10 Creative Budget DIY Production Effects, Tips & Tricks

More and more YouTubers are tossing their videocameras for HD-SLR cameras, and producing film-like quality. Here are free low-budget tips to create a film effects and other special-effects… without expensive equipment or professional experience.

How can we provide film-like effects and special effects using modestly priced gear? For instance:

    • What are the best ways to shoot video using a digital SLR camera, and make it look like cinema film?
    • What $2 item in your kitchen provides a perfect way to keep your camera still in a car?
    • How can a pet’s home let you shoot underwater, using your existing camera without an expensive add-on?
    • When can a painter’s tool get you a crane/jib shot?
    • How can you make a person vanish or defy gravity by crawling on a wall?
    • What’s the easiest way to clone yourself in a video?
Keep your hard-earned money, and try some of these free or low-budget hacks, tricks and effects

Today we’ll look at some of these do-it-yourself (DIY) poor-man techniques, and see example videos are provided (most links advance to the effect’s precise moment in the video to save you time). Tomorrow I’ll provide a collection of 10 free websites and tutorials about creating a film/cinematic look using a fairly inexpensive digital camera.

But first… a quick tip on selecting a killer $500-$1000 videocamera that will produce footage you could barely get from a $5,000 to $10,000 just years ago. The solution for film-like quality in your videos is a cost-effective ($500-$1000) HDSLR video camera. Click here to see three pro ~$1000 compared (Sony vs Panasonic vs Canon).

Your HD-SLR can give you near-film quality with some of these tips.

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

A bag of rice makes a nice car tripod

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.

Brilliant. A fish tank as underwater camera case.

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.

3. Jib or Crane Shot Using Telescoping Painter’s Pole. I’ve used a pool net to produce a camera-in-sky and sweeping horizontal “crane” effect (see a 5-year-old flying Charlie in Super Baby). Brushing the camera above and through branches provides a breezy feel. I also mounted the video camera on a flag pole for Google Maps Butt crack (approaching 1 million views). I even attached a Flipcam to a bunch of helium balloons (see video, and behind-the-scenes). This would have been a lot easier once I purchased my super-light car-key hidden camera, but the quality is rather poor. But Kyle suggests a telescoping painter’s pole, which range from $5 to $90 for a telescoping one (see Home Depot). I just picked up this inexpensive telescoping pole from Amazon for $20 and change (free shipping since I’m on Prime). While on a motorcycle, we got some nice footage using a tripod as a crane.

The web is packed with homemade dolly devices. Smooth is key.

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.

A poster or inexpensive table cloth works as a green screen

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.

8. Get Nutty and Grosse: If you’re not inclined to use special-effect software, here are some how-to homemade special effects that require little knowledge or effort (MightyCouch). The knife-tossing how-to is especially good, and you can even simulate the knife landing precariously by tying it into a string and pulling it away… then playing that clip backwards. Here’s a how-to video that shows more gory special effect tricks, including a bloody explosion using a condom full of fake blood.

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.

Amateur Video Threatens Madison Avenue Budgets

As reported by The Onion, the Advertising industry is facing serious competition by amateurs.

Oh, did I mention you’re not pwning each other enough in the comments? Strap one on.

Where Did Kate Gosselin Buy Her Chicken Coop? (Video)

Kate Gosselin got a chicken coop from Horizon Structures on a recent “Kate & 8.” Kate Gosselin (Kate & Eight, Dancing With Stars) lives fairly close by — she in Berks County, PA. and us in Bucks County, PA. While we have little in common beyond kids, we’re now bound by our shed provider. Horizon Structures delivered her chicken coop on this episode (see hysterical interaction between kids, Owner Dave and other Horizon Structures employees.

We’re sad the TLC producers blurred poor Horizon Structures logo from Dave’s truck, but glad they recognized that this stuff makes good TV and video. Mind you, you don’t buy a pool house or chicken coop from Horizon Structures, you join its family (see our video below). I’m quite convinced the company could make a side income of $1000 for simply delivering the structures, and then picking them up the next day. It’s an event.

As it turns out, WifeofNalts hijacked what was supposed to me the Nalts Consulting corporate office… but that’s because I’m doing most of my consulting on site. Still- we bought two. One for bikes and the other for office and pool stuff, and it’s one of those purchases you’re glad you made — even if they spontaniously combusted a few weeks later. It’s not the shed ownership, you see, it’s the experience of receiving one. Like Fruit Cake. Only Fruit Cake is never eaten… just passed along each other, and I think there are only about 50 in circulation.

Hey, Horizon… if you’re ever in the neighborhood dropping off a chicken coop, gazebo or shed, drop us a line. With your permission and the recipient’s, we reckin’ we’ll bring some lawn chairs and lemonade and do some gandering.

First Shed Delivered:

Old Pool House Getting Destroyed

And Kate/TLC- how about you bring those little fellers to meet the Nalts kids? I’m a little afraid of you, but my big sister Jennifer used to punch me on the arm a lot… so I’ve lost feeling in that arm.

Wow- what a spectacle: traditional media family meets new media family– now that’s entertainment. We behaved during TLC’s shooting of Buddy’s Cake Boss, and even sat on the footage of his wife’s cake until it aired. So we can hang.

Yeah now there’s some fun video. My 6 year old Charlie goes from the Cake Boss to the Kate Boss.

Make Your Videos Suck Less

Mkay I’ll provide some recently discovered, cool resources to make your videos suck less in a minute. First I’m going to rant, and you’ll either skip it or find it more insightful than the how-to-make video resources.

I once asked a voiceover professional how he got to where he was, and if he had any advice. “Well, you know Kevin,” he said, “it’s really an innate ability that can’t be learned.” I hadn’t heard something so ridiculous since my mom’s friend said, “Kevin I hear you want to make a career in radio or television. Don’t worry you’ll outgrow that.”

If you have nappy hair and zombie eyes you might want to consider an alternative passion than making videos. Otherwise, you're probably capable of improving.
If you have nappy hair and zombie eyes, find another hobby than making videos. Otherwise, you're probably capable of improving.

Yes I’m an unwitting optimist who believes a) people are inherently good, b) people can change for the better, and c) that most of us would be more successful if we focused on what we enjoy instead of “well rounding” ourselves. Schools would do well to help us figure out what we’re innately good at (and passionate about), and direct us that way. Likewise employers, instead of trying to “round everyone out” for the corporate ladder, ought to determine what gets a person excited, and hone that passion. We’ll all still have to perform some mundane tasks to accompany our thrills, but why turn a great engineer into a lousy manager of engineers? Go read Strengths Finder if you don’t understand what I’m talking about (you wouldn’t be the first or last). Last night I was reading Emotional Intelligence, and was reminded that IQ may correlate with life/career success, but is only about 20% predictable.

Don’t get me wrong- getting a well rounded education isn’t a mistake. I’m glad my dad talked me out of going to a school for video and film (I remember drooling over the Emerson brochure and loathing the idea of taking more biology, math and stats courses) instead of getting an undergraduate degree. He later urged me to pursue business school, when I discovered that my passion for writing wouldn’t likely cover rent much less a mortgage and kids. Two years of misery, but it certainly has since saved me from a lot of stupid mistakes.

Now where was I? Oh yeah- some video tips.

  1. If you haven’t read Steve Garfield’s book, “Get Seen,” check it out. Or visit SteveGarfield.com which looks like a suitcase from a well-travelled carpetbagger in the Great Depression… smacked full of widgets, stickers, callouts and labels.
  2. The Shirtless Apprentice remains a favorite collection that makes learning fun.
  3. Just discovered an ad for New York Video School via the web. Thinking about it, but that virtual commute might kill me.
  4. Nice website for royalty free sound effects is Fxhome. You gotta weed through some expensive software to find it because my bookmark vanished. Schwing.
  5. Watch any YouTube video not in the top 100 most popular. Tee hee.

A New Model for Producing Television & Online-Video Ads

Okay get a coffee and sit down. This is one of my important posts. You’ll learn in this one post more than you learned in that stupid communications major (the sender sends messages, and the receiver receives them). I switched majors the day I realized half of the women in my Freshman 101 communications class wanted to be the next Oprah.

Now traditional advertisers and commercial production shops don’t much like the notion of online video ads (especially consumer created) because they prefer to shoot $500,000 commercials in lovely locations. It’s one of the perks of selling your soul to agencies. And I’ve got friends that bemoan the future of television spots as they adore the romantic trip to Europe (to film a pool that looks remarkably like one in a New Jersey suburb).

Alas, advertisers and their favorite commercial directors need not fear online video! While we marketers may request fewer $500K commercials, we’ll still need good content. Lots of it. Instead of one Superbowl spot, however, we’ll want an assortment of creative ads that appeal to our various and fragmenting audiences. So we need to get our cost-per-produced-minute down by 50% or more. And I’m not talking about amortizing the shoot by rotating three actors: a white guy, one hispanic gal, and a slightly overweight Asian transgender.

We ideally want to tailor the ad content to the medium. I was thrilled to see V’s debut (the television show) with a character on YouTube’s homepage that actually mentioned YouTube. Hey, she belongs here. Check out this Louisiana hot sauce spot by pro-amateur Jared Cicon (embedded below), and if you drool over it like I do… check out the rest of his reel. Is it Superbowl material? Maybe not, but it would cost about the same as a single ticket to the game. And I think if Jared (who conveniently puts himself in most of his spots) would probably have just the same Q rating as the best-looking transgender Asian your talent agency could find.

We have two important forces at work: advertisers need MORE video content to participate in the 30-40% growth of spending on this channel. And we have lower-cost options like Jared that do damned good work. So what’s the solution? Wel you have three choices:

  1. First, large production shops — with pricey directors and overbaked sets — can dial down their costs for the medium. I’ve talked to at least 5 production companies that are adjusting their model to bring budgets down (on a shoot for a magazine ad photo, I was happy to see wardrobe with 90 clothing options from Gap that they’d return the next day for a credit).
  2. The other option is for advertisers to put work “out to bid” to a new swarm of directors with minimal costs but talent (that won’t impact the veteran directors, is awesome for the noobs, and probably scares the hell out of the rest). Use a clearinghouse like Poptent.org, or go direct to people like Jared.
  3. Finally, advertisers can run a contest. However I don’t like to see online ads for contests like the Dove blitz. I feel like the advertiser should be selling the product not wasting it on reaching those of us that enter video contests (although they get points for trying to engage the audience). Ultimately most contests get minimal participation, and why not just reach out to ringers — especially if they have an audience online.

Mind you, Jared or PopTent offer advertisers low-cost but remarkable production quality via amateurs. What you won’t get, of course, is an audience. That’s why Hitviews, who contracts with “weblebrities” who already have an audience, makes more sense for some… you get a decent video, and fairly guaranteed views. Or, as I wrote about yesterday, you could bid for product placement on Placevine or Zadby.

By the way, I like an online-video contest that rewards the cat who drives the most views or votes, and Jared likes the ones where quality actually matters to the judges. He’s got talent and I have an audience. In the end, Jared always wins and I get a free f’ing Slurpy coupon.

In 2010 smart advertisers will commission work for less than the cost of an agency dinner. And here’s the part you say “hooray!” First, we can skip 45-stages of market research, and just flight the damned partially executed concepts and learn from them. How’s that for a dislodging that kidney stone? Maybe “ready, go, set” is better than “ready, ready, ready, ready, set, set, set…” Second, we can finally determine if the ad worked because of the messaging or the creative… because we can test multi-varied approaches.

What the hell do I know about research? I’m not even sure I used multi-varied approaches correctly. But I can tell you that I spent an assload of my employers’ money to test three sets of creative, and still wonder if we’d have been better off with a different execution of one of the alternative campaigns that died in market research maybe because the headline or image didn’t resonate with those pretend consumers that spend 50% of their life behind a two-way mirror for cash.

Can I hear an AMEN!?

Now you’ll flight 20 ads online, and take the crappy half out to pasture. See? Maybe we can finally kill that stupid quote: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I don’t know what half.” It’s about as cute as “Hang on Baby, Friday’s Coming.”

P.S. Some of you will love this ad, and some of you will hate it. But good news. Some day Google will save you the trouble of ignoring an ad or moaning over it… you’ll only see the ones you love.

What Should a Viral Video Cost a Marketer? (Killer Post)

“The price of a thing is the worth it will bring.”

I love that quote, but the reality is that “viral” video pricing has been less about worth and more about cost plus.

If anyone should know the “fair market price” of a viral video it should be I — or me (depending on which one is grammatically correct, and I really don’t want to know, because I don’t plan on framing a sentence that way again).

After all, I interact daily with brand marketers, big and digital agencies, and video creators. Yet prices range irrationally, and the market is in desperate need of guidance. This post is a long one because this is a complex and important issue to brands and creators. I really should clean this up, and adapt this for one of the advertising and marketing trade magazines.

Nalts Discloses Fees
Let me disclose my own fee structure and hope others will do the same. I initially was happy with $1,000 per video (for Mentos and some of my early work), but soon discovered my hourly rate computed to less than minimal wage. And I was juggling more work than I could handle with a day job. I also didn’t want to junk my YouTube channel with excessive sponsored videos, which alienating my subscribers (especially since many resent YouTube’s InVid ads, which produce far less income for me than sponsored videos).

Now I’m pricing between $3,000 and $10,000, but there are a few reasons I can price this way:

  • I have a decent track record, and fortunately more demand than time.
  • I have a steady audience on YouTube so most of my videos will get at least 20-40,000 views.
  • I have a marketing background, and provide strategy and a creative brief before diving into the video.
  • I try to produce several videos so a brand can amortize the cost (and generally I get some efficiencies out of a series).
  • I have gobs of debt (hey, just keeping it real here).

How Marketers & Creators Find Each Other
There are, of course, plenty of video creators who can perhaps do better videos for less money. I have developed a network of specialists that can, for example, do a great score, logo or animation very inexpensively. But I haven’t yet discovered a good “business exchange” site where advertisers and creators can find each other (viral video could use its own eBay, Craig’s List or Match.com). I’ve thought about starting one, but it is labor intensive and not something that automates well without significant volume. And I don’t feel like being the “viral video” middleman or talent scout.

Xlntads (with whom I consult occasionally) is approaching that model because hundreds of creators have registered and sometimes partner via the site (a director and a musician team up for an ad). A brand can generate a variety of videos via Xlntads without hunting down and dealing with individual creators (not to mention multiple contract negotiations). I like that as a marketer, and as a creator I’m happy to work for a smaller fee if I can avoid some of the incredibly time-consuming and frustrating “business development and qualifying” hassle.

Going from Prospect eMail to Payment
My visibility means most of my clients find me, so I’m fortunately not cold calling (yuck). But there’s a huge cost associated with qualifying something and having multiple phone calls and documents, and some of these go nowhere. I probably ignore valid opportunities because I miss an e-mail, or it reminds me of a previous discussion in which I invested time and energy understanding the brand, building a creative brief, proposing video concepts… then the agency or brand inexplicably “went dark.”

More importantly, many video creators have no interest or experience in selling their work, and simply want to create something for a modest profit. Historically, I don’t charge until I make a video, and yet much of my value occurs earlier and I’ve been giving that away naively.

Project or Retainer Video Consulting
As of this post, I’m moving to a flat-fee model where I charge $250 an hour (or a discounted day rate) to: understand the brand’s goals, conduct some informal research of their “space” in online video, build or adapt a creative brief, and present a series of video concepts. This initial fee will help me qualify clients and provide better service initially (as opposed to scrambling together a few weak concepts 10 minutes before a conference call). Then I’ll scope and price videos separately. This seems fair, since much of my value is in the initial phase, and the fee justifies my time and makes me a partner instead of a video production guy desperately pitching a few Nalts videos in hopes that I haven’t wasted my time. If I’m not right for the client’s production (or if I’m swamped) I can refer it to other creators.

As a marketer, I’d maybe prefer to pay upon completed video, but I am accustomed to paying for my agency’s time by the hour (and usually at a rate that far exceeds $250 when you burden it with overhead).

In 2008 (recession or not) companies and agencies will need marketing/video expertise, but can’t justify a full-time employee until this space matures. Do you remember what smart agencies and clients did when paid-search was emerging as a discipline? Rather than hire a firm with overhead or pay a full-time employee, they tapped specialists who were compensated for their objectivity, expertise and time. My career goal is to move from corporate marketing to online-video consulting retainers for a few companies and/or agencies. But don’t tell my boss yet. 🙂

Various Creators. Various Fees.

There are a number of video creators that do work for hire.

  • Some are simple and some are complex teams with expensive budgets.
  • Many are brilliantly creative but couldn’t market their way out of a paper bag. Others are sound marketing strategists that suggest creative concepts that make you cringe inside (I need to start documenting some of these because they’re so unfunny they’re funny again).
  • I’ve known brands that have spent $250,000 on a series of 4 short viral videos (not kidding), and I’ve known brands that have done almost the same thing on a shoestring $5K budget.

As a marketer, I tell people to keep their costs down since there’s no guarantee the video will pop. As a creator, of course, I want to profit from my work and want the same for other amateurs.

If you make online videos, please feel free to pimp yourself below- as long as you provide some information about your pricing.

“Fixed” versus “Variable” Payments
Should a marketer pay for a video, or pay the creator based on its viralicity? I have a strong opinion here, but I need to first explain why I cringe at “per view” payments. A view isn’t a view. Views can be manipulated in various ways – I don’t know how the “viewer robots” work (and don’t really care) but I assume they replicate a view by refreshing a video in intervals using various IP addresses. Most sites are developing safeguards against this, and counting only true views as those that last more than, say, 30 seconds. I’ve notice my view count darts to 200 and then stops for a while before it reflects that actual views. Presumably someone is validating the view count before it’s reflected accurately.

  • Any video site can fudge the view counter and it would be hard for a marketer or creator to know otherwise (candidly I suspect some of the second-tier sites are manipulating view counts to make the site look popular for visitors and advertisers).
  • “Auto roll” is another way to manipulate views. My YouTube profile page has a feature where the video plays automatically on the unwitting viewer, which gives me the ability to get any video thousands of views pretty quickly.
  • Even a real view isn’t always the same as a real view. Why do we pay different CPMs to media properties? Because some are worth more than others. If I do a video highlighting a U.S. hotel chain, it’s going to be worth much more to my sponsor to have that viewed on a travel blog or golfer website than on Break.com by a 14-year-old kid in Russia. It will be years before we can target views by demographics, so we assume some degree of waste.

As a video creator I’d prefer to be paid for my time and creativity, and not be gambling on the video’s popularity to find out if I’ve made $4 an hour or $7. As a marketer I don’t want to inadvertently reward the creator to junk and manipulate views. And even if I “capped” the view incentive, it’s a pain on my budget system to hold a reserve. Try explaining to the folks in finance why you’ve set aside $20,000 in case your video gets popular.

Pay for Seeding
Finally, there are two distinct costs associated with videos. First is the “creative” cost, like producing an advertisement. Second is the “promotion” cost of getting it viewed. While that can involve direct media fees (paying a site to feature a video), this is typically a retainer-based service that involves a person or agency seeding the video and reporting on views. Generally this is a temporary retainer since most of the views will take place in the first 30 days (I’m over simplifying this, but I wouldn’t hire an agency to report on my viral video for six months if each bi-weekly report was changing by .2%). After a few months, you move on. There are a few creators that have mastered this art, and a few agencies that are claiming it but have no idea about how to do it well.

This, like public relations, is a difficult thing to sell. But rest assured that “earned” media (locating a relevant blogger and asking them to post your video) is more targeted and effective than paying to flight crappy preroll ads. My recent Mac Spoof went well past 200K, and we’ll never know that’s attributed to the timliness and humor of the video itself, or the few e-mails I sent to Mac blogs (which took about 5 minutes).

There’s an art and science to video seeding, and it’s often done inappropriately. But it’s a vital step, and I believe this will spawn a cottage industry that eventually gets consumed by big agencies, interactive shops or PR firms.

A lot of information here, and I look forward to reading the comments. I hope this spawns some discussion about this important topic. We’ll set up a forum for it too.