Have you considered showing yourself on the Internet? I’m not talking about posting some naughty pictures; I’m referring to putting your video creations on a public Web site for international distribution and enjoyment worldwide.
Many people already post their videos on their own private personal and business Web sites. However, there are many public sites that are designed to spotlight videos.
In addition to the smaller private business and personal sites, the big boys are starting to play in this area. According to DFC Intelligence, broadcasters ranging from ABC to The WB are rapidly extending their over-the-air signals-franchise online, with almost 38 percent of affiliate sites now hosting some form of simulcast/on-demand content.
Of the approximately 840 major broadcast-affiliated Web sites (including those operated by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, WB and UPN), 318 host some form of video programming. The broadcast-TV industry has recognized this potential and is jumping in with both feet. You should too.
Years ago, when I went to film school, getting your productions shown at festivals and to the public was very difficult and expensive. First, the actual production was complex and costly. We had to shoot in 16mm film. That required obtaining cameras, sound recorders, and other support equipment, buying lots of raw film stock, and then after shooting the film, getting the film developed. Then I had to cut the film manually and lay in various tracks of audio on mag tape. The audio had to be mixed, voice, music and sound effects cut in, balanced and sweetened. When that was done, I then had to re-cut and match the original footage to the work prints. The next step was to send the footage to the color lab for printing. Then there were several cycles of getting the color right.
After everything was done, I then had to pay the lab to strike copies of the prints so I could distribute them to the various festivals and agents. That required special film shipping cases and covering Federal Express costs. Aaagh! My short 16mm film “Killer Toasters” cost me about $20,000 for equipment and lab costs. Nowadays I could shoot and edit it on DV for about $500 or less!
With today’s digital technology and the Internet, I could e-mail off digital copies of the finished short to numerous possible exhibitors in just a matter of minutes.
Who’s Showing Video And Film Shorts?
There are a bunch of Internet Web sites that broadcast streaming videos as well as provide a source for downloading videos for later review. Some of these sites provide an opportunity for you to market your productions; others will pay you. Some just provide a free way to promote yourself and your talent. Check out the sites and their particulars.
“The Internet provides many advantages for the film- and video-maker,” said Nora Berry of Druid Media, sponsor of the Bit Screen Web site. The Bit Screen is a streaming Web site that welcomes submissions. In addition to spotlighting cool and unusual videos on the site, they also maintain a “Best of Bit Screen” at Broadcast.com, the big daddy of Internet video. The Bit Screen accepts short films, Web-casts, animation and multimedia programs made specifically for the Internet. They are looking for shorts (3- to 10-minutes long) that work with the Internet medium and “simultaneously expand its parameters.”
“In addition to being less-expensive and easier-to-access, the Internet provides interactivity as well as the ability to tell a story in many different ways,” added Berry. “An Internet-based video does not have to be a straight narrative. We are always looking for new ways to tell a story.”
Bit Screen adds new programs every week on its sites. Some wonderful Bit Screen shorts include “1,000 Moons,” a short dramatic monologue about a woman’s love life, and “City Halls,” a strange experiment in filmmaking. Every time you access it, it plays back differently, mixing voiceover, imagery and music into an interesting and ever-changing collage. It’s pretty cool. I particularly enjoyed “Hamster,” a short film about a hamster trapped in a bowl, racing around a kitchen. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is hilarious.
Always Independent Films www.alwaysindependentfilms.com
You can access Always Independent Films (AIF) through Broadcast.com or through its own URL. The site features lots of great new videos and shorts, as well as an archive of previously featured material. AIF is focused on exhibiting independent films and delivering a worldwide audience, all without any cost to the filmmaker. Recent hot tiles included “Tiny Bubbles,” a short documentary about the making of the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Pageant, and “The Dark Angel Psycho Kickboxer,” a short action film featuring world kickboxing champ Curtis Bush.
In addition to providing a showcase, AIF also sponsors an annual film festival to recognize excellent examples of filmmaking. As well, the AIF site provides forums where you can exchange comments and suggestions with other filmmakers.
The Sync, is another cool Web site spotlighting videos. One of the older Web video sites, it has been around for over two years, Web-casting videos and Internet entertainment. According to the producers, “The purpose of The Sync is to create compelling, interactive content that is specifically tailored for an Internet audience. This is not television recycled, but the beginning of a totally new medium.”
The Sync doesn’t have channels. Instead, it has shows designed for specific Internet audiences. Viewers can interact with show hosts and other viewers, changing the nature of broadcast video from a one-way to a two-way street.
One of my favorite streaming video sites is Digital Entertainment Network (DEN). It produces and airs high-quality Web broadcasting. Some of the network’s productions, like “Tales from the Eastside,” are truly incredible, combining outstanding video technique, great acting and excellent storytelling. DEN says that their mission is “to provide the youth of today with a revolutionary replacement for the passive, brain-killing experience of watching network and cable television.”
DEN viewers have the opportunity to communicate with writers, actors and producers, and help shape the programming. They can contribute their own ideas, as well as explore story and character background, and communicate with other viewers. They even have the opportunity to be cast on the shows or join the DEN team.
NewVenue And The Digital Film Festival
In June 1998, The D.FILM Digital Film Festival unveiled its “The New Venue,” a Web site showcasing movies designed especially for the Internet. The site’s creator, Jason Wishnow, presents a different film every week and also includes valuable resources for producing your own digital films.
NewVenue features narratives, documentaries, public service announcements, monologues, music videos, comedy sketches, computer animation and experimental QuickTime and Flash movies. The only requirement is that the entire file be under 5MB. The D.FILM site also hosts it own very short, under 5MB digital videos. Check out “Digital Date.”
There are a bunch of new sites coming online that will also spotlight digital videos. ClickMovie will host a Personal Producers site, and already is an online video store for distribution of commercial videos and uses their own proprietary Tranz-Send viewer software. Once up, the Personal Producer site will provide you with instructions on how to get a free version of special video-editing software. When ClickMovie receives the completed video, it will automatically squeeze it using Tranz-Send technology and place it on a special Web page.
Most people who use the Internet are bandwidth-challenged. Many people access the Net at 28K or 56K. If they are lucky, they will get a small stamp-size image of stuttering video. Others–like myself–have a cable modem or DSL connection that can provide wide bandwidth. Unfortunately, what with Internet congestion and the strain on the Web servers dishing out the video, even the best Internet connections only provide a postcard-sized screen with relatively smooth video.
Video can be delivered in three ways–true video streaming where the video plays as it reaches your computer; downloaded video that doesn’t start playing until the entire file has been downloaded; or semi-streaming, where the video begins playing after a portion has been downloaded. Real.com’s RealPlayer G2 and Microsoft Windows Media Player are good examples of true video streaming. Apple’s QuickTime is a good example of pseudo streaming technology that downloads a portion of the video before it begins playing. Other technologies require you to download the entire file before playing it, using your computer’s AVI or MPG movie player.
What all of these technologies and techniques have in common is that the smaller the file, the better it will play on your computer. For in-depth technical details, check out FlickTips at NewVenue.com or D.film.
So how do you keep your file sizes small? The more stuff going on at any one time, the larger the file. That goes for movement, for complexity of image, for the number of colors, you name it … Once you know how to manipulate file size, you can harness the beauty and the potential of the digital flick. Digital movies have no standard image size. Most are either 320×240 pixels or 160x 120 pixels (dimensions which preserve television’s 4:3 aspect ratio). However, you don’t need to stick with those. You can create video formats of any size or shape.
In some video formats it is possible to compress your movie at a smaller size and then blow it up for playback. Remember, though, the smaller the image, the harder it is to make out details. You can also adjust the frame rate to suit your creative goals. A lower frame rate also reduces file size. Film and television have standardized frame rates, digital flicks do not. By the way, lower frame rates are less noticeable on smaller images. You can experiment. Click Cinema on the @Home network recommends a frame rate of 10-15 frames per second. Film runs at 24 frames per second and TV at 30.
Video, with less movement, doesn’t necessarily require as high a frame rate. Try to avoid panning shots or zooming in or out. Nora Berry of Druid Media recommends, “A straight cut is the best transition. We have seen zooms that actually crash and freeze the video while the audio moves on.” A good technique is to lock down the camcorder and have your subjects move in and out of the frame. That avoids the tiny movements that are created by handholding the camera.
Compression is very important to Internet video. Streaming video establishes a frame rate based on the viewer’s connection speed and you can’t predict how it will look. This can be arbitrary, from the viewer’s perspective. With nonstreaming video you have complete control over frame rate.