WistiaFest, The Best!

If you work creating videos for business, let me start with saying you MUST attend WistiaFest as soon as you can. If you want to stop reading here, then you’ve already got the point of my post. Start preparing your things for WistiaFest 2016. If you did want to know why I have such a strong opinion, then you can read on below.

This was my first time visiting Boston and my first time attending WistiaFest. I’ve known about Wistia itself, and WistiaFest, for some time as we use their incredible platform to host our videos and glean valuable insight from the video analytics. They’ve also already hosted the first WistiaFest the prior year, but I wasn’t in my current job role where attending the conference would be easily justified. But now that I am creating videos full time as WooThemes’ Video Vanguard this was the perfect time to get myself to WistiaFest 2015.

So what is it like attending a conference catered strictly to video? Working for a WordPress centric company I’ve attended WordCamps across the states, the first WordCamp Europe in 2013, and our own WooConf, but this was a new ballgame for me for two reasons.

1 – My first conference where I’d be attending solo. Previously I’d always been with coworkers, and while I don’t think I’m a shy person this absolutely forced me to keep introducing myself to others. I appreciated that Wistia gave us ample chances to get to know each other with a welcome party, to attend a ballgame, see the Boston skyline on a boat cruise, and the awesome after party once the conference was over. Besides the massive amount of information and learning from the sessions, being able to get to know other professionals who are in similar positions, who face similar problems, and want the same things from video was so great for me.

2 – WistiaFest only talked about creating videos, something I love doing and learning about. WordCamps and WooConf are also great events to attend, but creating videos is my newfound forte and those conferences aren’t focussed on that (by design). When I realized that this conference was made for me and my responsibilities at WooThemes I was overjoyed. I went into WistiaFest not knowing exactly what to expect, but was so pleased that I didn’t miss out on this years event.

Now what did I learn? I think a better question would be, “What didn’t I learn?” I attended two tracks (out of many available) during the conference. The first being Using Video Across Your Business, the second Building a Brand with Video. Here are some of my bigger personal take away points from those sessions that I’ll be applying to our videos at WooThemes and, if I’m lucky, in the future at Automattic. 😀

Did my video go viral or did it go helpful?

The biggest thing that I’ve been using video for thus far has been educational needs. Our A/V Team has produced 3 marketing related videos in its short life, but we’ve created 40+ educational videos in that same life span. Even those few marketing/promotional videos can be considered educational to some degree as we educate potential customers on why our solution is worthy of their time and money. Somehow you could take the above statement and reword it into a mission statement for our team, and is a great point to consider. View counts are vanity metrics and mean nothing compared to knowing if our videos are helping our customers.

Involvement vs Commitment, eggs vs bacon at breakfast.

This was a great way to illustrate if you yourself or others in the company you work for are involved or committed to what you are doing. I’m fortunate enough that I did get buy in from my superiors, where they trusted me when I made the case that video was my future and something that should be invested in. They’ve in turn given me loads of freedom to prove myself every day. To explain the involvement vs commitment; The chicken is involved in breakfast in that it gives its eggs, but the pig becoming bacon is really the committed one here. I’ve got skin in the game, so to speak, in ensuring videos are truly valuable to WooThemes and to our customers.

Humanize your brand.

At these points is where I started getting the most inspiration and ideas for the next steps for Team A/V. Our customers have less to hate or become irate about when they know the people who are working hard fixing bugs and providing support. It’s easy to hate a company, but very hard to hate a person. Something that video can really do for us is showcase our people. Even in our educational videos, I think a big step up would be for me to get in front of the camera and show a face to our customers as we help them through their troubles.

Video evokes emotion.

You probably are smacking yourself on the forehead saying, “NO DUH.” This for me though was good to be reminded of. When creating videos that are mostly educational, evoking an emotion isn’t normally part of the concept. But I want our customers watching ALL/ANY of our videos and to feel something. They should feel empowered and confident in our products if they’ve watched a product video, and I’d hope for a sense of happiness and even relief that our more educational videos have helped them setup their site or solve an issue for them.

There is tons more specific information I could talk about, but this post is quite long already. I’ll save that information for my coworkers as they help me formulate and improve our video strategy and overall content strategy, I need to get back to creating more videos anyway!

All in all, WistiaFest was an amazing event. Very well run, I learned a million and one things, and I met so many cool people who are doing great things. Like I said, if you are creating videos for businesses get yourself to WistiaFest. I’ll see you there next year!

PS – See Wistia’s recap post for some more awesome content.

Shooting The WooCommerce Photography Promo

Early this year my job role at WooThemes evolved into working on videos full time. My goal, and what I’ve been doing so far, is to be our in house video guy for all of our needs. I’ve been able to break down our video needs into two categories, those being Educational and Promotional. Educational videos falling more on the support side of our resources, while Promotional fits into our marketing team’s agenda. Surely some videos can fall into both but usually they have one goal in mind when planning for them.

And if I can be bold and say I’ve pioneered a great system that lets us manage all the videos we’ll ever need for WooThemes. I’d love to cover this system at some point, but it essentially helps us create effective and sustainable videos that anyone can get involved with making. A set of standards for WooThemes and Team A/V that no matter who is working on videos they can help keep our video library up to date and relevant through the years. Just know that we currently have over 400 products to help educate people on and promote through video, while also maintaining a video library that stays up to date as our products evolve and change. While not every product needs a video, there are some like WooCommerce that will have quite a few videos. Take for example a series I’ve been working on called WooCommerce 101. It has 29 videos in it just covering the basics of WooCommerce. To say the least there will always be lots to do and lots of things to learn as our newly founded Team A/V gets off the ground!

Now back to one of the first videos I managed as I was getting comfortable in this new role. We had a new extension coming out for WooCommerce and I wanted to try creating my first promotional video for this in house. We were releasing a photography extension that makes it really simple to create and sell products around your photos on your site. You can simply drag and drop your photos into this extension, create sets of photos, and set prices across all photos you uploaded and created products for. As this extension grows it is going to be perfect for any type of photographer that wants to proof and sell prints online.
My philosophy, that I’ve learned from other experts, is that you really have to focus on selling the benefits of your products and not their features. You have to aim to make an emotional connection with your potential customers, show them how this product will make their life better. If you can communicate that clearly your actual feature set then only helps to reinforce that connection. I obviously took this approach with our WooCommerce Photography promo video.

“People don’t want to buy light bulbs. They want to be able to work or read at night.”

This extension in its essence simply makes it a breeze to sell your photos with WooCommerce. Before your photo products had to be created one by one by one, but with this it is really drag, drop, set price, publish. To communicate that I wanted to show this process from start to finish to start again, in just around one minute. Attention spans are short!

I decided I wanted tell a story of a local photographer who starts earning more money by selling online. I created a fictional photographer who has a loyal and local fanbase. That following often bought prints through local coffeeshops, galleries, etc… but were never able to buy online or outside of the Indianapolis area. We had this photographer photograph the Indy skyline from the canal, edit their favorite shots, export & publish through WooCommerce Photography. This all happened so fast and easily that they had plenty of daylight left to go back out and create more photos to sell. Also with their first collection up for sale online they could share this with their fans and start bringing in sales while they were out creating more photographs! I had written a script that I then recorded to narrate our photographer’s actions and benefits they got from using this product.

So how did I do on this first promotional video? I unfortunately don’t have any sales data to say what impact the video has made on converting watchers into purchasers, but I do have other stats that are always fun to look at. The video is embedded on our WooCommerce Photography page and was launched in January of 2015, at the time of writing this it the video has been loaded 48,649 times and has been watched for 109.3 hours with 81% of watchers watching the video all of the way through. Not too shabby for the last three months.

This at the least tells me that people are watching this video and are engaged with it’s content as it plays. For the majority of viewers they aren’t stopping half way through the video, or watching certain spots again and again, etc… Which makes me feel good knowing my first forray into selling the benefits of a product is captivating to some degree.

I’m currently working on a revamp of another promotional video, but this is on a much larger scale for our most popular product WooCommerce itself. Its current promotional video is approaching 750,000 plays! I’ll be doing my best to take what I’ve learned so far and applying it to this project, so watch out for that next! With that said, here is the WooCommerce Photography video and some photos taken as we shot the video itself. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts!

Videos on Flash Drives

Videos on Flash Drives

Over at Two Are Better, the videography business Mindy and I started, we’ve finally ordered some custom flash drives. While these are more expensive at the moment, they will soon become cheaper and the future of how we deliver our finished video projects. In my mind physical delivery of video will soon die out, but for many of our couples and clients having a Blu-Ray or even a DVD *gasp* is still the most convenient way for them to consume media. It still baffles me, to some degree, that we have beautiful HD and 4K  to capture video in only for it to ultimately be delivered and consumed at far less than HD quality! I do understand that it makes a little more sense when it’s a couple’s Grandparents who don’t see the need to buy a new HD TV and Blu-Ray player. Still this is our art we’re talking about. It’s meant to be seen in it’s full glorius quality! 😛

Nonetheless, I’m sure we will be delivering discs (Blu-Ray & DVD) alongside flash drives for a few years to come. In my perfect world, there would be a really awesome digital delivery service made for this. Something like iTunes where people can watch their videos on any device and anywhere they want.

The whole point of this post then is how do we deliver a similar experience across discs and flash drives, and is this something clients will even appreciate or use? Well, we’re going to find out! I came across this Reddit thread where someone was asking a similar question. The idea then sparked in my head that this would be pretty easy to build with simple HTML & CSS. Essentially using simple markup to create a header, content area, and footer. Embed their videos using the new HTML5 standard <video></video>. Then make it all look pretty with CSS and a few SVG icons we use on our site and disc menus anyway.

Here then is the finished product, an experience using flash drives that matches our disc menus pretty closely. You can navigate to the appropriate videos, scrub through them, full screen them, etc… So with the basic structure up and working I thought it’s time to put this out in the wild. To use this you obviously need a little bit of knowledge editing HTML or CSS files. But think of this as a skeleton for your own flash drives. Things like our font files and SVG icons you probably don’t want to copy, but take the skeleton and make it better. I’ve put this up on BitBucket to start with, so if you are savvy fork the repo and submit pull requests with your improvements.

Some initial items I’m brainstorming for future updates are how to ensure this would work with TVs. If a couple plugged their flash drive into their TV would they be able to play their videos? Also, it’s not obvious to open the index.html file to access the menu. If there is an obvious way that works across platforms (Mac & Windows) and also then plays the videos on all TVs let me know!

The links are below, if you think this is worthwhile and cool let me know. Otherwise, it’s easy to just stick the videos on the flash drives with no menu system. :)

[button link=”https://bitbucket.org/twoarebetter/wedding-flash-drives/get/1.0.0.zip”]Download[/button][button link=”https://bitbucket.org/twoarebetter/wedding-flash-drives”]View on BitBucket[/button]

Morning Coffee Routine #2

I had posted a little photo way back when of my routine of making coffee in the morning, which now this post and video is just the continuation of. Mindy and I had the idea for a little while to create a mini doc tentatively titled “Weekend-ing”, which is where this short video came from. We had started fleshing out ideas and plans for this video, and even shot a lot of clips last weekend, but I don’t think we felt good enough with the idea in it’s current state. Nonetheless, it was nice to dust off the cobwebs and shoot a little bit.

I couldn’t let all our clips go to waste though. I scanned over all of them and thought I can pull a little bit out of these clips of us making breakfast. And this is what you get, a sequel to the Early Morning coffee post! This time in video form.

Like I said it was nice to shoot a little again. I updated our picture profiles on our cameras as well as the Magic Lantern software, used a new tool to convert those pesky files to ProRes instead of letting FCP X do it, tried out some different grading tools, etc… I had fun getting to edit a little, hope you enjoy!

YouTube vs Vimeo

This question, Youtube vs Vimeo, has been burning in my mind every time I go to publish a video. If you didn’t know this about me I love to make videos. For me it’s a great way to experiment with what images you can create, then in turn possibly entertain a few people with the end product. I am addicted to the pursuit of telling the perfect story through video. So with a finished product in hand, whether that is a short video, music video, vlog, full length, etc… it’s important to figure out what you want to do with those videos and who the right audience is for them.

How I see it currently is that there are two BIG players, YouTube & Vimeo, and a lot of other smaller guys. For instance if you wanted to post videos to a purely Christian video site you can use GodTube. There are many niche based sites that are a quick search away, but to reach a mass audience I think you should only consider YouTube & Vimeo. Not that you can’t also use the other niche sites as part of your strategy, they may be very important as well. Let’s just focus on YouTube vs Vimeo for now. Here are my thoughts on what each platform offers and how they differ.

YouTube is obviously the most popular video sharing service, we’ll include YouTube’s musical sister Vevo too. Together the sites rack up millions of views a day. The most popular video on YouTube has just under 435 million views, it’s Justin Bieber… I also believe Lady Gaga has collectively over 1 billion views on all of her videos. That is a lot of video watching. According to other stats about 35 hours of video us uploaded to YouTube every minute. It would take about 1800 years and growing to watch all of the videos posted everyday to YouTube. What I’m getting at is that YouTube is widely used. Babies and grandparents use it just the same. If you want to reach a wide audience YouTube is certainly the way to go.

It’s not all good though, we haven’t mentioned YouTube’s comments. Here is the first random one I pulled up from YouTube’s recommended for me section, “bla- Auto tun- bla Auto tun -bla Auto tun- Kesha Auto tun she even cant sing.” Not entirely helpful or necessary really, and there are tons that are far worse than that as well. This is where you can turn to Vimeo as a video maker.

I think Vimeo is targeted for people who love to make creative videos and want to be surrounded by a community that will only help them get better. Vimeo is pretty popular among this niche group, and a lot of people use Vimeo for their beautiful looking player. I would too, but for now YouTube reigns for me. I love posting some of my best work to Vimeo and getting really constructive and helpful feedback, which admittedly I need to do more of! I’ll get on that today 😉

To round things up YouTube is great because it uses a Google account you might already own, huge audience, everyone knows YouTube, Free HD hosting, embedding, and statistics. On the downside the people who leave comments don’t leave the nicest or most helpful comments. Also their player isn’t as beautiful as it could be, it often just doesn’t blend in with every site it’s put on.

Vimeo has a wonderful and welcoming community of user willing to give you constructive feedback and tips to make your next videos even better. Their website is beautiful, and you can use your Facebook login instead of signing up for a Vimeo account. On the downside their audience reach isn’t as wide, you have to pay for unlimited HD uploads, embeds, customizable player, statistics, and a few other things. It is only $60 a year, but still why pay for what YouTube does for free?

For my video strategy I use both of the websites, I get the benefits from both and try to ignore the downsides. For you the situation may be entirely different, it really depends. Let me know what you think about these two services, or any other video sharing platform. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Shooting Video With The iPhone 4

Alright, the iPhone 4 has been in the wild for a couple of months and I haven’t got around to shooting video with it yet. My bad…I’ll admit, but I made everything right this weekend while I was on my way to visit Mindy. I’ve been wanting to shoot for a while with my iPhone. It has nice 720HD capabilities which makes the video actually look alright! I was very surprised that the video worked well after giving it a little color treatment. It did help to have lots of natural light available… :) It’s awesome to know I’m carrying around a pretty capable video camera at all times. Nothing beats the 7D though, at least until I can get a 5D. Just day dreaming… So here is the video, let me know what you think. Shot with an iPhone 4, edited in Final Cut, treated with Color.