Technology

Video Production Led me to a Teaching Degree

It’s been a while since I checked in on my blog, and there’s a very good reason for that. I’ve been in school!  I’m about to graduate with a Masters Degree in Education – Technology in Education, to be precise.  What is the story behind this?

I have been a freelance video producer since I left my career in advertising about fifteen years ago.  No offense to advertising, but this transition was one of the most rewarding changes I ever made (and I’ve made quite a few of those).  There was always something hollow at the core of advertising for me.  The reputation it has for being superficial, fast-paced and cutthroat is well-earned, and just didn’t suit my personality at all.  I wanted it to suit me because I had always thought I wanted to be in either the movie business or in advertising, with a secret longing to be a talk show host.

After leaving a position at one of the biggest ad agencies on the East Coast, I knew it was time to get back to my roots and do something that was rewarding.  I bought a high definition video camera, considered new technology at the time, and went into business as a freelance video producer.  My niche was to work with professional speakers, shooting and editing their marketing material; and this proved to be a very successful lane for me, at the time. I’m a self-starter, so I brushed up on all my editing skills, went online and taught myself some new ones. I used a platform called Lynda.com to learn Final Cut Pro, Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects.  These are the tools I needed to be competitive as a video producer.  I really only knew how to edit on celluloid from my university days as a film student. (To get a sense at to how editing has changed over the years, you can check out this concise and informative blog.)

Shooting speakers was fun, and it even rekindled my dream of becoming a talk show host!  It was also rewarding and a little bit like advertising.  I learned a lot from the different speakers I worked with, because each of them had a unique topic or concentration.  Mostly, the topics centered on corporate interests, but sometimes I got a chance to record a lecture about engineering or science. In particular, I loved working with Karen McCullough, Dayna Steele (now running for congress!), and Craig Karges.  Slowly, as I became more successful, I started working with other businesses like PR firms and small advertising shops.  Then, one day, I got a call to do some work for a company called STEMscopes.

OK, now this is where sound effects come in and you hear a car come to a screeching halt.  STEMscopes was an incredible experience.  All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to me.  This was a small business at the time, made up of science teachers, tech people and a small sales department.  They worked together  to create an online science curriculum for grades K through 12 in Texas. The people working here were amazing, most of them teachers, lots of them students right out of college (at the time, the company was part of Rice University). This was the environment in which I knew that I belonged.  I began to see my skills as a storyteller and a video producer being used to help young people learn. This seemed so much more important to me than selling something or embellishing on someone’s qualities for their website.  At STEMscopes, I had the opportunity to help shape the way children learn, and to help them be more successful students!

This was all happening at a time when incredible growth in the education world was also occurring.  Technology was weaving its way into the classroom, just as it had done in many other areas of our lives. Teachers were finding new ways to teach, exploring ideas and systems online and getting support from unlikely places all over the globe. E-Learning was beginning to take ahold, and STEMscopes was a pioneer in this new concept called the “blended learning.”  Things like a “flipped classroom” began making sense to teachers.  This was a new idea where the educator videotaped their lectures so that students could watch them at home and spend their time in class doing hands-on projects.  In fact, one project that I worked on was based on a grant for two Rice University professors to develop a flipped classroom for their engineering department. This was cutting edge stuff!

As STEMscopes grew, so did the need for more video on the website. We were producing several videos for each lesson, and these were all based on the Texas Science standards, or TEKS. When STEMscopes began moving into other states, we had to adapt everything for other state’s standards, and eventually for the Next Generation Science Standards.  I was offered a full-time position, and I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation. Never had a career move felt more natural than this one.

There was a small issue, however, and that was my limited knowledge of pedagogy and new technologies in teaching.  I felt under-qualified sometimes, especially when discussing concepts and ideas with other teachers.  For me, this was the inspiration to go back and get my Masters in Education. I didn’t have a clue what to expect, and to be honest, my mind was blown. Education and Technology are experiencing such rapid change right now that they need people like me!  Not many people I know go back to school for a new career at my age, but I’ve always seen myself as a lifelong learner.  What could be more exciting?

Who knows, maybe when I’m in my eighties or nineties I’ll finally get a chance to have my own talk show!

What’s Your Score, Baby?

If you have a high Klout (score), people will notice you. When they notice you, they’ll talk about you. When they talk about you, people walk in. Therefore, seeking out ways to genuinely increase your Klout …score is a valid social media strategy.  Brian Ambrozy

I just started using Klout about two months ago, and while I’m not sure how strong my score is or how effective my internet presence is, I know that Klout has helped me with one thing. More on that one thing later. (By the way, at this moment, my score is 50.) Oh, and the other thing about Klout is that it is the word Clout spelled with a ‘K’, so you know it’s clever.

Klout is an online services that takes your Facebook and Twitter (and now LinkedIn) accounts and measures the strength and size of your reach.  They do this by calculating 35 different variables and distill the data to come up with three measurements: True Reach, Amplification Probability and Network Influence.

I’m not a social media genius, so I have no idea what those mean, but I am guessing a few things. True Reach, I would venture to say, means how many people you actually interact with…not just how many followers or fans you have.  I’m hearing a lot about social media gaming, or manipulating the networks to work to your advantage without actually doing the real networking. There are so many companies (not individuals) that have joined the scene, and many of them have several different accounts…and some even sell these accounts to people who want to “get 10,000 followers”. Well, from what I understand, Klout manages to see which of these followers are actually real followers who actively engage with you. (I’m starting to feel like we’re in the movie Minority Report.)

Amplification Probability also sounds fairly self-explanatory. I’m guessing it is a measurement of how many times your message gets reposted or retweeted. How likely is your message or conversation to be spread around? This is also a way to separate the internet robots from the real people.

And Network Influence? I am going to take a stab at this and say it has to do with how influential your actual friends or followers are. Do you have followers who have other real followers and who engage regularly, or are your followers simple “voyeurs”, as YouTube likes to call it’s non-members.

What is nice about Klout is that it gives you a fairly realistic measurement of your online engagement and presence.  The one thing I really like about Klout (and the reason I am spending any time writing about it) is that it helps me to feel as if I’m actually getting somewhere with my social networking.  If you are like me, every morning you wake up and turn on Facebook and Twitter.  You check your messages, see how many followers you have, and start doing the deal.  It feels kind of like Groundhog Day.  Until there was Klout, I always felt like I was typing and clicking in the dark. Now I am developing a strategy, of sorts.  I know that according to Klout I need to engage…so I make a valiant attempt to do that with my friends and followers.  I also actively seek new people to follow, and I try to stay in my lane.  I can even use Klout to engage with my Twitter followers because Klout lets me give people K+ awards (letting people know they influence me in a certain category or field).

If you are like me, and just starting to find your way in the social networking realm, give Klout a try.  It might really prove to be a big help.

If You’ve Got an iPhone, You’re All Set

If you have an Apple iPhone 3GS or 4, then you basically have all you need to do many of the things it would have taken a team of people to do just a few short years ago.

I like to look at things from the viewpoint of an entrepreneur, a professional speaker, an author, even an artist, when discussing things like this. Because we have such limited budgets, sometimes we need to be creative in the way that we do things. Do you need a quick head shot or candid photo of yourself? Have a friend use your iPhone to snap your portrait. Do you need to shoot some professional looking video? Use your iPhone. If you need to distribute your material, use the Youtube app on your iPhone. To stay in touch with your followers, there’s your Twitter app (or for the more experienced Tweeter, there is Tweetdeck or Hootsuite), there’s your Facebook app, and there are countless other social media apps.

As for running your business, there are so many amazing uses for your iPhone. You can tackle the accounting, the billing, inventory, shipping…almost anything you can name, all by using an iPhone app. Check out this article for some amazing examples.

If you don’t trust me on this, take a look at some of these success stories. One of the best examples of using your iPhone for glamorous head shots is from photographer was blown away.

The iPhone Fashion Shoot – Lee Morris Shoots With The 3GS Fstoppers from FStoppers on Vimeo.

Soon after that, I began looking at the camera in my iPhone in a whole new way. Camera phones are no longer limited to soft focused, grainy looking, low resolution photos. With the iPhone’s new technology you can take high resolution photos in the HDR mode that can capture details in even low lighting. Add an app or two, and you can even set your phone to capture a photo with a timer!

As for the video function in your iPhone, again, there are many ways in which you can capture professional quality footage.  First, just start filming with your iPhone to get the hang of it.  Then, when you’re ready, you can set the iPhone up on a tripod or even have a friend film you while holding the phone on a steadycam device. With a few lighting considerations, you can capture some amazing shots.  Do you find this hard to believe?  Well, there are even national independent film contests with the only requirement being to use your iPhone instead of a professional video camera.

The iPhone has only been in existence since 2007, and has increased in functionality each year.  Imaging the things we’ll be able to accomplish with a hand-held device a few short years from now.  Technology is truly amazing, and it makes running your own business just that much more exciting.

Life in a Day with Cosmic Panda

A few days ago, I compared notes on both YouTube and Vimeo, the two leading video sharing sites in social media. Today, I’d like to highlight just a few exciting things about YouTube.

YouTube is releasing a full-length feature film today titled “Life in a Day,” produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin MacDonald. The film is described on YouTube in the following way:

On July 24, 2010, thousands of people around the world uploaded videos of their lives to YouTube to take part in Life in a Day, a historic cinematic experiment to create a documentary film about a single day on earth.

Now, it’s time to watch their story unfold on the big screen.

Directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald, Life in a Day wowed audiences at the Sundance, Berlin and SXSW film festivals and during its YouTube world premiere in January. This summer, you’ll be able to watch the movie in a theater near you.

It’s an interesting idea, kind of like a DIY Koyaanisqatsi, if you remember that film from the 1980’s.  The big difference being these are all shot by “you”, as the trailer says.  So, we’ll be hearing lots of original dialog and seeing genuine human interaction.  I’m really looking forward to it.

The second bit of news, and it’s not , if you remember that film from the 1980’s.  The big difference being these are all shot by “you”, as the trailer says.  So, we’ll be hearing lots of original dialog and seeing genuine human interaction.  I’m really looking forward to it.

The second bit of news, and it’s not really news because it was debuted a while back, it the beta version of YouTube’s next incarnation: Cosmic Panda.  YouTube is giving viewers and users a chance to preview their next upgrade and offer feedback before they actually upgrade.  I’ve gone on and tried it out, and found myself pleasantly impressed.  The major changes that struck me first were the slick new channel view and the way it displays your playlists, and the viewer window and the playback of videos.

Upon exploring more closely, I noticed that YouTube is offering movies for rent (under a “movies” tab) and a “music” tab that displays only music videos, along with a chart of the most popular songs. This is huge, and will probably put an end to DVD rentals. (Or at least put another nail in the coffin.) Very exciting stuff.

The drawbacks I can see (but maybe just haven’t found a way around yet) are the disappearance of my friends section and the auto-play function on my channel. It may take some getting used to, but I have a feeling the upgrade will be pretty amazing.

I love YouTube, and it’s good to see cool stuff happening.  Check out the trailer for the YouTube movie and the beta version of Cosmic Panda and tell me what you think.


YouTube or Vimeo?

I subscribe to both video posting services, but have only just recently been using Vimeo a bit more regularly. I’m going to muse upon the strengths and weaknesses of both.

For Vimeo, I can look at this with a fresh perspective because I’ve only begun to get reacquainted. What I find refreshing about Vimeo is that there is no nonsense to wade through. It’s a “professional” service when compared with YouTube. It’s a bit more complicated to use and set up, but I believe that is what helps it to stay “pro.” It has the reputation, or brand, of being higher quality than YouTube, but I believe YouTube has made plenty of upgrades to elevate it to the same level of quality. There is no time limit on Vimeo, so filmmakers and professionals like that they can upload works uninterrupted. However, many of the bells and whistles and higher quality options also come at a monthly fee on Vimeo. YouTube is absolutely free. Also, Vimeo has one definite advantage over YouTube: I looks cool. It has a much more appealing visual design, which always gets points in my book.

As for good chances that you’ll be seen along-side countless other videos. But, for marketing purposes, increased number of inbound links and SEO, and for being found on the first page of Google, YouTube seems to be the way to go over Vimeo. I’ve had lots of positive experiences with the visibility of videos on YouTube. Plus, YouTube as a networking site, really very similar to a MySpace. You can gather subscribers to your “channel” on both services, but YouTube seems to be a bit more social, more networking-friendly. I use YouTube in many ways like I would Facebook or MySpace.

The final verdict for me is that both are great. I can find uses for each, and so I’ll use both. There are many other services out there (including Veoh, Viddler and Facebook), and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. This may sound like a cop-out, but I seriously believe that video, which is an art-form, an advertising tool, a family heirloom, a prank and joke teller, and a blog tool, is a huge and vast medium of expression. We’ve only just scratched the surface of its versatility and function. So, it stands to reason that there will be many different services that store and play video, each with different assets and flaws. I’m sticking to YouTube to get the word out, and to Vimeo to just to look good.

YouTube:

Vimeo:

Karen Davis Design: Philosophy from Mike ThreeSixty on Vimeo.

How to Make Testimonial Videos

Testimonial videos are excellent marketing tools!  Remember the style of “old tyme” commercials?  A roaming camera man in a supermarket asking shoppers how white their clothes get.  A man on the street asking you to try a Pepsi or a Coke.  Or, more recently, what kind of cell phone service gives you the most coverage and best rates.

It’s tried and true, and it is a perfectly good way to sell your product or service on your website.  Think this way; what better method to encourage sales than direct word-of-mouth advertising right on your home page.  (Hint: fake or rehearsed testimonials are easily identifiable and ineffective.)

How to create testimonial video clips:

First, get a video camera that has external microphone capability.  This is important, because without it your audio quality will be shoddy and distracting.  Hire or rope in a like-able personality type to interview your customers (or, interview them yourself while you operate the camera, if you can do both).

Second, prepare your subject with what to say.  Don’t give them a script, but encourage them to speak clearly about the features and benefits of your product or service.  Suggest that they end their comments with a call to action.  “I recommend brand X whole-heartedly” or “if you haven’t tried product X’s service yet, hurry up and do so!”  Ask them to keep their comments direct and concise.  Long, rambling testimonials will bore the viewer, even if they have great content.  It begins to feel like the hard sell.

Third, edit the short clip and post it on your website.  Keep your testimonials current and fresh.  Don’t leave them up for too long, or they will feel stale to repeat visitors.  Ideally, prepare many short testimonials to give the feeling that there are many happy customers.  Just one clip will look weak.

What is Your Online Presence Saying About You?

Here’s a very real phenomenon: we are in the age of transparency, where each of us can Google our name and see what comes up “out there”.   Our stuff is on the street, so to speak.  You know the drill… Google your name and see what comes up!  I know for me, my career many, many years ago also involved promotions and entertainment production.  So my name would bring up many “colorful” items when it was Googled.  Those items do not show up on the first several pages of items since I’ve segued into a different career, and I made a very conscious effort to manage that.

Most of us don’t have the problem of having weird or inappropriate things popping up, but we still have an online presence.  What is yours saying?  Think about this:  You have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a Youtube account and a LinkedIn account.  You also have a blog.  All of these things are pieces of real estate that you manage.  Do they work together?  Are they simply profiles you started at one time, yet let fall away to become empty shells?  Or, most likely, are they rogue messages that have no strategy or cohesiveness?

Let’s take one of them as an example:  Let’s say you have a Twitter account.  What does your Twitter page look like?  It is definitely a reflection of your personality and brand, and it speaks to whoever lands there.  Your profile photo says something about you.  Remember the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words?”  Well, your profile photo is worth a lot.  It tells us many things about you; whether you are “corporate”, “artistic”, “stylish”, “executive”, friendly, serious, meticulous, free-thinking, happy, silly, geeky….the qualities that are exposed in a profile photo can be many.  What do your Twitter posts say?  Do you post mostly in the morning or in the evening, or very late at night when you’re on the town with friends? Do you share very personal information, or do you share the educational or business variety?  Is humor present?

I suggest looking at your online presence a little more closely.  Try to align your social media profiles so that they convey a consistent message about you, and that the message is true to who you are.  Or, more importantly, who you want to be know for!  It’s time to manage your online brand.  One way to do this is by joining Socialtunities, by Karen McCullough and Crystal Washington.  I believe you can obtain recordings of their workshops on each of their websites.  This I recommend whole-heartedly.

What About Me?

My close friend and colleague, Karen McCullough, who is also a full-time social media hound and a part-time spy, recently hooked me up with About.me. At first glance, this social network site looked fairly innocuous.  OK, so all these folks have pretty pictures of themselves…kind of like a glorified rolodex.  I then learned that most of the profiles I was looking at were for the folks who first launched the network; the marketing blitz.  This appealing batch of profiles was done by a professional photographer, so they all have this very slick and professional look.  Very clever marketing idea.  Now everyone will want to try it, just to see if they can get the same glossy, high-impact effect.

Well, my mind started to churn a little faster.  First, I was thinking about how big this was going to get.  As soon as people (entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, etc.) begin to catch on, they will be clamoring to snag their a few of these social sites, so I immediately began constructing my About.me splash page.

This started me thinking about all my other social media sites, and how they are not quite all connected.  Sure, my Twitter is connected to my LinkedIn and my Foresquare is connected to my Twitter, but I have a dangling Flickr and a lost Vimeo account that I rarely update.  About.me forced me to consider every one of them and to start thinking about them more strategically.  Why haven’t I been using Vimeo in addition to YouTube?  It is an amazing video site.  So I started to update.

The other idea that began taking shape was the opportunity for me to help my clients build their own About.me pages.  Sure, I love to design and build websites for people, with the help of my web genius Mark (Green Koi Design), but for a real quick fix, something attractive and immediate, why not design cool About.me pages?  I have a feeling this will replace the personal website for a lot of people and industries.

I’m very excited right now, because I have the feeling About.me is going to be huge.  Personal websites will begin to become less important as these kinds of splash pages start to catch on.  All you really need is a hub for all your social media.  Isn’t that what it’s really all about, anyway?  Being connected?  Well, this is the ultimate connector and I can’t wait to see how it evolves.

A Great Video

Seeing is Believing

Watching is Preferred


Research has shown that people today would rather watch a video to learn about something than to learn the same information by reading. This is especially true on the web. Given a choice between a page of copy describing a new product or service or a quick video describing the exact same thing, overwhelmingly the choice seems to be the video. If you have a website, this is a great tool to use. In addition to being the preferred choice of most users, video can also give the user a fast, authentic feel for you and your business. I’ve included a video here that I watched this morning. If this information had been presented in a block of text, I would never have read it. However, I did click on the video and watch as the CEO described quite plainly the functions of an App for the iPad that I might be interested in.