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360 Video Test: Directing Viewers’ Attention

By | Innovation, Video, VR | No Comments

In a medium where the viewer chooses where to look, the 360 video director and cinematographer must use far subtler cues to ensure the important beats of a story are seen. In 2015, The X Gene and Virtual Reality Ventures worked together on a test shoot, attempting to bring the viewer into a high-action scene but still keep their attention on one point. If you’ve been inside a headset, you know you can look anywhere: up, down, to your left or right, or turn and look behind.

Here’s the result, and after the video, our observations:

The camera does not choose

In 2D filmmaking, action is planned, but the camera then moves around that action, filming different angles in short bursts. Often, the action is manipulated or cheated to get the best results when it’s all cut together. In 360 video, it’s all about the action first, with the camera almost (and in our case actually) a character to be considered as part of that action. It moves through in one long take, as everyone moves around it. A cinematographer doesn’t choose how to shoot, but rather how to move through action, choreographed like a performer.

360 video is way more like theatre

The best way to plan a 360 video shoot is to first nail the location or set, then block out how the actors move and interact over a set period of time. That is your scene. If someone fucks a take, you simply start again, but once you get it, done! So think like a theatre director whose audience is in the round, only the round keeps moving … or, to stretch the metaphor, the audience is reverse-in-the-round. Identify what is happening, where the stories are taking place and when the key moments of those stories happen, then block your camera to take your audience as close or far from those moments as is appropriate to convey meaning.

Think like a Renaissance painter

Two people run on either side of the camera. You only see one of them, so you follow her and discover she’s joined up with her comrade you never realised until now was on the other side of you. Now you watch those two run away into the distance. That’s how we made sure viewers, at the very start, were oriented the right way for the story. We picked an action sequence because that genre is the most raw, blunt way to convey story. There’s literally rising action, physically overcoming obstacles and the foe is actually vanquished to death. These codes and tropes let us use things like bullets to drag the eye, as viewers followed the stream of nerf pellets to see where they came from. This was most effective in our little twist, as we got the viewer to look up at a machine gunner, breaking away from the obvious and default eye-level as the bullets rained down. These are like live action, moving, temporal versions of how Renaissance painters directed the viewer’s eye around a canvas.

(Did you notice our director in plain sight behind the camera man during the headshot the end?)

Lighting is a thing OR Location & production design are huge

We picked our location deliberately, because the gantries on the second floor let us hide two giant 2k blondie lights that let us flood the place like we were sun gods. Lighting is totally doable, but you need to work harmoniously with location and production design more than any other medium.

Full trilateral 360° isn’t necessary

Nup. Especially not for anything you want the viewer to watch from a couch for a decent period of time. Looking behind you isn’t enough of a thing, we think, to justify using full, XYZ 360° vision, which is why we bought a 360 camera with 235° field of view: about the same amount of lateral movement you make turning your head from side to side.

This is just the start

We learnt way more during this test, and we’re gonna apply it and build on it in our next tests. Stay tuned, storytellers!

CBS Twitter Freewheel Weather CHannel logos

CBS, Twitter, Weather Channel and FreeWheel Talk Video Content

By | Advertising, Research, Technology, Video, Video Blogs | No Comments

From Brightcove:

Recently, we brought together several of our media customers and partners for an excellent networking breakfast in New York City that included a panel discussion on how to maximize the performance of video content, as well as a session of case study-driven best practices shared by Brightcove’s CTO for Media, Albert Lai.

On the panel, CBS, Twitter, The Weather Channel and FreeWheel weighed in on opportunities for broadcasters in the year ahead, as well as how to measure the performance of video initiatives as it relates to advertising, user experience, reach and engagement across devices. Their thoughts seemed to resonate with many Brightcove customers in the room, some of whom contributed their own 2014 areas of focus in the video below after the sessions.

Zack G and Barack Obama on Between Two Ferns

Why Obama Making Fat Jokes Worked

By | Marketing, Video, Viral Video | No Comments

We finally got around to watching Prezi Barry Obams on Between Two Ferns, and from the first time The President makes fun of Galifianakis’ weight we were giggling our heads off. He calls the President a nerd! The thing we really like, though, is this video that is exactly like all the other Between Two Ferns – awkward, brash, stilted, deliciously mean spirited and funny – was used by the White House to boost sign ups at HealthCare.gov. They wanted to reach out and plug the site so more people signed up to their reformed healthcare system and ensure they have coverage after the imposed cutoff date. According to White House  communications advisor Tara McGuiness, it worked.

 

Funny or Die is Will Ferrel and Adam McKay’s comedy video site, and it hosts Between Two Ferns. It worked. Here’s what you can learn from all this to get your own stuff moving via video:

THIS VIDEO WAS EMBEDDED EVERYWHERE

The video was hosted on FunnyorDie.com, but there were comms advisors from the White House and media and PR people from Funny or Die speaking with and making aware every website that could possibly place the video into their own articles or blogs. I saw it on The Verge, but you could also find it on (as a smattering):

  • Huffington Post
  • E! Online
  • YouTube
  • Variety
  • Forbes
  • NY Daily News
  • Popwatch
  • The Wrap
  • Gawker
  • Mamamia

That’s a broad collection of audiences.

THERE WAS A BUNCH OF METADATA

Wherever the video appeared, there was at least a link to HealthCare.gov and you need that, you need the call to action and then a quick way for someone to execute that action. The best way for this all to work is when the form matches the function. This is a digital video, posted online, to drive traffic to another website. All someone has to do is click a link. Secondary follow up: make a phone call. But a link in an online video is the best way to take advantage of it all.

DON’T BE AFRAID

Before you worry about using comedy or something different to promote your stuff, think really hard about this: the President (stakes!) went on a show that is famous for being cruel to its guests, and makes fat jokes. Do you really think making light of white goods, or being silly with a corporate message is that scary?

Feature for blog about directors and one stop shoppers

Interviewing: When a One Stop Shop Solo Operator Isn’t Good Enough

By | Marketing, Video | No Comments

The CEO is nervous. Her job, as she sees it, is to organise the company, work behind the scenes to keep stakeholders co-operative, talk in boardrooms. She doesn’t consider part of her job to be talking in front of a camera, about herself, telling stories and seeming at ease while feeling rigid inside.

Sitting in front of a camera requires a rare type of confidence that comes from experience (or brash youthfulness!). Being a powerful person in the boardroom does not always translate to being confident, warm and flowing on camera. Of course not. Think about the qualities a good CEO has. Toughness, straightforward attitudes, an ability to cut through crap and get stuff done. Good governance. The Board’s representative in carrying out the greater strategic goals. Being liked isn’t high on the priorities list.

Do you know what someone needs to look good in front of a camera? A smile. Warmth. Confidence, but not so much that you come off as threatening. Languidness. Ease. Balance. Deferment. A great deal of these qualities are not naturally promoted by a CEO role. Think below the surface. A CEO is constantly facing problems, threats and challenges. A personal fortitude often means a withholding nature, not giving away too much to avoid exposing weakness. The camera loves someone exposing their weakness then laughing about it with the audience.

So it can be very hard for a CEO to sit in front of a camera and feel natural. That’s what a director is on set for. A great director works almost entirely with the talent – our CEO – making her feel comfortable, talking with her, asking her questions to make her feel relaxed, explaining how everything works or completely ignoring the technology, depending on how the director intuits the CEO is best worked with. While the camera operator and soundie and lighting guy are moving around, setting up, talking, working out angles, the director keeps the CEO centred, focussed and prepared. They keep a quiet island for two amid the chaos.

Do you know who can’t do that? The one man operator. The guy who brings the camera, the lights and the sound, and sets it all up himself. He runs around, doing the work that takes a full crew an hour. He rushes, he sweats, he looks hassled. The CEO is nervous. She feels exposed, unsure, and when she asks questions to try and find security, she’s given short, offhand replies. She isn’t given eye contact. The solo operator throws replies over his shoulder, because he’s busy pushing the light up higher and balancing the shot bag on his foot.

The CEO hasn’t been looked after, given the time she deserves and needs for a good result. After the solo operator is finished set up, he asks the CEO if she’s ready. She says yes, because there’s no way she’ll look unprepared. He’ll press record and she’ll come off stiff, awkward, reserved, wooden. Of course she will! She wasn’t directed! Even talented, A-list stars need direction to get good work out of them.

That’s why you should hire a proper production crew. We know that a technician isn’t the best at working with people. That’s what directors are for, and we know some of the best directors going.

Lancers charging

How a FREELANCER Can Get Work with The X Gene

By | Freelancer, Innovation, Video | One Comment

If you’re a freelancer in the film, TV and video industry, you may have come here via this blog post, FREELANCER TIPS: Advice To Camera Operators. We get a lot of emails enquiring about whether we have room for full time or part time employees. We also gets lots of enquiries from freelancers. Very glad to help where we can, and we add your details to our files because we’re always looking for new talent. We love talking to you and sending you in the right direction, and are delighted with the popularity of our blog posts in your direction. The X Gene hates closed, locked doors.

We all have a lot of hassles finding work in the business. Going full time freelance is daunting enough, but once you take that leap, you’re now committed to finding enough work every week to keep you eating. All the folks at The X Gene have gone through this stage. Simon was a soundie and editor, Britta worked her way through film studios as an editor and Adam’s been camera opping for years. So we feel your pain.

One way we help out freelancers as well as get jobs is by being happy to help out in the parts you don’t like. Being a producer really means doing the boring and painful stuff; client liaison, sales, budgeting, invoicing, chasing and organising. Luckily, we love that stuff. There’s nothing more satisfying than being told our brief to a camera operator or editor was impeccable, or our shoot schedule meant “shit just got done.” So that’s what we can offer to the freelancer who has work but as part of a much bigger job.

Here’s how it unfolds: you get an edit job or a camera job or a graphics job, but it’s part of a much larger project, and you don’t want all that nonsense. You just wanna do your thing. Bring the job to us, and tell us what you want to do and how much you want to get paid for it. We prepare the quote, pitch or proposal and get your approval. We take it to the client, with your role securely in place within the project. They say yes, we make it happen, you fill in your end and get paid through us.

We’ve got this set up with a few of the operators in Kindred Studio with us, and the friends and associates of other freelancers. If it’s something you’re interested in, to expand what you can offer potential clients, or if you already have a job you want to fill out, let us know.

Feature for blog with stats on what counts as a video view

What Counts As A Video View? You’d Be Surprised!

By | Research, Technology, Video | No Comments

Just because someone sees your video, doesn’t mean it’ll count as a view! Turns out there are varying definitions of what counts as a ‘view’ on video content.

Depending on the website that’s hosting your video, TubeMogul informs us that a half view, and autoplay or a refresh can an affect on whether your view count goes up or stays as it is. Below is the table of results from TubeMogul’s research, updated in 2010 and found here via Creative Commons license. One/session is one count per session (monitored via the viewer’s IP address), > 1/2 view means the viewer got through more than half the video. Note that autoplays aren’t always counted, which is important if you want that intro video on your homepage to gather a nice collection of views. You’ll have to weigh up the importance of people seeing your video vs raising the view count.

III. Summary of Findings

Site Full View >1/2 View Refresh Embedded Embedded Autoplay 
blip.tv one/sess. one/sess. no count one/sess. one/sess.
Dailymotion count count count count count
Metacafe count count no count count count
MySpace count count count count count
Viddler count count count count count
Vimeo one/sess. one/sess. no count count count
Yahoo! Video count count count count count
YouTube count count count count no count

By David Burch, Director of Communications – Link to Report

Feature for blog about how much web video costs

How Much Does A Web Video Cost?

By | Marketing, Video | No Comments


Lots of people are curious about the price of video. It’s dependent on what you’re after, but here’s a handy guide to get you started.

The average web video is 1 to 3 minutes long. There’s juicy research from video hosting platforms that says a viewer will drop off at about 90 seconds in, so get your key messages in early.

Most of our clients use a web video to introduce a brand, service or product. They’ll deploy those videos on their site and throughout their social media network.

A commercial might be expensive, but web video is the entry point for small business. The Interactive Advertising Bureau releases reports about the digital space, and they say the stickiest sites are always those with video. That means people not only stay on the site longer, but are more likely to come back.

A ‘web video’ is a very broad category. They’re very different from video to video. To find out what’s right for someone, we start with a simple chat. We ask questions to know the brand, then understand the message. Finally, we go back and brainstorm three or four fun ideas, with budgets attached. Those concepts might be live action or animation.

Once confirmed, we take care of pre-production (concepts, scripts, storyboards, shotlists, schedules), production (cameras, lighting, cast, crew and locations) and post-production (editing, motion graphics, effects, colour grading, exporting, sound). Once it’s done, we help implement and deploy the video. This means we might work with a client’s web developer, or create different versions for different uses like online, trade shows or DVD.

The question on everybody’s lips: how much does it cost. You’re looking at $3,000 to $8,000 depending on how fancy you want to get. AU$5,000 is the average.

Honestly, the business that can afford The X Gene’s work in this area is a medium businesses with 10+ employees or an operating budget that can justify a more sophisticated marketing approach. We find that’s professional firms like financial managers, insurance brokers, and the technology sector. Animated videos tend to be the realm of government, not-for-profit and education institutions, often with dry or complex messages that need to be made more visually interesting.

So that’s a quick overview of web video. Wanna make one? It’s the next step in being rad.

Feature for blog explaining shorter videos are better for engagement

How Long Your Web Video Should Be

By | Research, Video | No Comments

Wistia are a neato burrito video hosting company that love the moving image as much as we do. Every couple of years they seek to answer the eternal question: how long should a video be? Click the article link to read more, but here’s the overview graphs.

http://wistia.com/blog/does-length-matter-it-does-for-video-2k12-edition/

Wistia

Wistia

Wistia


How much does it cost to film an event? Lots of companies put on big shows or little shows, to reach out to new people or celebrate the existing. Film it!

How Much Does it Cost to Film My Event?

By | Events, Video | No Comments


Event marketing is all the rage. Lots of companies put on big shows or little shows, to reach out to new people or celebrate the existing. We capture these events in two ways.

We film the whole event and create long form versions for those who were absent, online membership clubs or to sell the videos themselves.

Or, we can create a highlight reel(s) that captures the atmosphere and promotes the event, the business and the sponsors or partners.

We’re usually working with organisations that hold training sessions, seminars or presentations to their board, the media or their peers. Some of our favourites are awards nights and ceremonies.

The way this gets done is a bit different from the usual pre/prod/post process. We’ll get called up to cover the event. We discuss the needs, what’s going to be on at the location and what the client wants to do with the content. We then bring a usually small crew, film, then edit it all together. Overall, it’s a fairly simple production, but it’ll take a bit longer because we’ll be dealing with potentially days worth of footage.

To cover an event, are the stacks of cash fat or skinny? At the lowest end, we’ll have someone with a camera running around grabbing just visuals, then a quick edit. At the highest end, there’s a multi-camera set up with different angles, different audio feeds and hours and hours of final product. So $2,000 to $5,000 – up to a three day seminar from $12 to $15 grand.

Who’s getting these sorts of videos made? Businesses with either lots of staff or lots of stakeholders, covering end of year or general meetings. This can be an industry association’s organising committee – Insurance Council of Australia, Australian Constructors Association, Planning Institute of Australia.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle, so if there’s an event coming up that you know could’ve been shot better than last year, email us for a chitty chat!

A golden Mercedes Benz

Why Go Pro Video: The Reason it Costs What it Costs

By | Marketing, Technology, Video | No Comments

Here’s the thing about video – anyone can do it…but only professionals can do it well.

I’d be a moron to dismiss or ignore that as digital swept through and technology got cheaper, making videos became more accessible. A smart phone today will shoot some pretty nice footage (I like how the iPhones oversaturate). This all means businesses promoting themselves can have the same sort of fun with video that we have every day.

My job as a producer at a Melbourne video agency is to make content that promotes businesses, not-for-profits, individuals – anyone with a message. The challenge is finding a place for ourselves now that anyone can afford the basic tech.

Some companies have decided to go for bulk. Buy or build a studio (because that’s something harder to get) and pump out a huge volume of video content at a cut-throat rate. It works for these companies, but they’ll freely admit they are missing one thing: quality.

The X Gene has gone a different route. We’ve moved away from cheap. We come in when our client wants a premium product. A potentially lucrative contract with a big international firm? A line of clientele that take part in the finer things in life? A large audience, a large investment, high stakes? These are the types of things a little clip in a poorly green screened studio won’t help.

If you want big returns, you need high quality. That’s The X Gene. High-end cameras, complex lighting and audio setups, multiple edit suites and specialised post-production software – yes, we have all of that, but we also have something far superior: the years of experience and proven talent to utilise all this creatively. We create the best videos we can, and then push ourselves to do better.

That’s what you’re paying for when you get a video made with us. That’s why it costs more than the quick and dirty alternatives, or the overseas options from sites like freelancer.com. I’ve heard business owners in seminars talk about getting a video done overseas and not being happy with the result. They end up making three or four mediocre videos that probably cost them more than they budgeted for anyway. I’ve also been proud to see other owners and our clients show off a premium video and say it was a bit more expensive, but the results speak for themselves.

The old cliche is true; you get what you pay for. With all this talk in the news of Australia needing to accept it can’t compete on price when working against nations four to ten times cheaper, I hear a constant refrain, “IP and value added skills and expertise are the way forward.” That’s us. Quality in a service industry, making excellent content to make you cut through and stand out. That’s why you go pro video – to be better than your competitors. We strive to be better than our competitors, so who better to team up with to take over the world?

Feature image about video used online, seeding, activation

Get The Most Out Of Your Video

By | Technology, Video | No Comments

We made a Prezi! Prezi is a fun little app that spruces up the traditional PowerPoint and move a around the screen in a more cinematic way.

Honestly, this is a simplified version of one aspect of what you can achieve in motion graphics programs like Adobe After Effects. We’ve noticed that successful apps are really those that capture one aspect of a much more complex, professional program, and repackage it as a simplified, restricted version that the general population can play with.

In our Prezi, we wanted to show you what you can do with any video you have once it’s edited and delivered. We love telling our clients these little tips, because we want them to get the most out of our work, to get the most bang for their buck. Please have a chat to us if you’d like to learn how to get your message to the most eyeballs. Enjoy by pressing the little arrows and marvel at Prezi!

Data on how audiences react to video content

DIY + Professionally Produced = More Sales, More Happiness

By | Advertising, Research, Technology, Video | No Comments

Sales and happiness aren’t necessarily one in the same, and conversion is the preferred industry term, but isn’t happiness better than sales or converting? Yeah, agreed.

At The X Gene, we produce videos to make people happy, but ultimately to get our clients sales, conversions or just getting a thumbs up. We’re completely aware that with technology advancing and prices for that tech falling, folks can make videos at home or in the office. Obviously, we’re really good at it and would prefer to do it for you, but ignoring the growing trend of DIY would be insane. Our producers actually come out and consult with companies around Melbourne, giving them hints or showing them even more cool stuff out there.

It turns out, when you combine us with you, the results are even more impressive than just DIY or pro video production on their own. That’s marriage, baby, and it’s happy.

This study by comScore and EXPO found that offering viewers and potential customers both a user-generated video along with a professionally produced how-to video, the sales, conversions and happiness increased way more than just one or the other, alone.

So, chat with us to combine your DNA with ours, and we’ll make a beautiful conversion sales happiness baby.

LINK: comScore Study Finds Professionally-Produced Video Content And User-Generated Product Videos Exhibit Strong Synergy in Driving Sales Effectiveness

Amazing standard post

By | Video | No Comments

In varius varius justo, eget ultrices mauris rhoncus non. Morbi tristique, mauris eu imperdiet bibendum, velit diam iaculis velit, in ornare massa enim at lorem. Etiam risus diam, porttitor vitae ultrices quis, dapibus id dolor. Morbi venenatis lacinia rhoncus. Read More

Effectiveness of video and ads online

Length, Placement & Rolling Over: How Do You Perfect A Video?

By | Advertising, Research, Video | No Comments

We know video is the best one of all the ones. Radio is audio. Design is static images. Copy is reading word. Video combines all of those, and moves! C’mon!

Still, proof is better than jabbering unfounded, so we’re gonna show you some examples not only of the effectiveness of video, but how to achieve the optimum effectiveness. (Hint: it’s half science, half art, just like The X Gene)

The Interactive Advertising Bureau is like our mothership. Their research council undertook a study to see just how long a video should be, and where the best place to pop it is. Here’s a quick overview, but click the link below to see the gritty details:

  • 15 seconds appears to be an optimal length for digital video creative in the pre-roll position. 5-second spots had trouble conveying a message; while 30-second spots risked turning off a viewer waiting to watch something else.
  • 30-second spots do well at conveying a complex or emotionally resonant message, but work best in user-initiated placements (where the user must take an action, like clicking on an ad or rolling over an in-text link, to begin playing the ad) where viewers display more patience for long messages.
  • Pre-roll, in-text, and in-banner video ad placements can all contribute to achieving the goals of a campaign; however, different placements may perform optimally with different creative lengths.

LINK: IAB Digital Video Ad Effectiveness Case Study

Equipment science and video on a table

Web Video Trends in 2013

By | Technology, Video | No Comments

We just sent this information to a client, but thought it was valuable enough to share with you. This is stuff we’re seeing more of, or just really excited about in 2013.

Responsive/Adaptive websites
Site design that adjusts itself based on the screen it’s being viewed on. We know a web agency that create tile based sites that slide around and reposition themselves on different screens and different orientations. Cool!

 

In-browser applications
The idea that content or programs run exclusively in a web browser, with little to no plug-ins. With HTML5, this seems to be more and more achievable.
Important for an audience that may only have a computer, a browser and the internet.

 

Interactive video
Video that doesn’t just play from start to end in a linear fashion once you click ‘play’, but instead can be clicked on, through and around to create branched, more inclusive, shorter interactions.
Exciting for us, because we can break people out of ‘sit and watch’ and get them to actually play around with the video. Think of choose your own adventure, online, as video.
Use video for magazines

Got A Brand, Magazine or Website? Produce TV!

By | Video | No Comments

After finishing up on 4WD Touring Australia, a 13-part half hour series airing on Aurora, Foxtel’s open channel, we want to make use of our fabulous production team to develop more series with you.

In particular, we’re after brand funded content. This can be media that has an existing advertiser base (magazines, websites, eBooks) or a product that ties in with something that people enjoy as part of their lifestyle.

For example, 4WD Touring Australia was first a magazine, but the owners turned it into a TV series that their existing advertisers took part in funding. The idea is to create a program people enjoy, while also giving them access to the elements of that lifestyle they’d be keen to buy or make use of anyway.

Our skill is in working with you to create a concept that incorporates your brand personality, and then planning, shooting, editing and generally executing the show. Aurora is the channel that airs the content around the nation, and they loved our work last time, keen to work with us again.

That’s as simple as we can put it, really! Please get in contact with us if you think you have an idea.

 

While we’re at it, here’s a great article about brand funded content from Mumbrella.

Dollar signs over the annoying orange

Hey Apple! Annoying Orange Shows How Far Viral Video Web Series Can Take You

By | Technology, Video, Viral Video | No Comments

Not sure what good viral videos or web series are? Annoying Orange, a web series started by Dane Boedigheimer in 2009, can tell you – in his whiney, high pitched voice.

“In 2010, Boedigheimer’s YouTube channel had almost 350 million views and earned an income of $288,000 from ads.” – wikipedia

Yep. And what really hit home was when one of our X-agents was walking through Sunshine Plaza in Melbourne’s outer suburbs (of all places!) and came across this:

That’s an arcade booth, one of those ‘use the hook to get the prize’ machines, full of Annoying Orange merchandise, with the video itself playing on a screen in the back.

The series has been re-broadcast on Cartoon Network, has accessories, toys, clothing, a Halloween outfit and a mobile video game.

That’s what viral videos and web series are good for. Contact us to start your own.

Adam Bennett camera operator with kit

FREELANCER TIPS: Advice to Camera Operators

By | Freelancer, Video | No Comments

Hello. I’m a producer. I work with talented, reliable video production crew. Part of my job is to look for freelancers I haven’t worked with before, test them with small, paid jobs, and then zealously hire them as my crew for as many productions as I can. Once I’ve found a good egg, I’ll happily pass their details to other producers I work with, because having a good crew is wasted if I can’t be a reliable source for the industry.

As such, I have a good idea of what is required of a freelance camera operator. I’m often asked for advice by guys and gals just starting out, or at a turning point in their careers. I’d like to share some of it with you. I hope it helps.

Get Your Showreel Cut and Get It Out There

This is number one. You’ll come up with a million excuses not to: the shots aren’t good enough, you need to transfer footage off other drives, you need to conform the media, you’re waiting for the director to give you the DVD. None of these reasons are good enough. Put together what you have and get it out NOW! You can update it later, but right now, you’re far less impressive without a reel.

We need it to see what you can do, and even a weak reel is better than no reel at all. I’ve looked at reels that were obviously just the two short films the student did at school – but the camera work showed promise. Without seeing the actual work you do, I have no way of judging where you are in your skill set. Once I’ve seen your reel, a chat will clear up all the other stuff. Your work is most important. Cut it and get it out there!

Spread it Around, You Nasty Thing

You have to promote yourself. That’s probably the hardest thing for you. You’re behind the camera. You like playing with lights and codecs and lenses. You’re Australian. You don’t like big-noting yourself. I get that, but here’s the thing: if I’m in a room with two camera operators, and I need them immediately to shoot something just outside, the one who tells me, “I’m really good,” will get the job, while the one who shuffles his feet stays behind.

It’s the same with the Internet. When producers, directors or agencies are on the prowl, they’ll go through a hot mess of reels and websites. The ones that stand out as being confident tell us that there must be talent behind that confidence. If it’s hollow bravado, that’ll be worked out very quickly anyway.

You might be worried that you’re good, but not good enough. That’s fine too, because if you’re a solid operator put out of your depth, you’ll come out better in the end. So put your damn hand up and say, “I’m a good camera operator.” Own it!

Specialise

There’s nothing less convincing than a business card that reads

Leslie Dixon
DOP, Editor, Director, Lighting, Motion Graphics, Plumber

I’m going to cut to the chase and use a cliche: jack of all trades, master of none. I’m looking for a camera operator to shoot an ad or a TV show or a corporate event. I try to work with the best, so I can provide my clients with the best. The best work gets the best pay. So I need to know you are focused only on cameras. You read about them when you’re on the train. You’re working towards an ACS. You can bamboozle me with the latest camera advances and chip sizes. You specialise in camera operating. One day I won’t be able to afford you because you’re so specialised in camera operating, you’re known as one of the best.

We all start off wearing multiple hats. I did, but at some point, you have to decide to specialise. It might seem wise to offer me both cam op and editor in the same package. Nope. If I want an editor, I’ll go find an editor who specialises in editing, because that person’s going to be better at it than you. Because you’re a camera operator.

Charge Appropriately and Objectively

When you’re about to send a producer your biggest quote to date, you feel nervous. They’re going to reject it! It’s too much! So you change it, reduce costs, take the hit on gear, or work half a day for free.

You dummy!

What to charge can be tough, but there’s a basic rule I learnt from a ring-in teacher when I was at RMIT. Think about your cost of living. Do a rough calculation of your rent, groceries, bills, all your regular expenses for a year. Now, think about how much money you’d reasonably like for fun each week. Add that to your yearly total. Now add 9% (12% now) for superannuation. What do you have? OK, that’s your ideal yearly wage.

Now say you were working four days a week as a camera operator. That’s 208 days. Divide your ideal yearly wage by 208. That’s what you should be earning.

It’s a good start, but I would mix that with research. Look up other camera operator rates online, or ask producer friends how much other operators are charging, roughly (no names!). Now, be as objective about your skill level as you can be and see how you stack up. Note: generally, most people think they’re worse than they really are.

Charge a daily rate and maybe a half day rate for you. Don’t charge half day rates for your gear – once it’s out, it’s out for the day. Stick to these figures and use them first and foremost.

When you send that large quote, stay true to your convictions. If that’s what it will cost, based on your regular rate, then that’s what it will cost. Don’t pre-empt a no. Wait for it. If it doesn’t come, you just made a great sale. If it does, negotiate! If they don’t want to negotiate, you didn’t lose all that much, did you?

Hope That Helped

I hope this is useful to you. Maybe some of it, maybe all of it. If it helps the tiniest bit, then our whole industry is the better for it. Now go shoot something, and send me your reel!

UPDATE: There’s a companion post to this one, HOW A FREELANCER CAN GET WORK WITH THE X GENE. If you found this useful, check it out.

Simon J. Green is the owner of The X Gene and a producer of six years. Before The X Gene, he ran Green Rabbit, whose office in Docklands saw a regular rotation of camera operators he works with to this day. He’s produced TV shows, corporate videos, TVCs and every niche of video in between – always relying on camera ops to do the shooting.

Terry Tate office linbacker comedy viral memes

Three Types of Viral Video: 2. Funny Bone Activation

By | Video, Viral Video | 2 Comments

At The X Gene, we love researching video. One of the types we dissect is viral video. From our crazy experiments and field research, we’ve noticed there are three general categories of viral video. We try and direct our clients to these when discussing video productions, and now you can see what we’ve got to say.

The second is the Funny Bone Activation category.

UPDATE: If the President of the USA can be funny and make fat jokes, what are you really worried about with your brand?

(See also: 1. Did That Happen!? and 3. Sexy NSFW.)

Comedy has always been a fantastic loosener. It’s like a massage that relaxes your audience, making them happier to accept the messages you’re broadcasting. But it has to be funny. That’s bold-italics-underline because it’s the most important. Funny viral shouldn’t be considered lightly. If a video campaign tries to be funny and fails, you lose a whole lot of cool points and set your reputation positioning back to before you brainstormed the campaign. What’s the best way to make sure something is going to be funny? Hire writers and/or comedians. People who dedicate their lives to understanding humour (and need to in order to survive) have a far greater chance of getting the gums giggling. You can oversee the funny-makers, however, by ensuring you understand the audience you’re reaching, and what that audience finds funny.

A superbowl star for Reebok. Combining office humour and football = massive.

Styles of comedy vary from group to group. We at The X Gene love hearing a client’s profile of their brand, and who they want to reach. Sometimes that’s the group that already epitomise the brand; sometimes that’s a new group of people lured to the fold. The comedy stylings of ad campaigns run by, say, Lynx (Axe) Body spray are vastly different to that of Hewlett Packard. Understanding the brand, the audience, then trusting the right writers, comedians, actors, and director to employ the right style is crucial.

Rhys Darby, from Flight of the Conchords, boosted this internal campaign’s juice.

Often, due to the recognisable names in a comedy campaign, social network support is employed to make sure a lot of people notice the star and click through, share, make it easy. Manliest Rituals from Axe Body Spray utilised a customised tab on their Facebook page that acted as a mini-site, thus allowed people to watch the series in Facebook. Sharing was one click away. They also built a regular site, but in-app presence  is an increasingly necessary way to make your audience aware of the campaign you (and your writers) have put time and effort into.

A cruder humour for a teenage, frat boy audience is a lot of fun to make!

Johnny Bravo dropping his jaw to the floor

Three Types of Viral Video: 1. Did That Happen!?

By | Video, Viral Video | 2 Comments

At The X Gene, we love researching video. One of the types we dissect is viral video. From our crazy experiments and field research, we’ve noticed there are three general categories of viral video. We try and direct our clients to these when discussing video productions, and now you can see what we’ve got to say.

The first viral video category is Did That Happen!?.

(See also: 2. Funny Bone Activation and 3. Sexy NSFW.)

These are the sorts of videos that make us doubt whether we’re seeing special effects or something incredible and real happening before our very eyes. They require heavy special effects, and are best accomplished through a shaky camera style or low resolution, faked ‘camera phone’ look. Making the video look like it was done with a camera phone adds to the illusion that the recorder just happened to be there at the exact time, or was running with a group to capture the amazing event. These videos require substantial planning, funnily enough, because the effects in post-production require a great deal of time and money. Compositing is hard enough, let alone compositing over the top of a poorly-lit jet that jitters and blurs in the frame.

Marc Ecko tags Air Force One… or does he!?!?!

The Did That Happen!? style of viral video is shared and passed around because people want to show one another this amazing thing they’ve seen. They feel the ‘wow’ in their gut, as if they were watching it live, or had seen something secretly amazing that no one else has yet witnessed. Passing it on to a friend or family member endows the sharer with a feeling that they found it first, and are exposing it to the world via their Facebook, Twitter or blog. They want their friends to feel that ‘wow’ as well, and love being the ones who gave them that ‘wow’.

OMG! Look at this squirrel. Real? Probably!