Video Contest News - Part 2 Video Contest News – Featuring News about Video Contests!

How to clean high-end camera gear

I had a big shoot this weekend and when I reviewed the footage I was mortified to see that I had a bit of gunk or something on my lens or sensor during one important shot.  I clean my lenses all the time but I never really give my gear a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning.  So this week I’m going to go through all my equipment and get everything spic and span.  I checked youtube for some tips and found this handy tutorial for cleaning DSLRs. I’ll try out this guy’s methods and let you know how well they work.

September 1st Update:  My God….WHAT HAVE I DONE!?!?!?


How to buy real video views directly from Youtube

Last year a Minneapolis-based ad agency named Solve set out to prove that purchased youtube views are a meaningless way to measure a video’s success online.  The company created and posted a 4-minute long video that was totally blank.  Then they managed to manage to get 100,000 real views for the video with almost zero effort.

Again I should stress that this video got 100,000 REAL views.  Actual human beings watched this video (or at least let it play) on their computer screens.  Every youtuber knows that it’s hilariously easy to rack up tens of thousands of fake views; you just have to buy them from a shady website like this….

For just $299 you can be the next Smosh!

For just $299 you can be the next Smosh!

A youtube view is generated each time a new IP address plays a video.  So some people just create programs that load and play a video, switch IPs and then load and play the video again.  But the more sophisticated operations are able to promote “real” views because each view comes from a real person.  The catch is that most of these real people don’t realize they’re “watching” your video because it’s hidden in the code of a popular web page.

Youtube warns their users that fake views can get their video deleted or their account suspended.  But that almost never happens.  300 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every minute so their techs don’t have time to figure out how some 14 year old kid’s iphone unboxing video got 20,000 views in 2 days.

But the folks at youtube are no dummies and they’ve realized there’s a demand for fake views.  So the website basically sells junk views to people who want to increase their view counts.  Youtube calls the service “promotion” but it’s only slightly less sketchy than the hackers that embed videos in places they’re not supposed to.

And this brings us to Solve’s 4-minute long, blank youtube video.  The agency wanted to prove how pointless it is to buy viral success directly from youtube.  So according to AdWeek, “Solve promoted the video as pre-roll to U.S. viewers using YouTube TrueView In-Stream advertising. Viewers could skip it after five seconds. Solve was charged if a viewer watched at least 30 seconds.”

When the run was over, the video had accumulated 100,000 views from people who “chose” to watch the video.  But of course these people didn’t really chose to watch it.  They just chose not to click away once it popped up.  46% of viewers did watch at least 30 seconds of the video but the team from Solve thinks that a lot of those people didn’t realize they were looking at a blank video.  Instead they thought they were waiting for their real video choice to start playing.

Solve wound up paying 1.4 cents per view so those 100,000 views cost them $1,400.  That’s a lot of money.  But if you’re an ad agency with a client that is demanding that their video “goes viral,” 1.4 cents per view seems like a bargain.

And that was the point of Solve’s experiment.  The agency could have told their imaginary Blank Video client that their promoted Youtube run was a smashing success.  But those 100K views were worthless junk.  About half of all viewers will watch 30 seconds of anything if you shove it in their face.  But that doesn’t mean they’re actually paying attention.  Solve CEO John Colasanti explained the point of the experiment to Adweek….

“Among many marketers and agency peers, ‘views’ have become the holy grail.  Views offer a seemingly simple and easy way to measure the power of content. This is a false indicator of success, particularly when a video receives a high number of views, but a low level of likes. Often the video didn’t truly go viral; the view metric was purchased.”

So the video’s view count was high but the level of “engagement” was low.  And that’s the problem with all promoted videos.  You can’t buy viral success.  A true viral video gets spread around because the content is good and worth sharing.  So promoted pre-roll video views are no better than the junk you can buy from  But some people obviously don’t care about engagement.  So if you just want to get some real (but super expensive) views for your video you can run your campaign via google Ad Words.


Memories of Meatwad

Tonight the final episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force will air on Adult Swim.  ATHF might be the most ridiculous show on TV but it’s actually had a profound impact on my life.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the Aqua Teens this website wouldn’t exist….

Ten years ago I was unemployed and I’d stay up late watching whatever weird stuff was on TV at 2AM. I soon discovered Aqua Teen Hunger Force and I was obsessed after one episode.  (Forget about Walter White and Liz Lemon…for me Meatwad is the most fascinating TV character of the past decade.)  I got my friend Mike hooked on the show and a few months later he called me and said “Hey!  MC P Pants from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is playing in Chicago tonight!  Let’s go!”  If you’ve never seen ATHF before, MC P Pants was a re-occurring character.  He’d show up in different physical forms and do crazy high pitched raps about candy and vampires and shorties.

So long story short, the guy who did the voice of MC P Pants was a real rapper and me and Mike went to go see him.  It turns out the show was sort of a geek rap concert.  The audience was filled with straight up, hardcore, unabashed “nerds” and they were all going crazy for the music.  People in the crowd kept using the word “Nerdcore.”  I asked around and a few people told me that Nerdcore was a new style of hip-hop and that there were Nerdcore rappers all over the country.  My immediate reaction was “wow somebody should make a documentary about this” and then of course I remembered that I was a filmmaker and I decided then and there to shoot a film about the genre.

By late 2006 the documentary was half done and I posted a preview trailer on youtube.  I didn’t expect anyone outside the cast to see it but the trailer went semi-viral and it got posted on tons and tons of websites and blogs.  In the summer of 2007 I was contacted by a guy who owned a tech firm; he said he saw my Nerdcore trailer and clips and he asked me to shoot a geek rap video for his company’s video contest.  He strongly hinted that if I entered, he would pick my music video as the $5,000 grand prize winner.  So I teamed up with one of the rappers from the film and we shot a video….

And surprise, surprise….we won.  So yes my first video contest win was as a ringer.  I thought that $5,000 check was a once-in-a-lifetime lucky break.  But a few months later I heard about another video contest and I entered and won that one too.  Then I found another and another and another…

So if it wasn’t for Meatwad, Frylock, Master Shake and Carl I don’t know what my life would be like today.  Over the years I’ve made probably $130K thanks to video contests and the Nerdcore documentary has provided me with a bunch of amazing opportunities.  The latest one is that I’ve now got a film on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.  Our distributor emailed me out of the blue a few weeks ago and asked if they could release the Nerdcore doc digitally and of course I said yes.  And that brings me to the main point of this post; if you’d like to see my 2008 documentary Nerdcore For Life, you can now rent it or buy it via iTunes, Amazon and Google Play!


Google Play:


If you actually watch the film, I’d appreciate it if you leave a nice review.  But don’t watch it tonight.  Watch the Aqua Teen Hunger Force finale instead.  And Rick and Morty.  That show is dope too.


When will Doritos announce the 2016 Crash the Super Bowl contest?

The Crash will be back soon....better start training your dog now.

The Crash will be back soon….better start training your dog now.

Did you know that web traffic dips sharply in the summertime?  Isn’t that nice?  It means that millions of people are shutting off their computers and going to beaches and BBQs and Burning Men festivals.  For most of the summer VCN only gets about 2,000 page views a week.  But every year like clockwork that number shoots up during the 2nd week in August.

I just checked my web stats and the annual traffic phenomenon is once again in progress.  This late summer spike is always caused by the same thing; The Crash the Super Bowl contest.  Once summer starts to wind down, thousands of Doritos fans simultaneously realize that it’s almost time for FritoLay to announce the new installment of The Crash.  I’m not really sure why this happens.  Maybe people start thinking about football and that causes them to think about the Super Bowl and that makes them think about the contest?  Well, if you’re one of those aforementioned Doritos fans and if you’ve been scouring the web for details about this year’s contest, you’ve come to the right place.  Here are a few A’s for your Frequently Asked Q’s….

Q:  Will the Crash the Super Bowl contest happen again this year?

A:  Yes.  There hasn’t been a formal announcement but I’ve heard from multiple sources that the Crash will be back this fall.  In fact, it will probably be the biggest CTSB contest yet since 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the first Crash.

Q:  When will Doritos announce the contest?

A:  The company usually announces the return of the contest in early/mid-September.

Q:  When does the contest actually begin?

A:  The full details of The Crash are revealed in early October.  Doritos starts accepting entries the same day the rules are announced.

Q:  When is the Crash the Super Bowl deadline?

A:  The deadline is usually a few days before Thanksgiving.

Q:  Should I start working on my entry now!?!?

A:  No!  For Glob’s sake wait until the rules are announced!  You never know….this year Doritos might ask for entries that only feature Cool Ranch chips.  So just chill out for a few more weeks; Doritos season will be here before you know it….


Mofilm honors their Chicago winners with awards, music, good times and shrimp!


The 2015 Mofilm Chicago winners show off their whale tails

Mofilm’s annual pre-Lollapalooza awards dinner has become one of my favorite mid-summer traditions.  (It’s right up there with Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana!)  I’ve never actually won a prize in this particular contest but I live in the Chicago area and every year the nice folks at Mofilm remember to send me an invite.  I’ve been to this dinner three times now and 2015 was definitely the best year yet.  As always the party took place in a private room overlooking the Chicago river at Smith and Wollensky.  That’s a fancy-shamncy spot but team Mofilm hooked me up with a +2 so I actually got to bring some friends along.  And when I walked in I was surprised to see real-life friend of VCN, Joel Levinson.  It turns out that Joel had won 1st place in the 3M category so Mofilm flew him in from Ohio.  Actually, Mofilm flew in all the winners (as they always do) and there were even a few filmmakers from Brazil and Mexico.


On the left there are the 3M winners Joel and his wife Randi, me (Dan!) and my friend Marissa are in the center and in the back there’s Thiago the Weber winner and his friend.

The party always happens the night before Lollapalooza because the winners also receive a par of tickets for the weekend-long concert in Grant Park.  So the out-of-towners were all buzzing about the show.  The dudes from Brazil were especially psyched because they were finally going to get to see Metallica play live.  I personally wasn’t going to Lollapalooza so I just kept buzzing about how awesome the pre-dinner seafood spread was.

My friends and I pounded down some champagne and shrimp and after 30 minutes of mingling we went into the next room for a ridiculously wonderful dinner.  As we ate we got to watch all the winning commercials.  They were….

3M 1st Place: Joel & Randi Levinson “More than just Post Its”
LIPTON 1st Place: Raul Fernandez “A Little Self Help”
YMCA 1st Place: Grace Jackson “So Much More”
GRAVY TRAIN 1st Place: Sean Cunningham & Mary Greenwalt  “Working like a Dog”
MANWHICH 1st Place: Jonathan Hayes and Christine Butcher “Welcome Home”
WEBER 1st place: Thiago da Silva & Leandro Romero “We Care”

All of the winning videos were actually damn good!  I’m not kidding; it was one of the best slate of Mofilm winners I’ve ever seen.  And in another nice surprise, Joel wound up winning the grand prize of the whole fest which means he went home with double whale tails.

I could go on and describe the rest of the night but photos are more fun than words.  So how about I just post a few a bunch of pics from the party.  These were all taken by Mofilm’s photographer:


It’s the Mexico City team!


My friend Rujanee does some networking


That’s Lloyd Choi, one of the biggest commercial contest winners of all time


Me taking a blurry pic of the Mexico City crew


There’s the President of Mofilm-North America, Alex Arata


Here’s me pretending not to notice that my picture is being taken




These are the cool dudes from Brazil.  They were really stoked to buy some camera lenses while in the US


My friend Marisaa tries the shrimp



One of the best views in the city.


I went with the rib eye


Joel graciously accepts his award






There’s a good chance that I’ll be moving to Milwaukee in a few weeks but that’s only 90 minutes away so hopefully I’ll get to come back and party with the Mofilm crew again next year.  And who knows….maybe next time I’ll be the one winning a whale tail!  Ok, probably not.  But if Mofilm starts handing out a “most jumbo shrimp eaten during the cocktail hour” award I’m sure I’ll win that one in a walk.


A youtuber explains “Why I Won’t Buy a New Camera”

I went to film school for about a year and I really disliked the whole experience.  It was a grad program so I was expecting everyone to have a rich and deep love and understating for the art of filmmaking.  But I was surprised by how clueless so many of the students and staff members were.  I learned more about production and storytelling back in community college than I did during my (ridiculously expensive) two semesters at a “real’ film school.  One thing that really bothered me was that many of the students were obsessed with using the “best” camera equipment to make 5 minute shorts that no one outside of class was going to see. To me it seemed pretty obvious that the people complaining about our cameras clearly had no idea what the heck they were talking about.  Some random person had told them that camera X was better than camera Y so they had to use Camera X otherwise their whole project would be a waste of time.  I also noticed that none of these people actually knew how to shoot anything themselves.  They relied totally on their DPs and never bothered to learn how to light or shoot their own scenes.

I think about my time at film school every fall as the Crash the Super Bowl contest approaches.  People start emailing me and ask if they should spend thousands of dollars to buy or rent the hot new camera.  They assume that a high quality video will improve their chances of making the finals.  But camera quality isn’t what wins the Doritos contest.  A great story and good VIDEO QUALITY are what matters.  And if you know what you’re doing, you can get great Video Quality out of most any modern HD camera.

My little rant today is inspired by a youtube video I just watched.  In it, a filmmaker artfully explains why he’s going to put his money into his short film rather than into some new gear:

That video comes from the youtube channel DSLRGuide.  They’ve got some interested tutorials and stuff on there and I suggest you check out their work.

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