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Promo House Seeks to Make Video ‘Snackable’

Seth Krugliak broke into show business the old-fashioned way: With a cup of coffee in one hand and his boss’ freshly pressed suits in the other. “I moved out to Los Angeles from Canton, Ohio, not really knowing a soul,” he recalled. “My first job in Hollywood was picking up dry cleaning and making coffee at a post-production house.” Today, Krugliak has three decades of experience re-cutting feature films and creating film trailers and television promotions as the founding chief executive of 5 Guys Named Moe Inc. The company’s credits include work on the television series “Game of Thrones,” “Veep” and “Girls,” as well as top-grossing films “Fast & Furious 7” and “Shrek 2.” Now, Krugliak’s studio in the North Hollywood Arts District is moving into producing short-form videos for corporate clients through the company’s new web division, Snackable Video. The concept centers on bite-sized branding videos optimized for digital consumption, designed to communicate a company’s story in 15- to 40-second segments. It’s certainly a well-timed expansion: Even during prime-time TV hours, YouTube has more adult viewers than any cable network, according to a recent Nielsen Co. study commissioned by Google Inc. A 2012 analysis by advertising management company Sizmek Inc. found that the click-through rate – the ratio between the number of viewers who click on a digital advertisement and the number of times an ad is shown – is 27 times greater than for traditional banner ads. There’s also evidence to suggest video ads may result in more online purchases, too. Shoppers who view a company’s brand or product videos are twice as likely to buy compared to those who don’t, according to a 2013 report by “visual commerce” firm Invodo Inc. Industry in flux Those statistics make a compelling case for breaking into digital video. But it was a much grimmer set of figures that first prompted Krugliak to expand his business. “Back five years ago, teleproduction and post-production as an industry was in a steep decline,” he said. “Depending on what study you read from what consultants, it was expected to be one of the most decaying industries through 2017.” Krugliak took the dismal forecast as a sign to re-assess his company. “So that’s when I sat down again and thought, ‘If I were 21 again, just getting into the business, what business would I be in?’” he said. “Then it occurred to me that every business with a website was a broadcaster, and every broadcaster needs video.” His company’s expertise in promos, which tell stories in short slices to promote a TV show, fit naturally with the needs of web video. But technology hadn’t yet become accessible to the point that Krugliak could deliver his product at a price small- or medium-sized businesses could justify. Even with the advent of cheaper broadcast cameras, he said, it took about a year to come up with a price point that would be viable for clients. Financial constraints can be challenging for video production, whether the screen is on an iPhone or in a movie theater, because the creative process doesn’t always fall neatly into the budget. It wasn’t always this way. In the “old days,” Krugliak said, cost came second to creativity. “The business side took care of itself because the budgets were virtually unlimited,” he said. “It was the norm for a client to say to you, ‘I don’t care how much it costs, just make it great.’” Over the last 10 years, Hollywood has become more of a business. Now, even for big projects, “budgets are very tight and margins are slim,” Krugliak explained. “If you want to succeed – or just stay in business – you have to really understand how to do business. It’s probably the most important thing in our sector.” At the same time budgets have declined, complexity has increased. As cameras have become cheaper, directors have grown accustomed to using more of them, producing more video footage to edit. That point is sometimes lost on Snackable clients, most of whom have no experience in video production. A strong 30-second video can require several hours of shooting, plus two or three times that to put the pieces together in the editing bay. “The big difference between Snackable and show business is that in show business, most of the people we’re dealing with actually understand show business,” Krugliak explained. “The Snackable side requires a certain educational component.” Luckily for Snackable’s clients – who run the gamut from doctors and small manufacturing companies to local DJs and the City of Ontario – Krugliak’s creative team is well-versed in all phases of production. He and his 11-member full-time crew, which divides its time between Snackable and show business projects, design clients’ videos from start to finish. That includes market research, interviews with key company leaders, script-writing, shooting, editing and visual effects – at a starting price of $5,000 for a single video. “We know how to tell a story very economically, very successfully,” he said. “Our repeat clientele is pretty high, especially once they get involved in it. They understand that they’re getting a lot of bang for their buck.” Homemade competition Krugliak doesn’t have to explain to Snackable clients why they need video for their websites. The bigger challenge these days is convincing them they need good video. “The tendency is to think, well gosh, I can shoot that on my iPhone and edit it in iMovie, and technically, that’s probably true – there’s certainly a place on business websites for user-generated video,” he said. “But ultimately, on your first page, you want someone who knows how to tell your story, who understands your service, and who can present something that looks good, sounds good and most importantly today, is authentic.” Even major television networks are recognizing the need for quality digital web content. At the Emmys on Sept. 18, Culver City-based audio and visual technology firm VFX Technologies established a private broadcasting network exclusively for internet outlets. “Traditionally, content is produced and cut in real time by TV broadcasters, and the digital guys get the scraps at the end,” Sarote Tabcum, chief executive of VFX explained. “What was unique about this is that (web video producers) were editing footage live and cutting content specifically for social media and the web.” There’s no reason to think the world of video production will constrict just because it moves online, said Professor Michael Taylor of the University of Southern California’s School for Cinematic Arts. Thanks to companies like Amazon Inc., Netflix Inc. and others, there is more room for growth than ever before. “Many students who go through our programs and study production go into post-production when they graduate,” Taylor said. “Today you’ve got the studios that always existed, plus a huge array of cable television and independent film production, plus everything that’s made for the web. It seems to me that people are finally catching on to the idea that media is the language of the 21st century.” That’s why, for Krugliak, Snackable Video isn’t replacing the main course – it’s just a new addition to the menu. “We’re expanding, but we’re not leaving film and TV,” he said. “We’re just giving more clients … more to snack on.”

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