We caught up with Jay Holzer a few weeks back and he was gracious enough to chat with us for a bit about online video. He is the Senior Director of Video Production at Demand Media, the publisher of websites like eHow, Cracked, LiveStrong, and more.
One of the main duties Holzer has, aside from overseeing all video production for Demand Media's properties, is to manage the company's fleet of independent online filmmakers that are stationed around the globe. Demand Media utilizes freelance video creators to populate their properties with interesting content, and, as you can imagine, it's a lot to keep track off. But it also puts Holzer in a unique position of understanding the capabilities and challenges of both enterprise-level and individual video production.
For those of you short on time, I'll do my best to summarize Holzer's comments on the various topics.
What Equipment Should Online Filmmakers Buy First?
An awful lot of aspiring online filmmakers haven't started their careers because they don't have all the equipment they need. So we asked Holzer to talk a bit about that issue, and lay out what he feels is most important.
"You need to have a camera, right? That's the thing that everything starts from. I mean, we're in this great age where you've got a camera like the Canon T2i, which is standing right here behind me that's an $800 camera that can shoot images that we only dreamed of being able to get 4 or 5 years ago."
If you look closely, you can see that he's really making two distinct points here. First, you have to have a camera to shoot video… period. Any other piece of equipment is optional for video, but the camera is essential. But he's also making a point about how affordable the best technology is getting. You can get amazing video from a camera that's less than a thousand bucks–just a few short years ago you couldn't say that, and the gap between freelancers and professionals was much wider.
Beyond cameras, Holzer stresses the importance of good audio equipment, calling audio "extremely important. Some cameras have better built in audio than others, but almost no camera can duplicate the sound quality of a dedicated audio device. You have to start with the camera if you want to shoot video, but audio should be the very next piece of equipment that you concentrate on. Once you've gotten the camera and audio squared away, he suggests looking into some lighting equipment.
Efficiency Is Key When Shooting For The Web
Whether you come from a traditional offline filmmaking background or are starting your filmmaking career from scratch, it's important to understand what makes web video different from traditional video. And the most important difference is time. Web filmmakers need to move quickly and assuredly, to maximize their effort and not get bogged down during the shoot.
"I think one of the things that a lot of people who are making that transition sometimes lose is that, in order to shoot for the web–especially in order to shoot web based kind of instructional content–you have to be really efficient with your shooting… you have to be prepared and go in and know exactly what you want."
Holzer's own background is in documentary filmmaking, which made this a difficult transition for him. He was used to being able to shoot as much footage as he wants and use an editing studio to carve away the unneeded sections. With web video, you can't afford that luxury. To be profitable with web video, you have to take things to a whole new level of efficiency.
Working As A Freelancer For Demand Media
Demand Media, according to Holzer, is an "online media company." The content they produce is diverse, and runs the gamut from text to video–they do it all. In the interview, Holzer talks specifically about what independent video creators need to do if they'd like to work for Demand Media.
If you're interested in shooting video for the company, you'll want to head over to DemandStudios.com, which is sort of their hub for freelance videographers. There you can learn everything you need to know about the kind of work available and the company's requirements for freelancers. Says Holzer:
"Basically, the process is: we require an application. We're going to review both their experience and their equipment to make sure that they're the right fit for our content. And then from there you're able to log into the site, claim assignments, kind of work on your own pace on your own schedule to deliver content to us."
Over and over again we keep hearing the same thing from the online video industry's top professionals: the technology is leveling the playing field. For a very modest sum, you can own a camera that produces the kind of quality video to let you compete with the big boys. And it's revolutionizing the industry. And in the case of Demand Media and Jay Holzer, they're not only pointing you toward the best and most-affordable equipment, they're also supplying many filmmakers with work through their freelance program. As online video continues to grow, the cameras will get more powerful and less expensive, and the opportunities for aspiring content creators will only increase in number.
I want to thank Jay Holzer for taking time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us about Demand Media and the online video space in general.