Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What a Difference a Sensor Makes or how to Capture UFO's More Better

The title of this entry does have some merit!

I found it very interesting that while is running a test to compare sensors of cameras, particularly an APS-C vs a full frame, that I caught some unexpected goodies to my surprise. I was curious about the "crop factor" thing, but even more curious about the real differences. Visually, that is. 

APS-C vs. Full Frame or a Canon T2i vs. a Canon 6D

Using the same lens, a true and classic "nifty fifty" (50mm 1.4) I did a couple of test shots just for the heck of it. I am well aware of the 1.6 crop factor on the APS-C sensor, hence, the "nifty fifty" really became a "latey eighty". Or simply put, multiply 50mm x 1.6 and you get 80mm. The stars seem so close now. Not!

In any case, the test was to evaluate that 600 rule to avoid star trails. And yeah, it works for some odd reason. The planet we reside on is rotating. This in itself would cause star trails if you happen to leave the shutter open too long. So for both scenarios I calculated approximate shutter speed. Hence, the 6D would leave the shutter open longer of course. 12 seconds as opposed to 7.5 seconds on the T2i (APS-C) using the exact same lens.

See those straight lines? Probably UFO's ;)

I think there be some missing stars.
Okay, so no star trails. Good. But looking at the two pics, one can see that a full size sensor picks up so much more. Particularly UFOs. (Those straight lines of light). Click on the images for full size. Who knows, you might even see little green men on the 6D version. 

The Conclusion: Full Frame Sensors pick up What the US Gov't has Denied for Years, Sort of...

Alright, so maybe those are just satellites traveling around the earth. The point is that one camera picked them up (6D) and one didn't (T2i). This is most likely due to the sensor size. A full frame sensor has a bit more capability due to the architecture of the sensor itself. The resolution is only about 2 mpixels larger, T2i=18,700,000 pixels where the 6D=20,200,000 pixels - but as the full frame sensor is approx 4 time the physical size, the pixels are a bit better spaced and perhaps a bit larger. I am sure there are several super duper techie reasons that come together to perform so much better. But I don't think boring you with that stuff will help here. The point is simple: the larger sensor picks up a heck of a lot more than the smaller sensor. Just ask any alien or little green man you encounter. That is if you can hold the camera still during such an encounter. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There's a rumble in the stock media business and it ain't looking too pretty.

The former stock house known as Thought Equity now is T3Licensing.com.

In this industry, as many others one can expect mergers, buyouts and even failures. But a change of this nature might be somewhat unusual. First thing that comes to mind is why? After all, there is quite a re-branding exercise that needs to be done and that can be very expensive. Assuming that is well organized, one still wonders what and why this change. A buyout might be reasonable. And that is perhaps some of it. Or perhaps a simple reorganization?

How to alienate your artists, or simply; "biting the hand that feeds you".

I personally have never dealt with the former Thought Equity so I am somewhat flying blind here. I was aware of them. But something about them just didn't tickle my fancy. Signing on with any agency yields a ton of work. Regardless of their programs, incentives, sales records or anything else that would be pertinent. It simply is a lot of work. 

The process still requires one to upload, tag (key wording), title, spec, organize and cross the fingers in hopes of sales. This is very time consuming to say the least. And if one is going to "invest" such time, it had better be for good reason. 

I have now read, just in the last two days from several artists that are basically being screwed by this new named organization. From what I see, this new organization simply has, and I am guessing here, as things seem to be pretty hush-hush, allowed another organization (Dissolve.com) to re-sell high quality stock media at fire sale pricing. Five bucks! Yup, all clips for $5.00. However, it seems they have done so without notifying any of the artist contributors. They simply did it! And perhaps they thought no one would notice? 

Now we know mistakes can happen. For example; United Airlines sold tickets for $5.00 (yes, a five, a period and two zeros!) dollars just a week ago. By mistake. But that is understandable as flying is no where near as valuable as stock footage! I digress.

The Internet is very small and you can't hide.

One might think that it would take a while to discover such things as the Internet is such a large beast. But if you have people that work in a specific industry and that are always looking for new avenues in their niche market to distribute their goods, then you simply can't hide a darn thing. They will and shall find it, and quickly at that. Then the news travels very fast throughout the specific industry sector. 

It is a bad idea in today's world of business to try to pull off something while at the same time trying to "fly under the radar". It simply can't happen! If that is how you want to do business, you are basically attempting to create an oxymoron. You would be that one salmon that is swimming down stream. You would be trying to defy the whole purpose of the net. You would in essence come across as being totally inept. So the last resort you would have is to simply not answer your emails or phone calls. And that is what is happening as we speak. 

Perhaps this is all just a big misunderstanding? Perhaps their phone lines are no working due to some flooding? Perhaps their email servers are slow or even down? Perhaps, perhaps but unlikely.  

Is it a front or a real partner? Or, is it a sign of desperation?

The secondary site that is selling high quality media is also out of the country. Canada to be exact. So it would be super difficult for any artist to get any recourse. Hence, the artists in question, many of them friends of mine, are up in arms. I can imagine that the thought has crossed their minds in regards to wtf? Is this company that seems to be giving goods away desperate financially? Are they partnering with a company out of the country thinking that no one would notice? Are they following that age old principle of "we'll take a loss and make up for it in volume"? Or is this all just a big mistake following suite to United Airlines? (I am trying really hard to give the situation the benefit of the doubt here.)



Or is it quite simply that this other company is trying to actually execute the idea and live up to it's name by shortly "dissolving", due to lack of revenue? However, in the mean time this company is dissolving the value of any said stock media by doing this ludicrous model. 

These questions are most likely crossing many of the victimized artists's minds.

Caveat Emptor and Carpe Diem

This is the moral of the story when it comes to agency selection for the stock media arts. Beware of who buy into for your distribution and when all is good, seize the day. For even the most solid and functional agencies may realize major changes over time. 

Here are a few tips, anecdotes and notes from the last couple of years regarding several of the better known "stock houses":

Pond5.com - Still one the best. Easy to use, 50/50 split - you set the price and they accept a variety of resolutions, formats and media types. From regular footage to 3d models, from vector graphics to After Effects projects, and last but not least, from sound effects to complete musical compositions. They are suffering slightly from version generitus. (I made the word up). Simply put, they have been attempting to implement a new version of their site (know as version 2). My personal opinion is that it was a bit premature to release, but then who am I to say. I still dig them and they always seem to be "bleeding edge" even in their mishaps :) . 

Shutterstock - Went public this year (ticker SSTK) - seem to be a very solid company. They have some pretty cool new things in the works. Their back-end for artists is straightforward and simple and of course very functional.  Great communication too. Never had to wait more than a day for any response! This is pretty darned important.

Istockphoto.com - (Getty Images) - I did very little with them several years ago and quite frankly lost interest. For the amount of grunt work you have to do just to submit a clip (cumbersome as hell) and then wait forever for curation, and then maybe get approved it simply was too much of a waste of time for me personally considering the lousy split they offer. The point about the miserable back-end was not just my opinion, but several other artists I have gotten to know over the years. Not to long ago in the past they even made the terms worse regarding splits. They claimed their bottom line was hurting. That is always a worry for me. 

ClipCanvas.com - (Euro Company in Norway) - I dabbled with them a little bit. But when they started immediately rejecting goods that I have sold through other agencies I immediately stopped even trying. I don't like to waste my time. It almost seemed that they were sending a message that offshore stuff wasn't good enough for them (my opinion of course). Not long ago they too sent an email to all contributors about having to cut the split as they were in some financial worry. That put the final nail for me in their coffin. 

Artbeats.com - Who knows. Haven';t heard much about them recently. I have noticed that three years ago they had a pretty large booth at NAB (Las Vegas), then two years ago a smaller one, and last year I simply couldn't find them at that show at all. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. But having come from the old Comdex days, it meant bad news if a company didn't show anymore. Last I talked with them, they did some specific contractual stuff. The first version was god awful. The rates were horrible. I heard a while after that, that they revised and became a bit friendlier towards artists. But that was a couple of years ago and I haven't heard or pursued much after that with them. They are still around however and as they seem to pop up in many tutorial demos from various companies (Adobe for example), they must be doing just fine. 

If you want to see a full list, that's an assumption on my part, and a bad one at that as they don't even list Pond5.com, see "The Footage List" or "Which Stock Agency" which again is probably someone's opinion and not fact in regards to their so-called "best" list. 

How to select the agency or agencies that fit your needs.

As I write this, I am thinking about how I selected my agencies. What I am about to tell you is nothing more than common business sense. I did the following and still do, simply because for each agency that you work with, your work load increases. So if you invest your time in filming, keywording, tagging, titling, uploading, rendering, cutting, splicing, editing and breathing, oh and spending a king's ransom on equipment... then it is only fair to get some solid answers from anyone you plan on doing business with. If they are pro's, they will understand this and won't be offended. 

I contacted the agency directly either by telephone, email or face to face visit. 

Pond5 - I first visited several years ago at NAB. Actually they were the whole reason I even went to NAB for the first time. I needed to see who I was dealing with as I was already prepared to start my own agency. I met with Tom Bennett (the grand puba (CEO)) - chatted a bit, shared my spread sheets with him and came to the conclusion that it was easier to work with Pond5 than reinvent the wheel. This was a true Face to Face

Istock - This was my first mistake. I didn't call them, email them or face to face them. I simply went by what many at the time were talking about. Basically hearsay. Stupid on my part - but figured it out quickly that it was not for me. And please, don't base your decision on what I write here. It may be right for you. The best is to do some homework, research and maybe a phone call, email or visit to NAB for a face to face. I personally just don't like their cumbersome and slow back-end process, and can't stand their stingy and confusing split (money!). 

Shutterstock - This was an interesting one. I actually knew quiet a bit about this company. But never really took the time to consider them yet. They in turn expedited my thinking by contacting me. They had researched my library and thought it was pretty cool. They politely and friendly approached me and asked if I would deliver goodies to them as well. Shortly after I delivered my library, they went public. All my fault. Okay, that is not the reason they went public. Their whole intent was to grow their selection as that made sense should they end up going public. I must say, they have been a pleasant experience to date. 

ClipCanvas - see above notes in the story.

Many others:  I have spoken with quite a few others. Some are fairly new start-ups, others are more established. I make phone calls. I ask questions as follows;

1. How long have you been in business?
1.5 WHAT IS YOUR SPLIT? (Percentage split that is and don't give me that sliding scale crap either!)
2. How does your financial situation look? (yes, I dare ask that!)
3. What is your target market. Will my stuff fit their needs for marketing? Do they even have a target market or are they playing a horizontal market? Are they "connected" to the "industry" in any way? And by "industry" I mean not just being an agency, but having connection to studios, networks and so on. References may not hurt at this point.
4. What is your current sales volume? (Some will be downright honest, but you will quickly find out who is exaggerating or outright lying. Use common sense here.)
5. Then I ask them, " I have a hard drive with over 8000 clips of SD, HD, 2K and 4K footage that I could ship to you along with the data for each clip in regards to keywords, title, description etc.., can you handle data import of this magnitude?" - the answer to this question pretty much determines my next step.