Changes to Dynamo Player

December 19, 2012
posted by sheric

Last week, one of the first streaming services to allow video creators a pay to play option on their website announced a change of service. Dynamo Player has been around for about 3 years, but as many more services now populate the digital video pay to stream space, Dynamo saw a need to adjust their offerings and enable more than just a video player. Founder Rob Millis talked to me about the changes due to take effect in January 2013.

Explain how Dynamo is changing into a White Label Service?

Dynamo will be white label meaning that any company, distributor or filmmaker can put their own branding and customized options onto our digital platform. You’ll be able to use the Dynamo infrastructure and technology under your own brand without sharing revenue with us and without having our management involved unless you want it involved. It has been in demand from our most professional users for a while so we’re making these changes in order to serve them and make the service more tailored. In January, we will be announcing pricing and the full offering.

In general, Dynamo has been in the background of the user experience except during the purchase process where users go to the Dynamo website and the Dynamo payment process. With the white label option, the user has an entirely consistent process through the artist’s brand. A recent example is a very popular rock band who wanted every aspect to be under their name with their branding completely integrated into the whole buying experience. We couldn’t offer this before, but now we can.

Before, artists could use the Dynamo Player dashboard to see payments, see orders, collect emails etc. Does this now mean that they have to source everything independently and connect it to the player?

No, not at all. Dynamo can still do everything it always could, but now it will be accessed on a flat fee basis rather than through a revenue share we had before. But now you have an option to license the system for your own use.


And that would probably be more suited to enterprise level clients who have lots of films they are selling rather than a filmmaker with one film?

Yes, but we are also moving to offer more distribution options than just the player. We are aiming to be more of a one stop shop working with other platforms. In the past, we may have been seen as competing with other services, but we don’t see any reason to continue that if we can serve clients better by helping them get to more platforms that we are usually more familiar with and have more experience with than the filmmakers.

For example, if I want my film on iTunes, now Dynamo can manage that process for me? Do all the encoding and the QC that Apple needs to make my film available in iTunes?

Yes,  we can either advise and consult and you take care of the technical aspects yourself or we can  manage the whole process via a third party. We are looking to become an aggregator with a direct relationship with iTunes.

And that is flat fee based, no revenue share from the iTunes revenue?


And what about the app building, that isn’t something Dynamo was doing before?

It is new. We have experience with it, but we weren’t offering it to filmmakers before. This is our effort to be a one stop shop for marketing and distribution of content. Often filmmakers and even medium size media companies don’t know what questions to ask when they hire development team to build an application. There is a real need to have consultation between producers and technical developers when building an app. We think most app products on the market are grossly overpriced and we can either consult to help negotiate better pricing or to take some of this work inhouse to be more economical.

What precipitated this change? In the 3 years since Dynamo Player existed as one of the first paid video streaming services available, what has changed in the market?

In a lot of ways, we were more necessary for the long tail of film sales a few years ago and we have felt a responsibility to support long tail sales for filmmakers. But now we are seeing more of a call for customization of the player, reaching other digital platforms as well, assisting with website design and development, as well as providing technical support that filmmakers are not comfortable with and we aren’t seeing many service providers in the film space who are able to offer that. For our professional users who are seeing a lot of customer demand, we want to be able to support them through those services.

I would imagine as well that there are many films using your service purely as a repository, somewhere to keep their films online even when they aren’t working the titles with any marketing support. In a revenue share scenario, they are costing Dynamo more money to host them than they will ever sell. Is this also a factor in a change to flat fee, contract work rather than revenue share?

The cost of supporting many users who are either not supporting their own content with marketing or using Dynamo as a storage service has been a problem over time. It isn’t prohibitively expensive from a bandwidth point of view, but it is distracting when running a business because it keeps us from being able to service our clients who are working hard to get their films seen. However, we will keep the system open for all of our current clients with a dramatic discount going forward, even if they have zero sales because, for many, it is really important that the film be available online and that they are able to maintain a consistent presence on the web regardless of whether they get one sale or a thousand sales a month. We don’t want to kick any of those users off of the system. We will have a pricing model for those who want to use the Dynamo Player platform, but don’t expect huge sales. They will still be able to access via a flat fee.

I was reading in another publication that you overestimated how fast Hollywood would move to innovate in the digital space. I can see how difficult it is for large corporations to innovate in a hurry, but I am still surprised in looking at the films coming into Sundance now that are still getting sales agents to negotiate traditional deals, even digital deals, and not putting up their own websites. Does it surprise you that independent filmmakers are also not very innovative? 

It never occurred to me before I started Dynamo the differences between a web producer and a filmmaker. The differences between what is gratifying for each. For someone who is used to working on serial content for the web,  they are used to building their own website, they are used to working Facebook and Twitter almost in their sleep, they are excited to have more eyeballs than big fame and more buzz than expensive contracts.  Filmmakers get more gratification from seeing their work on a big screen.  It is a very different kind of production, a very different kind of audience,  and there is less cross over between those 2 worlds than I ever expected.

In a lot of ways, no matter what’s possible for a feature film to be distributed, filmmakers always wish that their film will fill a theater and show on a big screen and if it means waiting for 6 months to find a company that will make that a reality, it is a very tempting gamble for a filmmaker to take.  On the other hand, it is an industry filled with people who are inclined to be incredibly creative with sound, camera gear, and editing technique. They have stronger acting backgrounds informing their work. There has  been less emphasis on distribution of the work because that has always been handled by other people. Directors and producers have a much more creative emphasis than to be social media and digital innovators.

Are there plans with Dynamo to output to some services like Roku, Apple TV, Xbox etc.?

Certainly for particular clients who are interested in this, we will. There is definitely some content that should go out through Roku and Boxee etc, but some content creators shouldn’t waste their time or money.

How about if distributors with a slate of films want to access these set top boxes to get their films into the home? Can Dynamo help with that?

Absolutely, especially for distributors and small studios that have a collection of titles that sit under one brand. It would be valuable to have a presence on these platforms with all of their titles available on the set top boxes. It is a matter of scale for them really, to consistently deliver new titles under one brand. While it is still very early in the history of smart TVs and set top boxes, we are starting to see an uptick in the click through rates of households watching content available on these services. For a single program or film to get attention there, it probably isn’t worth the investment, but for a company with many titles, absolutely it is and we are happy to help with that.

I thank Rob for taking the time to explain the changes at Dynamo and I hope this helps to clarify things for those who are currently using the service and for those who are contemplating a service for digital distribution. If you found this article useful, tweet about it HERE.



Calling all Los Angeles based independent filmmakers

December 13, 2011
posted by sheric

Event this Thursday December 15 in LA

I am scheduled to virtually appear at an event in LA on Thursday December 15 to talk about online distribution of independent films. I know what you’re thinking…you’re confused enough about all this talk. You just want to make your movie and let someone take it from there. Boy, are you on the wrong site!

This event is going to be for those entrepreneurial filmmakers who understand that making the film is less than half the war. The first battle started with the idea and the funding, continued through to the making of the film, but now how to get it into the market so people will see it? And what about festivals, are they the way to go? And putting your film online? And say you do get a distributor interested, then what? How about working with a publicist, a web designer, a trailer editor, a social media guru? Do you really need all of that? We’re going to talk about it all and more in this short 2 hours. I am going to try and convince you to be thinking about all of it before you even pick up a camera!

I’ll be joining my friend Rob Millis from Dynamo Player which is a great online distribution tool you control so that your film can be streamed on your website or Facebook in exchange for money (which is better than streamed via Youtube or BitTorrent for free, yeah?) and Jerome Courshon who regularly speaks on the secrets of distribution. The name of this great event is

Online Distribution: A new hope for filmmakers

And it is presented by Genevieve Jolliffe and Andrew Zinnes who, along with my friend Chris Jones, co wrote the Guerilla Filmmaker Handbook series. I’ll specifically be talking about low and micro budget films and the things you can do yourself to ensure there is an audience for your work and you can reach them. The new hope is you don’t have to depend on finding outside distribution deals to get your film to its audience, but you will need skills that you probably haven’t needed before and we’re all here to help you get them.

Join us!

Date: Thursday, 15th December, 2011.

Where: Sacred Fools Theater, 660 North Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90004. Free parking in lot next to theater.

Tel: (310) 281-8337

Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm.

Price: $35 (seating is limited. Discount code is SHERI for $15 discount which makes the night only $20. Just click Enter Discount Code  and put it in).

On July 1, I have an article coming out in Microfilmmaker Magazine that takes a look at 3 digital streaming players now available to filmmakers; Dynamo Player, Distrify and Flicklaunch. I talked to the founders of each company to bring you the lowdown on how each works, their pricing and how you, as the content owner, get paid. Here’s an excerpt:

Ed Burns is using Dynamo Player for his film Nice Guy Johnny

Anyone who reads my blog or follows my Facebook page knows I am dedicated to encouraging filmmakers to take control of their own work and bring it to audiences in the most direct way possible. I especially feel this way when it comes to online digital distribution. Why give the rights (and fees and percentages) away to a distributor when you can easily use tools to distribute your work directly and in the most expedient manner?

Lately, several companies have emerged to help filmmakers do just that.  Instead of looking for outside distribution companies to buy your work’s rights, hope they treat you fairly, and wait for them to bring it out for sale, consider these tools to go direct. When you can cut out as many of the layers separating your work from its audience, you’ll profit more….

Rob Millis, co founder of Dynamo, explained that was the aim of the product from the start. “Dynamo is as easy to access as any online video platform, with no restrictions or qualifications. It is available for any legal content you own the rights to, except pornography… The player allows you to upload your film, set a price for streaming it on a website or on Facebook, and publish it with no upfront costs or monthly fees. Fans, bloggers, online publications and organizations can host the player on their sites too in order to share their love of your film with their audience…

Two filmmakers from Scotland, Andy Green and Peter Gerard, founded Distrify. I spoke with them to find out what led them to create this tool to help filmmakers. “We wanted a better business model ourselves so we worked out a technical solution where we’d actually get some of the money from the films we produced by making it easy for fans to buy our films directly,” said Gerard. Distrify’s player adapts to support your film’s marketing at every stage of the value chain. If you’re crowd-funding for example, the Distrify player helps drive viewers to your crowd-funding campaign. If your film is at a festival, you can list all the screenings directly in the trailer, with links to ticketing sites. If you’re doing an indie screenings campaign, Distrify lets your fans sign up to your mailing list, giving you a location-based map of where the demand is for your film. Whenever you add new screenings or products to your film, every player that’s embedded around the web is automatically updated to ensure your fans will always be able to engage with or purchase your film”…

Founded as the first global indie movie distribution platform built on Facebook, I spoke with CEO Craig Tanner about what makes Flicklaunch different as a way to distribute films. The site is in beta. “Flicklaunch was built around the ‘Like’ button. A filmmaker can give away a predetermined amount of free views in exchange for a ‘Like’ to the film page. For example, a filmmaker can give away 1,000 free views and with the average Facebook user having 140 friends, it creates awareness for that film of 140,000 people. Since Facebook is global, Flicklaunch is available to audiences and filmmakers everywhere.”  The rental period for streaming the film is 7 days and audience can choose how they want to view it (through any web enabled device connecting to Facebook). Soon FlickLaunch will offer badges and perks for film fans that drive the most traffic to the film.

In addition, I wrote a chapter on film festivals and how to use them in a book entitled The Modern MovieMaking Movement which will be available from July 1. It is a free ebook that will be available on this site in exchange for email signup if you leave your email address when you click Subscribe to the Newsletter and you’ll get an automated download link. The book was written by 10 of the most outspoken and knowledgeable indie film thought leaders (well, 9 and me ;) ) in the world today and it will cover topics such as successful screenwriting, ways to finance a feature film, fundraising, the director’s role, the PMD and making microbudget features.  Well worth the price of an email address! Plus I don’t send many email blasts personally so you won’t have your inbox bombarded from here on out by me.

I also have 2 other books coming out very soon. One is an anthology of Ted Hope’s Hope For Film blog and the other is Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen. I guess I have been doing a lot of writing lately! More news on these 2 works coming soon.

Facebook is not a good sales platform

May 18, 2011
posted by sheric

I covered this in a past entry, but more of this opinion was voiced on today’s Social Times blog. I’ve seen many new services like FlickLaunch and Dynamo Player configuring their platforms to sell on a film’s Facebook page and Warner Bros has started implementing their own Facebook movie rentals for US residents including Dark Knight, Inception, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Yogi Bear and Life as We Know It paid for with Facebook credit or $3. I’d love to see their sales figures, but remember that a huge advertising and marketing budget was spent on these titles and they have all gone well into the DVD window and beyond. Most indie movies will not have the same kind of demand because similar marketing efforts haven’t been made .

Facebook sales will not be your biggest money maker because people do not come to Facebook to buy.

Facebook is a social platform. People come to Facebook to chat with friends, see what everyone is up to, post news about themselves. While you may have amassed a large following on Facebook, unless you are posting content of interest to your audience on your page regularly, chances are your “fans” have not been back to your page since they joined. They won’t see your fancy Welcome page or your newly constructed BUY NOW page. Most people are only reminded of you if they see your news in their news feed. The news feed is the first page everyone lands on when they go to Facebook. Sometimes they only see the Top News view, even though it is possible to change that to Most Recent, most people do not. If they haven’t visited your page in a while or commented on any of your news, your page has stopped appearing in their feed. NOTE: I am not suggesting you spend all your time shilling for your film on your Facebook page in order to stay in the news feed. A conversation with a shill is boring and a turn off.

Even though you can buy ads to drive more traffic directly to your page, it will take a significant spend to generate the number of impressions someone needs to have before they click on it. On average, an ad will be seen 5-7 times before any action is taken. Facebook is more about attracting and keeping attention that can influenced into a sale later on than it is about making a sale right now.

As the Social Times article contends, social media platforms like Facebook are the top of your sales funnel, the place where relationships and trust are built. After you have accomplished this, and it will take a while, then you can transition your audience to your own website where the sales can take place (here’s where something like Dynamo Player will work). Yet another reason to start your social media efforts and audience building WELL in advance of your finished film. This isn’t a campaign for 3 months, this is commitment for the full life cycle of your film and continues into the length of your career.

So, should you never try and sell streams on your Facebook page?

Undoubtedly there are hundreds of millions of people on Facebook and it is entirely possible that someone will try your film out if they see it’s available. If the cost to set up Facebook streaming is right (ie, low to free), you aren’t losing anything to try, but do not invest a lot in this. As DVD’s popularity continues to plummet, more and more people will be turning to online streaming rentals. Invest in having a good player on your site and spending upfront to access iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and game consoles. Spend the majority of your time and effort on your content marketing to pull you audience in, earn their trust, make them feel connected and give them viewing options.

If anyone here has implemented a Facebook sales platform for film and it has resulted in great success, let’s here about it.