With Scott Orn

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Lee Firestone of OpenReel - Creating High-End Video with Remote Capture & Editing

Posted on: 01/08/2018

Lee Firestone

Lee Firestone

CEO - OpenReel

Lee Firestone of OpenReel - Podcast Summary

Lee Firestone of OpenReel makes creating video easy for businesses through OpenReel’s remote capture technology. Kruze Consulting uses OpenReel and absolutely loves it. You can see our OpenReel video library at

Lee Firestone of OpenReel - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott at Kruze Consulting. And today my very special guest is Lee Firestone of OpenReel. Welcome Lee.
Lee: Hey Scott, how you doing? Thanks for having me today.
Scott: Of course. Doing great. And we’re doing even better in life at Kruze Consulting cause we’re using OpenReel. We love your product or your service.
Lee: Yeah, cool. I actually saw a couple videos you guys did in the past few weeks. Looks like you and Vanessa been crushing it over there. I know you did about 10 or 15 videos lately, so. Glad you’re enjoying it.
Scott: always enjoy your encouraging emails after about how we’re getting better and better. It’s like a director making the stars better.
Lee: It’s not that you weren’t good to start.
Scott: Thank you. Thank you.
Lee: It’s that you’ve just gotten significantly better over time.
Scott: Yeah. So maybe tell everyone what OpenReel is so the have a little context on this.
Lee: Yeah, sure. So Open Reel we’re a video technology company. So basically we came up with a piece of technology that actually allows you to shoot video completely remotely. So what we do is we actually can send you a small kit which is a microphone, a light, and a stand. And what that allows us to do is actually capture video directly through your phone. So you download an app, similar to like a FaceTime and we are in essence replace the videographer. So we can adjust you through, looking at you through the app, you know move a little left, move a little right. We can actually start and stop your camera. We got a teleprompter you can put right on the front of the app. And we’ve been able to take videos that used to cost thousands of dollars and basically create them now for few hundred dollars.
Scott: It’s really amazing and I think you’re almost understating how awesome it is because there’s actually like a real person, like a real director. In our case her name is Lindsey and she’s amazing. And she will actually tell you to move the camera to the left or the right or this background isn’t good enough, or we gotta move around in the office, or the lighting’s off hold on a second and let me work on the lighting. There’s all these little things that go into making a video which I didn’t fully appreciate until we started working with you guys. But then you see it in the final product. Like the videos really pop. There’s really cool graphics. It’s really powerful and to give a company like us, we’re not a big company, we’re a 30 person company, access to this kind of technology and be able to build these kind of videos is amazing for our marketing.
Lee: Yeah. What’s really interesting about that, and actually how we capture the video, is the technology that we built into the app. Obviously the iPhone is amazing technology. You know Apple has gotten better and better at that through the years. We’ve adjusted some things on the back end so that you know, people consistently say to us, well isn’t it the same thing if I just capture video through my phone. And, it potentially is but we’ve made some technological adjustments on the back end that allow us to capture different exposures, we can actually capture 4K video directly through the phone now. Like I said before we can start and stop so you’re not actually having to shoot in one long take. The teleprompter’s been really important. And again the director is really a really important piece because to be able to kind of sit in front of the camera a lot of people they get in front of the camera and they tend to freeze up a little bit. So it’s nice to have that director on the other side in the teleprompter kind of walk you through it. And we’ve done videos, yeah we did a bunch of videos for you which were really kind of head on but we’ve done videos where there’s a lot of B roll cut in, product videos. We’ve done sales videos with this technology. So we’re actually up to, we’ve shot over 4,000 videos at this point.
Scott: Holy cow.
Lee: Yeah. So. We started in medical with this technology. You know, we started shooting doctors. I actually come from a medical background. So we started shooting doctors with the technology. And the way it actually came about was we were going in and doing the full video production shoot. We were bringing in the cameras, bringing in the lights, the whole thing. And we realized, you know what? There’s no way for us to really scale this out. You know we kind of came up with the idea, maybe we can use the iPhone. The technology’s come along to this point where the camera’s so powerful. So it took us about almost seven, eight months to kind of build this technology where we can see you, you can see us. We can kind of direct you. You can hear us. We’re capturing that HD quality video. It’s actually off loaded. That’s another thing that’s pretty important to mention is the videos are off loaded directly to our editors as soon as they’re shot. So turnaround time on videos is, you guys’ve seen, is you know, we can get this down to 24 hours if we have the assets.
Scott: We usually get them like two or three days later, but I’m sure you could deliver like one video quickly but they come as like, here’s all six of them, or whatever. I don’t even know how you guys do it to be honest with you. I’m always like kind of amazed at how fast they come out. And again, there’s a lot of like production value on these things. It’s not just like firing off a, like we all record videos at like family gatherings or things like that. This is a real, I encourage everyone to go to the YouTube, our Kruze Consulting YouTube channel cause there’s a lot of production that goes into these videos. And they make it look really good. And they really pop. So, you must have a team of people who are working very hard and very quickly on this kind of stuff. Who have gotten very good at it.
Lee: You know it’s funny you should bring that up. So early on when we first told people we were shooting through an iPhone, they were like, Oh that’s cool. Let’s do one. So then we’ll do one and then they’re like, Oh I can do this by myself. And inevitably like a month later they come back with some videos that were shot but just maybe not edited the right way or the color’s not right. The exposure’s not right. But yeah, we do have an amazing editing team on the back end. But yeah, the technology really does a lot of it and its captured a certain way. We constantly get that. So when people go to a site they go to They check out the videos. You know they’re like, this is really amazing that you guys caught this-
Scott: Yeah.
Lee: -on an iPhone.
Scott: have the advantage of actually doing a lot of videos before I met you guys. And I think I sent some of those to you and they’re like, kind of, they’re actually really painful to watch. And it’s like a background with no depth, and one color, and me just standing there talking for like five minutes. It’s actually, I don’t think a single, I don’t even think my mother would watch those videos. So I was really glad. It was kind of like right time right place. Cause I was like, oh we have this problem. We’ve been trying to do this in our very kind of basic way. And now we have a service that can do this for us and make it heck of a lot easier.
Lee: hat was actually I think the first thing I said to Lindsey when I saw the videos. I was like, I’m glad Kruze is like one of our first clients because if we can’t do better than this then…
Scott: And also my acting career was really going nowhere at the time, you know. Now I’m really, I’m on demand. Big time.
Lee: No. But listen, all kidding aside like your videos were not bad but that’s standard for somebody who’s really trying to do this on their own. And that’s something we’ve realized kind of along the way. That’s a lot of bumps and bruises, you know, in the first few hundred or a thousand videos you realize what’s the right shot. What’s the right lighting. What’s the right time of day. People are asking us how long should videos be. I want to do a five minute video. I want to do an eight minute video. You know, things like that where we need to really reel them back in and kind of say, you know this is where we should shoot. This is the kind of, these are the topics you should talk about. These are the assets that you should cut in. This is the stuff that’s going to keep a user interested, or a viewer interested as you’re going along.
Scott: Yeah. We have the same, very analogous in our business of like people really don’t understand accounting very well. And so they, they’re like, why is this hard? I can do this. If I just had more time. And it’s actually like, there’s a lot that goes into this and a lot to create professional quality accounting and professional quality videos. And sometimes it’s better to leave it to the experts. There’s a reason why our business exists and why your business exists. Because the layperson just can’t do it kind of at the same level. And really, frankly, you guys your price point again making it available and affordable for a company like us is really amazing. Because Vanessa did a shoot with Intuit for the conference and I asked the guy and he wouldn’t even tell me how much it cost. And there was like nine professionals with I can’t even tell you how much equipment. And it was a two and a half hour shoot. It probably cost them like $50,000 you know. And Intuit can do that. But for someone our size to be able to produce the kind of quality we’re producing is mind-blowing to me.
Lee: You know, it’s funny, before I get to the pricing, I’m pretty sure we started using your services. I called you up and gave you a hard time about how hard is accounting Scott, why are charging me so much.
Scott: Yeah. I get that call probably one out of every five clients. And then within like two or three months they always kind of understand. So it’s, you probably noticed I was probably like used to, it didn’t even like phase me. If you could’ve seen my face. I know exactly. Again, it’s that I’m sure you experience the same thing. It’s like, it’s a very difficult problem you’re solving and again for you guys like I can’t even believe that I look even presentable and that the videos look good. Of course Vanessa’s more photogenic and better in front of the camera than me. But it’s the kind of stuff you guys are doing is phenomenal.
Lee: I appreciate that. Yeah, you know and so to your point about the actual dollars that are being spent, you know the price of the videos obviously are significantly less because we don’t have to send that whole crew. And we’re able to shoot it for a few hundred dollars per video. What that’s also opened up is companies are starting to realize now that they can shoot all different types of video and have a full video initiative that they didn’t have before. Something that could be a video where the marketing team you know got together with the sales team. Hey let’s create a video for this asset. Oh that’s gonna cost us $5,000 or $10,000. Now they can actually pull it off. You know what’s, a big one also is client testimonials. Right? So. We have a ton of companies that are looking to do client testimonials. Where they would have to go and remotely send in a crew and it was costing them thousands of dollars. You know, again, this is a solution for that among other things. But specifically for that where we can send a kit and we can get somebody client testimonial. We just had, actually, a couple larger companies, significant size companies, come to us and say, Hey we want to do 30, 40 client testimonials. Which even at their level just didn’t make sense for their marketing department. Now they can come in and actually kind of get that initiative done, give that to their sales people, and it’s really kind of been a game-changer for marketing teams strategies.
Scott: Yeah, you’re also in the right place and the right time. The video is just becoming so pervasive. And it really pops on social networks and things like that. So I’m really happy for you where you are. You’re catching the hockey stick right at the beginning and it’s going to be an exciting ride for you.
Lee: Yeah. Definitely. We’re actually really excited about it. You know, people are starting to use it on the sales side also. Which I think has been an interesting use case for a couple of sales teams that are coming in and using it. Everyone’s kind of talking about video in the sale space. They’re talking about in the marketing space. But on the sales side people who are SDRs or BDRs are trying to open conversations with companies. You know they’re taking that first touch and they’re potentially sending a video out versus sending a cold email or doing a cold call. It introduces their rep. It introduces the company. So, you know, that’s been a pretty interesting use case for us also.
Scott: That’s awesome. Going back to the beginning of the company. You said you worked in medical but like how did you have kind of the epiphany to start doing this? Like it’s a pretty interesting idea.
Lee: So previous to this I owned a medical marketing company. We did marketing for about 7,000 doctors across the country. You know that company was acquired back in 2013 so I had always been around the medical space. Even prior to that I was an outside sales rep for a medical company. So it was kind of just in my gut to go back to doctors. So we went down that road. We still have a pretty significant doctor base that we’ve done videos for. But that’s kind of where it started. We did one video, the full shoot, two videos the full shoot. And then that’s kind of where the technology ended up scaling. But doctors is, you know that’s definitely an interesting market because you know obviously for medical information online for them to be able to kind of talk about that. And for a patient to be able to become comfortable. So it was an interesting start for us. And then what happened is probably about 90 days ago, I was speaking at a conference about the technology, and I must have had about 15 or 20 companies come over to us. And it was kind of that light bulb moment where small business is great but there are mid-market and enterprise companies and anywhere from seed stage and up who are really looking to you know, grow their business online. And they need access to something like this. So.
Scott: Good for you man. And good for you for being flexible. Sometimes one of the hardest things about being a startup is you’re almost never gonna pick the right path to begin with. And then you eventually do pick the right path but you have to be able to see that and be flexible and be able to move around a little bit.
Lee: Yeah. Absolutely.
Scott: I was gonna say, did you have like one of those moments like lying in bed at 2 o’clock in the morning where you’re like, Oh God I gotta figure this out? Or anything like that?
Lee: Yeah. That went on for about a month or two months actually. You know, so it’s funny, is it was probably right before we raised the seed amount in February. It was probably right before that, I think we were going to raise, and my partner and I were kind of looking at each other like, nobody’s gonna invest in this. Like nobody’s invest in some guys going around with video cameras and-
Scott: You also don’t wanna take the money if you don’t have a good idea cause then that’s just gonna cause a lot of heartache.
Lee: Right. Exactly. Exactly. So the timing was really good. Once we figured that out I think we kind of raised on that concept that, Hey we’re building this technology and this is gonna kind of be just really disruptive to video creation. And we’re gonna take it and everyone’s gonna want it. And they believed in it, so. And here we are probably eight, nine months later after we raised and things are going well. So. So we’re excited about it.
Scott: That’s awesome. I mean I know from Kruze Consulting like you’ll often have your best ideas whenever… We always say like whenever we’re getting really stressed out it usually means that we need to turn something into a process. Or improve, there’s something saying that we need to fix something. And it’s the same thing you were probably feeling at the time, like we need to pivot into more like the iPhone stuff and that’ll work really well. And, the fundamentals are totally there like everyone has one of these devices. People will definitely need video. It’s like you’re just making it easy for them. Which makes so much sense to me.
Lee: Yep. And what’s interesting now is we just, I get start to have some conversations with some larger companies and what’s interesting is a lot of them have in house editing teams. What they’ve been asking us for is to actually license the technology.
Scott: Oh.
Lee: So we’ve just started kind of going down this road of having some conversations with some larger companies really licensing the technology. You know we’re still, we’re still working through right now what pricing looks like that. And kind of building the back end so that it can be licensed and we can have multiple people pop into a session like you said Lindsey before. So as opposed to having just Lindsey on the back end, potentially having somebody in a third location be able to pop in and check the technicals and be able to again take a look at the shot. Make sure it’s the shot that somebody else wants if you’re the marketing team, the sales team.
Scott: Oh. I can totally see that. Yeah like the marketing person needs something that the sales person isn’t aware of or something like that. Gotta have sign-off. That’s really smart.
Lee: Yeah, so that’s been pretty cool. And then I don’t know if we talked too much about the back end and the software we kind of build on the back end to support these videos.
Scott: No. I just assume there’s something fancy back there cause Lindsey will upload the video. Basically kind of the way it works is you do a take and then Lindsey will upload it, and then coach you or say you know, once in a while I get it on the first take. So she’ll be like, Okay that was good. Do the next one. But there’s a, it’s kind of nice because you don’t have the stress of having like all these videos on your phone that could get deleted or messed up somehow. So they’re getting kind of uploaded in the background. Which is, again, it’s a nice kind of safety precaution. Which I appreciate.
Lee: Yeah. Absolutely. What we actually started to build on the back end now is to support these, because we were doing a lot of videos and people were coming to us and saying, you know this is cool okay what do I do with these videos now. Where they’re coming up with these new initiatives what do I do with these videos now. So we started to build on the back end now this piece of technology that allows us to track the videos. So you can send from a one to one, you know for Gmail integration, and then track in real time whether they opened that video, how much of that video they’re watching. We can customize calls to action within the video. So, you know, you can put something, let’s say like an interesting case for Kruze is, let’s say you’re using this for onboarding of a client. I know I’m terrible with that. You guys been trying to get me to use for a while. I keep fighting it. I’m fighting it. But hypothetically if you did a video on that, utilizing that or Expensify, you would know if I watched that video. So you would know if I’m onboarded the right way.
Scott: Well lucky for you we’ve actually recorded that video about a month ago on OpenReel and I will send that over to you right away. And video exists. But yes, the tracking is actually, that’s actually a great point. Because sometimes we sit there and go like, did the CEO really read our email. Cause with this happened yesterday. One of the CEOs was complaining about us not doing something and we’re like dude you didn’t tell us this actually happened. Like we had no one had any idea. So yes, that would actually be good to be able to say like, oh you’re bad you didn’t watch the video. Please go watch that.
Lee: Yep. Absolutely. So that’s something that onboarding use case, that client success use case, is really powerful just to understand who’s watching those videos. You know maybe they’re clicking a CTA, they can download a file. You know, we can make the videos interactive. You know that’s on the one to one. And then also the ability one to many, right? So. You could send a video to 1,000 people in an email list and understand on a larger scale this bucket of people watch the video 100% through and we’re going to remarket to them a certain way. So yeah, there’s some cool stuff like that that we’re contemplating on the back end and building out on the back end. Yeah, it’s all starting to kind of come together.
Scott: That’s awesome. Especially for salespeople. I think they really like that kind of, to know whether the, I think, I forget what it is, I think it’s called DocSend, it’s a very popular kind of online PowerPoint service that I know a lot of people, especially when they’re raising money, will use DocSend to track like kind of how far potential investors got into their PowerPoint presentation. It’s not PowerPoint, it’s separate, different thing but it’s like PowerPoint. But how far they got in the presentation. Did they actually look at it. I actually see investors complaining all the time about DocSend cause it actually brings like real accountability.
Lee: Right.
Scott: So you know if they’re complaining about it then people are actually using it and asking them those kind of questions. So it makes sense and I happen to be fortunate, I have a lot of kind of VP of Sales, sales friends of mine that’s how they are. The most successful salespeople are usually kind of metrics oriented people because they understand how to manage funnels and they understand that it takes five or six touches before someone really takes what you’re doing seriously. And so I think those are the kind of people you want to sell to, and that’s a really good value prop for those folks.
Lee: Yeah. Definitely. We actually came across that concept internally. When we were selling to SMB, early on, you know we were having a tough time getting through. We started doing these videos. We started sending the videos. And then tracking the videos and how much. So the real time notification is pretty cool for a sales rep to be able to understand, oh wow this prospect watched this video three times all the way through. They clicked on my CTA, they forwarded it to a friend. Okay, at least I know how to follow up with that person and where to spend my time. You know, so that’s been, I think that’s been powerful on the sales side.
Scott: I love that. We actually do that with like MailChimp and some of our like, our detached credits are really big deal. And we learn that our client base really doesn’t understand what we’re talking about. We literally have to explain to them like three or four times. And so it’s fun to watch like our MailChimp emails about that stuff. You see them reading it four or five times and you see them forwarding it out to their friends. And so that’s actually a really cool thing to do. The service works really well. We love it. And it sounds like you’re kind of getting into more like Fortune 500 or very big customers. But what’s the future hold for you guys?
Lee: We really, to be honest with you, we really didn’t think that this was going to be companies on a larger scale using us. We didn’t think that you would have Fortune 500 and Series B and Series C large companies, even public companies utilizing us. I think once we get into that realm, and now we have a couple companies that we’re working with, I think there’s going to be a number of things that we’re actually kind of come to fruition in terms of how they’re gonna be utilizing it. How they want to use it in house. You know we’ve actually spoken to a couple of them and the client success piece is definitely one piece that I think they see a lot of value in. And there’s definitely internal communications that they’re going to be doing. You know, the additional people in a session just from a technology standpoint, I think really kind of opens it up. And the ability to license the technology so that more people can really have access to this. You know, at the end of the day we’re only one company. So we can, even as we scale we can only do so many shoots. You know, if and when we’re able to open up this technology on a larger scale and you know, get it into more people’s hands, I think that’s an interesting road for OpenReel as we grow to be able to get this into agencies hands and other videographers hands and let them really see what the capabilities are. And I think a lot of feedback will probably come through when we get to that level.
Scott: Yeah. I can totally see, especially with the Fortune 500 it’s the land and expand strategy of like some group or some division will want to use you. They’ll use you, it’ll work. And then the other groups or other divisions will see what they’re doing and be like, oh my god we gotta do that too. So I think you have a super bright future. You don’t need to sell Coca Cola on a billion dollar sales license you just need to get into Coca Cola or Google or whatever it is. And just show it works. And it’ll grow. It’s almost how every good piece of software works these days. Things just grow virally. And then you guys’ll be the same way. That’s super exciting. Maybe you can just kind of recap OpenReel and tell everyone where they can find you and give an email address where people can reach out if they want to try the service.
Lee: Yeah. Sure. So first off I just want to thank you for having me on today. It was awesome. This was a lot of fun. You know you can definitely got to You can check out the videos. You can check out the technology. We have a pretty cool video right on the home page that you can check out kind of how the technology and what the process is. We get that question a lot. Kind of what’s the process. How do we shoot. How do we edit. Kind of what am I going to be seeing. How long does it take. Are we writing scripts, are you writing scripts. So all that information is on the site. You can check it out there. You know, any questions you can email us at And that’s it. We’re happy to answer any questions and be involved.
Scott: Awesome. It’s a great service. We’re using it lik crazy. And I’m very happy for you. And it’s fun to see your growth. And it’s fun to be a part of it. And thank you for helping us get our message and what’s important to our clients out too. It makes it so much better do it in video.
Lee: Cool. Thanks Scott.
Scott: All right Lee. Take care man.
Lee: Yeah. Be good. Thanks a lot.

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