I was searching recently for the cost of making a reality show. It seems per episode, the cost can range from $100,000 to a million dollars. Then I wondered if that model needs some desperate “belt tightening.”
Heck even Annoying Orange can be created for less than $100,000. In the satire I did with my kids, you’ll see it can be done for less than $1. Below is the script in case you’d like to read along…
AO: Hey. Hey. Hey Apple.
AO: What’s wrong with your mouth?
Apple: It’s green screen, dude. We’re on a budget.
AO: Bean jeans? Is it casual Friday?
Apple: Green screen! We can’t afford Adobe Final Premier Cut, so your mouth is green screened.
AO: Oh green. Well Your mama’s so fat when she wears green she looks like a pool table.
Apple: Your mama’s so fat her scale says “to be continued.”
Pineapple: Yo mama’s so fat she wakes up in sections.
AO: Woah- check out your fake mouth Pain Apple. Or should I say poser-Apple?
Pineapple: PINEapple. And Your mama’s so stupid I caught her sticking food stamps in a Coke machine.
Avocado: Hahahaha. Fakest mouth in the kitchen. Fakest mouth in the kitchen. Hey Calvin Kleinapple. Spongebob called. He wants his house back.
AO: Ewww. Half-eaten avocado smells. Sniff. Stinky! What happened to our kitchen? Are we really poor?
Apple: Yes. Your mama’s so poor I saw a pigeon toss her a piece of bread.
AO: Your mama’s so poor people rob her house to practice.
Mini Marshmellow: Well your mama’s so fat she can’t fit in her pants.
AO: Your mama’s so poor, the rainbows in her backyard are black and white.
Cabbage: Black? Why can’t you racists do a poor skit without a black reference? I’m going go back to the food shelter with my shawty and-commodities.
AO: Don’t be a sauerkraut, Cabbage. Hahahaha.
Cabbage: Sauer? Your mama’s so nasty her breast milk is sour.
Leftover Pizza (Laughs with chattered teeth)
Apple: Check it. leftover pizza and chicken wing liked that one.
Cabbage: Hey- You like that pizza and wing boy? I’m a talking cabbage. You’ve seen a red-cabbage. And a winter cabbage. But I bet you aint never seen a talking cabbage.
Apple: Dreamworks called. It wants its lines from Shrek back.
Jalapeno: Did you call me a wet back? Yo mama’s so old when she farted dust came out.
Apple: Oh, Senior Jalapeño. That’s gross and mean.
Jalapeño: Beaner? You call me beaner again and I’ll shiv you.
Mini Marshmellow: What’s a shiv?
Rotton Banana: Hahahaha. Senior Jalapeno’s getting hot.
Jalapeno: Hey Rotton Banana- don’t
Rotton Banana: How do you starve a Mexican? Put their food stamps in their work boots. Ha ha ha ha.
AO: Hey Rotten Banana. Knife!
Jalapeno: Pincho pinto pendadas. Ahhhh!
AO: You hurt his peelings, Jalapeno. Now he’s split.
Mini Marshmellow: What did the banana say to the elephent? Nothing. Elephants can’t talk!
Leftover Pizza (Laughs with chattered teeth)
AO: Look- smelly half eaten avocado’s seed fell out. Let’s plant it and grow a smelly half of an avacado plant!
Many YouTubers and quasi-professional video creators are using traditional SLR cameras as their primary videocamera. Sxephil, for instance, was using a Canon 5D when he showed how he establishes his home studio. Now that the video quality rivals many high-end video cameras, we’re able to enjoy the beautiful effect that decent SLR lenses provide — like that depth-of-field look you see in WheezyWaiter and MysteryGuitarMan videos. Let’s call these HDSLRs.
With help from a variety of sources (Videomaker, Amazon, B&H, PCMag, Cnet and the cameras used by top YouTubers) I’ve compiled some of the winners on this Amazon videocamera store, and it’s an affiliate program that makes me almost nothing except when stalkerofnalts told me he was buying expensive new gear, and let me generate Amazon affiliate links for his products). At least I can provide people with this link when they ask for my advice.
Now back to the poor-man effects. There’s a lot more to professional-looking video than a decent camera, and some of the most important factors are lighting, camera movements, audio and a really good lense. That being said, the latest issue of Videomaker (Sept. 2011) has an article by Kyle Cassidy titled “Home Grown Video Gear.” The same author wrote a nice piece last year titled “Making Your Video Look More Like Film.” The top-three tips are thanks to Kyle.
Now the Top-10 Creative Budget DIY (do it yourself) Production Tips and Tricks to Create Film-Like Special Effects
1. Very Steady Car Tripod Using Bag of Rice: I do a lot of video vlogs, and I find a bunched-up shirt works as well as any fancy device. It keeps the camera from sliding and falling over, and it’s also easy to adjust (just scrunch more shirt under the front to tilt the camera up). Kyle’s technique is even better. A bag of rice! Isn’t that brilliant? It’s easy to adjust, can work well on the window to keep your camera steady on a zoom, and it might even buffer some of the shake from the car.
2. Underwater Housing With Partially-Immersed Fish Tank: Turn your existing camera into an underwater one without the fancy, cost-prohibitive custom-housings. Simply use a small fish tank that’s partially immersed in the water. Now you’ve got the ability to adjust the camera (focus, zoom, turn on and off) and it stays dry. Brilliant! Kyle suggests covering it with a towel to avoid flashes, and I’d recommend putting it on top of something like that rice bag below it. Then if a careless move causes the tank to go under, you’ve got the camera away before the tank fills.
4. Hello, Do-It-Yourself Dolly: A gently moving horizontal-slide of a camera (slider, dolly) can create a powerful effect (see example), especially when there are objects near and far to show perspective. While drooling over the $800 Cinevate Atlas 10 FLT, I went about searching for homemade Dolly tracks. I once bought a steadicam that worked pretty well, and was constructed with weights and plumbing equipment. Courtesy of LifeHacker, I found a guy with a how-to video on Veoh where J.G. Pasterjack created a dolly with skateboard wheels, and it can run on a flat surface or along a 2-by-4 board. Knowing I’d burn too much time and probably screw it up, I asked to be on his waiting list. He’s since created MoveYourCameraCheap.com, and is having trouble keeping up with demand on eBay.
5. Disappear or Defy Gravity With Wall-Decorated Floor: Your floor makes a good wall, can give the effect that people, objects or pets are climbing on the wall. See “lovey” the kitten crawling up a door, which was laid on the ground. This 2006 “Gravity Wall” video with my kids is a bit more obvious. To disappear, a) mount a camera perfectly still on a tripod or surface, b) simply shoot the background/setting alone and be sure lighting doesn’t change noticeably, c) videotape yourself (or person/object you wish to vanish), then d) use a “dissolve” effect when editing between the two clips (which diminishes subtle changes in the video). For instance, I provided a shock ending that made it look like a garbage truck ran over me inside a garbage can — seen in this fairly popolar “Garbage Can Prank” video. I used it in one of my first kid videos (Katie turned invisible in this video shot maybe 5 years ago and uploaded in April) and more recently in this Dr. Who sponsored video, with some added glow via Iggy35.
6. Poor-Man’s Green Screen: Green screen allows you to replace a plain green background with a video or photo of your choosing. There are two ways to create a cheap green screen. First, you can use green posters or a dollar-store plastic table cloth. Second, you can use a painted wall that’s close to green. Most video-editing software with “green screen” functionality can “knock out” a background even if it’s not pure green. You just want to: a) ensure that you’re not wearing any colors that are close, b) light the wall separately to avoid shadows, and c) avoid wrinkles or seams that will invariably catch shadows. I have a cloth green screen, but that’s because I use green-screen to make it appear that I fall down steps. Cloth is critical to that effect.
7. Clone Yourself With Matte Effect: The Matte effect, where you overlay a portion of one video over another, is somewhat painstaking. But it can give you the ability to hire the cheapest support cast you’ll find: yourself. Here I cloned myself by shooting two scenes of myself and overlaying the clean Nalts over a video of my clone surfacing from mud. It’s something that requires a higher-end editing tool like Final Cut Express… but worth it.
9. Sundry Techniques for Leveling Camera, Hiding Wires & Creating Soft Effect: Kipkay is a prolific video creator that shares many of his production tricks and hacks, and this rapid fire “volume one” video is loaded with clever Magiver-like techniques. KipKay’s second Howcast video provides some less sexy but handy tips — such as using bread clips to mark cables.
10. Set your HDSLR to Resemble Film: Lastly and most importantly, there are a load of ways to get your HDSLR to give you a film-like quality… there’s even a book devoted to the subject (DSLR Cinema), which is on my wishlist. I’ve embedded a fantastic instructional video by Drumat5280 who has other videos like “DSLR settings.” He jokes that he’s an expert because he and his wife watch videos weekly. The important items include avoiding zoom, setting your camera to highest resolution (1080i) or higher, mic carefully, and set camera to 24 frames per second (which creates the film look and smaller file size). He encourages you to use a “shallow depth of field” which encourages viewer to focus on that which your camera focuses. VideoUniversity has a nice piece on little nuggets like avoiding auto-white balance and any setting that is called an “enhancement” (which is almost as bad as the cursed “digital zooms,” which pixelate the video by cropping only a portion of the screen). And Techwaffle has a how-to video that shows you how to auto-focus and use your computer to control your camera (at least with the Canon 5D).
What’d a miss? Any tips you’ve learned and are willing to share? Even little things help — like how to use a laptop as a tele-prompt (something discussed in the valuable Videomaker forum). Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Film Riot, a Revision3 show that is loaded with amateur-ready tips that produce very cool and otherwise-costly effects. Check it out.
There’s a continuum of video content online, and it’s often misunderstood because we polarize each end. Let’s stop bifurcating, and look at 3 layers of video content. There are advantages to each one, and we’re missing opportunity in “the great debate” between “professional” (networks) and “user-generated content” (UGC).
Layer 1: Professional content (the only “safe” place to advertise): Advertisers, when they’re not convincing marketers to create their own content, are often urging them to buy ads around “safe” professional content. We don’t see as many ads swarming around such user-generated content (UGC) as cats pooping on skateboards, or dogs riding toilets. Of course the influx of ad dollars into the online-video medium (which is trending upwards while most other ad mediums trend downward) will create a problem. Either ads will get expensive, or online-video’s professional content will have to expand rapidly. True, we’ve seen a proliferation of quasi-pro content that is almost as good as television, and far better produced than most online-video. Unfortunately, that market is hurting more than any because it has neither low production costs or large audiences.
Layer 3: User-generated content (the cheap buy): UGC offers much lower CPMs, so you can reach a wider audience efficiently. You can target specific niches or demographics, and the UGC viewer is, frankly, easier to distract from their content. Want to get someone to respond to your stupid “shoot the monkey” banner ad?You’ll have better luck on a weather and gaming sites than on a professional site (the Wall Street Journal, where audiences are generally engaged in the editorial content). YouTube has limited its number of “partners” who receive a portion of online ads, however. There’s a lot of crap among UGC and a lot of it is inappropriate for ads or copyright infringements. At some point, it’s not worth YouTube’s time to filter creators with tiny audiences. That’s not to say my videos are better than the guy that just started posting on YouTube, of course. Given a random a
Layer 2: The Hidden Online-Video Layer: The hidden layer is the overlooked one between pro and UGC, so I’ve decided to call it “The Hidden Video Layer.” I’m creative like that. And I’ll have to say this 100 times before anyone listens. It’s real, it’s big, it’s important to advertising, and most marketers don’t know it exists. Let’s look at three examples.
If a YouTube partner (amateur) has a huge following (50 million views and 100K subscribers) on videos about videogames, we’d agree that it’s an incredibly smart place for ads and sponsorships selling the Wii or acne cream. There’s lots of ad inventory in that “hidden layer.” Fred — the most popular kid on YouTube — draws more daily views than many prime-time television shows. More importantly, when you aggregate the views of the top 100 amateur creators, you’ll far exceed the audience of almost any daily television show! Little old Uncle Nalts may have 60 million cumulative views, but gets 100K plus views a day. But combine me with a few more, and you’ve got traffic that beats many websites (and the audience is more engaged).
If Yahoo saw fit to create a 24×7 “Lindsay Lohan Online-Video Show,” that’s where you’d want to sell your latest Lindsay Lohan action figure (handcuff accessories sold separately). The video content certainly wouldn’t need to be “professionally produced,” and arguably you’d want to keep costs down to $200 per minute. This channel, while not worthy of professional production, is certainly not UGC. BTW- I’m not advocating for a Lohan network any more than I understand Nancy Grace covering the Tot Mom the past 6 months. Jessica fell into a well, hon, and we’re over it.
To use a non-video example, your aunt’s blog about her daily struggle with foot fungus is somewhat different from the popular TechCrunch blog. But we call them both blogs, and media loooooves its recent stories about bloggers failing to make a living on the medium. Four years ago, we saw stories about brave editors ditching media corporations and starting their own profitable life as a blogger. It’s simple: a blog’s not a blog. And a video channel isn’t a video channel. If you’re advertising, you want to reach large but targeted audiences. That usually means you’re surrounding or interrupting professional content, but not for online video at this point in time. Making well-produced content doesn’t guarantee viewers any more than creating amateur content guarantees a lack of an audience. Make sense? I sometimes spend hours on these posts and minutes on my videos, and dozens will read these words while hundreds of thousands will see my videos. Bad example since neither are professional.
Now this “missing video layer” offers advertisers 8 unique distinctions. I’m holding up four fingers on each of my hands right now, and jumping up and down.
Established audiences. No smart producer or advertiser would try to build a new Fred show- Fred already has nearly one million people that have “subscribed” and are waiting for his next video. If I pitched “Fred” to NBC two years ago, I’d have been tossed from the building. But Fred usually gets far more views per video than almost any professional content online. Would you rather “roll the dice” by shooting a viral video, developing branded entertainment, or simply leverage Fred to reach “asses in seats”? Many amateur video creators on YouTube, for instance, have audiences that surpass those of entire video sites.
Loyal and Passionate Audiences: viewers consume their YouTube stars like zombies in pursuit of a brain. It’s an indisputable fact. If Fred starting wearing Madonna rings on his wrist, they’d be back in style.
Quality: It’s not “professional and TV-like,” but it’s good enough for the audience. I’d rather watch someone I like on a webcam than a boring sitcom or reality-show in HD. If you trust audiences will eventually migrate to “quality” content, then please reexamine what quality means in this medium (at least in 2009).
Relevance: Ad targeting is easier as we move deeper into amateur content. “The Onion” has brilliant comedy, but “You Suck at Photoshop” probably has a more specified demographic that helps brands target. You want to reach people that celebrate their adolescence (at any age) or soccer moms? Check out Nalts. But Uncle Nalts isn’t likely to deliver too many right-wing, wealthy, retired men to sell time share or cigars. Relevance is easier now that video content and audiences are growing and fragmenting. Growfragmenting. Want to sell toe fungus medicine? Go to a toe fungus blog, not a health ‘n wellness website. There’s a reason Google text ads outperform almost any targeted display media buy. Relevance. Unfortunately, this makes an ad buyer’s job quite complex and will require more creative treatments than television. But video makers take note: this means we’ll need more than three versions of our 60-second spot (default, gay, and the Hispanic/African American). And if creative budgets aren’t getting bigger, than amateur video creators are well poised.
Ad-Safe Content: Unlike regular UGC, most of “the hidden video layer” content is vetted to be ad friendly (a YouTube partner, for example, gets dumped if they break “terms of service” rules like being fowl or violating copyright laws). That’s as true for Nalts as it is for The Universal Music Group’s popular channel on YouTube.
Economic Sustainability: Most of “amateur stars” have low costs. So many are making a comfortable living while expensive video sites struggle (Funny or Die). As an advertiser, I’d rather do a deal with content or a distribution channel that is profitable.
Cost-Efficient Spends: You can saturate Fred’s channel with ads, or work with him and YouTube on a program that does far more than ads alone. Premium video creators, by contrast, simply need to charge higher CPMs given their higher cost-structure-per-view.
Scale: The deeper advertisers go into “the long tail” of video content the better their chances of being able to broaden and scale campaigns without sacrificing targeting & relevance. We may temporarily saturate some niches, but if there’s audience and advertiser demand, new creators will appear.
We’ve allowed ourselves — as viewers, advertisers, and creators — to obsess on the polars of the content continuum: From Oprah to “David After the Dentist.” From “Lost” to and “the giggling infant.” From “The Office” to “monkey smelling its finger.” There’s a lot in between.
There’s goals in them niche hills, advertisers. Gooolllllddd (he cackles with toothless grin and ominous, shaking index finger). Then again, during a gold rush I like selling shovels.