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Under Water, Over Land
Tools & Techniques for Nature, Outdoors, Wildlife & Underwater Videography.

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Old March 16th, 2006, 12:44 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
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Marketing your Products

Hey guys,

I'm new to the group and getting back into video after a 10 year break to make money. While you can never have too much of that, my job is getting ready to swirl down the toilet and I'm looking to try to make a go of it in video.

My last camera for wildlife shooting was the Canon L1 (w/out the X), the single chip Hi8. I used the 1.6 extender between 15x lens and body.

I spent a month in the tropics in '93 shooting birds and wildlife and put it together on VHS in a fancy box and sold it through some Backyard Birder type stores. I actually went through a video publishing company where I posted it and they marketed it (not very well). $19.95 USD for a 27 minute show. Of that, I got a dollar, if you can believe it.

Needless to say, I didn't get rich, but I was able to write-off the cost of the trip against my income, because I was trying to make money. Had a great time... up at 5 am, hiked the area for 2 hours and shot what I could find, then headed back and tried to ID in bird guides what I had shot.

I found the lighting in the tropics (10 degrees north of equator) to be so harsh after 7 am unless filtered through the forest canopy. Problem is with the limited effective shooting time, you need more than one month for 27 or 54 stunning minutes of footage. I really had to stretch some footage to make 27 mins.

I have been trying to decide whether the H1 is worth the extra $$$$ over the XL2. I'm leaning toward the H1 because it may make the product more marketable.

I have the idea to make special interest videos (flyfishing, flytying, birdwatching etc.) to DVD and direct marketed via the web (no publishing bandits). Ideally I would build a library of titles and benefit from residual sales. I am also seeking some funding for shooting a doc on Pacific Salmon. Understandably, there are no consumer HD-DVD players so it doesn't matter at this point. However there will still be opportunities to sell the shows to stations less than Discovery, National Geographic etc. I also have some dramatic/comedic ideas as well as social docementary ideas. However, while I can afford to be a moderately poor videographer, I can't afford to be a starving artist.

I am currently planning a trip back to the tropics (Costa Rica) next winter for 2-3 months (fingers crossed). This time however, I will have not only my darling wife, but a 10-year old son and a 3-year old daughter. My son is actually a great photographer and longs to go to CR. I'll put him on the the mike boom.

One concern I have is protecting the equipment. Last time while standing on a wet slope, both feet slipped out and I busted my tripod leg (Duct tape repairs). I had taken a ligher Manfrotto and regretted it as when using the massive zooms, smooth pans/tilts were near impossible. My impression is humidity / condensation concerns would be no greater with XL2 than H1 (only a large price difference if disaster happens)

Just wondering how or if you guys are marketing products or making money as I'm looking to go into it full time and I refuse to shoot wedding videos ever again.

I enjoy all the posts. I've spent 10 hours over the last 2 days scouring all the posts. Wife and kids out of town for a couple of days.

Ken Diewert
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Old March 16th, 2006, 11:15 AM   #2
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While I am not a professional, one marketing issue to concider is, "IS THERE A MARKET FOR YOUR PRODUCT?"

While you may shoot the most wonderful things in the face of history, if nobody is interested in it, you won't make any money.

Of course, if you have a niche market, you can make some money. Ex: A man who produced a "How to widdle wood" video made almost a hundred grand from the video, last I heard. But then again, the man knew how to find his niche and how to market it to people interested in it.

As to moisture, I've heard of dry packs, gels that people place inside their waterproof bags which keeps it nice and dry. You might want to look into these gels. Check out underwater housing in google and go to those sites, one of them had the gels on sale.

While you're down in Costa Rica shooting the video, take lot's of pictures. That's an additional money for you for stock footage.

Good luck.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 02:27 PM   #3
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Doing some kind of market research is a good idea. While there must be a lot of wonderful wildlife to shoot in Costa Rica, who will watch our program? Just birders or anybody interested in Costa Rica. Should you do a pure bird identification film or should you also include travel info? Or some kind of travel log? How will you market you videos? Will you sell them down in CR as well? Where will you advertise, how much does that cost? These are all questions to consider before embarking on a commercial venture. This is not to discourage you from going and taking great footage, just my two cents worth.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #4
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Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
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Niche Marketing - 1 percent of 1 percent


Marketing is of course the key to special interest video.

To use the US market for example, if the pop is 300 million, 1 percent of that is 3 million, 1 percent of that is 30k. 30,000 DVD at net $10 per is $300k. For me that would be a home run.

The reason I'm getting back to video is that I really enjoy the process. Standing knee deep in muck while capturing 'that shot' is really rewarding.

To use another example; I love to flyfish. I also enjoy tying flies. Many people don't. I also happen to live in a part of the world blessed with natural beauty and year round fly-fishing. So essentially I am talking of combining my passion for two adventures and trying to make a living at it.

While shooting, I keep and eye for dual purpose footage or supplemental footage, whether that be in Costa Rica or My favorite flyfishing river. During my last trip to CR, I should have shot more travelogue type footage (live and learn). Vancouver, BC is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics so I would like to develop some products to capitalize on that.

The idea is to build a catalogue of titles (likely biased but not at all limited to things I enjoy doing), and marketing these both online and wholesale to relevant retailers.

I was originally asking how others are marketing their products especially 'underwater/over land' video work. I know when I went to film school in the early 90's, the emphasis was not on entrepreneurship.

It seems to me that TV programming must be in demand in the era of 200 channels 24/7, not to mention the streaming market.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 05:14 PM   #5
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Hi Ken,

You should seek the consul of someone in the same field that has done what you are asking about.

In the US, if someone wanted to start a business, they can get free business consulting with experts who volunteer their services to SCORE. You might have something equivilent to it in Canada. Go to your local library and ask the librarian.

They say it takes risk to make Big money, but what they don't teach is how to take smart risks.

Study up on your market. Watch those nature videos. Who's showing it, why are they showing it? Is the content of the show better then or worse compared to what you can produce? Get the contact numbers for those channels that are showing the type of videos you want to produce.

Read, read, read everything you can on the topic.

And the best kept secret in business. Public relations. Study up on manners, and be prepared for your interviews. Send out the press releases and get ready to do what needs to be done. Sell your product by selling yourself. Ex: I wouldn't trust Vasst, if it wasnt for the knowledge that Vasst provides and the support of it's people. Especially people like Douglas, who takes personal time to help out anyone that may have a question on boards like this. Douglas is selling Vasst to us, by selling himself. He doesn't mind helping out people.

Overall, it's not us who are making the video, it's you. You have to make the decision. Best wishes.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 06:08 PM   #6
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Ah, a fellow traveler!
I have been grappling with your very problem for years, and have yet to find a satisfactory solution. The market is indeed small, and birders would rather go out and see it for themselves than watch it on someone else's video or DVD.
I finally found a niche. Being a pediatrician in my other life, I produced a 20 minute bird DVD aimed at small children, and play it in my office. I also show it at bird festivals. Sales have been about 50 copies since last fall.
I tried advertising everywhere affordable (Google), and have a web site. It turns out that if people can see the DVD in action, anywhere between 10 and 20 percent will buy. If all they see are photos, or description, depite how flowery, you won't sell more than one every few months.
Trying to break in to retail outlets, or big circulation magazines is next to impossible, and prohibitably expensive. Nature videos are not sexy, and people will only pay for sexy or popular, or if the customer perceives the item as something that he/she really needs. "Baby Einstein", a boring and essentially pointless series of DVDs for babies has made millions because the producer has convinced the public that watching will make your baby smarter!
One new thing I am trying is to enter the video in contests. A carefully chosen contest will have enough categories, or enough win positions that winning something is not difficult. Winning a contest then allows you to produce a press release. If properly handled, this can get your DVD in front of the public, if only for 15 minutes.

Good luck.

Steve Siegel
Seiurus Video
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Old March 21st, 2006, 12:41 AM   #7
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
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Thanks for the feedback.

I did learn a great deal from the original process 10 years ago and I know that there is much more to learn to be successful. If I only cared about making money, I probably shoot porn. Not really, but you know what I mean.

My "Birds of CR', is not a new idea, and as you can imagine, I have ulterior motives for going to the tropics in Dec/Jan. As long as I structure/plan right, I can right off the cost of the trip.

As I mentioned before, I really enjoy the process.

After hanging out with a bunch of serious birders in CR, from Europe and N America, I can tell you that they will buy a well shot, well composed show with great audio. You see, birding in person is a very fleeting thing. They spend hours discussing a fleeting glimpse of an exotic species. Here I am trying to not only see it, but record it with focus, clarity and composition. This is the great challenge and reward of this particular type of shooting for me.

One valuable lesson from my last trip (1 month) was that you really can only shoot well for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. The rest of the time the lighting was much too harsh to really collect prime footage. This leaves much of the day for siestas etc.

I found that because of the limited shooting time each day, you have to extend the duration of the trip to really collect some great footage. Last time I was hard pressed to make a 20:1 ratio (10 hours collected - 27 minutes finished product). It was a stretch and I had to use some footage I would have rather not used.

Again, this is just one of many ideas I have to market video to niche groups. I agree with you Steve that parents (I being one) don't hesitate to buy kids a DVD they think they will enjoy. Much more likely than to buy one that they themselve might enjoy (parents by nature are martyrs).

Right now I've been mining through this sight as I've found it an invaluable resource. I've downloaded Vegas 6 trial and have been practicing on a mountain of DV footage I've had piling up. Although I enjoy the editing, my bumper sticker would say "I'd rather be shooting".

My job in the forest industry is winding down, so at 42 I'm looking to get back into the career I put on the back burner the last 10 years for the sake of family and security. I wanted to make the jump back then, and several times since. Now it's being forced on me and so after considering all other choices, I'm totally psyched about going for it. I'm fortunate that we bought a second property a couple of years ago that has tripled in value and selling it will nearly pay off our house mortgage and finance 25k for gear to start-up this venture.

I can also work part-time at my existing job (might as well drive it till it drops).

I look forward to further discussions
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Old March 21st, 2006, 03:11 PM   #8
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Location: Palau Island, western Pacific
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Hi Ken,
Been following your thread. Seems like you are in a bit of a predicament for sales points etc. If I were in your shoes I would capitalize on resources closer to home. There are a lot of natural open spaces in your neck of the woods. Maybe as I don't know the system where you live but in the UK we have what is called the Forrestry Commission. The entity looks after the well being of the natural spaces, Do you have a National Park close to where you live? I would imagine so. Why not produce a specific item focussing on the wildlife of the park? "A nature lovers guide to Park X" for example. Maybe be specific on birds if that is your "thing" but maybe also include the other stuff too. An inexpensive splash box would also allow you to include the life found in any streams and rivers and add a further dimension to your product. With many thousands of people per year entering these parks you could then contact any of the park stores to look at them pushing your wares to the public. A small TV stand showing a constant loop of the product will draw attention, and generate potential sales.

I work underwater in the Pacific and shoot to produce both stock footage and to produce my own small films. Thes eare sold at sales points aound the particular island where I live. It is one of the biggest dive destinations in the world and as such I do have a niche and cornered target audience.

Wish you well in your endeavours.

Mark Thorpe.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 03:34 PM   #9
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Location: Boulder, CO
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my main niche for selling outdoor and wildlife footage is to incorporate it into commercial work, like putting ice climbing footage together for a financial company whose name is the spanish word for "summit" or "peak." or doing a commercial for a pop-up camper manufacturer. or doing video for non-profits. i did a fund-raising video for a buddhist center which had some outdoor shooting. if you're in the right part of the country, you can stay pretty busy.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 10:29 PM   #10
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Regarding cameras, I've been looking at the various HD formats and it seems the HDV format, with its heavy compresson (long GOP) and reduced color sample rate, may not be what I'd prefer for the work I'm doing.

The cameras I'm now looking at aren't cheap, but neither is the Canon H1.

The Panasonic cameras, both the HVX200 and the recently announced AK-HC1500, are the ones I'm watching for now. For nature work, the HVX200 is probably inappropriate as it has a fixed lens. The AK-HC1500 can take a variety of industrial lenses.

While very few people might have the ability to view HD material right now, it's the way the industry is headed. Shoot HD today to future-proof your material.You can down-convert to SD for current needs (DVD's) and go to full resolution when the time comes.
Dean Sensui
Exec Producer, Hawaii Goes Fishing
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Old March 21st, 2006, 11:25 PM   #11
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
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I tend to agree that HD is for me.


The trip to CR was already planned. My wife and I love the place. Shooting video somehow rationalizes it and as I mentioned really can only be done a few hours a day. We had originally planned the trip to look at some property down there.

One thing to consider is that I will likely seek advance clearance for bringing in a higher end camera. Technically you are allowed to bring one video camera. They are protective of local industry and especially imported products that you may resell. Imports are are brutally tariffed.

As far as local projects go; I have begun a dialogue with the Department of Fisheries about shooting a documentary series on the Pacific Salmon. It's a very complex issue here where commercial, aboriginal, sportsmen and fish farmers all collide.

I've also started prelim discussions with local TV to produce some outdoorsy stuff.

Right now I have no shortage of ideas, just trying to find ones that pay. Oh yeah, and I still need to buy the camera. I'm leaning to the H1 and downconverting for now.

I'm so biased toward Canon though that I may blinded. Have always used Canon SLR, 8mm, Hi8, DV, Dig still, printers... yikes! Married to the brand!

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