TopGear’s MyFirstCar contest

You may know by now that I’ve been a huge Top Gear UK fan for about 7 years now. I discovered the show when I was on a quest for Eddie Izzard comedy performances and saw that he was a guest on the show. This slightly crazy show really caught my interest. I almost immediately found the Top Gear episode where they take 3 supercars through France and get them stuck in a parking garage and I was hooked because it reminded me exactly of the stuff that my brother and I were into back in High School and college.

When I heard about the #MyFirstCar contest from BBC America I thought, we had a good story to tell. And although it is a cost saving move to ask your fans to do your advertising for you, I was still hooked.

For the contest I set out to figure out how one makes a video with the very limited tools I had available. I did not want to talk in front of a webcam, it felt too awkward, and I’m not exactly a glamour model at this point in time. Plus I’m never going to be as interesting on camera as Jeremy Clarkson without some training.

I was looking for the “ken burns” slow zoom effect on some photos because that is mostly what I had to work with, 1990’s advantix camera photos. I thought I might be able to do a voice over narration and possibly talk Scott into it too, but it ended up just as me in the end. 

We did find that Scott had one vhs tape with some stuff a guy Paul had taped and given copies to the guys. It was fun to watch and see some of the racing stuff I had not seen them do but most wasn’t fit for broadcasting due to my flip camera video of the TV and the nature of the comedy on screen.

I ended taking a few shots with the Flip camera I got from work for Christmas and used them at the end with the car in the garage and we pooled photos from my house, his and my parents. Scanning them in and finding the software wasn’t that hard. (I found Muvee and it wasn’t hard to learn to use, although some people may find it too automated)

Writing the story was the most difficult part. I wrote out a few versions, Scott edited them and then we realized the photos and content were nowhere near as long as the written piece. And I could not read it and watch the pictures to keep up at the same time. So I was winging it, and I say “Um, So, Yea” a lot as I’m thinking of what to say next. We also found we didn’t have photos of crucial parts of the story that were funny so they were cut. We also tend to be funniest when we play off eachother and make fun of eachother and he wouldn’t take part because he’s shy or something.

The end result isn’t a funny video like I had hoped, but like I said most of the funny content wasn’t suitable for publishing. We ended up with a more sentimental documentary piece. It doesn’t have the views to really be a contender in the competition. It was fun though to do something new and try and think about the story in a video creation like what they do on TG all the time. I have even more respect for what they do and the high level of quality in their work.

UPDATE: it is now 2/8/2011, a week into this contest and my video has received a whole 62 views. This is in comparison to the other people’s videos who had really old falling apart cars as their first car and weird stories as to how horrible they were are all 1,000 views and such.

I guess my video isn’t the intended story they wanted to tell. And I admit my storytelling wasn’t great considering my editing ability is limited and the story had to fit what the software and photos provided. And I can’t exactly get on camera and talk about this right now. And I’m just more low key than the guys jumping around on their cars in the videos.

I suppose that I should have expected this. I haven’t been to an improv class in far too long. Best of luck to the rest of the crowd, I applaud your ability to get the BBC people to put your videos on TV.

UPDATE: 2/8/2011 As I was lamenting that the video has not performed very well with views, I got an email from BBCA. Plot twist…

Update: 2.28.2011 – So, they did email us a release form to use the video in their promotional process for TG UK (America). We did see that they did post our video to the Top Gear My First Car Tumblr feed, of which drove about 400 views to the video. I’m guessing that is where our story ends. We haven’t heard anything since and although I asked if our video would be included in snippets used to advertise the contest on TV, and they said yes, we never saw it there. Granted, it has been a pretty busy few weeks so I could have missed it. .

This was fun and all, but considering that Rutledge Wood posted on FB today that he was flying to the UK to meet Hammond for the first time today, and he’s the host of the USA show, I’m not going to hold out thinking that the general public will have any way of enjoying Top Gear in person anytime soon.

I kind of wish I did re-record the voice over since I think I sound like a dork in it, but I’m not going to have time at the moment. Maybe at a later time I will be able to spend more time on car related videos.

Update 3.1.2011 – I finally had time to go through the episodes on BBC America tonight and look for the 1 commercial spot they use the #myfirstcar clips in, which is usually somewhere in the 2nd half. I saw a one second glimpse of a  photo from my video used, so they did indeed use something after sending me all kinds of forms to sign. It wasn’t actually a picture of the car we had as our first car though. (possibly the assignment had a bit of scope creep adding the history like that) So the Electra – Park Avenue gets its brief moment to shine instead of the IROC camaro. I think they had to use this picture because it had people in it and they seem to want someone’s face involved in the video. I’m not wild about my appearance these days so I thought I’d spare people the pain, and keep the focus on the cars but I guess that wasn’t outlined in the guidelines, but it was still important.  I kind of want to reshoot it and start over, but time is fleeting and the contest is almost over.

Update: March 2011. I ended up with about 400 views on the video and have taken it down now since the contest is over and things have moved on.

American Gangster Film – Denzel Washington – Oscar Contender?

Everyone was in a buzz about the film American Gangster back in July and it wasn’t even ready for release yet. Now it is open this weekend with Russel Crowe and everyone is saying that it is a well done film that is worth watching and could go to the Oscars. I am always excited about breakout films and good quality entertainment in general because there is not enough of that out there these days. Anyway here is the trailer, I think I would see it if I had the time to go to the movies. Maybe next weekend.

Wired Science . Videos | PBS

This is really amazing. They can regenerate the end of fingers with medicine now and grow some new organs. On this WIRED Science video clip from their show, they talk with scientists about how they grow a bladder and a mini heart from scratch. They use stem cells and a form to make the bladder. They use ste cells and a real inkjet printer to “print” the heart. Talk about super amazing science! (and weird ways to create new organs that you never thought were possible) I hope they can regenerate everything by the time I get old.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video Gaming Starts at age 6?

According to this article I read today gaming starts with kids at age 6. That’s first grade. That is unbelievable that they are already so into it by then and will be playing games from then on. I suppose playing games is easier than learning to read, so why would they read books and do homework? EEP. I am not sure how to balance the things like internet, gaming and new technology with old technology that teaches necessity skills like reading a book or writing stories on notebook paper. How will they still learn in school with old technology requirements when they clearly will only want to spend time with new technology? Will we have a generation that has worse handwriting than mine? And they thought all the kids who grew up in the 80’s were going to be screwed up! Just wait 20 years.

New Google YouTube Ads

I just tried to install the YouTube Google ad format on my other blog. it was interesting, and it isn’t really suited that well for my blog. I got it to work and you can see it here. Chicago Restaurants

Here is what I would like from Google and YouTube to make it better:

1. Better targeting of videos. Maybe choose specific videos that have relevance to your content. Their filters aren’t working for me. I even gave them Chicago keywords as a guide and they still are serving random stuff that isn’t related to Chicago in any way. Maybe use those keywords to do a tag search and just serve those that have those tags? Or let me pick them individually.

2. The size is not right for my blog. It’s too big for anywhere pretty much, so I opted for above the posts because it will blow out the side bars if I put it there. What might work is to update the wordpress theme to alternate posts with video units on the main page. Or I may have to put it inside the posts only, and hope those posts have some relevance to the videos. This won’t work until we get better targeting.

Anyway, it’s an interesting way to syndicate their content out and get this huge affiliate network going generating eyeball views for their content and keeping YT top of mind in consumer’s eyes when so many other video sites are popping up every day.

Google Video Ads

I got an email this morning about the new Google Video Ads. I am not sure exactly how they work yet but they do say they you earn revenue for playing them on your site. I wonder if that means they auto play when someone loads the page or if someone has to click on them? I am curious about this because Google continues to innovate advertising in new ways and come up with groundbreaking ideas. Will this be as big as adsense and adwords? Will the content that is shown be shows and TV clips we would actually watch? or will it be ads? How will it be matched to your content on your page? I will see what I can find out but right now it’s all questions for me.

Update: I found out some things about these new ads from the Google blog. They are already enabled if you allow image ads to rotate with your text ads ina ll your ad slots. They also don’t activate unless they are clicked, so I am not sure how people would know its video content and not a video ad, so it may not be any better than a banner or text ad as far as CTR goes.