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Users go professional with online video

By Yinka Adegoke
Reuters
Friday, January 26, 2007; 3:54 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Martial arts expert Joe Eigo never imagined he'd win millions of fans and earn $25,000 when he posted a clip of himself performing a series of gravity defying acrobatics to a video sharing site.

In uploading his "Matrix - For Real" video to Metacafe.com, Eigo joined the growing number of aspiring filmmakers who are benefiting from the new economics of online video sharing, a phenomenon made popular by YouTube.

YouTube, owned by Google Inc.(GOOG.O), took online video mainstream last year with a completely open format and easy-to-upload site, as well as a focus on short, low-resolution clips that are streamed for free.

Now, however, a growing number of users, particularly amateur filmmakers and wannabe stars, are seeking out other online video outlets. The promise is that not only might they find the fame they seek, but they could get paid for their work in the meantime.

A prime example of the movement is the Diet Coke/Mentos candy clip that ran last year on Revver.com. The clip, which shows how bottled Diet Coke erupts when you drop in Mentos, was popular enough to generate tens of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue to be shared with the original creators.

But money isn't everything in the online video world, or so it seems. Several sites are now offering users the ability to upload longer-form, high-quality, professionally edited videos that will likely be more attractive to advertisers and may even encourage some users to pay to watch the clips.

When Jordan Livingston, a 24-year-old filmmaker from the San Francisco area, posted two of his short films to the Internet last year he chose Dovetail.tv, another fledgling site focused on quality videos.

Founded in 2006 by Jason Holloway, Chris Neumann and Brett Levine, Dovetail targets up-and-coming filmmakers.

"These guys have a longer-term goal -- they want to be the next Martin Scorcese. And, you don't get that by being up alongside cell phone quality shots of the type seen on YouTube," says Holloway.

Because the cost structure of Internet technology had become more affordable, Holloway said, he and his partners realized they could run high-quality, high-definition videos online.

Livingston says that more and more independent filmmakers will use sites like Dovetail to make a name for themselves and earn money while they're at it. But it's the quality of the video that's most important to him.

Dovetail, which already has nearly a thousand short films though still in prelaunch mode, hopes to pay producers like Livingston by sharing in advertising and subscription revenues. It is initially looking at paying around 10 cents every time a user's film is downloaded.

The idea of paying producers for their videos is beginning to take hold online in much the same way popular personal blogs began to take advertising and become more professional a few years ago. And users are taking to it.

Joe Eigo's "Matrix - For Real" has been the top video in Metacafe's Producer Rewards scheme with 5 million views, making him over $25,000 in just a few months. Previously, he had spent thousands of dollars over the last four years just to keep it running on his own Web site.

Metacafe's scheme pays producers $5 for every thousand views a video gets on the site. It starts to pay out after it reaches 20,000 views, implying a minimum payment of $100.

Metacafe founder Arik Czerniak says that online video sites like his are changing the way so-called user-generated content is perceived by consumers as well as broadcasters and advertisers.

"We're being much more selective about the videos than other sites because we think this is about entertainment," said Czerniak.

And for Eigo the success of his Matrix video is a dream come true.

"I was really surprised," said Eigo, who occasionally lands stunt man roles in movie and theater productions. "I've bought some books to learn how to manage the money."

© 2007 Reuters