cool, some of it not so cool. Or is it?

I have been shooting for about 6 years now and one can only imagine what piles up in the tape bin. It's a grueling process to "suck"the footage into the editing bay and then actually look at it, over and over again. Or is it?

Clips here, clips there, clips everywhere. Now I am no Dr. Seuss, but I had to throw that in. But it is a very true statement. Then you gotta believe or at least think that these clips are worth something. No?

Well, I have been on a quest. The quest to help me determine where to sell all of this "high quality footage". After all, wouldn't it be nice to make a buck or two from stuff that basically is sitting in its digital closet known as tapes? Time to bring this stuff out of the closet so to speak.

Now I have not really been fair with myself either. I believed for quite a long time that my footage is crap! Yes, absolute garbage! Although I did have fun shooting it. So who cares other than me? Well, after pulling some stuff out and revisiting old times, I found that some of the stuff was actually pretty cool, in my opinion. Make a note of that statement. Particularly the "my opinion" part. For what you are about to read is purely my opinion and is in no way supposed to imply anything other than my personal opinion. This opinion is based on what I have experienced to date and in no way shall reflect fact or truth about any company, individual or entity named here. It is just my opinion, for what it's worth.

Now back to making a buck or two...

I started assembling clips from hours of footage. As I said, a grueling process. Also an instant schooling course on becoming a "vlogger" - yes a video log writer, as in the real industry, not the You Tuber types. Documenting, describing, analysing, noting, in some cases frame by frame. (Ok, really only when I am vlogging the lightning shots, but that's another story.)

So I came up with this bright idea. Let's make some DVD's and sell them. With all the You Tuber's, Internet Directors and let's not forget Hollywood, they should sell! Considering the pricing, it's a heck of a deal for all those nicely organized clips. (My Opinion!) - Ok, some of those are done and you can get them here and here is here is a little intro-info for them as well.

But there must be a better way and a way to sell by the clip. And there is! Actually there are several ways and several companies that will do this with you. I have so far only joined two(2) of them. So I will only tell you about my experiences with just these two. My guess is that I may not join any others either, as it is a lot of work to maintain the libraries in any case. So, call me lazy. But that is why I think I selected the best two. Now for the nitty gritty.

So I am going to review, based on first impression these two companies, and

Right off the bat, you should have noticed that there is a link to, but not to Why you ask? Well, I suppose I could link to the general site and just let it be that. But I refuse to just link to some site that I do business with, without having the opportunity to make a referral fee. Duh! does as well have such a program, but I have yet to understand why they are so picky about what the potential referral has to do, and when they have to do it and what needs to be turned on and.... . (You get the point.) - Strike 1 for

Uploading files of this nature is a very time consuming task, no matter who you work with. Or so it may seem. The fact is, both sites only accept files that are a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of 30 seconds. Great! That is what stock footage is all about. We are not producing major motion pictures here. But even these small times can create enormous sized files at full resolution. For example a full NTSC 720x480 progressive blah blah blah blah file easily reaches 68 MB (Mega Bytes not Mega Bits) in DV format. Just imagine an HDV file size! Then mix that in with your typical slooooow uploading speed and you will be drinking a lot of coffee while waiting for the first file to upload. Since this is typically the case, we need to automate this process and put it in background. Here is how the two companies stack up for this simple yet ever so important process... - web based interface only, unless you agree to be exclusive with them. In the case of exclusivity, they will give you a FTP login/account. - either via web (browser) or FTP with no special requirements or catches.

Now this may sound a bit picky, but if you can't use the old and reliable FTP stuff and let it run in background for such large files, then you will be hoping and praying that your sloooooow upload speed connection won't timeout the browser based method. With FTP you can "batch" a bunch of files and let it rip. With a browser based app, it is a bit problematic. - Strike 2 for and shame on you for trying to "force" the exclusivity angle on us artisans!

To be fair though, the Pond5 web based app has yet to work for me in any way shape or form. Of course I haven't really bothered with it in any case as I have no real use for it either. Maybe it's my browser blockage stuff (security settings) or simply that I am running on Vista. I really don't care in either case. I like FTP.

The curation process is a very intricate part of the whole mechanism. iStockphoto has the process named "Dismabiguation", Pond5 calls it "Tagging". iStockphoto also offers a very fancy processing screen for this. In my opinion, almost too fancy, hence cumbersome. Of course this process is cumbersome no matter what, because this is where you need to literally "vlog" the clip. However, iStock really did a great job on the facility and also in their training manual. They explain in very nice detail how to do it correctly. Of course I cheated and also applied this knowledge to my Pond5 uploads.

In a nutshell, iStockphoto and Pond5 each have their strengths and weaknesses in the "vlogging" process:

Upsides iStockphoto:
  • Great training.
  • Very elaborate (almost too elaborate) disambiguation process.
  • Allow you to upload your choice of .jpg for the initial screen shot of the clip. (For me this was priceless when submitting lightning footage!)

Upsides Pond5:

  • Allow FTP from the start without any hooks or catches or requirements.
  • Simpler and less tedious "vlogging" - lots of check boxes - cool
  • Allow you to make re-usable templates for the process - a tremendous time saver!
  • Reasonable curation time (about a week and maybe a few days)
  • Focused strictly on video!
  • Some really neat features on the back end for the artisan (new stuff - nice dashboard)

Downsides iStockphoto:

  • Very slow in curating uploads. So far the average time has been 2 weeks plus and still waiting. (At the time of this writing they have been re-vamping servers and such, but stated specifically that "this will not impact curation times". The re-vamping only impacts the uploading facility, as in, "you can not upload anything until we are done". Now patiently waiting a week later....)
  • Very slow in curating uploads. Oh wait, already said that...
  • Seems as if they consider video stock to be a secondary product by the menu placement and lack of front page highlights regarding video.
  • When browsing and if you checked all of the boxes (Photos, Illustrations, Flash, Video) it is very hard to figure out which is which, particularly when the artist puts in a long title. A little icon would be nice as opposed to simply adding the text "(Video)" to the end of the title.
  • Perhaps because this site is all of the above "stock stuff", it makes it not as focused.

Downsides Pond5:

  • Not as big (yet) as iStock, but then again, this may be really good for some of us.
  • Haven't done much marketing yet, but then again, time seems to be on their side and they are growing steadily.
  • Potentially will suffer from growing pains in my opinion because this company is going to rock!
  • Won't let you submit or pick the display image for the clip. For example if you have a clip of lightning, chances are, it won't show the particular frame that would really help sell the clip. (i.e. the lightning strike itself)
  • Curation time will most likely suffer when the above happens as well.

So to be fair, curation times are the biggest gripe on both forums. Unfortunately there just is no easy way to do this process. These companies work their butts off to make sure that nobody gets into trouble with copyright issues, releases and so on. I would guess, and again this is subjective thinking, at some point the curators will also "clean up the garbage" that has been, is being, and will be submitted. As of this writing, iStockphoto has now specifically announced to all artisans that they will no longer accept "generic cgi" stuff. It's about time!

Pricing and selling are of course the biggies when it comes to stock footage.

Pond5 allows you to do one of two things, either set the price yourself, or let the curator determine the price. I do not know how the price is determined if you let the curator set the price. However this flexibility has its upsides and downsides.

One can imagine that since this is a very subjective process, there will be some people that believe their footage is priceless. I do recall seeing a site (not Pond5 or iStockphoto) where clips are being sold for as high as $300.00/second! - Not many clients out there to pay that. Particularly in today's market.

On the other hand, there are submissions that are worth a bit more due to the quality, the composition and the diverse use possibilities. But how would one know that before hand? Again, this is all very subjective.

iStockphoto on the other hand sells everything at a fixed price. The price is set regardless of the length of the clip. They do adjust for differences between what they call small, medium, NTSC/PAL, HD 720 and HD 1080. Simple, no subjectiveness and no flexibility.

The common strategy between both sites is that they do not put much focus on "rights managed licensing". Pond5 has nothing related to such a process. iStockphoto has something along those lines, but since I have not implemented that yet, I can't tell you much about it. iStock however does have a button to click on called "Extended License" - which I assume can only mean, buy it, use it for your projects without time limit or usage limit. Of course you may not use it for a compilation library that you would re-sell since you never will own the copyright, only the right to use. I know, it gets really legal here.

Artist Commissions are somewhat unbalanced between the two companies. In my opinion Pond5 seems to be less greedy. I like that in a company. Here is the quick breakdown:

iStockphoto pays 20% in royalty, however if you "qualify" and are "eligible" for exclusivity you can make up to 40%. Wow. Ok, I am being somewhat sarcastic here. But the term "exclusivity" always scares the hell out of me, particularly when it is my copyright we are talking about. I find it really difficult to offer a company exclusivity without a high price. It limits my market.

Pond5 kicks iStockphoto's butt on this one! They use a very simple philosophy, 50/50. Yup, you get 50% no matter what. Of course you do need to put a minimum price on things as they specify that to be $10.00.

Strike 3 -

Now I want everyone to understand that this review is based on my first impressions of working with both companies. But first impressions are exactly that and they do count. However, I encourage anyone that wishes to participate in this business to try them all out. They are all working diligently to improve the process, make life better and so on. Remember what I said at the beginning - This is in my opinion! My opinion and a quarter will not even get you a cup of coffee today. :)

Please feel free to comment and throw your opinions in about this topic. The more information gets exchanged, the better for all of us behind the camera.

Thanks for reading and hopefully this helps you a bit.

Friday, February 29, 2008

VaderVideo royalty free stock footage libraries now available.

Just to answer some of the inquiries after having put some fun clips up on YouTube, VaderVideo is now proud to offer royalty free stock footage for your personal, professional and commercial use.

To date we offer 7 volumes of the Weather and Sky Series:

  1. Clouds Volume 1
  2. Clouds Volume 2
  3. Clouds Volume 3

  4. Lightning Volume 1
  5. Lightning Volume 2
  6. Lightning Volume 3
  7. Mega Lightning Assembly Kit 1

Keep checking in for more. We will be producing many more over time and also in the very near future offering this footage up by the clip.

Get legal, stay legal and protect yourself with royalty free products. Don't let yourself get caught up in a copyright infringement scenario. It can get real expensive!

By definition, what is a professional?

Here's a question that has plagued me for years. What determines if someone is a "professional" cameraman/videographer or photographer?

I have heard many answers to this along the lines of; "years of experience" to "the minute you get paid for a shot".

I suppose now that I have actually received my prize from LG Electronics for making the top 20 in their contest with my little 30 second clip (see VaderVideo site is finally coming to life... in this blog) which from what I understand will be used at various events of theirs, I am a pro! :) Heck, the prize, an LG Chocolate Cell Phone has a value of at least 1 dollar. Nanner, nanner, now I am a pro!

Of course in all honesty, that might be an overstatement. Personally, I believe as in anything else one does, the pro comes out after many hours or even years of experience as well. For someone to simply state that they are a pro in my personal opinion may be very deceiving. I for one have a real hesitation when someone asks me if I am a pro. Here's why, and again, remember, this is my opinion;

  • things move very rapidly in the industry regarding technologies and standards - my belief is that a real pro keeps up on that.

  • a real pro will experiment a lot! On their own time.

  • if a real pro contracts a job, and knows going in that there is no familiarity within the scope of the job, they should be upfront about that. Perhaps even make a special offer/deal with the client. I have done photo-shoots on the basis of a fair trade (get stuff for my portfolio) to create a win-win.

  • know one's limitations - sometimes you just have to say "I don't know."

  • leave the "I am an artistic attitude" at home. Don't be a superficial wannabe with that egotistical garbage flowing from your pores. The true artists that I have met, never flaunt it, rub it in your face, nor do they brag about it. Many times when I asked that above question, they respond with "I really don't know as I am so far from being one myself, I never thought about it." - Humble people are very easy to get along with.

In any case, for me this is not a real issue, just a question that may have many answers. So feel free to chime in and offer your opinion.

P.S. Here is the official prize from LG that I received just last week. Does this make me a pro?

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Little Understood Secrets of Television Trickery - (and how to do it cheaply) - Part 2

So when you see those "quickie" comments between segments on say, for example VH1 - this is how they do it:

It is obviously most effective to get all the lines recorded prior to editing the entire episode of a show. For example, if a show, and we'll just use the example of VH1's "Best Week Ever", needs quickie commentary during various segments flashing across the screen, it makes sense to have the various hosts or hostesses simply record the commentary in one sitting. This saves time, reduces cost and sometimes can get outright silly. Of course if you were simply a passer by and saw this process in action, you would wonder, what the heck are they doing? And just why is she sitting in front of that ugly green background? This is just another reason to make good use of chroma key technology.

One never knows 100% for sure what will be running in the background as a clip, so it's easier to work with "raw" green screen footage for this purpose as this allows any footage to be inserted after the fact.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Little Understood Secrets of Television Trickery - (and how to do it cheaply)

Ever wonder how the weather changes so quickly on TV?

OK, so we all know that the weather guys and gals are almost never accurate when they announce the future. Imagine if they were, wouldn't they be better stock market reporters?

All kidding aside though, have you ever seen a news report say on CNN, MSNBC, FOX or any channel for that matter where a live interview occurs? Typical examples are when the news has its so called "experts" chime in on a topic. These experts reside all over the country. So how do they get them on the air and live at that? To top it off, why is the weather that they are sitting in always different than the actual weather report of their location?
Recently I was visiting a buddy of mine that just so happens to be in the business of providing live link ups for just such interviews and purposes. He is a pretty smart fellow too. I suppose that's why he named his company"Live Link Ups".

So where's the magic? And just why is the weather always nice in the background of the individual being interviewed?
Really it's no magic at all. This is all done with Chroma Key or so called "green screen", "blue screen" and even in some cases other colors. The interviewee is not actually sitting in the location depicted by the background. They are actually sitting inside a nice little temperature controlled studio. Behind them is typically nothing other than a green or blue screen (or wall). Better yet, think about your local weather person on your local news. Just how do they "jump" into those satellite pictures that they use, or the weekly temperature forecast charts that are life size? This is all done with Chroma Key technology.
Of course when broadcasting live, it does take a bit of pretty expensive equipment to accomplish this nicely. Using a green or blue screen along with the proper equipment makes it easy to "implant" any image or video as a background. This of course is the "trickery" or magic that makes things not only look nice, but can give the sense of location that the "live feed" is coming in from.
Other upsides or benefits are that one has more control of bystanders not messing up the interview. This is simply because if the background happens to be video, it was shot at a time without any other equipment than a camera. Hence, no one stops to look at a camera anymore, but they will stop and try to get in the picture if they see a camera, all kinds of other equipment and yes, an anchor person. Just watch your local news when they are out and about on location. People always want their 15 seconds in the spotlight. The national morning programs actually exploit that simple fact.

So why even bring up such a trivial topic?
Well on my last visit to Live Link Ups, my buddy decided he needed to get some new backgrounds for his future clientele. So he asked me if I could help him, and take a couple of shots for him. So off we went and got us some nice background shots of office buildings. The neat thing about this is, they are still shots, not video. Talk about an inexpensive way to make things really pop.

Think about it, with a Canon Rebel XTi (the camera used) we can shoot as many shots (good or bad) as the memory chip will hold, and select the "cherries". We could expiriment to our heart's content in a very short time. We didn't have to haul heavy cameras, use up tape (or film in some cases), and most certainly we did not become the center of attraction to passers-by. Cool. We just looked like two dummies taking pictures of buildings. Little did the passers-by realize that these simple shots would be what they will see on live TV. Even cooler.
Of course he still will need to take these images and create a CD, yup a simple CD of pics that he can load any pic off of and with his equipment drive the image as the background. Neat.
What if you wanted to do the same thing, but cheaply?
Assuming you are not going to do live broadcast on TV, but rather for the internet, you can do it quite cheaply. There are plenty of products off the shelf for very little money (less than $100.00) that will let you do the same assuming you have a webcam. Some of these kits not only include the software to run on a PC, but also include a sheet (usually plastic) of green screen and even have a lapel microphone. So why not go for it if you are going to do webcasts and such. Get the whole enchilada and expiriment. Trust me, it's alot of fun and the only limit is your imagination.
There are a few things you will need to know to be successful at it though. Keep in mind that lighting and sound are very important to get some quality productions out. You can learn all about these concepts from a variety of people for free on YouTube for example. Or if you need products from software to goods for such purposes, you will find many suppliers and vendors by doing some simple google searches.
Here are just a few:

Most of all - Have Fun!

Andreas (Vader) Hohl - Imagineerest ;)

VaderVideo site is finally coming to life...

This is the very first of what will most likely be many entries into this here blog. ;D

Yup, the day is finally here where I can somewhat launch my new website "VaderVideo - where imagination and imagery meet."

I hope to keep this site informative, entertaining and inspiring.
  • Informative - I hope to discuss tips, tricks and other such information as I discover them. I learned that there really are no rules to shooting video or photographs. I have also found that some so called "professionals" are only that in their mind. So I will be honest and never claim to be a pro. I'm just a guy that loves to experiment and sometimes really gets lucky.

  • Entertaining - My writing will most of the time not be boring (I hope). I love to use humor and exhibit or draw pictures when so needed. This is why I put up some galleries. They speak for themselves.

  • Inspiring - I hope that I can inspire all age groups to exploit the wonderful image technology of today and not be afraid to go for it! I did, and look what happened. I created this! :)
I do not plan to bore you with long drawn out descriptions of new products, but rather show you. I do not want to keep so called "secrets" to my self, but rather share them in hopes of helping you have a great and successful time.

So what are we talking about? We are talking about creativity with cameras, software and your mind. Truly, we must remember, this is where imagination and imagery meet.

As a first entry, I figured that I should at least exhibit just one thing that explains the above.

This is simply a 30 second spot that I submitted for a contest on You Tube. The contest was/is sponsored by LG and the theme was to produce a "Life's good when..." message. I literally threw this together from an idea I had and figured, what the heck. I made it into the top 20 and finals. Winners to be announced on Dec 3rd, 2007. I never expected to get as far as I did but rather did it for the experience and practice. One can never practice and experiment enough. In any case, having made it to the top 20, I at least won a cellphone from LG. Not bad.

The point is, anyone can do this, just keep it legal. Don't infringe on any one's copyright, ever! Whether it be video, photo or music, stay clean and be creative.


Andreas (Vader) Hohl - Imagineerest ;)

Adobe - 2 Years (and a Half) Later - Great Stuff!

So here we are a few years later and Adobe didn't implode! On the contrary! Adobe is doing just fine and dandy. As a matter of fact,...