Archive for December, 2010

Uploading

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 30, 2010 by PoPS blog

The way we upload an episode of the The Platoon of Power Squadron is as such…

An average episode is between 25 to 30 minutes long. So I break them into six pieces that run approximately 5 minutes a piece. Then I upload each piece one day after the other for 6 days. Different web series seem to do uploads in different ways.

A pretty standard model has their webisodes clocking in at around 5-7 minutes long and then uploading a webisode per week until the entire “season” is done. That model bugs the hell out of me. It’s not television. TV shows have 20 to 40 minutes to tell us a complete story that will satisfy us and will interest us enough that we’ll want to check it out a week later. That’s enough time to tell a story. Plus, it’s a totally different stage. TV is like an event. The event will proceed whether we’re in our chair watching or not. It’s scheduled to start at 8 c.s.t. and if you want to see it you have to make time for it and prioritize it. I realize that TIVO and ONDemand are deprioritizing it a little bit, but it’s still an event.

Web series’ are there when you click on them and you can do that at your leisure. They don’t have that same kind of urgency. If you watch a 5-7 minute webisode, you’re already forgetting about it 10 minutes later when you’ve flown through 15 other websites. You’re not going to prioritize watching the next part when it drops 7 friggin’ days later. 7 days is like a half a century in internet years. For me, the only way to make it a measurable event is to have them come out at the same time each day for six days in a row. That makes it a limited time event. People schedule it to one degree or another and the conversation stays fresh and interesting for practically a whole week. Then people can chill out for the six months it takes us to get another episode ready. That’s the only way it seems to make sense to me.

During an upload week, everything gets a little strange for me. The first part of episode 4 went up last Sunday and the great comments started immediately. I spend a lot of my time checking back in to look at the comments and conversations that are happening on the boards. This is when the other people from the show get fired up too. It’s great that this thing we all work really hard on gets tens of thousands of views, and it’s nice to see so many people leaving comments like, “This should be on TV!”, but then my cast and crew start wondering how we can make money off of it and the truth is simple…I have no idea. I’ve never been a marketing or a money guy, I’m just a guy who likes to tell stories. It’s my good fortune that lately people have been really into the stories that I’m telling, but if my cast and crew start to weigh this thing in terms of making a profit, we’re sunk. We don’t make any money, and if I’m the guy that has to figure out how to start making money off of it, we never will. I’ve never been good at making money, I’m only good at making magic.

Jarvi out.

More on Music

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 23, 2010 by PoPS blog

Music! The other half of film. We all know how important music can be. Bring up “Jaws” and whomever you’re talking to will hum the most memorable two-note combination in movie history.

John Willams is the hardcore master of memorable movie melodies, but on my Youtube comments board this week it pretty much came down to a fist fight between him and Hans Zimmer. It makes sense. Zimmer’s a badass and he’s everywhere right now. There were also a lot of votes for the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack, but most of my update audience knows how much I love Edgar Wright, so that may have just been an apple for teacher situation.

So, how do you find music for your show? A lot of no-budget content makes the mistake of going light on the music, but pretty soon your show or movie starts to feel uncomfortably empty, and you don’t look very professional because of it. You can’t just grab your favorite soundtrack and drop it in because that’s tantamount to donning a mask and making a run at the intellectual property bank vault. So you need to find rights-free or public domain music.

The first logical stop is actually the worst choice. Apple’s Garageband has a whole bunch of pre-arranged music that you’re allowed to use for nothing, and a lot of it works great over scenes. But when you upload something to the internet with Garageband music in it you’re going to get the comment equivalent of a prison shower shanking. Two reasons: It’s too recognizable and it’s very synthesized sounding.

The next stop would be the Music Beds tab of Soundtrack Pro, which comes as a part of the Final Cut Pro Studio package. You can actually get away with this a little more. Less people recognize them, they sound less synth-y, and the songs are really good stuff. You’re less likely to get called out on using these, so you can use them sparingly, but there are other options.

The big thing on Youtube right now is to use music from a site called 8bit Collective at 8bc.org. Here, 8-bit music enthusiasts create original early-Nintendo sounding tracks. A lot of them are really good. The music is generally released under a creative commons usage agreement and people are free to use it to score their work if they credit the creator or include a link to the person’s page. Usage rules very, so be sure to check the page. It’s pretty cool.

Another site, Musopen, has a cache of recognizable public domain classical masterpieces recorded by organizations that aren’t selling cds, so the recordings are rights free. The web address that takes you right to the browsing list is musopen.org/music.php. They have a HUGE selection and there are plenty of ways to use these songs. They’re friggin’ classical masterpieces for crying out loud.

The last site I want to mention is Incompetech.com. This guy, Kevin MacLeod, has a really large selection of awesome music that he’s composed and recorded in a variety of genres. There’s even a “Browse by Genre” function on his site. All that he asks is that he be credited and, if the functionality exists, for a link to his site to be made available. The address that will take you right to his royalty free area is incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free. He also will compose directly for you if you have a budget set aside for things like that.

The way we do it on Platoon of Power Squadron is to know a lot of musicians who make music for us and are good enough to do it out of affection for us, affection for the project, and a piece of eventual DVD sales. The guy who puts in the most hours is Suede, from the previous video. He’s sunk a lot of time, talent, and energy into scoring for PoPS and I can’t ever thank him enough. We just finished scoring episode 4 last night at around midnight. I’m really excited.

We start putting episode 4 up on Youtube next Sunday, December 26th, in approximately 5-minute segments, the last of which goes up on New Years Eve. Hope you have a chance to check it out.

Thanks for reading.

Jarvi out.

PoPS video update 43-Music

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 19, 2010 by PoPS blog

More on Trailers

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 16, 2010 by PoPS blog

howdy, folks.

last night i spent some quality time in the studio with Suede working on the score for the intro of the show. we’re going to keep on working on it tonight and as many evenings as we can to get it ready for it’s deadline.

we’re supposed to do a cast and crew screening the night of the 23rd and it’s supposed to start going up on the Youtube on the 26th. i’m not sure we have enough road to get up to 88, but we usually overcome all obstacles, so here’s hoping we still have a little of that magic up our sleeves.

So I post these videos on our Youtube channel on Sundays, and most of the comments I receive come in over the following 24 hours. Here’s what I discovered:

A majority of people are fed up with trailers. They feel like too many plot points and surprises are revealed in them, so by the time they get to the movie there aren’t any story revelations left for them to uncover. Fair enough.

One way around this would be to cut a teaser trailer like the one for “Garden State.” It was one of the most intriguing trailers I’ve ever seen. There was no dialogue in it at all, simply a series of striking images from the movie with critical acclaim and festival laurels superimposed over them accompanied by “Let Go” from Frou Frou. It told you NOTHING. And somehow, at the end of this trailer that contains no expository information, you feel one of those catharsis chills. Absolutely brilliant. It was one of those trailers where I forgot what feature I was there to see, and then when I remembered I was disappointed it wasn’t “Garden State,” and I had never even heard of it before that.

They also nailed the trailer for “Iron Man.” The way that they got around revealing too much was by focusing strictly on act one. That was where you learned everything you needed to know to want to see the movie: Robert Downey Jr. is hilarious, he builds a big robot suit, and it’s an action movie. Ticket…sold. They also used footage from act 2 and act 3, but it was in a flash montage so quick that you couldn’t see much more than random movement with a subtle aftertaste of awesome-ness. Then they used a bit of act two to show you that he’s faster than military jets, but again, no big story reveals there. People had to buy a ticket to find out more. Great stuff. And it totally paid off.

The biggest complaints people had were about comedies frontloading all of their best material into the trailer so that there was nothing left to laugh at in the theater. That makes marketing comedies a somewhat trickier proposition.

The most mystifying trailers to me are where you see the ENTIRE THROUGHLINE OF THE MOVIE in the trailer. Why does somebody need to go see it then? The first and largest repeat offender here are the trailers for the “Free Willy” movies. First of all, the movie itself is called “Free Willy” so you already know what the objective is, problem solved, you barely even need a trailer. And then at the end of the trailer you see Willy jumping over that kid. You SEE Willy get freed IN THE TRAILER! What the hell? Why do I need to go see this movie? Not only do I already know that Willy is in the clear but I’ve seen THE METHOD IN WHICH HE MAKES GOOD HIS ESCAPE! There is no mystery left. And then they slapped the image of Willy freeing himself on the poster. The only way I can think to justify this is that whoever oversaw the marketing was relying on kids to have no memories and they wanted to reassure parents that everything would end up okay. Then again, this movie did well enough to get 2 sequels, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much.

I guess all I’m trying to convey is that according to the 400+ commenters I had this week, they said they prefer to have more than a little mystery left when they get into the theater. A lot of them won’t even read the back of books before diving in. They want to fly completely blind.

On another subject, it’s about a week and a half until I finally start uploading episode 4 of the Platoon of Power Squadron. It’s been six months of hard work and long hours for just one of the many no-budget dayjob-cowboys, but it’s finally going to go out. Here’s the trailer for it…

Thanks for reading, all y’all.

Jarvi out.

The Height of Super Hero Fashion

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 13, 2010 by PoPS blog

well, here they are.

PoPS logo shirts in all varieties. There will eventually be more designs, but it took us a ridiculously long time to get this set up.

LINK TO THE PoPS SHOPS

catch you guys later.

PoPS video update 42-Trailers

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 12, 2010 by PoPS blog

ep4 trailer release

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 9, 2010 by PoPS blog

i tend to think about our show in grandiose terms, so for the couple of evenings it took me to cut the trailer together i was thinking, ‘when should we release this? what would the optimum timing be?’

but then i finished it last night and I showed it to my wife and our friend caitlin and i was like, ‘should i just put it up?’

and they were all, ‘okay.’

so i uploaded it. 30 seconds after it went live it had 70 views and just kept climbing.  i had this–what now?–kind of feeling, because so much of my time has gone into the episode lately. uploading the trailer always feels like the first completion moment of every episode. so i sat their feeling satsified for a second and then we went to trader joes and watched some buffy.

Everybody’s a Critic

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 9, 2010 by PoPS blog

So if you’re going to put your content out there, that’s the first thing you have to accept. As we established in the previous video, much like there’s no such thing as bad press, even the negative comments are people spending energy thinking and talking about your show. Which is good. It’s way better than no one caring about what you’re doing.

Still, anyone telling you that “You suck” isn’t going to be easy to hear. Someone saying, “This is lame,” about something that you’ve spent months on is going to get inside your head to a certain degree. It doesn’t matter that it’s a total stranger, it takes you right back to the schoolyard. Let’s face it, if none of us had ever been picked on as kids we wouldn’t be trying so hard to make as many total strangers as possible think we’re cool and talented.

If you’re going to put something out into the world you have to be ready for it to take a beating. Especially in a user generated content forum, everyone is a critic. So here are some ways to deal with it.

1. If you’re really getting down about a negative comment, just scroll down and take a look at the ratio of good to bad that you’re getting. The ratio in my comments is usually about 200 good to 1 bad. Once you look at it that way, things start looking a little brighter.

2. If they rail on you about something specific, visit their channel and check out what they’ve uploaded. If it’s nothing, they’re all talk. You may want to take a look at what their comment said about your work to see if it’s something that could use improvement (and if the comment made you mad, you probably already know it could be better), but they don’t have anything showing that they could do it better. Then they’re just a critic, not a contemporary. Ask any filmmaker, a slam from a filmmaker you respect hurts a million times worse than a slam from any critic.

3. Quit doing your show…for a night. Just step away from the computer and watch some House, read a Stephen King book, pop in a J.J. Abrams movie, anything involving enough to get you out of your head; because it’s not the ONE bad comment you can’t silence, it’s you telling yourself that they’re right. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be upset. So put the brakes on, step away from the vehicle, and escape on foot for a night.

4. You could always send them a message to ask for further details about their comment. People were surprised when I sent them messages asking about their comments. To them, I was just another face on the screen. Not real. So they were only too happy to explain what they meant. In most cases you’ll come away with ACTUALLY CONSTRUCTIVE criticism that will help your show improve. Every once in awhile you’ll just run into people who were rude to be rude and they’ll keep being rude. But those people aren’t actually looking to be a part of the process, they just want to tear you down for their own reasons.

5. This is the one that I don’t necessarily recommend, but you could always just stop reading your comments. However, for no-budget content, the thing that keeps some of the people interested is the back and forth with the makers and you don’t want to alienate your audience. They’re the people that are going to buy your merch.

Choose whichever suits you best, but don’t forget the most important thing about making a no-budget show—It’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it. You are creating a story that didn’t exist before and putting it out into the world. As a storyteller, that’s the most vitally important thing you can do. If you can get people to watch it, that’s just a huge bonus. Who cares if some of them are d-bags?

Jarvi out.

PoPS video update 41-Messaging Negative Commenters

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 5, 2010 by PoPS blog

More on Film versus Video

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on December 2, 2010 by PoPS blog

So Film vs. Video wasn’t much of a competition up until very recently. The difference between professional content and amateur content used to be that professional content actually looked good. Now, high-end consumer HD cameras are pumping out beautiful quality and the lines of professional content are getting blurred.

It used to be all about 35mm, but then in the late sixties and early seventies there was a 16mm revolution and that grainy blown out look became the benchmark of counter culture cool. So movies were being made on the (relative) cheap, but only if your characters dropped acid, engaged in casual sex as a war metaphor, or were seen through trippy gels or washes that tinted the entire screen blue then yellow then pink.

Jim Jarmusch made a splash with “Stranger Than Paradise” in 1984 because he immortalized a fictional account of kids in their 20s who sat still for long stretches of silence in a story that had no momentum or sense of direction for 89 minutes. Hell, you can watch that on a gagillion Youtube channels now for nothing, but he shot it on grainy black and white FILM and it was seen as a metaphor for a generation without hopes or prospects. If he tried to shoot that today with an HD camera it would have cost him less, it would have looked a lot more polished, and it wouldn’t make it into one film festival. That’s because the market has become hyper-saturated with video content.

Even at the dawn of digital video, as soon as mini-dv tapes showed up, the next movement started. The “Blair Witch” kids made bank off of a brilliant marketing campaign and a movie that looked awful and Mike Figgis made “Timecode,” a one take, four screen, real-time masterpiece of blocking that didn’t make any money but proved that new toys can produce cool concepts.

Now that us low-to-no budget guys can get our hands on equipment that makes our movies look great, does that mean we’re all headed for the limelight? No. Because everyone else has the same equipment. I could throw a handful of stones into a Starbucks and hit nothing but amateur filmmakers. In fact, two or three of them would probably be shooting something on their iPhones when I did it and Youtube would suddenly be flush with viral videos of “Guy Goes Crazy in Starbucks”, “Rocks on, Starbucks,” and “Let He Who Loves Lattes Cast The First Stone,” viral videos. That actually sounds like a good way to get my project some attention. I’m going to do that. Anyway…

So the market is so full of amateur HD content creators that it’s nearly impossible to get noticed. I’m not bad-mouthing the system. If it wasn’t for my easy access to modern equipment, I wouldn’t have over 20,000 subscribers for the “Platoon of Power Squadron” now, and we certainly wouldn’t have fan-art sent to us from our Facebook Fans (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Platoon-of-Power-Squadron/124001504307199?v=photos&ref=sgm#!/album.php?aid=9775&id=124001504307199); it just blows my mind that people like us enough to draw pictures of us. We garnered so much more attention when we switched to HD during episode 3. People think there’s money behind the show, when in actuality we can make an episode happen for under 300 dollars. But I have no idea how big of an audience we would need to have to get the attention of producers, investors, and networks. As much as the advent of affordable HD equipment has made our content look better, it’s also made attracting attention a lot harder. That’s why competitions like NexTV are so cool.

Now, huge movies are being shot digitally. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a Best Picture and it was shot with the Silicon Imaging SI-2K. Movies like “Wanted,” “District 9,” and “Angels and Demons” are shooting with the RED, and awesome shows like “Weeds,” “Dexter,” and “Battlestar Galactica” are being shot digitally. If you want to get noticed, you don’t need to shoot something on film. Our film short (Twisted Thicket) only got into one festival. I’ve gotten way more attention shooting digitally, and it’s a LOT more financially feasible.

Leave the developing costs to the directors who have a studio behind them. Just grab an HD camera and tell a good story. If anything is going to get you some attention, it’s a story that draws people in.

Jarvi out.