Monday, December 22, 2008

Making the Case

So here's a piece I've been working on for nearly a year that's not so phenomenal for its production value or editorial finesse, but simply in value-to-client. We've had this on YouTube for a few days, and we're averaging 200+ views daily. Nice!

There are a few reasons I'll never forget this one. First being that I spent a week doing the multicam edit (it was a three camera shoot with backup audio on another system) on an older Avid before that system died completly, taking the project files and all the media along with it. The second memorable "event" in this piece was a client management situation I learned SO much from. Months into the project, a second producer came in from the marketing side, essentially speaking a different language than the rest of us. Had I sat everyone down in a room and said "let's get on the same page" from the get-go, it would have been fine. Truth was, the new producer had a completly different concept in mind(with the same "name" we had been throwing around months prior to her arrival), and the poor dear couldn't figure out why on earth we didn't "get it". Lesson learned: New person comes on, you sit down with the entire team and MAKE SURE you're on the same page, speaking the same language.

That being said, there were two realy shining moments to this project for me:

1. Amazing Talent: Professor Rodriguez is a wonderful person and teacher, on and off camera.

2. Putting the Learning to work: I spent a good deal of time this summer formally re-educating myself on the mechanics of creative, specifically through Apple's Certified Professional program. I thought I knew a lot - and I did - but I had no idea how much I didn't know before I started taking these classes. The best part is that now, I'm hooked. I'll never let 12 months go by again, let alone a week, without making sure I'm learning something, either formally or informally. Having invested the time makes my work better, richer, and more rewarding, and that's a trend I'm looking to continue in the new year.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sustainability, Recycling Footage, and YouTube Annotations

One of the frustrating aspects of my job is that I often walk away from a series of interviews with HOURS of good material. People who are passionate, knowledgable, and know how to speak intelligently about their area of expertise are what make my job fun and easy. I always feel as if I'm betraying them a bit by having to cut their thoughtful comments down to sound bites, and that our conversation together is somewhat wasted if I can't publish it to the world.

Last week I did a piece that had great interviews but the total amount of material was far too much for a showcase piece, so I tried YouTube's new "Annotations" feature to link from within our showcase news piece to the more in-depth interviews from the guests. My yield, as it were, went up from 4 minutes of video to about 25 minutes of really good material, and it is, in a sense, self-editing. If you're interested in learning more, great. If not, it doesn't get forced on you or take away from the snappy promo. 

This is going to be a fantastic feature for the kind of work I do at the University – I'll be interested in seeing what other assuredly more creative ways YouTube producers put it to work. For now, here's the finished piece - feel free to interact!

Saturday, September 06, 2008


DIY - On the Bench

Sometimes things break fast, all at once. More often though, they degrade, and then, seemingly all of a sudden, they don't work at all. It sneaks up on you. Such was the case with my car stereo last week.

If you take a look at this blog you'll note I'm a big fan of podcasts. I also spend a good deal of time in my car, either commuting to work or heading up to D.C. once or twice a month, which can be a 3+ hour drive, depending on the traffic. This is why I really, REALLY love being able to run my iPod into my car stereo; hours and hours of audio books, podcasts, and of course, music. If you're in the same boat, you've no doubt explored the numerous solutions for connecting your mp3 player - expensive interfaces that work really well (but only for newer cars), FM Transmitters (they never work well), and then the good old line-out-line-in solution. This works best for me in my '97 Accord, but has one weak point: a one-inch connector that juts out the front of the stereo and is easy to hit when tossing bags in the front seat, when dogs are jumping around the car, etc. This is bad because the only thing that's holding that connector to the rest of the car is a few points of solder - not really designed for "strain relief".

So, as I anticipated, it finally happened; something knocked the connector and one day, seemingly all at once, no more iPod in the car. Tragic, no? In truth, I had felt this coming on. The whole thing felt dodgy from day one, and about a month ago I had lost the Left Channel. I wasn't sure this was my input jack but was too lazy to pull the stereo all the way out to check the harness and had a gut feeling it was probably that faceplate jack, which I didn't know if I could fix anyway.

With nothing to lose (except a half-hour of time and about $100 on a new stereo) I decided to take the damn thing apart to see if I could make lemonade out of these lemons. I'd often thought this could all be put together in a more secure way, and if I just bought a new stereo, well, I'd be starting over with the same weaknesses.

30 minutes later it was all put back together, plugged into the car, and sounding better than it had in months.

DIY - Finished repair of car stereo faceplate

It's often billed as a "guy" thing but I find an inherent pleasure in taking things apart, even better when I can find the success (rare in my case, I'm no mechanical genius to be sure) of actually fixing something. It was a Zen moment to be on the bench with this silly little stereo, and it got me thinking about the process, and what can be learned by trying something you don't know you can finish:

1. Have the confidence to try things: Success breeds confidence, breeds success, and so on.

2. Go back to the foundation: whether it's mechanical or creative, such as a piece of writing, a musical composition, or a graphic design, we often find ourselves going down roads where things just aren't working anymore. I often find the prospect of "undoing" work daunting, it seems so inefficient, to just throw away all that effort. More often than not though, it's this thinking, and all that non-functioning, interfering material that is getting in the way. Trash it, go back to the bones, and start again, at the start. Many times this is the only way to get where you really wanted to go.

3. Have the right tools for the job, the most important one being patience. I started with a well-lit workspace, magnifying lamp, forcep tweezers, a variety of small screwdrivers, and a good soldering iron. Most importantly, not rushing and enjoying the process allowed me to put the tools to use in an efficient and effective fashion.

4. Anticipate that the results might be better than you expected, or worse: I could afford to lose this stereo (I considered it lost anyway at this point), and my first instinct was to just go buy another one. As mentioned, I'm no mechanical genius, but I've had limited and rewarding success in the past with these kinds of projects. At the outset of this project I had in fact forgotten that half the stereo wasn't working anymore, so when I fired it up I was shocked to hear it sounding better than it had in months - giving me the full stereo signal instead of just half. Again, the major lesson here for me was that when you try things you're not sure of, you may be truly surprised by what you can accomplish

5. See point #1. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So, there you have it. A small project with big life lessons. And I've got my iPod back in my car for the next trip to D.C.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Voyage of Discovery

Above is a video I did last week of a team-building exercise for incoming students at the Darden School. The "Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery" gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own recent Voyage of Discovery, where I've been taking classes at the Washington D.C. location of Future Media Concepts with the goal of earning my Final Cut Studio (FCS) Master Pro certification.

I had initially embarked on this course of study as a way to forward my career and, lets be honest, earning potential doing something I really loved. Over the years I've worked as a writer, musician, producer, marketing manager, e-commerce strategist, sound engineer... a lot of different jobs. None of them were as fun or more of a seemingly "natural fit" for me as the creative work of being a music editor, way back in the day. It didn't pay much but many years later I still look back on it as one of the happier times, professionally, in my life. Later, there was a brief, glimmering moment in my life in video where all was creative, a natural extension of my experience as a music editor... and then all of a sudden it seems I was told I was "The Producer" and life hasn't been as much fun since.

So it was with that thinking that I went back to school this summer. Ostensibly, the goal was to achieve a certification that would provide greater breadth of professional opportunities. I really thought there wasn't a whole lot for me to learn in editing video or audio, and I couldn't care less about graphics, because I'll always want to hire pros for that anyway. Whoo boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.

I'm about half-way through this course of study, and as with all things in education, the most important thing I'm learning is how much I Did Not Know prior to the outset. What I'm learning about technique and workflow makes me cringe at the way I worked just a few months ago, and I'm finding that with my new set of tools I don't get in my own way anymore. I have a vision, I create it. If it doesn't work out, I start over and try something else. With my new tools I don't spend any more time saying to myself "with all the effort I just put into that, do I really want to undo it and try another way? Isn't that Good Enough? Most importantly, I'm noticing a visible improvement in my work over just the past few months.

Of course, if you're familiar with the FCS suite you'll recognize a lot of template media in the above piece, and you know what? That's just fine with me, because a month ago I wouldn't have ventured that far. And for the next project, I'll do more and be braver. And on and on.

All this, and I'm only half-way through. Can't wait to see what lies at the end, or beyond it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Podcasting with Drupal

Old friend Steve Monsen at the Alliance for Children and Families and I have been discussing the tech side of Podcasting for Nonprofits (note I am decidedly more of a content development person). They run a Drupal CMS (Content Management System) -based site and want to keep everything on the same server. While I still recommend Libsyn's hosting to everyone I know (they make it just too easy), he found this link which I thought would be worth sharing with anyone who might be interested:

Podcasting With Drupal (via Awakened Voice)

Good luck with the show, Steve!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hate that Microphone

BUT.. I had a lot of fun riding the electric bicycle. Was amazed we were able to get any usable audio at all given the blaring PA. You'll see my hand making a cameo - holding the mic not quite off camera while I conducted the interviews.

And a big shout out to Apple Motion - although I've not yet done the graphics certification (two weeks away!) creating the lower thirds clocked in at about two minutes of fiddling with the options, even made from scratch.

I did this music just a few weeks ago as an instrumentation test for something else I'm working on. It's nice when all these pieces just come together, right on the laptop ;-)

Pandora, iPhone Update and the Social Web

I swore I'd never use Twitter but felt obligated to give it a try, and well, whaddya know, I'm hooked. Initially I found it a fun way to keep a mini-diary and very much like TwitPic's integration with my iPhone. As time has gone on, I find it even more entertaining to read what my friends and colleagues are Twittering about, and we've even started using it as an informal tool for two-way communication, i.e. "does anyone have any advice on..."

On a tangentially related note, I did the iPhone OS update last week - I've been chomping at the bit for the App store to open in iTunes and even though I'm on a version 1 phone, I imagined this would open up some amazing functionality if not just some good time-wasting fun on the device. When the store opened over the weekend, I was nearly overwhelmed at the amount of free and reasonably priced apps, many related to some of my favorite web services, like Pandora radio and the NY Times crossword puzzle. If you're not familiar with Pandora Radio, it's a "smart" kind of radio station, which pushes music to your device, you give each track a thumbs up or down, and your voting and the opinions of other users of the service helps Pandora intelligently plan your playlist based on those preferences. I simplify, but if you want more information read about the Music Genome Project.

I was so impressed with the immediacy of having Pandora's service (linked to my web account, natch) on my phone that I Twittered (tweeted?) within minutes of trying it out. The next day, I got a reply from @rustyspeidel asking if Pandora used the Sprint Data (Edge) network or Wifi. I had only tried it on WiFi (no cell service at the house) but replied I would try it in the car. So Rusty, to answer your question: It DOES work on the Edge network. A bit sluggish at times and it only runs as a foreground app, so if you want to check your email Pandora will close. Also, it's a bit of a battery hog. I imagine the buffering is less of an issue for users of the newer 3G phones where that service is available, and if you have a power adaptor for your car that would negate the battery issue.

So, props to Pandora for pimping my phone. Even more impressive is that I was notified a few hours after my Twitter post that Pandora was following me on Twitter. I find it very impressive (and pretty cool) that they are keeping their ears open for what people are saying about them, and staying connected to the people that are likely to say things about them, good or bad. Twitter and blogging are great tools for staying engaged in conversation with your customers, and having worked in companies that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on focus groups of questionable authority, I think this provides a really cool insight into how technology is enabling organizations to connect with consumers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

7 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts

7 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts

Just (re)discovered this article after an email exchange with an old colleague. Check it out, and consider that these guidelines don't just apply to Nonprofits.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jump: 9 Photographers

This 11-minute short film gives viewers a glimpse into the thoughts and souls of nine diversely talented Aurora photographers, highlighting their work and passion.
The short premiered in June 2008 at the Look3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virgina.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Look3: Festival of the Photograph 2008 wrapup

I'm still a little fried from this year's activities (in a very good way) but I'm more inspired than I've been in years. Since our first year was so hectic, I made a point to step away from our productions this year (thanks to the wonderful volunteer video crew of Mike Hollander, Tiffany Horst, Peter Hedlund, Kevin Fagan, Sera Tabb, Seth Butler, Charlotte Hornsby) and see the Festival outside of the Paramount Theater.

Of course, it was a privilege to be present and capture presentations from Flip Nicklin, Mary Ellen Mark, Joel-Peter Witkin, David Alan Harvey, and James Nachtwey. Even better were the wonderful folks I meet and became friends with over three short days of Peace, Love and Photography. It's difficult to relay the experience in words, so I'll just include some links and give it a few weeks to simmer ;-) One thing worth noting now is that the multimedia exhibited at the "Works" finale in the Charlottesville Pavilion was, for a moving-picture person such as myself, really mind-blowing. I've decided that my next personal project (shouldn't they all be personal?) will be predicated on finding a great still photog and following a story with him or her.

Some really cool people I meet, whose work you'll be seeing more of and is worth checking out now:

Seth Butler
Liz Kreutz
Heather McClintock
Jamie Rose
Allison Shelley

...and PDN provided some great coverage:

as did John Harrington and the crew from Photo Business News:

(with more video here)

Perhaps I'll report more after I've really absorbed it all ;-)

and here's really nice coverage from NPR...

Monday, June 02, 2008

YouTube Header Ache...

I've been trying to stay away and/or get out of web design as much as possible over the past few years, but every now and then something needs to be done and it's just easier to do it yourself. The real lesson here: When in doubt, View Source.

As we've been working on setting up Darden's YouTube Channel (complete with unrestricted file durations and all the other great things that come with having an Enhanced Channel)I decided that while we wait on the content encoding it would be a good idea to get the look of the channel up-to-date. This doesn't take a great deal of work, just adjusting the color scheme to match our main website and getting the few graphic options one is given (hey - simple is good) created and uploaded.

If you have a YouTube "Enhanced Channel", one of the privileged options you receive are what they call "Branding Options", under Channel Design. within these branding options, there are three additional ways you can complement your channel design: using a Video Page Banner, a Video Page Icon, or a Channel Banner.

As of today, the Channel Banner upload dialog advises as follows:

Upload a thin banner that will display at the top of your Channel page (maximum 850px by 75px).

So I took a logo that looked like this, with the above following specs:

and the resulting image on the YouTube Channel did this:

As mentioned above, I've been trying to get away from web design ever since the late 90's, so I didn't jump through a lot of hoops trying to figure this out. I did what I do best, which is to find someone with the answer, and this is what I got:

"The YouTube page is embedding it at 875 pixels wide while the image is only 850 pixels. Did they say to make it 850 or 875 wide?"

So, I adjusted the canvas size of the image and voilĂ , as they say.

This is not a gripe about YouTube - Obie has been wonderful at cultivating and managing educational channels on YouTube and I'm going to pass this along to him so they can make the fix, but I know someone like me is out there Googling this right now...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Look3: Festival of the Photograph 2008

Phew! After sitting on the Tapes that Bryan Harvey and I shot at last year's festival for almost a year, I got the rushed call to put together a promo piece, and here it is. Lots of folks helped tighten, and having just taken a FCP class I've had the opportunity to learn everything I could have done more efficiently ;-)

Also had much fun working with my friend Addison Brady on the music and mix for this - the feedback so far has been positive, and we had a lot of fun doing it (also looks like a cut-down will be airing on WVPT next week). If you're coming to Charlottesville in June, be sure to drop me a line!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Famous Person Sighting #1

Actually, I thought his performance in Best in Show was far stronger.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm hanging it up.

Really - who NEEDS a movie?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Opportunity Knocks

It's usually the case that the busier I am, the less time I have to write about the work. I'm taking a breather this weekend to add OK Radio to the show roster on this blog, as I've been working with Host/Producers Joe Folan and Lynne Norton for several months to put the pieces together for this new series.

I can't describe it better than they do, so I'm just going to steal the description directly from their website:

Welcome to OK Radio, podcasts designed to provide real world insight and context from leaders and experts in the nonprofit community.

Opportunity Knock’s mission is to bring nonprofit professionals and organizations together. Through OK Radio’s interviews we not only provide valuable information on everything from career matters to sector trends, but also learn some fun facts about the thought leaders that are featured.

Pretty cool, no?

I've worked with Joe in the past and really appreciate the work he and Lynne were willing to do even prior to the first interview to get the right strategy and voice together for this podcast. It's a good listen no matter what line of work you're in, so enjoy the show!