Guerilla Videos Library-Style

I think Gary North is a bit of a kook. I don’t agree with his politics or his religious view more than rarely, but having said that I read his Reality Check newsletter twice a week, because he sees things I don’t see, and that’s a big deal to me.  You can never have too many ideas come your way.

So here’s the question: with library budgets getting smaller almost by the hour, has anyone seriously investigated using video technology to produce small -scale videos of the workings of libraries? I can imagine a bunch of applications for this: 5-minute technology demonstrations, sample reference interviews, tours of library service areas, etc., any one (or more) of which could be marketed online for almost no cost but with the potential to bring in additional funds. Who in libraryland has tried to do this in the past? Anyone? Did they succeed, and if so why? Did they fail? Granted, I don’t see any librarians dropping everything to become videographers any time soon, but is this not something to think about? Or am I merely crazy?

Anyway the article (including a few links) is below the cut; I’d really like to hear what people think of this.

                Gary North's REALITY CHECK

Issue 474                                   August 19, 2005


     If you are ignoring the video revolution, it's costing
you money.  You are watching the parade go by.

     It's time to get into the parade.

     The digital communications revolution is real.  It is
making things possible that were not possible before.  It
is doing this in three ways: (1) innovative technology; (2)
radical cost-cutting; (3) cheap distribution on-line.

     We all have had our lives changed by e-mail.  The Web
is changing the way we shop and buy and learn.  But most of
what influences us is text-based: words on a screen or
maybe on paper (print-outs).

     Audio has been limited mainly to file-swapping of
music.  File-swapping is a huge market, but it's mainly for
downloading now and listening later.  Now the iPod
phenomenon is upon us.  This is going to undermine
commercial radio.  The Federal Communications Commission
will wind up regulating an essentially empty bag.  That is
very good news.

     Now web-based video is beginning to fly.  But it's
more like a bi-plane in King Kong than a jet in Top Gun.

     Yet developments here are speeding up.  On the
production technology side of it, new editing programs are
making possible highly sophisticated production for
essentially no money.  Time, yes, but no money to speak of.

     On the distribution side is broadband.  It's still
overpriced.  But competition is going to have its way. 

     Let me show you something that I find remarkable.
Spend a few minutes looking at a show produced by the Wall
Street Journal Online.  It's a technology show.  It covers
a great new product.  I have been waiting 25 years for this
product.  It's here.  It's free.  At last!

     If you have a pair of speakers connected to your
computer, click here and watch the show.  Then I'll discuss
the implications for you, personally, of what you have
seen.  (If you have no speakers, at least click through and
spend 60 seconds watching the video.)



     This "Personal Technology" show is really pretty good.
Here are a pair of interviewers interviewing a man with
some useful information about a highly useful piece of
software.  For me, the information was vital. 

     The video screen is small.  That's a broadband issue.
As costs fall, screen size will get larger.  But for
communicating new information, a small screen is fine.
Compared to audio or text, video is a quantum leap ahead.

     Here's the kicker.  As you watched the video, you got
the sense of watching a professionally produced, live-
action studio production.  It looks like a CNN production.
It looks good enough for the Wall Street Journal.

     I am convinced that the whole thing was done with a
$300 piece of software.  That's because I own that
software, and I can do everything you saw on screen.

     If they used anything more expensive, then they got

     What tipped me off was the logo: "Personal
Technology."  It looks exactly like the logos that I can

     But what about a camera?  Isn't that a bundle of
money?  Only if $600 is a bundle of money.  I can produce a
video that you cannot distinguish from what you saw on-
screen with my Panasonic PV-GS150, which by now is probably
obsolete.  It's two months old.

     It's a 3 CCD camera, which means that colors are
sharper because each primary color has its own chip.  It's
2.3 megapixels, which means the image is crisp, even for a
DVD.  For a web broadcast, it's overkill.

     It has a separate input jack for an external
microphone, which is an essential feature for producing a
professional-looking amateur video.  If you pay $25 to $50
for a lavaliere mic that clips onto your tie, that's really
all you need.  (I know people who spend more on a tie than
I spent on a mic.)

     What about lighting?  That can be done for $500 if
you're a big spender, or $100 if you're not.  You can use
florescent lights if you buy color-balanced bulbs and use
an electronic ballast (plug-in).  Use two units with two
bulbs each.  This cuts down on the shadows.  It also
increases the signal-to-noise ratio: clarity.  Here's how:



     But what about a fancy studio?  It's all digital.  I
have a green plastic drape tacked to the wall behind me.
The studio background is graphically generated.  I have
several studios to choose from.

     The program I use is called Visual Communicator Pro 2.
It really is a powerful tool.  They also sell a $40 DVD
(computer DVD-only) that shows you more than you need to
know about how to use the program.  The company has created
a series of representative demos for various groups:
business, education, government.  Churches can use this
tool.  Take a look at what a couple of these low-budget
productions look like.  It really is astounding.


     Let me show you a nice example of what can be done
with this technology.  Victor Urbach has produced a video
that is impressive.  At first, it's animated.  But when you
get to the main section, it's real.  Sort of.  But the
background isn't.   This is one man standing in front of a
video camera.  Take a look:


     His video is really valuable if you're in direct mail.
It shows how to get people to open a solicitation letter.

     The images are not quite right.  At times, he looks
like he is in a shrunken room.  But he'll get it right.


     Two decades ago, Bill Myers rented a video camera and
produced one video.  He recorded his presentation in his
28-foot used trailer at the end of a 7-mile dirt road.  He
would have used his house a s a studio, except a tornado had
blown it away a few months earlier.  He advertised his tape
with a cheap classified ad.  When it was all over, he
pulled in more than $200,000.  Then he moved out of his

     He still teaches people how to do this sort of thing.
He has a site devoted to it.


     I found out about Visual Communicator on his site.  He
sells a low-cost DVD on how to produce your own "guerilla
video" DVDs.


     Google is now accepting how-to videos from people like
you.  Google will post them, take money from sales, keep a
reasonable commission, and send you the rest.  I have a
whole list of videos that I intend to shoot in the next six
months.   Each one offers the potential of generating a
little stream of income.


     These guys are marketing geniuses.  Why not piggyback
on their genius and their web-search technology?


     Do you know of some out-of-the way place where you
know your way around?  Shoot a video.  Sell it on-line
through Google.

     Do you have some specialized knowledge of how to do
something?  Hobby?  Business?  Craftsmanship?  Shoot a
video and sell it.

     Think of Myers.  He holds a seminar and gets people to
pay to attend.  Then he puts it on 10 DVDs and sells the
set for $595.

     Most people know the details of how to do something
unique.  They think, "everyone knows how to do this."  In
fact, hardly anyone knows how.  There are always people who
want to learn how.  They will pay to find out how.

     The problem has been to find distribution.  I think
Google will solve this problem.  At least for some
videographers, it will.


     Let me offer you a challenge.  Tell someone how to tie
a shoelace.  Don't show him.  Tell him.  Words only.

     It's not easy.  It's close to impossible.  If you
wrote a manual on this, it would look like a 1982 manual on
how to program a VCR to record a show when you were not
home.  It was easier to stay home.

     Shoot a video.  It's easy.  As you shoot it, narrate
what the person is seeing on-screen.  You don't need a

     My point is this: lots of tasks in this life are the
equivalent of tying a shoelace.  Manuals are useless.  You
have to see it being done.  A DVD that you can produce from
a digital master and send by UPS for $4, total, can be sold
for $19.95, plus shipping & handling.

     It can be sold on a website as a download.

     It can be sold through Google.

     It can be given away.  The fact that you mention your
website or blogsite at the beginning and the end and even
in between won't hurt.


     You can do this.  If you don't want to be on camera,
just aim the camera at whatever it is that you think will
interest a viewer.  Narrate what you see as you shoot the
video.  Or insert it as a voice-over later.

     If you provide useful information, nobody cares if
it's not fancy. 

     If you can produce something as good as the "Personal
Technology" show, you don't need to get any better.

About Jon Frater

A gaming industry stalwart dating back to the 1980s, Jonathan Frater is the co-author of roleplaying game books Robotech: Return of the Masters, and Robotech Adventures: Lancer's Rockers, both for Palladium Books. Jonathan also wrote a column on writing and game design called The Tome in Gateways magazine. He's currently a librarian at Metropolitan College of New York. Article 9, the first in his ambitious Blockade Trilogy, is Jonathan's first full-length novel.

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