Virtual Reality vs Traditional Video: 7 Difference https://t.co/KkHvAHRND2

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Virtual Reality vs Traditional Video: 7 Differences You Need to Know

ThinkstockPhotos-545792146-517239-edited.jpgVirtual reality is the hot new video marketing tool disrupting business plans and budgets across the planet. Audiences are loving it and want more: a 2015 study found that 81% of consumers would tell their friends about their VR experience, and that 79% would seek out additional experiences. The demand is so huge Deloitte predicts that by 2020 the global market may be worth around $30 billion.

Because of this growing demand everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and offering VR production as part of their services. I get it – as an integrated marketing agency with an in-house video production department, becoming a virtual reality agency was a natural next step for us, so we sent the team on training, hired in specialists and acquired the kit we needed.  

We’ve learned loads on our long VR journey; it truly is a different beast to 2D and takes some serious skills to tame. We’ve outlined 7 important differences to help you prepare for your own VR adventure – consider them carefully, they could save you buckets in tears and pennies.

1) You need specialist equipment

VR production requires some specialist equipment that can seem incredibly intimidating, not to mention expensive. At the very least you will need a 360 camera rig and editing station (with an i5 processor or above), as well as a PC and headset to review the footage. 

In terms of camera gear, there is a range of options to suit different levels of budget and ambition. The Samsung Gear 360 is one great option at entry level that consists of two cameras with a 180-degree view. It’s priced at around US $460.

If only the best will do, consider the 8K, waterproof, six-camera GoPro Omni. It captures everything – and its resolution is almost faultless with minimal stretching. The price for this fancy rig is around US $4600.

If you want movement in your video, you need to budget for extra gear like drones and dollies. 

Now that you’ve got your camera gear sorted you need to think about your editing equipment. At TopLine Comms, we recently bought a beast of an editing machine to deal with the sheer amount of high-res footage that each camera rig produces. This machine can process footage with resolutions ranging from 720p to 8K and is completely customized for VR production.

2) Avoid the danger zone

VR film sets have their very own ‘danger zone’ – usually a radius of 1.5 meters from the camera rig. Anything filmed in this zone will come out weird and blurry so your production team will need to keep it clear of any people or objects that could distort the shot.

Stitch lines can have a monstrous effect on your VR content so make sure you’re working with a crew who pays attention to where they are and keeps focal points as far away from them as possible.

But remember, even if the danger zone is kept clear, the different angles of footage will still have to be stitched together using specific software like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga.

While some VR equipment – like the Samsung Gear 360 on the Galaxy s7 smartphone – have an automatic onboard stitching function, there are some drawbacks you have to bear in mind: the footage you get will have a lower resolution and the processing time will take longer.

If you want higher quality footage – Samsung Gear 360 can still do it, but then you have to use a computer and specialist stitching software. Ultimately, you need to decide what will work best for you and your budget.

3) Think about people on set

We know that when you commission your first VR project, you will probably want to be on-location. With normal video production, this is fine. With VR video production, it’s not fine. Remember, these cameras are filming 360-degree content which means everything will be in the shot. Even if you stand behind a tree and don’t breathe, you’ll get picked up.

This means that if you insist on being on set, the director will likely ask you to get in character, put on a costume and blend in. No joke. Crew on the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, had to do it.

So if dressing up is your thing, by all means attend the shoot. If not, you can’t be on set. Sorry.

4) Give the voice over direction

Scripting voiceover for content that can literally go in any direction is tricky. Unlike 2D, your audience can look anywhere at any moment. So, if the VO is talking about something happening on the right, best the script directs them to look right. Rather than record the VO before filming, work with your production agency to do it afterwards.

You also have to keep in mind that most cameras focus on visuals at the expense of audio quality. To fix this you can hire special recorders for 360-degree sound, like Core Sound’s TetraMic and Brahma Tetrahedron, for example. This will, of course, be an additional expense.

5) Be patient with the edit

Post-production is where the true magic happens but be prepared for it to take time – much more time than editing 2D footage. Merging stitch lines will take at least a week, more if your production has used multiple cameras.

The edit begins by uploading the footage into specialist software, like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga. The content is sync’d and then the angles are stitched together.

Once the videos have been stitched together, your editing team will often have to fix the horizon. During the stitching process the software will automatically merge the different angles to reduce the appearance of seams. However, sometimes this results in an image that is off centre or off axis. This can only be corrected by manipulating the video.

What’s more, all objects directly above or below the camera (like tripods) will have to be ‘disappeared’ using skilful editing techniques such as superimposing a reference photo over it. Or, the editor can opt for the cruder method and stick a relevant graphic over it.

We once attached one of our 360 camera rigs to the front of a skateboard, but the clamp holding the camera up was visible in the footage. To edit this out we had to manually lay another image of a skateboard over the actual skateboard in the shot.

All of this makes VR editing a much lengthier process than traditional video editing.

6) Prepare to pay more

VR is relatively expensive to produce. It costs more than 2D but not as much as a Spielberg blockbuster (unless you’re referencing one of his epic films from the last century). Truth is, it doesn’t pay to cut corners – ultra-low-cost equipment and crews often result in ultra-low quality.

To put the costs in perspective it helps to look at the requirements in terms of time, people involved and post-production process. For a 2D filmed video you will usually need a producer or director, a camera operator and a sound recordist. Then the post-production process will involve and offline edit, motion graphics and colour grading. All of this will take about 5 weeks could cost between US$6 500 and US$10 000.

With a 360-degree video, however, you’ll need more crew members, including a producer or director, a camera operator, a digital imaging technician a sound recordist and a runner. As mentioned above the post-production process is also more extensive with VR. It will typically include stitching, offline editing, plating, motion graphics and colour grade. This pushes the project timescale to around 7 weeks with costs ranging from US$ 9 000 to US$13 000. 

But remember, VR projects don’t all cost the same – productions with bigger kit, multiple days of filming and some basic graphics could be around US$13 000 to US$20 000. A high end VR experience with lots of animation could be upward of US$130 000.

With VR it’s worth investing in an agency that won’t mess up the postproduction process, and that will be able to advise you on the best shots for your video. You might think that it’s a good idea to have a camera on the floor while people zip past on bikes. While this sounds dynamic in theory, the shot’s perspective will place your viewer on the floor too – which might not be the most comfortable experience. A good VR video agency will point these things out to you, so you can make better, more informed decisions.

That said, your VR project also should not eat your entire marketing budget – what good is cool new content if you can’t afford to take it to market?

7) Make it audience friendly

Almost everyone wants to watch VR content but not everyone has the required headsets. If you’re producing an experience to showcase at an event or in the office then no problem, you’ll have the relevant equipment on-hand.

If you’re assuming that your viewer has an Oculus Rift at home, your amazing VR experience will fall flat. The best you can do is make sure that your audiences can immerse themselves in your VR content through as many platforms as possible: from Google Cardboard to YouTube to Sulon Q.

When producing content that has to be viewed with a headset, give some thought to motion sickness and make sure your viewers won’t feel too nauseous (remember Nintendo’s first attempt at VR that had people literally throwing up?). Relatively static shots are best as they allow viewers to move their heads freely and enjoy their immersive experience without unpleasant side-effects.

If you’re still not sure if VR is right for you, consider what you want to use the video for. Will an engaging, immersive video experience get the job done better than a traditional video? If the answer is yes, then you should consider VR. However, you also have to keep your budget and project timeline into account. While VR videos create a great experience they do take longer and are more expensive to make.

If you analyze your prospective project according to the 7 characteristics of VR videos listed above, you should get a good idea of whether what you want to achieve can be done through VR and whether you have the budget to make it work. The great thing is, should you decide to attempt VR you don’t have to go at it alone. You don’t have to be a VR expert if you work with an agency that is able to advise you on everything from shooting location to sound effects.

If virtual insanity is getting you down and you need some expert guidance, download our Marketer’s Guide to Virtual Reality.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE MARKETER'S GUIDE TO VR

How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide https://t.co/ikdmnQ37EE

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How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide

writing intros struggle.png

Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.

I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?

Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.

How to Write a Good Introduction: 3 Components to Consider

As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. But it contains different components that create an introduction “formula” — you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.

1) Grab the reader’s attention.

There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).

For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.

Intro for intros

Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?

2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.

Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.

Present the Reason for the Post's Existence.png

Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance, and give your audience a reason to keep reading.

3) Explain how the post will help address the problem.

Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.

In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction. But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.

Explain How the Post Will Help Address the Problem.png

The underlined sentenced is a way of saying, “Keep reading.” We already established that there’s a problem — here’s how I’m going to make it easy for you to solve.

Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.

But what are some examples of great introductions in the wild? We thought you might ask — which is why we picked out some of our favorites.

5 Introduction Paragraph Examples to Inspire You

1) “Confessions of a Google Spammer,” by Jeff Deutsch

Google Spammer Intro

There are a few reasons why we love this introduction. Immediately, it grabs our attention — how the heck did this guy make fifty grand every month? And just from 10 hours a week?

But unlike some spammy comments that might contain a similar sentiment, he almost immediately serves us something unexpected — he tells us not to do that.

Then, he states the true purpose of the blog — to explain why we should “never, never ever follow in [his] footsteps.” In just three sentences, this introduction has captivated us and validated the story’s existence with a looming life lesson. The takeaway? Keep it short, but powerful.

2) “Announcing the public preview of Azure Advisor,” by Shankar Sivadasan

Azure Advisor Intro

Here’s a great example of an introduction that presents a problem and a solution to it. Sure, it’s easy to build apps on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform — but maybe you had some issues with its setup. Well, wouldn’t you know? Azure Advisor is here to address those challenges, and you can preview it for free.

But wait — there’s more. The introduction not only immediately presents a problem and a solution, but it concisely summarizes just how this product provides a fix. And, it explains why the text will be helpful, with the sentence, “In this blog post, we will do a quick tour of Azure Advisor and discuss how it can help optimize your Azure resources.”

That’s a best practice for brands that have made a mistake — even a small one. Technology is great, but it can come with bugs. That’s where an intro like this one can be so helpful. It acknowledges the problem, states what the brand has done to address it, and alerts the reader to continue to learn how that solution will work.

3) “Taste the Season at Sushi Sora,” by Chris Dwyer

Sushi Sora intro

Strong introductions aren’t just important for blogs — they’re essentially to quality editorial pieces, too. That’s why we love this introduction to an article from Destination MO, the Mandarin Oriental’s official online magazine.

Remember that thing we said about a captivating start? In addition to being empathetic or funny, visuals can be huge — not just an actual picture or video, but words that actually help the reader envision what you’re describing. This introduction does just that, with expressive phrases like, “the magical silhouette of Mount Fuji on the horizon.” Well, yeah. That does sound magical. But where can I go for such a view? None other than the “Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo,” the author tells me, especially “from the sushi counter at Sushi Sora.”

Here’s the thing about this intro — it gives the reader something to aspire to. We’ve briefly discussed aspirational marketing before, but this instance is one where it can be used in a brief introduction. After reading this first paragraph, I want to go to Tokyo. And when I’m there, I want to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Then, I want to take in the views from its high-end sushi restaurant.

With just two sentences, I’ve gone from reading an article with my morning coffee, to fantasizing about a thousand-dollar vacation. So whenever possible, use your introduction to paint a picture, and to help your reader dream.

4) “The Secret Club of Admitting You Suck,” by Janessa Lantz

admitting you suck intro

Let’s read through this introduction from ReadThink together.

I know. I know! I once moved very far away to escape my own failure, too! But I couldn’t admit at the time that I sucked, either! Wow. Janessa Lantz really gets me.

See that? That, right there, is a resounding example of how empathy makes a profound introduction. But how did the story end? Did they buy the house? Did she admit that she sucked? Does she still suck? (Spoiler alert: I work with Janessa and can say, with great confidence, that she is far from sucking.)

The point is, I wanted to keep reading for two reasons — first, I related to the author. Second, it was just plain interesting, and it left me with a cliffhanger. It’s okay to tease your readers. Just make sure you ultimately give them what they’re seeking.

5) “Be a responsible tourist: a PSA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” by Out of the Blue

responsible tourist intro

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for a good travel blog, which is why JetBlue’s official blog appeals to me. But at the same time, I also geek out for almost anything that promotes sustainability. In this piece, those worlds collide.

What makes this introduction work? Honestly, it’s scary. “Decline” and “extinction” are strong words, and absolutely present a problem. But research shows that we’re actually more inclined to keep reading bad news — in fact, a few years ago, our media consumption habits suggested that we prefer it.

But it’s not all bad — and JetBlue quickly turns around a potentially devastating situation with the language of this introduction. And, it includes the reader, by inviting travelers to be part of the solution, but joining the brand in its promotion of responsible tourism.

That’s another formula for presenting bad news to your audience, especially if you’re not the one causing it and you have a solution. Scary information + how you’re helping + how the reader can do his or her part = compelling intro.

Let’s Start

Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation.

How do you write a good intro, and what are some of your favorite examples? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to writing well

 

free guide to writing well

7 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make https://t.co/W37e5EmO0E

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7 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

marketing-automation-mistakes.jpg

I have money in my savings account because my bank has a built-in auto-deposit process. I’m not logging into my account every day and moving money around, but when I do log in, I can see the progress I’ve made toward my goals by setting my account to automate deductions.

Think of marketing automation like auto-deducting money from your checking account and putting it into savings: The automatic process lets you invest in your future goals in an easier way than if you did it manually.

Marketing automation can play a significant role in the success of your inbound marketing strategy, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

We want to help you understand marketing automation, and how and when to use it to your organization’s benefit. In this post, we’ll discuss traps marketers can fall into when incorporating marketing automation and alternatives that solve for these challenges.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Quite simply, marketing automation refers to the software that exists to automate marketing actions — actions like email, social media, and more. All of these automated actions are designed with the concept of lead nurturing in mind. In other words, marketers are creating and automating various types of content with the goal of actively attracting, qualifying, and moving prospects through the sales funnel towards a purchase.

And the marketing automation industry is huge — Emailmonday estimates that 49% of companies use marketing automation software, and Marketing Automation Insider estimates that the industry is worth $1.62 billion per year.

The trouble is, because marketing automation software has grown so significantly as a part of the inbound marketing movement, some marketers aren’t adopting it correctly. Let’s dig into some of the most common marketing automation mistakes below.

7 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

1) You’ve invested in marketing automation without an inbound lead generation strategy.

The Problem:

You’ve purchased and started using marketing automation software, but you don’t have a strong content strategy in place yet. As a result, you aren’t attracting enough qualified leads to your website, so the ROI of your marketing automation software is low.

To solve this problem, you might be considering buying an email contact list to build the size of your database.

The Solution:

Before you buy an email list, don’t.

You see, it’s not a sound lead generation strategy to purchase email contact lists for a few reasons. For one, people don’t generally like being contacted unsolicited, and you don’t want to irritate potential customers. Additionally, purchased email lists have generally high churn rates — because the leads are often unqualified — meaning your database won’t have the long-term growth that you’re looking for.

Instead of going that route, focus on developing an inbound marketing strategy aimed at attracting folks that actually want to hear from you. Write blog posts, create content offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages, and optimize your website so it will rank well in organic search. These efforts will ensure that your content is being discovered by your audience. Then, once you start generating more leads, you’ll be able to nurture them effectively with automated emails and social media posts.

2) You don’t have a goal for your marketing automation.

The Problem:

You’re sending out multiple automated email and social media messages without an end goal in mind. 

The Solution:

Take advantage of the ease of use marketing automation software provides and invest time and efforts into determining your goals first. Once you have them, you’ll want to assign these goals to each automated effort — social media, email workflows, and so on — to ensure it’s easy to track progress.

After all, marketers need a way to measure success when it comes to marketing automation, and one means of doing so is by evaluating goal attainment. For example, here at HubSpot, the Visual Workflows App (currently in beta) lets you set a specific goal for each automated workflow. A goal might be a new lead transitioning into a marketing-qualified lead based on certain behaviors, such as downloading a specific number of content offers.

HubSpot Visual Workflows also allows you to track the percentage of contacts in each workflow that achieve the goal, which is another great way to measure the success and ROI of your marketing automation.

3) You don’t segment your email list.

The Problem:

You have a database full of qualified leads, but you’re using marketing automation software to blast out tons of emails that aren’t customized at all. As a result, your leads are churning because your emails aren’t useful to them.

The Solution:

Develop a lead nurturing strategy that includes email list segmentation so you’re sending specific emails to specific people that they’re more likely to open.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 77% of email marketing ROI came from targeted, segmented campaigns in 2015, and segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue. Seems like a must-have strategy, right? Unfortunately, only 42% of email marketers are sending targeted messages.

With the right marketing automation software, it’s easy to execute an email list segmentation strategy that delivers strong results. For example, HubSpot customers can use the Visual Workflows App to target their emails based on dozens of criteria, both demographic and behavioral.

Need inspiration? We recently published a blog post with 30 ideas for email list segmentation from real brands.

4) You send too many emails.

The Problem:

Perhaps your email list isn’t segmented, or maybe you’re a little overzealous with your marketing automation software. Whatever the reason, you’re annoying potential prospects by sending way too many emails.

The Solution:

Strategically send fewer emails.

When it comes to your email database, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have a lower volume of leads with higher engagement rates than a massive database of people who don’t open your emails.

Why? Because higher quality leads are more likely to become customers.

A staggering 78% of customers recently surveyed by HubSpot Research have unsubscribed because the brand was sending too many emails. To avoid sending one of many such emails, make sure that every single email you send provides value to leads in a way that they won’t be able to help but click.

5) You’re only automating your email marketing strategy.

The Problem:

You use your marketing automation software to send out emails, and not much else.

The Solution:

Take advantage of all of the features your software offers to maximize efficiency.

There are probably a lot of little tasks over the course of your work day that don’t seem time consuming individually. However, if you add up all of the time you spend posting on social media, updating contact information, and other tasks, you end up with a large chunk of your day spent on things that can probably be automated.

Poke around your marketing automation to see which processes you can make more efficient. For example, in the HubSpot software, users can bulk update lead contact information instead of clicking into each record and changing details there.

The more processes you automate, the more time you’ll have each day to strategize with your team about content, lead generation, and lead nurturing tactics to keep attracting quality leads to your site.

6) You’re only sharing your marketing automation efforts within your marketing department.

The Problem:

You have marketing automation set up only for email marketing, social media, and other lead activities that are only impacting your marketing team’s bottom line.

The Solution:

Use a “smarketing” approach, and make your marketing automation work for sales reps as well.

Think bigger than just the marketing team: What processes would help your sales team if they were automated?

For example, if there were a process in place that alerted reps to when their leads were checking out parts of your website, that would help inform their next call or email. When a lead fills out a form, it could trigger a specific email send from marketing and a follow-up call from their sales rep. Marketing automation software also helps users set follow-up tasks and to-do lists, which reps could use to keep track of the many leads they’re working at a given time.

Take your sales and marketing alignment to the next level by making processes easier for team members across the board to achieve their goals with the help of marketing automation.

7) You use too many different tools.

The Problem:

Roughly half of marketers use marketing automation software, and those who do often combine different strategies into a “Frankensystem” of tools to achieve their bottom line.

For example, they might start on a whiteboard, move to a spreadsheet, then shift onto an online flowchart maker, and only then will they use marketing automation software. This system is problematic in a few ways — it’s time consuming, numbers can be incorrectly analyzed, and communication is complicated.

The Solution:

Invest in all-in-one marketing automation software.

The point of marketing automation is to make things easier and more efficient, and your team won’t achieve that if you’re spending too much time updating different documents or manually targeting your leads database.

All-in-one marketing automation software offers a variety of criteria options to target your audience, as well as visualization tools so you can see how your marketing automation efforts are working together. That means you’ll be spending less time writing out numbers and emailing spreadsheets to your team members, and more time implementing strategies designed to qualify leads.

What’s the biggest challenge you encountered when you purchased marketing automation software? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving https://t.co/Ks6UWw9PXu

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