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Customer spotlight: Cinema Mercantile

Cinema Mercantile logoCinema Mercantile is New York City-based video production company. Founder Mike Collins talks to us about creating cinematic portraits and how Hightail helps him get to the final cut faster than ever.

I’m a director and cinematographer based out of NYC
My producer Rich D’Elia and I run Cinema Mercantile, an award-winning documentary film collective. We craft bespoke motion pictures that tell stories about people and their passions – what we like to call the intersection of passion and commerce.

We spent five months shooting at a motorcycle café
While producing short films for a fashion and motorcycle lifestyle site called Whiskey Grade, a friend told us that we should look at a Brooklyn store called Jane Motorcycles. We became friends with those guys so when they decided to move their shop to a bigger space, they hired us to document the process. With most of our videos, we’ll go in with two camera operators and shoot in a day. For Jane Motorcycles, we started filming in January and didn’t stop until May.

JANE Motorcycles 2.0 from Cinema Mercantile on Vimeo.

We shot several hard drives of footage for a five-minute piece
When we first started filming, we didn’t really know what we’d use. But as we went along, we started to winnow down the narrative. We always shoot the interviews at the very end. At that point we know the story and what footage we have, so we know what questions to ask. But even after the first cut, we went back and shot some additional footage so we could feature more parts of their story.

Sixty Second Cinema is a series of cinematic portraits
I’m really interested in people – like Ben McBrien, a former professional surfer who now makes high-end furniture for restaurants and stores like Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. He’s a very non-traditional guy who’ll never hold down a normal job. He’s someone who has found a way to do something he loves and make a life from it. These are the kind of stories that I like to tell. Sixty Second Cinema is a format that allows us to just go out and film them in a low-key style. Though I think they’ve turned out better than any of us ever expected.

Sixty Second Cinema – Ben McBrien Farmhaus Modern from Cinema Mercantile on Vimeo.

Hightail helped compress our production timeline
We were working on a big project in Virginia and needed to get video files back to an editor in Brooklyn. Typically we would take footage off of the cameras, load it to a laptop and save it to hard drives. Then you’d have to pay to ship a drive and worry about it getting lost in the mail. So in Virginia, I posted a tweet asking if anyone knew a better solution and someone from Hightail replied recommending their service. Right then and there we uploaded the footage to Hightail and sent it to the editor who started cutting it that night. Our client was expecting a first cut of the video to take a couple of weeks but we delivered it that Friday. It was a completely different way of working for us.

We had no uniformity to our review process
When getting feedback from clients, we’d tried many options, like Dropbox, Vimeo and Wipster, but nothing really stuck. We first used Hightail’s Spaces feature on the Jane Motorcycles project. I had used Spaces to share the video and wasn’t expecting to hear anything right way but then all of a sudden – boom – there’s a comment in the Space. So I responded right away and 10 seconds later there’s another comment – we’re literally collaborating on the video in real time. I didn’t expect it to work like that but intuitively the client knew what to do. Typically that feedback would have been given over the phone a couple of days later. Instead we had comments that we could pass straight to the editor for the next cut.

Cinema Mercantile Spaces screenshot

Spaces feels very professional
You don’t want your client to have to watch a low-res version of their video. The compression with Spaces is really good and videos look fantastic even on a big iMac screen. I like that I can customize a Space with a still from the video so my client immediately feels like it’s theirs. I also like how versioning works because you can see how a piece got from here to there with each new version.

Cinema Mercantile Spaces screenshot


We need tools that can scale
We are able to offer our clients a high-end product at a competitive market rate because we have hardly any overheads. We don’t even have an office and instead pay a small monthly fee to WeWork. So if I’m in LA and need to upload footage, I go into one of their shared office spaces. It’s the same for video collaboration. Why would we pay hundreds of dollars a month for some of the other services when Hightail costs so much less and works significantly better? Hightail is like WeWork – it just works.

Mike Collins on set


To learn more about Cinema Mercantile, visit, watch videos on Vimeo or follow Mike on Twitter. Try Spaces for free at

Friday’s favorite things: November 27th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we celebrated Thanksgiving greeting card designs.

Handmade for the holidays
Virginia-based designer Audrey Johnson lovingly handcrafts greeting cards and sells them on her Etsy shop, Penwheels. This limited edition Thanksgiving card sold out fast – better hurry if you want to get your paws on a unique Christmas greeting.

Thanksgiving card design by Penwheels

Celebrating creativity
The brilliant Luke Bott (for whom we are always thankful) gave Hightail’s Thanksgiving greeting a creative twist, as we said thanks to all our users for continuing to use Hightail to share their creations.

Thanksgiving card design by Luke Bott


Power cut
In Canada, Thanksgiving happened last month but that doesn’t stop us appreciating Canadian designer Kelly Klapstein’s marvelous cutout creation. Watch a step-by-step instruction video for creating this card on her blog.

Thanksgiving card design by Kelly Klapstein

Have you got a creative card you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below.

If you like this:
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Tool tips with Neeraj Kadoo

Tool tips is a regular series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and gadgets. Next up is QA Lead, Neeraj Kadoo.

Neeraj KadooWorking tool
As a QA Lead, we use multiple tools for our day-to-day work. Most important for QA (Quality Assurance)is the test case management tool and we use the web-based, Testrail, which makes writing test cases, execution and build management very easy. We’ve recently added a new tool to our belt by doing test automation using Selenium with Java. This is very exciting for me, as I am actually writing a new framework for the QA team, which will be used by the technology team for certifying builds.

I like technology and try to get my hands on interesting new tools. I purchased Google’s Nexus 6P recently and I am loving it. It is a super cool device that’s fast, reliable and helps me to get my work done when I am on the go. I also use it for most of my entertainment, like listening to music on Google Music and watching videos. The Nexus 6P is a must-have for me.

General resource
LinkedIn groups are a very useful way to connect with communities and keep up with the latest news on a particular topic. I joined the Selenium group so I can see useful insights and tips and even view slideshow tutorials.

If you like this, find more tool tips here.

Friday’s favorite things: November 20th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we salivated over creative cakes.

What goes up…
Doesn’t necessarily come down when you’re creative caker, Laura Loukaides. Her gravity-defying chocolate creation is more than a little mind-bending, but that still wouldn’t stop us eating it.

Cake design by Laura Loukaides

What immortal hand or eye
Zoe Fox, aka Sweet Foxylicious, dares frame the tiger’s fearful symmetry…as a cake. What would Blake think? Another slice please, perhaps.

Cake design by Sweet Foxylicious


Let them eat cask
A vintage creation for the cake connoisseur by Maryland bakery, Touche Touchet. 1974 was a great year for cake. What are we saying? Every year is a great year for cake.

Cake design by Touche Touchet

Have you got a cake creation you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below or feel free to turn up at our office with some samples.

If you like this:
Check out more of our Friday’s favorite things.
Follow us on Twitter to see more great creative work.

Download the updated Spaces iOS app

Spaces for iOS new release

We’ve just released a new version of our Spaces iOS app, which you can download from the App Store now.

If you haven’t tried the app already, it’s a great way to provide feedback on the fly for visual files like designs and photographs. Check out what The Next Web had to say in a recent review.

The latest version of Spaces for iOS is packed with new creative collaboration features and enhancements, including the ability to upload photos and videos straight from your phone’s camera roll to an existing Space. Existing Hightail users can now sign in to Spaces using their usual username and password.

To check out our Spaces for iOS or to update your app to the newest version, head to the App Store now.

Get the seal of approval with Spaces

Approvals in Spaces by Hightail


Spaces is all about getting your projects from concept to completion and nothing is more important in that process that the final approval.

That’s why we’ve added a new feature, which allows each member of your team to approve any file. Get enough of these approvals (or one from the right person) and you’ll know that you’re ready to ship.

Approving a file is simple. Just select Approve file from the options menu when viewing a file. You’ll see who has already added their approval at the top of the screen.

To try out approvals, sign in to Spaces now. We can’t wait to hear what you think so be sure and send us your feedback.

Friday’s favorite things: November 13th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we’ve been celebrating wedding photography.

You’ve been frames
We love it when wedding photographers go beyond traditional portraits to capture real moments in a visually interesting way. This clever image by Katy Cain uses unwitting guests as a frame for the smiling flower girl.

Wedding photography by Katy Cain


Wedding album
And then you get the wedding photos that take formal portraiture into whole new artistic realms, like this stunning image by Taylor Sporleder of One Button Photography. If the happy couple didn’t go on to form a rock band, they’re missing a trick.

Wedding photography by One Button Photography


Rain on your wedding day
Isn’t it ironic that such a symbol of a perfect day not quite going to plan can become a beautiful prop, like the umbrella in this heartwarming photograph by New York-based Kelsey Combe.

Wedding photography by Kelsey Combe

Have you got fabulously photographed wedding day memories you’d like to share? We’d love to see your images in the comments section below.

If you like this:
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Nine business books that will change the way you think

Hightail recommends business books


With so many ways to sharpen your business brain just a click away, business books can seem archaic when compared to blog posts, webinars and Ted Talk videos.

But we tend to consume digital content in bite-sizes before jumping back into our next task or meeting. Spending time with a book allows you to immerse yourself fully in its concepts, tactics and strategies and provides more mental space for thinking about how new ideas could translate to your business.

That’s why we asked nine Hightail employees to recommend their favorite business book and explain how it made them think differently about the way they work. Read on…

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
Recommended by Ranjith Kumaran – CEO

RK: I was doing a lot of public speaking a few years ago about starting companies and came across this book. Reynolds breaks down how people process visual information and I immediately started applying the concepts. Not only did my sessions stand out more, I found that it was a fun process to build the materials. Here’s the first set of slides I created incorporating techniques from the book. 

Biggest take-away: without the speaker present a slide deck should not make any sense, those are called handouts and should be prepared separately.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel Zero to One by Peter Thiel (with Blake Masters)
Recommended by Mike Trigg – Chief Operating Officer

MT: Peter Thiel is the co-founder/CEO of PayPal and Palantir and VC investor in Founders Fund. I like his approach to building companies that have huge market power (think Google or Facebook) and become incredibly fast growing, profitable and valuable. The four keys he identifies to achieving that kind of monopoly-esque power are:

1. Technical innovation: usually 10X better than existing alternatives
2. Network effect: use of your product drives viral adoption by more new users and increases the value to all users
3. Scalability: to keep up with skyrocketing demand
4. Brand

These factors are important for businesses of any size and have influenced my thinking about what we’re doing at Hightail.

The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben HorowitzThe Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Recommended by Britt Montalvo – VP of Marketing

BM: This book shows the unique challenges faced by tech entrepreneur and investor Ben Horowitz when running various companies and how he and his team managed their way out of them. It also gives great insight into the types of people you need for companies in good and bad times. Horowitz is an incredibly smart and down to earth writer, which makes for a captivating and inspiring book.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don NormanThe Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Recommended by David Louie – UX Designer

DL: I read this book more than 10 years ago, when I was a front-end web developer with an interest in how people used the web sites we were building. Because it’s focus is on ‘how things work’ and not ‘how they look’ the book allowed me to imagine myself becoming a Designer. It was a gateway into new worlds of user experience and human-centered design. Because the case studies are everyday objects, the book also illuminates how every human made object in the world is ‘designed’, but some with more attention to human needs and capabilities.

Whenever I meet people that are interested in design, but don’t imagine themselves as ‘artistic’ I recommend this book.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Recommended by David Beckwith – VP, Business and Corporate Development

DB: It isn’t a business book, but the real-life quest of a US rowing team to compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is an inspiring story that involves team effort, hard work, long odds and finding motivation in unusual places. It reminds me to be open to inspiration and learnings from others, often from those you least expect. It’s also beautifully written and I am a fan of finding just the right words (written or spoken) for important situations, particularly in business.

Lean In by Sheryl SandbergLean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Recommended by Sherrie Stifter – Senior Recruiter

SS: What I found really inspiring about this book was Sheryl Sandberg’s belief that though you may not be the CEO of your company, you should still act like one. I have found this to be true over and over in my professional life. It requires the ability to focus on what’s next in your career (notice I didn’t say “job”); what’s next in your role at work, what’s next in my department, etc. Asking these statement-type questions helps you to “lean in” to management and “lean in” to your career, because at the end of the day, you’re investing in YOU.

Freakonomics by Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. DubnerFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Recommended by Matt Miles – Finance Manager

MM: While it may not be the most traditional business book, I am a big fan of Freakonomics (and its follow-ups Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics, Think Like a Freak and even the podcast). The book is filled with true stories about data analysis that question conventional wisdom. For me, it highlights the value of asking the right questions when making decisions and the importance of understanding what data you’re analyzing and how you’re measuring it. This is helpful in my day-to-day job of analyzing data sets, where I’m asking questions to find causation vs. correlation. But it’s also equally helpful at the macro level: am I asking the right questions to support the strategy of the company?

Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce HaningtonUniversal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington
Recommended by Kiersten Lammerding – Principal UX Designer

KL: I wish someone had given me this book when I graduated from college. It offers a collection of design methods that can be applied to one of five generalized design phases. These are quick and digestible methods that individuals or teams can use to attack problems from start to finish. Many of the methods are applicable not to just design problem solving, but useful for engineering and business as well and allow you to move quicker and attack problems from more angles than traditional user research.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Recommended by Scott Moe – Senior Director, Marketing

SM: This book is more interesting and inspiring than most business books I have read. Simon Sinek spoke at a leadership conference at one of my past companies and one of the things I found intriguing was his use of non-business examples (Sir Ernest Shackleton, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Wright brothers) to demonstrate his theories. Being clear in your purpose and knowing why you are doing what you are doing allows everyone to understand. People will work harder, be more passionate and ultimately drive your success if they are able to connect with you on a more emotional level. It’s a good lesson and one I try to factor into my decision making process regularly to make sure I am doing things I am passionate about.

Which business books have changed the way you think? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below.

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Tool tips with Adriano Blanaru

Tool tips is a regular series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and websites. Next up is Senior Product Manager, Adriano Blanaru.

Adriano BlanaruWorking tool
As a product manager, when it comes to understanding the health of the product, user behavior and impact of the changes we make, analytics is key. We use Heap Analytics to track what’s going on in Spaces, so I naturally spend a decent chunk of my time sifting through data and performing analyses in there. However, when it comes to more complex data studies, I still have to resort to the good old Excel, which is probably my favorite tool of all times (I’ve been using it heavily since my old days in finance, in the 90’s and 00’s). Google Sheets is great for simple tables and numbers when multiple people have to pitch in, but it’s still nowhere near Excel when it comes to more involved tasks.

I work closely with Hightail’s Design team, so I’ve become an avid user of Sketch, which allows me to explore flows, mockups and designs on my own without depending on or, more importantly, bugging my designer colleagues. When it comes to providing an outlet to my creative and tinkering needs, I’ve been playing with Sketch for illustrations as well. Maybe it’s not the best tool for this purpose, but it’s powerful enough to allow me to give form to my love for Formula 1 racing and the great Ayrton Senna.

Senna illustration by Adriano Blanaru


General Resources
As a DIY’er, I love to fix and build things, and Instructables is a great resource. From metal forging to furniture building and electronics, it’s an almost endless source of inspiration and instructions. Couple that with YouTube tutorials and the right tools, and I have the feeling that I can figure out how to do anything.

For more Adriano, follow him on Twitter.

If you like this, find more tool tips here.

Friday’s favorite things: November 6th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we’ve been sharing our cinematic highlights from last month’s Carmel International Film Festival (CIFF).

Couldn’t drag me away
As part of our sponsorship of CIFF, Hightail offered a $5,000 award to the winner of Pitch Program, a contest where aspiring filmmakers pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts. The winner was Wild Horses, the story of a photographer trying to protect the eponymous equines from government round up. Watch the trailer:

Wild Horses Trailer from Justin Dalzell on Vimeo.

The Preppie Connection was one of the big award winners at this year’s CIFF. Starring Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), this crime drama tells the true life story of a private school student who gets involved in drug trafficking. Watch a clip:


We’re with Lizzie
Another award winner at CIFF was the inspirational documentary, A Brave Heart. The film tells of the story of Lizzie Velasquez, who was born with rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight and is now a prominent anti-bullying campaigner. Watch the trailer:


Which movies did you see this week? Feel free to share your cinema sensations in the comments section below.

If you like this:
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Photos from Carmel International Film Festival

Hightail is very proud to have been part of the 2015 Carmel International Film Festival, which took place in Northern California in October.

As one of the festival’s main sponsors, we had the opportunity to host a table at the inspiring Women in Film lunch and meet lots of fantastic filmmakers at our space in the Music Lounge.

Hightail sponsors Pitch Program

The Pitch Program panel including Hightail COO, Mike Trigg.

Hightail also sponsored Pitch Program – a contest for aspiring filmmakers to pitch their ideas to some industry insiders. The winner of the contest and recipient of the $5,000 Hightail Award was Stephanie Martin, who will be turning her award-winning short film Wild Horses into a feature.

We had an absolute blast over the four days of the festival and want to thank the good people at Carmel International Film Festival for letting us be involved in their amazing event.

You can see a selection of our favorite films here and check out some more photos from the festival below. See you next year.


The Pitch Program filmmakers get ready to pitch their movies.

Hightail sponsors Carmel Film Festival

We were in good company as festival sponsors alongside Jaguar and Variety.

Artwork for Carmel International Film Festival

Some of the amazing artwork from previous festivals.

Carmel International Film Festival poster

I know what you’re thinking: “Did he shoot six reels or only five?”


Hightail’s banners looked fantastic.

Legends Dinner2

Vegetables decorate the tables instead of flowers in honor of Fear No Fruit – a documentary about Frieda Caplan, pioneer of the produce business (she renamed the Chinese Gooseberry as the kiwi).

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 8.01.03 PM

Because the city of Carmel has no streetlights, our attendee welcome pack included a Hightail-branded flashlight.

Hightail staff at Carmel International Film Festival

Hightailers, Kiersten, Bill, Britt and Ranjith enjoying the festival.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 5.21.06 PM

Our beautiful two-page ad from the festival program.

If you like this, try:
Pitch your movie idea at Carmel International Film Festival
Customer spotlight: LAIKA
Creative collaboration is going Spaces

Friday’s favorite things: October 30th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we’ve been haunted by creative Halloween work.

Haunted house
Artist Christine McConnell offered to decorate her parents’ house for Halloween. They may have been expecting a pumpkin and some cobwebs but got this instead.

Christine McConnell haunted house

Scary movies
The ever-excellent Luke Bott created this illustration for us that’s packed full of references to modern horror movies. Can you guess them?

Hightail Halloween by Luke Bott


Dia De Los Muertos
In terms of design, the Mexican Day of the Dead is probably one of the most tasteful festivals around, as this gorgeous print by Jenny Lloyd proves.

Dia de los Muertos print by Jenny Lloyd

What did you see this week that scared you silly? Feel free to share your favorite chills in the comments section below.

If you like this:
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Friday’s favorite things: October 23rd

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we’ve been sampling a varied menu of food photography.

Food as art
There’s not a lot of sustenance in the dish offered by photographer, Julie Bidwell, but it sure is beautiful.

Julie Bidwell food photography


UK-based photographer Dan Oxtoby captures the drama of topping a boiled egg in this cracking shot.

Egg by Daniel Oxtoby


Surrounded by courses
Combining taste with texture, Dina Avila shoots a stunning spread in this plate-filled photograph.

Food photo by Dina Avila


What did you see this week that stimulated your appetite? Feel free to share your favorite foods in the comments section below.

If you like this:
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Flickr tech talk at Hightail

Shiva Paranandi and Tim Miller

Selfie with Tim

Tim Miller – Sr. Director, Engineering at Yahoo – visited Hightail’s Campbell office recently to share some insights about how his company’s photo sharing site Flickr handles images and videos.

As Hightail faces similar challenges with our new creative collaboration platform, Spaces, it was fascinating to learn about Flickr’s process for real-time image resizing and how regional caches have helped dramatically improve image preview load times.

Huge thanks to Tim for taking the time to come see us. Find out more about all things engineering at Flickr at

Tim Miller's tech talk at Hightail


Tim Miller's tech talk at Hightail


If you like this, try:
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Tool tips with Carlos Herrera

Tool tips is a regular series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and websites. Next up is Software Architect, Carlos Herrera.

Carlos Herrera tool tipWorking tool
While programming in IntelliJ IDEA, trawling system logs or executing commands in a bash shell, I am most effective using the vi editor or more specifically VIM. I love how efficient I am while navigating or editing text files especially with its support for regular expressions. For Mac, I download and install MacVIM to open any text file in a window. For IntelliJ IDEA, I install IdeaVim. In the bash shell, I execute “set -o vi” to get into vi editing mode. Like many never ending debates, the vi editor is constantly compared to other editors but I came to love it after a professor decided to spend a whole quarter having my class use vi to write our own vi editor from scratch in the C programming language.

As my kids’ daily music teacher, I love using MuseScore to create sheet music for songs whose sheet music is non-existent or just written in a manner that is way too complex for kids. Otherwise, my kids love learning to read and write music with the Music Tutor Sight Read app for Android.

General resource
My all-time favorite source of information is the author of The Mommy Street Journal because she is very intelligent, a great writer, and my wife. I also like to spend my time “reading” using Audible and sharpening the saw with sites like

If you like this, find more tool tips here.