@Midnight surreptitiously changed the entry that won their #HowIGetAround video contest

@Midnight’s #HowIGetAround winner checks out her new Jag.

@Midnight is one of Comedy Central’s biggest hits.  It does incredibly well for a show that starts at 11:59:59PM.  So it’s not all that surprising that @Midnight’s “How I Get Around” contest wound up being a huge success.  Back in May, host Chris Hardwick announced that one lucky viewer would win a brand new Jaguar XE plus enough cash to cover the taxes on the car.  To enter, participants had to post a photo or video to Twitter, Instagram or Vine that showed how they currently got around and use the hashtag #HowIGetAroundContest.

After the deadline passed I searched Twitter, Vine and Instagram for posts that included the relevant hashtag.  I was amazed by how many entries came up.  My plan was to look at them all but I gave up after about 200 submissions.  With hundreds of entries spread over three social networks, I figured judging this contest would be a nightmare.  But in the end, the producers were able to settle on a winner.  On May 27th, Chris Hardwick gave a brand new Jaguar to a a young woman who entered using the twitter handle @Asheriee_.

@Asheriee_ was brought up on stage and Hardwick talked to her for a while.  But for some reason, they didn’t show her entry until the commercial break.  And when they did show it, it was framed by a bizarre graphic:

Screnshot from the 5/27/16 episode of @Midnight

To see exactly what Comedy Central aired that night, follow this link and skip ahead to the 19:30 mark.  For now, I’ll summarize the version of @Asheriee_’s entry that aired during the show: @Asheriee_ and her brother play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to use the family car and who gets to use the family bicycle.  @Asheriee wins and she picks the bike because the car is a piece of junk that smells moldy.  Cut to the brother as he gets in the car and puts on a face mask.  The end.

It felt like a pretty complete entry so the “see the entire winning video” graphic was a big red flag.  The rules said that entries were only supposed to be 30 seconds long.  The version that aired on @Midnight was about 18 seconds long.  Why would the producers bother cutting 12 seconds from the video?  I mean, this entry was good enough to win almost $50,000 in prizes.  So why not show us the whole thing?  Hundreds of people entered this contest.  Didn’t they deserve to see the actual video that beat them?

I jumped on twitter and discovered that @Midnight hadn’t even posted the full entry yet.  But I did find @Asheriee_’s original submission:

So the missing 12 seconds just happened to include a very un-funny joke about gun violence.  (I live in the south suburbs of Chicago and unfortunately around here “They Shootin’!” is a common joke-response to fireworks or other loud popping noises.)  The missing joke presented me with a mystery; did Comedy Central cut it for time or did they intentionally remove the joke because it was offensive?

Believe it or not, I actually figured out the answer.  It looks like the joke was intentionally censored.  When @Midnight finally posted the winning entry to Twitter, the missing 12 seconds were back.  But this time something else was missing….

The bang, bang, bang of the car door was still there but an editor removed the line “They shootin!”  In fact, the line wasn’t just removed; it was carefully covered with audio from a different part of the video.  So an editor cut the line and then selected, copied and pasted a section of background noise to fill in the hole.

I’ve been running this website for 7 years now and I’ve never seen anything like this before.  The judges in this contest picked a video that included a joke about gun violence and then multiple people worked together to sanitize that entry for public consumption.  And to make things worse, the producers went out of their way to hide this act of censorship.  If  @Asheriee_ had deleted her original entry, no one would have seen the “real” video that won one of the year’s biggest video contests.

I can understand why the producers (and presumably the sponsors) wanted to remove the “They Shootin!” joke.  Even though the this episode aired a few weeks before the tragedy in Orlando, it was still offensive and stupid.  It mocks gun violence, it mocks fears of gun violence and it perpetuates negative stereotypes about African Americans and African American neighborhoods.  What I don’t understand is why the judges would pick an entry that needed to be censored.  Like I said, hundreds of people entered this contest.  A lot of contestants broke the rules by including copyrighted music or images but there were easily 50 decent, eligible submissions that could have won.  So why did the judges pick a video that they couldn’t even air on TV?  Unfortunately that question is rhetorical because I’ve yet to figure out how or why this particular video was selected as the winner.


Here is the MUST ENTER video contest of the summer!

Usually when I learn about a really juicy video contest, I try to keep the news to myself.  But today I leaned about a contest that is so gigantic and that has so many prizes I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share the details.  Even though it’s only June I think we can safely call this the Must Enter contest of the summer.

NOTE:  I don’t want anyone affiliated with this contest to find and read this article.  So I’m adding hashtags to certain keywords to throw off google.

The contest in question is Lo#tus Bakeries “Your P#erfect Kick” challenge.  I’ve never heard of Lo#tus bakeries but I guess they make little cookies that go with coffee and tea.  They teamed up with a soccer star named Ed#en Ha#zard (whom I’ve also never heard of) and challenged him to kick a soccer ball futbol through a tiny opening in a giant wall of coffee cups….

Now the sponsor wants YOU to film your own creative “perfect” kick.  Ok, I know what you’re thinking; soccer is dumb.  Yeah, it is.  But you know what’s not dumb?  A trip for 2 to London.  And you know what’s really, REALLY not dumb?  50 TRIPS FOR TWO TO LONDON.

That’s right: the sponsor is going to send 100 people to London to have a meet-and-greet with Ed#en Haz#ard.  For a free trip to England you can bloody well pretend to get excited to meet a soccer player you’ve never heard of.  Now, there are a few catches here; the first is that not all 100 people will win plane tickets to London.  It seems like the sponsors expect a lot of winners to come from Europe.  And those folks will only get their ground transportation covered.  But I bet Lot#us has enough money set aside to fly in at least 25 pairs of winners.  So if the judges really like your entry, they’ll be able to cover your plane tickets.  The other catch in this contest is that you only get one free night in a hotel in London.  So if you want to stay longer you’ll need to spend a few hundred bucks and/or pounds of your own.  But in a way, this is actually good news.  I think it shows that the sponsor expects a lot of winners to come from the UK area.  (and that would free up more travel money for winners from the US.)  So anyway, don’t think of this as an all-expenses paid trip to England.  Think of it as a highly subsidized trip to London.

Here’s some info about how the winners will be chosen:

“The winners of the Contest will be selected as follows: a jury, composed of three members including Ed#en Ha#zard  (or a member of the Ed#en Ha#zard management), a member of the Organizer and a member of T#BWA, will select 50 winners from all valid entries based on the quality, the creativity, the fun factor and the general appeal of the uploaded video. The selection of the winners shall occur during July 2016”

So basically you just have to shoot a “fun” video of yourself shooting a soccer ball.  And actually, you can enter as many times as you want!  So if you can think of 20 different trick shots you can go ahead and shoot 20 entries.

The deadline for this monster contest is June 30.  So you better hurry up and get kickin’!  You can find more details and a link to the contest site HERE.

Vegan Smart’s video contest winner vows to use his $10,000 prize to promote “Environmental Conservation & Veganism”

When I read that a company named Vegan Smart was running a video contest with a $10,000 grand prize I briefly considered pretending to be vegan just so I could enter.  But I’m not enough of a sociopath to do something so weirdly unethical so I didn’t participate.  And now that the contest is over I’m actually glad I didn’t shoot an entry because the competition here was tough.  The winners were determined by votes alone and those types of contests can be brutal.  I followed the voting for a while and a few entries bounced in and out of the top slot. But in the end, the winner was a filmmaker named Josh Garcia.

Josh creates youtube videos about related to the environment and conservation.  When he was lobbying for votes in the Vegan Smart Contest, Josh promised his fans that all his winnings would go towards veganism and the “conservation of our beautiful planet.”

Now that he’s the official winner, I checked with Josh and asked what he was going to do with the ten grand he won.  He said he plans to use the money to create a new video that explains the importance of “low impact plant based nutrition.”  If you’d like to see the video that Josh makes with his winnings you can subscribe to his youtube channel.

How to shoot your friend’s stupid wedding

If you’re a fan of VCN you’re probably a filmmaker.  And if you’re a filmmaker you probably own at least one nice camera.  And if you own at least one nice camera, eventually one of your friends (or relatives) will ask you to shoot their stupid wedding. Wedding shoots are long and hard and boring.  But filmmakers do them because at least the pay is good.  But when a friend asks you to shoot their wedding they’re obviously hoping you’ll do it for cheap.  (And relatives are probably hoping you’ll just do it for free.)  So it’s really a lose-lose situation for you.  The shoot won’t be any fun AND you’re not going to make much money.

But sometimes ya’ gotta do what ya’ gotta do.  Yes, you can turn down Cousin’s Steve’s request but his side of the family will probably resent you for years.  So if you absolutely, positively HAVE TO shoot a wedding for a friend or family member this summer, these 8 tips will make the experience a little less crappy

1. Determine EXACTLY what you’re expected to do:  So one day you log into facebook to find a message from a friend that says: “Hey man! As you know, I’m getting married in two weeks.  I wasn’t going to hire a videographer but now I’m thinking that I should.  By any chance would you be able to do it?  We don’t really have much of a budget for this so we’re not looking for anything fancy; we just want a simple video.”

When your friend says he wants a “simple” video what he means is that he wants a CHEAP video.  Most non-filmmakers have no idea how much time and effort will go into a project like this.  So you need to tell them.  Start off by asking them EXACTLY what they want.  Do they just want want one-camera coverage of the ceremony?  Or do they want two cameras plus coverage of the reception?  And what about the cocktail hour?  I mean, if you’re filming the reception it would be easy for you to get some shots of the cocktail hour too, right?  And how about all the prep stuff?  Doesn’t the bride want footage of her getting in her dress?

After a few messages the “simple” shoot will probably turn into a 10-hour gig.  And what’s going to happen to the footage after the big day?  Will you be expected to edit the video?  Will they want you to make them a wedding “trailer”?  And what about the DVDs?  Are you supposed to author and produce those too?

2. Negotiate your fee:  Once you and your friend figure out what your duties will be, your friend will sheepishly ask “so what would you charge for something like that?”  Before you give him your price, give him the “market” price for a wedding video.  Go to google and look up some local (or national) production companies that do weddings.  Then, send your friend a link to their rates.  Here’s a sample quote that I found online:
$2,295 is pretty ridiculous but that’s just how much these types of videos cost. Casually tell your friend “So this is what these packages usually cost. But obviously I could never charge you that much.  How about I give you a 70% discount from the market price?”

Now you’ll discover what your friend’s actual intentions are.  If you’re friend is a decent human being they’ll be thrilled to get a $2,295 video package for $700.  But if their real goal was to try and get a bunch of free work from you, they’ll probably start whining about how the discounted price is still too high for them.

If that happens, here’s what you do; tell your friend that video production is your job and you can’t really do it for free.  But let your friend know that you are willing to barter.  You will give your friend 10 hours of labor if they repay you with 10 hours of labor.  (You can even knock a few hours off as a wedding present.)  For instance, maybe your friend can help you move someday.  Or maybe they can cut your grass once a week for the rest of the summer. Or how about they give you 10 rides to or from the airport?

There’s pretty much zero chance that your friend will accept this offer.  And if they pass, you’re off the hook.  You tried to give them a $2,295 wedding video package for $0 and they rejected it.  What more can you do for them?

3. Prepare in advance:  I’ve shot maybe four large-scale, all-day weddings in the last 5 years.  They’re actually really tough gigs because you’re basically shooting a feature-length documentary all by yourself and if you screw up one little thing, you’ll be ruining someone’s precious wedding video.  You should get all your gear ready to go a week before the day of the shoot. Those 7 days will give you time to replace missing or malfunctioning items.  At the very least you should have your gear all tested, packed and ready to go the night before the wedding.  You’re going to have a long day; you don’t need to make it longer by waking up at 7AM to get your equipment ready.

4. Bring the right gear:  A few quick notes about equipment:  The groom should wear a lav mic so that you can hear the vows clearly.  You’ll want to bring tripods for all your cameras but you should also have a shoulder mount for your main camera.  But don’t use the shoulder mount rig for the ceremony.  Put your main camera on a monopod with feet.  The reception will be dark so you absolutely need an on-board camera light.  Bring a million batteries and memory cards.  In fact, bring all the batteries and memory cards that you have.

5. Set all of your equipment to “manual”:  This is a good tip for any shoot but it’s especially important for wedding videos.  Lighting conditions during a wedding can be very challenging.  If your cameras are set to “auto” they will compensate by cranking up the gain.  The picture on your monitor will probably look ok but when you review the footage later it might be filled with nasty-looking grain.  Actually, you should check and double check all of your record settings before you even get to the location.  Editing is going to be a hassle of one of your cameras is set to 60i and the other is set to 24p.

6. Bring your own comfort supplies: Don’t rely on the bride or groom to keep you comfortable and well fed.  Keep some aspirin or aleve in your pocket; after 8 hours on your feet something is bound to be sore.  In fact, you may want to stop at Walgreens and invest $17 in a set of super-cushiony shoe inserts.

You should also keep a cooler full of snacks and water in your car.  STAY HYDRATED and EAT PROTEIN!  High protein snacks like nuts, cheese and meat will make a huge difference.  Some turkey and cheese wraps would be a good choice but some jerky or Slim Jims will do in a pinch.

7. Pack some long rubber bands: You’ll want to get some nice, smooth, cinematic pans of locations, outfits, rings, place settings, flowers etc.  You might be a pro but you’re no robot (I assume).  Even if you use a tripod your pans and tilts won’t be 100% smooth.  And that’s where the rubber bands come in.  When you doing a slow pan or tilt, attach the rubber band to the handle of your tripod and pull the handle using the rubber band.  The band acts like a shock absorber and the movement will be incredibly smooth.  Here’s a video that demonstrates the technique.

8.  Try and exceed everyone’s expectations:  Just because you’re doing the gig for next to nothing it doesn’t mean you can get away with doing a crap job.  Wedding shoots suck but if you HAVE TO do one, try and knock it out of the fuggin’ park.  Your friend’s wedding might be stupid but when it’s over he or she will still be your pal.  They’ll love you forever if you do an incredible job for them.  And really, can you put a price tag on love?*

*Yes:  $2,295.

Indy Mogul returns to Youtube

I have a bunch of cousins that range from ages 5 to 16.  Whenever I see them at a family gathering (like the memorial day BBQ I went to on monday) they pull out their phones and start showing everyone youtube videos.  Most adults run away from that sort of nonsense but I’m always interested to see what kids are into these days.  (Turns out it’s mostly vapid junk).  Once we start talking about youtube, my cousins always ask me “what’s your favorite youtube channel!?!”  I usually rattle off the names of the only youtubers I know (like Jenna Marbles or Pewdepie) just to mess with their heads.  When they get excited and say “wow, really!?” I say “no…not really.  I’m a grown man and grown men aren’t supposed to have a favorite youtube channel.”

But I guess that rule’s about to change because one of the only youtube channels I ever liked or cared about has been resurrected.  Indy Mogul was a how-to channel for low-budget filmmakers and I found it to be an invaluable resource during my early video contest days.  I remember specifically that their puppet-making tutorial helped me win a few grand in a contest way back in like 2009.

Unfortunately, Indy Mogul was sort of cancelled about three years ago.  What happened to the channel is actually an interesting and complicated tale.  You can get an abridged version of the show’s backstory here:

Indy Mogul will start posting new episodes next week.  But if you’re dying for some fresh content you can watch this video to hear some A’s to frequently asked Q’s.

And now if you’re REALLY an Indy Mogul fan you might as well go all the way and make a donation to the show’s Patreon account.  The guys behind the show, Eric and Justin (who also happen to be successful Tonglers) are paying for the new episodes themselves.  So follow this link if you’d like to kick in a little something you know, for the effort:  http://patreon.com/indymogul