Dan Carr – ProVideo Coalition http://www.provideocoalition.com A Moviola Company Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:32:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 http://provideocoalition.moviola.netdna-cdn.com/app/uploads/cropped-Moviola-Favicon-2016-32x32.png Dan Carr – ProVideo Coalition http://www.provideocoalition.com 32 32 Hasselblad H6D – 4k RAW From a Medium Format Sensor http://www.provideocoalition.com/hasselblad-H6D-4k-video http://www.provideocoalition.com/hasselblad-H6D-4k-video#respond Fri, 08 Apr 2016 08:02:05 +0000 http://www.provideocoalition.com/?p=30748 Hasselblad unveiled the H6D-100c 100mp medium format camera today and it’s the first camera from the company to feature video recording functionality, more specifically, 4k RAW recording from the full width of its giant sensor.  A full frame medium format sensor such as the one in the H6D-100c measures 53.4 × 40.0mm, where RED’s WEAPON 8k

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Hasselblad unveiled the H6D-100c 100mp medium format camera today and it’s the first camera from the company to feature video recording functionality, more specifically, 4k RAW recording from the full width of its giant sensor.  A full frame medium format sensor such as the one in the H6D-100c measures 53.4 × 40.0mm, where RED’s WEAPON 8k sensor measures 40.96mm x 21.6mm and a standard full frame 35mm sensor is 36mm x 24mm for comparison.

Since medium format is usually a realm reserved for stills photography, I made this quick diagram to underline the incredible size of this new CMOS sensor.

hasselblad-h6d-sensor-size-medium-format

A medium format sensor is capable of delivering a very unique look so it’ll be interesting to see how people put this to use.  My gut feeling is that the video features will see the most usage from photographers who are looking to pull still frames from it.  Priced at roughly $32,000, it’s an expensive camera for one that will clearly have many limitations, since its primary usage is undoubtedly stills photography.

Key Video Specifications

There’s still a few unknowns about the video capabilities of this camera, but what we do know is this:

  • Clean HDMI output is available, but the signal is only HD
  • 16bit 4K UHD RAW is only available on the H6D-100c, not the cheaper 50-megapixel H6D-50c
  • HD RAW is only available on the H6D-100c, not the cheaper H6D-50c
  • H.264 is available in HD only
  • The camera uses SD and CFast, whilst not specifically mentioned, it’s assumed that the CFast slot would be needed for the 4k RAW
  • Hasselblad’s Phocus 3.0 software will convert their proprietary RAW format into Apple ProRes.
  • 3.5mm Audio input is included
  • Headphone output is included
  • Frame rate is listed as 30fps.  No word on 24/25…
  • Claimed 15-Stops of dynamic range
  • Sensor design is almost certainly SONY, and the same one used in the 100MP Phase One XF camera.

Major Discounts On 50mp H5D

The introduction of the H6D has seen the price of its predecessor, the H5D, fall dramatically.  The H5D doesn’t have video capabilities, but the $14,000 discount should raise some eyebrows amongst those that also include stills work in their routine.  The H5D-50c is a 50mp camera, the first Hasselblad to feature a CMOS sensor, and whilst I rarely use the work bargain for a camera that costs $14,500, this does in fact seem like one! An amazing camera for almost exactly 50% off.

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G-Drive ev ATC Review http://www.provideocoalition.com/g-drive-ev-atc-review/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/g-drive-ev-atc-review/#respond Tue, 05 May 2015 00:01:00 +0000 G-Tech’s new Rugged hard drive lineup includes several different models to offer varying protection, and integration with their existing Evolution Series drives and dock.  Dan tested out the G-Drive ev ATC to see how it stood up to the elements. Earlier this year, G-Tech unveiled a new lineup of ruggedized hard drives that are designed

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G-Tech’s new Rugged hard drive lineup includes several different models to offer varying protection, and integration with their existing Evolution Series drives and dock.  Dan tested out the G-Drive ev ATC to see how it stood up to the elements.

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Earlier this year, G-Tech unveiled a new lineup of ruggedized hard drives that are designed to offer various levels of protection to your drives in the field.  The new drives are part of G-Tech’s Evolution Series, which means that they are able to be inserted into the already-available G-Dock ev to create a simplified workflow when returning to your office after a shoot.   The new G-Drive ev RaW takes the G-Drive ev that was already available, and puts it into a plastic casing to reduce 35% of the weight when compared to its metal predecessor.  Then the whole thing is wrapped in a removable blue rubber bumper to increase the drop rating from 1.2m to 1.5m.

 

The second rugged option is called the G-Drive ev ATC, which is available with either a Thunderbolt connection or a USB3 connection.  The ATC is a 2-part product, with the same plastic-cased ev RaW drive being inserted into a tough outer shell that has a built-in cable.  Since the ev RaW drive has a USB3 connection on it already, even if you purchase the Thunderbolt version of the ATC, you still have a backup USB3 connection option if you just take the drive out of the hard ATC casing.  I’m a big fan of drives that have built-in cables because since it gives you one less thing to worry about when it comes time to pack for a shoot.  I’ve left cables behind before, but that’s a thing of the past now with companies like LaCie, Western Digital and now G-Tech all offering drives with captive cables.  On drives that are designed for in-the-field use, it makes a ton of sense.  Some people have commented to me, “what if the cable malfunctions in some way?”.  To this, my answer is that I have forgotten more cables than I have ever had cables break on me. In the case of this ATC drive, you always have the backup option to use the USB3 port on the actual ev RaW drive inside the case, so it’s not something I’m ever going to worry about.

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The G-Tech G-Drive ev ATC (who comes up with these names?!) is rated for drops up to 2m and also drops into water “of 1ft for 30 secs”.  I suspect these 2m drop figures are quite conservative because the ATC case is built like a tank.  To test water resistance, I first gently submerged the ATC in a sink full of water and left it there for some time. No water leaked in during that simple test.  I wanted to find the limits though so I took the ATC to a lake and started dropping it from various heights and generally being a bit rougher with it.  Some water did leak into the case at this point, so when it comes to resilience to liquid, I’d take G-Tech’s word and not exceed a 1ft drop for 30 seconds of water time.  In other words, the ev ATC will save you from an accidental drop into water, but it’s not something that you could deliberately submerge and reasonably expect to have working afterwards.  Since the Thunderbolt plug has only a basic rubber cap over it, this doesn’t keep it fully dry during a submersion either, so you’d want to watch out for possible corrosion of the terminals if you did keep getting it wet.

 

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G-Drive ev RaW

 

What is puzzling to me is why G-Tech are not offering the aforementioned G-Dock ev without any drives in it.  This is a pretty big deal for me, in fact it might have been a deal breaker as I sat playing with the ATC drive and mulling over a change in drive systems for my workflow.  It’s all very well offering these new ev RaW and ev ATC drives for location photographers and videographers, but if I want to take full advantage of the full Evolution Series environment, I’m forced into purchasing two of the regular metal cased ev drives that come with the dock.  I don’t want them!  I want the dock for when I’m in the office and I want to buy several ev RaWs and ATCs for use in the field.  With the dock + 2 regular EV drives coming in at $650, and single ev drives coming in at $150 each, it means I’m spending an unnecessary extra $300.  Some of that annoyance might be negated if they start selling the ATC cases on their own, or the RaW rubber case on its own.  Then, at least, I could take the regular metal ev drives into the field with me, albeit in the 35% heavier metal casing.  It has been suggested that the ATC case will be available on its own, but no indication yet as to when that might be.  Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that the rubber bumper of the ev RaW will be available as a separate purchase and I think that’s a mistake to not offer that option to existing owners of ev drives, or people that are forced to purchase them because they come with the ev Dock.

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Another limitation of the Evolution Series environment is that the G-Drive ev, ev RaW and ev ATC all top out at 1TB in size.  A 2TB ev 220 is available, but the drive is thicker and not compatible with the RaW rubber bumper or the ATC case.  The ev 220 appears to actually be 2x1TB drives in a hardware RAID 1 stripe.  This offers the speed boost of a stripe (up to 220MB/s claimed), but it’s a real shame you can’t have that as a rugged drive.  My current setup sees me using the 2TB LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt drives and I do appreciate the 2TB size sometimes.

 

At this point, we might as well make a closer comparison to the LaCie Rugged drives because it is the obvious other option for people looking for in-the-field drive protection.  I’ve personally used the LaCie Rugged drives my whole career, so I’m pretty familiar with them, and confident in their abilities to protect my drives in the sort of environments I travel to.  LaCie only offer one level of protection; their Rugged drives are metal cases with a thick rubber bumper around the edges.  On the other hand, G-Tech’s new line has two levels of protection as we’ve seen.  The G-Drive ev RaW with the rubber bumper and its plastic casing offers less protection than a LaCie Rugged drive.  The open sata connection on the back of the naked ev drives means it can’t match the IP54 water resistance rating of the LaCie Rugged Drive.  Then we have the G-Drive ev ATC which sits at a protection level above the LaCie Rugged drives.  Both the ATC and the LaCie Rugged are rated for drops of up to 2m, but the ATC drive can also be dropped into water, and from my hands-on experience, feels like a much more solid device than my LaCie drive. The downside of that added protection is the increased size of the drive.  The comparative photos tell the story here; the ATC drive is quite a lot bulkier.

 

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What I’ve always liked about the LaCie Rugged drives in the past is that there isn’t a lot of added bulk for the extra protection that you get.  Whilst I often do find myself in places where their ruggedness can truly be an asset, I also don’t mind using them for day-to-day tasks where I have the protection simply as a safety net.  The ATC case goes beyond this though.  It is a noticeably larger bulk and footprint when I put it in my laptop bag or a pocket.  I found myself wanting to remove the ev RaW drive from the ATC case for much of the time in day-to-day usage.  For ultimate protection, the G-Drive ev ATC would be the best choice, but you must consider whether you truly need that much protection, specifically with regards to the water protection which is the main difference between the LaCie Rugged and the ATC.  If you do not need that added protection, or the workflow benefits of the whole Evolution Series environment, then the LaCie drive might be a better option.  The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is also available in 2TB hard drive size, or a 1TB SSD, neither of which are available in the G-Tech Evolution Series.

 

“But what about the speed?” I can hear you asking…

 

I tested the G-Drive ev ATC using AJA’s system testing tool as I do with all drives.  The drive inside the ATC is a 7200rpm drive, and the drive inside the the LaCie Rugged drive is only a 5400rpm drive, so you’d think this should be a cakewalk for the G-Tech option. Wrong!

 

As I mentioned in my previous review of the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt, not all 5400rpm drives are built the same.  It is still the fastest 5400rpm drive I’ve ever tested and boasts an impressive read/write speed of around 140mb/s.  The G-Drive ev ATC isn’t slow by any means, but the 7200rpm drive was only able to deliver an average read/write of around 130MB/s.  That’s not slow, but it was definitely not as fast as the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt.

 

Price-wise, things are pretty close.  I’ve always considered G-Tech drives to be pricey in the past, but in this instance the options are very reasonable I think.  The ev ATC with Thunderbolt (as tested) comes in at $230, where the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt comes in at $190, both for 1TB versions of course.  Considering the fact that the ATC is a totally seperate case, I think the price difference is to be expected. There’s also an ev ATC with USB3 coming shortly and that one will come in at $180. With the spinning drive speed being the bottleneck for speed, the USB3 ATC won’t be any slower than the Thunderbolt version and you could definitely argue that the more universal connection of USB3 is a useful thing, and a must if you’re a PC user.

 

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If you just want the protection offered by the rubber bumper of the ev RaW, the 1TB drives only cost $129, which is really something of a bargain.  Definitely not something I ever thought I’d say about a G-Tech product!  This will still get you the same drive, and therefore the same 130MB/s read/write speed.  

 

Ultimately, when it comes to G-Tech Rugged Vs. LaCie Rugged, it’s going to come down to how rugged you need your drive, or whether you need a 2TB size.  The ATC offers heavier protection, and really, the drive speed difference is pretty negligible and not something that would affect my decision either way.  Potentially the big win for G-Tech is the overall Evolution Series workflow environment.  If you’re already a G-Dock owner, it’s a no-brainer to stick with the G-Tech options for your location work, I just wish they had a 2TB ATC option and an option to buy the G-Dock without the drives in it.

 

A good test with a review like this is whether I’m left wanting to buy the product at the end of it.  I have to say that even after 10 years of using LaCie Rugged Drives, I do like the idea of these new options, when considered along with the use of the G-Dock as an office docking station.  Had there been 2TB ev ATC options, and the option of an empty G-Dock, I’d probably have pulled the trigger right away.  As it is, I’m going to think a little longer since it’s not long since I purchased my 2TB LaCie Rugged, but it’s a definite maybe…

 

 

 

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Miller Air Carbon Fiber Tripod System Review http://www.provideocoalition.com/miller-air-carbon-fiber-tripod-system-review/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/miller-air-carbon-fiber-tripod-system-review/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 21:20:00 +0000 The Air Tripod System Range is comprised of the Air Alloy and Air Carbon Fiber and both feature the same Air Fluid Head.  The Air Tripod System is billed as a lightweight and affordable option for DSLR users, though a Canon C100 MKII or similar would be quite at home as well with a maximum

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The Air Tripod System Range is comprised of the Air Alloy and Air Carbon Fiber and both feature the same Air Fluid Head.  The Air Tripod System is billed as a lightweight and affordable option for DSLR users, though a Canon C100 MKII or similar would be quite at home as well with a maximum payload of 11lbs.  In the extensive Miller lineup, the Air Series sits beneath the Compass Series and the price differential is quite considerable.  The Air Alloy retails for around $950 with the Air Carbon Fiber coming in around the very reasonable $1200 mark.  The Compass Series can handle larger payloads (up to 22lbs) but the price for the base model is around $1900, so you can see why Miller was keen to introduce something to the lineup that was priced more aggressively for the DSLR crowd.  Given that the Air Fluid Head is indeed a true fluid head, you can’t really fault the price of the system at all. 

Specifications

 

Air Carbon Fiber

  • Max Height: 1751 mm (68.9 in)
  • Min Height: 371 mm (14.6 in)
  • Payload Capacity: 5.00 kg (11 lbs)
  • Payload Range: 2-5 kg
  • Transport Length: 831 mm (32.7 in)
  • Weight: 4.50 kg (9.9 lbs)

Air Alloy

  • Max Height: 1762 mm (69.4 in)
  • Min Height: 371 mm (14.6 in)
  • Payload Capacity: 5.00 kg (11 lbs)
  • Payload Range: 2-5 kg
  • Transport Length: 837 mm (33 in)
  • Weight: 4.90 kg (10.8 lbs)

Air Fluid Head (75mm)

  • Counter Balance: 2 positions
  • Tilt Range: +90° / -75°
  • Sliding Range: 60mm
  • Height Above Bowl: 137 mm (5.4 in)

 

First Impressions

When Miller sent me this review unit to test out, I actually didn’t look up the details of it until after I’d unpacked it and played with it for some time.  It was an interesting blind test because I wasn’t sure about the price of the system at all.  Unboxing the unit, I was at first thrown off a bit by the cheap case it came in.  I wouldn’t trust the zipper on that thing for very long at all.  Then I got to the tripod inside the case though and after a few minutes of playing with the sturdy legs and head, I was convinced this was a much more expensive system.  Build quality on the carbon legs was excellent, and the twist lock system was as good as any other tripod I’d used, including my own one from Really Right Stuff who are known for their quality.  The legs feel quite chunky for a system that’s only rated to 11lbs, so it might not be my first choice if I was climbing a mountain, but overall, first impressions were very good.  When I finally got round to looking the current price up on a couple of online stores, I was very impressed.  One thing that I fell in love with right away was the excellent air-cell padded shoulder strap.  I’m going to be looking to see if I can fit one of those to my own set of legs!  Extremely comfortable.

 

In Use

The Air System tripods rubber feet which screw upwards to reveal built-in spikes.  Whilst it is nice to not have to carry separate spikes around, I did have a couple of issues with this design.  Firstly, as you can see from the photo below, the design creates a perfect pocket on the bottom of each leg which fills with dirt or snow if you ever happen to be shooting in those situations.  Invariably this little collection of outside substances stays in place until you get into your car, or return to your office, at which point it deposits itself where you least want it to.  Having a threaded foot right on the bottom of the legs also meant that the thread itself was instantly contaminated with dirt on its first outing.  Every subsequent change from rubber foot, to metal spike, was accompanied by that horrible sound of grinding grit in metal threads. 

The thread begins almost immediately, meaning it gets contaminated with dirt in the first outing

Dirt can get easily trapped in the base of the foot

 

The rest of the legs were trouble free though and 2-stage design gives a generous maximum height.  With no spreader, the design is flexible and extremely low angles are possible, limited only by the protrusion of the levelling head handle.  Although these kinds of leg designs are a little less stable than a “traditional” video tripod, I prefer them for their ease of setup on uneven ground. 

The Air Fluid Head sits on a 75mm ball that does the trick without much to write home about.  The head itself has a 2-stage counterbalance and along with a 60mm sliding distance on the quick release plate, I was able to easily balance my Canon 7D Mark II with a wide range of Canon EF lenses.  Certainly this can be tricky with larger heads that have a much higher minimum balance weight but this was a breeze.  One real head-scratcher for me though was the positioning and design of the quick release plate lock.  On the right-hand side of the plate is a locking lever that protrudes above the top level of the plate itself.  The result is, as you can see, that it can come into contact with the underside of the camera in certain positions.  Given that the package is designed for DSLRs, which are often used low down and directly on tripod plates, this seems like a poor choice.  To make matters worse, the lever doesn’t feature any kind of spring-loaded repositioning so you can’t change it’s position at all.  You end up having to slide the camera forward or aft to let it clear the lever while you tighten it, then push it back into place and hope the last few degrees of tightening can happen unobstructed. It’s also possible for the same lever to foul against the panning bar clamp as well.  Prolonged use of this setup would definitely have required me to rig up some sort of quick release system on top of the tripod’s own plate system.  It’s not a huge deal since I usually mount Arca-Swiss compatible QR clamps on heads for my DSLRs anyway, but it does seem like an unnecessary oversight in the design that took me all over two minutes to discover.

Locking lever contacting the camera base

Once the camera is mounted to the head though, it’s a joy to use.  I think many DSLR users are used to using cheaper heads like the Bridge design ones from Manfrotto, myself included.  The Miller Air Fluid Head was much smoother though when I compared it alongside my Manfrotto 500 series head.  The panning lock feels a bit flimsy, and is oddly positioned on the front where you can’t see it, but it does the trick and the overall feel of the metal head is solid.  Miller informs me that all of their heads feature the panning lock on the front so that the operator can use it without taking their eye off the subject.  I see some logic in that for larger cameras where the operator has their eye against an EVF/OVF, but for smaller DSLR setups I think it’s more usual to be using the screen on the back of the camera, or a small HDMI monitor, in which case, to me, the lock felt a bit awkward to be placed on the front.  Despite being aimed at the lower end of the market though, it feels like a head that’s going to last you a very long time and Miller’s expertise in fluid head manufacturing certainly shines through the couple of small, odd usability issues.

The Air head is only available as a package with either the Air Alloy legs or Air Carbon legs and I like the dependable simplicity of the setup as a whole.  Buying a head/tripod package saves you from decision fatigue caused by endless comparisons of this tripod Vs. that head, and it also saves you a bit of money as well.  Add a different quick release clamp onto the top plate and you’ve got a killer DSLR setup.    

Panning lock on the front

Pros & Cons

Pros

 

  • Excellent value for money
  • Counterbalance works well for small DSLR setups
  • Low level shooting
  • Padded tripod legs
  • Excellent shoulder strap included
  • Very smooth motion for a “budget” fluid head

Cons

  • Travel case feels very cheap
  • Plate lock knob is not repositionable and can foul on the panning arm and camera base
  • Foot design collects dirt easily
  • Panning lock lever poorly positioned

Conclusion

The size of the tripod is a perfect partner for a DSLR

When I sit down to write a conclusion, the simple two-part question I always ask myself is whether I would buy it myself, and most importantly, would I be disappointed if I’d done so?  I enjoyed using the Air Tripod and despite being let down by the various oddities of the head’s top design, thankfully the price point and the head’s smooth motion more than make up for that.  If I’d forked over $1200 of my own money for this, I’d be very happy with it after I’d made a few modifications to how I mount my camera to the plate.  It’s not the lightest set of carbon legs on the market, my own Really Right Stuff legs are considerably lighter and rated for much more weight, but it’s really the price of the system as a whole that makes this stand out to me.  Sachtler’s Ace L head/tripod combination is roughly similar in price and specification, but whilst the Sachtler legs appear to be lighter, the Miller Air Fluid Head feels much better than the Sachtler Ace L in my opinion.  The simpler design of the Miller head also gives it a considerably more solid feel.  In conclusion, it’s not perfect, but the issues are minor enough that they are easily overshadowed by the excellent value for money.  A solidly professional feel at a price that fits the budget of people building out a kit based around a DSLR.

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Codex Multi-Camera Recorder http://www.provideocoalition.com/codex-multi-camera-recorder/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/codex-multi-camera-recorder/#respond Fri, 27 Feb 2015 21:17:00 +0000   Alongside the launch of the exciting looking ARRI ALEXA Mini a few days ago, long-time ARRI partner Codex, revealed a new multi-camera recorder.  The recorder features 8 HD-SDI inputs meaning that up to 4 simulatneous ARRIRAW streams can be recorded with a total frame rate of 360fps.  This could mean 4x90fps streams or any

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Alongside the launch of the exciting looking ARRI ALEXA Mini a few days ago, long-time ARRI partner Codex, revealed a new multi-camera recorder.  The recorder features 8 HD-SDI inputs meaning that up to 4 simulatneous ARRIRAW streams can be recorded with a total frame rate of 360fps.  This could mean 4x90fps streams or any other combination that totals up to 360fps in 16:9 mode.  Further details such as pricing and availability have not yet been announced, neither have 4:3 frame rates, but this looks like it could be a really cool, simple solution for multi-cam shoots.  Imagine rigging a car up with multiple ALEXA Minis and then recording them all into one small box! There's nothing to say that you can't use this with other cameras as well, and with a regular HD stream you should be able to use all 8 inputs independantly.  What's also interesting is the seemingly modular design of the recorder.  As you can see in the photo below, the interface is removable, which suggests that at some point there might be further options available?  We'll have to wait a little longer to find out…

The Codex Multi-Camera Recorder works with both Codex Capture Drive and Codex Capture Drive 2.0 which allows up to 20Gb/s bandwidth!

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Studio Binder – Call Sheets Simplified http://www.provideocoalition.com/studio-binder-call-sheets-simplified/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/studio-binder-call-sheets-simplified/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 22:46:00 +0000   Studio Binder is a new cloud-based production tool that's looking to simplify the call time process for cast and crew.  The service lets you store projects and cast/crew information in the cloud, delivering a simple interface to schedule call times to all members of your team via text message or e-mail.  You can include

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Studio Binder is a new cloud-based production tool that's looking to simplify the call time process for cast and crew.  The service lets you store projects and cast/crew information in the cloud, delivering a simple interface to schedule call times to all members of your team via text message or e-mail.  You can include personal messages to individual members, as well as checking in on those who have confirmed their call time to make sure you don't end up being short on the day.  Studio Binder is tackling a process that should be simple, but strangely hasn't been up to this point.  I've seen PDF email attachments used in the past, and I've also seen shared Google spreadsheets.  Neither of those solutions are particularly elegant, and they both lack several features that Studio Binder can deliver, like confirmations and reminders.  Not only is this a simpler solution for crew and cast members, but it also gives producers quick access to all the relvant information about everyone on set.  If your wardrobe department needs to manage a large number of people then they also get quick access to information about everyone who will be on set for each particular day of shooting.  Even your catering department can get in on the act by checking for particular dietry requirements for people on set that day.

I love the clean and clear design of this app, offering just what is needed and nothing more.  Basic scheduling with Studio Binder will be free, with some other features saved for the premium version.  We don't yet know the price of the premium version, or exaclty which features will be a part of it, but I think it would be safe to say that the ability to send call times as text messages would have to be part of the premium model.  

A lot of my work doesn't involve a huge cast or crew, but it's for exactly that reason that I've bookmarked Studio Binder.  I don't want a hugely expensive piece of production management software, it's simply not practical for my freelance style of work.  Every now and again I do have 10+ people to worry about for a shoot and when those occasions present themselves, it looks like Studio Binder will be a great solution.

Studio Binder isn't quite ready for publick consumption yet, but head over to their website and leave them your email address and they'll notify you as soon as it launches.  I'm really interested to see how the pricing models work when that information is revealed!

Watch The Promo Video –>>

 

 

 

 

 

Quickly view crew profiles

 

View confirmations and add personal notes and reminders to individual crew members

 

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Have I Finally Perfected My Backup Strategy? http://www.provideocoalition.com/backup-strategy-for-video-professionals/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/backup-strategy-for-video-professionals/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:18:00 +0000 Like many people, I’ve struggled over the years to find the perfect backup solution for all of my digital content.  As file sizes creep ever upwards, it’s been a permanent upgrade process that’s often caused more than its fair share of headaches.  All drives will fail at some point, it’s an absolute certainty.  The only

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Like many people, I’ve struggled over the years to find the perfect backup solution for all of my digital content.  As file sizes creep ever upwards, it’s been a permanent upgrade process that’s often caused more than its fair share of headaches.  All drives will fail at some point, it’s an absolute certainty.  The only questions are when will it happen, and will it affect your business when it does?  You can’t answer that first question, but with some careful planning, you can make sure the answer to the second one is no.

Looking back on 2014, it’s the first time that I haven’t had to make any sweeping changes to my backup routine.  I think I’ve finally found the perfect solution so I thought I would share it with you guys, and talk about some of the ups and downs that have lead me to my setup.  I will talk specifics when it comes to various hard drive models, but in reality it’s more the process that’s important, and the lessons I have learned along the way.  You could substitute other drives into my setup and much of it would work in just the same way.

My love/hate/love again relationship with Drobo

When the very first 4-bay Drobos came out, it seemed like a perfect solution for a small creative freelancer.  The ability to add drives on the fly, without them needing to be of the same size or brand, was very appealing.  My first Drobo purchase cleared my desk of the familiar rats nest of cables and external drives and for a short while I was happy.  The Drobo gives your files redundancy with their version of RAID, and the whole thing seemed to be very simple, if a little on the slow side back then with firewire.  And then things started to go wrong… This was quite some time ago now and I must confess to no longer remembering the specifics of the issues, but they were plentiful and included things like needing to change power supplies seemingly endlessly, and my Drobo falling into a continuous loop of restarting. To Drobo’s immense credit, their customer service was always top-notch and after a string of issues, my 1st gen Drobo was replaced with a second generation one for no charge.  Sadly I continued to have issues and at some point in this whole process a Drobo completely failed on me.  This is where I learned my first big lesson when it comes to hard drives and RAID type systems.  Whilst your files are redundantly protected on the drives, if the actual unit fails, the box that you put the drives into, you don’t have access to your files until you can get your hands on another unit!  It seems obvious to me now, but until it happened, I didn’t appreciate what an effect this can have on your business if it happens at an inopportune moment.  I live in a fairly remote place, I can’t just pop to the store to buy another Drobo.  Nor would I really want to when they don’t come cheap and I’m within my warranty period anyway. 

A period time passed where all I had was the drives from the Drobo while they shipped me a replacement.  No data should be lost when swapping the drives to a new unit, but your mind sure doesn’t settle when you just see a pile of naked drives on your desk and not a happy little Drobo covered in green lights!  Eventually Drobo swapped out my 2nd Gen unit for the newer 5-bay Drobo S and I went and purchased a second one.  Not because I needed more drive space, but so that I could make a copy of the first Drobo.  I looked at various other options out there, but the Drobos still worked out to be the most cost effective solution for the amount of storage space that I needed.  With a second unit on my desk that was a perfect copy of the first unit, if one of the units died again, I would not have that period of time where I was awaiting replacement.  I now had my files stored redundantly, twice. I purchased a piece of software called Carbon Copy Cloner which gives you incredible control over drive cloning activities, and since then, Drobo 1 has been mirrored to Drobo 2 every night while I’m asleep.  I was starting to hone in on the perfect setup…

Over the years, I’ve had a few drive failures of the drives in the Drobos.  I keep a couple of spare drives in the office and if it happens, you just pull the dead drive out and slot in the new one.  I used the WD Caviar Green drives and I don’t think I had an abnormal number of failures.  It’s pretty much impossible to pick drives based on online reviews since the review scores always get skewed negatively by angry people.  When was the last time you bothered to leave a review of something that just anonymously worked perfectly in the background for years and years?  I settled on always using the WD drives simply to prevent decision fatigue and keep things easy.  By this time I was on my third generation of Drobo but I continued to have sporadic issues of various types.  They released a new Drobo called the 5D, the first to have a Thunderbolt connection, and after more conversations with their support team I was sent a pair of 5Ds for testing.  Understandably, at this point I was a little jaded, but the head of the company even called me up to talk about it and explain some of the sweeping changes that were made in creating the 5D.  Whilst it looked the same on the outside as the S version, it was an entirely different machine.  I agreed to run the 5D alongside my S for a while to “torture test” them and if they survived everything I threw at them, I’d give them a shot.

For a couple of months I put data on them, pulled drives out of them randomly, turned the power off while copying files and generally threw everything I could at the new 5Ds.  They passed with flying colours.  I couldn’t break them, I couldn’t even trip them up.  It was, as I had been told, like a different machine.

In the end, I’m really glad that I stuck with it.  Since that point, I’ve been immensely happy with the Drobo 5D and I regularly recommend them to people now.  It took them several years, and a few iterations to get there, but these are now excellent storage devices in my opinion.  I use them as my main media archives and Carbon Copy Cloner takes care of mirroring the two of them to provide me with double redundancy just in case one of the units ever fails.

Time Machine – Useful but not perfect

The Drobos take care of my media archive but there’s obviously a ton of important files on the computer as well.  I can only really speak to this next part from a Mac perspective, but even if you are a PC user, please read on because I also learnt an important lesson here as well.

I use a 4GB G-Tech GDrive as my Time Machine backup that’s plugged into my iMac.  Time Machine is a simple system and it’s saved my ass on more than one occasion where I’ve accidentally deleted an important document.  It’s pretty much a set-and-forget system but use it long enough and it’ll probably save you at some point.  My iMac is set up to boot the operating system and programs from a fast SSD, with an internal 4GB drive for all my everyday documents.  Time Machine takes care of backing up both of those drives and for the longest time, I thought this was a near perfect solution…

 

One day I got to my computer to find that the SSD boot drive had failed on me.  Let that be a warning to anyone that thinks an SSD is infallible because it doesn’t contain the moving parts of an HDD. Wrong!  My Time Machine drive had backups of all the data that used to be on the boot drive, but what was I going to do with it?  I don’t keep a spare $600 SSD lying around the office, and the dead drive was within warranty so I hardly wanted to purchase one from a store. The problem is that a Time Machine backup can restore data to another drive, but it is not bootable itself.  You can’t simply turn on your system and run it from the TM backup.  With a ton of work to do, and no computer to do it with, I’d learnt another lesson.  The warranty SSD replacement was going to take 10 days to get to me!

At this point I added another piece to my backup puzzle and it was Carbon Copy Cloner that quickly provided the solution.  CCC can create a bootable copy of a drive, complete with the recovery partition. After replacing my SSD boot drive I added another G-Tech GDrive to the office that CCC mirrors my boot drive to every night after it has finished mirroring the pair of Drobos.  If my boot drive ever fails again, I can simply boot the computer from this clone and be back up and running in two minutes as if nothing had ever happened.  Assuming you’ve had Time Machine running as well, you won’t even lose any documents that you created between the previous nights clone of the boot drive, and the time at which the boot drive failed.  To some people this might seem like a pretty over-the-top step, but imagine if your boot drive went down on a day where you are on a crazy deadline and charging your client a price in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for your work? 

Learn from my mistakes and misfortunes!  Always have a bootable copy of your computer files.  Call it bad luck, or maybe poor choice in SSD, but I actually had a second failure of my SSD boot drive in 2014.  Thanks to my system, I was back online in a few minutes and working off the bootable backup created by Carbon Copy Cloner.

Files in the cloud

This year also marked the start of my expansion into the cloud, specifically by using Google Apps and Google Drive for Work.  I began the year on a $1.99/month Google Drive plan that gave me 100GB of cloud storage but when the Drive for Work was launched with it’s unlimited plan for only $10/month per user, it seemed too good to pass up.  I quickly migrated all of my business documents to Drive and since they also remain on your computer, these get backed up by Time Machine and Carbon Copy cloner as well.  Backup in triplicate, with the added bonus of having the files available via the cloud from any other device I’m using.  Whilst the cloud space is unlimited in theory, upload speed prevent it being a useable offsite backup solution for large media files, but it’s still proven extremely useful to me.

Cloud + Carbon Copy Cloner

A neat little trick I developed is to use Google Drive and Carbon Copy Cloner together to sync system files between machines automatically.  Syncing files on Drive is no problem, but it will only sync files that are in your Drive folder.  What if you want to sync system files that are buried deep in other folders?  One such example is my font files.  I want to have the same fonts on all my machines so that they are available in Adobe programs like Photoshop and Premiere. The beauty of Carbon Copy Cloner is that you don’t have to clone entire drives, you can just select specific folders.  Overnight, my system font folder is cloned to Google Drive.  On my laptop I have another copy of CCC which clones the font folder within the Drive folder, over into the system font folder.  I always have the same fonts available on both computers, and I have cloud access to them if I need to load them onto additional machines.  I use the same technique to sync preference files, actions and presets as well!

Offsite backup

It’s important to have an offsite backup of all of your data to protect from flood, fire, and theft.  This year Google Drive was responsible for offsite backup of all my business documents and personal files, but that still leaves the media files.  This is always a tricky thing to deal with, especially with the size of 4k video files these days.  For most people, some form of automated cloud backup isn’t really an option due to limitation in upload speeds.  Certainly where I live in Canada, I can get some stellar download speeds, but faster upload speeds require an upgrade to insanely expensive plans.  Everything we’ve talked about so far happens totally automatically, but my offsite media file backups are still done the old(er) fashioned way with a Pelican case full of hard drives.  After every big job, I grab the case from its off site location and transfer files to one of the drives in the case.  I don’t use fancy drives for this, just naked drives that I put in a drive toaster on my desk.  Occasionally I’ll spin up all the drives in the case just to make sure they are working.

How do you handle your offsite backups?  I’d love to hear your solutions in the comment section because this is definitely the weakest area in my setup.

Backup plan summary

  • Media files are stored on a Drobo 5D and that Drobo is cloned to a second Drobo every night to provide both double redundancy in the files and also redundancy in the hardware.
  • Both internal drives from my iMac are backup up continuously with Time Machine to a 4TB G-Tech GDrive.
  • The iMac’s boot drive is also cloned nightly by Carbon Copy Cloner onto another G-Tech GDrive which is bootable.
  • All of my documents (personal & business) from the iMac are stored within the Google Drive folder so these are synced automatically to the cloud continuously.  This then causes them to be downloaded to my laptop as well when that gets turned on.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner also runs various other nightly tasks to copy important system files onto Google Drive so that they can be easily synced to my laptop as well.
  • Offsite backups are handled the old-fashioned way, with a Pelican case full of drives since this is, at the moment, the most cost effective way that I can think to do it.

A note on laptop backup

All documents on my laptop reside within the Google Drive Folder in a “Laptop” subfolder.  That takes care of backup and syncing for them, although I do also travel with a LaCie Rugged Drive that acts as my Laptop Time Machine. As for media files on the road… that’s an ever changing process depending on the size of the job, although I am very interested to check out the new LaCie Rugged RAID drives.  The downside of a built in RAID system like that is that you can’t split the drives up during transit.  At the moment I tend to use two identical drives (Carbon Copy Cloner to the rescue again!) and keep one on me at all times, while the other travels in my suitcase.  If I lose a drive or get robbed, I’ve always got the copy in my suitcase, or if the airline loses my bags then I’ve got my copy.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I feel like I’ve finally got this pretty much figured out.  I wish I had a slightly better solution for offsite backup, but I also have to maintain a realistic budget for all of this so I’m willing to put in a bit of leg work in that area at the moment.  Whether you use Drobos or some other similar RAID box, there’s definitely a few lessons I’ve learnt here that I hope can save you guys a few headaches.  If you’ve got some different processes in place that you are proud of, let’s hear about them in the comments below!

 

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15 Free Logos For Your Production Industry Business http://www.provideocoalition.com/15-free-logos-for-your-production-industry-business/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/15-free-logos-for-your-production-industry-business/#respond Wed, 31 Dec 2014 03:56:10 +0000 So you’ve decided that the freelance lifestyle is for you and you’ve got a website online to show off your skills.  Getting your business branding on point should be one of your next goals but when you first start out, it’s not always possible to fork over a ton of money for a graphic designer

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So you’ve decided that the freelance lifestyle is for you and you’ve got a website online to show off your skills.  Getting your business branding on point should be one of your next goals but when you first start out, it’s not always possible to fork over a ton of money for a graphic designer to come up with a logo.  You could try using design contest sites like 99 Designs, but sometimes the simple options are a great place to start.  I’ve put together a selection of simple, elegant font-based logo designs that you guys can download for free and of course edit to change the name.  All the logos use either standard fonts that come with your operating system, or use fonts that are free to download.

Installing & Editing

You will need Adobe Photoshop to edit these logos, but if you don’t already have a subscription to Creative Cloud, you could simply subscribe to the Photography plan for one month at $9.99 and then unsubscribe once you’ve edited your logo!

Step 1. Download the logo pack at this link HERE.

Step 2. Refer to the list below to see which font you will need to download.  I’ve purposely used fonts that are available for free, but you will need to install the relevant font for the logo you are choosing.

Step 3. Font Installation

Mac Users: Open Finder, hold down the ‘Option’ key on your keyboard and click ‘GO’ in the menu at the top of the screen.  In the drop-down menu, click ‘Library’.  Then find the folder labelled ‘Fonts’ and copy the font file into that folder.  You can create a sub-folder for it as well in there if you’d like to keep things organized.  Placing the font in this folder will make it available to all programs.

PC Users: With Windows being a little more fragmented, there’s slightly different instructions depending on which version you are running.  Refer to this guide HERE if you aren’t sure how to do it.

Installation on either a Mac or a PC takes just a few seconds once you know where to drag the files!

Logo Downloads

Download The PSD Files HERE

 

 

Logos

#1

Channel font: Download

SalaryMan font: Download

 

#2

Josephine Sans Regular font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide font: Download

 

#3

Ostrich Sans bold font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide font: Download

 

#4

Limelight font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide Normal font: Download

 

#5

Raleway font: Download

Quicksand Light font: Download

 

#6

Alex Brush regular font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide light font: Download

 

#7

Alfa Slab font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide book font: Download

 

#8

Metropolis font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide light font: Download

 

#9

Valentina font: Download

 

#10

Masterics font: Download

SalaryMan regular font: Download

 

 

#11

Perforama Regular font: Download

Roboto Condensed font: Download

 

#12

Asenine font: Download

Raleway thin font: Download

 

#13

Josephine Sans Bold font: Download

Novacento Sans Wide light font: Download

 

 

#14

DB Kusukusu font: Download

Josephine Sans Regular font: Download

 

#15

Gabriela font: Download

Quicksand Light font: Download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WordPress For Video Professionals http://www.provideocoalition.com/wordpress-for-video-professionals/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/wordpress-for-video-professionals/#respond Sun, 30 Nov 2014 15:10:19 +0000 This article is intended to be great starting point for someone who’s looking to either improve their existing website, or start their first one.  I’ve split it into four distinct sections: –>> Part 1: Introduction – Why WordPress? –>> Part 2: How to start a WordPress website in 5 minutes –>> Part 3: 11 top

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This article is intended to be great starting point for someone who’s looking to either improve their existing website, or start their first one. 

I’ve split it into four distinct sections:

–>> Part 1: Introduction – Why WordPress?

–>> Part 2: How to start a WordPress website in 5 minutes

–>> Part 3: 11 top WordPress themes for video professionals

–>> Part 4: Best WordPress video gallery plugins

Why WordPress?

WordPress started off as a blogging platform but in recent years it has morphed into one of the most powerful content management platforms that you can use.  The huge number of users has spawned a billion dollar industry creating themes and plugins to expand its functionality and this has, in turn, driven WordPress’ own developers to push forwards and continue to add more power and functionality to the core.  WordPress is no longer just a way to start a blog; you can build an incredible portfolio website to showcase your skills.  What’s more, you can do it in almost no time at all and for next to no money.  In fact I’m going to show you how you can have a WordPress site up and running in only 5-10 minutes!

Blog Benefits

Whilst you don’t need a desire to blog to have a WordPress site anymore, I do still recommend it for several reasons.  The first major reason is for the huge search engine optimization boost that you get from it.  Whenever we talk about SEO it’s always good to remember the fundamental truth; Google is a business.  Google’s business model is to get people to use Google more often so that they can show them more ads.  This means that they want you to have a good searching experience.  It’s in their interest to serve you results that are not only accurate to your search terms, but also point you to great websites.  Your overall experience with their product will be elevated and you’ll come back for more.  One of the things that Google looks at when ranking a website in search results is how often the site changes.  If you have a stagnant site that never changes then Google will be reluctant to recommend it to anyone in search results, for fear that the information is outdated.  A blog prevents this from happening because Google’s search bots can see that the code on your site is changing regularly as you add more content on a weekly or monthly basis.

The second reason for blogging is simply to get your work out there in front of more people.  The more often you share your latest work, the more chance there is that it’ll cross someone’s screen right at the moment they are needing to hire for that next job.  I can’t begin to emphasize the number of opportunities that have come my way since I started blogging about my work.  In fact, literally as I was sat here writing this article I was invited to go to the Bahamas on a dolphin research vessel next year to photograph a pod that they are working with.  I kid you not!  Incredible as it seems, this came about because I prolifically share my work and travels in several blogs and one of their researchers began to follow me. 

WordPress.org Vs. WordPress.com

There’s two kinds of WordPress sites and it can be a little confusing to begin with.  If you go to WordPress.com, you can start a website for free in just a few clicks.  The catch is that your website’s URL will be of the form: mysite.wordpress.com.  It’s not a professional look so this is something we want to avoid.  WordPress.com sites are also severely limited in their potential functionality compared to the other option, WordPress.org.

WordPress.org sites are what are known as ‘self-hosted’.  The .com and .org sites are run by the same people of course, but WordPress.org is just a site that lets your download all of the core WordPress files and host them on your own website.  You’ll need to register a URL to host your site on, and you’ll also need to pay a monthly or yearly fee for the hosting itself.  I’ll walk you through this in the next section of this article, so don’t worry if you’re not yet sure what this entails.

How To Start A WordPress Website In 5 Minutes

It sounds like a sensationalistic title but it’s absolutely possible to go from having no website at all, to having a hosted WordPress site and your own URL in 5 minutes flat.

The key to this is using a host that allows ‘one-click’ installation of WordPress.  It used to be the case that you’d have to download the core WordPress files yourself and install them on your server.  To many people this was a daunting task!  These days there are a number of web hosts out there that can automate the whole process out there.  I’m going to walk you through the process really quickly with a host called BlueHost.

Step 1. Get your domain name and hosting

If you click through to the BlueHost site from the links on this page you’ll get a free domain registration and 30% off your chosen hosting package.  Use the search function to find a domain that works for you and your business.  I recommend trying to keep it as short as possible and if you can, avoid hyphenating the words or using something that can be commonly misspelled. If the domain is available you’ll be presented with a few up-sell options.  In all honesty, you don’t really need any of them so I tend to un-check the boxes and just go with the domain registration and simple hosting package.


 

Click to view larger

Step 2. Create a password and log into BlueHost

You’ll be asked to create a password for your account at this stage. Please, please do not use a password that you’ve used anywhere else.  And no birthdays either!  Use a site like http://passwordsgenerator.net/ to get a random alphanumeric string.  This is a key security step.

Step 3. Install WordPress with one click

This is really the reason why I recommend first time WordPress users host with Bluehost.  Once you have logged in to your BlueHost account you’ll see a button on the screen that says ‘Go To cPanel’.  This is ‘mission control’ for your website.  In the cPanel menu you want to scroll down to the section that’s called ‘Website Builders’ and click on the WordPress icon.  Then click the ‘Install Now’ button.

Follow the instructions on the next page to create your website’s username and password.  Note that this password is for your website and is different from the one you created for your BlueHost account a couple of minutes ago.  Once you’ve entered the name of your site, you can deselect the suggested plugins as we won’t be needing those. 

Agree to the terms and conditions and then click Complete.  Once the installation process has finished, you’ll be able to log into your website at http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin and use the username and password that you just created in the previous step.

 

 

Step 4. Choose a WordPress Theme

If you don’t already have a specific WordPress theme in mind then you can start by referring to the next section in this article where I’ll recommend 10 excellent themes that work well for video professionals.

Step 5. Install your theme

You’ll need to make sure that you have your purchased theme in .zip format.  Navigate to the ‘appearance’ menu item in the dashboard and click the ‘theme’ sub-menu.  At the top of the screen you’ll see an option to ‘add new’.  Select this, then click the ‘upload’ button. Browse to your .zip file and click ‘install now’. 

Step 6. You’re done!

Since the one-click installation of WordPress is so easy with BlueHost, all that’s left now is to upload your videos and other content to your site. Your theme should come with theme-specific documentation just in case theres anything you can’t figure out.  If you’re going to take things slowly, make sure you get your reel, your contact information and your ‘about’ page online first.  Do not underestimate the importance of a good About page.  Believe it or not, it’s one of the most viewed pages on most portfolio sites.  If you aren’t comfortable writing about yourself, get someone else to do it for you!

Click HERE to view Part 3: Best WordPress Video Themes


WordPress Themes For Video Professionals

In the walkthrough in the previous section I was installing a simple gallery theme called Onesie by Graph Paper Press.  When you get to the theme installation stage, you’ll want to choose one that fits your own needs and for most of you that’s going to need to include a way to display some videos in a prominent fashion.  To save you guys the trouble of trawling the depths of the internet looking for solutions, I’ve prepared a list of 11 great themes that I found that were all designed with ways to display videos in some format.  You don’t have to pick one of these themes though, because there are hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes out there.  If you decide to go with a theme that’s not specifically designed to show a video gallery, then you can add that functionality using one of the suggested plugins that I talk about in the next section!

If the themes I suggest don’t tickle your fancy then I’d definitely suggest taking a look in the WordPress section of Theme Forest.  Theme Forest is a developer marketplace that offers plugins and themes at very low prices.  The customer rating system, as well as sales statistics, make it a pretty easy place to get a feeling for which themes are actually working out well for people.  I’m going to advise against just taking a free theme off the WordPress site itself.  It’s simply not worth the hassle when we’re talking about well under $100 for a great theme.  If you are trying to attract business with your site then you’re going to pay off the setup cost of it with less than one single job so let’s not mess around with the janky, poorly coded free ones.  Agreed?

A note on responsive websites

When looking at WordPress themes and plugins you’ll often come across the word ‘responsive’ these days.  When something is responsive, it means it adapts its design to the display size of the device it’s being viewed on.  So a website that’s viewed on a mobile device usually takes on a much easier to read design.  The percentage of people that view sites on their mobile devices is on the rise and if you were to analyze your own site’s stats you’d probably see that it’s already over 30%.  Non-responsive websites simply aren’t acceptable these days and it won’t be long before they are as frowned upon as those that still use Flash.  In fact just last month, Google announced that they are going to start marking mobile-optimized sites in their search results and actually favouring those sites for SEO ranking.  If you are just now starting your website then you would be foolish for it to not be responsive.  All the options in this list are, but if you decide to go with something else then make sure you check this, and check the demos to see exactly how it behaves on a mobile device.

A note about Graph Paper Press

One of the themes I’m recommending is by a company called Graph Paper Press.  These guys have a huge selection of themes that work great for creative professionals. Because I have a great relationship with them, I’m able to offer a 25% discount on all their themes if you just use the coupon code ‘ShutterMuse’. Shutter Muse is my photography education site, but I might as well share this with you guys here as well just in case any of their themes take your fancy.

Now on to the theme list……….

Divi 2.0 by Elegant Themes

One of the reasons that I wanted to write this article is because I run four different WordPress sites myself and I’ve been using WP for nearly 10 years.  Two of my websites are built on the Divi 2.0 platform by Elegant Themes and I truly believe this is the best WordPress theme in existence right now.  You might be asking, why bother with a list of other options if I’m so strongly recommending this one then?  Well Divi 2.0 leans more towards being a platform than a theme unto itself.  It comes with a very powerful page builder that allows you to construct highly complex pages by simply dragging and dropping specific page elements into a stack.  A couple of examples would be the print sales page on my photography website, or my About page.  It’s not hard to create pages like these if you have a bit of time and some imagination.  You don’t need any web developer skills and that’s the real beauty of Divi 2.0.  Of course you do need the time though and that’s the real kicker.  If you want to be a bit more involved in the final look of your site then Divi is absolutely the best option because it’s infinitely customizable if you give it the time.  If on the other hand you just want to install something and have it up and running in 5 minutes, then one of the other themes in this list might be more appropriate for you.

Should you choose Divi you have both the option of using mp4 video backgrounds for entire pages, or using the video gallery or video slider block in your page builder.  It’s hard to overstate just how powerful and easy to use the Divi builder is.  It’s really revolutionizing the world of WordPress themes.  The Elegant Themes site has a ton of Divi 2.0 demos to go through so you should be able to get an idea for the huge variety of sites you can make with just this one single theme.

If you have the time, and want to put your own design stamp  on things, Divi 2.0 is my #1 recommendation.

King Size on Theme Forest

King Size is a full screen design that can really wow your potential customers with your reel.  You have the option to run a reel as the background of the whole browser, by uploading an mp4 file to the site, or you can use a built-in video gallery.  The demo site available by clicking through to Theme Forest has examples of both of these options if you drill down into the menu.  At $53 it’s on the higher end of the Theme Forest pricing scale, but with 16,000+ sales and a 4.5/5 customer rating you’ll certainly be getting some peace of mind.  I personally liked the galleries and the full screen design of this plugin, although I found the blog section to be a little constrained.  If you think that you’re really going to take the blogging thing by the horns and run with it, there might be better options.  Check out the demo though, it’s certainly an eye-catching design!

Invictus on Theme Forest

Invictus is a really uniquely designed theme that fills the whole screen and has a fixed thumbnail view at the bottom of the screen.  The thumbnails can correspond to either photos or videos and you can use Vimeo, Youtube or self-hosted files.  If you check the site demo, you’ll see that they have several videos included in the thumbnail bar for you to try.  When you click the thumbnail, it loads the video in fullscreen mode in the background.  Whilst this theme is labelled ‘for photographers’ on Theme Forest, it can most definitely be an excellent video portfolio  theme as well and of course, it’s fully responsive.

Another nice feature of Invictus is the 18 different templates that are built into it.  This allows you to make sweeping design changes at the click of a button.  Several samples are shown on the Theme Forest page so it’s best to click through and take a look at that.  After nearly 1000 customer ratings, Invictus is sitting with a 4.5/5 rating which is mighty impressive.  Lots of happy customers is always a good sign!

 

Right Now on Theme Forest

Warning!!  This theme demo does break what I could consider to be one of the cardinal website sins! Auto-playing music! Arrgh.  Of course you can turn this off if you used it on your own site….. I’ve no idea why the developer would enable this on the demo. You have been warned!

Right Now is another cool fullscreen style theme on Theme Forest.  I added this one to the list because I can see someone using it who just wanted to have a fullscreen demo reel with a very simple site around it.  Something like an After Effects reel with just your contact details and an ‘About’ page would be a very striking use for this theme and it would only take a few minutes to set it up in this way.  There’s no built-in support for video galleries from external sites like Vimeo or YouTube.  Video backgrounds have to be locally hosted as mp4s.  Mute your volume and click through to the demo to check it out!

 

This Way on Theme Forest

Warning repeated! Yep this theme is by the same developer as the previous one so keep that mute button on!

In many ways This Way is similar to Right Now, but it has a permanent thumbnail strip that would allow you to quickly switch between different reels or projects.  Again, I think it would suit a simple website that doesn’t have a lot of different pages so it’s not for someone that wants to be a prolific blogger. 

 

Muse on Theme Forest

This is another theme that’s technically designed to be used by a band, but would work equally well for someone that shoots a lot of music videos.  We’ve seen several fulls-creen background video sites but this takes it a step further and allows you to create a slider that transitions between multiple fullscreen video in the back of your site.  Overall I just really like the design and even the default color scheme of this site.  It incorporates a lot of features we’ve seen in other themes but manages to create a very unique looking site out of it.

Auditoriam by Graph Paper Press

Graph Paper Press are known for their clean, simple and elegant designs.  You won’t find any fluff with these guys.  As you’ll see in the Auditorium demo site, it comes with a video enabled gallery slider that you can use front and centre on your homepage.  Perfect if you want to display a reel in a place where someone just can’t miss it.  The blog design is clean and simple as well and with it being one of the simpler themes in the list, it’s probably the one that you could have up and running in the shortest possible time.  Graph Paper Press have a variety of pricing models that allow you to either purchase a single theme for $79, or all their themes for $149 if you want to have the opportunity to try several different ones. I use a Graph Paper Press theme on one of my websites and certainly one of my favourite things about them as a company is their excellent support forum.  If Auditorium isn’t right for you, you could conceivably use any of their other themes as well, along with a gallery plugin from the section on the next page.

Remember what I said further up the page as well.  Use the coupon code ‘ShutterMuse’ and you’ll get a 25% discount on anything from Graph Paper Press.

Music by Themify

Whilst this theme is specifically designed for musicians, I think it’d also work very well for people who make their music videos!  You’d want to turn off a couple of the features like the discography, but as you can see from the demo page, it has a great video gallery and also allows fullscreen background video as well.  This type of parallax scrolling ‘one page’ design is very popular right now where most information is available on one single, very long page.

The Music theme is available for  $49.

OnPlay by WPZoom

OnPlay is a very different style to the themes that we’ve already seen in the list.  Whilst it does feature a video player front and centre on the homepage, it’s much more of a magazine style site.  This would really suit someone who’s looking to contribute a lot of time to their blogging efforts with things like tutorials and reviews of the gear that they use.  The contents of different categories can be displayed right on the front page to give people easy access to a huge back catalog of posts.  If you aren’t sure about the blogging thing, or think that your blog posts are likely to just be short “this is what I did on my last job” ones, then this might not be the theme for you.  Otherwise, it’s available for as little as $19.

VideoZoom by WPZoom

VideoZoom is also by WPZoom and this one is aimed at people with a large amount of video content to display.  If you just want to showcase one or two reels then this isn’t going to be the theme for you.  If on the other hand you produce videos for a web series, or some other job that gives you a large amount of sharable content, then this would be an excellent option.  Where the the OnPlay theme put categories of blog posts on the front page, VideoZoom allows the same sort of organization with your videos.  Ground categories together and show a whole ton of thumbnails on the homepage.  The blog page design is also strong, spacious and clean.  This is a real theme for heavy content creators with a video twist to it.

 

Click HERE to view Part 4: Best Video Gallery Plugins


Video Gallery Plugins

If you decide to use a different theme and add a video gallery to it, then below are the best options that I’ve been able to find.  Most of these options are paid options but again, that comes with peace of mind and a support channel.  With the fourWordPress sites that I run, I’ve often been down the path of trying to use freely available plugins on the WordPress plugin repository.  It’s a really hit-and-miss game to play, though and more often than not, you’ll have to install 5-10 different plugins just to find one that works as you want it to for a particular job.  That’s not to say there aren’t great plugins for free, but if you are really trying to save a few dollars, make sure you do your research first.  Over the years I’ve transitioned out of almost all the free plugins on my sites now in favour of premium ones that offer some support when I have a question or an issue.  In most cases we’re still talking less than $40/plugin for a central feature of your site so it’s really not a big deal and I think it’s worth the time-saving alone.

By installing one of the plugins below, you can effectively turn any WordPress template into something that will showcase your work in a portfolio style.  As with the themes we discussed above, it’s important to make sure your plugins are also responsive if you are getting them separately to ass to your theme.  Several of the free ones I noticed on the repository were not, and that’s simply not acceptable these days.

Soliloquy

Soliloquy is a fantastic gallery slider plugin from a developer with a very solid track record for making killer plugins that are both fast and robust.  The main plugin itself is simple and lightweight and additional functionality can be added by installing a variety of addons as needed.  This is a trend that’s being seen more and more these days because previously a lot of plugins were getting bloated and causing speed issues on sites.  The more functionality you pack into a plugin, the more it impacts your site’s loading time.  Unfortunately, most people don’t use 90% of the functions of a plugin!  Delivering a bare bones plugin to begin with, then enabling additional functions by addons is a great way to make sure you only have what you need and nothing more.  Soliloquy accepts videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo and Wistia and I’ve put it at the top of the list for good reason.  It’s a touch more expensive, but I own plugins from this same developer and he does excellent work, as well as taking care of queries and problems in a relatively timely manner.  This is a plugin you can trust.

 

 

MaxGalleria

MaxGalleria is another excellent premium plugin that features video support.  Out of the gate, it offers a lot more features than Soliloquy, but do remember what I said about people who don’t use 90% of features….. The biggest difference in how you would use this plugin compared to Soliloquy, is in the styling.  Soliloquy is what you would call a slider gallery where one main image or video takes centre stage, and then that slides across the screen to reveal the next one.  MaxGalleria is a gallery plugin that uses thumbnails to display all your videos on one page, then you click on the one that you want to watch.  Soliloquy can display a ticker-tape of thumbnails beneath the slider, but MaxGalleria can show a huge selection.  If you are someone that wants to display a large number of videos then that would be a reason to look at this plugin over Soliloquy.  Out of the box, this plugin supports YouTube embeds but Vimeo support is an additional paid addon.  There’s also a Video Showcase addon to give you even more options.

 

Easy Media Gallery

This is a plugin that I just discovered whilst researching for this article. I love the fluid style of the gallery and the movement as you drill down to specific topics using the keywords at the top.  It seems to be extremely fast and supports YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion.  Once a thumbnail is clicked in the gallery, videos open in a lightbox and the box also includes sharing buttons so that people can easily pass on the video in their social media channels.  Very slick, and with prices starting at $24, this is one of the cheaper options out there for a great looking video gallery.

Slider Revolution

Slider Revolution is the best-selling gallery slider on the popular Envato Marketplace.  It’s been sold over 40,000 times and has an average user rating of 4.78 out of 5.  That’s some incredibly impressive statistics!  At only $18, it’s also the cheapest option on this list so it might be a great place to start for the budget conscious people out there.  The Code Canyon marketplace is a wonderful place to get incredibly well-priced WordPress plugins as well as the themes we saw from the previous section.  I’ve used it many times myself and discovered some real gems on there.  The one negative I can think of is that the support channels for products on there are typically not as slick as if you are dealing with a developer via a support ticket system on their own website.  That’s not to say you can’t get support; you most certainly can, but sometimes it’s in the form of a commenting system which can be a bit tedious.  It’s certainly, for me, one of the reasons why the prices are a little cheaper than say Soliloquy, where you’re dealing with a developer on their own site.  Slider Revolution is packed with features though and there are no addons to install to get additional functionality.  If you want a cheap, one-click install solution then this could be the right one for you.

 

So there you have it. Now you have no excuse to go out there and rule the world with your video portfolio website!

 

Vimeography

This is a cool plugin for Vimeo users that really taps into the power of Vimeo Pro and has several features that the more general gallery plugins don’t have.  To start with, if you are a Vimeo Pro user, this plugin can tap into your categories and portfolios and populate its galleries from those videos for you.  It can also be used to display video that are set to ‘hidden’ on Vimeo itself.  Something which none of the other gallery options can do.  At $49 it falls into the middle ground in terms of pricing, but if you are a heavy Vimeo Pro user then it makes a lot of sense.

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Automating Your Creative Business http://www.provideocoalition.com/automating-your-creative-business/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/automating-your-creative-business/#respond Sat, 01 Nov 2014 02:41:46 +0000 In the first couple of posts in this series we took a look at some useful services to help creative professionals with accounting, and then we took an introductory look at using email marketing to promote your services.  This month I want to show you guys some incredible services that can help you automate many

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In the first couple of posts in this series we took a look at some useful services to help creative professionals with accounting, and then we took an introductory look at using email marketing to promote your services.  This month I want to show you guys some incredible services that can help you automate many of the smaller tasks in the day to day running of your business.  My own recent estimates had these services automating roughly 30 tasks per day for my own businesses and that totals over 10,000 tasks per year.  If each of those tasks had taken me one minute, I’m saving 18 working days per year by having this stuff automated.  Not only that, but it’s actually giving me more time behind the camera and that’s where most of us create our value.

The best part about this stuff?  Most of it is absolutely free!

Scheduled Social Content With Buffer

There’s a few services that are cornerstones of this strategy and the first one is a free service called Buffer. I’m sure most of you are using social networks in some way to share your work and connect with both potential clients, and other folks in the industry.  Social networks have become busy places these days though and the majority of people you share your content with will never actually see it.  In order to maximise the impact of the content you are sharing, you first of all need to share it at the times of the day that are likely to give you the best engagement for your group of followers.

Buffer is a service that allows you to do just that.  You can queue up content in it and let it drip out to your networks at exactly the right time. If your latest video finishes uploading to Vimeo at midnight, there’s little point sending a tweet out about it then as you’ll drastically limit the potential social reach of that tweet.  Using Buffer as our social content bucket, we can work on filling that bucket, while Buffer takes care of posting the content at the best time. 

But when are the best times?  Aha! There’s a tool for that as well.

Tweroid is a service that will analyze your twitter followers and let you know when they are most active.  You then take those times and enter them into Buffer to let it know when you would like content to go out to people.  You have total control of how many posting slots you set each day, what times they are or whether you want anything to go out at all on a specific day.  For example, you might choose to skip Sundays entirely. 

The first great time-saver is that you can sit down once or twice a week and throw a ton of interesting articles and content from other people into your Buffer feed.  Personally I use an iPhone app called Reeder which lets me scan all my favorite blogs in a few minutes and then add 10 or 20 posts into my Buffer feed with just a few clicks.  Easy to do over breakfast one morning and then you’ve got great content going out to your followers all week.  But we’re just getting started…… 

IFTTT

Now that we have Buffer all set up to deliver our content for us, we want to start automating the addition of content into our Buffer feed.  IFTTT (If This Then That) is free service that lets you connect many of your internet based services together.  The graphic below shows you just a few of the things you can connect, but they add more almost every week so check their site as well for the latest list.  The important thing is that you can connect it to Buffer and that means you can add things automatically into your Buffer feed.  Remember that Vimeo video of yours that finished uploading at midnight?  Well with IFTT, you can connect Vimeo to Buffer and have it Buffer an update when that video is online.  Instead of sending out an automated tweet as soon as it’s online, an update is sent to your Buffer queue and posted at a much more reasonable hour of the day.  The same goes for your blog posts or email newsletters as well.  The possibilities are almost endless but the key thing is to make sure that you are always sending the automated content to Buffer instead of directly to a social network.

and many many more…….

Here’s a few examples of things you could automate with IFTTT

  • Buffer a tweet about your latest Vimeo upload
  • Buffer a tweet about the latest video you liked on Vimeo
  • Buffer a link to your latest blog post
  • Buffer a tweet of the latest photo you posted on Instagram

Of course these don’t all have to go to Twitter, you can also connect your Facebook, Google+ page or LinkedIn profile to Buffer as well.

A second great use of IFTTT is to send out repeated messages at specific points in the month or year.  Again you’ll want to set it up so the post drops into your Buffer feed and not directly to the social network, but you can do things like tweet out a link to your newsletter signup page on the first of every month, or ask people to check out your latest reel.  As long as you keep the repetitions far enough apart, you’re not going to get anyone that’s annoyed with you reposting content because the reality is that less than 10% of people on average see your content in the first place.  If you tweet a link to your reel every month, many people will only see that tweet once or twice in the year anyway! I regularly use this method to ask my Twitter followers to find me on Facebook, and vice versa.

With these kind of automations set up you’ll be amazed at how much content you can start to push out without even realizing it.  People often comment to me that I must spend so much time on social media, but the reality is I only spend a few minutes each week and I’m able to steadily grow my following across a large range of networks.  Every time I write a blog post on my own blog, IFTTT and Buffer combine their forces to deliver that content at least 10 times in various places without me having to do a thing.  In fact the very second I press the publish button on this post, the exact same thing will happen, triggered by the updated RSS feed here on PVC.

Zapier – Taking Things To Another Level

The simplest way to describe Zapier is IFTTT on steroids.  Zapier is a true powerhouse of a service, yet it still has free options that can satisfy a lot of people’s needs.  Much like IFTTT, Zapier allows you to connect two services together, but it gives you incredible powers as to how those connections occur.  It also connects to many more services in total, and encompasses the full range of business and enterprise services, where IFTTT focuses more on consumer & social networks.  Part of the power of Zapier comes from the ability to use IF – AND – OR clauses in your connections to drill down and make things even more specific.  For example, I use Zapier to send me an email when someone with over 10,000 twitter followers stars following one of my businesses.  I don’t need to hear about every new follower, but it’s well worth making a personal connection with someone that has that much influence.  The list of amazing things I do with Zapier is far too long for this post, but here’s a few examples:

  • Create an invoice in Quickbooks to match every incoming PayPal payment I receive
  • Add a line to a Google spreadsheet for every PayPal transaction that occurs on my account
  • Add new customers from FreshBooks to a segment of my email newsletter list
  • Send an email to people that have left a donation via my blog
  • Add a row to a Google spreadsheet every time a new post goes up on one of my websites.  I then use this information (title and URL) to quickly refer to if I need a link to an old post at any time.
  • Send a push notification to my phone if my website ever goes offline

A look at my Buffer account showing pre-loaded content for over a week’s worth of social sharing

Backup Automation

Backup routines are extremely important and if you can, it’s best to automate them otherwise sometime you will forget to do it.  On my office desk I run a Drobo 5D as my main photo/video archive.  I use a program called Carbon Copy Cloner to mirror the contents of that Drobo every night to a second Drobo 5D.  This software is a bit different to the other things we’ve talked about so far as it’s a purchase of $65 instead of a SaaS (Software as a service) like all the other ones.  It runs automatically on a schedule that I specify and it sends me an email to let me know it completed without any errors.  The program also runs a second time later in the night to create a bootable duplicate of my computer’s internal hard drive.  In the event of a drive failure I can instantly boot from that clone as if nothing ever happened.  This is slightly different to running Time Machine, which I also use, because Time Machine can restore content, but you can’t boot directly from it.  If you’re on a time crunch, it’s nice to have a fully bootable duplicate of your system ready to go.  The software give you incredible control, but in a very user-friendly package.  When it’s cloning my drives, it only clones new files so even with a 16TB Drobo the operation usually only takes a few minutes to copy over new files added that day.  I love waking up in the morning to see the e-mail reports telling me everything is backed up once again. 

My websites all run using WordPress and I use a service called VaultPress to back those sites up on a daily basis as well.  VaultPress is designed by Automatic, the company that makes WordPress, to there’s no safer option in my opinion.  It costs just $5 a month and creates a snapshot of my site very day.  If you ever have a failure on your site, all you have to do is press the restore button and VaultPress will put your site back exactly as it was at the last backup.  Since redundancy is always a good idea with backup plans, I also use another free WordPress backup plugin called BackWPup that creates a backup of my site every week and uploads it to my Google Drive folder as a failsafe. 

 


Accounting Automation

This one really goes back to the first post I did in this series where I recommend that people check out FreshBooks as a way to tame the beast that is business accounting.  Chasing late payments is a pain in the ass and nobody really likes to do it but sadly it’s a necessity on an almost monthly basis for freelance creative professionals.  FreshBooks can take a lot of the pain out of it by automating late payment reminders and even adding late payment penalties to the invoice and re-sending it.  You can specific the timings of the follow up emails and whether or not penalties are added automatically, or just threatened.  You can also turn reminders off for certain clients if you’d prefer to handle some of them in person.

On top of invoice related automations, you can also connect all your bank accounts and credit cards to FreshBooks (or in fact most cloud accounting services) and have them pull in all of your expenses.  FreshBooks sucks in all your expenses once a day and then you can assign taxation brackets to them to track spending in specific areas.  It’ll learn things too, so once you’ve tagged an expense from one company once, it’ll no where to put it automatically next time.  Major brands are already recognized though, so if you spend money in Staples, it’ll mark it as office supplies right away.  As long as you get into the habit of only paying for business expenses with your card, you’ll have a complete list of all your expenses ready to go when it comes to tax time.

Content Resharing 

This is something that’s beginning to become a hot topic amongst content marketers.  As I mentioned before, social networks are busy places these days and it’s becoming more and more of a challenge to reach our followers with our content.  Resharing older content is a great way to expand on the reach of your content because the chances are high that most of the people that see it a second time around are people that didn’t see it the first time.  The “rules” of this little game vary from network to network though.  It’s not a great idea to keep resharing content on Facebook over and over again right away because your Wall will look repetitive. On Twitter on the other hand, it’s generally accepted now that you should share important tweets at least twice if not three times in the same day at various intervals.  Some people check Twitter in the morning, some at lunch and some in the evening.  Few people scroll back that far in their feed though that they would ever see your multiple posts.
There are some great tools appearing for resharing content though and my favorite one is a simple WordPress plugin called Buffer My Posts.  This plugin adds old posts from specific categories back into my Buffer feed at set intervals.  I make it clear that this isn’t fresh content by prefacing the tweet with “REWIND:” and without an exception, I get more clicks back to my content this way as it’s usually falling on fresh eyes.  Either people who weren’t followers the first time it was shared or people who are among the 90% of estimated followers that just simply missed the tweet the first time.  It’s a set and forget plugin.  I started it about a year ago and it’s been sharing 3 or 4 posts a week ever since that point.  Since it drops right into my Buffer bucket, it always gets mixed in amongst all the other content that’s being shared and goes out at the right time to reach people.

Taking this one step further is a new service called Edgar.  Edgar is still in beta right now, and will be a paid service so it’s perhaps most relevant to larger agencies.  The premise behind the service is much the same though, repeat sharing of useful content.  With Edgar you can set up folder of specific content and have them posted automatically across your networks.  In one folder you might have a collection of your top 20 blog posts, where in another folder you might have 100 inspirational creativity quotations.  You set the timings and Edgar does the rest, repeating and repurposing your content continuously until you add or change the content in each folder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some people find this a bit of a cheat, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t personally interact with people on social media at all, but why not automate the things that get the conversation started?  Of course you need to be there to respond yourself, but I don’t see anything wrong with expanding your reach in the first place.

Email Outreach Automation

If you took my advice in the last post and signed up for a free MailChimp account then there’s a few more tricks we can set up.  In fact you don’t specifically need MailChimp, though I think it’s the most intuitive mail service to work with.  All email service providers have a way to set up automatic emails based on specific events.  That event could be someone being added to your list, or it could be someone clicking a link in a previous email that you sent them.  How is this useful to us as creative professionals?  It’s really only limited by your creativity but this is how I use it.  When I create a new client in FresBooks, Zapier adds that client to my mailing list in a group called “clients”.  I then use the Automation section of MailChimp to set up a standing automation that e-mails people a couple of weeks after they have been added to that group on that list.  The email starts by asking the client for feedback on the job that’s just been invoiced, and then goes on to offer them links to certain areas on my website where they can find out more information about the other services that I offer.  A great way to use this would be to introduce clients to your VFX reel if you have just completed an editing job for them, or vice versa.  Use it as an opportunity to show them the skills you have that they may not have known about.  Using click tracking you’d be able to tell which clients did click through to watch your reel and then you can follow up with them directly.

Summing It Up

Most of the services I’ve discussed here are free, so much like last months email marketing article, there’s little excuse for not giving this a shot.  I get a lot of satisfaction when people tell me they see my content all over the place and think I must spend a great deal of time on getting it there!  Not only do I save time with these methods, but realistically I’m also accomplishing much more than I ever would if I was to actually do all of this stuff manually.  At a guess I’d say I’m reaching at least 4 times the number of people I would do though social networks than if I was to sit and do all that stuff manually.  Of course it’s not all social sharing automation either.  The backup solutions are incredibly important to me and the accounting just lifts some of the weight from my shoulders because boy do I ever HATE doing accounting!  The most important thing though is that it gets the camera back in my hand faster.  That is why I’m in this business afterall.

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Email Marketing For Freelancers – Why You Need A Mailing List http://www.provideocoalition.com/email-marketing-for-freelancers-why-you-need-a-mailing-list/ http://www.provideocoalition.com/email-marketing-for-freelancers-why-you-need-a-mailing-list/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2014 01:42:11 +0000 I started off this series of posts last month with a look at simplified accounting for freelancers, using FreshBooks.  This month I want to talk about an incredibly powerful, yet highly underused marketing tool, the email newsletter. Not setting up an email list when I first started my business is the absolute number 1 mistake

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I started off this series of posts last month with a look at simplified accounting for freelancers, using FreshBooks.  This month I want to talk about an incredibly powerful, yet highly underused marketing tool, the email newsletter.

Not setting up an email list when I first started my business is the absolute number 1 mistake that I made when I look back on things. It took me years and years before I finally took notice of all the advice out there that points to how effective it can be. It’s not that I didn’t know about it, but that I had assumed it was a time consuming endeavor to get started with. Once I finally got around to it I was amazed how simple it was to implement, and even more amazed to find that I could do it for free.

So why is email marketing so important? There’s really two main points to my answer and the first is that your e-mail list is yours, forever. What I mean by this is that all other forms of connection to fans and potential clients are generally handled by one or other form of social media. The problem with this is that any of these social platforms that we invest so much effort into growing, could tank at any moment. As unlikely as it may seem, you only have to remember MySpace and what happened there. Now I’m not saying this is going to happen overnight, but can you honestly say that in 10 years time we’ll still be using Twitter? If or when these social networks disappear, all of your connections will be lost. When growing an e-mail list though you can rest safe in the knowledge that the information is yours and nobody is ever going to take it away from you.

Many freelancers use Facebook to share their latest work and connect with fans and new clients.  Whilst Facebook will clearly be around for at least the next few years, many business were hit hard by their sudden changes at the end of 2013 which saw the organic reach of content slashed drastically.  Where posts and shared videos used to reach upwards of 50% of the people who “liked” a page, suddenly it was down to single digit percentages.  I know several people who had spent a lot of money on Facebook ads to build their following, only to find that now they were being forced to pay again to “promote” their posts and get their content in-front of those people.  We have zero control over these kinds of social networks so it’s a dangerous game to rely on them as our digital promotional channel. 

The second major reason for list building is that email is a much more personal way to contact someone and it’s far more professional than any form of social media. Worldwide e-mail traffic still outguns social posting by a huge margin and you have a much more captive audience when an e-mail lands in someone’s in-box. Facebook and Twitter are like fire hoses these days with the average person following hundreds of people and brands. You simply can’t rely on everyone seeing your Tweets and Facebook posts since most people don’t tend to scroll past the end of the first page. With email marketing though, you are building direct access to someone’s in-box; a guaranteed connection. Not only that, but you also have the ability to showcase your work in ways that’s simply not possible via social networks, whilst also maintaining total control over your branding.  Sharing your latest projects on a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly basis will help to ensure that it’s your name on the tip of a client’s tongue when they are planning their next project.

Whilst it’s not possible to embed videos directly into an email newsletter, a few good frames from the project and a link to your website to view the work will do just fine.  Do not use a link directly to YouTube or Vimeo though!  The aim is to reinforce your brand and your work in the client’s mind.  Make sure you send them to your site where they have easy access to your contact form and previous work without being distracted by all the other things you find on public video hosting sites.  By all means upload the video to those sites, but then embed them on your site and send people there to watch them!

Getting started

The worry of an additional monthly subscription cost was another factor that initially prevented me from starting a mailing list. When I discovered that you can start for free, and potentially stay free forever I was stunned!

To send e-mail campaigns and build your list you’re going to need an ESP or E-Mail Service Provider. This is a service that allows you to create a sign-up form for people to be added to your lists. You can manage the lists, design campaigns and then send them out to all your subscribers (or just segments of your list if you prefer). Once the e-mail campaign has been sent, the ESP will provide you with important stats such as open rate and click-through rate, showing you which was the most engaging part of your newsletter. There are a great many ESPs out there but here are a few of the most popular:

All ESPs have different pricing models; some base their prices on the number of subscribers you have and some charge on a per campaign basis like $0.01 per e-mail. I evaluated these services and chose Mailchimp to run the lists for my various businesses. What I loved about Mailchimp was how quickly I felt at home with their tools. I had multiple lists for multiple businesses created in just a few minutes and even though it took me a while to build it up to the point where I sent my first newsletter, getting over that initial hurdle was simple. What’s more, Mailchimp has what they call the forever free plan which lets you use it for free for up to 2000 subscribers. There’s no expiry date and no credit card needed. As long as you don’t grow to more than 2000 subscribers there’s no need to pay a single cent! The worry of an additional monthly subscription cost was another factor that initially prevented me from starting a mailing list. When I discovered that you can start for free, and potentially stay free forever I was stunned! Depending on how you use it, 2000 subscribers could be more than enough for creative freelancers and to keep in touch with past clients and possible leads. If you have a large following of fans that might want to sign up then at some point you’ll probably break into the paid plans, but if you are solely using it to connect with agencies and past clients then I doubt many will reach the 2000 person barrier.

How and where to collect your e-mails

Once you have a list set up you need to start getting those contacts on it. Whilst it is possible to buy email lists of creative directors and agencies, I would personally stay away from that kind of thing as I think it’s a very spammy approach (and not legal in some countries). Mailchimp, or any other ESP, will give you several easy ways to include sign up forms on your website, such as a simple embed code or a widget for your WordPress blog. Personally I have had great success with including the newsletter signup within my contact form on my portfolio website. When someone sends me an e-mail they fill out the form on my website and I have a small check box at the bottom that asks whether they would also like to receive the monthly newsletter. I get a much better conversion rate from this than anything else I have tried and I use the WordPress plugin Gravity Forms to craft this contact form with built in Mailchimp integration.

Other great places to sign people up:

  • A link to the form in your email signature
  • A signup form at the bottom of every blog post
  • A link to the form in your ‘Contact’ menu on your website
  • A signup app on your Facebook page (easy to do and free)
  • Occasional Tweets or Facebook posts drawing people’s attention to your newsletter
  • A link on your LinkedIn page
  • A courteous enquiry to a client you’ve just finished business with; “would you mind if I added you to my mailing list? I’d love to be able to share my projects with you.”

If you use a WordPress website then I can highly recommend the plugin called OptinMonster.  It gives you a plethora of ways to get signup forms onto your site in eye-catching designs and I use it on all of my sites.

Segmenting your lists into different categories is a great way to maintain a high open rate with your subscribers. When you have a single list, you don’t have to send a newsletter to everyone on that list, complex rules can be set up to target smaller segments. For example, on my ski photography website anyone that signs up there goes into a specific ski photography segment of my list. Those people will only receive a newsletter if it contains content about skiing. If that’s what they are interested in, there’s no point sending them other updates as you’re more likely to have them looking for the unsubscribe button. If the newsletter contains some content about ski photography, but also has other subjects as well, I craft a quick variation of the newsletter that includes a skiing image right at the top to catch their attention. Essentially changing the order of the content in the newsletter to target peoples interests. The first image in your newsletter dramatically affects open rate so make sure it’s bold, and target it to your segmented lists. You can have people people automatically assigned to specific lists using a simple check box in your subscribe form that asks them what they are interested in. All ESPs will have ways to achieve this but once again I was impressed with the simplicity of Mailchimp’s method.

The Lead Magnet Approach

There’s not doubt that just having a simple sign-up box on your site will lead to only a small number of subscribers and this may or may not suit your purposes.  This method will ensure your list only contains people that are truly interested in keeping tabs on your latest projects, but what if you want to grow your reach and following?  There’s a good number of reasons these days why building a solid group of followers can be beneficial to your business.  Perhaps that’s a post for another day, but if you are interested in building a large list then using a lead magnet is the most efficient way to do it.  A lead magnet is essentially a bribe, “sign up to my newsletter and you’ll get XYZ for free”.  The type of magnet you choose will have an influence on the type of subscribers you attract so you’ll want to have a good idea about how you plan to use your mailing list.  For example, you could create a short eBook that demonstrates a particular technique.  I’ve used this method myself to add many thousands of people to my mailing lists, but with this your list is not likely to be filled with potential new clients.  If you purely plan to target new clients with your newsletter than you might consider something like an extended “behind the scenes” look at one of your latest projects.  Choose a new project and docuement every step of it from planning to delivery and then package that up into a short digital magazine.  This will give potential new clients a look at your skills and your methods.  Creating a digital magazine is easy these days using Apple’s free iBooks Author app and I was able to create a lead magnet in just a few hours with it that’s so far added over two thousand people to one of my own lists.  When people confirm their subscription to your mailing list they will be sent a confirmation email.  Simply include the download link to your magnet in that email!

If you do take this approach, take the time to make your lead magnet look appealing.  The website PSDCovers has a ton of free Photoshop scripts that can help turn your magazine or eBook covers into professional and desirable downloads in just a few seconds.  Below is an example that I created for my latest eBook using one of these free scripts.


Designing your newsletter

Newsletters can typically be designed and sent in two different ways; with tools provided by the ESP, or with custom designed HTML templates built by a web designer.

Almost everyone will be able to craft a beautiful and simple newsletter using the Mailchimp tools and there are several ways to go about it:

Drag & Drop Editor

As the name suggests, this tool allows you to move text and image blocks around to create your perfect design. You have total control over the branding and layout and as creatives this is great so that we can craft a layout that really shows off our latest work.

Basic Templates

If you don’t want to delve immediately into totally custom designs you can pick from a range of great templates that can be used as starting points. All you need to do is drop your content into the boxes and away you go. You’ll still maintain total control over the branding and colors so you can tweak it to match your style. Mailchimp has roughly 50 basic templates that act as great starting points for a variety of different e-mails. Whether it’s sending just one large image from your latest project with an invitation to click through and view a new gallery; or whether it’s a full magazine style account of what your business has been up to for the last month, there’s a template to suit.

Predesigned Templates

There’s also a couple of hundred templates that are instantly available for more specific purposes and occasions. Everything from art gallery invitations to product announcements and seasonally themed designs like Halloween and Christmas.

Totally Custom HTML Designs

E-mail newsletters are essentially just web pages that you e-mail to someone’s in-box, so they can be designed just like a web page as well. If you want to craft a very specific design, perhaps to make it identical to your portfolio website, then you can have a web designer create almost anything you can imagine. The code that they create is then uploaded into Mailchimp and sent just as any other campaign would be. This is a more advanced and certainly not necessary for most people though it is how I chose to do mine for a while before MailChimp launched their drag & drop editor. You should be able to have a good designer create a custom design with multiple variations for $300-$500.

Analyzing your sent campaigns

Once you’ve designed and sent your first campaign Mailchimp will give you access to some nice stats telling you, among other things, how many people opened it and which links most people clicked on. It will also show you the open rate Vs. time plot which gives great information about when most people saw the e-mail. A/B split testing also allows you to send two variations of the same newsletter and then compare the different results side by side. This kind of multivariate testing is a great way to iterate your way to the perfect newsletter design for your audience. Just a simple change to the subject line of the e-mail, or the tone of the opening image, can have a big impact on the open rate and resulting engagement of your e-mail. Mailchimp makes A/B testing so easy that you can always test out small tweaks every time you send a campaign. Since you can track who opens your e-mails, you can even target those who didn’t open your last e-mail with a slightly different version to try and get them to take a look at the next one. Perhaps a 20% off coupon for your print store or free downloadable PDF of images from your latest photo expedition.

Autoresponders

Autoresponders (recently re-named in Mailchimp to Automation) are pre-crafted newsletters that are sent automatically when a certain criteria is met by one of your subscribers.  Example criteria could be:

  • Subscriber joined your list within the last 24 hours
  • Subscriber clicked a specific link within one of your newsletters
  • Subscriber has not opened any of your last three newsletters

……..the list of possibilities is almost endless.

So how can you use these autoresponders to your advantage?  One of my favorite ways is to send people a welcome that introduces them to the type of work that you do.  When people fulfil certain criteria on my list, I send them a welcome e-mail that contains a quick paragraph about me and my work, and then links to specific portfolios.  A previous client might know that you are a killer 3d artist, but maybe isn’t aware that they could hire you as an editor as well.

Getting deeper into email marketing

If this is the first time you have considered starting a mailing list I would urge you not to make the same mistake that I did. Don’t waste any time, set aside 15 minutes in the next 7 days and sign up for a free account with Mailchimp to get started right away. You don’t need to make any commitment to sending your first campaign, but at least start gathering people on your list.  If you aren’t ready for a monthly newsletter, start out with a quarterly one and grow from there.

Be aware of your local spam laws

Every country has slightly different laws when it comes to spam emails. It pays to know what those are and all companies like Mailchimp will have some resources to help with a little research.  In my home country of Canada for example, they passed what many people claim to be the toughest spam laws in the world in summer 2014 which forces many people to re-think their list building strategies or face massive fines.  In general, as long as you are clearly asking people for their permission to be added to your list, you’ll be fine, but do make sure to do a little reading on the subject before you start.

The post Email Marketing For Freelancers – Why You Need A Mailing List appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

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