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Game Changer Followup

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Mike CohenGame Changer Followup
by on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:58:12 pm

The below thread about Media Batch software actually is bringing up some good points about interacting with clients, and some of the inherent problems with clients communicating their own input and approval.

I would be interested to hear what others' systems are for client input from script to completion, as well as horror stories and success stories along the way.

Mike Cohen


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Tim KolbRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:26:51 am

It looks interesting. i bookmarked the site.

Adobe does have an interesting feature called "clipnotes" that allows you to embed a video inside a PDF and enable the client to make notes that become tied to a timecode signature. The editor then imports those notes, which create markers on the edit timeline with those notes attached.

However, that is a file, not a distribution solution like this is...




TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Todd at Fantastic PlasticRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 30, 2007 at 5:27:55 am

I too think Media Batch sounds interesting, and I will certainly give it a look.

It might indeed prove to be a product that I don't know how I ever lived without... however so far (for what little I know about it) in our shop I'm thinking that it might fall into that familiar "solution in need of a problem" category. We have never had any struggles or problems with getting files to clients for approvals or whatever.

Part of that might have to do with the way that we work: Probably 90% or better of what our company produces are broadcast commercials... so approval files are never that huge. Plus in the majority of the time we are the producers as well as just the production company.... that is, we are responsible for everything from concept to creative on down... so the "vision" that we are trying to realize is our own to start with, ergo there is not that much need to seek approval from ourselves... usually the first cut that a client sees here is the final cut, and we are lucky enough that most of the time (I'd say 9 times out of 10) clients don't have any changes and we are good to go.

Some of our clients (maybe a third of them) actually like to sit in on editing sessions. I manage to subtley discourage that in my own personal suite (my client chairs are purposely uncomfortable...hehe), but our senior editor is not as lucky as his suite has a big comfy sectional sofa (he still curses me for that).

Probably another third of our clients drop in right as editing is complete to approve/review/change or whatever.

The remaining third are generally out-of-towners. Usually we just make some kind of media file (.wmv, .mpg, .mov... whatever their choice is), throw it on the server here, and email them a download link. I don't think we've really ever had a client struggle with viewing, downloading, or saving a file... and some of them are quite technically UNsavvy.

As I said... maybe Media Batch will fill a need that I didn't even realize we had. I'm openminded... will give it a look.

Ok, Mike asked for client-approval horror stories, so here is mine:

Last year we did a big-screen presentation film for the international convention of a big fortune 500 company. The person we were dealing with at this company has NO ability to visualize ANYTHING whatsoever (yet somehow is in charge of the company's marketing... Peter Principal, anyone?). She insisted on seeing storyboards for virtually every frame of this presentation. I personally hate storyboards, never use them unless I have to... but even after explaining that we would have to charge her $3K more just to draw the boards, she said "Fine," she had to see them. Well, one section of this presentation had a sales trainer speaking to a group of employees... she wanted a "motivational speaker" type of setup, very "Tony Robbins." So our setting was a big auditorium with a stage for the actor protraying the sales trainer... there were bunches of extras brought in as the audience... gigantic banners... lights, follow spots, IntelliBeams, smoke machines, the works...all very slick. I didn't quite get it, but this was THEIR idea, not mine... and the storyboards depicted all of this exactly, so we weren't worried when the client couldn't attend the shoot due to a scheduling conflict (although her ad agency rep was there). Later, when showing what we hoped would be the final cut, the marketing lady hated it. HATED it. She said something like, "Oh, we would never do anything like that, I'd rather just see the trainer talking to people in, oh, a classroom setting. Can you do that?" When explaining to her that we had produced exactly what she asked for, and exactly what the storyboards she approved showed, she said something like "Well, yes... but I have to see an idea finished on screen before I have any idea what it's going to look like."

So, our answer to her basically was, "Sure sister... we can do your classroom scene. I suspect it will be quite an expensive little classroom scene though"... although we phrased it nicer than that. They didn't care, they paid for it, didn't seem to mind the huge extra expense, and loved the finished product....although I would rather have NOT taken their money to stage an elaborate scene that never saw the light of day.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Jason KalinoskiRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 30, 2007 at 3:54:48 pm

"Well, yes... but I have to see an idea finished on screen before I have any idea what it's going to look like."


If I had a nickel for everytime I've heard that...

Why are these people always the final decision makers?
Why? Why? Why?

Sorry Todd, you touched a nerve with that one...


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beenyweeniesRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 30, 2007 at 4:13:25 pm

"Well, yes... but I have to see an idea finished on screen before I have any idea what it's going to look like."

Translation:

I have no creativity or vision, yet somehow I am in charge of driving the creativity and vision of my company. I only survive by spending gobs of money to patch the holes left by my incompetence.

Sorry, but I've heard this one WAY too often, and it's always said by people working for the largest companies out there. If they didn't have a bottomless purse to work with, they would be back to working at McDonald's.



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beenyweeniesRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 30, 2007 at 4:06:13 pm

Following up on my own post below, I built my studio's client review system using .asp, Flash, chewing gum and WD-40. I am comfortable with web design and basic asp scripting, but it took a lot of planning and testing to figure out how to stick it all together (hence the chewing gum) and best serve our client's needs.

Since that system went live, I have observed the following:

1. Clients are rarely willing to sign off on a file via an online system, much less leave notes. In my experience, people are so used to email and phone communication that they were hesitant to use these tools. This may be partially due to the fact that they are spending large sums of money and really want that personal level of customer care, rather than using automated web forms for everything.

2. When doing work for outside producers, online systems like this make it more difficult for them to share the file with their client.

3. Many clients are tucked behind a corporate firewall with strict access rules. This makes online review systems even more tricky because it MUST conform to the client's needs. Using Flash is great for many things, but it will immediately render your review system useless to about 10% of your clients.

4. We built our system to simplify the review process. Clients merely type in a user name and password and they are taken to a secure page that lists current files up for review. They click a file and the video plays, with a box for notes and a checkbox to approve that version of the video. Very simple. Even still, some clients are so computer-challenged that even this system has required explanation and hand-holding.


After all the work of building and maintaining this system, we have found that simply uploading the file via ftp to our server, emailing the client a link and discussing by email or phone is the easiest and least complex method for reviewing with clients.

That said, the Media Batch system DOES include certain features that I believe are much better than our system, that clients would be more willing to use them and that it is a worthwhile investment.



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Marco SolorioRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 30, 2007 at 8:41:18 pm

1. [beenyweenies] "1. Clients are rarely willing to sign off on a file via an online system, much less leave notes. In my experience, people are so used to email and phone communication that they were hesitant to use these tools. This may be partially due to the fact that they are spending large sums of money and really want that personal level of customer care, rather than using automated web forms for everything."

I agree and disagree. I think it all depends on the client and the type of project. We recently completed a very technical medical 3D animation for a new heart device. The clients literally told me they don't know how they would have gotten the project done as accurately as we did without Media Batch in the mix. They used the note system liberally and it *really* helped everyone on the team know what to do. The note system was definitely a huge component to the (huge) success of the final product. They're ready to do three more medical 3D animation projects!

[beenyweenies] "2. When doing work for outside producers, online systems like this make it more difficult for them to share the file with their client."

I actually completely disagree. We have outside producers hire us for the actual production work and they run the show. Some of these producers have their own copy of Media Batch on their sites and some do not have websites at all (I know, amazing but true). Either way, they can upload files (to either our system or theirs) if they need to. It really works out well for them and the bottom line, their clients love it.

[beenyweenies] "3. Many clients are tucked behind a corporate firewall with strict access rules. This makes online review systems even more tricky because it MUST conform to the client's needs. Using Flash is great for many things, but it will immediately render your review system useless to about 10% of your clients."

The Media Batch system doesn't rely on Flash. The portals, lists and viewers are all parsed as standard HTML from the PHP source. The only Flash components are the Media Batch FLV Viewer and the SWF Viewer. Everything runs though HTTP protocols on port 80, so if they can view eBay or Yahoo, they can use Media Batch and all it's features. It's *extremely* corporate friendly. I wouldn't have created it if it couldn't meet that requirement as we have countless corporate clients, including Cisco, Informatica, Quest, blah, blah, blah.

[beenyweenies] "4. We built our system to simplify the review process. Clients merely type in a user name and password and they are taken to a secure page that lists current files up for review. They click a file and the video plays, with a box for notes and a checkbox to approve that version of the video. Very simple. Even still, some clients are so computer-challenged that even this system has required explanation and hand-holding."

Hoesntly, I've never had an experience with clients that required them to understand how the interface works. You send them the link and it's all laid out clearly. In fact, as the Media Batch admin, you can completely hide columns and re-name column titles for your clients. So for instance, you can just have a file name column, a date column and a download column. If the client can't figure that out, they need a brain transplant!

[beenyweenies] "After all the work of building and maintaining this system, we have found that simply uploading the file via ftp to our server, emailing the client a link and discussing by email or phone is the easiest and least complex method for reviewing with clients."

I think if you used Media Batch, you'd think otherwise and your clients would love you to death. The integrated Media Batch Uploader (used for both admin and optionally for users) is extremely powerful. You'll never have to use FTP again.

[beenyweenies] "That said, the Media Batch system DOES include certain features that I believe are much better than our system, that clients would be more willing to use them and that it is a worthwhile investment."

I agree! As mentioned in the other post, email me offline and we'll see if we can set you up with a cross-grade offer.

Thanks,

Marco Solorio | CreativeCow Host | OneRiver Media | Codec Resource Site | Cinesoft | Media Batch



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beenyweeniesRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 31, 2007 at 4:57:14 am

I really should have posted my last comment first, because it sums up my sentiments quite well. It is NOT enough to "have a system" if users won't use it or if it is difficult to navigate, etc. and this is why building your own system is risky. I shouldn't have phrased my complaints about our system so universally, because many of the problems I've encountered are very likely due to the system we built and its specific shortcomings.

I'm sure Media Batch is an excellent resource, that's why I posted what I did about it in the thread below. In fact, I will very likely be putting my money where my mouth is...



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Marco SolorioRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 31, 2007 at 6:00:30 am

Sounds great! Again, contact me offline and we'll see if we can work out a cross-grade offer.

Thanks!

Marco Solorio | CreativeCow Host | OneRiver Media | Codec Resource Site | Cinesoft | Media Batch



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George SockaRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 31, 2007 at 12:42:07 am

I like the last part. Even better with a simple web page with links because then they can right click and "save as" as well as view. The save as lets them play it back later, share it around the office, and lets people on slow connections actually be able to see the whole file without buffering, or in Flash - breaking up. And Windows media files sseem to be useable by everyone so far.


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Marco SolorioRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Oct 31, 2007 at 6:03:59 am

This can exactly be done with Media Batch. It's as simplified as you want it to be for your clients *but* with greater control, password logins and tracking on your end as the admin. It's extremely customizable for you and your clients' needs.

Marco Solorio | CreativeCow Host | OneRiver Media | Codec Resource Site | Cinesoft | Media Batch



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Tim KolbRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:01:51 pm

[beenyweenies] "Clients are rarely willing to sign off on a file via an online system, much less leave notes. In my experience, people are so used to email and phone communication that they were hesitant to use these tools."

I suppose this depends on the client. Clients who consume large amounts of these types of services like expedient ways of taking care of communication in my experience...and asynchronous methods (like email and web deployed assets where the send and receive/response can happen when convenient for each party) seem to make sense to my clients.

I suppose when you have a client who has very little practical experience with our business and assumes that all production locations look like a feature film set probably expect more...





TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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walter biscardiRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:14:17 pm

[beenyweenies] "1. Clients are rarely willing to sign off on a file via an online system, much less leave notes. In my experience, people are so used to email and phone communication that they were hesitant to use these tools."

actually this is a HUGE part of our workflow today. Not only for our national clients, but even for local clients the ability to review and finalize videos via an online system has been a large selling point for our shop. Locally because traffic in Atlanta is just horrendous. And nationally, we work exclusively with internet reviews.


[beenyweenies] "
2. When doing work for outside producers, online systems like this make it more difficult for them to share the file with their client."


Our FTP site has been very widely accepted by outside Producers. It's some Corporate Clients that we have had to "hand hold" to get them through the FTP Site. That's where Media Batch is really going to help us out.



[beenyweenies] "3. Many clients are tucked behind a corporate firewall with strict access rules. This makes online review systems even more tricky because it MUST conform to the client's needs."

We have found that Corporate IT departments have been more than willing to open up the website addresses for the clients. In our FTP case, it's actually all done through our regular website. Once that's opened up, we haven't had any issues with our corporate clients.


[beenyweenies] "4. We built our system to simplify the review process. Clients merely type in a user name and password and they are taken to a secure page that lists current files up for review. They click a file and the video plays, with a box for notes and a checkbox to approve that version of the video. Very simple. Even still, some clients are so computer-challenged that even this system has required explanation and hand-holding."

Yep, that's how our current system works, though Media Batch has a LOT more features that we're looking to add and we honestly can't wait until it's installed next week.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com

Stop Staring Start Grading with Apple Color The new Color Training DVD now available!
http://store.creativecow.net/p/66/stop_staring_and_start_grading_with_apple...

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Mike CohenRe: Game Changer Followup
by on Nov 1, 2007 at 7:29:31 pm

I have to agree with this post from beenyweenies. I encounter clients even here in 2007 who have any of the following issues:

1. Windows Media Player 7
2. Flash player version 6
3. No media player
4. A DVD-ROM drive but no DVD player software.
"can you make a DVD that plays in a CD-ROM drive?" actual question.
5. Firewall preventing any media and/or downloads.
6. Inability to understand "right click to download file"

We too created a flash and php based client review system. Most clients love it, a few don't "get" it and a few have one of the above issues.

Mike


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