How It All Started
Stacey Scott (left), CEO of it's MEdia, got the idea for her company during the many hours she spent filming her daughter's gymnastic events. Scott realized that her daughter—who was seven years old at the time—was improving because of her ability to see her mistakes and the places where she needed improvement. After Scott started videotaping the events, her daughter moved up five levels in two years—quite a feat for a young gymnast.
Scott realized that there would be other parents and children in the same situation who could benefit from her video work. Stuck in the stands with the rest of the parents, Scott knew that she couldn't really offer anything that her counterparts couldn't do themselves, and she realized that to get a better picture, she would need to be down near the professional photographers booked for the meets. "I thought that if I was selling the video, the competition directors would allow me on the floor," Scott says. "So I purchased off-the-shelf software, cameras, and computers."
Even as she made her initial breakthrough with the other parents, Scott discovered that her problems were only beginning. "It ended up being a logistical nightmare," she says, "because people loved the video so much that we couldn't keep up. After trying, unsuccessfully, to use several different off-the-shelf solutions, we took a six-month break from selling and developed proprietary software and hardware to streamline the capturing, editing, and production of the CDs so that they could be easily delivered on-site."
Introducing . . . Cinema-Pictography
When she got back into the market, she found that people wanted pictures along with their video. it's MEdia's answer is "cinema-pictography," which "puts both video and pictures in the hands of consumers on a single medium," Scott says.
After a sporting event, customers, typically parents, receive a CD that has video of their child's performance and the computer program for the it's MEdia Viewer. With the player—a proprietary media player customized for use with it's MEdia products—customers are able to watch the video or pause on any frame and print an action photo, which Scott says is "a natural fit for the sports market."
While it's MEdia started with gymnastics, it has added other sports to its repertoire. The production system is the same for each sport; the difference, Scott says, "is in how you shoot for each sport. You must understand the sport and what can get the best shot. You also have to think about a story and a picture at same time, which is more than just shooting a video or just taking a picture."
In addition to understanding the sport, you must also understand the customer for each sport. To do so, she says that she and her staff "look at photos of that event that have been for sale, and that is what we go for, because we know that is what has been proven to sell."
What's So Great About it's MEdia?
it's MEdia's system has balanced creativity and profit in two significant ways: it allows customers to choose the pictures they want and it provides product delivery on the spot. "it's MEdia has a very specific niche," Scott says. "We do not claim to produce the highest-resolution photos or the most artistic. it's MEdia is about preserving highlights."
The events are shot with three live-switched cameras. While watching the video clips and playing with the print option, you can understand why the company's "cinema-pictography" approach is an effective medium for action shots.
Another feature that makes it's MEdia unique, according to Scott, "is that we can capture the video and burn it to CD right there at the event. And the customers can leave with their CDs instead of waiting weeks or months."
An it's MEdia CD, which is quick and easy to install, is also easy to use. The CDs are equipped to play back on any PC with it's MEdia's proprietary Viewer application. Currently, the it's MEdia Viewer is only available for PCs, although Scott says that has not been a problem for many people. Still, she says, it's MEdia plans on adapting its Viewer for the MacOS.
How Do They Do That?
To get the best product, it's MEdia carefully chose each piece of equipment to complete its system. "Our system consists of JVC GY-HD100U, HDV, progressive-scan cameras, a custom-designed laptop, and our software. With the addition of an optional custom-built centralized storage unit, up to five cameras can be added to the system for simultaneous capturing that can even synchronize two or more cameras," Scott says. "The entire system is integrated, from direct-to-disk capturing to a streamlined high-speed video editor all the way to a finished CD to hand to a customer, all in a matter of minutes."
it's MEdia does not use a traditional standalone NLE system. The company has created a patent-pending process which is a single streamlined, automated, capture-through-delivery system. "The it's MEdia system simultaneously captures HD video from one or more cameras directly to laptop computers. Our franchisees also have the option to automatically synchronize two or more of those cameras. Synchronizing the cameras allows two separate streams to be processed as though they were a single stream," Scott says. "The system then consolidates the streams from the separate cameras into a single storage location, all without manual intervention. Without delay, the captured streams are available from any laptop connected to the system. Using our capture-through-delivery system, we can capture a 90-minute event from five simultaneously running cameras. At the conclusion of the event, customers wait only a few minutes to leave with a CD containing completely customized content."
Scott says she chose the JVC GY-HD100U because its progressive scan acquisition allows it's MEdia to capture video with the best possible still-image extraction (no de-interlacing required). After shooting 30fps progressive HDV, the company delivers the video on disc in highly compressed MPEG-4 at 960x540 resolution, and it appears in those dimensions in the it's MEdia Viewer. She says the company uses CDs for greater playback compatibility on PCs.
When asked about her decision to use HD and whether she will deliver on HD disc when Blu-ray or HD DVD goes mainstream, Scott says, "We switched to HD [acquisition] to get the highest resolution possible for printing still pictures. Also, we do have a long-term goal to start providing HD content on Blu-ray and/or HD DVD in the future. Currently, however, our high-resolution video is delivered on CD."
With an approach to sports photography that's equal parts Ozzie Sweet and Ray Kroc, the newest step in it's MEdia's expansion is offering franchises to other videographers and studios around the country. "Our franchise is totally customizable to the interest of the franchisee," says Scott. "And because our system is applicable to many markets, our franchisees are able to concentrate on their niche market and still remain competitive."
it's MEdia is very aware that technology changes all the time and that its "revolutionary and advanced" system may not seem so cutting-edge as the system components are replaced by newer models or otherwise supplanted by the latest and greatest. To stay ahead of the curve, the company has prepared a franchise support system to provide for those changes, a system it calls B.E.S.T.
B.E.S.T. stands for Brand, Experience, Support, and Technology. it's MEdia has developed the brand for its franchisees, providing a competitive advantage in the photography and videography fields. "The proliferation of the consumer-grade digital camera and camcorder has made it increasingly difficult for individuals in the photography and videography industries to thrive," Scott says. "By combining the action photography and the event videography markets, we have created a niche for our franchisees that did not exist prior to it's MEdia."
By providing franchisees with a fully developed and proven production system and business model, it's MEdia cuts down on the devastating mistakes that can ruin small business, according to Scott. "By distributing the cost of research and development throughout an entire franchise organization," she says, "our franchisees have the unique advantage of being able to keep up with a very rapidly changing industry at a level that is costly at best and often impossible for a sole proprietor or small business owner."
The it's MEdia franchise is designed with the small business owner in mind and includes 24-7 technical and customer support to franchisees and their end users and marketing and branding controlled on the corporate level to ensure high-end collateral across markets. A top-of-the-line phone system and corporate infrastructure for each franchisee provides the equipment and labor necessary to up-sell, cross-sell, and down-sell items.
Finally, it's MEdia is dedicated to conducting the research and development to supply the support to keep its system up-to-date. "We first use our resources to develop the business case," Scott says. "Then we survey the market, and only then is the technical research and development funded. With this process, our efforts are always aimed at improving the bottom line and competitive advantage for our franchisees."
In addition to franchising, it's MEdia has filed the appropriate paperwork to protect its system, which is now patent-pending. This patent will open additional markets of licensing for it's MEdia, Scott says, and the company plans to license the system to various markets and industries that can employ the real-time system to enhance their current delivery to market. These industries could include professional or collegiate athletics programs that require immediate reexamination of actual performances and interactions in real time to enhance the outcome of a given event.
The systematic approach that it's MEdia has taken allows it to be flexible and adapt to many different shooting scenarios. The overall result is a company that provides a product that shoots live, delivers live, and aims to stay current because it's made with the customer and the changing market in mind.
Carly Mulliken is a freelance writer based in Chicago and a former EventDV editorial intern.