By Allan Maurer
MIAMI, FL—Most of the video offered online straddles two extremes. Those with the low production values and quality control on a site such as YouTube, or the Hollywood dominated content of a site such as Hulu. Miami-based Openfilm sees a market for high quality user-generated videos, appealing to filmmakers and advertisers alike.
Timothy Pastushkin, CEO, co-founded the site with marketing director Dmitry Kozko and director of content Alan Melikdjanian. Initially funded via friends and family and multiple angel investors, the 35-employee company is looking for a venture round of between $2 million and $5 million.
Pastushkin tells TechJournal South that all the founders have backgrounds in film and video production or entertainment, so they know the issues filmmakers face first hand. “We know how filmmakers want to be featured,” he says.
“We believe people want to see independent films by professionals who are not making home movies,” says Pastushkin. “They want videos in higher quality and larger dimension so they can appreciate the higher production quality, which is one of the ways we distinguish ourselves from other video services.”
He adds, “You can browse a site like YouTube for hours and not find anything worthwhile. People watch TV because they know its quality. Advertisers have not yet figured out how to handle the problems of low quality and other problems with online video. We’re trying to apply a TV-like model to user provided videos.”
Naturally, he adds, the company hopes that also attracts advertisers who won’t have to worry about their message appearing along with low quality video or material that violates copyrights or may have objectionable content.
Having their work showcased in better quality appeals to filmmakers as well as to viewers, he points out. The company provides a number of services to filmmakers, such as helping them find worldwide film festivals where they can get additional exposure for their works.
The site showcases a fast-growing collection of high quality live-action and animated films displayed in high resolution. It has about 1,500 videos on more than 350 channels on site at the moment, Pastushkin says.
It presents them on a high-definition player, capable of displaying videos in 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, at resolutions from 640×360 pixels up to full HD at 1280×720 pixels, and bitrates from 700 kbps to 1500 kbps.
It features independent short films from directors, production studios, film festivals and film schools, including Vancouver Film School, the Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival,
All of the videos on the site are prescreened to ensure quality. The company’s in house production staff also makes original shows for the site and processes submissions to make sure they play in high quality.
Openfilm also takes a full-service approach to its members and visitors including a full-featured social networking forum between viewers and creators, reviews and blogs, coverage of industry events, and an online database of film festivals (and film schools).
“We provide users with some unique browsing, viewing and social networking features. It has allowed us to establish strong content partnerships and increase our traffic in November tenfold,” he says.
Pastushkin says the company is working with several ad agencies and testing different platforms to select the best. Its video player is already available to other sites, which can embed it. “We’re working on an application provider interface now so independent filmmakers can do a mini-version of our site.”
While attracting advertising in the current economy is a challenge, he says “We already have a lot of interest from media agencies and advertisers. We are fully prepared.”
On the Web: www.openfilm.com
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