Whether engaging in digital distribution via a distributor or on one’s own (DIY), the burden of producing deliverables is increasingly shifting onto filmmakers.

At TFC, when we speak of empowerment through education, we are often talking about the digital landscape as a whole. However, there is also a lot to be learned in the details. I’m sure every filmmaker can rattle off a list of annoyingly small screw-ups with deliverables and assets that ended up throwing multiple members of his or her team into a tizzy for an entire day, wasting precious time, manpower and financial resources.

Accordingly, arming yourself with a little more knowledge about how the industry works, and, in particular, how technology works, can help you dodge a few more bullets down the road. Here are 3 nitty gritty tips we’d like to pass on:

1) Trailers

It’s very easy to put your trailer up on YouTube or Vimeo these days. So easy in fact that filmmakers often forget that these platforms are anomalies when it comes to requirements for eligibility.

For other mainstream digital platforms, pretty much any time there is a digital storefront, whatever is outside of the pay wall needs to be viewable for all audiences: free of foul language, nudity, excessive violence, etc.

I can’t tell you the number of trailers we have seen with words like fuck and shit still in them…iTunes is not going to take a trailer with any language that needs to be bleeped out on television. Neither will it accept scenes with a butt shot, a sex toy, naked breasts…the list is long and can get murky real quick, and, like MPAA ratings, may be quite subjective and potentially unfair.

We totally get it…filmmakers want to be as provocative as possible, don’t like being inhibited, and want their trailers to represent as closely as possible the tone of their film. And they usually make their trailers long before they ever have to think about digital distribution. But if you don’t want to have to go back and recut your trailer down the road, you need to think about these things. If you want two versions of your trailer, that’s fine, but at least one one of them has to be no more than, let’s say, PG.

photo credit: CaptMikey9 via photopin cc

photo credit: CaptMikey9 via photopin cc

2) Closed Captioning and Subtitles

Many platforms, including iTunes and Netflix, now require that all new films be submitted with closed captioning for the hearing impaired. Closed captioning is different from subtitling in that it sometimes includes descriptions of non-speech elements, like sound effects or music. Captioning costs run from $350 to $800 per title.

Most filmmakers send their films out to a captioning/subtitling lab, or use rather expensive software to do it themselves (more information about these labs/software can be found on the ResourcePlace section of our website). Usually, filmmakers receive a small, emailable, external file from the lab and submit to their distributor/aggregator without giving it much additional thought.

However, we have seen a number of cases where mistakes have been made, which can result in a rejection of your content by the platforms and a delay in your scheduled release date. There are many closed captioning requirements, particularly regarding things like when captions come on and how long they stay on screen, and we have seen some problems in this area.

But by far the biggest cause of rejection is when closed captioning covers some of the lower thirds in the film. This is especially true in documentaries, where subjects are interviewed and their names appear as text graphics on screen. In those cases, the offending line of closed captioning must be moved (usually to the top of the screen).

There are two ways that these errors can be prevented. One is to go through your film and note the approximate time codes of all your lower thirds and ask your captioning lab to pay special attention to these areas.

The second way is to check the lab’s work before submitting to a distributor/aggregator. The most common file extension for closed captioning is .SCC (Scenarist Closed Caption). This is the file you are going to submit. However, it is not possible to view this file alongside your film in QuickTime or VLC. So you should ask your lab to convert it into a subtitle file and send that to you as well (this file would be solely for checking purposes…it shouldn’t be submitted to anyone).

The catch is that the most common form of subtitle file, .SRT (SubRip), does not hold placement, so while it is OK to ask for this file type merely for checking timing and accuracy of dialogue, you will not see any difference between lines that are on the bottom or those that have been moved to the top—they will all appear on the bottom. So the key is to ask for a different file format if you have dialogue spoken over lower thirds. Subtitle file types that hold placement are .STL (Spruce subtitle format) or iTunes Timed Text (iTT), a subset of TTML. For more on subtitling than you ever want to know, visit <a “href= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subtitle_(captioning) “>Wikipedia.

Lastly, speaking of subtitle files, we have seen many filmmakers obtain subtitle files from international film festivals (especially Spanish) and want to know if they can submit that as an extra to their North American release.

The answer is yes as long as it, like closed captioning, doesn’t cover up the lower thirds, and as long as your English master is textless (i.e. no burnt-in English subtitles). An important lesson here is that if your film has any lower thirds where dialogue is spoken over it, you will not be able to use .SRT files for any of your localized languages…use one of the other formats (.STL or .ITT).

So if someone produced an .SRT file for you, and you have lower thirds with dialogue spoken over them, you’ll need to get it converted and fixed before submitting to digital platforms.

Knowing exactly what you need will help you save time and get the best deal from your Subtitling Lab., because you will have pre-negotiated what you need in advance.

3) Digital Output

One of our members from Australia asked us about getting all of their lab deliverables taken care of at once so that they could qualify for The Producer Offset, which is a refundable tax offset (rebate) for producers of Australian feature films, television and other projects. While this credit may not apply to filmmakers who are not down under, I’d like to reiterate here what I told him: that producing deliverables too soon can cost you more in the long run.

If you produce a DCP or HDCAM, which can cost $2K or more, and approximately $350, respectively, before you sell your film, what happens when your distributor asks you to submit deliverables with their logo in front of it? You have to go back and do it again.

As far as DCP goes, until you are SURE that your film is playing at a top-notch festival, or that your film is even going to have a theatrical release, it may be best for you to wait, and only produce deliverables like ProRes, Blu-Ray and DVD in the short-term.

And by way of conclusion, speaking of DCP, TFC’s head of Festival Distribution, Jeffrey Winter, has offered a post on DCP headaches HERE.

September 10th, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, DIY, iTunes, Netflix, Trailers

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Trailer and short clip video editing is a much needed service in the independent film world, especially by lower budget filmmakers who can’t go to the bigger digital agencies and spend tens of thousands to get a trailer cut. Too often, lower budget filmmakers try to edit trailers themselves, but are too close to the material to understand that a trailer is a sales tool, not a visual synopsis.

In addition, the internet space is becoming dominated by visual material, photos and video clips. It isn’t enough to have just one trailer, multiple video pieces are now needed to enable social sharing, video channel subscription growth and capture and maintain an audience’s attention over a long period of time in the lead up to release.

While searching online for video editors that specialize in short clips and trailers, I came across a new site called Videopixie, a community of video freelancers offering post-production services at fair prices. I immediately contacted the site’s cofounder and COO, Thomas Escourrou, to find out more about how Videopixie might be the solution for independent film marketers who are long on footage, and short on money and skills to create compelling marketing videos.

How long has Video Pixie been around?

TE: “We launched in June 2013. My cofounder and I have been in the video space for a while, but the site is less than a year old. We are growing quickly with a 700 member community of video freelancers:  from editors, motion designers, animators, FX specialists, to videographers and writers.”

Video material is quickly taking over the internet space. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded just to Youtube every minute and over 6 billion hours of video are watched every month. There is a lot of competition for attention so a video really has to be compelling.  Is Videopixie trying to help companies, non profits and artists who don’t have the skills and expertise to create their own videos do that in an affordable and collaborative way?

TE: “Definitely! Videos are everywhere now. With mobile access and higher bandwidths, video is becoming the medium of the web.  Companies make videos to announce new products.  Inventors and creators make videos to crowdfund their projects. Experts make videos to teach the world. App  developers and filmmakers make trailers to sell more of their apps and films. As video distribution gets easier, the stakes are shifting to video production. How to create quality video content, frequently and affordably? When there was little distribution for a short video, it was an undertaking to invest in making a video and getting it into the world. Now that video can be put out online in a global way by anyone, it is a much more worthwhile investment.”

Video is also a great medium to put a face on a company or artist or non profit. You can demonstrate what they do, bring it to life, and make an emotional connection to an entity.

TE: “Right, basically show the soul of the venture. It isn’t easy to communicate soul through text and ad copy on the web. Video is more like real life. It hits a lot of the senses; sight, hearing, and the ability to have conversations around it. The web is becoming warmer and more human through the use of video.”

There is a nonprofit video clip I saw on your site showing what they do in Africa. It was awareness building for the organization and a fundraising initiative I guess.

TE: “Yes, the Impact Network is a non-profit improving the quality of education in rural Africa through digital tools.  They needed a video for their annual fundraiser, to connect with potential donors.   Their staff on the ground in Zambia shot some every day footage and interviews with their iPhones. They uploaded the footage to Videopixie and had it edited for about ~$250.  The editor arranged the footage to tell a compelling story, and added some simple motion graphics.

It proves that you can get solid videos without spending a fortune.  Of course, higher production value projects aren’t going away!  The video production market is as vibrant as ever.  But with marketplaces like Videopixie, it’s now possible to find great options for a wide range of budgets.

Often times, our users ask for help with their script and storyboard in the pre-production phase and we connect them with writers and directors.  Buying 1 hour of a writer’s time to jazz-up a script is well worth it.

Kickstarter videos require planning and we have freelance directors/writers on the platform who help with pre-production.  Kickstarter videos also benefit from polished post-production. Here is one of our blogs with tips to make great crowdfundng videos.”

How does one get started with Video Pixie for a project?  What would I need to upload? How does the system work in getting an editor interested?

TE: “To get started, just answer a few questions about your video, upload any existing footage, and post the project to the community. Freelancers engage, suggesting ideas and styles.  Some create teasers from the uploaded assets, others link to relevant videos they’ve made.

You receive the first bids within a few hours and hire the freelancer you like best.  Then project delivery starts using collaboration tools (real time chat, easy file transfer, reviewing tools etc). Payment happens at the end when everyone is satisfied.”

 

Videopixie editors

Choose from a community of editors

 

Right, I saw there is a money back guarantee so there is protection on both sides. The editor knows the money is there so they won’t get stiffed for work. And the buyer is protected in that their money isn’t paid until they sign off on the final cut. 

TE: “We play an insurance role for both parties, which brings peace of mind to the users and the freelancers. Users know they’ll only pay when satisfied. And freelancers know they’ll get paid for their work.

We chime in when necessary to make sure projects are budgeted properly, and that quality standards are met.”

If I am an editor looking for extra work, how do I get started with Video Pixie? 

TE: “Signing up is easy, there is a link at the bottom of the home page.  We require reels and a list of skill sets.  Within minutes you can browse available projects and you’ll start receiving email notifications when new projects are posted.

You can ask questions directly to the clients from the real-time chat. You submit bids for projects you are interested in. If you have relevant reels then great – just attach those to your bid – or you have the option to create a teaser (using the project’s footage which we make available in SD for faster download in the bidding phase).”

When you say bid, do you mean you offer to do a project for a certain amount of money? Is it by the hour, by the project?

TE: “It is by the project, not an hourly rate. Editors have access to the database of projects that includes a brief, the asset list, and the budget range. They can quickly scan through and see what is involved in the project and how many others are also interested in bidding. If a lot of people are bidding, it might not be attractive to submit something. “

What is the typical turn around time on an edited piece? 

TE: “It depends on the scope of what needs to be done. It could be just a few hours for very simple, scripted clips. Many of our users make videos every week, so they know exactly what to submit and what they want. For projects that need more creativity and back and forth, it could be one to two weeks.”

In uploading assets, how long can the footage be? A trailer for a feature film would involve uploading a 90 minute film.

TE: “There is no size limit. Uploading 200 GB of footage is no problem on a fast connection. We built an HTML5 resumable uploader called Evaporate JS. It works straight from the browser, no plugin.  It’s free, and takes full advantage of your connection speed.

Uploading is the recommended workflow for most projects.  Shipping hard-drives is also an option, and it is sometimes needed.  For example, if the director wants the trailer cut from TeraBytes of uncompressed footage (eg. DPX , open EXR).  In that case we still recommend to upload at least some footage so that interested editors can make teasers for you in the bidding period.

With the easy upload, you get a notification that it went through. We also have a notification system that alerts you when input is requested from either party. There is also a real time chat feature that gives a better sense of what it would be like to be in the editing suite with the person working on the project. We are also working on in-timeline commenting, so instead of making note of the timestamp to make comments on a certain aspect of the edit (make a hard cut or transition here, or insert a different image, or whatever), you can leave a comment within the timeline edit and the editor can bring those comments right into their editing suite, instead of searching through email or message communication.  This is our next improvement.

It may be that you don’t upload the full hi res footage. Maybe you want to do proxy edits where you upload SD footage and editor works off of that to get the final cut. Then you would take that trailer file into your own editing system and render the high definition trailer on your own system. This is a process for a more advanced person who just needs help formulating a good edit.”

Besides non profit videos, weddings, music videos, what other kinds of videos have been made through Videopixie?

TE: “Hundreds of videos have been made on Videopixie since launch:  Kickstarter videos, animated explainers for start-ups, Udemy course videos, game trailers, movie trailers, sizzle reels for TV shows. Here is a link to recent examples:  www.videopixie.com/happy-new-year

Some projects are straight forward, others involve tons of footage, creative scripts, motion graphics, FX, color grading, animations.

We also have started doing a lot of work with Youtubers. We created a partnership with a multi channel network (MCN) called Fullscreen. Videopixie serves as a post production house for their network of Youtube channels  to get shows edited and make motion graphic logos or intro or bumper pieces to make the videos unique.”

This would be great for independent filmmakers who want to make audience testimonials as people come out of a screening or on set video for crowdfund backers. There are all kinds of things a production shoots, but never finds time to edit. 

TE: “Yes, the goal is to make video production easier and possible for a wide range of budgets.  So people can create quality video content frequently with economics that make sense.

Audience testimonials are a no brainer, they are very compelling and cost very little to make. Just film, upload the footage, and get a finished video back for under $150 a day later to post on your FB page.”

Also, films need more video content than just a trailer. In the months leading up to release, many short clips need to be created and released at regular intervals to keep an audience’s attention and enable them to share these videos on their own channels. Every filmmaker and distributor wants buzz for their films, but they need to enable people to share material with their friends and widen that buzz. 

TE: “We also see this trend in the video game industry. It used to be about one big trailer for the game, but now the most successful games are creating new videos every month in lead up to release and well after. It is important to find a workflow for creating this content that doesn’t become burdensome.”

Videos can be used to bring critical moments in the production of a film to life for its audience, in near real time. Why only shoot on set for the special features when you could share a critical moment on the set from this morning or this week?  This is a great way to keep backers of a crowdfunding campaign up to date on how their donation is working to create a project. Having an on demand editing service that is affordable and quick keeps the production from having a backlog of shot footage that no one is in charge of editing.

Videopixie takes a 10% fee for facilitating the editing project.  If you plan to have a regular schedule of videos that need to be edited, many of the editors will offer a bulk discount for repeat customers.

As already stated, there is a money back guarantee for your satisfaction. If you are unhappy with the work of the editor you chose, Videopixie either will pay to have another editor re edit your piece or release your money from escrow and return it to you.

There is a full FAQ section on the site as well as some sample work. Before you sit down at the editing console and struggle for the right cut, consider spending a little bit to get a professional’s time and experience instead. In fact Videopixie is giving $100 credits to the first 20 readers who start a project. Make the perfect trailer or compelling short video clips for your film with the community on Videopixie.

 

March 20th, 2014

Posted In: Trailers, Uncategorized

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One of the absolute strongest pieces of marketing you will create for your film is its trailer. The other is the key art. I wish more filmmakers appreciated how important having a kick ass trailer is and stop trying to save money by editing it themselves or having their feature editor do it. A horror film audience is typically younger and very distracted. A trailer that fails to capture attention in less than 5 seconds is easily turned off in the quest to find something more interesting.

I spoke with professional trailer editor Michael Kurthy of Ye Olde Trailer Shoppe, Inc. about what goes into editing film trailers, especially horror trailers.

SC:What is the first thing you do when you sit down to edit? How do you evaluate the film to choose the elements that will go into a compelling trailer? 

MK: “If I’m working directly with the producer, we usually collaborate on coming up with a marketing direction for the film. The producer usually has some ideas, but is so close to the film that they don’t see the ‘big’ picture on how to sell the film to a wide audience. Every film is different and requires a different approach. I will do a ‘Break down’ of the film prior to cutting the trailer. This is basically deconstructing the entire film shot by shot/dialog line by dialog line. I try to use the footage and dialog to tell a story, but if that can’t be done, I will write or hire a copy writer to tell the story with narration. The trend these days is NOT to use copy. Sometimes we will be working on a film in the early stages of production and we will indeed use a shot that may not make it into the final cut of the released feature.”

SC: Is there a difference between what goes into cutting a trailer for a horror film and cutting any other kind of narrative film? Are there “rules” or conventions that go into marketing a horror film that you follow? Does it depend on what the trailer is supposed to do (IE, sell the film to industry vs sell the film to the consumer)?

MK:”The only difference is that horror is usually paced slower, more pregnant pauses are used to accentuate a particular moment and we like to use more sound FX. When I cut the trailer for The Wizard of Gore, a remake of a 70’s Vincent Price horror film, I chose to skillfully use music and sound FX that would drive the trailer along in a frenetic manner, with lots of stops. I concluded with a high energy rock cue from the feature soundtrack because it worked so well to pull the whole trailer together at the end.”

horror trailers

SC: How important is music in a horror trailer? Where do you source your music from? 

MK: “Music searches are really one of the most important elements in trailer making. The music will set the tone of the piece as well as the mood and what I would like the audience to feel and think. For most of the indy horror film trailers I create, I’m usually handcuffed into using the feature score from the film because of ultra low budgets.This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the score.”

SC: Are there certain fonts or motion graphics that can be used to great effect? Should you have text/graphics or should the scenes play out to demonstrate the full effect of the film? What about using festival laurels or critic quotes? What about foreign films, how do subtitles play in trailers?

MK: “The only reason you need text or graphics in a trailer is because you have to convey another story that can’t be accomplished with using dialogue from the film; or the dialogue from the film isn’t enough to tell the story.

When we use the festival laurels or critic quotes in a cut, we are trying to use the accolades of the film to our advantage. Testing shows that people do respond to awards and such. A lot of times we ‘hide’ foreign films by doing a trailer with no dialogue,it’s very difficult to sell a sub-titled foreign language movie here in the States.”

SC: How is trailer editing different from feature editing? 

MK: “I almost exclusively cut just trailers. I think it really is necessary to hire a professional trailer editor who is not biased on the film. One who can step back and really see the big picture. I recently edited a feature documentary for the first time, a film called The Sound of the Surf about the origins of ‘Surf’ music. Unlike trailers, this feature’s files were so big and daunting, so many things to keep track of ie: photos, interviews, music,flyers etc. With a trailer, one simply has the 1 ½ hr film to be concerned with plus miscellaneous music, graphics and select pulls. Quite frankly, after completing this feature edit, I wonder if I could still cut a trailer for this film, after being so immersed into it.”

SC: Given the audience for horror is usually young (teens), does this dictate the length and style of the trailer? How about different lengths depending on where it is shown (online vs in theater)?

MK: “Less is more in this case. Attention spans have shrunk in recent years probably due to the obliteration of broadcast material out there.There is no official maximum length, but if your trailer is over 2m 30secs, it probably won’t get played in a theater.”

SC: How do you feel about the accusation that trailers “give away the movie”? Is that true? Are there instances where they have to in order to get bums in seats/streams sold?

MK: “A good trailer should never give away the story or ending. However, today a lot of trailers do just that. A lot of this has to do with creatives in charge at the studios.There is a lot of pressure on them to ‘Open’ a film [ie, provide a successful opening weekend of the release] because if they don’t, it’s their job on the line. Being a creative advertising exec at a studio is a very short lived career.”

SC: Now for the question all of our readers will want to know for budgeting purposes, could you give me a range for how much a professional trailer would cost? Also, how far in advance should a producer plan for trailer edit? 

MK: “If you go to a trailer house (large company with many producers, editors, graphics people), you are going to be charged anywhere from $40,000 on up to $75,000. Smaller shops like mine (1 to 5 employees) can bring the price way down. My rate for an indy trailer is around $4000-$5,000.

It’s always a good idea to plan in advance, but unfortunately people wait until the last minute. I have had to cut trailers in ONE DAY!-not fun. Ideally, it takes 1 to 2 weeks to get a great trailer cut that the client likes.”

 

 

Michael Kurthy is an award-winning motion picture marketing veteran who, over a 20 year career, has created successful theatrical campaigns for dozens of block-buster hits including: “Independence Day”, “The Matrix”, and “The Lord of the Rings”.

Currently,he owns Ye Olde Trailer Shoppe Inc., a boutique trailer house, for which he creates quality advertising campaigns for major and independent features. Mike has created campaigns for many horror films including, “The Wizard of Gore”, “Cold Storage”, “Friday the 13th Part Vlll”, “Blackout”, “Close Your Eyes” and “Freddy’s Dead” all of which can be seen at www.michaelkurthy.com

 

Sheri Candler

October 24th, 2013

Posted In: Marketing, Publicity, Trailers, Uncategorized

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