Monday, September 17, 2018

Planning your Digital Legacy

Yesterday, I was telling my mom how I had donated VHS transfer services to my church's silent auction.  She responded by saying "Wow, I've been waiting YEARS to get our home movies from you."  I thought about this, knowing I had done the job of getting the 8mm reels transferred some years ago, and recalled that they had provided me a mini-DV master, from which I had given my family VHS copies...because that was what existed at the time for the home consumer.  Right, I hadn't  done anything (yet) with that mini-DV tape other than make the VHS copies. But I still have a mini-DV deck, so I've added that transfer to my ever-growing to-do list of free things that people want from me.  I found the mini-DV tape of my family's home movies.  I also found the mini-DV tapes I had made of my grandmother's home movies.  I decided to wait on doing anything with Grandma's tapes, because, well, the squeaky know the rest.

BUT.  What about Grandma's home movies tapes, which are now relegated to these mini-DV tapes in her granddaughter's house? And what about all of the photos and videos I've shot on my phone in casual settings or on vacation, and not done anything with?

This year my husband and I created a will and living trust.  In this VERY comprehensive document (which is actually a 3" binder), there's a section about digital legacy.  I'm pretty sure a lot of people haven't given this any, or enough, thought.  Having blank pages in this binder, I've been forced to think about it.

So in planning for the future without you in it, not only do you need to make plans for your tangible assets, but you also need to make plans for your email, social media, banking and financial accounts (investments, of course, but also things like bitcoin and PayPal), and your online memorabilia and documents---that includes all those pictures, which at the time seemed artistic, but now just make up an ever-lengthening feed of status updates.  These are called your "digital assets".  The reason this matters is that digital assets typically fall under the rules of service agreements (you know, those terms of service you agree to, but never read?), rather than by property laws.  In many cases, the service agreements don't have any rules after a user dies or becomes incapacitated.

So what should you be doing now?  Keep backups of your assets- photos, videos, etc... in an online storage option like Dropbox, etc.  And then manage your passwords to all your sites using a service like LastPass.  Put the Lastpass password on a flash memory drive that is kept with your will/trust documents.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act allows a fiduciary the legal authority to manage another's property and specifically allows internet users the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets.  There's a very detailed publication that provides more details if you are the person stuck with figuring out what to do with someone's digital assets, and how to prepare your own here.

So in order for all of this to work as you intend, you need to include an amendment to your existing will, trust or power of attorney that talks about how you want your digital assets handled.  This amendment will give the designated agent the authority to direct or dispose of these assets.  To do this, you can create a VAIL (Virtual Asset Instruction Letter) that divides the assets into five categories (of your choosing) which allows for each to be handled separately, with the option of different instructions (for example, delete, share or archive) and assign different personal digital representatives.  Save the VAIL to the flash memory drive, (preferably that same one that has your Lastpass password on it) that is kept with the will/trust--not to a computer hard drive or external hard drive, which will deteriorate over time.

Monday, August 27, 2018

"These days, ANYONE can make their own video!" But should they?

Obviously, as a professional who makes their living producing videos, I would disagree with the headline statement on this blog post.  Any many would assume it's because...well...I make my living producing videos.  According to Hubspot, "Where both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service."  I would add, that video is only as effective as you make it.

So. This post is designed to provide a new perspective on the difference between DIY, and what I (and most other video professionals!) can bring to the table.

1.  QUALITY IS KEY.  Producers do this for a LIVING. Every day.  Years of experience have helped them anticipate challenges that you might not think of.  They know what works, and what doesn't.  They also have access to higher quality equipment and resources that you may not be aware of, since it's not your normal world.

2. BE THE CONTENT EXPERT, NOT THE VIDEO EXPERT.  Your video production team needs YOU to ensure that the message is accurate. They will worry about the lighting, graphics, compression, etc.  But the message can make or break the video, and if it's YOUR message, shouldn't YOU be in charge of that?  Your production team can look at the project and let you know if they might suggest a way to clarify the scripting, or if you missed something in the message that they assumed was clear or apparent.

3.  EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.  Often times, in the process, it might be decided that graphics, or a narrator, or stock imagery might be needed to improve the video, or make the message more dynamic or clear.  This is common, and you may find that a road bump could easily prevent your video from being made or finished on time.  Professionals are trained to handle these last minute changes or decisions, and also can advise on how the change might affect the budget, as well as offer an alternative you may not have thought of, so that the project can stay within budget.

4.  IT'S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS.  Just because the tools are available and more attainable, that doesn't mean that the process will be easier.  In fact, the myriad of customization options and tools can leave someone even more confused!  And understanding how the production process flows together is critical to ensuring that you're using the "right tool for the right job".

Video does a great job in engaging with customers, generating brand awareness, and clarifying messages.  But if the audio is poor, the lighting is the wrong color, or the editing not done thoughtfully and purposefully, you'll lose your audience.

And what's the point of making a video if people don't want to watch it?  Or if they are so distracted by the poor production quality that they're missing the point of what you're trying to do or say?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Converting old media, and how to "future-proof" (as of today)

When I started my company, everything was analog in my world.  I shot on 3/4" video tape for the broadcast houses, and mini-DV tape for my own projects.  I delivered video on VHS tapes for my clients.  I used tape decks and an editing controller to make cuts, and needed another machine to handle any effects other than dissolves or cuts.

Delivery expanded to CD (limited), and then DVD.  And then all of those analog machines went away, and everything moved to computers.  I still create DVDs for one of my clients, but I'm trying to move that client to the digital world, to a "pay-per-view" model.

In the meantime, I have friends and family with VHS tapes and DVDs sometimes, who want these things off their shelves, into an electronic format that they can upload to YouTube, share with others, and have in, what they believe, is a future-proof format.  Their ability to understand how time will degenerate media is limited to the information I've provided them, particularly in the VHS transfer process, that the older their tape, or less physically-protected it was (a cardboard sleeve vs a plastic box), the more brittle the tape becomes, and thus, the media starts to have issues playing back, even in the transfer process. 

Truthfully, they have solved that physical playback problem by transferring the media to an electronic format.  And re-gained some space on their shelves in the den!

BUT!  What are they doing with these electronic files I deliver to them?  Are these files safe for the future?  I usually deliver the electronic files on a TEMPORARY, but safe method.  If it's just a few tapes, I may deliver them on DVD, if they wish.  If there are multiple files, I'll deliver them on a small, portable hard drive, but I tell them that this hard drive can break down the road, so they shouldn't just replace the spot on the shelf where the tapes were with this small hard drive, and forget about it.  They should store them, ideally, in the cloud, on a date storage service like Dropbox,, etc.

Now, there's a new concern: will the files that are on either the DVD or the hard drive play back in the future?  And even those files in the cloud- will they play back later, as computers and codecs evolve?  DVD drives have already started being phased out of computers.  Are you going to hold on to your DVD player in the hopes that it will be able to play back your home movies 20 years from now at the family reunion?

For the editing geeks out there reading, earlier this summer, Adobe formally announced that it “will no longer support legacy QuickTime 7 era formats and codecs starting from the following product versions":

  • April 2018 release of Premiere Pro CC (version 12.1)
  • April 2018 release of After Effects CC (version 15.1)
  • April 2018 release of Adobe Media Encoder (version 12.1)
  • April 2018 release of Adobe Audition (version 11.1.0)
Affected codecs include:

  • Cinepak
  • Graphics
  • Sorenson Video
So, 32-bit files are being phased out of being able to be played (Quicktime 7-era formats).  As an editor, I need to ensure that I'm using 64-bit applications to export files for my clients.  The experts advise that Pro Res files are a good way to go, and they deliver a .mp4 file.

The H.264 compression method, frequently used in tandem with the MPEG-4 file format, is by far the leading compression and format combination in the industry today. Occasionally, you will see these formats offered as independent formats (MPEG-4 or H.264), but whichever name they adopt, you can be sure that they're using the same format.

As a consumer, you need to ensure that whomever is transferring your old tapes and DVDs is delivering your file to you using a 64-bit application, and h.264 compression.  You want to receive .mp4 files.  So those are the questions you need to ask!

In my next blog post, I'll talk about digital legacy do you ensure that your home movies, where ever they are stored, are not lost forever, just because you are gone?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are Women to Blame for the Way They're Perceived in a Male-Dominated Industry?

So my husband works in the IT industry and I work in the television/video industry.

Both of these industries suffer a similar problem: inequality of numbers of women employed in the industry.  IT has a worse situation in this regard.

In both cases, if you go to conferences, companies are pandering to this inequality by employing "booth babes" to draw in customers. 

Although the IT industry industry claims to WANT more women employed...I have to WHAT? 

At a recent conference that my husband attended, he told me about an event where companies had 3 minutes to sell themselves and grab attention.  Some of these companies only heard the"grab attention" part.  One company put a belly dancer on stage.  Another company dressed the female marketing staff up in sexy schoolgirl outfits.  My question to these women- why do you agree to this?  Buying into the idea that women's place in the industry is to get men to take notice of the company they represent- well, you might as just well accept the idea that the company is your pimp, and they are prostituting you out at conferences.

At the last video conference I attended, I experimented with how long/whether I would be talked to.  The majority of the time, I was not approached--even though my badge indicated that I was a production company owner...meaning I may have buying ability.  I DID feel slighted.  When my male friend accompanied me at booths, he was approached.  Even though he has no need to buy equipment at all- he is in film distribution.

I like to tell myself that sexism in 2014 is in people's imaginations.  But it IS real.  For all of the women in ANY industry, the use of "booth babes", and the related practices or "marketing initiatives", sends a message:  that women remain outsiders.  Even InfoComm president, David Labuskes, agrees, saying that the practice "creates an environment that is unwelcome for some (and) that perpetuates 'old school thinking'."

Women need to stand up for themselves- and their industry- and discourage these practices.  They need to do better PR for themselves.  Publicize their accomplishments to raise their standings.  And we all need to work harder to not whine about inequality - but to prove that women are deserving and fully capable of doing the same kind of work, at the same level (or better!) than our male counterparts in our industry.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Meaning of Life

Sorry, this post is going to take a different turn today.

In the past month, three sets of parents in my family and friends have had to say goodbye to their children, in an unexpected way.  I went to funeral #2 today, just one week after funeral #1.  Funeral #3 is yet to be scheduled.

I decided to do a blog post, simply because the mom from the funeral today posted her eulogy on the blog she had been maintaining about her special needs son for the past several years.  And what's one of the things you're supposed to do in a blog?  Link to other people's blogs.  So here's hers:

Just short of ten years old, her son passed away last Saturday.

Her eulogy (and her husband's) today was moving.  It is a message for parents of special needs children.  It is a message for parents of all children.  It is a message of hope, determination, acceptance, grief, and above all else, love.

Please read her eulogy, and share it, if it moves you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Days are GREAT days for Entrepreneurs!

I started early as an entrepreneur.  When I was young, and realized I was great at organizing places, I offered myself up as someone who could come in and organize your closets, etc.  I didn't get any takers, but I had distributed flyers throughout my neighborhood.  When I got old enough to babysit, I used this same tactic to market myself to young parents in the neighborhood.  At one point, I had 16 families I babysat for.  I posted the parents' names, the kids' names and ages, and their addresses and phone number on our fridge so I could keep track of them all when they called. 

Today, while looking at the window at all the cars that still needed to be dug out, or cleaned off, it occurred to me that a young person could make a lot of money going door to door and offering to clean off cars at $2.50 per car, and to shovel their car space out for $5.00 per space.  Kids like to be outside on snow days.  Parents like their kids to be outside on snow days.  Kids also like to make money.  So get your kid out there with a shovel and a scraper!

And how about you?  Do you find you're at home because your client's office is closed today?  Do you have work booked for the rest of the month?  This is the time to pick up work and fill your schedule up by reaching out to past clients to see if they need any help in the next few weeks, or need their project updated.  Plan happy hours or interviews with people to see if your services are still in line with the area's needs, or just to network and remind them that you're a great person to work with and you're available. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Read Between the Lines of a Job Posting

As I've mentioned before here, I am looking at job listings on a daily basis.

After reading a recent ad, some thoughts went through my head that I thought I would share.  So below is the ad (I'm not going to put in the company name here, but if the job still interests you at the end of this post, let me know, and I'll send it to you privately).

Production Assistant/Videographer (these are 2 very separate jobs with very different pay levels.  This implies they are trying to get a videographer to work for a production assistant rate).

About the Job

The Company seeks a Production Assistant/​Videographer to capture and produce its premier online educational program.​  The educational program will be a documentary-style production, and we are seeking a team member who can execute all aspects of the video program, including sound, lighting, camera work, editing, and graphics (note that they now need someone who can shoot, edit, light, cover audio, and do graphics.  Yeah, I can do those things, but I'd never let you consider me merely a videographer or a production assistant if you're asking me to do all these things).​   Candidates should have experience with interview-style videography and should be able to produce (um, you just said PRODUCE here.  Not ASSIST THE PRODUCER, but PRODUCE) short films from start to finish independently.​  Production Assistant/​Videographer will not be responsible for the content, but will be responsible for all other aspects of the video.​  So that means you've got a content expert on board.  Great.  That doesn't make them the producer.  That makes them the content expert.  You're making this new hire the producer; let's not kid ourselves.


Strong lighting, sound, and cinematography skills (Now, we've moved on from just videography to cinematography.  This person should actually be called a Director of Photography, if that's truly what you're asking for)
Strong video editing skills
Understanding of video archiving project best practices Finally- something that sounds like a production assistant
Ability to work well under pressure
Flexible with changing priorities and deadlines
Ability to work under tight deadlines
The items in green above?  They've mentioned tight deadlines, changing priorities, and pressure.  This is a red flag that this team is unorganized, and you're gonna have to put up with it, because it's now status quo for the company.
Ability to produce, film, direct, shoot, and edit a course from start to finish
Must work well with other team members and volunteers  Oh no!  This could be the kiss of death here.  What do the volunteers have to do with you?  Are they going to be doing some of this video production?  If so, no wonder there's pressure, changing priorities, and the like.  You're spending extra time you didn't plan on cleaning up the work of the volunteers.

To Apply:

Please send resume, cover letter, salary requirements, and sample of your video work.​  Please note we are flexible with respect to location.​  This implies you could work from home if necessary.  It also could mean they don't have any equipment for you to use for this job, so if you need to edit from your home office, they're okay with that.   Where ever you need to be to get the equipment they don't have.

Sometimes jobs are certainly too good to be true.  Be very careful when you read job listings.  Try to see what they're actually saying.  If you read carefully, you can avoid a bad job choice, or a wasted interview.  And for you companies out there making these postings?  Shame on you for using these tactics to justify your inability to pay a fair wage for what you need someone to do.

This job listing should have read:

Educational Video Producer

About the Job

The Company seeks a Producer to capture and produce its premier online educational program.​  The educational program will be a documentary-style production, and we are seeking a team member who can execute or supervise/direct all aspects of the video program, including sound, lighting, camera work, editing, and graphics when sub-contractors are hired for those specific roles.​   Candidates should have experience with interview-style videography and should be able to produce short video segments/productions from start to finish independently.​  A content expert will be assigned for each project.


Strong sound and cinematography skills (I would note the cameras they're using here, if they own any equipment)
Strong video editing skills (I would note the editing platform they're using here, if they own any equipment)
Understanding of video archiving and media management best practices
Ability to work well under pressure
Flexible with changing priorities
Experienced in all aspects of production to either perform those skills, or supervise others in specific production roles
Must work well with others 

To Apply:

Please send resume, cover letter, salary requirements, and sample of your video work.​  Please note we are flexible with respect to location, as we are not able to supply any video production equipment.