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April 2014
Issue: February 1, 2013

Using Social Media

By: Randi Altman
As Greg Grusby, from Industrial Light & Magic, succinctly points out: social media is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

More and more, people are finding companies via social media networks rather than in more traditional ways, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, or others. Some companies, like Kevin Otterness’ Posthouse Pictures, are now using their Facebook pages in lieu of a company Website.

All of the pros we spoke to for this piece agree: the interactivity you get, the conversations you start, or are a part of, are invaluable to their businesses. 

ONE RIVER MEDIA
Walnut Creek, CA-based OneRiver Media (www.onerivermedia.com) offers production and post production services, including shooting, editing, visual effects, 3D and audio, for high-end corporate, medical and commercial work.

“Sometimes we are just doing visual effects for a project being produced elsewhere, other times we are doing entire project fulfillment from preproduction to the musical score and final deployment,” reports owner Marco Solorio (@OneRiverMedia), adding that the facility also creates its own content.

OneRiver Media first dipped its toes in the social media water with a Facebook page (facebook.com/onerivermedia). Solorio embraced Twitter a bit later than others, he admits, but once he did, he loved it, seeing it as a way to share information as opposed to bringing in new customers. “For me, the social media aspect is more just outreach with colleagues and those who are in the industry, offering tips and tricks and behind-the-scenes glimpses.”

In addition to sharing his own experiences, Solorio finds Twitter to be a great resource for learning from others as well. He offers up this example involving DaVinci Resolve: “There is a lot of stuff you can do to the GPU cards to accelerate it, and a Twitter friend of mine, Juan Salvo, a professional colorist in New York, would go back and forth with me. I’d ask him about graphics cards and how he’s stacking them. Another person might give info about one thing, and someone else will give it about another aspect. It’s this cool circle of free tech support for everybody,” he laughs.

Solorio does participate in other social media platforms, including LinkedIn, but acknowledges that while he belongs to many of the site’s groups, he’s not as active as he’d like. “I don’t really engage on it, but I should — there is only so much time in a day though!” That said, a visit to the OneRiver Media Website will find links to the studio’s Vimeo channel in addition to Flickr and their own studio blog.

He sees the benefits of Twitter differently than those of Facebook, and what he puts up on each platform differs. “If I have a lot of information to share, I do it on Facebook or on our blog, but for just snippets, I use Twitter. For instance, today I posted something about this crazy deal I found while searching Ebay — a legit business was selling brand-new Schneider Panavision-size filters for $29 each (normally $330 each). I bought one of everything they had and put a post on our Facebook page for others interested in buying too. On Twitter I said, ‘I found a good deal — check the details on our Facebook page’ with a link.”
His company’s blog is reserved for stories about recent work, including images that are unique to OneRiver Media. “I’ll save the beefier stuff for the blog, a little bit of meat for Facebook, and the short stuff for Twitter. I also try to integrate Instagram with our Twitter feed.

With so much information being shared via social media, how does Solorio weed through it all? What he calls “robo-Tweets” get the least of his attention. He wants to know it’s a human who is sharing and ready to engage in a conversation. He also finds that TweetDeck helps organize the topics he’s following. “I really enjoy it, and have some saved panels, including Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera and a few other things.”

Solorio was one of the lucky ones and got his hands on the Cinema Camera before its public release. He has since been putting it through its paces since. It’s still missing some features, he says, but “even at its early stages I’ve been enjoying it tremendously.” He has relied on feedback from other testers via social media during the beta process. “There are some key people on Twitter, and it has been a very active topic.”

Solorio is no longer actively searching for followers, like he was when he first started on Twitter. Instead he finds it to be more of an organic process. When he does get a new follower, he will view their profile and most likely follow them back if they share common industry interests. “Twitter, in particular, is a very helpful tool for anyone on any level who is working in the industry,” explains Solorio, who credits in-house publicist Suzette Mariel with helping OneRiver Media launch across several social media platforms. “It’s interesting to see what other people are doing, whether they are on an A-list crew in Hollywood or people just trying something out for fun.”

ILM
San Francisco’s ILM (www.ilm.com) is a big name in the industry, but that doesn’t mean they take promotion for granted. They have embraced social media wholeheartedly to get their message out, and they truly enjoy the interactivity and feedback the process offers.

Currently ILM’s primary social media channels are Twitter for micro-blogging, along with Facebook and YouTube. Greg Grusby, senior manager, PR & communications, at the iconic visual effects studio, says there is a little bit of cross over, but they make an effort to use the strengths of each platform. 
“Twitter allows us to engage, not only fans, but clients and our employees, and potential employees, where they naturally spend their time… and that’s online, whether it’s on their phone, their computer, or on a tablet,” he explains.

ILM’s social media department, which is essentially an extension of the studio’s four-person public relations department, posts news and videos and starts conversations. They also use platforms as an opportunity to stay in touch with clients who have moved on to other projects by congratulating them on new work or award wins. “It keeps that line of communication open, which is important to us,” says Grusby. “We work with so many filmmakers throughout the year, and we want to keep in touch with all of them.

Because it’s about making the experience, interactive, Grusby says they use Twitter like “a telephone and not a megaphone. We  want to be able to have a conversation and not just be blasting out what we think is important. We want the conversation.”

Facebook allows the studio to post imagery and fun things like “Five Questions With”  ILM artists or technicians. “Some of our artists are doing interesting things, and we can push that out there and allow the community of people that follow us to ask questions.”

Questions roll in on all of ILM’s social networks, and they do their best to answer as many of them as they can, but the volume is substantial, and getting to them all is essentially impossible: at press time, ILM had almost 34K followers on Twitter (@ILMVFX) and close to 38K on Facebook.

ILM’s YouTube Channel, which currently has over 2.5 million views, hosts examples of the studio’s work and making-of videos. People can in turn share those videos on their social media platform of choice. “It ends up spreading far and wide that way,” explains Grusby. “And we can make sure information about a given project is accurate. It also allows us to immediately see if people are enjoying it, and we get suggestions and requests.”

He points to an Avengers video they put out just after Christmas. (They got an Oscar nom for the VFX work on the film, BTW) Within a few days there were half a million views. “That’s a pretty remarkable change compared to how it used to be where you never knew who was seeing your stuff. You would be lucky to get it on broadcast TV or hope people would see it at a trade show. This just extends our reach and allows us to put up content that people seem to be hungry for.”
Grusby explains all the interest this way: “People still don’t fully understand how visual effects and sound design are done, so we can pull the curtains back a little and explain what we do, the tools involved and the artists — people get excited.”

ILM is currently looking at how they can use all popular social media, whether that’s Pinterest or a Tumblr blog, in addition to updating their Website. “We are looking at what we can do for our Web presence, but for now the social media channels have really taken over, and it seems to be the first place people go to find out about the company. Are they on Twitter? Do they have a Facebook page. Are they on YouTube?”

Grusby says, that in the “old days” — about five years ago — a company had one person getting social media up and running, “but it wasn’t a core spoke of a communications wheel. Now I think it’s at the center and probably at the core of our communications program.

He concludes with this: social media is not an option, it’s a necessity. “You have to be on it or you don’t exist. You have to be part of the conversation, and we want to be because we have some really smart people here who have interesting things to say and are willing to share.”

COLORFLOW

Alexander MacLean is co-founder with Alexander Black in the recently opened DI studio Colorflow (www.colorflow.com), which is located within the Saul Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley.

In 2009, company founder and managing director Black opened Colorflow as a test facility to see if this type of business could sustain itself in the Bay Area. After working on small documentaries and digital cinema packages, he was convinced a DI shop working on high-end projects could thrive and decided to take what he called his 700-foot “closet operation” to the next level.

It was then that he reached out to MacLean, who recently had moved from San Francisco to New York to work at Katabatic Digital. He asked him to join the DI studio’s founding team.“We started doing color on Final Cut Pro, and then we put a Lustre in a closet and found the right people,” describes MacLean, who in 2009 dropped out of college after one semester to work in post full time. “Then we added Smoke, and a year and a half later, a 7,500-square-foot full DI facility with a theater, and the whole nine yards.”

The new facility, which opened in July 2012, features a Lustre 2013 in combination with Smoke 2012, allowing them to send timelines back and forth between both Autodesk tools. There are also two Assimilate Scratch systems running primarily on commercials as well as a DaVinci Resolve and an Avid Symphony. “It’s all about what the artist wants to use,” says MacLean.
 
MacLean, who admits the studio was quiet on social media until it got up and running, says Colorflow is now ready to let the world know it exists, and expects to use Twitter most of all because “it’s the most relevant social media platform for post production and the film industry. I have been on Twitter since 2007, and for some reason it has a good core of post — there are a lot of knowledgeable and great people, which is hard to find in a lot of communities. I’ve met a lot of people that resulted from random conversations started on Twitter.”

MacLean calls Twitter a 24/7 cocktail party. “It never ends, and that’s why I like it. You can talk about business, random stuff; it’s a catch-all for whatever it is you want to talk about. For us that’s DI, color and post. It’s also a great way for vendors to see what people say about software when people aren’t being paid to talk about software.”

Colorflow (@colorflowpost) is using Twitter to promote its projects and services. “It’s a good way to let people know what’s going on  and, at the same time, engage with potential clients and peers from other post facilities.” They also share Website links to other facilities in the Bay Area. The more people know about the film industry in Northern California, the best for the community in general, he says. 

In terms of other social media platforms, Colorflow uses Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and FourSquare. “Twitter is about engaging people about post, while Facebook involves more general things, like photos. But we keep it more business-like than Twitter. Tumblr is essentially a blog that people can ‘re-blog,’ and ours is a bit goofy. We will put up pictures of people stopping by, photos of the new espresso machine. Fun stuff like that.”

The studio is also on FourSquare, and clients can check in when they arrive. Colorflow will also host events and parties, and guests can check in on FourSquare for a beer. They also have a company page on FourSquare and are building a favorite restaurant page, so when clients come in from out of town they have a healthy list of endorsed places to visit. 
Colorflow will use Instagram as a way to promote its work, by posting graded stills from a film or commercial. “Instagram is working really well for photographers and people in other parts of the industry. I haven’t seen anyone use it yet in post production,” reports  MacLean. “We will use it mostly just to post a still to tease something.”

Regardless of the platform, Colorflow’s overarching social mission is to get the word out that they aren’t a “big iron facility,” sums up MacLean. “We have a different mentality. We offer a lot of those services, but mainly we partner with clients through the entire project.”

POSTHOUSE PICTURES
Posthouse Pictures’ Kevin Otterness (@KevinOtterness) is an industry vet who after working in public access television, news and corporate post, decided to put his fate and creativity into his own hands. In 2003, he went out on his own and opened a Chicago-based production company that services everything from concept to previs to post.

“I always wanted to do my own thing — I’ve directed, shot and edited, and I was getting bored with the corporate end of the business. I wanted to get out there and do what I was meant to do.”

In addition to freelancing for other companies, Otterness, who ramps up with staff depending on the project, started producing his own content and buying scripts to produce as well. “I have just been pushing forward to make things happen and getting my name and Posthouse Pictures’ name out there.”

That’s where social media comes in. Currently, along with his blog, Otterness’ efforts are mainly focused on Facebook and Twitter. So much so that he is currently using these two platforms, particularly Facebook, as an alternative to a traditional Website.

He likes the kind of connections that can be made on Twitter and Facebook; he also finds the immediate feedback a plus. “Much more so than an official Website,” he explains. “People want to know they can communicate directly, and Twitter and Facebook allow you to do that. It’s a way to interact and let people know about the services I provide, and it allows me to promote my own projects, whether it’s a doc, short film or music video.”

Otterness feels that he can be much more proactive with his message via Facebook (find him by searching for Posthouse Pictures) as compared to a Website that people have to actively look for. “If you have a business page on Facebook, it’s like an instantly updated blog that’s being delivered to other’s newsfeeds immediately. I have a lot of likes, and people will often message me and ask questions.”

He also finds the analytics that come with having a Facebook company page incredibly helpful. “It allows me to keep track of how many people have viewed my post, and it gives statistics on who has viewed it.”
That feedback lets Otterness know what types of stories people like best, and he points to a piece he put up that included pictures of different gear he used on a recent project. It became his most viewed article to date. “I now know what people are drawn  to, what they want to see more of, and I can react instantly.”

When Otterness first joined Twitter, he was going to put the account under Posthouse Pictures, but quickly realized that followers enjoyed talking to a person as opposed to a company.

In addition to using Twitter as a way of self promotion, Otterness enjoys learning from others as well, and has been joining in on Twitter’s Wednesday night @postchat. “It’s a great way to network and gain more followers, and you’re talking to people who are in the business, and if you have questions regarding software or camera gear, you can get those answers. I find it very useful.”

If you follow or like Otterness and Posthouse Pictures, you’ll see updates on the company’s most recent project, which is now in post: a behind-the-scenes doc about making an indie film. He followed the production of Call Me Crazy, a very low-budget indie directed by Adam Orton, and shot over four days. “It was a great opportunity to show the independent, or aspiring, filmmakers that you don’t need these big cameras and big crews to shoot something good, as long as you have a good story to tell.”