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For Videographers, By Videographers: Creating and Marketing Productivity Tools
Posted Jun 27, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Pickwhip Studios' Josh Fozzard often says that he considers After Effects his playground. But Fozzard's ability to dazzle his clients with his creative use of After Effects isn't all fun and games; it's also the foundation of his business and his award-winning work. Knowing that efficiency is a professional videographer's best friend, Fozzard often abstracts his best and most inspired After Effects moments in templates that will allow him to adapt them to multiple projects so he doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time—however fun that might be. But he's recently taken that technique a step further in creating what he calls his "productivity products," packaged versions of those templates that he now markets to other videographers. As Fozzard says, "Everyone needs to save time while creating their videos."

With his productivity products, Fozzard has joined a small group of videographers who have gone a step beyond the popular practice of marketing demos and training videos to others in the industry. These videographers have taken their expertise in specific tasks and tools and turned them into plug-ins, templates, and other types of products that other videographers can not only learn from, but use in their own work.

In many ways, Lance Gray, along with his partners at PixelPops Design, wrote the book on developing productivity products for event videographers, and marketing these products has become a cornerstone of their business. PixelPops has developed tools that can be used to create effective websites, DVD menus, and innovative, brand-defining images for video productions and studios.

Jery Winters, who operates the award-winning event video outfit Unforgettable Events with his wife, Luisa (an EventDV contributing editor), has made his mark developing products on the hardware side. He creates various attachments for camcorders that solve common issues that videographers face in the field. His product line includes the JeryJig, which allows for quick attachment and detachment of certain accessories to camcorders popularly used in event video work.

Like Fozzard and Gray, Winters' success in marketing these tools to his fellow videographers suggests ways that others in the business can enhance their income and benefit their peers in the industry by developing packaged products that leverage their signature skills.

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Jery Winters' JeryJig

Why Productivity Products Matter
The challenge any videographer faces when crossing the line into the "productivity products" business is facing a whole different set of competition. No longer are you competing against other videographers in your local market to build a clientele, you're facing off against a more traditional vendor pool. If you're marketing custom animations, you're taking on Digital Juice; if you're creating Final Cut plug-ins, you're competing on the same playing field as Nattress or Lyric.

But these markets are often more local than you might imagine, and in certain circles your reputation and contacts will benefit you when selling to your peers. Plus, you have an advantage over many of those vendors with your target market: there's no guesswork involved in divining what you're audience needs, because you are your audience. Take the fruitful partnership of LaDonna Moore and Nightsong Productions' Michael Aiken on Nightsong's "cinematic" royalty-free music collections as one example. With music created by a composer with a video background, and developed in conjunction with a top wedding videographer, they've come up with material that's not only expertly tailored to the needs of wedding video productions, but also widely recognized as such.

Because in most instances their product offerings began life as solutions to everyday needs in their own businesses (Moore says the same thing happened with the Nightsong collaboration). Fozzard, Gray, and Winters have created products by whose use many videographers can benefit. Such was the case with PixelPops' PopDrops DVD Menu Templates and Packaging Designs, which were initially developed to create unique and professional looks for PixelPops' own work. Today, the company offers two volumes each featuring 120 ready-made templates, designed for easy integration with Adobe Photoshop and Encore. The DVD menu templates will also work with other Windows DVD authoring tools, but with the likes of Sonic DVDit and Sony DVD Architect they require more tinkering in Photoshop. (See Doug Graham's November 2005 review.)

Along with their packaged products, PixelPops Design has created PopSite, a web design and hosting service developed with videographers' needs in mind. When signing up for the PopSite service, clients are asked to send their content, such as text, images, and logo, to PixelPops, where it is developed into a site using a number of layouts and color schemes. The result is a website that conveys a professional impression to potential clients. While videographers aren't their only clients, and PopSite is far from the only service available to videographers who want to give their sites a professional sheen, the fit is a natural. As Gray says, "The reality is that everything we have created is actually something we use ourselves, on almost a daily basis."

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A PixelPops PopSite

As technology and trends keep changing, so do clients' expectations. To create a video that keeps up with these demands typically requires an extra effort spent on advanced effects and specialized editing techniques. Those who are new to the business may not have time to develop such techniques as they refine more basic capabilities—like learning to shoot efficiently or streamline their editing workflow—before finding the specialties that will eventually set their work apart. Fozzard realizes the time and burden that these demands add to a typical edit. "I have certain skills in After Effects that I love to use to add creative elements to my video productions and enhance the overall production values," he says. 

One effect that Fozzard created for a photo montage that won the 4EVER Group's first Videographers Challenge in 2005 became the basis for a template that he has used in other projects for himself and begun selling to videographers in other markets. He created a globe-like, spinning 3D sphere adorned with windows in which animated stills or videos can play. The opening credit portion of the same montage with animated shadow text is another piece he's abstracted for template use. "All you have to do is change the text and images," he says, "and you have a whole new opening for a different client."

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Here are two effects Josh Fozzard has created for specific projects and abstracted in templates.

Josh has also taken an "on-demand" approach to creating custom effects or templates in AE that his peers can use in their work. "Other videographers have asked me to create some of these things for them because they may not have the knowledge or time to dedicate to learning After Effects."

Winters says he went from tinkering with camera support to benefit his own work to selling the gadgets and widgets he created almost by accident. In addition to the JeryJig mentioned earlier, Winters also produces the JeryClip and JeryClamp, which are again used for attaching products of differing sizes to a camcorder and tripod. "I had manufactured these almost a decade ago, but just for personal use," Winters says, "because I found myself needing to rapidly fasten and remove accessories to my camera." The issue was only magnified with the emergence of "smaller pro camcorders and tripods," he says. "The new cameras had less pro interfacing than the larger cameras, and called for more interface adapters than before."

Marketing the Products
Despite the fact that they knew how helpful their tools were for their own company, it was not until something drastic happened that any of these videographers thought to market their products to others. Marketing PixelPops' tools, Gray says, "was not even a consideration until we were mobbed after our presentations with people asking for training material or products from us."

Winters and Fozzard share stories similar to Gray's. Starting at their local videographers' association meetings and later at WEVA Expos, the videographers were able to create a buzz for their products. Fozzard says he continued to expand his national reach at the 4EVER Group's first national convention in Orlando in January 2006.

Along with word-of-mouth marketing, all the videographers now advertise their products on their own websites. Gray speaks for all three when he says, "The internet is by far the place where we get most of our business through keyword searches, etc."

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PixelPops, like Pickwhip and Video Trainers, has found their own website to be their best marketing and selling vehicle

PixelPops Design has also used various professional print magazines to advertise their products. As well as other deals in the works, the company has exclusive distributors in the United States and has recently started talks with a few European companies for distribution.

Not Just for Videographers
The beauty of these productivity products is that they are made by videographers for videographers, which for the most part determines who buys the products, although their market isn't always defined so close to home. Fozzard sells his products, not necessarily intentionally, but by default, exclusively to other videographers. Winters sells mostly to other videographers, but interestingly, he says, "I had an auto mechanic find my JeryClips very useful for automotive repairs. The JeryClamp is also very useful for safely securing flash-slave units to light stands. I need to pursue this market more."

While Winters recognizes the potential for a larger market, PixelPops Design has already extended their marketing strategies into other channels. The result is a wider variety of buyers and a more successful line of products.

Gray started selling the products to videographers through connections from WEVA. "But as we've marketed more heavily," he says, "most of the new clients have never heard of us before seeing our ads or finding us on a Google search. We've seen everyone from broadcast guys, to churches, to schools, to architectural firms, to hobbyists (both videographers and photographers). In other words," he continues, "not everyone is a videographer. Many of our clients are people looking for great designs to enhance their packaging or quick ways to get a new look. The same goes for us selling website designs as well. It's all a part of the big picture to help our clients look good with little effort on their end. I mean, isn't that what a great tool should do—make your life easier?"

Opportunities for Others?
In an industry where creating innovative video helps you rise above the fray and demand a higher price, any tool that aids in your ascent is potentially valuable—especially, perhaps, if you develop that tool yourself and know how to make it work for others. As Fozzard, Gray, and Winters have discovered, there are definite market opportunities for products made by videographers for videographers. But pursuing those markets can come with a few pitfalls.

Along with the inherent challenges of production and distribution (especially as you try to guess at what your volume sales might be), Gray cautions other videographers about the hidden dangers of tech support and the difficulty of marketing the products successfully. "It's a great revenue stream," he explains, "but you have to be prepared for a lot of unexpected things."

Fozzard is less cautious in encouraging other videographers to try to market the productivity tools they've created in their own work, and to leverage their skills outside their own projects. "If any videographer has a unique skill set that can benefit other videographers," he says, "I definitely recommend talking to other videographers and seeing if you can make some extra money by offering these types of tools."

Hopefully others can play and get paid like Fozzard and his colleagues. While none of the videographers depend entirely on their products for their studio's revenue, they all see the potential of drawing a significant percentage of their income from the tools they've developed, and making a valuable impact on the industry as well. "My After Effects templates will be a great help to other videographers," Fozzard predicts, "and make it really easy to add cool, creative elements to their video productions."

Gray takes a more global view. "People will always be open to learning new skills," he says. "The difference for the future is how the tools or processes are delivered to the client."

"To paraphrase Field of Dreams," Winters says, "build new toys, and marketable accessories will follow." But he hastens to add, "It does require a broad collection of skills, some inspiration, and also some perspiration."

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