Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On creating video reviews

One week ago, I received a notice from Blip.tv that they would be deleting both of my accounts "in accordance with their terms of service."  I put it in quotes, because that's all the reason they gave, not actually explaining why they chose to do so.  It wasn't completely out of the blue, as they had been talking for quite some time about changing the purpose of their site to being a place for "high quality web series." Basically, they want to be seen as something higher in standards than Youtube.  But they also swore they weren't just looking at numbers alone, and that they were also looking for low scoring series that had the potential for growth, and that they would even help them to achieve higher numbers.

Well either that's a load of bullshit, or I have no potential in their eyes.  I'm not going to sit here and pretend that my numbers were great. I had not earned enough money from my videos for a single payout.  But I really thought my series was good, and viewership was growing, slowly but surely.  I was initially pretty upset, and then I was pretty pissed.  Because they think people who nitpick and screech are "quality entertainment" and my honest, well thought out critiques aren't.  Of course, even if they think that method of "reviewing" is stupid, they probably want to keep them simply because they make money from them.  End of story.  There are some good reviewers on there who are also staying, it's just frustrating when you look at their front page and see who they are promoting most heavily.  Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what their reasoning is, as I don't have a choice.  They're deleting my account in three weeks time.

I had started putting all my episodes on Youtube as well as Blip some time ago, mostly in an effort to expand my reach.  I've run into a couple of issues where videos got flagged as soon as they were uploaded there.  Some kind of scanner, I'm sure, that looks for content from the various movie studios that Google has deals with.  While I suppose I could dispute them on the basis of fair use, I'm the more cautious type and would prefer to not deal with that at all.  I haven't had to deal with that in months, but it seems pretty obvious to me that it could happen again at any time.  I've started primarily talking over the video clips I use, removing or lowering the original audio, and I think that goes a long way to help it but the fact of the matter is that you're still playing games to try to make things work okay rather than just producing what you want to produce.

All of this made me sit down and think.  I started doing videos because of my admiration for James Rolfe's movie reviews.  While it's always been a challenge, that was part of the appeal for me.  I've learned a lot over the past year as I worked on them.  I put a lot of time and effort into them, improving scripts, my delivery, finding the best setting in my house to record, using a high quality microphone, and even purchasing an HD camera to improve the quality of the video.

I've created thirteen episodes so far, seventeen videos, and I'm working on the next episode which is also a two-part episode.  It's the most theatrical of all of them as it's a Halloween special and I decided to do something different.  I am, quite honestly, pretty scared as far as how it's going to be received.  I'm taking a risk, and while the two people I showed it to loved the idea, that doesn't mean everyone else will.  But once again, it was a challenge for me, something new and different, and so I jumped on the chance to do it.

Youtube being Youtube, I have received occasional negative comments on the Castle Rock Companion reviews I've put up there.  I hate to be the type of person who blocks comments, because it suggests you can't take criticism or insults.  I'll admit my skin is thin, but I'm doing my best to harden it and it's not going to harden if I block everyone from commenting.  But it is an annoyance, and usually a pretty sharp contrast from any other feedback I receive.

So while I could just continue as I have been with CRC, uploading the videos to Youtube from now on, hosting the ones they block on my website as an alternative, it doesn't really seem desirable to me.  There is also the fact that, this Halloween episode not withstanding, CRC isn't much of a challenge to me anymore.  I've got it down to a science each step of the way, including the video editing.  It's time-consuming, but not difficult.  While I could attempt to come up with some kind of gimmick for each video, I really don't like it when others do that.  I have lost count of the number of reviewers I've watched where I wish they would just drop their attempts to be funny that 9 out of 10 times fall flat and just focus on the review.  They're great at reviewing, they're not so great at comedy.  I'm pretty much the same way in that respect, so I'd rather do my best to execute that 1 out of 10 opportunity and leave the rest as straight reviews.

So I asked myself, how important was the video aspect to what I was doing with CRC?  Yes, I use it to show examples of what I'm talking about, but are they essential?  Could they just as easily be talked about in written form?  In my opinion, while movie clips make a video far more interesting than just watching a person talk at you, they are not truly essential to the review itself.  Looking over the scripts I have for future episodes, most of what I discuss could be shown just as easily with a screenshot than with a video.  Images are a good thing to have in written reviews anyway, as they help break up the wall of text.

I know a part of my decision to try out video reviews way back when is I felt like some people don't like to read.  Well, having done videos,  I've found some people don't have time to watch them.  You can't please all the people all the time, so you might as well just do it in the format you want to do it in.

The number of people who follow the series is also irrelevant to me.  I love doing it and I can't stop myself from doing it.  I read a Stephen King book, I watch the movie adaptation of it, and I go over the differences and what's better in my head.  I put it out there now in case a few people want to join the conversation and discuss it.  No joke, I had a friend who wasn't aware I was doing it come to me and say she wanted to start a blog doing the same exact thing.  So clearly I'm not 100% alone in doing so, and I'm happy with the few people who do participate.

That all said, I have no intention of stopping making videos all together.  I enjoy them immensely.  Long before any of this bullshit happened with Blip, I had every intention of starting another series.  The first episode will be up on my blog tomorrow.  It's related to a type of media that Youtube is far more friendly toward, so I shouldn't have to worry about it being taken down.  What kind of comments I will get is another question, but we will see how that goes.  Honestly, I don't expect many people to take any notice of it at all in the beginning.  I've started new projects often enough that I know the score.

I'm also debating possibly doing something else, something closer to the Halloween episode I'm working on.  Probably not a comedy, but definitely something more original than a review.  I enjoyed acting in Targeted a little too much to make that a one time deal. Obviously that will take a lot of planning and a good solid idea first, but I'm planting the seeds in the back of my mind now to see what develops.

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