Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Google Video (Part 1)

Right now is a really cool time to be an independent filmmaker. Opportunities are arising everywhere that will in my opinion completely democratize distribution.

Just as MiniDV (especially 24p DV and now the new HDV flavors, and of course the higher-end HD formats) did for making films, these new distribution models will (hopefully) do the same for distributing them.

Google Video is one such new approach.

If you read many blogs or follow indie film very closely (and I'm assuming you do since you're reading this) then you've most likely heard of "Waterborne". This was the first "pay" indie feature to be distributed via Google Video - and supposedly it has been a success. I'm not sure what a "success" is to the filmmakers or to Google, but I do know that the film's director turned down a low six figure advance from a distributor to go with Google. I hope for his sake it has been a good decision (he's definitely received a ton of press coverage, which you'd think would help sales).

For more detailed coverage of "Waterborne" see my blog post at LoudBuzz:

So, I'm thinking... this is a pretty good idea. Do I want to use it too?

With my new film "Killing Down" I am pursuing a more traditional distribution route. The film has some recognizable talent in it and it's a commercially viable story, etc. We get calls from distributors all the time wanting to see it, but it's not quite done, so we wait (it will be done in about 4-6 weeks).

My previous film "Hit" had a domestic DVD deal - then it didn't - then it had one - then it fell apart again. We've got a few more places we're talking to, but if those don't work out then I'm definitely considering using Google Video among other avenues (such as selling the DVD on, etc.). And my first feature "Thugs" has foreign distribution, but no domestic, so it too might be a possibility for Google.

In the meantime though, I decided to simply upload the trailers of "Killing Down" and "Hit" to Google Video. Heck, it's free for the filmmaker and I set it up to be free for any viewers. There aren't many trailers on Google Video yet, so maybe they'll get some good play on there and create traffic to the movie websites (and increase visibility)?

Google gives pretty simple instructions for uploading the videos. They prefer .mp4 files (mpeg 4) at 640x480. So, if your film is widescreen - then letterbox it in 4x3. Easy enough. Then you download "Google Video Uploader" software - install it on your computer - and upload away (of course first you need a Google account to do any this).

I did this on February 18th - four days ago. And today I checked my Google Video account and boom - the videos were "Live" (that's what they call it). So their "verification" process took about 4 days. I assume they make sure it's not pornographic content or overly offensive during this "verification", but they also encode your video to fit their streaming model - and they also encode it for download to iPod and PSP (which is very cool).

All this sounds great except for one small problem. I went to watch my trailers and they weren't encoded correctly by Google. They are "zoomed" in on the image. Only a quarter or so of the actual video is seen on screen. Very odd. I don't think it's simply my computer monitor because other videos looks fine. And, they have "screen shots" next to the video and they are "zoomed" in on too. Here are the links to the trailers so you can see for yourself.

"Killing Down" on Google Video:

"Hit" on Google Video:

I emailed their support and haven't heard back yet. Hopefully I will soon. At least the audio sounds good! :) Once I get it all figured out I'll post a new blog entry.

I really think Google Video (which is in Beta testing - stress Beta) is going to be a great resource for promoting and selling indie films. And once Apple jumps in with their version who knows what the future will hold.



The Sujewa said...

Good info. Blake. Can be very useful. Thanks.


Stacy said...

I'm curious about google video, too. The industry folks tossed up some concerns, though..namely, how do you handle residuals (if you have any sag actors) and the issue of basically signing away,rather early, your possibilities for cable broadcast.
My hope is that at the least, google video and similar options will give indie films more exposure as an industry, leading distributors to a new understanding of which films they consider "commercially viable".

Blake Calhoun said...

Good point on the SAG residuals. I assume the filmmaker (i.e. producer) would be responsible because then they are acting as distributor too. That could definitely get kind of tricky. Then again, if you do ANY kind of self-distribution (and make money) you'll owe residuals.

I think initially most films distributed this way will be smaller niche films that couldn't find distribution and thus (probably) don't have the SAG concerns. I'm sure Google will end up (if they haven't already) working deals out since in all actuality they ARE a distributor now.