Summer Reflections

Summer went by too fast!

Sure, I’ll do a blog…if I can keep up!  Well, that pledge to self didn’t last long. The summer of 2018 flew by…several projects took us on the road, literally. After having spent most of my career in airplanes and airports, I am enjoying driving to as many locations as I can.  This year, we did widen the circle a bit with travel to Minneapolis, Nashville and Denver.  Still, my favorite project has been a small video to capture the moods at a local nature preserve.  This was in part to learn more about my camera and to force myself to shoot more outside.   So, for the past year, I have been following the seasons and really enjoying being part of the space.   I realized I did a reasonable job with Autumn and Winter, but I had no shots of rain.  A huge oversight. I do not have fancy rain gear for me or the camera, so I dashed out during a recent storm with a couple of trash bags.  Actually, trash bags work pretty darn well for this drill.  It is far more exhausting to carry the gear through the woods in the rain, but you have the added pleasure of knowing you are pretty much alone.  Only the animals and a few silly cameraman venture into the woods during a storm.  So, I edited a few shots into the video and am calling it done for now, but I have developed a passion now for shooting at this preserve.  The more you are there, the mroe you see. I have started to collect stock video of various activities.  This has allowed me to become much more familiar with the Sony FS7 and kept me from doing to many house chores.  Don’t tell my wife!

By making a routine of walking and shooting video in the woods, the animals seems to feel more comfortable.  It is as if they know why you are there and that I will not harm them.  One day, I stumbled upon a large non-poisonous snake that was sunning itself.  I think we both were stunned!  The snake froze its pose, staring at me and I froze staring back at it.  When I took my eyes of the snake, to turn on the camera, the snake bolted.  I never got the shot.  Some things are not meant to be recorded.  Just enjoy the world around us. Explore. 

August 2018

Frost Bites

February 4, 2018

I have been working on a small video for the Grove Nature Center in Glenview and have been using it as a laboratory for my new Sony FS7 camera.  I decided it would be fun to complete a montage for all 4 seasons at the nature preserve.  I started late last spring and it has been going great. This winter has been more of a challenge. First, there hasn’t been much snow and there have been prolonged periods of below zero temperatures.  Now, I am an outdoor kind of person. I love winter camping, but there is a problem when you try to shoot video in the cold.  At some point you have to have your hands exposed to the cold…and the equipment itself becomes cold.  I have been experimenting with various layers of clothing and I think I have it down to a snow suit, boots, dual layer pants and a nice hoodie.  My hands, however, are a mess.  My goal has been to outlast the camera’s battery and so far, I have been successful, but today the battery beat me.  I do wear two layers of gloves, a big mitt and a small, form fitting fingered glove. Still, there are too many times when you have to put your cold hands on that cold lens or tripod to shoot.  There is a reason they call it frost bite!  After a while, that is exactly what it feels like. You can go a long time outside before you realize that your hands are really cold.  For me, I realize I hit the pain threshold on the long ride home with my hands tucked under my arm pits as I try to normalize the circulation.  Not to give up, I do have a few more tricks to try, like surgical gloves to create a vapor layer, and maybe even hand warmers. Makes you wonder how people ever worked with small hand tools, like pliers or screw drivers outside during the winter? It has been a fun challenge. The footage, more importantly looks terrific.  Just wish I could shoot from inside a warm building sometimes.  I have no picture to add to this story since it has been too cold to lure anyone else along!  I need along selfie stick!

Ring in the New Year!

January 2018

Ushering in a new year always comes with the promise of new relationship and new opportunities.  2017 was a fabulous year for us…lots of U.S. travel.  We chose to go to many of our locations by car to avoid the rigors of air travel.  Of course, you can’t always take the slow road, but it sure helps if you want to see the country and enjoy the people along the way.  We have been working mostly in the Midwest, but we did one long driving trip to New Jersey.  It allowed us to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Waters,” the home he built for the Kaufman’s. What a spectacular place.  It is hard not to feel elevated to a different level.  You are protected from nature but part of it.  Really a special place that I am glad is now a sanctuary for many to enjoy.

2017 was a year of major renewal for us here.  Had to upgrade much of our production and editing equipment. The pace of technological change imposes some very strict measures on keeping up with the times.  One could spend every waking second learning new software or breaking in yet another camera, which is exactly how a good part of 2017 was spent!  We continue to be a Premiere Pro shop.  We now have two complete edit suites and have added to our camera collection with the Sony FS7 and some additional lenses.  I still have the same old car, however!  The Toyota Sienna only has 164,000 miles.  I heard of another Sienna that had 500,000 miles on it, so I might get have a few more years out of it yet, unless the rust destroys it.

This winter has been brutal.  I had to do some outdoor camerawork in the middle of December when the thermometer read -4, but the wind chill was much lower. The camera battery died before the operator quit, but the price I paid for chilled hands taught a real lesson in how to really prepare for that kind of shooting environment (and can you really prepare? At some point, you just grit your teeth and bite down). 

Expect to see more of the same extremes in 2018 and I look forward to continuing to create great stories for our clients.

 

4K Here I come

I have been working with 4K video for a couple of years but it was always with other people’s gear.

Today, I took the plunge into the 4K universe, even though the world is not demanding 4K video product.  In fact, there are very few televisions equipped to handle 4K in consumer’s homes.  No doubt it will come.  Just need a couple of good Super Bowl television selling seasons.  From an acquisition point of view, shooting on 4K make total sense.  Even when producing videos that end up only the Internet, the difference in quality is discernible, especially since you also need to step up the image quality with better lenses.  Of course, there are all sorts of advertised consumer 4K cameras out there, including cell phones, so how does that work?  The world is changing and this technology is becoming much more accessible.  Allow me to digress.

Just as I made my move into this 4K arena, I was standing in line at the local grocery market talking to the young man behind the deli counter. We got talking about work and he asked what I did. I told him I make videos…and he said, “Oh, really?!  So do I!  I love making short videos!”  OK. Then my 12 year old granddaughter comes home and wants to use my editing equipment to fix a video she shot on her cell phone!  She did a great job with iMovie, a program I have never figured out how to use!  Finally, I am on a location in a small town, doing a complicated green screen shot, and the janitor comes in and looks at my gear.  He knew the camera! Turns out he is a weekend video producer.  OK.  I totally get it.  Life looks pretty rosy from the other side.  I have been successfully making film video productions for clients like major corporations, television networks and not-for-profits for many, many years.  Folks, this is work…and yes it can be fun work and incredibly rewarding.  It is still work.  I mention this now because I have to find more work to pay for the expensive camera I have just purchased!

 

Someone said 4K will be the limit because it is already beyond what the human eye can discern. That didn’t stop one of the major networks from announcing that they were going to 8K!  What’s a few K’s between friends?  Personally, I wanted to do some different visual things with 4K that I cannot achieve with regular HD, so I am eager to explore.  I bought a real video camera, a Sony, as I continue to be frustrated by the state of the video SLR market.  Those are indeed amazing cameras that can delivery superb visuals, but they are still cameras, designed for taking still images, and are very difficult to use in video for anything but set up shots, unless you also buy a zillion optional tools to help you handle the still camera like a video camera. 

In the end, it still boils down to just telling stories well. That is the ultimate skill here. So here’s to 4K and beyond!!

A Reflection

I have been an avid follower of Krista Tippets “On Being” podcasts and web musings for a number of years now and through that experience I have discovered Seth Godin’s wisdom.  He publishes a popular blog www.sethgodin.com and a Twitter feed https://twitter.com/ThisIsSethsBlogBoth that are both worth sharing.  Here is a quote from one of Seth’s Blogs that has captured my imagination:

 

“Giving the people what they want isn’t nearly as powerful as teaching people what they need. There’s always a shortcut available, a way to be a little more ironic, cheaper, more instantly understandable. There’s the chance to play into our desire to be entertained and distracted regardless of the cost. Most of all, there’s the temptation to encourage people to be selfish, afraid, and angry. Or you can dig in, take your time, and invest in a process that helps people see what they truly need. When we change our culture in this direction, we’re doing work that’s worth sharing. But it’s slow-going. If it were easy, it would have happened already. It’s easy to start a riot, difficult to create a story that keeps people from rioting. Don’t say, ‘I wish people wanted this.’ Sure, it’s great if the market already wants what you make. Instead, imagine what would happen if you could teach them why they should.”

 

We are in the services business.  We produce videos that clients request and that equation has served us well for the many years we have been in business.  It still does. We pride ourselves on being the vehicle to help our client’s tell their stories. Today, in this most acrimonious political climate, we must all stretch ourselves more. 

 

Education is vital to being an engaged human, an informed citizen, even an enlightened consumer.  We strive to make products that teach, raise awareness and help us grow. Not just in select markets but for all of our projects. Video is a tool that can touch others better than almost any other media.  “Teach our children well!"

 

A Note of Thanks

At the start of the 2016, I had great intentions of keeping a year-long Blog. I will attempt to do the same in 2017, but what happened?  Well, it became an incredibly busy year! I would like to take the time to thank all of our clients in 2016 for helping to make this another successful year.

Many changes continue to characterize the video production business.  While we continue to do work for corporate clients direct, to help them with their internal and external communication messaging, our strength continues to be telling short stories that celebrate people, ideas and successes. We also continue to work with not-for-profits (schools, church groups) and various causes (Hands of Peace, Northfield Pantry and others).   This year was filled with several interesting technically challenging projects. We did a couple of Virtual Reality experimental videos…always a fascinating new mode.  We did a 360 degree rear projection screen project for a client that offered some rather interesting problems to solve.  Yes, without the right screen material, you can see through the screen to the other side!  We did our first White Board animation for a client that proved to be a very successful message delivery method.  No drone videos! Amazing. Came close however, but in the end, turned out the client's facility was too close to an airport!  And of course, we did our usual work of just telling stories.

For 2017, we are going to be seeking out new delivery and distribution outlets.  Amazingly, when we first got into the field, bigger was better…the penultimate project was to create an Imax video. Who would ever imagine that the lion share of media today is presented on a cellphone!  We expect that trend will continue, with all of the ensuing challenges.  

So, whatever your project, whatever your scale, whatever your message, we will be here to help design, shoot and complete your project.

 

 

 

slow video movement

Various unsubstantiated Internet reports claim that Facebook uploads 177 million hours of video to their site everyday! If true, that is a serious amount of video!  Facebook will not verify the numbers, but it has been suggested that they have almost 3 billion video viewings every day.  I have also seen statistics that suggest that Facebooks’s video load has more than doubled in the past 3 years.  I would suggest that most of that increase is not necessarily personal communications but ads.  I mean many, many ads.  How else can you explain the explosive revenue growth of Facebook?  It seems that every other post has an ad.  OK. I get it. Google and its YouTube product have done the same thing for years.  It is one of my least endearing attributes…in that you never know who your video might be placed against:  a competitor, an anarchist, some off- the-wall association that counters your own best efforts (and taste).  Welcome to social media, 21st Century style.  The point is this: video on the web has  become a viable way to reach an audience.

 

This got us thinking not only about the power of the medium, but where does a video production company fit into this world?  Most of the personal videos on Facebook,  I would suggest, are just photo streams.  They are often a single shot of a baby or game or significant moment.  No editing. There is power in this strategy.  No doubt.  Plenty of folks upload these moments every day.  It is fast food for the brain.

 

Our work as producers of video content is somewhat different.  Our goal is to engage the brain, to tease the imagination to make the larger world smaller somehow. We do this through editing.  We tell stories that respect the time of the viewer by synthesizing the content into a digestible whole. While 90% of our work as a video production company is made for captive audiences, a huge shift has been occurring to the Internet.  Video use is increasing. You now face a world-wide audience and one you don’t know and can’t see.  One thing is certain, to compete against the streaming photo videos, videos with content need to be short.  How short?  Well, I had a client who watched a review copy of project we were working on while she was stopped at traffic light.  Hmmm. Is that the new gold stand for length?  Might be time to start a slow video movement (modeled after the slow food movement).  Bring the joy of  discovering a well told video story back into our lives.