Category: News

The New Apple TV – First Impressions

Since I make my living in the online video business, I try to stay on top of what’s happening in the OTT space. (OTT is industry lingo for “Over the Top” content. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the awesome Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie.) So I’ve tried out or owned just about every type of box or dongle you can possibly connect to a television to access video.

Despite being Apple-centric in most areas of my life, my Apple TV has been collecting dust in a drawer for over a year now. I’ve been a loyal Roku user for several years now. Roku’s are cheap, easy to use and they have had channels for years. I love Roku and it’s always been my top recommendation when people ask me about this stuff.

Now, I’ll be recommending the new Apple TV.

Since I had already pretty much written off Apple TV, I didn’t pay attention to any of the new features when it was announced. It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. But then I started to get lots of emails from companies asking if we wanted them to build an Apple TV channel for us.

I ignored all of the emails until our pals at VHX reached out, excited about the potential of creating a channel for Yoga With Adriene. They were willing to do all the work if we willing to be their first guinea pig. We went for it and they not only did an awesome job, they turned the channel around fast and we were in the first batch of channels to launch on the platform.

Since all this was happening I decided I needed to get a new Apple TV so I could see how everything was working.

. . .

AppleTV First Impressions


There are already a ton of detailed tech-site reviews that go into lots of detail about the device itself.

  • It’s a little bigger (and taller) than the previous version. It’s a black box, nothing flashy.
  • The remote control has been completely re-designed and now has a click-able touch interface. It feels good?—?like a really tiny iPhone. The only real design flaw is that the buttons are positioned perfectly in the center so if you’re not looking it’s easy to miss which part of the device is actually the front.
  • The interface is now very iOS-like. There’s nothing new to learn. The black background is gone and everything is white and shiny. There’s also a 3-D effect so if you hover over something it wiggles. I also really like the navigation sound effects.
  • Channels (or apps). This is the most exciting new feature for me. Now you don’t have to be a big-time Apple media partner to create a channel and make it available via Apple TV. This is a very big deal.
  • You can talk to it. There’s a microphone button that activates Siri so you can do voice searches. Unfortunately, the Siri integration is pretty limited and doesn’t seem to work fully with any of the apps yet.
  • Games! You can now play App store games on your TV. I’m not a big gamer but this is actually pretty cool.

There are a few areas with definite room for improvement, but those could easily be taken care of with incremental software updates.

The only significant thing that’s missing for me is an Amazon app and it doesn’t seem like there will be one coming soon.

My Roku has probably been phased out for good.

. . .

What the Apple TV could mean for Video Creators

I think the new Apple TV is going to be a big success. It feels like an integrated piece of the bigger Apple ecosystem. It also feels like Apple is really going to promote it.

So if it does become a big deal, what does that mean for video creators?

  1. It’s now easier than ever to find, buy and rent movies (and other video content through iTunes). Apple is already the market leader in this area and this is going to make them even bigger. I just got started last night and have already made a couple of impulse purchases that were served up as search results.
  2. You can now have your own channel?—?and monetize it if you want to. We’re using a subscription model but it’s also possible to offer In-App purchases. Our channel is only scratching the surface of what is possible and now that we’ve actually seen how this thing works we’ll be making lots of changes and improvements. There is some amazing potential here.
  3. Depending on your subject matter, this could be a better way to reach your audience than YouTube. Are your videos a perfect fit for a computer screen or phone?—?or would they work much better on a TV screen? Up until now, we’ve been optimizing most of our content specifically for the types of things that would work well in the YouTube ecosystem?—?short, search optimized “lean forward” videos. Now we are branching out into long-form “lean back” programming.

For the past few years we’ve been inching closer and closer to TV over the internet and while it’s not perfect?—?this really does feel like the best solution available right now.

So those are my initial thoughts after less than 24 hours with the new Apple TV. I really like it and I can’t wait to to see how indie filmmakers and video creators are going to take advantage of the platform.

Yoga With Adriene – Progress Update

It’s been a little over a year since we launched Yoga With Adriene. I figured it was time to finally update you on how things are going.

Right now we’ve got almost 40,000 YouTube subscribers and our daily video views are consistent and trending upwards. Our email list is healthy and growing (despite a lot of neglect). We also just had a very successful product launch. Despite some really bumpy spots in 2013, I think things are actually going really well.

YouTube views for Yoga With Adriene
YouTube views for the Yoga With Adriene channel.

I knew YWA had a lot of potential, but I had always planned on using it as a case study. I had learned a lot through the creation and production of Hilah Cooking and I wanted to implement some of those things and launch a new project. Yoga seemed like the perfect fit and I knew Adriene would be the perfect host.
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Travel Video Gear: Putting Together a Run-and-Gun Travel Video Kit

Travel Gear

Since starting up Hilah Cooking, we’ve been very careful about keeping our production costs low. I am a firm believer in low-overhead and zero debt, so we try to keep our gear as minimal as possible.

We started out with a camcorder we had laying around and our only real upgrade was gear we won from YouTube. But when we lined up the deal to do Hilah’s Texas Kitchen, I knew it was time to (hopefully wisely) invest in a little more gear. This is still a micro-budget project, but we needed a little more firepower. I would be a one-person crew, and we would be shooting in awkward situations with very tight time frames.

My goal was to put together a run-and-gun travel video kit that would be easy to transport and allow me to shoot really fast whenever the opportunities presented themselves. This is the package I put together and it’s worked really well for me so far.

LowePro X200 Rolling Camera Bag

loweprox200I wanted something that could hold safely transport all of our gear and was easy to use in the field. This bag has been incredible. I’ve always been devoted to Pelican cases in the past, but I ended up with a bunch of cases holding individual pieces of gear. This case let me jam everything I needed into one bag with wheels. It even has a kickstand so if you’re on location you can set it up at a tilt and easily access whatever you need. Even though I’ve only had it since the beginning of the year, it’s seen some serious miles and been in some rough situations. It’s still in great shape and has done an awesome job of protecting the gear inside.

Canon XF100 Camcorder

canonxf100Buying a small sensor camcorder in this new age of DSLR video seems very old fashioned, but I needed something for run-and-gun shooting. The XF100 has been great. It’s small, has XLR inputs and shoots great images (once you take the time to figure out the picture profiles). I use this primarily for the interviews where we are following people around kitchens or other locations. The real unexpected joy of this camera has been the 4:2:2 50Mbps Codec. In post this footage feels very thick (in a good way). You can do a lot of color correction without the image ever breaking down. My only real complaint with this camera is that it doesn’t have dedicated focus and zoom rings. Instead, they’re combined into one ring and there is a switch to toggle it back and forth.

Rotolight LED Light

rotolightThis is a little round light that you can mount via hot shoe or directly onto a shotgun mic. The design is kind of weird and clunky but it’s really come in handy in a couple of dark locations. It’s not very powerful, but it’s enough to add a little light to your subjects. (TIP: If you’re shooting in a smoky BBQ pit, this is not going to be enough light.)

Sennheiser Wireless Lav System

sennheiserFor almost three years, I very proudly used only a $20 wired lavalier mic. We upgraded to this Sennheiser wireless kit a few months ago. It was the first time we actually bought new gear. This is pretty expensive, so it was a big deal. Thankfully, switching to this wireless kit has been absolutely life changing. I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, when we were commissioned to produce a series of kids cooking videos, I bought a second kit so I could mic both people. For most of our travel shoots, we just leave Hilah miked up and start rolling when a good situation presents itself.

Rode NTG1 Shotgun Mic

rodentg1I use this to record a second channel when I’m shooting with the XF100. I just turn it on and try to make sure the levels don’t go too hot. For our first batch of shoots we only had one wireless mic so I relied on this to get the vocals for whoever Hilah was talking to. I’ve been happy with it so far but haven’t had time to mix the sound on these videos yet.

Canon 60D

canon60dThis is the same camera we’ve been using for quite awhile. I wasn’t crazy about shooting video on it at first, but I realized on our first trip that I’ve really fallen in love with this camera. I thought I would primarily use the XF100 but if it was a shot that didn’t require tricky focus pulls, I kept coming back to the 60D.

There are some other odds and ends packed into the case – including a MacBook Air – so this really gave me a complete production kit in a rolling case. Not pictured here are a couple of Manfrotto tripods, but other than that all the gear we used to make the travel show is in the photo above and it’s worked out great. The only things I’ll definitely be adding before our next trip are some ND and Polarizing filters.

Now that I’ve geeked out about all of this gear, I’m excited to get back on the road and back to shooting!

NOTE: I want to thank Mark Shea at for his helpful posts on lightweight travel gear.

I’d love to hear what YOU are using to make your videos. Also, am I missing out on anything obvious pieces of gear that would increase my either production quality or overall quality of life? Let me know in the comments below!

Adventures in Self-Publishing

newspaper press


I made my first book when I was 4-years old.

I saw it again for the first time just a few years ago. My mom had kept it safe all those years, tucked away in the bottom of her jewelry box.

It was a tiny thing made from a single piece of paper, cut down into tiny pages, folded over and “saddle-stitched” with a sewing needle. Appropriate for something spawned from the brain of a 4-year old, it was the story of a frog. A picture book. The captions were written in my mother’s handwriting.

I continued writing books and drawing comic books throughout kindergarten and the early years of elementary school. Several wire-bound notebooks were filled with horror stories and the adventures of an assortment of super-hero characters. The kids in my class particularly loved LASAR MAN.

5 notebooks of Lasar Man stories later, somebody finally told me I was spelling laser wrong.
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