Two Thursdays ago marked the long awaited Bots High screening day, a launch for the film that enabled anyone to host a screening of the film for free (plus they could tune into a live streaming Q&A). The highlights: 27 cities, 7 countries, and a release of the film into the world, for sale on the website and Amazon. I had hoped it would be on iTunes by this time but Distribber under estimated the iTunes approval time. And still trying to get onto Netflix.

Aside from the awesome people that hosted a local screening, it was pretty much a solo job to coordinate and market. But it wasn’t without the help of a lot of (mostly) free online tools. Here’s a recap of some of the tools that I used, along with the good, bad, and what I’d do differently.

Meetup Everywhere – 4/5

Everything started and revolved around Meetup Everywhere. Everywhere is similar to Meetup.com except the Meetups are all about the same topic or cause, in this case a Bots High screening. I’d direct someone to Meetup.com/botshigh, Meetup would detect their location, point them to a nearby group (screening) or give them the option to start their own. Plus when people join a city, they have the option to give me their email. So show up or not, they can get on the mailing list. This looked like a really good tool to help people organize and find screenings based on location.

And it was mostly good. My biggest issue was Meetup’s interface and lack of documentation. I ended up serving as Meetup tech support a lot, even leading to making some how-to screencasts. Some issues: not clear on how to actually add your city, in addition to adding your city you also need to join the specific Bots High screening day event, and not clear on how a user can become recognized as the Meetup Planner. Another issue was converting people who just listed their city but didn’t go the extra step to fill out the form and confirm the screening, for whatever reason. There are about 50 cities listed on Meetup Everywhere, so conversion rate to an actual screening was about half.

Aside from hiring a developer to make something custom from scratch, I don’t see any other tools that would accomplish everything Meetup Everywhere does. I’d just like to see them tweak their UI and have better documentation.

Cost: Free

Wufoo – 5/5

Wufoo is awesome. This was how I converted the Meetup planners to actual venue hosts and collected all the information I needed. Wufoo is a really simple way to create forms. I upgraded to a higher plan for the event which would let me collect payment through PayPal. This way I could have one form for the host to fill that would give me their information AND the option to buy add-ons, like a Blu-ray screener or fundraising pack, and pay for it right away. Made things a lot easier. Plus great integration with MailChimp.

Cost: Free for 3 forms. Plans from $14.95 and up. $29.95 for payment integration plan.

MailChimp – 5/5

MailChimp is the best newsletter service out there, and as a company they have such an awesome vibe. I use this for the Bots High mailing list, and I created a separate list for venue hosts, to make communication easier.

Really good free plan. Pay plans are based on total number of subscribers in all your lists (plus you get a lot of templates and more premium goodies).

YouSendIt Pro – 4/5

At first I was going to send a DVD screener to all the venues. But with no money this would have been a few hundred dollars. So I honored DVDs to those that had signed up before, but I switched gear to deliver the file digitally.

I briefly debated putting it on Vimeo with a password, but a lot of these screenings were at colleges and they have a habit of throttling bandwidth. So the movie had to play off the computer, and a file was the best way.

I have Dropbox and a server which I normally use for file transfers, so I never gave much thought to upgrading YouSendIt. But sending an HTML link to a large file or trying to explain FTP is a pain and leads to a lot of issues and delays. YouSendIt is really good at doing the hand holding stuff to make sure anyone can download a large file.

The free YouSendIt has a 100 MB file size limit. Pro or Pro Plus bumps you to 2 GB, enough to compress an SD copy of the movie and ship it. Plus they were running specials for about $60 a year for Pro Plus (normally $149), so I got an account. It seems like if you sign up for a basic account they’ll offer you Pro Plus for the lower price.

Livestream – 4/5

I had done a comparison of different live streaming services before and I found Livestream to have better options. Account is free (with ads). It has an extremely impressive Livestream Studio, which is basically a web based video mixer. You can mix camera sources, YouTube videos, lower thirds, scrolling text feed, bugs, and a bunch of other professional effects.

They also have a free desktop app that makes the streaming connection better. Only downside is they don’t have a native iPhone streaming app. You can connect it to Qik and stream that way, but whenever I do my videos have a blue hue over them.

Cost: Free or $299/month ad free

Google Hangout – 5/5

Will and Liz, two of the main characters from the film, are in college but I wanted them to join in on the Q&A. So I had a separate computer hooked up to the projector, with the sound feeding to the live stream computer, and I had Liz and Will join in through a Google Plus Hangout. I was surprised by how well it worked – good video and sound quality, plus it automatically switches the large monitor to feature whoever is talking.

Cost: Free

 

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