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Is Thumbtack Any Good?

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The Beginning of Thumbtack

SFilms was one of the first companies on Thumbtack.  I remember this new startup listings/lead service app that looked interesting.  I signed us up as a vendor.  But as I looked at it, it seemed more focused on B2C– plumbers, electricians and such.  Even though we had an account, I never really used it.

Then one day I was talking to another video professional in a different city and he told me he was getting a lot of leads through thumbtack.  I was puzzled– the only leads I seem to ever see were for people wanting a music video for $250.  He said that while yes, the majority of the bids were micro budget, by getting his foot in the door, he was able to find some good customers.  Okay, I decided, I’ll have to take a closer look.

Updating Our Profile

So I dived in.  I updated my business profile.  Worked on getting a review from an existing customer.  Set up the different industries and notification levels.  And I started getting email and push notifications for new jobs to bid on.  Event Video, wedding, under $500.  That’s not us.  And then some Corporate Video, Conference, under $500.  Closer.  But what if I could raise the dollar amount for jobs in which to get notified about?

So I did.  And in corporate video it worked.  But nothing I did would stop the event video wedding low budget emails and push notifications.  Nothing.  I had long since made sure I wasn’t even listed for that.  Didn’t matter.  Eventually, I don’t know if the bug was worked out, but 6 months later, I’m finally not getting all those.

The Thumbtack Process

Thumbtack’s SEO and SEM Push

thumbtack langing page corporate video dallasAnd let’s talk about the process.  A user searches for “corporate video company dallas” and thumbtack has aggressively gone after the SEO for these tags.  Kudos to them. So the user clicks on the thumbtack link which then takes them to fields to fill out.  What do you see?  A simple, clean window with a video production photo in the background, and a mention that there are XX number of professionals near you.  What’s your zip code?

So at this point, the user is still thinking that they’re searching for a video company.  But they’re not.  The user puts in her zip code.  Then a new screen with type of video you’re wanting.  Then another with other information.  All the while, the user is still thinking they’re just googling for “video companies in Dallas.”

dallas corporate video company

Eventually, maybe they fill out the few remaining screens and hit submit.  And now they’re getting five quotes.  Not what they thought they were getting in to.  No list of companies (look at the Thumbtack google listing– it reads “definitive list of Dallas’s video production.”  But you will never receive a list.  What you’ll get is the five fastest clickers in the area.

Because I get a ding on my phone. And email.  And I can read it and click to send in a bid.

Faster Clicker Wins

Actually no.  I can’t read it.  Because if I take the 8 seconds needed to read the bid and determine that this is the perfect fit for my company, I’m too late.  First five get to bid.  Doesn’t matter if they can do the job.  There is no vetting.   And for the jobs that fit us, we have to send in a quote in under 8 seconds.

Which BTW, the Apple Watch has dramatically increased our response time– I get the push there and can open and send pretty quickly.

Our Thumbtack Results

So what about the results?  We specialize in corporate video.  We shoot conferences and seminars all the time, with live on-site editing when needed.  We haven’t even gotten close.  And this might be part of the low bid wedding projects– corporate conferences are events.  So are weddings and birthday parties.  Thumbtack really needs to separate out B2C and B2B.

What about other corporate video jobs?  I tried my friend from another city’s advice and did a low ball for someone.  The problem with this strategy is that for some reason, the low ball clients end up being the highest maintenance.  And so you bid and do the job at break even or even a slight loss, but they’re not going to agree to up the budget on the next.  Just doesn’t work.

Two Jobs after Two Years

So to date? Two jobs.  This is after several years.  And lots of “credits” purchased (and they recently moved away from credits and just call it was it is “dollars.”)  Most people never even open up the quote.  That’s because when they filled out those fields, they didn’t really understand what they were doing.

And in fairness, let me mention one of those two jobs was exactly what we were looking for.  A corporate client needing event (tradeshow) shooting and onsite editing.  That was a win for both sides.  Unfortunately, this is an outlier.  Nothing else has even come close.  Thumbtack might say it’s my profile, or that I need more reviews.  I think the large number of unopened bids speaks to the fact many of these leads are simply not qualified by Thumbtack.  Sure, Thumbtack does refund you the money if someone doesn’t open the bid.  But what about those who gave a cursory open, but realized this thumbtack thing wasn’t what they were looking for.

To Thumbtack’s credit, there are situations that this service is great for.  I talked to one professional in another city looking for a local crew.  My rates were just too high, because she’s been getting a college student with a DSLR and that’s all she needed in these different cities.  Awesome.  Thumbtack works great for her.

Two Suggestions

I have two suggestions for Thumbtack.

  1. Find a better way for the bid process.  The five fastest clickers is no way to qualify vendors.  Either do away with the 5 quotes only rule or come up with a better way than a mad dash to submit in the few seconds after a job is posted.
  2. Qualify the Lead.  Let the user know what they’re getting into on the landing page.  Sure, you might not get as many, but the quality would increase, and that means something to your customers– Us.

Bottomline on Thumbtack

And I think this is the bottom line.  You need to have a “win” on both sides– the client and the vendor.  So that’s what Thumbtack is for– matching those who can do the video work for pennies on the dollar and still win, with clients that need a low cost solution.  If you seek a professional, skilled video company through Thumbtack, you’re going to get the five fastest responders, regardless of skill level, experience and quality.  Just fast on clicking.  You won’t be able to really do due diligence.

So google search for a video production company in the city you’re looking for and click on those companies and check out the website.  And watch their samples and portfolios.  Then contact the ones you like.  Unless you just need a warm body with any kind of camera.

File Management for Small Video Production Crew

By | Corporate Video Production, For the Crew, Tips/Techniques, Uncategorized, Video Production | No Comments

File Management Part 2

This continues our campaign to squash file mis-management once and for all.  In this part 2, we cover file management for the small video production crew.  As long as there’s been digital acquisition on the film and video sets, there’s been the need to ensure that digital content makes it back safe and sound to the edit room.  One time of losing a camera card is one time too many.  For Part 1, click here.

Small Video Production Crew

Okay, so first let’s define what we mean by a “small crew” for video production.  Sometimes, one person goes out with a camera and shoots all he or she can for the client.  Then maybe a second person is there to help carry the gear.  For interviews, a third person might be added to cover sound.  Or back to one person who does it all.  A small crew is one to three people.  So maybe you’re a one man band, or you’re the grip slash PA, but here’s our system for file management.

video production file managementThe Small Video Crew System

When you place the card into the camera, tear off a piece of paper tape that you keep with the camera bag, and with a sharpie, mark the camera letter and the card number.  The first one would be A zero one.  Place this tape over the card bay on the camera.  When you’re ready to pull the card, take the tape off, wrap the card contacts with the tape, and set the card aside in a safe place.  A card with the contacts taped means that card has NOT been transferred.  The new card gets placed in the slot with a new piece of tape on the outside of the camera, over the card bay. 

Off Loading

Then, when you get to the computer, take the card that has the tape covering the contacts out and insert into the computer.. Open Hedge and copy the card over to your two sources (we’ll explain Hedge in a future chapter).  If you’re not using Hedge, then use file manager or whatever software you’re using to copy over to your hard drives.  Once the card is transferred, and the footage is confirmed on the hard drive, remove the card.  Place the card backwards in the card wallet—it’s best practice to not use the card again on this shoot, unless you absolutely need it.  Stack the piece of tape on the card reader or computer.  As you go through cards, keep stacking the tape—you never know when you might need to go back through and see which cards got transferred and in which order.

The paper tape is a great way to keep everything straight.  Buy a couple of different rolls and keep them in the camera bag with a sharpie.  It should become part of your kit.  Think this is overkill?  You’ll wish you’d spent a few dollars on tape and markers the first time you accidentally delete footage.


Look for part 3 soon!

History of the Camera Part 2

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History of the Camera Part 2

For part 1, click here.  The importance of this information is in giving you, the new camera production person, background into why things are the way that they are.  We discussed progressive film rate and interlace film rate in part 1.

The 1990’s

camera production companiesThe call was out for quality.  For decades, the television signals and standards stayed exactly the same.  But technology was starting to improve and though the television industry resisted change, eventually it to caved.  Why did they resist?  They have millions of dollars invested in equipment.  You change to HD and all that expensive gear would become garage sale material.

But eventually, the call for quality started to overcome the call for everything to stay the same.  Everyone agreed it would be called “High Definition” or HD, compared to Standard Definition or SD.  Again, just like the RCA/Philco battles of the 1930’s, Sony and Panasonic squared off, each pushing their own standard.  Sony wanted to double the NTSC quality– instead of 525 lines, they picked 1080.  Panasonic chose 720 scan lines across.  However, they claimed theirs wasn’t a quality loss compared to the Sony because they were doing “progressive” images like film.  But Sony stuck to their guns on 1080 interlaced.  Well today, the winner of the HD battle has been 1080.

And when HD was created, everyone wanted a wider screen, to closer match more the cinema ratios people were used to watching in the theaters, so instead of the SD square (ish), a wider rectangle was created, by making it 1920 columns by 1080 rows.  The 1920 was almost 2,000 (or 2K).  So now you can understand what 4K is.  6K.  now 8K.  It’s that column number.

Is DVD up to HD Quality?

So when a client asks for their video that you’ve shot and edited on DVD, is that HD if you shot it at 1920×1080?  No.  The DVD format is a Standard Definition format.  The best it can do is 720×480.  That’s it.  Doesn’t matter if you shot on a Red camera at 8K resolution.  To output your file for the DVD authoring, it will be at best, 720×480. You can play High Def from Blu-ray discs.  But most clients today need delivery of their video as a file, whether uploaded to a service like weTransfer, Dropbox or Box, or placed on YouTube or Vimeo, or copied onto a thumbdrive.  They just need the file.  We’ll discuss the compression/decompression factors in a future lesson.

4K and Beyond

But the difference today in the adoption of new standards, is that today’s televisions can display different standards.  So multiple choices are being offered.  And cameras have continued to get better.  Cameras have been shooting 4K for some time (so roughly 4,000 columns across by roughly 2,000 rows).  Why not go ahead and create televisions that can view this jump in quality?  So 4K televisions are for sale right now at Best Buy.

Why is this history lesson relevant?  Today’s production cameras have all sorts for settings for file size and frame rates.  It’s important to know what each of them does.

Harvey Cleanup Continues in Houston

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Harvey Cleanup

Every house has piles like this.

Along with clients, we also have friends in Houston who were hit hard by Harvey.  The SFilms crew put away the video cameras and put on boots and gloves and got work for a couple days.  One friend’s mother’s house was a total loss.  The 89 year old woman was safe (rescued by boat), but her belongings were pretty much gone.  Among the antique furniture, we found her photo albums from the forties, fifties and sixties– they had been under the flood water.  We’ve done our best to save them.

To read about our arrival, click here.  The work is incredibly difficult.  There’s the physical part– and it’s brutal.  The Houston humidity mixed with the August heat and it zaps you quickly.  One of our team members had some heat exhaustion.  But it’s not the physical that drains you the most, it’s the emotional.  Right now in Houston and Beaumont, there are hundreds of thousands of stories just like this 89-year old woman.  Across the street from her, an older couple was struggling.  The woman told me she’d been married for fifty years and nothing even close to this has ever happened.

In our neighborhood, crews from Second Baptist were everywhere– and it’s people like this make a huge difference.  The homeowners are in shock. It’s difficult to make decisions.  They need people right now who can come in and do the heavy lifting.


Houston Harvey Aftermath

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Houston Harvey Hurricane

With the exception of one fast food worker in Fort Worth, most people have heard about what the hurricane Harvey has done to Houston.  We’re reporting today from Houston where we’ve spent the last few days doing some filming and lending some helping hands.

Driving Down

The drive from Fort Worth Dallas was pretty much a non-event.  On Thursday morning when we left, there were some gas stations in the DFW area that were closed.  So we drove with the philosophy of refilling when we got down to 3/4’s of a tank.  But we never had any issues.  As we neared Houston, we still couldn’t see any of the devastation we were seeing on the news.  And fuel was fine and actually cheaper than DFW prices.

As we headed to our clients headquarters near the NRG Stadium, the only clue was a shut down of the Sam Houston Tollway as it went into Sugarland– we could just make out the water over the highway.  We arrived at our clients building and got to work.


houston harvey devastationWe drove into some surrounding neighborhoods and that’s where we saw the devastation.  It was a bright and sunny day (the second since the hurricane hit), and all seemed normal– until you see yard after yard of furniture, mattresses, dry wall, all stacked, in some cases over our heads next to the curb.

People were very busy cleaning up.  If you look at each house, the floodwaters left a mark where they topped out at.  Some were a foot.  Other neighborhoods had water marks much higher.  We talked with one survivor who hasn’t been allowed back to her house in Katy, Texas.  She’s told they still have four feet of water.  It was over their chest on the night that had to be rescued by the coast guard.

We helped one of our Encore friends clean out his house.  Old albums and pictures ruined and tossed in the trash.  The “keep” pile noticeably smaller than the “trash” pile.

Houston Strong

houston harvey refugee cotsWe are able to see first hand the strength of these people.  And not just Houstonians.  We saw trucks with license plates from Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana and others.  Everyone wants to help and that brings people to tears here.

Some people have insurance.  Some don’t.  We talked to one woman who has lost literally everything but the clothes she’s wearing.  Her co-workers at Mattress Firm brought her a bunch of clothes.

We stopped by the refugee center at the NRG Stadium, (host of the Super Bowl six months ago).  There were blackhawks flying constantly overhead, mobile command centers set up in the parking lot, and supplies stacked, being distributed.  One of the center’s guys told us they were not taking individual donations anymore.  They could handle pallets, but not the smaller stuff.

houston harvey NRG stadiumToday, Saturday, we’re going to some more houses to help the cleanup.  We’re short of masks, water proof gloves and water boots or waders.  There’s no more plastic gas cans on the shelves.  But the Houston spirit is strong and alive.  And there is an amazing amount of love, generosity and community down here.


Shooting Video at Tradeshows

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Video Tradeshows

Shooting video at tradeshowOne of the calls we get a lot, is to see if we can shoot video at tradeshows.  Because companies and corporations drop a serious investment in tradeshows.  The cost of attending, with travel. The exhibitor fees.  And the booth construction.  With all this investment, businesses want to make sure the marketing pays off.  And that’s the bottom line: Sales.

So video at the tradeshow extends the reach of that investment.  Whether video is used to grab the attention of potential customers walking by or used as a broadcaster on social media, video at the tradeshow can magnify the marketing and multiply the results.

Tradeshow Video’s 4 Components

Usually this has four components:

  1. Pre-shot and edited content to be displayed at tradeshow
  2. Video coverage of the tradeshow, both the booth and the tradeshow itself
  3. Interviews and testimonials with clients attending
  4. Onsite editing for immediately use for social media or at the event itself

Pre-Event Videos

You have those huge monitors.  You want people walking by to be drawn in to your booth.  Engaging videos playing on the screens, usually in a loop is an ideal method for capturing attention.  Videos are usually made with the soundtrack optional– most tradeshow floors are noisy and the videos playing cannot be dependent on sound.  Here’s an example of a video we did for a construction company client.

Video Coverage

Clients sometimes want video coverage of their booth.  They might use it later for social media or other marketing.  Or to cover a big announcement happening at the tradeshow.


This by far is the biggest call we get.  A tradeshow floor is the perfect place to grab those customer testimonials that are otherwise hard to get or expensive due to all the different geographical locations you’d have to go to get that interview.  We bring the camera, small lighting package, audio and setup to move quickly.  Here’s an example we did for Pratt & Whitney Canada at the recent HeliExpo.

Onsite Editing

This has become an increasingly important service. For the Pratt & Whitney job above, they wanted the videos same-day to post to social media.  Therefore, having an editor with computer at the tradeshow can power a lot of marketing muscle.

If you’d like to know more about our tradeshow and conference capabilities, click on contact above and give us a ring.


Dallas Area Can Help Houston

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Here in the DFW area, many of us have friends, family, clients, loved ones in the Houston and South Texas area.  While it’s good to donate to national organizations, I like to see help at the local level… where the rubber meets the road.  If you live here in DFW, one of our partners Encore Live, is actively taking steps to help.   Here’s what they write:help houston

Encore Live will be headed to Houston later this week to help with the cleanup from #Harvey – we will be taking donated goods to various Houston based charities seeking help. If you have supplies listed below you would like to donate, please drop them by our office at 1635 Rogers Road Fort Worth, Texas 76107 between now and Wednesday at the close of business.

The supplies they list include:

• Canned goods
• Non-perishable food
• Water
• All-purpose cleaning supplies
• Gloves
• Towels
• Batteries
• Industrial strength trash bags & cans
• Diapers & wipes
• Baby food & formula
• Toiletries
• Ziplock bags
• Pet food

So pick up some items and drop them off at Encore Live by tomorrow afternoon.  Here at SFilms, we will take some stuff over to Encore Live, so if you want to drop off at our studio, that will be fine.  Click on our contact info for address.  Let us know if you have any questions!

#harvey #helphouston

Hot Corporate Filming

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Corporate filming in the summer!  And down here in Dallas, Texas, that means things are heating up this time of year.  For the corporate film set, this can have some major impact.  So in today’s blog, let’s talk about temperature and it’s effect on shooting industrial and corporate video.

Hot Corporate Filming

When shooting in a hot environment (July in Texas certainly qualifies), you can expect production to slow down.  If you’re shooting indoors, it’s not as big a deal.  But if you’re shoot is taking place outdoors, this can lead to a huge time delay.  With the heat, the crew starts to move slower.  People need more breaks.  When you schedule the shoot, make sure you allow for these delays.

Logistically, try to avoid parking the base camp in unprotected hot areas.  Look for shade and areas that people can take cover from the sun.

Outdoor Shoot Equipmentcorporate filming courtesy flag

  • Water – You will need plenty of water for crew, talent and client.  Nobody needs to be a hero and try to make it without properly hydrating.  Bad things happen if you don’t drink enough water.
  • Cover – A popup canopy, umbrellas, courtesy flags, and hats are critical cover equipment when out in the hot sun.
  • Sunscreen- Right next to the water at the crafty station, make sure there’s enough sunscreen.  And use the heavy stuff– it’s not about a tan, it’s about staying healthy.
  • Fans or Portable AC Units- We’ve been in situations where we’re shooting in large tents or pavilions.  There are portable AC units and certainly industrial fans that can make a huge difference.

Looking For Trouble on the Corporate Film Set

So what do you do if trouble strikes?  First off, you need to know how to spot heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  The Mayo Clinic has some great info here.

Heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy sweating often accompanied by cold, clammy skin
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Pale or flushed face
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fatigue

If you suspect someone of heat exhaustion, immediately move them out of the heat, into cover.  Lay them down and elevate the feet and have them drink cold fluids.  When Heat Exhaustion continues, it can become the even more serious Heat Stroke, which can lead to death.

Keep It Cool!

The key to corporate filming in the summer heat is being prepared.  Have the necessary supplies and equipment needed to bring the corporate film shoot to a successful wrap.  Plan on slow downs and take your time.  Have a great shoot!

Top 5 Corporate Video Genres

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Here are the top five corporate video genresCommercial Studio Shoot in use today.  The important word is “today.”  It’s amazing how much the industry has changed in the last couple of decades.  Because new technologies result in new video uses and corporate video genres.  Decades ago, corporate video was fairly exclusive to training and advertising.  Consequently, tomorrow’s list might be different.

Top 5 Styles or Genres of Corporate Video Today

  1. Internet Marketing – Social media creates a whole new usage for corporate video.  Facebook, twitter and instagram have become important avenues for telling your corporate story.  Or highlighting a product or service, like this.
  2. Training/Education – Getting all the employees on the same page requires consistent training and education.  This is a key benefit of utilizing video in your learning department.  A video is going to say the same thing, the same way, every time.  And the words have been carefully chosen.  When a speaker is in front of the room lecturing, who knows what will be said this time over last time.
  3. Commercials – The television commercial spot is a key source for advertising the company product or service.  The commercial spot breaks down into three groups, based on geography.  Local, Regional and National.  This is because talent usage fees change dramatically on the geography.
  4. Corporate Communications – Internally, it’s important to let the employees know what’s going on and video is a key component of the median. Most commonly, video is a great tool for making in company announcements.  It is a perfect way to show and not just tell.
  5. Event Videos – Many companies and corporations spend a lot of time and resources  on company seminars, workshops, conferences and meetings.  Event video coverage records these meetings and become a treasure trove of corporate information to be used in training, orientation, education and morale building.

Corporate Video Genre Lengths

In today’s world, corporate video genres are short.  Yesteryear’s hour long training films are long forgotten.  Therefore, videos for today’s audience call for fast pace with short edits.  With YouTube and viral videos, people’s attention spans are much shorter than they were a few decades ago.  90 second videos have become the new norm.  A few years ago, that was two minutes.  Messages must be told in clear and concise ways.

Finally, for engaging content, videos are strongest when they fall into one or more of these three categories:

  1. Humorous
  2. Emotional (pulling on the heart strings)
  3. Sensational

Funny, heartfelt and “wow, can you believe what I just saw?” drive the video content of today.  In conclusion, when looking for the appropriate corporate video genre, consider these factors.  If we can help you here at SFilms with your corporate video needs, let us know.

Experience in Corporate Video Production Matters

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Studio Corporate ProductionRecently we asked some new clients what factors led to their decision to pick us for their corporate video production in Dallas, Texas.  We’re always glad they picked us, and trusted us to handle their video project, but we’re even more happy when the project ends and we’ve beat their expectations.

Experience in Video Production

Some clients searching for a video production company are concerned that they’re entrusting their story.. their message… their brand, to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in the industry.  Many business people understand that to become experts in an area, it takes much repetition and practice.  (Making the library of many corporate execs is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and this philosophy is a foundation for what he espouses.) So our clients tell us that we were selected because of our experience.  Our Producer/Director Daniel Millican started working in corporate video communications in the 1980’s.  That’s 30 years, hundreds and hundreds of projects, thousands of videos, and a myriad of awards and recognitions.  This comforts that director of marketing looking for the right team.

A Real Person

In this age of communication, it’s imperative to connect to a real person as quickly as possible.  At Serendipitous Films, we have our main phone number (214-307-2882), which is forwarded to two different people at all times.  We aren’t always able to pick up on every call, but we return messages quickly.  Our clients have commented on how responsive we are.  That’s because when we’re looking for a product or service, we want someone their to take our call, answer our questions, help us out.  So we’re committed to that for our clients as well.

Over Deliver

Our clients tell us that we often over deliver in what we promised.  This is the key to exceeding expectations.  We take a lot of pride in what we do and it shows.

Work With People You Enjoy

Lastly, we’re the nice guys.  We do great work and we have fun along the way.  Life’s too short to create a stressful, drama-filled atmosphere.  We enjoy tough deadlines and crazy objectives.  If all this sounds good for your next corporate video production, gives us a call and check us out.  We’d love to work with you.