We don’t like standing still here. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our service offering to our clients. That might be using the latest cameras or edit suites, but one issue was really bugging us – the need to transfer large video files back and forth to clients for review. Services like Yousendit have a great purpose within a business but we couldn’t help thinking that there was a better solution. Making great online videos isn’t a one sided process and we value client feedback every step of the way. What we wanted was a private, password protected screening room for clients to watch their in production videos, and be able to give feedback right there in the browser – no downloads.
We feel we’ve found the right solution called Screenlight, with a client login portal integrated into our website. We caught up with Co-Founder, Chris Potter to explain the key benefits for our clients.
How did you come up with the concept of Screenlight?
The story of how we got started is one we share with many great startups. One of my partners, Rich Keating, worked at a company that produced corporate videos. He was frustrated with the process of sending out review videos to clients, so he started hacking together a custom web page with a Flash player for each client. This worked well for clients, but didn’t really save him any time, as it was labour intensive and not repeatable. Together we saw a way to automate the process and make a better experience for production companies and their clients alike.
How does Screenlight improve the workflow between production company and client?
ScreenLight is designed to make it easier and faster for production companies and their clients to communicate with each other throughout the video production process. ScreenLight benefits clients by:
1) Providing them with an easy way to review project material. When the production team uploads a video, it is automatically converted into web friendly formats that can be viewed by anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Project participants don’t have to worry about things like codecs and whether videos will play back for them, because it just works. Essentially, this removes technology worries from the equation, so everyone can focus on the task at hand, which working together to tell the most engaging story possible.
2) Improving project communication. Clients can login to the service and provide detailed feedback on videos with threaded comments that reference specific points in the video timeline. This means that the conversation about what needs to be done next takes place right in the context of the videos. Since all of the participants can see and respond to each others comments, it keeps everyone on the same page. This helps eliminate ambiguous comments and potential miscommunication. It also helps get rid of long and confusing email threads.
3) Helping production companies make better videos faster. With online video review, it’s easier for everyone to provide feedback whenever, and wherever it’s convenient. This means that scheduling delays associated with review meetings and conference calls can be avoided. The faster your production company gets feedback, the faster they can turn around any requested changes. As a result, the whole process becomes more collaborative.
4) Working together online also means that it’s easier for production companies to source the best talent from around the world. This can provide better quality, cost savings, or both. The end result is that it’s easier to meet today’s increasingly tight production deadlines. The bottom line is that we have created a system that helps make everyone on the project more productive. The service has YouTube’s ease of use, combined with the security and privacy that you would expect when producing material that you aren’t ready to share with the world (yet).
What problems does Screenlight solve?
ScreenLight solves three major problems that production companies and their clients encounter when they are collaborating on a project.
1) Transferring video files is difficult. It’s slow and expensive to ship hard drives by courier. Large file sizes mean that email isn’t a great option unless you are sending very short postage stamp sized videos. FTP is difficult for clients to navigate and it’s a hassle for administrators to keep secure. Other options like YouTube don’t provide a secure and professional user experience for clients.
2) Encoding videos so that they play on different platforms is difficult. Alternatives like FTP and Dropbox allow production companies to share large files. However, they do not automatically encode video so that it will playback on phones and tablets. It’s time consuming and challenging for production professionals to encode and share videos in a way that their client can easily view on different devices. ScreenLight takes care of this dirty work, so that the production team can focus their time on higher value activities.
3) The process of getting feedback is on video is difficult and time consuming. In most projects there are a number of different stakeholders providing feedback on videos. They all have different schedules, priorities, and opinions. In person review sessions can be great, because they can get everybody on the same page at once. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to coordinate schedules and these sessions can drag on as people debate what needs to be done.
The alternative of sending out videos and getting email feedback is much worse. The conversation easily gets fragmented across different email threads, some people get left off important messages, and sometimes new people show up in the conversation and you don’t know who they are and why they are providing feedback. This conversation is complicated by the fact that everyone is trying to describe visual material and changes that need to be made, and this whole conversation is taking place outside the context of the video.
All of this creates potential for miscommunication, and it wastes time, as someone has to sift through the various conversations and put together a prioritized list of what needs to be done next to move the project on to the next step. With ScreenLight, communication is kept in the context of each video. Time coded comments ensure that feedback is precise and meaningful, and everybody can review videos at a time that is convenient for them.
Where do you see the future of online videos for companies?
It’s great to see how companies of all shapes and sizes are using video to communicate with customers and build their trust. One of the most exciting aspects of this is that we are really at the start of the video revolution. Rather than simply moving 30-second television spots online, I see companies embracing the lack of constraints afforded by online video to tell deeper and more engaging stories that people actually want to watch and share with others. It doesn’t take massive budgets to do this either. As an extreme example, look at dollarshaveclub.com, a startup that created an amazing explainer video that brought their product to life, went viral, and turned a $4,500 investment into millions of dollars worth of press.
For business to business marketers, I think online video presents a way to engage with customers in a more direct way that sidesteps some of the formality that big companies usually employ. Online retailers can use video to showcase their products to life and reduce some of the friction of buying products online. Zappos is one example of a company that is doing a great job with this.
Finally, online video presents a way for big brands like Red Bull to engage with their audience in totally unique ways. Their sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner’s freefall from the stratosphere is an amazing example of how video can eclipse the awareness and engagement of traditional advertising campaigns.
I think the key thing to remember when starting out with an online video market is to define your objectives, understand exactly who you are trying to reach, and then work from there to create the most engaging stories possible. You don’t need your content to be viral or to generate millions of views, you need it to connect with your target audience and motivate them to take action.
Before founding ScreenLight, Chris Potter spent over a decade advising companies in the technology, media, and telecommunications sectors on business strategy, marketing, innovation and product development.
Curly Productions are online video production specialists based in Liverpool, UK.