Great SEO Starts with Your Brand

Posted by RuthBurrReedy

There’s a lot of talk about branding in the search marketing industry of late, and there’s good reason for that: Taking the time to really understand and define your brand allows you to be much more intentional and focused about the way you market your business online (and off, but this is a digital marketing blog so that’s what we’re talking about today). I recently spoke at the Dallas Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association’s annual State of Search conference on how to incorporate brand strategy into your digital strategy (and vice versa), and wanted to share what we’ve learned with the Moz community.

I’ve found that since we started making it a practice to help clients truly understand their own brands, we’ve been able to do much higher-quality work for them; we can connect businesses with their target audiences better, and really plan for the entire funnel.

What is a brand?

When many businesses think about defining their brands, they think about things like:

  • Brand name
  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Editorial voice
  • Imagery
  • Look and feel

If you’ve taken the time to define these things, congratulations: you have a style guide! A style guide can be a useful component of brand marketing, but it’s only one piece of a much larger whole.

Photo via Pixabay

If your customer is a fish, your brand is the water they swim through. Every interaction people have with your business, from the first blog post they read to the coffee you serve in your office to their interactions with your customer service team, affects their overall perception of your brand. Not only that, but your brand is also affected by the things people say about you when you’re not around. To really curate a strong brand presence, you need to think about how your core values come across in every customer touchpoint.

Is brand a ranking factor?

Rand had a great Whiteboard Friday a while back about this very subject. In short, “brand” isn’t a ranking factor in the traditional sense; there is likely no algorithmic input that measures brand strength. That said, strong brands tend to give off the relevancy and authority signals that Google likes, so we often see websites associated with popular brands ranking highly, even if they haven’t done many SEO fundamentals well.

Google’s most recent Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines sum it up well: “A very positive reputation can be the reason for using the High rating for an otherwise Medium page.” They also direct quality raters to look for expertise, authority and trustworthiness in a high-quality site — all qualities shared by most strong brands.

Building a great brand will also help with some of the usage signals that are likely contributing to Google’s machine learning about what makes a good SERP. Having a recognizable brand presence will contribute to increased click-through rate from SERPs, foster visitor engagement and loyalty, and may also help Google better understand the entity relationships between your business and the products and services you provide.

Taking the time to define your target audiences and their paths to purchase will also help you build a content strategy. If your business is having trouble competing with huge companies on head terms, defining your brand will help you carve out a niche and figure out which long-tail keywords to target to drive top-of-funnel traffic, so by the time someone is ready to buy, they’re more likely to come to you.

Define your brand

There are entire books on the subject of figuring out your brand; we won’t go that in-depth for the purposes of this blog post (if you’re interested in learning more about how to define your brand, HubSpot recently released a guide to brand identity for marketers), but here are a few things you’ll need to nail down.

  • Your core differentiators. What makes you different from your competitors, in your market or online? Why might someone choose to buy from you, instead of them? Look beyond easy answers like “customer service” — every business thinks they have great customer service, so if you’re going to try to differentiate on customer service, you’d better have unbelievably amazing customer service that blows everyone away. Instead, try asking yourself why you do what you do. How does that translate into how your customers experience your business?
  • Your unique values. What is most important to you, as an organization? I recommend having your entire staff do a card-sorting exercise to find the things they think your business values most. Here’s a free set of values cards, and there are lots of others available online. Go through the exercise a few times, narrowing down each time, until you come to a core set of values that represents your company. One question to ask here is “what wouldn’t we compromise on, even if someone was willing to pay us to?” Moz’s TAGFEE values are a great example of this.

Photo via Pixabay

  • Your customer personas. Create a profile for each major audience segment you’re targeting. Who is your ideal customer? Nail down as much information about her as you can, including demographic information and what her own values might be. The more you understand your customers’ needs, fears, and values, the more you’ll be able to create content that really resonates them. Buffer has a great beginner’s guide to marketing personas over on their blog.
  • Your customers’ journeys. Map out the steps someone might take throughout their relationship with you, from the first time they encounter your brand, through consideration and purchase, and into retention. What are their needs and concerns at each step?
  • Your brand personality. Your values will heavily influence your personality, which in turn will affect your style guide. Is your brand more playful or professional? Empathetic or irreverent? Think about how your personality will interact with those of your target personas.
  • Be honest. Brands are like people — we all have our weaknesses and flaws. Make sure you’re taking the time to acknowledge the things you don’t do well, or the areas in which your competitors are doing better. If you don’t acknowledge your flaws, you won’t be able to fix them. It’s OK to be aspirational with your brand, but if you’re going that route, make sure you have concrete steps in place for how you’re going to get better at walking that talk before you put it out there. People aren’t stupid — if you’re saying something about yourself that isn’t true, it will come across in their interactions with you, and that will undermine the very trust you’re trying to build.

Think about the whole task

People don’t just get on the Internet and Google things for fun — they’re trying to complete a task or solve a problem. Think about your customers. What problems are they trying to solve? If your site sells dishwashers, remember that “I need a dishwasher” isn’t the problem — it’s the solution to a larger problem. Maybe your customers just bought a new house and the dishwasher went with the previous owners. Maybe their water bill is too high, or they’re trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Maybe their current dishwasher keeps flooding their kitchen and they’re at their wit’s end. All of these problems could potentially be solved with the exact same product, but if you’re only targeting keywords around specific types of dishwashers, you’ve missed an opportunity to build a relationship.

Start doing some niche keyword research. The idea is to create pieces of content that will draw people in on their first information-gathering search and point them toward in-depth, definitive guides that will help them solve their problems. This is commonly called a hub and spoke model, and is a great way to build the expertise and authority that search engines — and people — are looking for.

Don’t limit your research to Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s a tool designed for paid search, which usually isn’t used to target this kind of top-of-funnel traffic. Instead, get creative! One of my favorite places to look for problem-related keywords is in forums. Once you’ve defined your audience personas, you can figure out the types of websites and forums they might frequent, and start seeing the kind of questions they might be trying to answer. Here’s a screenshot from a DIY forum:

There are one thousand threads on dishwashers alone, on this one site! Check out the SERPs for the questions people are asking and find the areas where no great piece of content is currently ranking — there’s your editorial calendar.

You can also use tools like Facebook’s ad targeting tool to find your target audience’s overlapping interests. Ian Lurie has talked a lot about how to do this — watch his Whiteboard Friday on the IdeaGraph for the full rundown. You can use this data on affinities to create fun, interesting pieces of content that your audience will want to read and share. These pieces are more likely to attract links, and they push that first interaction with your customer even earlier, to before they have a problem — so when they’re searching, they’ve already heard of you and know what you’re about. This data will also help you find the kind of websites your customers frequent, giving you a list of influencers in those spaces to target for link outreach.

Don’t forget about PR! I’m talking public relations, here, not PageRank. Real PR involves building relationships with media outlets and then doing newsworthy things to earn their attention (it does not involve putting a link in a press release and then blasting it out all over the Internet). PR has been a core component of brand building since before the Internet even existed, and by doing it well, you’ll start accruing some links and mentions from reputable news sites, building your own reputation as well.

Meanwhile, use the information on people’s concerns and fears at each step of the buying process that you gathered during your persona research, and create guides that address each of these questions. Doing so will draw people deeper in to your site, and help them feel like they’re making the right decision. By anticipating their needs and addressing them in an authentic way, you build trust. Plus, since you’ve defined your brand values, you can use this content to show your prospective audience the ways in which your values align with theirs.

Brand building and information architecture

Now that you know who your audience is, what their problems are, and how you’re uniquely positioned to solve them, it’s time to build all of that into your website. The degree to which you’re able to do this will depend, of course, on how much you’re able to make changes to your existing site architecture. In situations where you’re building a new site or extensively overhauling your existing site (something which often coincides with a rebrand), however, you can build those customer journeys directly into your user experience. For each page of your site:

  • Map out which of your personas will be served by/interested in that page.
  • Understand where in their decision-making process they’re most likely to be when they see it, and what questions or concerns they might have at that stage.
  • Use page copy to address those concerns and provide the answers to those questions, and/or:
  • Link internally to additional resources to help them complete their task.
  • Provide conversion points that make sense at that stage. For pages that target the awareness-building, information-gathering part of the process, that conversion may not be a purchase; it may be something like watching an informational video, signing up for a newsletter or downloading product specs.
  • Don’t forget about customer loyalty and retention — what do you do after the sale to preserve that customer relationship?

Using this information to create complete customer journeys makes SEO a much more complex, robust marketing process. Instead of simply assigning keywords to pages:

We’re treating every page as part of a holistic marketing message:

Isn’t that a lot of work?

YES. Yes it is. It is a lot of work, and that’s why you should do it! Most of your competitors simply aren’t going to take the time to build site experiences that target the complete customer journey. By investing that time and effort, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Tracking brand-driven SEO

Of course, since this is going to take a lot of time and effort, you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking how well it’s all going:

  • Invest in CRM: You’re going to need a Customer Relationship Management tool to help you, you know, manage customer relationships. Make sure you’re able to track multiple interactions, so you can understand which activities on your site are more likely to attract, convert, and retain customers.
  • Enable demographic tracking: Persona work involves a lot of hypotheses, so use demographic tracking in Google Analytics to check on whether your customers are who you think they are, and do what you think they’ll do (this may involve updating your privacy policy).
  • Track user paths: Use the Users Flow report in Google Analytics to find places where your users behave in ways you didn’t expect; this will help you pinpoint areas where you’re not giving them what they need.
  • Change attribution models: Brand building means that people are more likely to convert on branded terms, or even direct traffic. If you’re using last-click attribution, all that work you did to get people there won’t get any credit for the final purchase. Switch to a linear, position-based or time-decay model so you can better understand conversion assists. For more on this topic, check out Google’s AdWords Help on attribution modeling.
  • Monitor brand mentions: Use a tool like HootSuite, Google Alerts, or IFTT to track mentions of your brand, and join conversations where appropriate.
  • Track co-occurrence: One of the signals we’re ultimately hoping to build with this whole-funnel campaign is co-occurrence: people searching for your products/services along with your brand name. Co-occurrence tends to correlate with higher rank, and can lead to branded suggested searches from Google as well. Use a tool like KeywordTool.io to track what words people search for along with your brand name. This will help you find and combat negative brand associations, as well.

Understand the timeline

Starting early can be a powerful relationship-building strategy, but it’s also one that takes time to start generating results. Be realistic about how long it might take someone to travel all the way through their customer journey to purchase. Make sure you’re also investing in marketing strategies that will pay off in the short- to medium-term, like PPC marketing, and don’t neglect your high-converting head terms while you’re building out this longer-tail strategy.

Over time, your brand will become a flywheel that’s turning faster and faster on its own, but make sure you’re giving yourself some room and some time for that to happen. When it does happen, you’ll have stronger relationships with your customers, rank for a whole host of long-tail terms, and have built the kind of quality signals Google likes to see. Search engines, your customers, and your business: it’s a win/win/win.

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6 Techniques to Dramatically Upgrade the Quality of Your Presentation

Posted by randfish

Presentations are so much better when your audience isn’t bored — when they’re engaged with what you’re saying, and attentive, and wowed. But what’s the secret formula to giving a great talk? Where do you start? In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand will help you boost your presentations to the next level with six tips that have spelled success for him.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about presentation creation and presentation delivery. Why? Well, because so many of us, as marketers, need to go and make pitches to our teams, to our clients, to our companies, and externally.

My experience has been that an overwhelming majority of marketers have some interest in being able to give great public talks, and so I want to help you do that today. I want to help you feel less uncomfortable. Look, these are techniques that I’ve used to, generally speaking, upgrade and do well with my presentations. I think you’ll find a lot of these apply to you as well.

#1: Eliminate or race through well-known or highly obvious information.

The first one is really important. So this is, basically, when I deliver information here on Whiteboard Friday, one of the things that you might notice is that I try deliberately not to present stuff that is super obvious and already well-known throughout the industry. My goal is really to say, “Hey, what is something that less than 20% of the audience who’s going to be watching Whiteboard Friday is already aware of? Now let me try and present that information.” Because it’s really not interesting if the tips that I gave you today, for example, were things like work on your disfluency so that you don’t stutter and say “um.” Make sure you practice the night before. Make sure that your font is at least 30 point type. You should turn off this video.

It’s not that it’s bad advice. It’s fine advice. It’s even good advice. But you already know it, and so it’s annoying to have to listen to it again and again. This is true in your presentations as well.

So many folks, when they’re asked to give a talk about something in the web marketing space, start with the fundamentals and the basics, the things that everybody already knows or that are so intuitive that they’re just not that helpful.

Let’s say this is a conversion rate optimization presentation. So my little friend over here, Bob the Not-So-Good-Presenter, is giving a talk, and he’s got this slide called “Make Clear Calls-to-Action.” Then he shows an ugly thing where you can’t really see what the call-to-action is and one that’s a very clear call-to-action. Super obvious advice, advice that anyone who has done any degree of optimization around conversion rates knows and learned years ago. This presentation, unless it is to someone who has no experience with web marketing, is probably going to put you to sleep or drive you to get on your phone or go out of the room.

On the other hand — this is something I caught today from Joanna Wiebe on Copy Hackers — “Test text link calls to action versus buttons on your mobile sites in particular.” Oh, really? Text link calls to action? I would think a button would convert better, but it turns out there’s some data out there that suggests that, in some cases, it looks like the text link works better. You better try it. Maybe that’s something to add to your testing repertoire in the future. Aha, that is new information. I did not know that before.

So this obvious information turns people off. It makes you disconnect from the presentation. This new information, new, non-obvious — it’s awesome. It’s heaven. That’s what we’re all looking for when we try and get content. This is not just true, by the way, for presentations. It’s particularly powerful for presentations, but this is true of virtually any content you create that is designed to be educational or informative.

#2: Never show multiple elements of info on a slide before you talk about them.

Second, never show multiple elements of information on a slide before you talk about them. Unfortunately, I can’t do that with Whiteboard Friday. So Whiteboard Friday, all the information’s already up there. You could read ahead. I’m going to count on you not to.

But in a presentation, this gets so, so annoying, and it really distracts from a speaker when they put up a slide like this: “Here are the different public relations channels that you should test,” and they’ve got them listed out. The person, Bob, my bad presenter, is talking about number one. But what are we all doing? We’re all reading number four. We’re all reading ahead. We’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bob, we already know. You put up the slide, so we’ve read ahead. We don’t care what you have to say about one through four. We’re disconnecting.”

Instead, Bob could do one of two things. Either he could show only one and not show two, three and four and then animate in two, three and four. Like, “Here, I’m going to talk about this one. Now we’re done talking about that, and, look, here’s number two. Now, we’re going to start talking about that one.”

Or — and I like this way better because you just get so much more room to be visual and to present something well — you can say, “Hey, we’re going to talk about four public relations channels you should test.” Slide one shows off number one. Maybe I can call it out specifically. I’m going to show you product hunt, and I’m going to show you how submission works. I’m going to show you how the voting systems work and how people try to game it and it doesn’t work, and da da da. That is a great way to go.

Now I go to slide two. That shows the next piece of information. I can’t tell you the percentage of presenters who screw this up and show a list of bullet points, God forbid, or even just this visual system where they put all the information that they’re going to talk about for five minutes on one slide. It just kills it. It kills it. Makes us all read ahead and destroys the drama and the attention.

#3: Customize your examples to be relevant to your audience, geography, or shared passions.

Third one. If you possibly can, when you’re speaking to an audience, try to customize your example specifically to them rather than saying, “Hey, I’m just going to take a broad approach.” I know this is tough. I struggle with this myself because I give presentations over and over again.

But what I’m generally urging you to do is to find intersections of one of three things. Things that are highly relevant to your audience that could be relevant in terms of it’s relevant to their professional work or to the website or the organization they work with.

It could be relevant to their geography. I find that this works tremendously well when I go places and I have examples that are specific to their geography. I was speaking in Raleigh recently, Raleigh, North Carolina, which is near Duke University in Durham, and they have the Duke Lemur Center. I actually went and visited the Lemur Center. I got to see lots of awesome lemurs jumping around. Very cool. So I talked about this in my presentation in Raleigh, which got people like, “Wow, cool.” They were tweeting about it, and it was great.

Or shared passions, things that you know you share in common. We have a collective love of grilling steak, and so I am going to talk about grilling steak because I think that’s an example that could be relevant and speaks to many people — apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends out there.

These examples can be done in a bunch of ways. You can do them with your search queries that you might show off. You can do them with good versus bad practices that you might be showing off. You can do it just as a pure visual tool. If you have geographic stuff that is relevant to the area you’re in and you need visuals for your presentation, that’s a good way to go. Social accounts that you’re doing, content examples that you’re doing, whatever it is, you can make it relevant to that audience. Make it feel like there’s some resonance. Make it feel like you cared enough to change up or to customize your presentation to speak to them specifically.

Just one caveat on this. Don’t pander. Be very cautious against pandering or against assuming that you understand something. So if I’m going to a foreign country and I know very little about it, I don’t assume. I just say, “Hey, I looked up things to do in Milan or in Venice, and I found this particular art show. So I went there, and here is my experience around it.” Rather than saying, “Oh well, I know you Italians love pasta and so . . .” Don’t assume, don’t pander. Be careful about getting generic or racist.

#4: Create a conflict in your story with a villain, hero, and struggle.

In your presentations, try to create conflict. I know a lot of us have conflict avoidance. But what you want to do is you want to create a storyline, a storyline people can pay attention to, that they care about, that they’re interested in. That means if you can craft your story, or even some part of your presentation, to have a villain, a hero, and a struggle between them. These can be metaphorical heroes and villains. We don’t literally need Darth Vader and Luke. From there, we can follow that classic story arc where we introduce the characters, we talk about the conflict and introduce that. We make the case of why the hero is winning or should win against the villain or what the hero can do or what the hero did do, and then we suggest action or close out with some recommendation around our presentation to help make it actionable.

Villains can be a lot of things. Villains can be a lack of data. It could be poor communication. Villains could be unmotivated people on a team or people who don’t care about your problem. They could be a crap strategy or a literal villain, like a competitor or a market behemoth in your field, all those kinds of things.

Heroes could be tools. They could be your team or you yourself. They could be a new process. A hero could be an organization or hopefully something that people can cheer for, that they want to be like, “Oh man, I want to see the Duke Lemur Center have lots of success because lemurs are adorable and they’re endangered.” Nobody doesn’t cheer for lemurs. Lemur, good hero, bad villain, FYI.

#5: Give actionable takeaways. Avoid broad, generic advice.

Number five is give actionable takeaways. If you can, avoid broad, generic advice. I see presenters do this in virtually every field. They get up on stage and they talk about, “Hey, here is this problem.” Maybe they even do a great job with creating that conflict, and they talk about it. Then they get to their suggestions section, their takeaways and it is, “Better communication is good. You should work on better communication.” What are you telling me? How does that help me? Versus, I saw this great piece a couple of days ago on Twitter. It was a talk that was given, at First Round Capital or OpenView Venture Partners, about radical candor. What was great about it was that the woman who was giving it had drawn a diagram of how when you combine caring personally about the people on your team with challenging them directly, you get this radical candor. It’s both empathetic and very transparent, and that improves communication.

So now you’ve not told me to do this. You’ve told me how to do it, and you’ve shown me the terrible ways not to do it, like don’t not care personally, but do challenge directly. That’s just obnoxious, aggressive behavior. Don’t just care personally, but not challenge directly, that’s ruinous empathy. Great examples all across here.

I like this format. If you can fill in these blanks, I think you’re going to have success here. “You used to do X, but after I share Y, you’ll switch to doing Z and get better results. You’ll use Y to do Z and get better results than what you were getting with X.” If you can answer this sentence, you’re going to be in great shape.

#6: Assume knowledge and ask folks to raise their hand if they don’t understand.

Last one here. I try to always assume knowledge rather than assuming that people don’t know something. One of the things that I found is that, as I’m giving a presentation, if I start to explain the deep technical aspects of something without just assuming that my audience knows it or that they can get by without it, that it gets boring. It gets boring fast, and the presentation moves slowly. It’s just not fun to listen to. It’s annoying.

So what I’ve started doing over the last few years is essentially assuming that knowledge, but then calling it out specifically. So let’s say I’m presenting a slide like this, talking about how pogo-sticking, long clicks versus short clicks and that kind of stuff, could be hurting your site on SEO, and then I’ll say, “Is anyone in the audience not familiar or hasn’t heard of pogo-sticking before? Just raise your hand.” Look around. If there are a few hands that go up, I’ll say, “Oh, okay. Great. Let me give a brief explanation.”

Even when I am speaking to an audience where I’m confident, highly confident that 90% or 70% of the audience has never heard of pogo-sticking, because they’re not deep into SEO or whatever, I still do this. The reason is that that 30% who does know what it is, they are way more understanding, way more empathetic, way more welcoming of a discussion that takes two or three minutes for me about what pogo-sticking is after I’ve called it out like, “Hey, are there people who don’t know?” Then they see fellow audience members, and they’re like, “Oh, good. Well, it’s good that he’s explaining it to everyone, and I appreciate that.” As opposed to like, “Oh, God, he’s going to drone on about this thing that I’ve already heard 10 times and I totally know what it is. Why is he wasting my time?”

It’s about creating that relationship with the audience and between the audience members to draw on that empathy and to keep that presentation flowing.

All right, gang. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed these, and I actually have a list of a bunch more for you in another blog post that I’m going to share at the end of this Whiteboard Friday. So you can check that out. It has some of my presentation acts for getting better scores. And we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Further reading:

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Saved: The Tech Behind The Greatest Surfing Film Ever Made

The Tech Behind The Greatest Surfing Film Ever Made
By Matt Giles

Now that Go Pro owns the world of action sports, and any shredder with a selfie stick or a mouth-held Hero 4 can be an online action star, why bother hiring helicopters and cameramen to shoot an old-fashioned surf movie?

View From a Blue Moon is why.

The newly released surf epic follows rising surf star John John Florence as he cuts his way across 50-foot swells off remote shores in Africa, Brazil, and Tahiti. The 23-year-old Hawaii native starred in co-directed the roughly $2 million film, which was a partnership with Brain Farm, a production company that is the Lucas Films of action sports filmmaking. Florence and his crew on which he spent three years, broke about 70 surfboards, and employed as many as three high-tech 4K RED cameras (cost: $50,000 each) in a day.

It’s those cameras, along with Florence’s daring, that give the film its power and raw beauty—and will make any amateur YouTuber shudder with envy.

“We wanted to make it more cinematic than any other action film you’ve seen,” Florence told Pop Sci. For that, his shooters used a RED Dragon camera, the crew’s workhorse, for underwater and aerial footage.

How good is this flick and its technical innovations? This week, it won best movie in The Surfer Poll Awards, the Oscars of surfing. Florence swept the rest of the ballot for best male surfer, best maneuver, and best performance.

John John Florence in West Australia

Image from View From a Blue Moon

Chris Gurney

View From a Blue Moon also finished its first week as the top grossing action sports film in history. Available on iTunes and Vimeo, it has grossed more than any surf film in history—including Florence’s favorite, Endless Summer II.

Blake Vincent Kueny, the film’s director, Florence’s co-director, was also obsessed, a man charged with making that final edit. “I’ve turned down so much work over the past three years,” he says. “Anything that came to me, I said no.” But that obstinacy paid off: “People who screened the film told us to make sure we had written a speech before the awards,” he says.

View From a Blue Moon’s Invoice

  • Three Red Dragon cameras: $50,000 each
  • One Phantom Flex 4K: $150,000
  • One Shotover F1: $500,000
  • One Movi: $15,000
  • Two Helicopters: $2,000 to $3,000 an hour
  • Total Budget: $1.5 to $2 million

To catch the action up close, Florence’s crew shot in remote spots with little oversight. That allowed them to get creative and take risks. “You can’t use a helicopter in Hawaii at 7 AM,” says Florence. “People would complain of the noise. But when you’re shooting in Africa, there are no limits.”

Also in Hawaii, a helicopter must hover at least 500 feet above anything it’s shooting. But on West Africa’s deserted shore, Florence’s shooter came as close as a volley ball, using a Phantom 4K with digital zoom to capture specks of spray and seabirds photo-bombing his shots.

John John Florence in Africa

From View From a Blue Moon

Sacha Specker

In one scene, a Bell A350 helicopter hovers just 20 feet from the water’s surface. “Its wash kept blowing me off my board,” he says. “Blake [Vincent Kueny, the film’s co-director] sent me a clip where I do an aerial and disappear in a cloud of spray from the heli.”

In another, a heli is flying 200 miles per hour just a few feet off a dirt road. “You can do that because no one is around,” says Florence. Some mornings the 12-person crew would wake up in the “and the helicopter is flying overhead at first light,” he says. “It was like holy shit. This is a war movie!”


December 8, 2015 at 04:20PM
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Saved: The Tech Behind The Greatest Surfing Film Ever Made

The Tech Behind The Greatest Surfing Film Ever Made
By Matt Giles

Now that Go Pro owns the world of action sports, and any shredder with a selfie stick or a mouth-held Hero 4 can be an online action star, why bother hiring helicopters and cameramen to shoot an old-fashioned surf movie?

View From a Blue Moon is why.

The newly released surf epic follows rising surf star John John Florence as he cuts his way across 50-foot swells off remote shores in Africa, Brazil, and Tahiti. The 23-year-old Hawaii native starred in co-directed the roughly $2 million film, which was a partnership with Brain Farm, a production company that is the Lucas Films of action sports filmmaking. Florence and his crew on which he spent three years, broke about 70 surfboards, and employed as many as three high-tech 4K RED cameras (cost: $50,000 each) in a day.

It’s those cameras, along with Florence’s daring, that give the film its power and raw beauty—and will make any amateur YouTuber shudder with envy.

“We wanted to make it more cinematic than any other action film you’ve seen,” Florence told Pop Sci. For that, his shooters used a RED Dragon camera, the crew’s workhorse, for underwater and aerial footage.

How good is this flick and its technical innovations? This week, it won best movie in The Surfer Poll Awards, the Oscars of surfing. Florence swept the rest of the ballot for best male surfer, best maneuver, and best performance.

John John Florence in West Australia

Image from View From a Blue Moon

Chris Gurney

View From a Blue Moon also finished its first week as the top grossing action sports film in history. Available on iTunes and Vimeo, it has grossed more than any surf film in history—including Florence’s favorite, Endless Summer II.

Blake Vincent Kueny, the film’s director, Florence’s co-director, was also obsessed, a man charged with making that final edit. “I’ve turned down so much work over the past three years,” he says. “Anything that came to me, I said no.” But that obstinacy paid off: “People who screened the film told us to make sure we had written a speech before the awards,” he says.

View From a Blue Moon’s Invoice

  • Three Red Dragon cameras: $50,000 each
  • One Phantom Flex 4K: $150,000
  • One Shotover F1: $500,000
  • One Movi: $15,000
  • Two Helicopters: $2,000 to $3,000 an hour
  • Total Budget: $1.5 to $2 million

To catch the action up close, Florence’s crew shot in remote spots with little oversight. That allowed them to get creative and take risks. “You can’t use a helicopter in Hawaii at 7 AM,” says Florence. “People would complain of the noise. But when you’re shooting in Africa, there are no limits.”

Also in Hawaii, a helicopter must hover at least 500 feet above anything it’s shooting. But on West Africa’s deserted shore, Florence’s shooter came as close as a volley ball, using a Phantom 4K with digital zoom to capture specks of spray and seabirds photo-bombing his shots.

John John Florence in Africa

From View From a Blue Moon

Sacha Specker

In one scene, a Bell A350 helicopter hovers just 20 feet from the water’s surface. “Its wash kept blowing me off my board,” he says. “Blake [Vincent Kueny, the film’s co-director] sent me a clip where I do an aerial and disappear in a cloud of spray from the heli.”

In another, a heli is flying 200 miles per hour just a few feet off a dirt road. “You can do that because no one is around,” says Florence. Some mornings the 12-person crew would wake up in the “and the helicopter is flying overhead at first light,” he says. “It was like holy shit. This is a war movie!”


December 8, 2015 at 04:20PM
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Saved: Uber gets serious about food delivery with standalone UberEATS app

Uber gets serious about food delivery with standalone UberEATS app
By Napier Lopez

Uber Privacy
For the first time, Uber is expanding outside of its cab-hailing app. UberEATS – launched in 2014 and previously relegated to tab within the standard Uber app – now gets its own independent piece of software as the company looks to bring the fight to services like Seamless and Grubhub. It’s only available in Toronto to start. According to Wired, that’s because the in-app version of the service was already quite popular in the area. Torontonians now have a central app just for food delivery if they don’t care about hailing a cab, removing unnecessary clutter. To simplify the app, UberEATS has…

This story continues at The Next Web

December 9, 2015 at 12:20PM
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Saved: Google finally rolls out $14.99 family plan for Play Music and YouTube Red

Google finally rolls out $14.99 family plan for Play Music and YouTube Red
By Napier Lopez

1200x620_EN-US
Back in September, Google announced that it would launching a family plan for its Play Music service, meant to be competitive against Spotify and Apple Music by allowing up to six people to share an account for $14.99 a month. That service finally started rolling out today, but it comes with a bonus feature: YouTube Red. Unveiled in October, Red is a rebranding and revamping of YouTube Music Key, with an additional focus on original content designed to take on Netflix. By subscribing to the Google Play Music family plan, six people can share YouTube Red accounts as well, meaning you’re getting…

This story continues at The Next Web

December 9, 2015 at 12:48PM
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