Good light makes a video podcast shine

When shooting a video podcast there is one thing that makes all the difference between a glorified home video and a true studio production: good light. In the video world light is like magic: it makes your host's wrinkles disappear, whitens it's teeth, put the shine in his eyes and give him that aura that true video hosts have. The point is that to shoot a good video podcast you first need to have good light.

How do you get good light when shooting a video podcast?

The cheapest solution is to shoot your video podcast outside, preferably on a cloudy day. This will give you a lot of diffuse light because the sun gets diffused by the clouds. There are however a lot of obvious disadvantages with this lighting method: you are dependent on unpredictable weather and you need a suitable outdoor location for your shoot.

The most commonly used lighting solution is to shoot inside with studio light. Since most video podcasts are low budget operation the purchase of true studio lighting equipment is usually not feasible. You can however get decent light from fluorescent bulbs if you take a few precautions.

How to light a video podcast set?

I like to have 3 light sources when shooting. First a diffuse or indirect light above or behind my host, then a less diffuse light from the front left to light the host and the area around him, and finally a more focused light in front of the host to light the host himself. When buying the lamps that you will use to hold your fluorescent bulbs you should not buy 3 times the same model, but instead buy one that produce diffuse light, one that produces slightly focused light and one that produces focused light (some articulated desk lamps are great for this). Think about the result you want for each individual lamp before buying. Take also into account any window you may have in the room used to shoot: even if you close the widows with drapes it will still produce some light that may have an effect on you set's lightning!

How to choose your fluorescent bulbs?

Not all fluorescent bulbs produce the same light, so choosing the right ones for your video podcast is important. The color of the light that a bulb produces is usually given in Kelvins, and that value should be written on the bulb package. If your video podcast is supposed to happen inside you want to buy bulbs that produce light around 3500 Kelvins, as this will give the same slightly orange light that an incandescent bulb would produce. If the action is supposed to happen outside or to be lighted by natural sunlight look for bulbs producing light in the 5000 to 6000 Kelvins, as these will reproduce daylight better. If possible choose fluorescent bulbs rated 20 watts or more (equivalent to a 100 Watts incandescent bulb), as you want as much light as possible.

Sufficient light is a major prerequisite for a professional looking video podcast, so don't hesitate to invest a bit. With some cheap lamps costing around $20 and fluorescent bulbs going for $10 a piece you can set up some decent lightning for less than $100. Give these low prices you may want to purchase 2 sets of bulbs, one at 3500K and one around 5500K, this way you are prepared for all situations. I would advise against using old incandescent bulbs, as these can produce a lot of heat and make your video podcast set uncomfortable.
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Comments on your YouTube videos can bite!

The following post caught my eye on PandaLabs finds 30,000 YouTube videos riddled with malspam. The idea is that since YouTube videos allow for comments and you can add a link in those comment, you can use bots to create an huge amount of links to site that no-one would link to: Malware sites that infect the user computers etc...

This kind of comments spam exists for a long time in the world of blogging and podcasting, but usually the blog or podcast owner take care to remove the offending comments, something that very few uploaders do with their YouTube videos. By the way, aspiring video podcasters should be aware that this can become a major chore. On my main podcast I had to turn on comment moderation to avoid a flood of comments about cheap "wow gold".

Comments should not be turned off completely on your videos however as they are sometimes a good source of feedback. Anonymous users on YouTube are more likely to tell you that you video stinks that a regular on your podcast's blog. Although this kind of feedback is not always pleasant it is sometimes justified and can give you a wake up call on what you are good at and what you still need to improve.

A second reason why comments on your YouTube videos are useful is that they help you create a community feeling. When your audience can interact with you it is more likely to stay with you long term. It also allows you to get ideas from your fans: ideas for future shows, maybe a secondary character in your web sitcom is getting popular and should get the spotlight in future episodes etc...

An example of a successful show that runs mostly on viewer feedback is Tekzilla from revision3. Viewers email their tech questions to be answered on the show. In this case the comments arrive by email but the principle is exactly the same. Now do you think that someone who had his or her question answered on the shows is likely to stop watching? No! That's a long term viewer gained for Tekzilla.

Feel free to leave me a comment...
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7 youtube alternatives to upload video

youtube alternatives to upload videoFinding the perfect place to upload video is not as easy as it seems. With it's huge global audience youtube may look like the ideal video sharing site, especially now that they allow the upload of HD video content, but there are still reasons to look for some youtube alternatives. The first reason is that user submitted videos are limited to 10 minutes in duration. This can cause a problem if you have long format video content to upload. The second is that although you can create a channel, promoting and embedding your video channel as a whole is not that easy. The final and most important reason is that pushes online video producer to seek youtube alternatives is that on youtube good content often gets lost amongst the viral and personal videos uploads. There is nothing worse than seeing the video you took hours to edit just being pushed off the recently added page by a "funny" video of a peeing poodle.

So, what are the best youtube alternatives to upload video?

1. Veoh

Up until youtube launched it's new player with HD support, Veoh was considered as the site with the best player technology amongst youtube alternatives. The site also offers decent tool to create your own video channel. Veoh doesn't really have the same audience as youtube however, as it had more of a reputation as an anime heaven at some point. The site accept most video formats beside flash itself and videos can be up to 1Gb is size, which should be more than enough for anybody. This is probably the best alternative for those who just want to upload video and get a decent player to embed.

2. Dailymotion

Often considered as the "youtube of Europe", this is the best amongst youtube alternatives for those who just want "youtube without the 10 minutes limitation". The way the site work and the audience are similar to youtube, but uploaded videos can be up to 20 minutes in length and 150 Mb in size. If you produce original content you can also register as a "Motionmaker" to be allowed to upload video of HD quality. This also removes the 20 minute limitation on video uploads. My main problem with Dailymotion is that their anti piracy team has a strong tendency to ban original content without reason. This happened to me personally when one of my videos with an original soundtrack was banned for soundtrack copyright infringement! This makes the site somewhat unreliable for online video producer that strive to make quality, professional looking ( or sounding ) content. Because of this Dailymotion miss the first place as youtube alternative in my list.

3. is my favorite amongst youtube alternatives for "podcast like" video and video serials. The site has great tools for video channel creation and embedding. The channel player allow your videos to be presented as a continuous series of shows, which is a far cry from youtube, and your viewer can subscribe to your videos through rss. Quality wise the player only displays videos in SD, but the encoding quality is good with few artifacts. You can still upload HD video however, and your viewers will be given the option to download the original HD video file if they want. This is a very nice feature that is sadly missing from youtube and most other youtube alternatives. Another great thing for online video producers is that allows you to put ads on you videos and be paid about half of the revenue that these ads generate. You can upload video to in most formats, and files can be up to 1 GB in size. The only black marks on this site's record is that they are less well suited to single videos, and that they have a smaller audience that sites like Dailymotion, Yahoo or Veoh.

4. Yahoo Videos

I must say that I am not a big fan of yahoo videos. The audience they pull makes it a decent youtube alternative but I personally find the site a bit messy. From a technical standpoint they offer nothing special, you can upload video files up to 150 Mb, and the flash player supports SD. There is no revenue sharing scheme or special tools for channel promotion. They do bring to the table the yahoo brand however, and that still has some pull on a lot of internet users. Beside the brand factor there are better youtube alternatives out there.

5. Myspace

Myspace is better known as a social site than a video upload site, but the traffic they get and the social features of the site make it a viable contender amongst youtube alternatives. The main problem is that the site is a bit of a media mess currently, something the owners have vowed to fix. Another problem is that the community on Myspace can sometime be very critical, so be prepared to receive some flames. From a technical standpoint videos are rendered in SD, but video uploads of up to 500 Mb are accepted.

6. Metacafe

The particularity of Metacafe is the the video uploads are reviewed and rated by the community, which seems better than on Myspace (bye bye peeing poodle). This is good if you have a lot of followers (well, more than the poodle at least) as your video can rank high on the site. They used to have a revenue sharing program, but it is now stopped. From a technical perspective they rank lower than other sites: the player is SD and videos can only be up to 100 Mb in size, which is small by today's standard. I would only advise to use this site as a youtube alternative for the community features, otherwise go see somewhere else.

7. Openfilm

Openfilm is probably the most recent site amongst youtube alternatives. They clearly target the aspiring filmmaker with a revenue sharing option, decent channel tools and a good quality, high resolution player. It is a bit early to judge the service as it is still in beta, but the site looks very promising! The audience is mainly interested in good quality video from independent and amateur producers, so you may get a good audience if you deliver that kind of content. The only problem with the site is that it is still relatively unknown from most of the public, so it doesn't pull the same number of viewers as the other sites.

As you can see there are a lot of youtube alternatives out there.choosing the right host for your video uploads will depen on what your requirement are: Do you upload long or short form content? Do you want to create a channel? Do you want community features? Do you want to make money from your video? No matter what you want there is probably a video host out there that has it!
image cc by dannysullivan
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Trent Reznor has good advice for online media publishers

Trent ReznorI recently watched a new show called Digg Dialogg where Kevin Rose interviewed Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. What was especially interesting was some advice on how to earn money from their online media. The advice is based on the experience Reznor had with NIN, which released it's lasts albums online, but can probably hold true for online video series and podcasts. The main points are the following:

- Only a limited amount of people will pay artists if they don't have to. When a NIN album was offered for free online with the artist requesting a donation of $5, only 18% of the downloads were paid. This means that requesting fans to pay for music freely available online will produce less revenue than selling that many copies of an album at retail. A problem of which many labels are now aware since all music is pretty much available online for free. The positive point is that asking for money will still produce some revenue, something that podcasts with a large amount of dedicated fans can use to finance themselves.

- Fans are willing to pay good money for extras. Extra songs and remixes, behind the scene footage, limited edition CDs and DVDs can be sold online with an acceptable amount of success. Although selling a DVD is probably not an option for most podcasts, it can be a serious source of revenue for web serials or web movies. The important point to remember is that the DVD should have a lot of extras not present on the web: better image quality, behing the scene footage, extra episodes etc...

- It pays to target several price points. Some people will not want to pay anything for content and should be targeted with an advertising based model. Other will accept to pay a small sum of money such as $5 either as a donation or to get some extras. Other finally are ready to pay much more money to get limited edition items and luxury editions.

In conclusion, artists can make some money online, but they need to have suitable product lineup with price starting from free (usually the podcast) to expensive (limited edition DVD boxes, exclusive T-shirts and other collectables). The "collectable" aspect of the most expensive products is very important. Making money out of the Podcast itself (through donations for example) can be a source of revenue but it should probably not be the main one. Sponsoring and the sale of derivative goods will be more profitable in most cases.
Image cc by edvill
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A view of the US online video market share.

Both Nielsen and Comcast have released the online video streaming market share figures for April 2009. This market share data is very interesting to help the amateur or independent online video producer target the right sites for it's content.

Two factors are impacting us a lot.

First Google and Youtube remain the largest destination for online video by far, so this is an unavoidable outlet if you wish to distribute video online, as it's market share is currently above 40%

The second interesting trend is the progress of Hulu in the US, which now has the number 2 ranking in online video streaming market share. What is interesting is that Hulu seems to attract an older audience than the other online video streaming sites. This is logical if one considers that the older generation grew with TV as the main video media and is thus more likely to seek long format, TV related content than the younger internet generation.

Since most amateur online video producers will never be able to release their work on Hulu this raises an interesting question: who should we target with our Video work? It is clear that it will be harder to target viewers over 40 as they would want long format content and are unlikely to seek relatively unknown series that have never been broadcast on TV. It think amateur online video producers can probably get a better viewing market share by targeting a younger audience with short form video series and podcasts.

Long format content can probably still have some success on the web if it targets young viewers, but getting a significant audience in the above 40 demographic may prove challenging! Older people are more into TV than the web, and any service that target them would need to have strong ties with traditional TV media.

On the other end of the scale Facebook seems to be gaining acceptance as a video streaming destination and should soon enter in the top 10 online video streaming sites by market share, however I am not sure that the type of videos hosted there is the kind that appeal beyond the video poster's friend and family.
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Video promotion: look what is playing in the theater

The next new network has been getting some online video promotion ideas from Indy Mogul.

Beside the usual advice such as getting a nice thumbnail for your online videos and using relevant keywords there was one piece of advice I didn't think of: customizing you title and keywords based on current events and theatrical movie releases.

It is clear that now that the wolverine movie is just out a lot of peoples are going to search for the term "wolverine" on youtube and other online video sites, and that anything related is bound to get a boost in the number of viewers. Same thing with videos that are related to start trek. Yeah, but what if my online videos has nothing to do with wolverine or star trek?

I see several solutions to this:

If your online video has some rapport with a recently released or upcoming movie, you can tweak your keywords and description. For example a Sci-fi video series in space could be described as "star trek like" etc...

You can do it the other way around and actually plan your online video series releases around upcoming blockbusters. Indiana Jones coming this fall? maybe it's a good idea to plan to release an episode of your video series about an archaeologist, or happening in Indiana, or about someone called Jones, or an Indiana Jones parody etc...

If your video show is not about fictions you can probably do it with current events too: election, Valentine day, Christmas, Chinese new year, Cinco de Mayo, the Superbowl etc...

It can be very simple too. For example I have a monthly podcast. I usually call it the show of April, May June etc... except for December, which I call the Christmas show. That video show usually has more viewers than the others because around that time people tends to look for Christmas related stuff.

If you want online video glory you should think carefully about the timing of your online video show and the title and keywords you will use not only in relation to your show, but also in relation to current events, theatrical releases and the current buzz on the internet.

For more advice on video production and promotion you can subscribe to this blog (RSS).
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