Where Are The Customer’s Yachts?


Only $252,000 a week…… tips not included….

Last night we took a walk along the pier in Sag Harbor after dinner.

There are many big yachts here, but this one stood out.

It is called “Bad Girl” and it is owned by Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or whatever he is calling himself these days.

It is 186 feet of yacht, and that is a lot!

It made me think of a book that came out in 1955 called “Where Are The Customer’s Yachts”, which was a critique of the stock market and brokerage houses by the alliteratively names Fred Schwed.

Even now, more than 50 years later it is still a pretty good read.

I thought of this when I began to reflect on the ‘chart’ that I put up the other day. The new market. Where are the ‘customers yachts’, in other words, where can the newly aspirant VJ make a living… or more?

A look at Time/Warner’s ‘products’ listings opens the door to a whole new world of ‘television’ products.

Those contemplating the VJ world may have dreams of running off to Baghdad and shooting awe inspiring ‘behind the scenes’ video of AlQaeda planning their latest attack. Well… this might be possible, but not a realistic way to earn an income on a regular basis.

Where are the customer’s yachts for VJs?

In other words, where are the new video opportunities – as opposed to the niche that current cameramen and local news already occupy?

The Time/Warner site is a good example.

Peruse the world of the “on demand channels”.


Take a look at Channel 1422, for example. Endless videos of homes for sale, home repair, exterminator information.. on and on and on.. And this is just the beginning.

Here is Time/Warner’s promotional sales video..


It represents an open door for, quite literally, hundreds of thousands of hours of video. The world is going to go to video. And this is not Nightline. This is homes for sale, nutritional information, health information, educational… It is endless. And this is just Time/Warner Austin! There are other cable companies, other channels, other home builders, other garden centers… All.. all of it, is going to be in video.

Who is going to make it?

Who is going to produce this stuff?

I can tell you who it will not be.

It will not be Time/Warner doing this in-house.

And it will not be traditional production companies. They are far too expensive for this.

But it will be the VJ just starting off.

Here… to begin with, is where the business is.

And just behind it, the customer’s yachts…or at least a small sailboat to start with.


17 responses to “Where Are The Customer’s Yachts?

  1. Let’s see if the detractors get it this time around:

    We don’t expect to make a bunch of money as Solo VJ’s first starting out. To make that assumption is unrealistic. Michael has never said otherwise.

    So if I have a small sailboat at first – BFD – it’s a start.

    The detractors seem to have their heads so far up their arses that they have forgotten what it was like starting out. But hey, they’re better than everyone else and make it a point to insinuate it over and over.

    When are you guys going to get it??? Every time you post, you only reinforce our resolve to prove you wrong. If you focused your hostilities in a more productive manner, we might actually consider what you have to say. Instead, you contribute to your own demise and lack of credibility.

    Typical ego driven behavior.

  2. Cliff, here comes the detractors, or even better, a dose of reality.

    Michael, do you know for sure that this is how the cable company will get their programs or you are just being optimistic on behalf of your VJs? Don’t spend the money yet guys.

    In 1992 after I sold controlling interest in my A/V Company, I came up with an idea to take advantage of a new rule passed by congress that required cable companies to make available a percentage of their channels for Commercial leased access, not to be confused with public access. The law was passed to create competition and minimize the chances of monopoly by the cable companies.

    I contacted two of my national clients and within one hour I had a $250,000 commitment. My idea was to create long form how-to-videos that in reality wasn’t selling anything directly but sponsored by a specific manufacturer and of course everything used in those video came from that manufacturers, it was a form of infomercial without the actual sales. During the show we would have regular commercial brakes but only dealers who sold those products in the immediate market area were invited to have commercial on those shows, the sponsoring manufacturer was actually offering co-op advertising to the participating local merchants. It was a win-win situation for everyone. The master how to video could have played in any cable market with new local merchants. The potential was unlimited. Once the cable companies learned about the potential they began coming up with all kinds of excuses and regulation intended only to delay my cable access; they wanted to do it themselves. I began filing petitions with the FCC, I had State Attorney Generals from 4 states on my side, four congressmen a dozen of mayors and the ACLU also filed briefs on my behalf. A number of law firm offered to help me at no charge. Unfortunately the cable companies knew what they were doing and how to play the system. Petition and counter petition and answers to the petitions took years to go thru the system until I had just about enough and threw in the towel.

    I envision that this is how the cable company will fill and make money on these channels, simply by getting master how-to programs from manufacturers and getting paid for broadcasting these programs and on top of that selling and producing cheap local commercial. They will not spend a single dollar to get programs on these these channels.

  3. Interesting promo from Time Warner. Kinda cheesy (hey, it’s cable — what should I expect?), but they’re workin’ it for sure. I was amused that the channels are in the “Digital 1400’s” — that still sounds funny to me for some reason. I suppose “Digital 14,000’s” are just around the corner.

    It’s fascinating to watch all these media players trying to figure out how to reach audiences with this flood of content. I have to admit, it’s HARD to reach viewers these days, on any platform. Kudos to TW for trying.

    On the matter of VJ production… I think this analogy has been made before, but I’m reminded of the “desktop publishing revolution” of the mid- to late 1980s. When the Mac and the LaserWriter arrived on the scene, suddenly mere mortals had access to near-typeset quality document output. Whiny dot-matrix printers were all we had before that. Laser printing, even at 300dpi, was something to behold.

    But for all that new technology, it didn’t make stellar authors or designers of everyone. Indeed, there were some real crimes against typography and design in the early days! But it did democratize quality document production, giving real authors the ability to self-publish in a quality way for virtually no money. And everyone else could at least contribute or try.

    I get the sense that the VJ revolution will kill off a lot of traditional TV people that think they’re just doing amazing things that no one else can figure out, when in fact their skills are, well… dot-matrix at best. The “artistes” of TV (or movies for that matter) will continue to get work and will continue to be persnickety about production values — and their work will show it. Today, there’s still a huge difference between a professionally-produced typeset and designed book or magazine and a church newsletter. The same will be true of video production — there will still be differences.

    But I, for one, am delighted to see the tools of video being placed in more hands. Some of those hands won’t be so great at capturing stunning storytelling through moving images. But you know what? That’s okay. Some people can’t spel, either.

    And besides, who needs to hire a cutting-edge designer to prepare a church newsletter? Okay, okay… the Pope, maybe. But other than him? If it’s my church, I’ll read the newsletter, even if it’s got crappy clip art, because it matters to me. I won’t read the newsletter from the church in the next town, though.

    High art, low art, whatever — what matters is that we, the plebes, can create at least SOME art. And we can share it with our community.

    Note to old-school TV shooters: You’d better start raising your game if you want to remain in the “artiste” class. Because that’s a really small class — in any industry. And I think it’s getting smaller. I’ll do fine with my new laser pr… er… video camera.

  4. Cliff, you continue to have no sailboat in the water.

    When are you going to finally “walk the talk”?

    Enjoy your hobby.

  5. In my so far rather limited experience with these ‘how to’ and ‘educational’ videos, the clients are the real estate companies, the tree surgeon companies and so on. They are commissioning the video. The cable companies are simply providing the shelf space.

  6. There are many segments of the video production world that are enjoying explosive growth. But most yield no direct financial return for the camera operators. Sure you can subsidize a vacation but it ain’t gonna pay the mortgage.

    Those real estate companies and tree surgeons are often times just buying cameras and having the office junior press the record button.

    The $$ in video 2.0 are for the entrepenuers, the producers, the visionaries, the creatives and the risk-takers. No yachts for the office junior, even if she does learn to shoot manual.

  7. the clients are the real estate companies, the tree surgeon companies and so on.

    And those are the types of clients I work for.

    Once again, another uninformed condescending b-roll moment provided by $ (formerly known as min!-me) and Nino.

  8. Cliff,

    You continue to make claims of actual work but avoid admitting you can’t pay your bills without a real job apart from VJ.

    You are fooling no one.

    A quick visit to your own web site proves it.

  9. If I may:

    I am a self-proclaimed hobbyist. My work is on the web for anyone to see, and it is definitely amateur stuff.

    Now that my credentials as a “non paid” consumer of journalism and happy producer of crappy video has been made, I’d like to comment.

    CJ, TJ, VJ: the letter causing all the problems is the J. Journalist.

    It is not VProducer or VDirector (gotta love the acronym for that one, though). I think one-man-band is not such a great name either.

    What is a journalist? Was Mr. Rosenblum being a journalist wandering around the middle east taking photos? Of course. Did that get him the pad over the MOMA? proably not.

    Think for a moment of the other journalists who we have seen submitting reports from jungles full of guerillas: they did not kick back on the sofa after a hard day with the FARC to enjoy a cool one and the remote. A journalist isn’t a production company. However, now – because of the technology – she may do all the stuff taught in VJ school (edit, upload and so on) and then would be called a VJ.

    The journalist idea is being stretched a bit to also cover people who are creating video content as one-man-bands, but the letter is still J. I think that this stretching is causing the problem with the intercourse here. Someone producing a Dale Jr. NASCAR interview is not a journalist, no matter how skilled is the writing, directing, shooting, lighting. Journalism has been called “a first rough draft of history,” it is more art than craft; some will be terrible, many will do it and will provide acceptable content, and many will be brilliant.

    Hunter S. Thompson took journalism somewhere completely different, though his “Gonzo Journalism” does certainly capture a slice of life as a “journal” for others to read. I would still count it as journalism. And it is an absolute riot to read.

    However, I can’t stand by and watch Anne Frank’s “Diary of Young Girl,” – journalism if there ever was any – likened to the Tempurpedic sales video. Je Refuse!

    J’s won’t be working for ESPN covering interviews between Bryant Gumbel and Coach whoever. They’ll be out looking for a story, a person, an event. He will be looking for something under the umbrella of his passion. Those that follow a passion will be successful, even if they are the only ones who think so. They will eat sawdust and shoe leather for dinner as have so many following passions throughout history.

    I’ve read a lot over at B-Roll myself and it appears to be a nice trade website for tradesmen. I think that several of my (8) children will likely be tradesmen, so please do not take offense. The level of discourse going on over there is definetly that of tradesmen: one need only go read for a few minutes. That is not reflected by the more eloquent posts of Nino here, which is too bad, because Nino is not an accurate representation of the B-Roll bunch, as well paid as they may be. As a quick aside, a quick glance at the B-Roll wage survey shows that you’d make more money (with a few exceptions such as the obvious markets like California where good DP’s are paid a fortune) installing DirecTV dishes than being a DP – the guy upgrading my dish today makes $80,000 a year.

    After a lot of reading, I think that Nino is probably right *as far as it goes*. But we are comparing the professionals covereng big events like NASAR to Sylvia Poggioli. Out of all the thousands going to journalism school, there will only ever be a few Sylvias; so trying to tear down a VJ really *is* like trying to say that there is no point in trying to write a novel. After all, Chaucer already wrote books. So did Hemmingway, Goethe, and Solzhenitsyn. Tell that to J.K. Rowling. There may only be a few truly well known Video Journalists in our future, but there will be a hunger for the work all VJ’s produce: there *already is* a market for VJ’s. Go do the google search I posted a week or two ago: it’s all job postings.

    Go look at a bookstore. Only a very very few were done by “establishment sources”, former presidents, sports stars, etc.(we’ll call them well paid professial producers). Most of the thousands of books crossing the laser scanners are just the work of normal people with a passion. A VJ is just that. Don’t need $30k in audio gear, just as you don’t need a linotype machine to create a book.

    Someone already published Spiderman, so why should anybody try writing comics? My brother is now making a living writing them for D.C.

    Is it artisan v.s. tradesman? I’m not the one to say, but that J is more than a camera pointer. I will concede that there are talented people in the industry who are much more than pointers. It is obvious to me that many of them are probably better talent than the people they are pointing cameras and microphones at. There really aren’t many VJ’s around, so obviously *someone* is producing the infomercials, Gumble interviews, Samantha Brown episodes, trianing videos and so forth.

    This only leaves the argument about do we need to burn down the newsrooms. I have a very lovely and complete book on Final Cut Pro that I got on sale for $20 a few days ago. It has great production value, it has good graphics, screenshots, even a CD in the back. Now, how many of those were passing over the price scanners compared to the books written by the woman who was told to scram by the big publishers?

    I still need my Final Cut book, but as far as who will be moving content in the marketplace, I’ll let you make your own conclusions.

    Oh, where are the VJ clips on TV? They’ve been told to scram so far. Not a good omen.

  10. $ (formerly known as min!-me),

    You’re a bitter human being who has nothing better to do with his time than denegrate others who disagree with him.

    Go get some therapy.

  11. Peter wrote
    “There are many segments of the video production world that are enjoying explosive growth. But most yield no direct financial return for the camera operators. Sure you can subsidize a vacation but it ain’t gonna pay the mortgage.”

    Peter, you must be talking about staff photographers in small markets, most “good” freelance established photographers/DP, (and I stress the “good”) might not be able to afford a yacht but do very well. The average rate for the photographer with his standard gear package is around $1050.00 per day plus extras as HMIs large overheads, etc. Every photographer that I work with does over 160 days a year with many passing the 200 days. That’s’ not too shabby for working on an average 4 days a week.

  12. Jim, the problem here is that nobody really what the TV photographer’s job is. I blame Michael for this (so what’s new) for painting a picture of cameraman just pointing the camera and shoot. He created this vision that cameramen are puppets of a reporter of a producer. And indeed if you follow Michael’s video doctrine of “shoot a lot and after it’s over check the tape to see what you got” you will end with that impression too because according to his teaching there’s no pre-planning. That’s probably fine if your career will be limited to chasing ambulances. Mine and those in my line of work don’t do those things; the approach to our jobs is quite different. When we do an assignment we don’t shoot news we shoot documentaries, actually we are referred to as documentary or features photographers. Basically we document a story with images; we do not keep into consideration nor plan for any narration or voiceover to support the story, nor any reporter to lead into the story. The visuals must be self-supporting and this goes far beyond plain journalism video; this is what separates the men from the boys. Before we roll tape the story must be laid out in our out heads, we must know the beginning and the end and then we must tie everything together with all details in between. On top of this every cut must contain all elements that create the aesthetic of an image. As we shoot the story evolves in our heads, each cut is carefully selected as we know exactly where it will be placed in the final program. All cuts must be linked together to create continuity. As we go along often we find shots that will fall into part of the story that we already shot, meaning that we are now shooting out of sequence. Have you ever heard the term to shoot for edit? This is also what we do while shooting, we must make sure that everything will fit together. Television time is the most precious commodity in this business, when we illustrate a story we can’t waste valuable time with unnecessary or repetitive shots. Natural sound or conversations plays an important role in documentaries and this why good soundman and top equipment is of critical importance.

    If we want to change television this is the route to take, the documentary approach to the news, quality not VJ quantity is what will lift the delivery of television news. The reason that the television industry has rejected the VJ concept is because of poor quality images. As of early 2009 analog television signals will officially cease to exist, all broadcaster will be transmitting digital signals paving the way to a full implementation of HD TV, it doesn’t make any financial sense for anyone to buy a SD TV; most TV in the homes will be 40” or larger, broadcaster are planning for these changes. If you have ever seen the difference in quality between a small HDV handycam and a full size HD camcorder you’ll understand why TV stations have rejected the VJ concept and are investing in full size HD cameras.

  13. Thanks for confirming my thoughts Cliff.

    Enjoy your hobby.

  14. Nino,

    I agree with an awful lot of what you’ve said, but I think I should answer one thing and add another.

    First, through my network of spies, I’ve obtained a secret copy of of the TJ training manual. It basically says exactly what you’ve described above. It does not say to fill a tape then pull off what you like in edit.

    That some people may do that after taking the class is not up to Rosenblum, just as someone going to culinary institute might change recipes and techniques after graduating, whether it is a good idea or not. People taking workshops are probably the very first segment who will go off and innovate, whether it is a good idea or not.

    So, thing one: the bootcamp teaches that a vj should take time setting up a shot, then take a short, good shot. One should not come back with a full tape for a short segment.

    Rosenblum even tells a story about hiring a very expensive videographer to shoot a story about oilfields or something. The videographer wouldn’t shoot until he was darn good and ready, much to the consternation of everybody else. I’ll leave the details to those who take the class, but the upshot was that the stuff shot by the (Italian) videographer needed almost no editing. That actually *is* exactly what is in the training material. And it is exactly what my spy said was in the class that she took.

    Thing two is about what you describe as the documentary approach. It sounds exactly like what I hope to be able to shoot well someday. But: (isn’t there always a but) If I go to your lighting website (presumably representative of what you are shooting) I see that most of the stuff there is about shooting on what amounts to a set. Either a hotel room or an outside location, etc. You have to have a van just to carry around the lighting, all the metal to hold up the lights and silks and nets.

    I am not trying to knock the website at all, because I think that the lighting theory presented is wonderful, and I think that a VJ should try to use as many of the ideas as are feasible with one guy and a camera (perhaps a very small kit of stuff). But the methodology on the site doesn’t seem to me to provide the kind of flexibility needed to follow action that would make a watchable documentary. You can’t just move a whole lighting setup to follow around an action or a person.

    I think that your lighting site should be required reading for any vj. In fact, if your site covered what I’m talking about and I missed it, then please let me know because I’d really like to see it. Also, if you have any of your segments on the web where we could see them, I’d like to see one.

    As a complete newbie, I’m sure that we are probably comparing apples to oranges, but since we are talking about VJ (say apples) we can’t also include oranges too while making comparisons.

    Finally, as far as your remarks about HD, I think what you are saying is relevant to the way things are now, but not the way that technology will *be* quite soon.

    As one example. I don’t have to tape color bars or use a vectorscope when digitizing from DV, because DV is digital – it was already digitized on the camera. I’ll believe that the color and digitizing on a full-size HD cam would be superior, but only for a while. U-Matic SP was the standard and even had digital audio (I bet you own more than one of these), but it had to give way to Betacam, then HDcam. The technology advances as fast as Sony and Canon can make it go.

    I rendered a clip that I did in 1080 HD and was amazed at the level of detail that was captured. Clearly, the technique of the shooter must be honed to take advantage of that as well as to avoid capturing something with a bad aesthetic in amazing resolution. I understand that this is also part of the bootcamp.

    I would also like to add that the level of quality that can be obtained with Final Cut is probably not being exploited by the VJ because so much is going on right now in the field. The technology that already exists in Final Cut is fairly staggering. The tech is already in there to produce legal broadcast quality material. As soon as the VJ community starts to really take advantage of that (as well as the absolutely certain trickle-down of technology from the full-size hd cams), the production quality will be there for anybody who wishes to harness it.

    Taking a bootcamp is a way to learn to read a book. What book to read next is up to the reader.

  15. Jim, how did I get the idea that Michael style of shooting is just shoot a lot of tape and see what you got later? He told me so

    “However, as we both know when we go out to shoot news or docs, we don’t work from scripts. (if only). We are, more often than not, simply accumulating lots of ’stuff’, that will later be sorted through in the edit to craft a story or piece. The writing come after the pictures, not before”.
    I’m glad however to hear that he changed for the better, there’s always room for improvement in this craft.

    As far as what you see on EFPlighting.com, that’s just one of the things that I do, probably 20% of my work. I have chosen to do a lighting site because that’s what most people in this business are having problems with, including veteran professionals, particularly lighting interviews. These are styles that are used for art, portraiture and in motion pictures. It happened that I studies all 3 of them and I applied those techniques to video productions. Be assured that no video, television or photojournalism classes have that kind of training.

    If people in this business had problem with something else then I would had done that too. You might also notice that I started showing tabletop product set-ups and architectural lighting for interiors. Soon you will see food photography and lighting. The site will continue to evolve and every expansion will be based on what viewers would like me to do for them. I hope that one day it will payoff, for now it’s just the satisfaction of giving something back.

    I don’t do news anymore, actually I haven’t done news in 30 years, mainly because there are other areas that require much more creativity and are also much more financial rewarding. The reason of the big van with a lot of equipment is because I do just about everything. If you see the demos on nino-g.com you see that I do marketing videos for travel resort destinations, sport, documentaries, features, industrial, advertising and more. Every one of these shoots requires different equipment.
    There are many assignments that combine many of these types of shoots, knowing how to do it all will help you getting more work. As example those resorts jobs require travel photography as you would do in any travel program, also architectural interiors and exteriors, food photography, people photography, tabletop, etc. I’ve been doing a dozen of these each year for the last 20 years all over the world.

    Why do I do all this? Because I like diversification. You don’t see too many people in this business that have been doing it for as long as I have, usually they get burned out much earlier and go into teaching. If I would be forced to do the same type of work day-in and day-out I would go out of my mind and I probably would have moved on to other things too.

    I like things done right, for me good enough is not good. Anytime I see one of those VJ clips I shake my head because of everything that I see wrong. It would take just as much time to do it right as it takes to do it wrong but evidently the maker does not know the difference. I do not accept things for the way they are, I only think the way they could be if only a little extra effort and knowledge would be applied. Unfortunately when there’s nobody there to tell them they’ll never know.

  16. That is a great looking boat. I would have to agree that you always have to strive for more.

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