Monthly Archives: November 2014

NEEWER® TT850 Flash Speedlite

Use Your DSLR For Videos AND Stills: The Neewer Strobe

As the resident tech guy here at BzS, I am always looking for ways to increase our quality and keep the price down.  After decades of working with network professional crews, I know that you can always throw money around to get quality, but can you keep the quality up on a budget?  I now know the answer is “Yes!”

The first revolution has been using digital still cameras that also shoot video.  This has put filmmaking into the hands of many more people on a budget.  The other side of that coin is that the cameras can also be used for high quality stills, which of course was their original intent.  It is almost like “I bought this movie camera and they threw in a professional still camera for free!”

Many of you have bought in with Nikons or Canons and now even high quality Sony and Panasonic (Lumix) gear.  For filmmaking, you need to add some external lighting and sound recording to get to professional levels, but for stills it is just the lighting.  But if you want to take professional looking still photographs, can’t you just use the pop up flash or just the sun?  Well, the answer is mostly “no.”

To avoid that “Deer in the headlights” lighting look, you may have looked into the your brand companion speedlight.  But spending $500-$600 for a Canon or Nikon light gets close to doubling the investment in your camera.  And then you will end up buying AA batteries by the boatload just to keep the flashes coming.

The first thing on my Xmas list this year is a new solution:  the NEEWER® TT850 Flash Speedlite

which is available on Amazon for around $100.


Amazon’s Book Buy-Back Program

Could Amazon’s Book Buy-Back Stretch Your Holiday Budget?

I’m a really bad reader.  There, I said it!  I was actually jealous as I watched my friends completely immerse themselves into the twisting plot of the latest best seller.  But reading always put me to sleep.  Two paragraphs in and my eyes are slamming shut.  So I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of Amazon’s book buy-back program but when I found out about it I thought it was a brilliant idea.

The idea is simple…trade your used books in to Amazon for up to 80 percent of their value – and get that money in the form of an Amazon gift card. The process seems simple: Search for your book title from the list of qualified books, print out a label for free shipping to Amazon, get a gift card. Voila!

DarnIt! I wish I had read more!  What do you think of this service? Is it something you could/would use?

Amazon Book Buy Back Program


Big Cat Preserve In Los Angeles Uses Power Of WebVideo

In a remote Southern California location, on the very edges of Los Angeles California, nested in the Santa Clarita Valley lies the desert city of Acton, home to Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve. The actress established the animal sanctuary in 1972, followed by the organization of the nonprofit Roar Foundation that would fund it.

Shambala cares for endangered exotic big cats such as African lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, leopards, servals, mountain lions, bobcats, plus a lynx, a panther, and a liger. Most of the animals were born in captivity and orphaned from circuses or zoos, or are given up by private owners who could no longer care for them. Two of Shambala’s most famous residents were Michael Jackson’s Bengal tigers, Sabu and Thriller, brought to Shambala after the iconic performer decided to close his Neverland Ranch zoo. 13-year old Thriller died in 2012.

Chris Gallucci, VP of Operations and Director of The Roar Foundation, met Tippi on the set of Roar, a movie featuring the star and her daughter Melanie Griffith, as well as a plethora of big cats and two elephants. Chris was immediately fascinated by Timbo, the gigantic bull elephant, and when the film’s elephant trainer quit, he immediately applied for the job. “Someone told me that the elephant was the largest animal that walked the earth,” Chris says. “I knew I had to have a piece of that.” To win the pachyderm’s trust that first night, Chris chained himself beside Timbo in his enclosure and threw away the key. That was the start of the 30+ year long relationship.

Running the sanctuary is like running a small business and part of the job requires a good deal of marketing, including social media. The staff manages a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a stream of ongoing video to bring awareness of their mission and drive funding to the organization. “We live off donations”, says Chris. “It takes a staggering amount of money to run an operation as large and unique as Shambala. “It costs 1 million dollars per year to run the Shambala Preserve – $20,000 dollars every 7 days!”

That’s a LOT of cat food!


Is Online Video Too Expensive For Your Small Business?

By now we know how important online video is for your business in Los Angeles CA,  to the elusive, oft-confusing SEO algorithms.  According to internet marketing guru Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas), audiences are 12 times more likely to engage with a video than a text based post.  But if you’re an entrepreneur with a small business in Santa Clarita CA or Los Angeles CA the thought of adding video to your website is quite daunting. There is so much to do in producing a video, production, camera, and lighting are just three steps in making a successful video for your website.

Jack Tillotson, Director of Sales at BzS  (The Business Spotlight Webisode Series) said the two main obstacles he battles with clients are actually myths.  The first objection is the perceived cost.  Clients simply do not realize that cost of video production has dramatically decreased in the past decade.  And the second objection is the client thinks S/He is not experienced enough to be an on-camera spokesperson for the company.  “Our format is entirely different and unique, allowing a warm, comfortable, non-scripted environment with an economy-of-scale formula where clients literally share in the production expenses.” says Mr. Tillotson.  The clients simply tell us the story of their business, like they do every single day of their lives.  Business owners and managers are passionate about what they do, it’s amazing how well that plays out on camera with an experienced production team.”

BzS Executive Producer, Sue Berry noted that “less than 1% of all our webisode guests have had any previous media interaction what-so-ever.  Our host Bella Shaw (former CNN anchor) is also a seasoned media trainer and when you talk to her, it’s like talking to a friend.  No Scripting.  No Rehearsal. Just Tell Us Your Story – that’s the BzS mantra.”

Adding video to your marketing strategy doesn’t need to be expensive or hard.  There are dozens of qualified production companies available in Southern California that will provide affordable and turn-key video to get you ready for your close-up.