Claim to frame: Helping businesses polish images

Start-up converts, edits raw footage

“We’re trying to democratize video,’’ says Bettina Hein, founder and chief executive of Pixability Inc., a Cambridge start-up. “We’re trying to democratize video,’’ says Bettina Hein, founder and chief executive of Pixability Inc., a Cambridge start-up.
(Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)
By Joel Brown
Globe Correspondent / May 25, 2010

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Tina Adolfsson was editing a Web video for her chapter of the Procter & Gamble Alumni Network, yet she was not touching a pixel herself. She gave her direction online, and a video editor she had never met cut the footage to order.

“I’m feeling like I should have my little canvas director’s chair and a megaphone,’’ Adolfsson said.

Her digital guide was Kendall Square start-up Pixability Inc., which helps small businesses make videos good enough to have a chance of capturing the public imagination and going viral on YouTube — or simply good enough to brighten the client’s website.

“We’re trying to democratize video,’’ says Bettina Hein, Pixability founder and chief executive. “Just five years ago, YouTube started, and businesses are just now trying to figure out, what can they do with that?’’

Customers borrow easy-to-use Flip video cameras from Pixability, which gives them advice on what to shoot. The company then takes the raw footage and edits it into a video that’s more sophisticated than the client might be ready to do, complete with credits, music, and montage.

Pixability has made hundreds of videos for small businesses and nonprofit groups — including the former P&G employees, who did not have the budget to hire a professional video crew — as well as large organizations like athlete Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, food giant Nestlé, and the information service Lexis Nexis. Turnaround time averages two weeks.

“The main things we see are product demos, people showing how their product works, and customer testimonials — letting your customer speak for you. Those are the very most popular thing we do,’’ Hein said. Also popular are group events, like a panel discussion held by the P&G alumni. A franchised beauty school contracted Pixability to supervise videos for events at each of its outlets.

Hein said her company specializes in creating authentic marketing.

“Video is very good for working with that,’’ she said. “You can write a fake review online, but getting fake customers to say stuff about you, that’s a lot harder. Getting people that are enthusiastic about your product, your company, is the way to leverage that and ultimately, sell more.’’

Also worth noting: Video on your website may help it show up more prominently in Google search results, she said.

“Our specialty is to do YouTube videos on steroids,’’ she said, explaining that her company polishes the finish product, often adding not just music, but captions and branding elements such as the client’s logo. “People can do that themselves,’’ she said, “but if you’re a business owner or a marketing person, it’s still very labor intensive to do all of the things that you have to do.’’

Pixability’s tiny, rented ninth-floor offices at the Cambridge Innovation Center are strewn with Flip camera boxes and whiteboards covered with to-dos and business goals for its handful of employees. The actual editing is done by a network of about 15 freelance editors around New England and beyond. “They’re accomplished professionals,’’ Hein said. “We buy their free time.’’

During the editing process, raw files, rough edits, and other components such as music and still photos are all uploaded to a dedicated, secure online space. Clients and editors alike can leave time-coded comments on each video, via sharing software made by Lexington startup Wistia Inc..

Well in advance of an event on social media and digital marketing, some of the Boston P&G alums hoped to get a copy of the presentations, while others who could not attend asked whether there would be video.

Adolfsson, a cofounder of the chapter, had heard of Pixability and decided it had the answer. She could create a high-quality video to post on the group’s website for all the members to see, including those from other chapters around the country. She ended up taking two of Pixability’s Flip cameras for the shoot.

“It’s cool to be able to go in camera by camera, clip by clip, and figure out if you want it, if you don’t want it. If the camera added 10 pounds, then get rid of it,’’ she said with a laugh.

She did some hands-on work, grabbing screen shots of websites discussed by the panel and uploading them to Pixability for the editors to include.

She is pleased enough with the process that she is planning a 3- to 4-minute trailer of highlights from the event, plus short compilations of individual portions of the program, if she can fit that into her $1,000 budget.

Hein said that when Pixability was established in October 2008, the idea was to produce spruced-up versions of existing family videos.

When business began to slide with rest of the economy, the company considered moving into pet videos or sports footage.

At the same time, “we were going crazy with all the different formats, and then someone said, ‘Why don’t we just send them a Flip cam?’ ’’ Hein said. Her friends in the Cambridge start-up scene began asking to try the simple-to-operate camera for business videos. By summer 2009, Pixability had a new business model.

“Right now, 99 percent of the market or more just doesn’t have these video assets,’’ Hein said. “It’s just so easy . . . Video now is a way to leverage the passion you have for your business.’’

Effective videos
Bettina Hein, chief executive of Pixability, offered these tips for making business videos:
1. Get a simple-to-use camera. The Flip camera and Kodak Zi8 are recommended. Make sure the camera allows for easy downloads.
2. It’s the content, baby! What are your best customers passionate about? Tell stories that give your audience the information they are searching for.
3. Shorter is better. Viewers have short attention spans, so don’t squeeze too many messages into one video. Less than two minutes is optimal for the Web.
4. Hold still. Grip the video camera with both hands and keep a stable shot for at least 10 seconds.
5. Lights, camera, action. Turn on all the lights when shooting, and never shoot someone whose back is to the sun. Have your subjects speak loudly, and avoid background noise.
6. Deliver the right message. End with a call to action.