Archive for July, 2013
You’d think that once an episode was up online that would be it; you’d be done and it would be time to move on to the next episode. Turns out there’s still things to do.
If you did a fundraising campaign for the show, you have to get all of the donor gifts sent out. A lot of those gifts are DVDs of the episode, so you have to get the episode, menus, extras, and disc and case art all put together, formatted correctly, and agreed upon. This results in a surprising amount of conversations about text justification, spacing, and color. No matter how many times we’ve done it before. Then you have to have the master discs duplicated a bunch.
For this episode and the last, we’ve had a very generous duplication offer come from within the audience. Greg and his son Kyle from Little Rock generously volunteer their time and materials to make all of the discs that are being sent out to donors. It’s unbelievably helpful and no matter how many times I thank them I can’t ever thank them enough.
Once we get those back to Illinois, we’ll have to print all of the DVD case inserts, cut them down to DVD case size, stuff them in the cases, and add a disc to each case. There were less donors for episode 7, so I think we only have about 70 or 80 of these to do this time. Our producer Tim might be doing that part of the process this time, but we also might be doing a DVD assembling party between him and his wife Emily and me and Lize. Sounds kind of fun to me.
While we’re doing all of that, our DP/VFX-guy Ryan has to get the digital downloads of the episode and outtakes sorted out and sent out to everyone. I have no idea what goes into all of that.
Then it’s mailing time. In the past, we’ve addressed the envelopes by hand. For the international mailing, this includes standing at the post office for about an hour or two filling out overseas forms—redoing the addresses and answering questions about contents. This time though, we’ve got a digital scale and I think we’re going to do the whole process at home, printing stuff from online, just stopping in to the post office at the end with everything filled out. We haven’t tried this route before, but it sounds better.
Once the DVDs, t-shirts, knits, and downloads are taken care of there are a couple other considerations. After each episode, I put together a new “Intro to PoPS” video incorporating some of the footage from the latest episode and concluding with an episode selection screen. First it was PoPS in 52 Seconds, then it was PoPS in 77 Seconds, we’ll see what it is this time. I want to edit one of those together in the next couple days so that it goes up right after all of the episode parts are actually public.
Of course, during all of that I have to keep checking in on view counts and comments on the episode, because it’s like a drug. Can’t get away from it. The view counts aren’t where I’d like them yet, only around 10,000 on the first part, but the comments are so great. So many people are calling this their favorite episode. It’s such a relief. It makes me feel like all the work and problem solving and endless conversations and hours at the computer are worth it. The negative comments this time are still staying nice and specific. A few people think that it’s damaging to the show that my cast of real people who work in libraries, boutiques, and offices can’t do fight scenes like they’re a professional stunt team. I’m talking like 5 people out of the hundreds of commenters who loved the action. So I still feel pretty good about that. One person thought I ruined the show because he thought he understood a character better than I did, so he’s wrong. And one psychic/empath commenter thinks my character irreparably damages the reputations of real psychics and empaths everywhere, and she doesn’t like the show anymore. But if my work is well regarded enough to do that kind of damage, I think I have to count that as a victory too. My cousin Kirk thinks she must not be very good anyway, or she would have seen it coming.
So far only one person has sent me a collaged-something since the release of episode 7. @jellyninja2 sent it to me on Twitter this morning:I love it. I hope we get more GIFs and fan edits and collages and drawings. They’re always the best.
A week from today, my lovely wife and I will be in southern California. A week from tomorrow we’ll be on the floor of Vidcon. Then Disneyland, L.A., the New Beverly, and probably Mel’s Drive-in again. Then we’ll have spent all of our money and I can sit still for a couple minutes to start writing episode 8.
Thanks for reading.
The cast and crew screening is always so great. I’ve lost all perspective on an episode by that point, so getting to hear a group of people react to it is really helpful and satisfying. It goes without saying that I’m also wired and nervous. That first showing is so nauseating and exhilarating at the same time. Everyone seemed to really enjoy episode 7 and after a few tweaks, we’re ready to go up on Sunday.
I spent last night making a new end screen for each of the PoPS videos that will have links for subscribing, going to our YT channel, and linking to the first part of episode 7 and the subsequent part. Eliza spent last night making a new Photoshop template for our video thumbnails. It has the PoPS logo, as well as a prominent episode and part number. Super stylized and cool looking. We’re finally trying to get caught up on all the cool branding and things we should have been doing for awhile. Just more things we’re launching on Sunday with the episode.
Another new experience has been getting a few promo packs together for this episode. My contact at The Collective asked me to get them some PoPS t-shirts and DVDs of the episode so they can reach out to reviewers both YouTube and geek-space based. So I rushed a DVD together and I had them duplicated professionally. A few details have changed on the episode since that burn, nothing too major, and the episode 7 DVD that our Indiegogo donors will be getting also has a live Q&A that we did at a screening event, another feature the promo burn didn’t have. What I learned was that you need to leave more time for everything than anyone quotes you. Having never done this before, I had no frame of reference. The t-shirts finally shipped five days after I placed the order and the DVD duplication went from a 3-day turnaround to a 6-day turnaround. Bottom line, The Collective will be sending out the promo packs after we’re already live on YouTube. Not ideal, but now I know for next time.
Thanks for reading, guys. I hope you enjoy episode 7 on Sunday.
When I say “how to release a web series” I don’t mean “here’s how you upload a video,” because that’s pretty self explanatory—once you click the upload button on YouTube, they walk you through it pretty well. What I mean is, how often do you release an episode part?
First of all, we don’t have a show that’s released once a week for forever, but people doing a web series rarely do. It’s typically a period of radio silence with occasional update videos, kind of like the ones I do once a week but with more excuses and less random conversation about movies, and then a heavy promo period during the release. Conventional wisdom has people releasing it like TV—upload a 5 to 10 minute segment of your show on the same day every week until your “season” is over. Season length varies, but it’s usually somewhere between a half hour to an hour and a half of content. I can’t get behind that one. And I’ve tried it.
Look, my release theory for the first episode was a disaster. The segments were like 1 to 3 minutes long. Almost too short to communicate anything with an evolving serial storyline and definitely too short to hook people into this kind of story. But we released them once a day until the episode was up. We did that for the first five episodes, except with mercifully longer segments. Releasing once a day keeps it on people’s minds for an intense week of watching. One frenzied week of promotion and talking about the episode and then it’s back into hiatus and updates. It’s frequent enough that 5 to 10 minute segments can keep people involved in the storyline and can commit to being a part of the full release.
We released episode 6 in the conventional way. An episode part per week over the course of seven weeks. I think it was a disaster. Over that week people would forget and not be anticipating the next episode part, or they’d lose their place. Some say, “Oh, but then they have to watch the previous part again to remind themselves and you’ll get a higher view count.” Yeah, or they could just watch something they don’t have to work so hard for. It’s the friggin’ internet, yo. Easier distraction is a mouse click away. I had people telling me they drifted away during the release cycle only to catch up later. A relatively significant portion of the audience wanted to wait and watch it all at once after it was all uploaded, but seven weeks later the hype of the release was long gone and they forgot or it just wasn’t a priority for them anymore. Using an entire week as, essentially, a commercial break even affected the way people who did show up for the release of every part experienced the episode. I had a conversation break out in the comments of one of the updates where a couple guys were talking about how 6 was a letdown and they hoped 7 would be better. I asked what exactly about it was a letdown. Not to be a defensive jerk or anything—which I absolutely have the capacity to be—but because I wanted to see if I could course-correct in the future. Once you have an audience, the internet is super handy for getting actual opinions about what you’re doing, once you’ve weeded out the trolls, of course. One of the guys came back and said that he was wrong, the episode was just as good, he just didn’t feel like it at the time. I’m positive that’s because of the week-to-week release. TV shows have a full 20, 40, or now 50 minutes to make an impression on you. Any momentum or energy you’ve built in someone watching only 5 to 10 minutes of your unresolved storyline has WAY dissipated after a full week away.
This time it’s all going up on one day. Anyone who wants to will be able to click through to the next episode part at the end of every one. It’ll be watchable in one sitting from the very start. But thanks to YouTube’s unlisted video policy, I’ll also be able to make the separate parts public one day at a time, so they still pop up in subscription lists for a full week. I think it’s the most optimal release method I’ve heard of, but I guess I won’t truly know for a week and a half.
Thanks for reading, guys.
God bless Davinci Resolve. I’ve been my own color corrector for years and I’ve always longed for the day I could fire myself. I have absolutely no aptitude for it and I think I end up making things look worse most of the time. Sure, I get the colors balanced so that the changes between shots aren’t jarring, but I can’t seem to create pleasing palettes at all. I love the blue, desaturated tones of shows like Supernatural and the contrasty, desaturated blue-grey with misty highlights of the last Harry Potter movies. There’s this whole thing about dragging the lows and the mids against each other in the color spectrum, but it requires a serious level of artistry that I don’t have. I’ve gotten better, but I totally crushed all the blacks in episode 6 and there’s way too much red in that whole episode. It’s kind of ugly looking.
Apple Color was part of the problem. That program had a little more control to it than Final Cut’s 3-Way Color Corrector, but I’d spend hours in there and then the render-out didn’t look at all like it did in Color itself. Everything was always a little darker and it seemed to degrade the image, creating more pixel noise.
A friend of mine suggested Davinci Resolve and said that the Lite version was a free download. Sold. I watched a bunch of tutorials online and learned how to use and tweak their gallery of Power Grades—presets of looks that, when combined, give me the looks I’ve wanted for so long. It’s awesome! The first time I tried it was on the trailer for our seventh episode, seen here:
I intentionally pulled scenes with different color-looks from all over the episode to see the range of what Resolve Lite could do. I…LOVE…IT. It still takes a while to get through scenes because, you know, it’s color correction and that takes time, but it finally looks the way I want it to. I’m no longer hindered by my lack of color grading talent! Plus, how badass is my sister’s score at the end of that trailer?
Now I just need to finish grading the episode, hopefully soon, because we need to get some publicity packs together and I’m putting the episode up online in two and a half weeks. Then I’ll have some summer before we do the next episode.
Happy 4th of July, Americans! I’ll be grilling and watching National Treasure before going to fireworks and the drive-in movie theater. What are you going to do?
Thanks for reading.