Tag Archives: Development

Digital Media Revolution: Disparate Infrastructure Is The Enemy

I was scanning my Twitter feed and came across this tweet from @AllenChou;

“40% of broadband households watch full-length TV shows over Internet yet TV/Film Distribs not making $”

So I checked out the article Allen linked to. In part it says…

DIGITAL: Study shows industry needs to find better business model By Susanne Ault — Video Business, 11/11/2009

“NOV. 11 | DIGITAL: U.S. broadband households watching TV shows and movies online has doubled over 2008, according to a Parks Associates study.

More than 25 million U.S. households regularly watch full-length TV shows online, and more than 20 million watch movies. Parks singled out free, ad-supported online video-on-demand site Hulu.com as driving people to watch such programming on the Web…”

DigitalDelemaWhile this article focuses on distributor’s need to modify their business model to better monetize internet distribution, it brings something more to the table in my eyes.

At a time when media content is produced for many distribution mediums, the question has been how to distribute across platforms. The solution is not more, it is less. The aging infrastructure in America has become a collection of disparate distribution platforms; broadcast television and radio, cable, satellite, internet, and telephone. All of them use different protocols and systems, but they don’t have to.

In the last decade some of the large communications conglomerates have made some headway in providing multiple services over their primary medium. The problem is that all of them are continuing to provide services to the end user on the same disparate and aging infrastructure they started with. Making it even more interesting, all of them use the same data between distribution points, the disparity is in the head-end to user segment.

The answers to monetizing media exists in a wide range of solutions via the internet, pay-per-view, subscription, and more. The best way to get to greater profit margins is to kill off the antiquated mediums and eliminate the expenses in using them. IP based distribution of broadcast television, radio, cable, satellite, and telephone is available via the internet. What needs to happen is a standardization of infrastructure. The user end is simple: provide an Ethernet connection and all of the services are available with little or no changes on the consumer’s end. By choosing a unified and standardized infrastructure media producers/distributors can focus on making the media available and increasing margins.

A simple example is HBO or Showtime. They don’t need cable TV or satellite providers to get their media to market. A simple login to a subscription-based service can grant access to all the media. The advantage to the consumer is lower prices and the ability to select exactly what media they want access to. No intermediate contract obligations to keep the consumer tied to “licensed channels” on a carrier and the benefits of time shifted media; see what you want, when you want it. Media producers have significant advantages, too. The inherent demographic and statistical data, active and accurate viewership data. Quantifiable data for advertisers.

Another example is broadcast media. If a TV station stopped broadcasting its outbound only signal and focused its resources on providing free WiFi for an area, distributed its media via the internet, its programing made available world wide, it would be a greater value to its viewers and its advertisers. It would also reduce its own operating costs and free up the radio frequency spectrum.

Main stream media and large media producers hold the key. It is up to them to make things happen. It requires them to change the way they look at their content, it requires thinking in an Open Source mindset. The larger the number of potential viewers the better. Things like DRM don’t help protect your media, it makes the media less accessible. Likewise proprietary viewers or binding to specific players make your media less accessible, and thereby less attractive to consumers. I purchased the movie UP with the “Digital Copy” disk from Disney. I don’t have an iPod or iPhone, I have a BlackBerry. Because the iTunes/Windows Media Player is only options for viewing the DRM’d movie, it is completely useless to me. So why would I buy a DVD with this “bonus?”

There is nothing wrong with charging for your content and the public recognizes that. If HBO stopped selling its programing to cable and satellite and distributed consumer direct via internet only the content they produce would reach more viewers and provide them with more feedback and data from their viewers with no intermediaries. How would they fare financially? With the die-hard fans of many HBO programs, I think they would exceed current margins in 2 years or less and recoup any costs of the change in business model in less than 5 years.

These kinds of changes would also create new distribution channels for independent media producers. Without the constraints of programing time slots and the possibility of infinite catalogs, channels could purchase or license indi productions directly. It even provides the opportunity to list the property and pay content producers on a residual basis. The possibilities are endless.

Overall, a high quality broadband internet connection should be freely available to everyone, a network of regulated free WiFi and hard line solutions, provided by a consortium of fed, state, and local governments, service providers, media providers, and businesses. Contributors to the national WiFi network get a tax break for being a part of the infrastructure. It’s green, it reduces consumer cost, it reduces provider cost, and it enhances viable infrastructure while removing old disparate technologies. It really is a win win for everyone, but it starts with content providers and infrastructure.

If a cell phone can connect, you should be able to get it all.

Where is he going with this?

Taking NoteA fair question, indeed.

When I started this iteration of the website as a blog in March of 2008, the idea was to use it as a personal site only. Later it migrated to an idea of a purely commercial/organizational site, and has morphed into several variations since. In the most recent morph, I closed down a couple of other sites, redirected them to this site and cross-posted the entries from those sites here. Sounds like a mess, doesn’t it? I spent a lot of time on this site planing and preparing for this grand Aviation Adventure program (which I have not given up on, by the way) that was to become my primary focus professionally. Due to many circumstances, that plan has not born any fruit.

This post is a “clear the air” article, more for me than anyone else, though it may contain tidbits useful to others. I wanted to put the new plans out there for the universe to see, and to be a personal motivator and reference point.

Shortcomings in personality have much to do with the lack of forward motion on several plans for the site. I am a born puppeteer leader. I lead from the wings, not on stage. Getting things done is much easier for me if there is a “face man” to motivate the masses and sell the product. I am a skilled sales person and I do have the interpersonal skills to get the job done, I just don’t like to be the face man. I can do the jobs of a good sized team in the background; just don’t throw me out on stage and things will work out fine. This is my biggest hurdle in getting projects moving forward. This is also a contributing factor in this most recent change of direction.

The last few posts have been about me, not just in the subject sense but in the personal sense, and this is part of the new direction I am moving to with this site. It is a change of perspective and attitude, to view the adventures more the way I see them. The plan then is to do the adventure stuff but approach it from the back stage perspective. Go through the planing, plotting and set up, then into the training phase, on to the execution, and the grand finale, the post production documentation phase. With this perspective I will be able to do and share all of the things I love, the planing, training, adventure, and production.

As much as I would love to start building that Nieuport right away, that just aint gonna happen. As a kid I was never in shape; I was an active person, I was just an active fat person. Over the years, I have abused my body with long hours, little sleep and lots of burst activities. The kinds of things that put high strain on the body. Now, as I reach for middle age, I realize there are a lot of things I miss doing that are adventures in and of themselves. I want to get myself in better physical condition to do some of the more infrequently done adventures. One thing I have wanted to do most of my life is fly around the world as pilot in command (PIC). To do that I need to be in good physical condition, certainly better condition than I am now.

So, this is where the adventures begin. I am embarking on a physical fitness program, still in development, that is my first adventure. This change in direction began with the 5k my wife and I participated in a week ago, and moved forward in the preparation of yesterdays article on shoes. Last night I plotted out a 5k through my neighborhood and that is my new training ground, until I bump it up to a 10k.

This is the beginning of my basic fitness program. As I put together more of a program I will put up a Basic Fitness page to elaborate on what I am doing in that arena. At present, the first Adventure, with a capital A, will most likely be the Skyline To The Sea trail, from Skyline down into Big Basin State Park. As soon as I get more on the planing of that trip I will start the Adventure page. As I accumulate more Adventures, I will sort them out a bit, but the blog will contain posts about all.

Monetization is where the biggest change in plan for the site takes place. I had always planned for the site to be monetized, it was originally intended to be very early in the game. Now that element is taking a back seat. I plan on acquiring sponsors and selling advertising at some point. For now that is an incidental, not a driving factor. This is a huge shift in the sites initial concept. Where it was originally money driven, it is now a personal thing. Don’t get me wrong, I will be pimping the site in short order, it just wont be the driving force. I think that this change in attitude about the site will help to over come my personal obstacles about being the face man.

At the drawing board

FBJ-AA-logo-02-bBack at the drawing board this weekend. Many hours have been put into the the adventure program, things like business plan, cost sheets, program expensing, and biz structure, you know the boring paperwork stuff. Actually I enjoy some of this stuff, it is like flight planning for the whole she-bang, and I do like flight planning.

More to come soon on the adventures, for now I am working on revamping the pages on the site and sprucing things up around here. I think I may find some time to spruce up me self a bit too. 😉 At some point I need to get a decent portrait on the site.

During this coming week I will be off doing non aviation or site stuff but I will be back in the evenings to keep plugging at it.

~FBJ

Low-Budget Motion Picture Studio Development

reels-bl-2 copyThis entry is a paper on micro-production companies I wrote a few months ago. I know of a few people who follow this blog who are participating in low budget film making and though this might be of interest.

~FBJ

Contents

•    Introduction
•    Low-Budget Motion Picture Production
•    Making movies cheaper
•    The keys to the kingdom
•    What makes a motion picture commercially viable?
•    What makes a script commercially viable?
•    Start selling early
•    Getting started
•    Return on investment
•    Mitigation of risk
•    Elements to successful production
•    Keeping the talent pool fresh
•    Summary

Introduction

A new course is being charted in motion picture production. Sextant MPS has been building a catalog of properties since 2004, its founders have been developing properties individually since the early 1970’s, and as a collaborative are in position to produce any one of its many motion picture properties.

With the development of new technologies and the falling prices of equipment and software there has never been a better time to enter the motion picture industry. When cameras cost $50,000 or more it is difficult to justify purchasing new ones frequently; when they cost $500 you can easily keep up with the Jones’s as new breakthroughs occur.

Low-Budget Motion Picture Production

Low-Budget does not have to mean cheap or crap. There have been many commercially successful low-budget films in the general distribution market place. Some have been cheesy, presumably on purpose (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, cost $90K, spurred 3 sequels, video games in a franchise grossing hundreds of millions of dollars), some have been cult classics (Blair Witch Project, cost $60K, grossed over $240M), and others have been serious entries into the general market (Chasing Amy, cost $250K, grossed $12M).

The Screen Actors Guild calls anything under $2.5M a low budget film. The Hollywood industrial standard is anything under $25M. Independent filmmaking is generally under $250K.

Previously mentioned examples of low-budget films all could be done today for less than they cost when they were made. Technological landscapes have changed a great deal in the last five years. High Definition video and extremely versatile Non-Linier Editing systems (NLE’s) have come down in price so fast that it is now possible to buy a good quality, pro-sumer camera and an NLE for less than $10,000 combined. These advances in technology make it possible for new companies to enter the market fresh, and upgrade with the technological advances frequently without breaking the bank.

Making movies cheaper

Many motion pictures are still being shot on film. Shooting on film adds a lot of cost to the project. A project using 16mm film can expect to pay $100 per minute of film. A project shot on 35mm could expect the cost to be $1,000 per minute. This cost is on film used to shoot, not your projects run time. The average production has a 5:1 shoot ratio or higher, this means, for every minute in your scripted project you will shoot 5 minutes to get that 1 minute needed. The average project shot with 35mm film costs over $505,000 just in film stock and daily processing. This does not take into account scenes that are shot and cut in post-production. Shoot digital, and you just saved half a million dollars.

The keys to the kingdom

The keys to making low-budget commercially successful motion pictures are making movies that are fresh, entertaining and commercially viable. Independent filmmaking has been very successful with respect to making motion pictures on a small budget, it has however, been traditionally unsuccessful in making motion pictures that are commercially viable.

What makes a motion picture commercially viable?

Many, independent filmmakers produce motion pictures with the mantra “art for art’s sake”. Although there have been commercially successful films produced under this edict, they are few and far between. The saving grace of independent film is its tenacious ability to produce motion pictures on a very low budget. The motion picture industry as a whole has operated on its own edict that it takes big money to get big money. This has been proven incorrect by several filmmakers within the traditional motion picture industry, Clint Eastwood is a master at producing low-budget (by Hollywood standards) films that are commercially successful. On the fringe of the established industry, Robert Rodriguez has also produced a number of commercially successful films on low budgets. Both filmmakers understand the key concepts to making low-budget, commercially viable films.

Commercial success can be achieved in low-budget by the selection of an appropriate script, writing and editing that script with the intent of linking it to a marketing plan, and the judicious use of the independent filmmaker spirit

What makes a script commercially viable?

Key elements of a commercially viable script are a unique story, or in the very least a unique retelling of the story, and development of the screenplay with an eye toward product placement and ancillary commercial opportunities; including merchandising, book sales, sequels, and unique marketing opportunities such as membership websites, organizations, societies, or movements.

Start selling early

Viral marketing of a motion picture property requires careful integration with key elements of the story, dynamic content and ease of distribution. The most successful example of viral marketing in a low-budget motion picture that made lots of money is the Blair Witch Project. The story of Blair Witch Project is weak at best, the production quality is also weak, however, due to the nature of the story, and in light of the enormous viral marketing campaign surrounding the project and it became a very strong property for the distribution company and the studio. Together the viral marketing campaign and the extremely low budget for production of the film where responsible for its financial success.

Getting started

Although the definition of low-budget is the subject of debate by various organizations, the disparity is based on whose industry standards are being cited. A budget of $250,000 is quite sufficient for the production of commercially viable film. Within this budgetary range, preproduction funding for the development of a property can be between $10,000 and $25,000 up-front, depending on the complexity of the film and technical requirements it may have.  In its most simple terms, a low-budget studio could feasibly produce seven to ten motion pictures in one year for under $5M. Up-front capital for an independent, low-budget studio to produce these films would be in the range of $500K -$750K.

Return on investment

Turnaround times on low-budget films, though shorter than major studio motion pictures, still run between one and two years.

Preproduction development times run from 3 to 10 months depending on the complexity of the motion picture. (median time in months; 6)

Most low-budget motion pictures can complete the preproduction phase between 3 and 6 months.  (4)

Post-production, like the other phases, is dependent on the complexity and technical requirements of the motion picture.  Post can run anywhere from 2 to 10 months. (5)

If distribution has already been arranged, the motion picture should go directly to theaters or consumer direct channels. If distribution has not been secured in advance, it becomes necessary to present the motion picture within the film festival circuit. Playing the circuit could add 18 months or more to secure a distribution contract. (6)

Assuming a run in the film festival circuit before a distribution contract is negotiated; this brings our median time in around 21 months before revenues are generated on the motion picture. This is of course assuming that the property is picked up by distribution. This is not always the case.

It is the responsibility of the producers to provide their best efforts at securing distribution for any motion picture from its inception. There are however, elements well outside the producers’ control that may prevent the film from obtaining distribution.

Mitigation of risk

The business of making movies has always been a risky venture. There are no absolutes in the industry guaranteeing distribution or the profitability of a motion picture. A producer can mitigate risk by ensuring the property is developed as a commercially viable project, and by securing product placement contracts and distribution contracts during the development phase of the motion picture. Elements that can reduce risk of loss include completion insurance and preventative measures against stock asset material destruction and curtailing proprietary information exchange

Elements to successful production

Filming in digital formats, thorough preproduction planning, extensive storyboarding and shot lists, and the early involvement of editing staff can reduce back end expenses and time a great deal. Spending a little extra time in the preproduction phase can smooth out the bumps in the road before you get to them.

Keeping production elements in the house whenever possible may cost slightly more initially, however, the flexibility and oversight it allows outweigh the slight cost increase quickly. Development of regular crew list keeps the set environment familiar and allows the crew to flow smoothly from one project to the next. Frequent reanalysis of the production paradigm provides regular feedback on the flow of the production, more importantly it provides the producers with information that can streamline the flow of production and provide continued cost reduction information from one project to the next.

Continual development of industrial relationships such as distribution companies, vendors, and talent, along with regular scouting of new crew, talent and locations provides the studio with ready resources going into the next project.

Keeping the talent pool fresh

Experimental filmmaking with regular cast and crew in between projects by making short subject films, though not usually commercially viable, presents many opportunities for the development of new techniques, equipment, and expanding crew skill sets. This kind of intermediary project also provides an opportunity to audition new crew and talent in a professional environment, without commercial loss. Furthering the growth and development of regular crew and talent affects the bottom line positively.

Summary

Maintaining a top-of-mind awareness, a studio can develop a reputation for its ability to develop fresh properties and get them to market quickly while maintaining a high quality product.

Combining the independent filmmaker spirit with big-picture management, a small studio can produce a high volume of commercially viable motion pictures annually while incurring very low cost-per-project expenses and a minimal studio overhead cost.

Three Projects, One Dilemma

PosterGirlAs it seem is always the case, funding a project is once again the crux of efforts. The Steam Faire project is moving along. I have a few interested core people moving things along. Now we are at a funding phase. Likewise, the AerNavis project is also at a funding phase. But wait, there’s more… another project I conceptualized in 2005 is also at a similar stage, GA Adventures.

I guess I need to get myself motivated to get out and beat the proverbial pavement and get the funding train.

Much to do with little time.

~FBJ

The Great HD Crash of 08

There has been a lack of posts on the blog since the “Great HD Crash of 08”.

I have been under a great deal of stress, as of late, and a lack of sleep doesn’t help. The club gig has come to an end. Less than the stellar ending I had hoped for, but this is good in the long run, it doesn’t help with the stress right now, but “it will all work out“. I must admit, I didn’t expect it to go longer than a year, so thirteen months is not far off. After the issues surrounding the big awards show, things deteriorated nuke-backgroundwith some interpersonal relationships that where not expected to recover. I stuck it out because I wanted it to end gracefully. With all of the software and hardware problems poking there ugly heads at me regularly, basically telling me its time to hang it up, I gave it the old college try, but in the end, there was little to salvage.

On the positive side; I took the time to review a couple of other projects I had in the wings, so to speak. The Steam Faire project is moving along, slowly but steadily. The website now has 50 members, there was a good turnout for the first organizational meeting, the second meet-up looks like it will be successful, and I have leads on a couple of sponsorships. The over all plan is maturing quickly. There are several scheduling things that need tending this coming week, a few appointments need to be set, venue, sponsors, promo items, and the like. I have a very good feeling about the project and the support received thus far. Response has been positive, and with a little promotional push this began rolling beyond the initial buzz.

Galeatus AerNavis

AirshipPilotThe second big project is on a slower development track. There are several tie-ins with Steam Faire, mainly in the promotional arena. If I can garner some financial interest in the basic project concepts and development track, the public “roll-out” could be as early as January. I am hesitant to push for public support as a “grass roots” movement until getting some feed back from a potential interested party.

A number of successful companies have used a similar structure and tactics by opening up to public contribution and support, providing full scale development funding with only subsistence funding from the investment sector. The advantage of this approach is a lower initial investment, typically from an “angel” type investor, low dollar, high return potential. This kind of venture is seat-of-the-pants boot-strapping, and pure risk capital. With smaller investments, and funding commitments at key developmental benchmarks it spreads out the cash flow, and risk for the investor.

~FBJ