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.

 

 

I’m the king of the Stikbots!!

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I got my first video camera when I was about 14 years old.  And as soon as I figured out how to use it I was trying to make stop-motion videos.  But clunky old VHS camcorders weren’t made to do stop motion so of course my experiments never worked out.  Ever since then I harbored a secret desire to create a successful and GOOD stop motion video.  So when I heard that Zing Toys was running a Stikbot-themed video contest for stop-motion animators I decided to go all in and create the biggest, craziest, most epic entry I could.  (Stikbots are these amazing little robot guys that kids use to make stop-motion videos on their cell phones.)  I was hoping that maybe I’d place in the top three but I actually wound up winning the $15,000 grand prize!!  Here’s my submission:

I’m very proud of this win and I’m extremely proud of my entry.  There was no public voting so a panel of judges picked all the winners.  And as a nice little bonus, it seems like Stikbot fans really liked the entry too.  The view count for this video just kept going up and up and up and it’s currently at 147,000 views.

I probably put at least 60 hours of work into this project since I was basically learning stop motion by trial and error.  I figured out a lot of helpful tricks during this shoot and by the end, things were moving really quickly.  So I think I might try and do more stop motion videos in the future. For anyone who may be interested, I shot this video with my Canon T4i.  To eliminate camera shake, I used a 2 second timer to take each photo.  I wanted the lighting to look as natural as possible so I used a very fast lens.  But that gave me a really narrow depth of field sometimes.  So in close-ups, one stikbot would be in focus and the one behind it would be soft.

The entire process was kind of grueling but I did have fun.   It was definitely the most creatively challenging video contest entry that I’ve ever done.  Here are some behind the scene pics:

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My stikbot set. I only made one small section of the cave and I used photoshop to make it seem bigger.
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Here’s the wideshot I used in the video.
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And here’s what the shot look like before I photoshopped it.
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I’m not sure if many people actually noticed this but I put a working LED light inside a toy lantern.
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This set was pretty much dirt, sticks, lease and some fake Halloween moss.
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I found that Sticky-Tack was the secret to getting a Stikbot to hold things. You can see some on this guy’s left hand.
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Here’s a shot of the bots falling into the cave.
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And here’s that same shot before I erased the rig I used to drop them.

Zing is actually planning to do another big Stikbot contest this fall so if you’re interested in entering you should watch their facebook page for updates.

OnlineVideoContests.com starts posting daily contest updates on their Youtube channel

You’re a fan of OnlineVideoContests.com, right?  If you like entering video contests, you pretty much have to be.  Sure, VCN is the #1 video contest blog but OVC is easily the #1 video contest site in the universe.  I only post one or two articles a week but the OVC team updates their site every, single weekday.  And now, they’re actually increasing their coverage!  As of July 4th, OVC has been posting video updates to their youtube channel five days a week.  Each video is hosted by the site’s admin Marissa and in each episode she recaps a hot new contest.  Here’s a sample of a recent upload:



If you’d like to keep track of all these helpful videos, you should probably follow this link and hit the SUBSCRIBE button:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9ia3on6vcDdclMg6CNVQ7Q

Tongal wants to give you $119,000 to shoot a TV commercial for Seagram’s

Gotta drink 'em all! (responsibly)
Gotta drink ’em all! (responsibly)

I don’t usually post about individual Tongal projects but any contest with a six-figure prize pool is definitely newsworthy.  This week they launched the Seagram’s Escapes Video Project and it looks like it might just be the biggest video contest of the year.  (NOTE: Tongal doesn’t exactly run traditional “video contests” but their “projects” are close enough for me.)  Here’s a general recap of the contest project:

The goal of this project is to create a 30-second broadcast spot with a 15-second cut down for Seagram’s Escapes featuring singer, songwriter, actress Kelly Rowland.  Additionally, you will need to create 30-second broadcast spot along with a 15-second cut down, focused specifically on Jamaican Me Happy (Kelly Rowland will NOT appear in the Jamaican Me Happy video).

Got it?  One Tongal producer or team will create a 30 second commercial that features Kelly Rowland (one of Destiny’s Children!).  After that they will create a second, entirely new 30 second commercial for a specific Seagram’s flavor. Then the creator will provide 15-second cut downs for both ads.  So in total that’s two unique 30 second ads plus two short versions of those ads.

That’s a lot of work.  But trust me, Tongal is making it worth your while. Take a look at what this gig pays:

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No, those aren’t typos.  One Tongal member is going to get paid $119,000 to produce these commercials.  That’s a serious mount of money so this project will probably attract a lot of heavy hitters.  I’m sure most of Tongal’s top tier winners will submit pitches.  But $119,000 might bring in a bunch of new producers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the project was awarded to some mid-sized production company that came out of nowhere.  So if you’re an independent filmmaker and if you know a semi-established producer you may want to try teaming up with them.

Hardcore Tonglers may have noticed that this isn’t Tongal’s only active, big-money project.  Right now they are also running an assignment for Labatt beer entitled Cheers to Hockey.  The creator that lands that gig will get paid a total of $153,000!!!!

This is really exciting stuff and I hope we see more of these “Super-Projects” over on Tongal.  Right now they’re running the Idea Phase for the Seagram’s project but you can begin submitting pitches on August 5th. The Pitch Phase in the Labatt project is already open and runs until August 2nd.  Good luck folks.  If you win either of these projects, please save me a 12-pack!

https://tongal.com/project/SeagramsEscapesVideoProject

https://tongal.com/project/LabattCheerstoHockey

Cheaters waste thousands of dollars trying to win a free wedding from Fiverr

Buying fake votes can get expensive!
Buying fake votes can get expensive!

In my last post I detailed the extreme cheating that was happening in Fiverr’s “Save the Date” contest.  At least 10 desperate couples tried to win a $25,000 dream wedding by ordering or manufacturing tens of thousands of fake votes.  The cheating reached obscene heights the night before the deadline as some entries were gaining dozens of votes every few minutes.  And these last-minute votes weren’t just coming in at 9 or 10PM.  They appeared all night long.  In fact, the cheating seemed to peak around two o’clock in the morning.  Maybe because 2AM Chicago time would work out to be about 1PM in Bangladesh.  Here’s what Fiverr’s Top 9 looked like about 12 hours before the voting ended.

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Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous.  Obviously I don’t have access to Fiverr’s traffic and activity logs so I can’t say for sure that these folks were cheating.  But the judges must have realized that the voting had been compromised because in the end, those giant scores didn’t mean a damn thing.  The grand prize went to a couple who didn’t even have enough votes to make the top 10.  Here’s the winning entry.

Fiverr’s Grand Prize Winner.  Prize:  A $25,000 dream wedding:



I think it’s kind of funny that Fiverr let all these people waste so much time cheating.  But I do feel a little bad for them.  They didn’t just waste their time; they also wasted a ton of money.  To vote in this contest, you needed to have a facebook account.  Nobody outside of Southeast Asia has access to 8,000 facebook accounts so these people probably had to order votes from a Vote Farm.  And those type of votes aren’t cheap.  If they bought their votes from Fiverr, these people were spending about 20 cents a vote.  So 7,900 votes would cost $1,580!  But sellers on Fiver only do about 25 votes at a time.  So most of these people probably ordered their votes in bulk from a site like buycontestvotes.com.  Their prices are slightly less insane. (They’re listed at the top of this post).  That website sells 1,000 votes for $100.  So that works out to be ten cents per vote.

So let’s do the math:  The videos in Fiverr’s Top 9 had a total of 35,800 votes when I took my last screenshot (the night before the voting ended.)  I know that a few hundred more votes were added the next day but let’s just round up to 36,000 votes.  If they were paying ten cents per vote, these 9 couples spent at least $3,600!!!  Keep in mind that the rules of this contest said that votes would only count for a percentage of each video’s score.  I’m as competitive as the next guy but spending $800 to slightly improve your chances of winning a $25,000 grand prize is freaking bonkers.