4K video is coming

Hi All,

Technology marches on and more and more websites are now offering 4K video. Restrained Elegance has always been at the forefront of high resolution and high quality, so I’m adding 4K MP4 video as an option to the site. I’m uploading the first updates now, they’ll appear on the site in June if testing all works out OK.

Does anyone have a strong objection if I stop delivering the “MP4/iPod” small MP4 files as standard? Even smartphones have screens big enough to cope with HD now and it would be one less format for me to encode, upload and manage.

If everyone is OK with it, I’ll just put up the full HD 1080p version and the 4K version where there is one.

Some new videos will still have 1080p maximum resolution.

We’ve been shooting in 4K for years, but we’ve been doing it as a route to the highest-quality 1080p footage. Which means we’ve sometimes planned to be able to crop in on the scene in post, or shot full HD in slow mo for some sequences for more emotional impact.

So where the footage supports a 4K export, I’ll do it. Until camera tech lets me shoot 4K at 100+ frames per second some new films will still be limited to 1080p full HD. I mean, that’s only Blu-Ray quality 😉

Hywel

Restrained Elegance On Location!

Dear Friends,

Hello from sunny Wales!

We just got back from our most exciting adventure – a big Restrained Elegance location trip! These trips are always a bit nerve-wracking for me. Will the location be suitable? Will some irate land-owner come and kick us off? Will the models all get on? Will the crew all work well together and have fun? Will we get any good stuff? How will I pay for it all… and will I make the money back?

This trip started on a high from the kindness of people joining or re-joining Restrained Elegance to celebrate our 17th birthday with us in April. This makes a massive difference to us and the support meant that we could be a bit more ambitious with what we shot on this trip. So thank you everyone!

If you missed out on the birthday offers, I’ve decided to keep the “buy two months, get one month free” $69.95 (Renews at $69.95) offer going for now. So if you enjoyed a month at RestrainedElegance.com, why not come back, enjoy a great deal, and get ready to see the results of all our hard work on location with Ariel Anderssen, Ayla Rose, Sophia Smith, Temptress Kate and Zoe Page?

Here are a few samples to whet your appetite – the full sets and videos will start going up for members very soon!

Massive thanks to Steve, Kate, Ariel, Ayla, Sophia and Zoe for making the absolute best of a cracking trip!

Hywel

What To Do When You Are Censored

Hi Everyone

A few years ago I posted this: http://elegancestudios.com/wordpress/?p=25736 about the censorship encroaching upon adult expression online.

Sorry to have been a prophet of doom, but a lot of this is now coming to pass. The latest wheeze is FOSTA/SESTA in the USA which has the big platforms running scared. Craigslist closed their personals section down, because people were using it to hook up for sex (sometimes involving money).

On the pretext of stopping trafficking, a nasty thing which is already criminal, and which happens in all sorts of industries, a resource for people to find each other for stuff they want to do, entirely consensually, has been taken away.

Amazon just started delisting and pushing romance down in the ratings- something they did five years ago for erotica, but which apparently someone decided now had to include anything with a sex scene. Romance writers were highly alarmed. Erotica writers were alarmed but hardly surprised.

We should protest, for sure. But are there any steps we can take to mitigate our risk? It looks like the censors are too canny to try outright bans on erotica or romance or sex scenes, they are sidling up on it and using not-so-subtle commercial pressures to do the job for them. They don’t need to ban it, just make it economically unfeasible for us to make it. (See age verification, UK).

As producers of erotica we’re a bit further along this road, so do we have any lessons learned to pass on?

Precious few, but what I have is here. I haven’t got all that far with all of these myself, it all takes time, which is a precious commodity for the self-employed creative. But at least this is my action plan.

  1. Have a diverse range of income from multiple platforms, in multiple countries. Even if 95% of your money comes through Amazon, take the time to set up sales via as many other platforms as you have time for. They aren’t for making money now. They are fallbacks for when your main supplier suddenly cuts off your whole revenue stream.
  2. Gather your fanbase yourself, and get their contact details in a place that can’t be taken away from you easily. Run a mailing list somewhere, on a server you pay for. Create your own Mastodon instance and ask them to sign up there. Run your own WordPress site and blog (NOT a WordPress hosted one! They’ve already started nuking the sites of sex workers). Get customers create accounts at your own site. You need to have a way of notifying your customers and fans when your main sales channel dies.
  3. Diversify your payment methods. Paypal can and will nuke you (it happened to website producers 15 years ago or so). Visa and Mastercard can and will nuke you if the political climate makes that happen. Even the banks will cut off your account (just ask sex workers and adult performers in the USA). Not to go all tin-foil hat, but don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Bank transfers are great for direct payment in Europe (the US banking system is much more fragmented). You need to have a fallback solution in place, ready to spin up when your main service provider cuts you off.
  4. Look for providers whose interests are aligned with your own. Amazon couldn’t care less about erotica or romance authors. (Except the big ones- you can bet Fifty Shades didn’t get this treatment). For erotic film-makers, Clips4Sale is a good example. C4S may be big and blundering and a bit rubbish, but they make their money out of you selling your adult clips. If they don’t protect that basic transaction, they are out of business. Their interests align more broadly with yours that say Craigslist or Paypal.
  5. Band together with other creatives, pool resources and start making platforms together, This is hard work, will be fraught with failures, but is ultimately the only way to generate enough commercial clout to survive. Basically I’m saying unionise? Ha, ha, good luck with the herding of cats. Co-operatives or creative-led platforms are the way forward, though. In the wake of the US sex worker censorship, new Mastodon instance switter.at generated 7600 users in less that 48 hours, instantly catapulting them into the top leagues of Mastodon instances. This might not come to anything long-term, and it is an example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. But it shows that these initiatives can work in the right circumstances.

In my opinion those circumstances are right. The big platforms have proved themselves untrustworthy, and are so big and powerful as to tilt this way and that with the political climate rather than stand up for any slice of the creatives who are working away at the base, making the whole edifice work. Amazon wouldn’t exist without book authors, but it is now so big in so many spheres that it can afford to treat them with cavalier disregard.

Make your own platforms. Sell everywhere, even places that are barely cost-effective for you now. Draw your customer base to you directly.

Good luck!

Five Minutes To Save Your Twitter Following: Why you should be on Mastodon, Too

If you are reading this, I’m going to assume that you are interested in adult entertainment. You’re a model, a photographer, a website producer, a cam-performer, a sex worker, a fan or a devotee of kinkiness and erotica.

The chances are you are already on Twitter, and you’re probably using it to keep in touch with your customers and fans, network with other adult industry people and kinksters, promote your website, OnlyFans or Clips4Sale or because you’re a fan and you like to meet up with the people who make your favourite porn.

Twitter is pretty good for this. Pithy tweets, actual conversations, and the ability to post pictures and videos for people to share and enjoy. And up until now, Twitter has been pretty good at sticking to their “free speech means adult entertainment is OK on our platform” principles.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that any monolithic platform run by one company is one CEO decision away from the Pornocalypse. First they mark everything as “sensitive” or “NSFW”. Then they silently censor it or move it down in search rankings. Then, when they’ve got erotica all corralled in a nice little area, they can just cut it completely.

Now I don’t KNOW if Twitter will do this. But I’ve been on enough platforms that have done it in the past that I’d rather not trust to luck. Paypal, Google AdWords, Patreon… I’d like to be a little bit more prepared this time around.

Which is why I started looking around for alternatives. I think I’ve found a decent one, and I think you should be on it too. It’s called Mastodon and it is like Twitter but based on open-source code and is distributed.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

It’ll take five minutes, tops.

  1. Sign up to a Mastodon instance. Ours is at https://kinkyelephant.com. The big one, https://mastodon.social/about, is fine so long as you flag adult content. Switter.at is a sex-work friendly one (again community-run). There are other free ones, or you can host your own for 5 EUR a month.
  2. Set up cross-posting on https://crossposter.masto.donte.com.br/. Your Mastodon can automatically echo what you tweet. You can set content warnings here, worth doing for maximum reach (see below).
  3. If you want a phone app, install Amaroq (iOs) or Tusky (Android).
  4. Encourage your followers to sign up and follow you.
  5. Be smug when Twitter bans you but you are already up and running and have lots of followers on a new platform with almost zero effort.

OK, five minutes is just to set up your Mastodon feed, echoing your Twitter feed. It’s getting followers to sign on and follow us to assemble a critical mass that will be the hard bit. That’s why I’m posting this in the first place. The sooner we start, the better chance we have of staying ahead of the curve.

NOTE: When you sign in after verifying your email, you need to log in with email address, not the username you chose for the instance. This is annoying.

In more detail

Mastodon is Distributed. What that means is that you can run your own server, called an “instance” which communicates with other instances (“federated”, in the jargon). They company can’t shut you down, because there’s no one central company in control of the servers. With enough people running instances which talk to each other, you get a look-and-feel very like Twitter, but without the “CEO decides to cut porn today” risk. It runs on open-source protocols. Each instance talks to other instances to build up a social network, rather than having Big Brother at the top snooping down. Privacy is better protected, more under user control, up to and including running your own single-user instance with no-one else having ANY privileged admin access to your private data.

There’s got to be a catch, and there is. Right now it is tiny. The main instance, https://mastodon.social/about run by the dev who is developing the system, has only got 136,000 people. Some of you may have that many followers on Twitter. Right now, you probably won’t get NEW customers from Mastodon.

But we can bring them. As producers of adult entertainment we do have pulling power. People have always followed the porn, and as porn gets harder and harder to access on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, they’ll follow us wherever a critical mass of erotic artists and performers ends up. They followed us from Usenet newsgroups to websites to Yahoo groups and they will do so again.

Prepared For Losing Your Twitter Account?

If one day you lose your twitter account for one nipple slip too many in your profile, how will your fans be able to reconnect?

If you’ve started posting on Mastodon, and encouraged your fans and followers to come with you, you’ve got a ready-made fallback. The platform isn’t perfect and this may not work. But it’s better than sitting around waiting for the axe to fall on us AGAIN from social media companies.

I figure it is worth five minutes.

STEP ONE: SIGN UP

It’s super-easy. The first thing you need to do is to sign up to some Mastodon instance. Which one?

  1. Easiest option: https://mastodon.social/about. Adult stuff is allowed so long as it is tagged. You can see the full terms and conditions here. Tagging is just like twitter- set a flag in your profile to mark your media posts as sensitive. If you’re a fan, reading rather than posting, this is a no-brainer. As a content provider, I’d say sign up on there too as a first step. You can always have another account on another instance and it’ll help if you do create your own somewhere down the line.
  2. Middling option: Find another public instance which supports the stuff you want to post, via https://joinmastodon.org. Here are two examples:
  3. Friendly kinkster option: I’ve made an instance myself, https://kinkyelephant.com which you are welcome to join. Email or message me for an invite. I intend to make this a resource for BDSM and Fetish producers, photographers, models and fans.
  4. Sex-work friendly option: switter.at.
  5. Harder option: Make your own instance, hosted via https://masto.host. That’s what I did. Basic plan costs 5 EUR a month for unlimited space and max 100 users, and you’ll be in control. Hugo had it up and running for me in a couple of hours.
  6. Hard techie option: or you can go the full monty and install an instance on your own hardware if you know what you are doing. If you are worried about “who pays for it, am I the product?” this is your answer. YOU can pay for it, directly, and have control over your instance and all the code on it. This way you’re not even beholden to a hosting company.

STEP TWO: Cross Post with Twitter

If like me your main publicity tool on social media right now is Twitter, you may not want to curate another feed on another platform. Fortunately, you can set up automatic cross-posts between your Twitter feed and your Mastodon.

Go to https://crossposter.masto.donte.com.br/. Log in with your Twitter and with your Mastodon. Set to cross post. You can do it so tweets appear on your Mastodon, or vice versa, or both. Set it to ignore retweets, replies, etc. for a clean feed.

Mastodon has a content warning system, one for text and one for pics.

For pics, the easiest thing is just to set Preferences -> Always mark media as sensitive in your Mastodon control panel.

Supplement that with text saying what the warning is about. When posting you can click the “CW” button as you compose and flag it with words: NSFW, Nudity, BDSM in my case.

You can set the cross-poster to add these automatically on stuff from your Twitter feed: scroll down to “Twitter content warning” and add a few words (I have NSFW, Nudity, BDSM on mine as that covers 99% of what comes up on my twitter reposts).

I gather that will make it more likely that our posts will be widely shared and our instance happily federated by other admins.

STEP THREE: Apps

The most common recommendations seem to be Amaroq (iOs) or Tusky (Android).

Of course you can just use it in a browser, which is what I do. (So I can’t speak for the above apps personally).

STEP FOUR: Tell Your Followers

Now get your current followers to sign up to a Mastodon instance and follow you.

This will grow the network and get us towards a critical mass. But more importantly, it means if and when Twitter gives you the chop, you’ll already have at least SOME of your followers up and running and ready to keep in contact on a new platform.

Follow a few admins and other producers. Post with hashtags (because that’s how search works on there).

STEP FIVE: See What Happens

I got all this set up from scratch in about 24 hours, including my own instance and a bit of reading around to understand how it works. I put this post together so the most important info is in one place so you don’t have to go looking.

I have no idea if this platform will have any longevity, but it has got a lot to recommend it and I figure it is worth a go. Especially since getting an “echo feed” of your Twitter onto Mastodon is literally a few minutes work, tops.

HINTS

You find other people by their handle, which is (@)Username(@)instance. So I am
@RestrainedElegance@kinkyelephant.com
for example.

When you get in, the interface is Twitter-like. (And even more TweetDeck like, if you’ve used that).

If you are on your own instance, you need to start following people on other instances to get “federated up”. Google it- basically follow a few admins of other instances, and tell your fans. If they sign up and follow you from a big public instance, job done.

Use hashtags, that’s the only way to search. We need to establish stuff like #BDSM #bondage #adult #erotic #footfetish etc. so new people can find us if this does all take off.

Annoyingly, right now there’s very limited scheduling facilities for queued posts. There’s one in beta but it doesn’t allow pics yet. But while we’re still allowed on Twitter we can use their queued tweets to schedule stuff via cross-posting which is a workable solution while we build followings. But at least they’re working on it.