Why animated web video? Brain science, cost effectiveness, and reach

Posted by bryanzug - 2011/02/12

Why is an animated web video such an effective way for a company to “explain what the hell [they] actually do“?

Three reasons – Brain science, cost effectiveness, and reach.

Brain Science

In his book “Brain Rules” developmental molecular biologist John Medina breaks it down like this:

“Vision trumps all other senses.”

When you tell a story visually people remember it because human beings are creatures driven by sight. As Medina notes, recognition and recall soar when information is communicated visually.

Animation in particular gives us the ability to use kinetic illustrations to to crop out noise and focus the eye of the human mind on a very specific story.

As comic book artist Scott McCloud noted in his phenomenal TED talk, illustrations are very different from photographic images (such as video shot with a camera).

Illustrations tap into a deep iconic universal form of communication that is deeply embedded in the human brain.

Illustrations illuminate things.

And as they shed their light, as they spread their lumens – clarity, recognition, and recall all become increasingly possible.

Cost Effectiveness

Two important points on the cost effectiveness of animation.

Drawings are cheaper than photos

Some folks think animation is more expensive than shooting video with a camera. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A talented team can always draw sets and objects more cheaply than they can build, collect, and light them.

Interesting ideas and transitions that could never exist in the real world can be drawn quickly to illustrate problems and solutions.

A cheap crash course on attention scarcity, with a prize at the end!

Short web videos, in particular, also offer another important function.

They force you to keep things simple and clear.

Because you can’t detail everything about a product, service, or concept in a few minutes, the script writing process forces a focus on only the most important things.

The cold reality is that web sites have siren songed us into the illusion that more is better.

Add another link, another bullet point. Tell them about that other feature. Make sure to put it all on the home page.

While the web may be infinite, the stark reality is that attention is not.

Short web videos force us to wrestle with the fact that attention is the only non-renewable resource of the information age.

Forcing your team through the process of distilling your message down to its essence is one of the most important activities any organization can do.

And when you do it while creating a web video, you have a great artifact at the end of the process.


The beauty of these videos is that they can go places no one in your organization ever will.

Those champions of your message inside that company you want to do business with can show them to the decisions makers you will never meet.

That fan of yours can pass it on to their friend who’s never herd of you but who could use exactly what you’ve got.

These videos allow your champions and fans to pass your story along wherever it needs to go – all in a form that is consistent, kinetic, and compelling.

How cool is that?

Some bandwidth data points on video streaming live events: iOSDevCamp Seattle 2010

Posted by bryanzug - 2010/09/04

Great [question](http://twitter.com/skap5/status/22979885293) from Saul Kaplan came my way this AM via my pal [Josh Mauldin](http://twitter.com/joshuamauldin/statuses/22981073684). Looks like Saul is preparing a live stream for a [Mini Maker Faire](http://makerfaireri.com/home/an-evening-at-the-ri-mini-maker-faire-september-16-2010/) in Rhode Island on September 16th.

Saul asks:

> Anyone have benchmark data on live streaming events? Estimating peak # for how many might simultaneously watch live stream of

As they say Saul, ask and ye shall receive.

First to note, the upload bandwidth (1) has nothing to do with the (2) download bandwidth people need to watch it on most services like UStream.

As a producer, you upload to UStream via your (1) connection to the web and UStream streams it out to everyone via (2) the connection from their server farm(s) to the individual computers people are watching the stream on.

This is mostly limited by the viewers connection to the internet – so people with lower bandwidth connections just see a lower quality version of the video (e.g. lower frames per second, lower resolution).

On to the data…

Here’s some data from our recent streaming of iOSDevCamp Seattle that we did at PinchZoom‘s meetup space (which we loving call The Watercooler at the Center of the Universe).

Here’s the details of the setup:

  • We used UStream Producer Pro to mix a live multicam stream for the event.
  • For this event we used the Standard HD Quality 16:9 – 960×540 @ 30fps, 650kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo setting in UStream Producer Pro. I’ve listed all the options Producer Pro offers below, so you can get an idea about alternate bandwidths.
  • Whatever setup you use, a good rule of thumb is to have enough upload bandwith to handle twice the amount of the average data rate.
  • Also, the only way to monitor when the stream is up is to have someone watch and listen to it. So you are gonna need bandwidth for that. Usually this will adjust itself to the bandwidth available and you can use a very low bandwidth viewing stream to make sure everything is working OK.

Here are three session examples. I’ve included a few data points for each that give a good idea of the real world requirements. They are:

  • Flash Video FLV File Size:
    • UStream allows you to download a Flash Video FLV file of anything you session you record to the server when you are logged into your account. This size is what exactly was required to upload this video to UStream.
    • You can view FLV’s like these via VLC player pretty easily if you wanna see the quality outside of the browser of what UStream captured to their server.
  • Length of each session
  • Data rates of bandwidth required to broadcast each video in kbps (kilobits per second), KBps (kilobytes per second), MBps (megabytes per second), mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth
    • I’m not a network person, so I always get confused by MBps vs. mbps conversions.
    • I “think” I know enough to say they are different and that I’ve calculated these correctly.
    • If anyone sees any errors in these data conversions, please ping me via twitter (@bryanzug) let me know.
    • I used this utility to help with the conversion and terminology here.

So here are the examples:

  • Joe Marini: Windows Mobile Product Manager
    • View on UStream
    • Link to FLV Flash Video File
    • FLV Flash Video File Size: 358 MB
    • Length: 1 hr 5 min (65 min or 3900 seconds)
    • Bandwidth required to broadcast this video:
    • kbps: 728
    • KBps: 91
    • mbps: 0.728
    • MBps: 0.091
  • Brian Fling: Making Money in Mobile
    • View on UStream
    • Link to FLV Flash Video File
    • FLV Flash Video File Size: 400 MB
    • Length: 1 hr 7 min (67 min or 4020 seconds)
    • Bandwidth required to broadcast this video:
    • kbps: 792
    • KBps: 99
    • mbps: 0.792
    • MBps: 0.099
  • Lauren Isaacson: the State of the iOS Market
    • View on UStream
    • Link to FLV Flash Video File
    • FLV Flash Video File Size: 303 MB
    • Length: 0 hr 50 min (50 min or 3000 seconds)
    • Bandwidth required to broadcast this video:
    • kbps: 808
    • KBps: 101
    • mbps: 0.808
    • MBps: 0.101


So it takes roughly a continuous 0.81 mbps connection to broadcast video of this quality via UStream. Doubling that to account for bursts means you should have a connection of roughly 1.5-1.6 mbps for an HD stream.

Doubling back through the UStream producer pro settings below, you should be able to calculate rough rates for whaterver quality of stream you want to produce.

UStream Producer Pro Settings

There are several settings you can select in UStream Producer Pro. They are:

  • Lowest SD Quality 4:3
    • 320×240 @ 20fps, 200kbps, AAC 32k Mono
  • Lowest SD Quality 16:9
    • 352×198 @ 20fps, 200kbps, AAC 32k Mono
  • Basic SD Quality 4:3
    • 320×240 @ 20fps, 350kbps, AAC 32k Mono
  • Basic SD Quality 16:9
    • 352×198 @ 20fps, 350kbps, AAC 32k Mono
  • Standard SD Quality 4:3
    • 320×240 @ 30fps, 350kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • Standard SD Quality 16:9
    • 352×198 @ 30fps, 350kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • High SD Quality 4:3
    • 640×480 @ 30fps, 500kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • High SD Quality 16:9
    • 720×405 @ 30fps, 500kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • Best SD Quality 4:3
    • 640×480 @ 30fps, 600kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • Best SD Quality 16:9
    • 720×405 @ 30fps, 600kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • Standard HD Quality 16:9
    • 960×540 @ 30fps, 650kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo
  • High HD Quality 16:9
    • 960×540 @ 30fps, 800kbps, AAC 44.1k Stereo

The first short film I ever did, an exercise in skeptic art

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/08/23

Unusual realities
That drove me straight down to my knees
Never thought I’d see things like these
If I had a dream
If I Had a Dream by Undercover
(from the album Branded, 1986)

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s in Southern California (yes Seattle-ites, I am a Cali refugee, thank you for not closing your borders) – I worked with a non-profit music production agency that fostered the exploration of meaning through the creation of music.

Back then I would not have described it like that – we thought we were just making what we called, in naive retrospect, “Christian Rock”.

But much of who I am today – my love for complex stories and conflicted characters, stems from deep things people in that community taught me about life, art, relationships, and critical thinking.

One of the pivotal bands I got to interact with at that time was Undercover and one of their leaders, Ojo Taylor.

Undercover’s Branded album was, for me, one of the first pieces of spiritual art that wrestled honestly with faith, doubt, and skepticism.

Those of you who know me know that while I land on the Jesus side of things regarding The Question of God, I come to that conclusion after much wrestling of angels.

Like Jacob, my gait is informed by the limp of, and deep respect for, the skeptic’s heart.

(Which is one of the many reasons my son is name Thomas.)

In the spring of 1991, I took footage from a summer 1990 Undercover concert I video-ed in Redlands, California, back to the Media Center at Pepperdine and made my first short film – A video of the song “Time” from their album Balance of Power.

I had abandoned the television and radio production major that I went to Pepperdine to originally study, believing that I could learn things faster than the instructors could teach me by just doing projects and facing real world challneges, while making things I wanted to make.

I spliced in a bunch of public domain footage I took from some cool laserdiscs the university had, in order to draw the themes of the song out.

Last week, Ojo from Undercover found me on facebook. Then, this AM, my friend Jason pointed me to the video I made nearly 20 years ago.

Just looked at it for the first time in a long time and I am really struck by how much it is reminding me of things I had forgotten of my own journey.

It’s funny sometimes how much we don’t remember about ourselves.

Anyway, I thought I’d post it so you could take a look if you have a moment and get a glimpse of how I ended up being, ummm, me ;)

Time by Undercover, 1990

I’m joining Lilipip as Director of Business Development

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/08/03

Most of the web sites I’ve worked on over the last 13 years face a small set of common challenges –

  1. How do you get the attention of an audience already fatigued with information overload?
  2. If you do manage to grab attention, how do you compellingly connect people with your product, service, or concept?
  3. Finally, how do you keep it simple enough to not lose folks along the way – all while avoiding the pitfalls of boring and forgettable?

If you’ve been in a strategic web session with me anytime in the last 24 months, you’re probably sick of what I’m about to say.

But I’m gonna say it anyway.

Short, well-written, visually-memorable web videos are a stunningly smart thing to do on most web sites – they’re an effective way to deal with every one of the strategic communication killers I’ve listed above.

A bit about how I became convinced of this (and where it’s leading me).

Through my work producing Ignite Seattle video and capturing events like BarCamp, MindCamp, Presentation Camp, and Jackson Fish Market’s Small and Special conference, I’ve seen, time and again, how web video is much more than “TV on the internet”.

When done well, it enables people to teach things to other people – to spread knowledge and understanding where it needs to go – in ways that those of us who originate content rarely imagine as we create it.

Seeing friends like Lee and Sachi LeFever at Common Craft demonstrate how thoughtful visual explanations really can help people worlwide has been eye opening.

Beyond being all manner of cool, their “In Plain English” series has inspired me to examine how I can not only become a better “shedder of light” in my daily life – it’s also inspired me to consider how I can help other people do the same.

Which leads me to the title announcement of this post – as of today, I am joining Lilipip Studios as Director of Business Development.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lilipip and its founder, Ksenia Oustiougova, they are a Seattle startup that specializes in creating animated web videos about your product, service, or concept.

The best way to explain what we do is to show you – so I’ve pasted a video Lilipip did for Zappos above. Take a look at it to get an idea of the kinds of things I’ll be helping folks develop.

Also noteworthy is that Lilipip works with independent writers, illustrators, animators, voice-over artists, and musicians worldwide to produce this work.

As Ksenia and I became friends, it was clear that we share the same belief in the power of these sorts of videos. We also share a deep appreciation of small, special, sustainable approaches to business.

When Lilipip began to take off and it was obvious they needed to grow the team, my wife Jen and I began to seriously discuss re-configuring our lives to join a startup.

After much reflection, we decided to take a leap of faith and do it.

So, watch that Zappos video – And ping me if you know of anyone who could use one of these. We’ve got a great team and a proven process – with transparent pricing!

P.S. I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation between Amazon’s recent purchase of Zappos and the Lilipip video, because causal inference is hard – but casual inference, on the other hand, is quite easy.

Video: Scott Berkun on “Why Your Presentation Sucks (and what to do about it)”

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/04/13

The best presentation I saw at Presentation Camp Seattle a couple of weeks ago over at UW was Scott Berkun‘s “Why Your Presentation Sucks (and what to do about it).

Was able to grab some nice video of it — here’s parts 1, 2, & 3. Enjoy!

Why Your Presentation Sucks (and what to do about it) – pt 1
by Scott Berkun
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.

Why Your Presentation Sucks (and what to do about it) pt 2
by Scott Berkun
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.

Why Your Presentation Sucks (and what to do about it) – pt 3
by Scott Berkun
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.

Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle (parts 1 & 2) – Mind Camp 5

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/04/12

Here’s video I produced of a great discussion my pal Brian Dorsey facilitated on “Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle” at Mind Camp 5 on November 22, 2008. We were gathered at Synapse Product Development in downtown Seattle (an incredible location). I’ve embedded parts 1 & 2 below.

Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle (part 1)
From Mind Camp 5
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.

Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle (part 2)
From Mind Camp 5
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.

When your TV is a docking station, who needs a Tivo (or Boxee)?

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/03/01

At lunch with Brian Dorsey last week, I noted how I was using my TV as more of a docking station these days.

A couple of years ago I made my way over to “Mantasyland“, and bought a 50 foot SVGA cable and some 1/8” stereo jack extensions to set things up.

While I’ve been doing the obvious Boxee/Hulu/Netflix things with it, I found myself doing something even a bit more interesting this week.

MindMeister: To Watch

I’ve been using MindMeister, the online collaborative mind mapping tool, to help me track all of those video links that I really want to watch, but never get time to throughout the day.

With MindMeister, I can just email or tweet things into my main map (which I call “Bryan’s Brain”) — so I get a great list of stuff to watch, without interrupting my flow at all.

So every night, I have this node of great video content that my FOAF filter has been saying I should pay attention to — things from my tweeps and their friends — along with stuff I find interesting as I graze the interwebs.

Subjects range from art to tech to culture to philosophy to biz, etc. When you look at it all, it’s like a free graduate education in a bunch of interesting stuff.

In thinking about it a bit this AM, it seems like this “To Watch” list is much more interesting than anything Boxee or Tivo could ever deliver.

I’m thinking about a routine where, once the kids are in bed, we might just open this node and get our brains on.

Screencast Tools

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/02/04

Since I get asked a lot, here’s my rundown of screencast tools —

PC – Camstudio: Free and can get you started

PC – Camtasia: $299 but has bells and whistles that most people want after doing it for a while (e.g. pan and scan)

PC – Captivate: $699. Like powerpoint on steroids, lets you capture screen sequences and create demos or interactive simulations — then outputs Flash movies that you can put on the web (.swf) or edit in the Flash IDE when installed on the same machine (.fla).

Mac – iShowU: $20

Mac – Snapz Pro: $69

Mac – Screencast: $29. Here’s a recent review of this third Mac tool in relation to the first two.

My Chumby Just Arrived

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/01/07

My Chumby just arrived — here it is (except mine is black) — and yes, this is a realtime reflection of what it is showing —

Way cool physics engine for the iPhone

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/12/06

A physics engine for the iPhone — just play the vid —