Distributor FAQ: The Sync

What is The Sync?
The Sync is an Internet broadcasting company. We provide streaming audio and video services to businesses and have original content on our site for Internet users.

Why do you consider yourselves distributors?
We consider ourselves distributors because we make it possible for viewers all over the world to watch films, videos, and shows on our site.

On the Web, what’s the difference between distribution and exhibition?
We’re not sure what the difference really is. The Web is a new medium, and old concepts of physical filmmaking, distribution, and exhibition cannot be applied in a situation where one person with a video camera can make a film and put it on the Net for global viewing that same day.

How many “hits” are recorded daily on The Sync?
We have over 15,000 video viewings and 25,000 visitors to our Web pages each day.

Who do you think those people are?
Some are independent film fans, others are just ordinary Web surfers who find our site interesting. They come from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Unofficial motto behind The Sync:
Your television is already dead.

Who is The Sync?
The Sync was founded by me [Thomas Edwards] and Carla Cole. I’m an electrical engineer by education, turned Internet technical guru. While working at an Internet service provider, I saw the potential of Internet video and wanted to have a part in its evolution. Carla is a former architect who grew weary of the emptiness of corporate life. Together we meshed our technical and creative skills to form The Sync and intend on making Internet video everything it could be.

How, when, and why did The Sync come into being?
The Sync was founded in July of 1997. We knew that the new medium of Internet video had incredible potential—but no one was exploiting it to its fullest. We wanted to be the people to do that and knew that we had the skills, creativity, and guts to pull it off. We started The Sync because we believe that Internet broadcasting will become the dominant medium of the future. It frees us from spatial and temporal limitations of traditional broadcast video, and Internet content is poised to be highly unregulated, unlike television.

So where does the money come from to fund The Sync’s activities?
The Sync receives revenue from business clients for live event broadcast production and sells advertising on its Web content. Clients have included Ziff-Davis, the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Advertisers have included AtCall Long Distance and Love@1st Site online dating service.

If I went to The Sync’s site, describe what I’d find:
The Sync Web site is a smorgasbord of original made-for-Internet shows, political events, and independent films. The Sync Online Film Festival is an ongoing, popularly judged festival where viewers can watch independent films in several categories, then vote for the ones they like the best.

“Independent Exposure” is a monthly microcinema screening of a group of short independent films. We also have a selection of classic silent horror films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu, as well as a group of modern cult films from Moore Video including Lemora, Lady Dracula. The Sync original shows include CyberLove, a candid and truthful look at love and life by four Gen-Xers, The JenniShow, about the life of Web mega-star JenniCam, and CyberSermon, a made-for-the-Net sermon from the uniquely honest viewpoint of Rev. James Cole.

Filmmakers who put their work on The Sync get exposure to thousands of viewers daily. There is also the less direct benefit of being able to say that your work was on the Net way before most other filmmakers had even known it was possible. Some of the films (such as Walls of Sand) have received extensive media coverage due to being on our site.

What’s appealing to a filmmaker about having his/her work on The Sync?
Filmmakers who put their work on The Sync get exposure to thousands of viewers daily. There is also the less direct benefit of being able to say thatyour work was on the Net way before most other filmmakers had even known it was possible. Some of the films (such as Walls of Sand) have received extensive media coverage due to being on our site.

Do filmmakers whose work you handle ever see any income from their Web release, either directly or indirectly?
Currently filmmakers are not seeing any income from Web releases. We are hoping that the exposure on our site will help some of the filmmakers receive traditional distribution deals, and that eventually the viewing audience will rise to the point where filmmakers can earn revenue from direct Web viewing. It has taken a long time for Web sites in general to turn into moneymakers, and we expect a similar evolution for Internet video sites.

Why would a traditional distribution deal be a result of a venue as ubiquitous as a Web broadcast?
To tell the truth, we’re not sure how this will evolve. Right now the most we can do is put films on the Net and give them exposure. In the future this might be the best way for distributors to find out (and screen) new films.

Do you have exclusive Webcast/Web distribution deals with the makers on The Sync?
We currently have no exclusive deals with filmmakers. This technology is so new that we can’t expect them to lock up all of their rights with us. Again, we expect in the future that we will be making such deals once this part of the business becomes more profitable.

How do you decide what titles to add to the site?
Certain films play better on the Internet than others, and we have a selection committee that decides which films would appeal the most to Internet users and are appropriate for the technology. Internet users crave interactivity. That is why The Sync Online Film Festival is popularly judged by the viewers.

Internet users also like to be able to find things on the Net they can’t find anywhere else. So we seek out small independent filmmakers to contribute to the festival and encourage filmmakers to approach us directly about putting their films on the site. Filmmakers can send a VHS or SVHS copy of their film or email info@thesync.com (no phone calls please).

What sort of licensing and copyright issues do makers need to make sure they’ve cleared prior to a Web release on The Sync?
Filmmakers must own the rights to everything in their films before we can put them up. We require filmmakers to sign a statement that they own all rights to a work and can assign to us the Web broadcasting rights.

How do people find out about The Sync?
The Sync is included on several online lists of Internet broadcasters, and has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Yahoo! Internet Life.

Biggest challenge in reaching your audience:
Technological issues, such as ISPs who oversell their bandwidth and can’t provide their users with a continuous 28.8 kbps connection to the Internet, and users who can’t figure out how to download the video player. Windows 98 should solve the latter problem with its integrated Media Player.

The most important issue facing The Sync today is…?
the advancement of technology to make Internet video at least equal to the quality of broadcast television video.

A year from now The Sync will…?
be a leader in Internet broadcast content, surprising the television networks that think they can just put television on the Net and expect people to watch.

Upcoming Sync projects to keep an eye out for:
Our biggest project is working on a way to distribute programming to hundreds of thousands of simultaneous viewers. And yes, it is a secret.

Famous last words:
The world of filmmaking is going to be rocked by digital technology. Filmmakers can either embrace the technology, or be overrun by it. It will be like the transition between silents and the talkies, or perhaps even more dramatic.

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.