In the last of three parts of this detailed and informative Final Cut Pro X user story, Carsten Orlt details his social media workflow and how to find a platform and funding for your films.
If you haven't caught Carsten's first two articles, you've missed out, you can find them here:
Also make sure you watch our live chat with Carsten, lots of great FCPX editing and workflow tips on the video
Social Media Challenge
After a year on the road, our main focus for the last month was to get everything ready for the launch of Visible Farmer on the 28 of August on our Facebook Page @visiblefarmer, the website visiblefarmer.com and our YouTube Channel. From now on we will release a new film every 2 weeks on all platforms for free.
My workflow proved to be working well, as I had to make a lot of short promos and social media clips and it never took long to pull the full res media after finishing the offline edits with the proxies. Building a set of compound clips to standardise graphics overlays made it quick and painless to make short clips conforming to our common branding for online posts.
Shooting 4K also helped a lot with pulling stills from the footage because we had very little time as a 2 person crew to do many PR photos.
The biggest challenge turned out to be getting our head around the social media strategy.
We are still constantly adjusting the workflow to find the most efficient way to create a consistent online presence. If you never done it, there is a lot to work through.
Finding your audience online is very exciting but also takes a lot of effort. It's certainly a job in itself and making films and promoting them yourselves stretches your capacity. There are only so many hours in a day. It will take a few more months of extra effort but then I hope we will have systems in place to make it more manageable.
One format doesn’t fit all
An interesting problem is which video formats to use on Social media. Google it and instead of answers, you end up having more questions. Ask experts, that make a living out of running Social Media campaigns, and they still can't give you a simple answer.
I now reduced my deliverables to the below. I use the H264 video codec with the settings Apple provides with Compressor for the different platforms. H265 would be nice because you could save upload data usage, but the codec isn’t fully supported by all the platforms yet. I use ‘Landscape’ and ‘Portrait’ in the below on purpose because they get used a lot by social media people.
- YouTube Landscape 16-9 1920x1080 / Closed Caption as SRT
- Facebook Landscape: 16-9 1280x720 / Closed Caption as SRT
- Twitter Landscape 16-9 640x360 / Open Caption (burned in)
- Facebook and Instagram Portrait 4-5 720x900 / Closed Caption as SRT
- Facebook and Instagram Portrait 9-16 720x1280 / Closed Caption as SRT (mainly for FB and Insta stories)
- Instagram Square 1-1 1080x1080 / Open Caption (burned in)
- Square 1080x1080
- Landscape 1200x628
I am still trying to work out which format(s) is best for trailer/teaser and when to use it. Again you will not receive simple answers to which aspect ratio has what effect, or better gets more eyeballs, which is really what you want.
You also have to think about how to use graphics to make your content pop and memorable. It would be great if we could hire designers to help, but for now, we will experiment in the coming month and hopefully have a better idea in the future.
To fit our opener into the different aspect ratios, I made versions in Motion in all aspect ratios based on the max resolution for that aspect ratio. To adjust our content to the different aspect ratios I use Final Cut's ‘fill' spatial conform feature.
You might have to adjust placement via the X position to make a shot work. You can also animate the framing by keyframing the X position of the clip. Again 4K makes it possible to zoom in if necessary.
Above I listed which kind of caption to add to the different versions.
I think this is now a requirement for any video on the internet that contains spoken words.
You have to have either ‘closed captions’ via attached SRT file, or what people call ‘open captions’, which are burned in captions, supplied with it.
By supplying captions you not only support your hearing-impaired audience, but I think it's also needed because most people watch content on mobile devices with the sound turned off.
They may turn the sound on if they like what they're seeing, but if your content is based on spoken words they may never get interested when they can't understand what's going on because you have no captions.
The SRT caption format is the only standard supported by both Facebook and YouTube. SRT doesn't allow for much formatting, but at least it is universally supported and therefore a good starting point for including captions on your films.
My workflow to achieve a quick turnaround for captions on the finished films starts, using the interview role I setup on import, by exporting an audio-only file of the interview role.
Tip: if you want to include some of the on-camera spoken audio, just select the interview role for these audio parts as well (because the project roles are independent of the clip roles in the browser, you will not override the role settings of your original clip).
This file I then transcribe in Speedscriber. I have looked at other AI-driven transcription services, but in my opinion, none of these offer the ease of use that Speedscriber provides. No AI-driven transcription is perfect, you will always have to correct mistakes, and here is where the real difference between services starts.
Speedscriber's desktop software makes it a breeze to go through any transcript and correct what's wrong or missing. Especially the keyboard commands are so well laid out, that it really couldn't be easier.
After I'm finished in Speedscriber, I export an SRT file and import this file into Final Cut as caption. Here is one area where I think Speedscriber can be improved because it doesn't allow you to manually set the margins for your captions on export.
As I understand it uses a 4-3 safe margin which is great for TV, but I think not that good for online distribution. I think the 4-3 safe margin produces too many 2 line caption blocks which on a small screen distract a lot from the image. I already spoke to Martin, the developer of Speedscriber, and I think it hopefully will be implemented in the future.
At the other extreme, you shouldn't use the full width of the image either, because captions get harder to read that way. I use what Andreas from Spherico suggests, and that is to have a maximum margin of 80% width.
Once the captions are in the project I adjust them to what we think is the best fit. This can be by only removing line breaks or by adjusting the different blocks to make a sentence easier to read.
The brilliant way Final Cut integrates captions into the project timeline is a testament to how well the magnetic timeline concept was designed from the beginning.
It's all about how elements are connected that is important, not where they sit in time. Time is only really relevant for the total film.
After I'm happy with the placement of the captions, I export a SRT file from Final Cut which is the file I attach in Facebook and YouTube to the video.
To get my open (or burned in) captions I open this SRT file in Spherico's nifty little donation software called ‘X-Title Import'. This software converts the SRT into titles and creates an XML file that you can import into Final Cut.
Alternatively, you can of course use the ‘burn-in captions' option in the export dialogue of Final Cut, but the look of the captions is very old computer style and I think pretty ugly. Good for review purposes but not for primetime. X-Title Import allows for quite a few options on how your final titles/captions will look. It's well worth a donation to Spherico!
Finding a platform for our films
When it came to deciding which Social Media platform we would mainly focus on, we only really had 2 choices. It was either Facebook or Youtube. Vimeo is not mainstream enough to create a reach beyond an already existing audience you might have. If you want your films to be discovered you need to be on Facebook or Youtube.
After our initial research, we decided our main focus will be Facebook because this is where our primary audience, people in the rural regions, spent most of their time. We also publish on Youtube to be able to use it as a host to embed the content on our project website, but money spent on advertising the web-series will focus on growing our audience on Facebook.
Very important for the success as a filmmaker in online media is that you open up to the community, whether they are connected to the subject of your film(s), or connected to you as a person and/or profession.
I think one of the main attractions of the internet is that people can get directly involved with the maker of a product, be that a physical product or media. This creates a new challenge for you the ‘behind the camera' person. We as filmmakers like to tell the story of the people in front of the camera, not so much the story of the person behind it.
We are still figuring out what this means in practical terms for how we present ourselves in the online space. We do not want to create the ‘Carsten and Gisela Show,' but know we have to be part of the story somehow.
Which leads finally to the million-dollar question: How do you monetise content in the online world?
2 big hurdles need to be tackled: Firstly, nobody wants to pay for online content on Social Media. So if nobody pays for the content on Social Media directly, you can only make money online through the ads that are placed around your content.
But for this to work you need to have really significant viewer numbers. And I mean r e a l l y significant. Youtube can pay so little per view that you need a million or so to be able to pay your Mortage and feed your family (for fun here is a calculator to give you an idea).
In the old broadcast world you ‘only' had to persuade a commissioning editor, or two, to buy/finance your film, the broadcaster took care of finding the audience. In the online world, you have to do everything yourself. Great opportunities for niche content but also a huge added burden on the filmmaker.
Here in Australia, apart from the fantastic support film funding bodies like Screen Australia and Screen West provide for filmmakers that want to establish themselves in the online space, the one possibility to secure funding we are exploring with Visible Farmer is the space of ‘Social Change'.
We are not trying to get funded per view but by organisations, whether they are government bodies, industry (in our case agricultural) bodies or private companies that work in agriculture.
We are not only creating the initial content of short documentaries, but are already starting the outreach campaign to enable that our films could be used by organisations, in schools, in local communities, etc., to hopefully promote gender equality in the agricultural sector and encourage young people to increasingly seek a career in farming. This will hopefully attract philanthropic and/or corporate support.
Additionally, we have here in Australia a great organisation called Documentary Australia Foundation that allows a film project, given it meets certain requirements, to gain a tax-deductible status, which opens the door to private donors.
Other platforms allow you to set up private/crowdfunding, but these always rely on benefits provided by you to the donor. Problem here is that if you don't have money to make the film, you sure don't have money to give away T-shirts or the like. This is of course overly simplified but illustrates the problem you're facing.
No matter how you end up funding your project, the same as farmers these days have to diversify to make themselves more resilient against changing conditions, we as storytellers have to ‘value add' to our ‘product' to open up new avenues of funding.
The key skill we as filmmakers have to learn for this is marketing. Or if you don't want, or can't do all of this yourself, you have to start collaborating with, or hiring, people that are experienced in this area.
That's exactly what we have started to do now. It's a balancing act because of the lack of funding upfront, but I seriously believe if we do not try our best to get a solid working base from the beginning, we will have no chance to get our voices heard in the busy online space.
What we’ve learned on the road
As amazing the journey has been so far, there are a few issues you don't experience in a temperature-controlled office.
Apart from the difficulties a human goes through when working in 40C heat, the MacBook Pro doesn't like excessive heat. Processing power diminishes quickly in temperatures above 35C because the MacBook slows down the CPU to prevent overheating. And when it doesn't get colder than 32 at night you can't even wait for the cooler night temperatures to do the heavy lifting.
Secondly to make a project for online distribution you have to have access to the internet. We travelled through Western Australia which is Australia's largest state (roughly the size of a third of the US) but it only has a population of 2.6 million. No customers means that Telcos don't build many mobile towers outside of towns. No mobile means no internet. And if you get reception it is often slow and bugged by dropouts. You certainly learn to be patient in outback Australia.
But all those difficulties are quickly forgotten when you remember the amazing times we spent in remote Australia.
The biggest discovery on this trip wasn't that the workflow and all technical bits worked out fine.
We have reached a technical age where you need very little to produce high-quality films.
What stood out were the inspiring farming women and their families we met. The hospitality and support we received everywhere was amazing and I urge everybody to get out of the city and smell the bush. Not only is it important to get some fresh air now and then (hello fellow editors), but you experience the friendliest people you can imagine. I hope the films we made (and are still making) will do this justice, because the farming community needs every support they can get.
Getting lost in all the details of our professions, we sometimes forget that the stories we tell are the most important part of what we do. Without a story the best image or the best edit is meaningless.
And with the challenges we face with climate change there is no bigger story than agriculture right now because as Ketut Bassett, an organic farmer we filmed in Carnarvon, Western Australia, said:
[10:19:42] Because first of all everybody has to eat, you know. [10:19:47] It doesn't matter what your position in life, doesn't matter how much your wealth or what you don't have, [10:19:53] you need to eat. [10:19:54] And agriculture is part of living.
A huge thank you again to Carsten and Gisela for sharing with us their story, workflow, tips and of course enthusiasm for filmmaking.
Please leave a message below or better still, comment, like and subscribe on the Visible Farmer YouTube channel. It will really help.