posts tagged with the keyword ‘business’

2013.03.09

The Interview

Every now and then I see a post that talks about photography, and how many factors go into the cost of hiring a “real” photographer (and by “real” I mean “professional”) so for my own reference in the future, I wanted to write up my thoughts on the topic of shooting video. (For our purposes today, assume you’ll be shooting a few talking-head videos for a presentation.)

I’m calling this “A Guide to Video for Smart People” because someone very intelligent, who I greatly respect, hired me to do a video shoot. Since, we had to talk about pricing, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts.

1. When you hire a professional, you get a professional.
What is a professional, exactly? It’s someone who uses pro-gear, and has the knowledge to use it. Someone who has experience, and has done professional shooting before. Someone who knows about shooting, and lighting, and pacing, and talking to talent, and audio, and composition, and dozens of other things you don’t even think about because it’s second nature after a while.

2. Professionals use professional gear.
Everyone’s got a camera nowadays, but there’s more to shooting than a camera. For a typical interview shoot you might have a camera, lens, lights, audio recorder, microphone, studio headphones, tripod, stands, spare batteries, spare cards, spare XLR cables, reflectors, and a dozen other things you bring on every shoot. I’m not suggesting you need top-of-the-line everything, but even on the low-end it can be $2,000 for a basic set-up.

3. Professionals are thinking.
If you haven’t had the luxury of scouting locations, you might show up and get a quick tour of the location so you can pick a spot to shoot in. When I walk into a room, I’m looking at the layout, the lighting, determining where all the outlets are, looking at the height of the ceiling, figuring out where the tables and chairs can go, etc. If there are windows in the room, is it cloudy outside? How will the changing sunlight affect the lighting during the shoot? And that’s all before setting up the tripod.

4. Professionals respect your work.
Besides taking the shoot seriously and doing a great job capturing the footage, a pro-shooter will make sure your work is preserved. Anyone with clients will know that even though you might provide them with files, there’s a chance they’ll come back a year later (or five years later!) and ask for it again. For a recent shoot the raw footage came out to be about 9GB of data. After editing it was about 30GB of data. That all gets backed up, and archived, and managed so that you can go back a year later and provide the footage again.

5. Professionals edit.
Even if the client thinks it’ll be quick and easy and there won’t be any editing… there’s always editing. Unless you’re just doing camera ops for someone else and they want the raw footage, you’re editing. So much DSLR shooting is done today with secondary audio that at a minimum there’s the syncing of audio with the video. Add bump-in and bump-out, a few cross-fades, choosing the best take, and render time, and you’ve got some time invested. (I’m not even getting into the copying, burning, and delivering of the work, but hey, that’s another aspect.)

OK, that’s part one of my “Guide to Video for Smart People”. We covered five points. There are more, but I wanted to keep this brief. The great thing about working with smart people is that they’re smart (duh!) so educating them to some of these facts shouldn’t be too hard to do. Chance are after the first shoot you do, they’ll get it, and it’ll be the start of a great (working) relationship. :)

2013.01.08

GoPro $$$

This is an interesting one, and I’m still not sure what I think about it…

I’ll start by saying that I’m a fan of open in that the sharing of knowledge is important to me, as is the sharing of sources, not just in software, but in other areas as well. Yes, there’s money to be made, but generally, besides the fact that money allows us to have a place to live, and food to eat, and all the other things needed to survive, I’m not really a fan. Money itself is boring, but it can allow you to do interesting things.

I recently posted about the GoPro Hero3 Frame I made. I made it because it was a thing I needed, and didn’t feel like spending $40 on the nice one that GoPro sells. I shared the design files because I thought they might be useful to others. I share things because I’ve gotten so much value out of others sharing things over the years. It’s been over 20 years that I’ve tried to live by that ideal. It mostly works.

I was quite pleased to see that someone found value in my sharing, and improved upon my design to create GoPro Hero3 Frame – Improved. Again, this is how I want the world to work. I made a thing, and someone else made it better. Everyone wins, right?

So anyway, I’m doing the daily browse, and I come across this blog post from Shapeways titled 3D Printed Stand for the OP-1 Synthesizer. I have little interest in a synthesizer stand, but I love 3D printing, and think it’s the future. In the post is a link to all the GoPro items on Shapeways. (Shapeways, for those who don’t know, lets people design things, get them 3D printed for themselves, and even sell them to others. It’s a great thing for people who don’t yet have a 3D printer, or want higher quality, or different materials, etc.)

Shapeways

Where was I? Oh yes, I click on the link to see the GoPro related items and see a GoPro Hero3 Frame and think “Hey! Someone else made one too! Cool!” and I read the text, and it sounds just like mine! Now, it was about 4am so my brain was a little slow… but I clicked on the link…

Shapeways

Holy Crap, that is mine! Yeah, that’s mine. And it’s for sale, but not by me. Here’s where you decide whether to freak out… and to what degree.

Now, I designed my item, and shared it freely on Thingiverse, and even used a Creative Commons Attribution License. I specifically wanted others to be able to have it. Mission accomplished, right? Right.

So the freakout… is it a good freakout, or a bad freakout, or a weird mixture? Do I want to be in the business of selling GoPro Hero3 Frames? Probably not. I have enough other business to deal with, and as I said, GoPro sells one, and it’s probably of much higher quality. Am I upset that someone is using my work? I shouldn’t be (right?) The description does say “Created by Raster” and has the URL (but not a link) the the Thingiverse page. But who is cadbury204? They have no designs of their own in their Shapeways shop. Is it some automated bot that pulls items from Thingiverse and sells them on Shapeways? I don’t know… if it is, does that change things? I don’t know…

If I think about the “spirit” of open source, as it’s ofter referred to, is this “cadbury204″ following it? Are they providing value just by allowing someone to easily order the item through Shapeways? Are they just out to make money from the work of others? Again, I don’t know… I don’t even know if I should care, but I guess I do, mainly because I find it interesting.

And, I’m interested to hear what you think about it.

2012.12.23

Cookie Cutters

Back when I wrote my Printing Violations? post I brought up the issue of licensing, and while I am a believer of open culture and sharing, I’m still torn on the topic of artists who take the creative work of others (even if the “others” are huge corporations) and use it to make money.

When I saw the post Maker Mom Builds Cookie-Cutter Empire With 3-D Printers my first thought was about the rights and licensing issues. (I was then pleasantly surprised to see the comments addressing the issue right away.)

Cookie Cutters

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Athey is not an artist, she’s a really good artist, and has some impressive and very well executed designs. This is important, I think. I mean, anyone can download an image of a video game character or a Dalek and quickly make it into something, but her work is well beyond that. Still, is it right for her to be using things others have created to make money? Her web site at warpzoneprints.com says:

Now I’ve somehow turned what started as a hobby into a full-time job!

I spend a lot of time thinking of myself as a terrible artist, and I’ve made plenty of badly drawn robots, but I’d feel much better about myself selling a badly drawn robot that is my own creation than a well drawn robot that someone else created. (I’m going with the belief that Athey has not properly licensed the characters she is using.)

Of course there’s the issue of licensing… It’s no secret that I use a lot of art from OpenClipArt.org to make things. The license of all art on OpenClipArt is Public Domain Dedication which states:

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

So yeah, I’ve not sold anything I’ve made yet using art from OpenClipArt, but at least I’d feel fine doing it. And yeah, I have friends who make good money making things based on successful movies, games, books, etc. Maybe this is just the world we live in now, where everyone is a maker and selling of things, and it’s all just a big mash-up anyway.

I guess I’d break things into a few categories:

A.) Using things others have created to make things for yourself.

B.) Using things others have created to make things to give to family/friends as gifts.

C:) Using things others have created and creating design files that others can use.

D:) Using things others have created to create and sell things.

I’m all for A. and B., and I think C. is pretty much OK. (Think of the many items on Thingiverse) As for D., that’s the one I’m still not sure about, and that’s the one Athey and Warpzone Prints falls under. What do you think?

(I should probably do a post in the future that talks a bit more about my own usage of others work in my own art, as I’m not completely free of that behavior myself.)

2012.06.14

Plastic

In the spirit of my “Maker Business” posts (like The Real Costs and Lessons Learned) I’d like to point you at this post from I Heart Robotics titled Business Plan: 3D manufacturing. If you haven’t read it, go read it. Then come back here. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Good! Let’s go…

This is my favorite post of the week… and it’s only Thursday! For anyone wanting to get into a maker-related business, it’s a must-read.

The funny thing is, I’d seen one of these TriK Tripod Adapters for the Kinect before, because Mike printed it at Milwaukee Makerspace one day. (You could say I have an interest in various camera related mounting technology.) Yeah, that’s right, they guys who were selling this item also gave away the design for free to anyone who wanted it. Insane you say? The world I want to live in, I say…

This is an area I see open source hardware similar to open source software. Once a problem is solved, why not share the solution with everyone else, for free? You’re welcome to sell the software (or hardware) all you like, and letting other use it for their own use is a great side effect that costs you nothing. (Some could argue it costs you in potential revenue, but I won’t argue that right now.) It’s also worth noting that I Heart Robotics licenses the item with an Attribution – Non-Commercial – Share Alike license. For those unfamiliar with Creative Commons, a simple explanation would be that as long as you don’t make money by selling it, you can go nuts and make (and give away) as many of them as your 3D Printer can make.

This breakdown of costs is also worth studying.

TriK Tripod Adapter Costs

 $0.384     8 grams Raw ABS Plastic
 $0.0182    1/4-20 Nut
 $0.222     Qty 4 Plastic thread forming screws 
 $0.124     2 x 1 1⁄4 x 3" Kraft Reverse Tuck Carton
 $0.015     2 x 2" White Laser Label
 $0.044     3 x 5" 2 Mil White Block Reclosable Poly Bag
~$3.75      NRE - Non-Reoccuring Engineering Costs
~$0.50      Labor - Push button, remove part, repeat
~$8.34      Printer operating cost

Total Cost $13.40/part

What can we learn from these numbers? Plenty! Some of these items are things you don’t really think about, like labor or equipment operating costs. For instance, I use a drill press in my basement to manufacture things. I don’t really add in the cost to run it for a few minutes per unit, but maybe I should. I also run a fan in my spray booth, and that uses electricity. The numbers might be negligible, but they do exist. (Oh, we also learn that Uline is awesome.)

Since I’ve been dealing with numbers like these in the past few months I’ve become a little more aware of people who complain about such things. I can see someone who owns their own 3D Printer saying “They want $20 for that!? It’s like 5 cents worth of plastic!” and while it may be just 5 cents worth of plastic (or less) there’s a lot of other costs involved. If you have the power to make one on your own, go for it! Either design one and make it, or in this case, download it and print it. I’ve learned that even if you carefully outline exactly how to do something and publish it on the Internet, there are still people who will (gladly) just pay you to do it all for them and then ship it to them, and for that I am grateful.

2012.05.25

Maker Business - The Real Costs

You know me, I’ve always got more to say… I just wanted to touch on the real costs of making a thing.

In the olden days, when I primarily worked with software, there was an old saying “Linux is only free if your time has no value” and while it’s a slightly amusing phrase, there maybe some truth to it. Maybe. If you’re a Linux fan, the saying may come across as an insult. Sure, sometimes working with Linux feels a lot like yak shaving. When you need to install this library to install that library to install some other library to install the software you really wanted to install… you get the idea. (Linux has gotten much better at this in the last few years though, so much of these issues have gone away.)

With software, it’s (almost) all about the time you spend on it. If you’ve got a computer, you can develop software. Most of the tools are free, or low-cost (depending on the platform) and if you got access to the Internet, or a library, you can learn, learn, learn and become a software developer. (I’ll answer the question of if you should in another post!)

So you’ve got a computer, you’ve got time, you’ve got a desire to learn… those can be the basic building blocks to make software. Go for it. Now, keep in mind that many developers (especially in the open source world) are doing what they do because they want to solve their own problems. I really wanted DokuWiki to be able to present a random page, and when I found a plugin that didn’t work, it was worth a few hours to fix it. I didn’t go as far as adopting the plugin, since it appears to have been orphaned, but I did drop it on GitHub so if someone really wants my work, they can have it. The sharing and collaboration is part of what I love about open source.

So let’s talk about hardware…

Hardware consists of real bits, not just zeros and ones, but actual physical things that are created. When I turned one of my projects into a product I did my best to make sure the final price was such that I would actually make money. Making money is important. Note that I didn’t say making LOTS and LOTS of money is important. I mean, it is to some people, but… whatever.

So you’ve got your maker business, and you want to treat customers (and potential customers) right, and this will cause you to make certain decisions. I remember talking to someone 9 months ago who ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and he pointed out to me that the first thing you need to do once you think you determine your costs, is to pad it. Remember that Kickstarter and Amazon each take a cut. The campaigner also said that he got one backer who had some terrible thing happen in his personal life, and asked if he could be refunded his pledge. If you do refund someone’s pledge, do you do the full amount or do you withhold what Kickstarter and Amazon take out of it?

Once you’re shipping actual products, if you’re not charging enough, how many returns does it take to make you start losing money? Things break during shipping, or get lost, or stolen, or just plain don’t work. It’s your job to determine how far you’ll go (and how much you’ll spend) to have satisfied customers.

And yeah, as I mentioned, physical things cost money, and when you are not big (as in, a small company, or someone just starting out) you probably have zero leverage to get any sort of discounts. This is where a lot of Kickstarter campaigns come in, as they involve raising enough money to do bulk purchases to drive down costs. It’s a good idea in some cases, but not all.

Even after you have all the physical things you need to assemble a product, there are at least two more thing you may need. Time (just like with software) and tools (which compare to a computer in the software example above.) In my case, to build my products I had some of the tools I needed, but I also had to buy some of them. If you don’t want to buy your own tools you can consider a makerspace or something like TechShop if you have one near you. As you continue to create your product you may end up spending more on tools, to do things better, faster, etc. This is another cost you may not think about. There’s also repairing and replacing tools, and consumables like blades, bits, paint, shipping materials, etc. and each one of those also takes some time. If you’re driving to a store, or even just ordering online, that’s time, and if your time is worth anything, you need to be compensated in some way.

I’m all about DIY, when it makes sense, and sometimes even when it doesn’t make sense, and that’s the key here. Sure, time is money, and yak shaving isn’t always the best thing to do, but sometimes you do it anyway. The good thing is, everyone has a different scale of what they are willing to do (or what they can do) and what they are willing to pay someone else to do.

I’ve gone off the rails a bit, and I guess I’ll need to do a 12.5 post to continue this. If it’s a bit rambling, forgive me, I’m still thinking through a lot of this.

(See all the posts in this series: Begin, Stock, Buy Smart, Basic Rules, No Leeway, Be Open, Community, Manufacturability, Marketing, Shipping, Lessons Learned.)

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