Zing Toys announces another huge Stikbot stop-motion contest



If you’re a 10 year old boy, or if you’ve ever been forced to have a conversation with a 10 year old boy, you probably know what Stikbots are.  They’re little toy robots with pose-able arms and legs.  They’re specifically designed so that kids can use them to make stop-motion videos.  The toys are crazy popular and Youtube is filled with hundreds of kid-made Stikbot animations.  Last fall the company that makes Stikbots (Zing Toys) held it’s first official video contest.  The competition as a hit so Zing ran another one a few months ago.  The $15,000 grand prize attracted a good number of grown-up filmmakers and the sponsors received some really great entries.  And one of those entries was mine!  It was a close race but in the end, my entry managed took home the grand prize.

I guess Zing was really happy with the 2nd contest because they’ve already announced a 3rd one.  This time the grand prize is $10,000 but there are also prizes for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place that range from $4,000 to $1,000.  I had fun making my stop-motion video and I briefly considered entering again.  But it just seems kind of crappy to try and win the same contest twice in a row.  So I figured the least I could do is help promote the new contest.  This is a great one to enter because there’s no voting and most of the competitors will be young or new filmmakers.  So if you’re willing to put in a whole lot of time and a whole lot of hard work, I think you’ll have a good shot at making the finals.  Here are the videos that made the Top 3 in the first two contests.  My video is entitled “The Cave” and starts at the 4:38 mark.

The deadline for the new contest is November 30th.  If you’re going to create an entry, I suggest you focus on comedy and put A LOT of work into your script.  I think those are the two reasons that I won.  Also, be sure to follow the rules.  The entry that came in 2nd last time used non-Stikbot action figures like Spiderman and the Green Goblin.  That was technically against the rules and I was surprised that the entry didn’t get disqualified.  For more info about the new contest, head here:  https://www.stikbot.toys/contest/

Reason #273 to worry about Donald Trump: He has no idea what Net Neutrality is


Last night I watched MSNBC’s “Commander in Chief” forum and as usual, Donald Trump said a bunch of batshit crazy things.  In case you missed it, he believes that a president can purge all of “the generals” and replace them with new and much better generals, he thinks that his intelligence briefers are sending him secret messages via body language and he’s adamant that we should go back into Iraq to “take the oil.”  But Trump is so delusional and misinformed it’s hard to keep track of all his terrible ideas and opinions.  So here’s one you may have missed; Donald Trump is against Net Neutrality.

Or at least he says he is.  I looked up his position and it seems like he doesn’t actually know what Net Neutrality is.  Here’s what he said about NN last time there was a push to preserve the rule:

I guess Trump thinks that Net Neutrality will force cable companies, websites and radio stations to give equal time to both sides of an issue.  And that’s a outrageously stupid conclusion.  Net Neutrality isn’t about bringing back the “Fairness Doctrine.”  It’s about making sure that Internet Service Providers treat all websites the same.  Because we currently have a neutral Internet, ISPs can’t charge extra if customers access sites that send or receive a lot of data like Youtube or Netflix.  If the rules were to change, using the Internet would become very expensive and not for nothing but it would probably do serious damage to the budding Video Contest industry.

According to Gizomodo, that one tweet is basically all we know about Donald Trump’s position on Net Neutrality.  Maybe if someone explains to him what it actually means he’ll change his mind.  (Maybe we should tell him that ISPs might throttle access to Twitter.)  But eventually some Telecom stooge will tell him what to think about NN so his position will probably just get tougher and stupider by the first debate.

How to help someone take a decent photo with your DSLR

I went to a wedding last weekend and near the end of the reception I snuck out to my car and grabbed my Canon T4i.  I started taking photos of my girlfriend and her friends and everyone was impressed with my “professional” camera.  My DSLR is about 3 years old so it’s not exactly a cutting edge piece of technology.  But everyone else was taking grainy iphone pics so I guess most people have forgotten what real photos are supposed to look like.  Eventually I wanted to get some shots of me and my ladyfriend but our table-mates were completely baffled by my camera’s controls.  No one could grasp the “hold the shutter half-way down to focus and then press it the rest of the way to take a photo” concept.  All of the pictures wound up looking like this:


On the drive home I was thinking about those blurry shots and I was suddenly hit by a moment of clarity.  I came up with a very obvious solution for this problem and I’ll probably be using it for the rest of my life (or at least until the early 2020s when consumer-grade cameras will be equipped with AI that will help everyone take perfect photos.)  So while we wait for the singularity, here’s how you can help anyone take a nice photo of you with your DSLR.

Step 1:  Tell your chosen photographer that your camera is kind of tricky and that you’ll take care of all the settings.  Whatever you do, don’t use the phrase “HUMAN TRIPOD” even though that’s basically what they are in this scenario.

Step 2:  Set the timer on your camera for 10 seconds.

Step 3:  Put your camera in the photographer’s hands.  Tell them not to move it.  Set your focus and hit the shutter.

Step 4:  Run to your place and smile!

I’ve got a Labor Day BBQ on Monday so maybe I’ll bring my camera and put my trick to the test after everyone’s had a few drinks.

Mofilm wants to showcase and promote your Virtual Reality and Drone videos

POTUS watches some Mofilm videos (I assume)
POTUS watches some Mofilm videos (I assume)

Remember when “crowdsourced” ads were hip and cool?  Well, those days are long gone, Chachi.  Thanks to advances (and price drops) in camera technology, homemade commercials now look as good as “real” TV and web ads.  That’s one reason why Doritos discontinued the Crash the Super Bowl contest.   The entries kept getting slicker and eventually the ads lost that weird, wild, amateur edge that originally made them special.

Fortunately for us, brands still love crowdsourced videos because they get a great bang for their buck.  But as new types of media are being developed, companies will probably once again look to semi-pro and amateur producers for unique, cutting edge content.  It seems like there’s about to be a huge jump in demand for three types of videos: drone footage, 360° videos and virtual reality projects.  The folks at Mofilm are already planning for this Sea Change; the company wants their members to submit certain types of “innovate” content.  Here are some details from Mofilm:

We want to showcase and promote your innovative content!  We’re well aware that many of you are experimenting, learning and creating some really great work with 360° cameras, virtual reality technology and drones – and we want to help you show it off.

Here’s what we’re looking for:  360 and VR – your best work that uses the technology in smart and purposeful ways, to immerse the audience in a story in a way that only 360 and VR can, rather than retrofitting concepts that are perfectly suited to traditional video.  Drones – films that use drones creatively, to transport the audience to the sky in a way that really enhances the experience.

We’d love to see films that are: narrative, pure beauty / landscape, sports / outdoors, comedic, sci-fi or fantasy etc. They must be brand friendly – please steer clear of anything that may be considered inappropriate or uses harsh language.

Keep in mind that Mofilm isn’t running any kind of contest here.  They just want to see and showcase your VR, drone and 360 work.  And that’s a little weird.  I mean, why are they doing this?  Well, I haven’t talked to anyone at Mofilm but I have a theory; it seems like Mofilm is doing a talent search here.  I’m sure their clients are asking about all these hot new formats so Mofilm is probably trying to build a healthy roster of cutting edge VR/360/Drone creators.  So if that sounds like you, you may want to submit some work.  If Mofilm likes your stuff, they may just offer you some gigs or grants in the near future.

For more details about Mofilm’s new content search, click here.

The Chicago 2016 Olympics only had one winner; ME.

The Rio Olympics will be over in three days.  Thank God.  I usually enjoy the games but this year is different.  That’s because this year the Olympics are in Brazil….and not Chicago.  Most folks probably don’t remember this but eight years ago Chicago put in a bid to host the 2016 Olympics and the city made it all the way to the Top 4.  I live in the Chicago area and I thought the bid was an amazing idea.  I guess things worked out for the best but I’m still disappointed that “we” didn’t get the games.  (Most of the grimey hipsters I knew were against the whole thing for typical, dumb hipster reasons like “all the decent bars are gonna be packed for two weeks, eight years from now, man!”)

Anyway, one day, way back in the fall of 2008, I was walking through the loop and I saw a billboard that said the Chicago Bid Committee was hosting a video contest.  To enter, people had to shoot videos that explained “Why Chicago” would be a great place for the 2016 games.  First prize was a trip for two to Vancouver to see the preparations (yes, just the preparations) for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  But second prize….second prize was $5,000 in video production gear.

At that point I had entered and won just one online video contest.  I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime windfall and I didn’t realize that anyone else was running them.  I didn’t want to go to Vancouver but I sure as heck wanted to win five grand in camera gear.  So I set my sites on second prize.  There was just one problem; I didn’t own a video camera.  So I went to Walmart and bought a little handycam for $350.  I ran around town and got a bunch of footage and then I wrote some voice-over to match the footage.  Here’s my entry:

I can’t really remember what happened next but I think I made a Top 5 or Top 10.  Then there was a public vote phase that I tanked on purpose.  I told people to also vote for the video in first so that I could never pass them.  My plan worked and I wound up winning second prize.

Instead of $5,000 in production gear, the Bid Committee gave me a $5,000 gift certificate for Amazon.com.  I used that sucker to buy myself the camera I had wanted for years, a DVX-100 plus a refurbished Mac and some lighting and audio gear.  And let me tell you, that gear changed my life.  I lost my job in early 2009 when the economy crashed but in those dark days I was able to make a nice living shooting goofy videos for online contests.  So even though Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid was a bust, it really wound up saving my ass.

Oh and camera I bought from Walmart?  Yeah, I returned it after I shot my video.  So thanks Walmart I guess you and your liberal return policies saved my ass too.