Archive for the ‘The Help Desk’ Category

Video Production: Where do I Start?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

So you’re thinking about Video Production?

Well, it all starts with questions.
If someone says, “I need a video”, you are going to have to ask them a lot of questions before you ever pick up a camera. Or you may pay a heavy price.
If it is an art piece, you can always just grab a camera and go experiment. That’s a lot of fun too.
Never stop experimenting with light and motion and sound.
No matter what you are shooting, there are 3 main steps to all productions:

1. Pre-production -the most critical stage-careful planning and a clear understanding of your goals, of what really needs to be communicated.
2. Production -shooting
3. Post production -editing and output


  • You should always ask lots of questions.
  • We always start with the last question: What is the end use?
  • What is it you want to accomplish?
  • What role do you see yourself in?
    • Camera operator?
    • Director
    • Production Assistant
    • or one of the many roles in making a production (see below)
  • What resources do you have?
  • What else do you need?
  • Who can you partner with so you don’t have to buy everything yourself?
  • What are you going to do with your finished piece?
  • What higher purpose could this piece serve? (Because we have observed that when we attach good intentions and a higher purpose to our companies, they prosper, for some reason.)

Answer:  Study. You’ve heard of the Internet, right?

Here’s a big one:
Do you want to make this your business or keep it for yourself to enjoy as a hobby? If you want to make this your livelihood, then we strongly advise you to study the art of business.*Highly recommended: Read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber to see what can happen when you make your passion into your livelihood. A great book.

Don’t forget to set aside 30% for taxes as you will receive a 1099 – and if you are smart, another 20% for your savings.
Other business considerations: an accountant, Invoices, contracts, your company policies etc

Marketing yourself
Your Reel

  • Carefully file away all your masters for a demo reel later. Back up your data. always.
  • What is your strategy to find business? Better have a plan. Get a business degree. Or at least study the art of business on your own.
  • How will people find you? We get 50% warm referrals and 50% Internet inquiries because we have been around a long time. Your own network of friends and business is the best way to start. Ask “Who do you know that might profit from the kind of services I can offer?” A warm referral enjoys around 80% success rate. A cold call about 1-2%. Where would you rather spend your time?

Basic equipment setup

  • What is your budget?
  • Do it in phases. Buy carefully. Partner with others who already have it. You pay them and so make less money. But it is done right and you still make money. Do not think that you need to buy everything. The best asset is amazing, trustworthy partners.


  • Choosing the best format
  • DSLR? Camcorder?
  • Traditional video camera; perhaps one that records perhaps to SD cards. Beware of super-compressed formats.
  • Not all cameras labelled High Def are any good at all. It depends on the glass and the chip in it CCD Charge-coupled Display. They can be 1/3” or smaller or bigger.
  • What is the audio input on the camera? Will it allow a better mic to be plugged in?
  • Study how to shoot. How light works. Different lenses.

How to light a subject for professional results

  • A basic kit. What is a basic light kit?
  • What is the right one for you?
  • Get a basic kit and rent or borrow anything else you will need
  • What is diffusion? What kinds should you have on hand?
  • Why wear gloves when handling lights- There a 2 good reasons
    • 1. The oils in your hand can wreck the bulb (which may cost $60)
    • 2. you can burn yourself really badly- they get HOT!
  • Start looking at light and shadow in a new way
  • What is white balance? Color temperature?
  • Learn all the dozens of different lighting fixtures
  • A definitive book: Cinematography by Kris Malkiewicz


Editing Computer

  • Mac or PC?
  • Workstation or laptop? Which is the best fit for you?
  • How much ram? look at packaged models and study them
  • Video cards. Which one works with your software? Id the interface what you need?

Editing Software

  • Final Cut for Mac or
  • Adobe Creative suite 5 – Premiere for PC
  • After FX and Motion

Data Storage
*and a proper system for BACKUP. Losing data makes for a very, very  bad day.
So back up data while working on a project and the masters when you are done.

Camera Supports

  • Tripods, dollies, jibs and steadicam-style devices
  • Make your own mounting gear. It is a blast. Do you ski, skate or ride things off half-pipes? You may want to check out GoPro cameras. Their demo is crazy.  They work nicely on helmets, car bumpers or underwater.

Bags and Cases

  • Protect your gear. Treat it like gold and it will last a long time.
  • Custom-fit your own cases.
  • Pelican is a great brand and ‘’pick& pluck’’ foam helps to make customizing easy.

Stock Footage, Music and Effects

  • What kind? Where do you get it?
  • Online sources are plentiful
  • Digital Juice has amazing still backgrounds and video too
  • Virtual sets can make you look like the network. Google them.

Green Screen

  • What do you need to shoot green screen? What is a key?
  • Everyone loves a crazy background. It is not always good when your face has holes in it because of spill. So read Green Screen made easy
  • A REALLY great source for green screen materials  is

Blank Media/Duplication

  • When you are all done, apart from uploading your piece, you may need to author a DVD
  • Did you know that much of the media at retail stores is really bad? Buy from a pro. It is no more expensive and you get the real deal. And good professional advice as well.
  • We buy great quality media (and hard drives etc) from Robb Taylor at Great Lakes Multimedia. 1307 Allen Drive Suite D, Madison Hgts, MI Call ahead to order. (248) 588-9177 Tell him Randy sent you

Now you want to share your work with the world.

  • Start your own YouTube channel -it’s free.
  • Or Vimeo. A few nicer perks available- currently $60 a year
  • Use Dropbox to deliver elements to online collaborators


Additional Resources
You will find a lot of tutorials and information online without buying books. I like to buy books too, though the technology-based ones go out of date before they are printed. Note, however, that the real knowledge of how to shoot a great image remains constant, so some old books are priceless.
A site with a LOT of info

Other Info here

Rental Partners

Need more?
You can join our iMPOWER community and sign up for one of the many seminars we will be offering in our program. Video staff from Orange Dragin and Semper Media Group will be conducting workshops at NextWave and they are lots of fun as well as educational.

And our crazy List of Some Jobs in making a Video or Film

  • 1st AD
  • 1st AD & Script Supervisor
  • 1st Assistant Director
  • 2D Compositor
  • 3D Animation
  • 3D Animation Design
  • 3D Animator
  • 3D Artist
  • 3D designer/animator/modeler
  • Administrative Assistant
  • After Effects Artist
  • Agent Assistant
  • Journalist/Anchor
  • Animation Instructor
  • Animator
  • Art Director
  • Set Dressers
  • Artificial Intelligence Programmer
  • Artist
  • Assistant
  • Assistant Art Director
  • Assistant Editor
  • Assistant to Director of Photography
  • Assistant to Executive Producer
  • Assistant to Producer
  • Associate Producer
  • Video Editors
  • VideoTech
  • Camera Operator
  • Camera Operator / DP
  • Camera Operator/Editor
  • Sound & Lighting Crew
  • Casting Director/Producer
  • Choreographer
  • Cinematographer
  • Client Relations
  • Commercial Producer
  • Composer
  • Computer Graphic Artist
  • Construction Crew
  • Coordinating Producer
  • Wardrobe Designer
  • Hair Designer
  • Craft Service
  • Creative Animator
  • Crew Call
  • Design Artist
  • Design Director
  • Designer/Developer
  • Development Assistant
  • Development Director
  • Digital Artist/Producer
  • Digital Assistant Coordinator
  • Digital Linear Editor
  • Digital Production Artist
  • Director
  • Director & Choreographer
  • Director of Photography
  • Director/Editor
  • Documentary Filmmaker
  • Documentary Producer
  • Driver
  • DVD Editor
  • Editor
  • Editor (Non-Linear)
  • Editor/Producer
  • Editors & Post Production Supervisor
  • Engineering Support
  • Executive Assistant

Pitching my idea. Where do I start?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

You know you have a tremendous idea for a TV show. Now what do you do? What makes a great sizzle reel?

You may be wondering what your next steps should be or what this crew of people in Detroit might be able to do for you. Or why not just do everything yourself. Or, how do you refine your idea and take it to completion at a professional level? Or what is the best format for your idea?

You will find a list of Personnel and a Client List after this summary.


Our Process for Content Development

All our productions are set in a 4-step process that we have distilled over many years.

1. Discovery -We will ask you many questions, listen to your biggest concerns and help set a budget

2. Scope of Work – Once we have enough information about the kind of project we are dealing with, your goals and your budget we write a very specific SOW. This outlines what we will do, a timeline and clear deliverables. No production is ever started until this preproduction work is done.

3. Design – We design the solution. This can be done in Phases.

4. Build – We build the solution. Similarly, this can also be done in Phases. Sometimes when there exists a raw idea that is brilliant but could be taken in many directions, the development of the Scope of Work is actually Phase One of the design step. It is critical to determine best direction before work begins. Otherwise you run the risk of building the house starting with the third-floor chimney. What if you get to the bottom and you’ve missed the foundation?

A serious process for preproduction is needed in order to think truly creatively and deliver you the best possible result. We have developed a process addressing just that.

Scope of Work:

1. Start with a Preproduction Brainstorm

Sometimes when there exists a raw idea that is brilliant but could be taken in many directions, the development of the Scope of Work is actually Phase One of the design step. In these cases, the first step is the  ”Preproduction Brainstorm.”

We offer this process in several levels, and for this work we charge a modest fee. For example, a productive result might be obtained from a two day session with a think-tank style group of  approximately 6 people. Some projects require more time.

It is critical to determine best direction before work begins. Otherwise you run the risk of building the house starting with the third-floor chimney. What if you get to the bottom and you’ve missed the foundation?

The end result is the Scope of Work, a carefully-constructed solution that addresses your idea, your biggest concerns and fits your budget. It is delivered as a detailed, written debrief document.

The SOW document contains such elements as:

  • Our format recommendations and conclusions on best marketing options
  • An outline summary of the show, the hook(s) and the target audience
  • Options for alternative platforms and interactivity
  • 3-5 main character descriptions
  • A description of the environment and the situation
  • A one paragraph synopsis of three shows
  • An outline of and budget for specific technical options for different levels of sizzle reel
  • A profit-sharing proposal: If we move past the Preproduction Brainstorm, we will act as partners, providing cost-level pricing and sharing profits. That is our incentive. If you don’t wish to share any income from your idea, then you can always just pay our full fees up front, as a ‘’work for hire.’’

The value in this process is

1. That your idea is dissected and re-constructed by a handful of critical folks with industry experience

2. That you could actually pitch from this debrief document (though difficult)

3. That you get to know a team with a process and see if we are both a good fit. Then you have the option to continue as partners, with production options at several levels, or to proceed on your own

2. The Sizzle Reel

There are several formats and levels of production that constitute a sizzle reel. These range from still photos to a high-end piece that describes the look and feel of the show.

Once we have agreed upon the format that makes the most sense, we produce, at your expense and with your input, a sizzle reel, outline and other highly developed package elements to be presented to networks and/or agents. We refine and edit client ideas at all levels and there are many steps to completing this process. The experience and attention of our team will guide you through these steps and professionally produce a unique piece that can be put to good use as the centerpiece of a solid pitch for your now-developed idea.

3. Pitching your idea

We direct strategy for and assist with the pitch process to networks or agents. Why do we make this a top priority and work hard to pitch these ideas?

A. We only work with ideas we strongly believe in; the very best ideas presented to us. This since our reputation is on the line as we present them.

B. We have have a financial incentive to promote the property

C. The piece has survived rigorous critiquing at every level and is something we feel strongly about

D. We only handle a limited number of pitches at one time

In all cases, we seek to be the production company on the series or documentary. Should a network insist on a payoff and wish to use their own production company, we will reasonably negotiate in good faith a share of whatever money is made available.

If we agree to take on your project, we require agreed-upon pre-production and sizzle costs to be paid by the owner of the intellectual property. With your input and flexibility,  we will create and package an outline, a sizzle reel and other elements to present and you agree that we will serve as the production company.  In the event that a network wants to produce it themselves, our share would then be derived from funds received for licensing your work.


All creative and business elements must be a good fit for both parties.

Our policy of no surprises includes:

  • Email memos of meetings to reflect status of project and intentions of both parties and well as information to be held in confidence
  • Non-disclosure agreements that outline what portions of your idea are actually confidential. If you have content posted on a website or it is available to the public, it is not confidential, however the use of it in the application you have specified may well be. In every case, we use our best efforts to respect and protect the intellectual property of our clients and partners. All your work must be protected with the Library of Congress before it can be considered by our team.
  • Extensive pre-production ensures that we are working on the correct material in the correct format, aimed at the best possible target.
  • Production costs are clearly defined and agreed to
  • Profit sharing is clearly defined and agreed to if we agree to work with you past the initial consult/SOW. It is based on percentage shares, with each party fairly compensated according to their contribution
  • Data backup, disaster planning and succession plans are all provided for while your project is in progress.


If your idea meets our criteria, we will offer a profit sharing proposition and you will provide us with a share of profits. That is our incentive to partner with you.


Our costs are calculated at a partner level.  Our major goal is profit from the distribution or direct sponsorship of the content we create- both for series and documentaries. For sizzle reels, as for production, we provide a list of line items included and the total cost to deliver a finished product.


A Scope of Work and Media Production Agreement will clearly define all the steps along the way.


Randy Leipnik

Semper Media Group

(248) 561-5176

You have a story. We help you tell it.


Development Personnel


Illustrator, writer and performer

has contributed to such varied media as:

● National Lampoon

writer and artist for over ten years, best known for the cartoon strips “The Appletons” and “Timberland Tales”, in addition to various articles and illustrations.

● Walt Disney Feature Animation

character design for “The Legend of Mulan” and new story development.

● Jim Henson Associates

character design for “Dr. Teeth” of the Muppet Band, “Digit” of the NBC “Henson Hour”, various monsters and illustrations for Henson Publishing.

● Sesame Street

illustrations for the “Character Reference Book”, Sesame Street and Electric Company magazines, ABC – 123 Sesame Street book.

● ABC’s “Home Improvement”

staff writer on TV comedy series with Tim Allen for three seasons (Walt Disney Touchstone)

● Nickelodeon

illustrator for Nickelodeon magazine; writer for “Eureka’s Castle”, Nickelodeon Television.

● Creative Director/Producer

Stunt Pilot Productions, film and television development.

● Production Designer

“Moontrap” (feature film, Shapiro/Glickenhaus) also storyboard, character design; “Liquid Red” production design (currently in post production)

● Animation Art

“9 Simple Steps to Prime-Time Health”, featuring award-winning author, Dr. William Sears (winner of the 2011 Silver Telly, produced by Penczner Media

● Illustration

Scholastic Publishing, Doubleday, Random House, McClanahan, St. Martin’s Press, Workman Publishing, Addison-Wesley, MacMillan Jr., Avon and Mad Magazine

● Awards

Inkpot, Gold Brick, Funny Bone, Ace, four Caddies and the 2010 Reed Award for Political Cartooning.

Michael Whitenack

Executive Producer and Director

Upon graduation from Central Michigan University with a degree in broadcasting and film, Michael Whitenack began a sales and marketing sojourn in the music industry that extended over decades, with stops at RCA, Island Records and finally as Director of National Accounts at Walt Disney Records.

Currently reconnected with his passion for motion picture and television creation, his work includes TV commercial production, remote web broadcast, independent films, reality TV series and the 2010 Detroit/Windsor 48-Hour Film Competition.

Most recently, his showcase series on outstanding eateries in the Detroit area “Dining in the D” was aired on PBS and is rumored to have sent many people quite over the edge of the diet precipice.

Wally Szczubialka

Director Of Photography

Wally’s lifelong goal was to become a creative participant in the film/television production business. Filmmaking was his dream, but he found personal and professional satisfaction staying in Michigan and working in the video and television production world.

He loves to have a goal for a client, to create the visual and audio support to reach the intended audience and to achieve that goal. Each project becomes a “film” to send a message and touch people’s lives. He enjoys the challenge of bringing together all the elements needed to complete a project.

Since 1985 Wally’s roles have included:

● Director Of Photography: DP/ Videographer / Camera Operator for video productions

Broadcast shows, (all major networks and all styles of shooting)

Agency and Corporate programs (Sales & Marketing, Internal Communications)

Documentary style production

● Production Manager:

Responsible for equipment and crew for all location and studio productions

● Editor:

Final Cut Pro editor for specific projects / clients

Chris Carden

Project Manager: Animation

Painter, writer, musician, philosopher, 3D generalist, and social extrovert with a passion for helping people realize their highest potentials. I am a firm believer that we all have the ability to create great new works of art and/or utility without having to step on the toes of others. If there aren’t enough slices of pie, we don’t need to take slices away from others, we just need to bake more pies.

Broad experience in software development, 3D (using Maya), writing, illustration, graphic design,

music composition and performance, and sales and marketing. Focus on disarming bad attitudes with a smile, words of genuine encouragement and recognition of personal accomplishments.

Areas of expertise include:

Graphic design, fine art

Writing, storytelling, storyboarding

Composer, instrumentalist, percussionist

Software: Maya, mental ray, MEL, Python, Perl, HTML/javascript, Java, C++

Technical Writing (documentation, proposals, reports)

Project Management

Technical Sales Support


Sales Training (Modeling, Animation, Rendering)

Randy Leipnik

Project Manager / Producer / Creative Director

Randy takes great original ideas to the next level and on to a timely completion. This process inevitably starts with many questions, and he has concluded that his primary business is listening. The partial client list below is a profile of his work. He started Semper Media Group in 1984.

For the last 30 years, his roles have included: video producer/director, video editor, sound designer, producer of music and spoken word, arranger, musician and sales.


Selected Clients

Semper Media Group and its partners are proud to count the following networks and companies among past and present clients.


Network broadcast services (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) also cable networks including ESPN, A&E, MTV, Nickelodeon, HGTV

● ABC “Crash Course”

principal footage – sold to ABC television as a six show summer series

● FSN “Gatorade Replay the Series”

principal footage – Trenton v Catholic Central

● PBS “Dining in the D”

complete season of episodes on Detroit area eateries

● A&E “Family Jewels” with Gene Simmons

principal footage for Detroit show

● MTV “Mix Masters”

principal footage, Detroit


handle feed from all Tigers games (every year)

● MTV “Celebrity Death Match”

voiceovers for The Undertaker

● HGTV-“My First Place” High Noon Entertainment

voiceovers for host Jill Cordes

● The Public Benefit Corporation

broadcast TV documentary on slavery: “The Hidden Treasure of Gorée Island”

● Hardcore Racing Inc.

sizzle reel & reality TV show pilot on drag racing crew


● People Magazine/

green screen shoot “Who Looked Hot This Week” w/ Carrie Millbank

● Sports Illustrated

green screen shoot: 2009 Final Four-Seth Davis commentary

● The Associated Press

green screen shoot for Motown retrospective

● The Oscars

voiceover for Mauro Fiore clip as he won for cinematography “Avatar”

● Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton

live switch of concert

● Best Buy Mobile/The Grammy Foundation

Kid Rock returns to Romeo High School

● DARPA/Aptima

extensive US military project: classified

● United States Coast Guard

tabletop exercises & multi-agency war games for first responders to terrorist attacks

● Detroit Red Wings/Rovion Inc.

green screen shoot of Detroit Red Wing, Pavel Datsyuk

● Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez Children’s Foundation

fundraiser event for former Detroit Tiger

● Daimler-Chrysler Financial

2 years of voiceovers for online training program

● General Motors and G.M.A.C.

executive video interviews, facility tour

● Cadillac

executive video interviews

● Ford Motor Company

interviews with Bill Ford

● Detroit Lions

player interviews

● Kcraft/Rapido Media of France

video interview with noted author Elmore Leonard

● Subway

green screen shoot with Subway personality Jared

● Marie Inc. – Marie Osmond

live concert video

● Glaxo Smith Kline

physician reviews of medical products

● The “D Show” Awards

Detroit agency awards – live switch

Additional clients at


Sponsored Online Content

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Are you frustrated with the cost of producing a TV ad and the media buys to support it?
Tired of wondering if anyone is actually watching your ads?
Do you wish there were more creative ways to get your brand in front of prospective customers?

There is no doubt that traditional broadcast television still successfully distributes advertising to certain targets. However, the rise of video content delivered on the web cannot be ignored.

Sponsoring content or placing your brand into content delivered online is a powerful way to gain advertising “impressions” without the substantial ongoing expense of media buys to support it.

You could just shoot some video with your home video camera and post it to YouTube with your logo planted on it. However, real success in this strategy starts with a truly creative idea, professionally refined into a unique and effective piece. This will help to self-propel it across the web for a long time. And you will not pay a fortune to buy air time.

Viewing Habits
How do we get our video these days?

Well, folks still watch sitcoms, documentaries and series television, purchased with cable or dish delivery packages. Now the choices have reached into the hundreds of channels. All this network programming has traditionally been funded by advertising dollars. This doe not show signs of changing any time soon. Someone has to pay for the cost of producing all that content to fill the ever-expanding pipeline.

People have widely varying attitudes to commercials. Some sit through every advertisement, absorbing the content and considering the commercial as part of their viewing experience. They appreciate hearing about a mind-numbing array of new products and services. They help to keep the consumer discovering and purchasing these products. This of course is the intent.

There are many people, however, who have grown tired of the immense volume of commercial messages in 30, 60 second or infomercial form. However, the sponsor still must reach out to their market.

Video On Demand
The history of video on demand is relatively brief but gathering momentum in epic proportions.

Faced with ever-busier schedules, viewing content at the convenience of the viewer has become increasingly a priority. First people found they could buy movies on a VHS tape and watch them whenever they wanted. Quite a convenience. Then came automated VCRs that could be set to record a program broadcast while you were away. Many people never mastered getting the clock on the VCR to stop flashing 12:00 so this did not quite attain 100% acceptance. Then followed DVDs for purchase and finally different forms of the DVR or Digital Video Recorder. Currently, DVRs are common offerings built right into cable boxes from your cable provider.

What does all that mean?
1. Many people prefer to watch content when they choose, not on a network schedule
2. Many people like to bypass commercials when possible

Recently, widespread use of DVRs to bypass commercials is beginning to water down the penetration of traditional broadcast models for delivery of advertisements. Viewers accomplish this by placing the DVR in record at the start of the program and then as the program progresses, simply watching from the DVR. This allows them to fast-forward through groups of commercials as they appear. While advertisers have begun making logos large and prominently included so that they at least get their brand across as the DVR scrubs through the commercial break, that is a less than perfect solution.

Traditional television is a one-way street. They played it. We watched it. And perhaps we were sufficiently moved by an ad for a product or service that we will go out and make a purchase. That’s it. To be fair, we also got brand impressions along the way as well.

Online delivery can provide interactivity in a way that is craved by the next generation of viewers.

Constant connectivity is has become an integral part of life for those for whom texting is a significant form of communication with their peers. Interactivity with peers and technology, from web to laptop to mobile via video and text satisfies this urge to be connected.

Knowledge is not power. Applied knowledge is power.
Technology is not power. The intelligent application of technology is power.

Intelligent, creative application of technology can place your brand right in the middle of this mix.
If you create and structure a campaign correctly, when people are searching for content they already want, they will come upon your brand or product. It should be presented in such a way as to not encounter the same resistance to being “advertised to” that has developed in the traditional broadcast model.

No one likes to be sold. But everyone likes to buy.

So….we help people to deliver their product, service and brand in ways that delivers the impression with minimal resistance.

Data Tracking
Data is only valuable if you can track it. TV does not provide that ability. Trackable data may include number of views, time they viewed, how long they viewed, at what point the viewer left the page and what geographical area the viewer was from.
Traditional Model – Television spot and Media Buy
1. Produce a spot for television broadcast
2. Spend a great deal of money buying airtime (media buy)
3. Data available on exactly who watched and information about them: an estimate

Online Sponsored Content
1. Produce a spot for delivery online
2. Spend no money buying airtime
3. Data available on precisely who watched and information about them: a lot

You may pay per click or sponsor unique content that will amass hits for years, sending your brand much further than the distance from screen to couch. Of course, we still make TV spots if they are part of your strategy.

Product Placement

A time-honored and often abused form of impression delivery. Ever since movie stars raised a glass of Coke or lit a Camel, the public has listened, watched, emulated and purchased. Why not make it subtle and minimize any resistance to it or interference with the creative content?

Film maker Morgan Spurlock created a film called “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” in a witty presentation reviling the abuse of this advertising device.
Rest assured, you should go about product placement with style.

What about Viral?
The most misused and abused word around the web. It is the elusive dazzle of pop culture, flavored with emotion and topped with a dollop of the extraordinary.

Regardless of how you want to classify it, it involves content that does two things:

It must be content that will:
1. Strike an emotional chord with the viewer. It must make them shed a tear, get a huge laugh, an “Aww” or a “Wow! moment. And fast.
2. Make the viewer feel compelled to forward it to their circle of influence.

Some Examples
State Farm From the band OK GO Viewed countless times, you gotta love State Farm for sponsoring this one. Here is a note from Digital Music News noting that monitored views had exceeded 3.4 million in 2010. Also ponder that embedding was enabled; millions more views.

Honda The Cog Honda’s extraordinary video made from all Honda parts. 1.6 million views at just the Youtube site alone. It is linked all over the web.

Semper Media A video we shot for Mr. Duey, a talented rapping math teacher in support of his album, reached 2.2 million views on TeacherTube before being inadvertently pulled. We would be happy to show you a screen-shot from when it had reached 1.6 million views. Lots of people told other people about it and away it went.

Getting serious about making money on the web?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Here’s a word for you. Preproduction

Questions you may want to ask before planning a site redesign/build:

1. Do you really need to re-do your site?
2. Does your company have a site that has been up for a few years
3. because everyone said it was the thing to do?
4. Has it really done anything for you or has it just been dormant?
5. What have you expected from your site?
6. Has it lived up to your expectations?
7. What do you wish it would do?
8. Does your web presence encourage any interactive response from the visitor or is it a one-way street?
9. Would it make any sense to see if your web presence could really become a positive contributor to your bottom line?
10. Can you afford to ignore any possible source of positive results to your bottom line?
11. Have you thought about what range of budget would make sense for you?
12. Would placing audio or video clips make the experience any richer for your visitor?
13. Is your site sticky?

Website strategy for planning for new site design/build:

Some things you may want to think about:

1. Who are you aiming to reach?
2. What do you want your visitors to feel and think and do when they get to your home page?
3. What keywords/metatags best represent what you do?
4. Ease of navigation. Does your site invite people to dig deeper?
5. E-commerce. Do you need it? Do you sell many different products?
6. Content. How much? What structure?
7. Search. Do you “get found” on the web? Do you wonder about the people that tell you you can be the top listing in 3 months?
8. Tracking. Do you have a process in place to track where and when your visitors come from, where they land, and what they looked at?
9. Security. Why worry? What is https, SSL?
10. Terms of use & Privacy Policy. Why have it?

If you are asking these questions, you are on the right path. Maybe we can ask a few more and help you to make sense of the answers you get.

If this approach feels like a good fit, call us. You must be here for a reason.
(248) 593-6037

Thinking about shooting a really cheap video?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

It is true that you can indeed save money by having your cousin Vinnie shoot your video with Aunt Grizelda’s old camcorder. Just as a heads up, here is a list of some of the tasks that may need to be covered if you want a professional and successful result.

Perhaps we should be talking. There are ways we can help you by helping you to prioritize just the items you really need. You probably don’t need all the people listed below. But some are critical. Pick who you think you need from the list below and call us. Choosing the right team that works well together is a great stress-reducer.

1st AD
1st AD & Script Supervisor
1st Assistant Director
2D Compositor
3D Animation
3D Animation Design
3D Animator
3D Artist
3D designer/animator/modeler
Administrative Assistant
After Effects Artist
Agent Assistant
Animation Instructor
Art Director
Set Dressers
Artificial Intelligence Programmer
Assistant Art Director
Assistant Editor
Assistant to Director of Photography
Assistant to Executive Producer
Assistant to Producer
Associate Producer
Video Editors
Camera Operator
Camera Operator / DP
Camera Operator/Editor
Sound & Lighting Crew
Casting Director/Producer
Client Relations
Commercial Producer
Computer Graphic Artist
Construction Crew
Coordinating Producer
Wardrobe Designer
Hair Designer
Craft Service
Creative Animator
Crew Call
Design Artist
Design Director
Development Assistant
Development Director
Digital Artist/Producer
Digital Assistant Coordinator
Digital Linear Editor
Digital Production Artist
Director & Choreographer
Director of Photography
Documentary Filmmaker
Documentary Producer
DVD Editor
Editor (Non-Linear)
Editors & Post Production Supervisor
Engineering Support
Executive Assistant
Motion Graphics Designer
Film Composer
First Assistant Camera
Flash Animator
Key Grip
Graphic Artist
Graphic Designer
Graphic Designer/Art Director
Hair and Makeup
Illustrator/panel designer
Image Designer
Information Manager
Internal/External Client Relations
Junior Designer / Animators
Junior Designer/Animator
Lead Engineer
Lead Systems Administrator
Lighting Director
Line Producer
Linear / Online Editor
Location Sound
Location Sound Mixer
Location Sound Recordist
Maya Technical Director
Musical Groups for Songs
News Producer
News Writer / Producer
Office Assistant
Online Avid Editor
P.A./broadcasting operator
Panasonic 24p Operator
Panasonic 24p Owner-Operator
PAs & Sound Recorder
Photographer-Production Stills
Photography Crew
Post Production Associate Producer
Post Production Coordinator
Post Production Manager
Post Production Supervisor
Post Production Technician
Associate Producer & PA
Producer/Line Producer
Producer/Studio Manager
Production Assistant
Production Assistant/Runner
Production Coordinator
Production Designer/Art Director
Production Intern
Production Manager
Production Coordinator
Production Sound Mixer
Program Coordinator
Project Coordinator
Project Supervisor
Prop Master, Assistant Props, On Set Dresser
Props & Set Dresser
Publicist / Public Relations
Recording Studio and Audio Engineer
Researcher/ Writer
Screen Writer
Script Supervisor
Continuity Coordinator
Script Writer
Senior Video Engineer
Set Designer
Sketch Comedy Writer
Smoke Editor
Sound Designer
Stage Manager
Sound Editor
Sound Recordist
Boom Operator
Special Effects Animation
Stage Manager
Storyboard Artist
Studio Assistant
Stunt Coordinator
Subtitle Editors (Foreigns)
Talent/Models for Infomercials
Technical Director
Television Studio Manager
Theater Manager
TV Host & Crew
Voiceover Talent
VFX Production/Post Production
Video Journalist
Visual Effects Supervisor
Wardrobe Stylist

A Brief Job Shadow

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Job Shadow Notes
(Thank you Chris Jewell)
Chris wrote these notes after studying what we do at our studio

Software to Consider
• Video- Adobe Creative Suite (Premiere, After Effects, etc.)
Check out Student Discounts- $350
• Audio- Reaper Audio A great way to do pro level audio inexpensively $60 and a decent audio card gets you going
• WordPress as a site building app, not just a blog  (free-and mighty)

• Be a salesman!
• You are “YOU” Incorporated, sell your product.
• Start your own business. Lots of pitfalls, but jobs are scarce.
• Learn to listen
• Let your vision exceed your grasp
• “Always be the weakest link”
• Be nice to clients
• Develop People Skills

• Do you want to do this for Business or Hobby?
o Business – Start a business
 Get a DBA (Doing Business As) $10

o Hobby – Get a “Day Job” and do Freelancing

• Be Unique
• Read books about marketing!
Think for yourself (Hack around problems to find a solution)
• In an interview:
• Ask questions (then shut up!)
• Networking
o Facebook-for business
o Twitter
o – Put all visual work on this site

(Books, Magazines, Websites)

• The E-Myth Revisited (Book) by Michael Gerber (A must-read about running your own business)
The Cash Flow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki. Find out where you want to be. E, S, B or I
• Millimeter (Magazine)

• (Website)

• (Website)

• Check out the Sandler Selling System
Ongoing marketing/business classes
Because you are actually in sales.

And don’t forget the 3 Food Groups of Media Production
1. Caffeine
2. Ibuprofen
3. Maalox

Goals for the Professional Musician

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Goals for the Professional Vocalist/Musician/Songwriter
We are often asked for a “course outline.” Well, here it is.

• Your performance: find your own voice
• Write original material
• Acquire new material-attend concerts
• The elements of music: melody / harmony / rhythm / form / soul
• Vocal technique – including pitch, interval study, breath control, vibrato, vary your releases
• Listening is everything- how to listen specifically within a recording, to all styles, all ethnicities, all artists, to your own breath

• Notation-transposition
• Write your own lead sheets – transcribe others
• Instrumental technique – style, facility, practice, learn guitar tuning
• Improve relative pitch
• Ear training – interval study is the key to all pitch
• Set your individual keys for your songs
• Time – must have sense for absolute time, THE POCKET
• Keyboard technique
• Independence-right/left
• Develop ability to harmonize –sight reading-play/sing
• Mic technique
• Music history
• Musical form – arrangement
• Lyric syntax
• Collect verses, novelty songs-new ways to sing
• Learn other instruments
• Your instrument – diet, vitamins/herbs, regimen, exercise. if you don’t take care of your body, where you going to live?

• Understand / operate sound systems – theory & applied
• Recording skills – as an artist, engineer, producer, sideman (or woman)
• Creating bed tracks, beats, any accompanying tracks.
• Record and listen to yourself; listen and play it back. Hear the difference in the real sound and your perceived sound. Re-record the same passage and listen again. Repeat as needed. This is your most useful tool to shape/control your vocal sound. Do the same with video.
• Experiment with different recording styles, record audio samples for your albums – ie: ambience like nature or conversation soundbytes
• Organize your material: Date everything.
• Protect your data. Get a sensible process to back it up or risk losing it. Digital data does not exist until it lives in two completely separate places. Trust me on this.
• Play percussion instruments. Practice with a digital click, drum machine or drum pattern on an inexpensive keyboard.
• Video skills: Practice lip synch,

• A lyric writer might get a composer to supply music
• Hiring a band, rehearsing; kicking your brother out of the band. Being in another band
• Cueing and leading a band
• Stage presence-owning an audience – attitude, flow, creating a show. Listen to the great ones. Dealing with hecklers.
• Choreograph yourself; or get help. Use video to learn.
• Study/develop humor
• Accompany another vocalist
• Commitment.

• Your art, once completed, is a product. Develop your demo package (writer or artist) a killer e-commerce website and ongoing video content to create the buzz.
• Preparing a resume; presenting yourself
• Database for list of your songs
• Great 8×10 B&W photo.
• A great recording. You want a demo? The only “demo” should be an unsigned master. Make all your recordings master quality for shopping and a saleable product at shows
• Merchandise, merchandise, merchandise

• Copyright issues. File unpublished collections. The process. File online. Ask us for our step by step helper form.
• There is no such thing as “poor man’s copyright” (mailing content to yourself)
• Licensing your songs
• The business of music: copyright, contracts, a business plan, understand how record labels work. Why you can retail your own music and what it takes.
• Gigging must-dos – being prepared, gear, checklist, your ride.
• Online distribution and promotion.
• A distribution deal. What is a good one?
• The duplication process: costs, areas of expense. Graphics: a basic understanding of the whole process.
• Cost/time management and effective job
• You as the CEO of your own business
• Cash flow, networking, client relations, business plan
• Take business courses if you plan to make this your profession. Talent is not enough.

Buy (and read) books about music business online:
• All You Need to Know About the Music Business
Donald S. Passman (good start)
• Music Publishing: A Songwriter’s Guide
Randy Poe (very practical)
• This Business of Music
Shemel & Krasilovsky (a huge reference text)
• Hitmen
Fredric Dannen (The story of the power brokers & payola in the music business)
• Interval Study Method
Joe Messina (The definitive ear-training workout)
• The E-Myth Revisited
Michael Gerber (How to start a small business and not lose your perspective or your mental health. Easy to read and a serious reality check on making your passion into your business)

Set goals.
Plan strategy.
Apply resources.

A Listening List

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

A Listening List
I have heard that in order to listen, one must first develop the ability to be silent.

You may find some of these folks on YouTube. They have been some wonderful inspiration.
Other inspirations follow the Listening List below

World Music
King Sunny Ade –juju music
Salif Keita
Ladysmith Black Mambazo –other-worldly acappella

Bill Evans
Miles Davis-trumpet
Kind of Blue- Miles Davis’ seminal offering
Miles Davis with Gil Evans—Gil was an amazing arranger
John Coltrane- tenor- see “A Love Supreme”,
Keith Jarrett –pianist – solo or with bands
Chick Corea-pianist

American folk music
Joni Mitchell
John Prine- lyricist extraordinaire
Utah Phillips-likewise
Utah’s son, Brendan
Dr. John- funk, New Orleans style
Tom Waits -a great poet

W.C. Handy
Son House
Bessie Smith
Robert Johnson
B.B. King
T-Bone Walker
Muddy Waters
Little Walter
Lonnie Johnson
John Lee Hooker
Blind Lemon Jefferson
Elmore James
Willie Dixon
Freddie King
Billie Holiday
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Charlie Patton
Ma Rainey
Howlin’ Wolf
Louis Jordan
and many more continue.
Keb Mo is a good example of a modern incarnation of this huge tradition.

James Brown
George Clinton-Parliament Funkadelic
Earth,Wind & Fire

Aarvo Paart – An Estonian national treasure
Shostakovich- Symphony # 5- “A Soviet Artist’s Reply to Just Criticism” (banned for years for not being patriotic)
Here is one movement with Mr. Bernstein at the wheel

Mstislav Rostropovich playing Bach cello sonatas


Reading List

By Osho:`
The Spiritual Path – oddly hard to find- 300pp, try online. I first found this in Costco, the center of all spirituality.
Meditation: the First and Last Freedom –Borders, Amazon
The Book of Secrets- a large and lifelong read: it consists of112 methods to meditate- one or more will work for every person on the earth-all based on the 112 tiny stories in the little book: “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones”

By Nina Planck – Real Food The industrialization of food in our society & why we should eat clean food.

Michael Gerber The E-Myth Revisited an intro for those considering entrepreneurial adventure

For you folks that are considering a life in film:
Find some re-runs of Project Greenlight with Ben Affleck or catch excerpts on YouTube. This is the reality of movie-making. Pressure and budgets.

Treat everyone as you would be treated. Love is the answer.

12 ways to ensure a successful video shoot (in the studio)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Choose a production company with experience in all areas called for by your project. Each crew member needs to be familiar with their role in your kind of project and willing to go out of their way to help you. Their only mission is to make your project as smooth and successful as possible. This may not always be the least expensive way to go.

The End Use
This last question is really the first question. Where is this footage to be used in its final edited form? Will it be for broadcast? Is it for DVD or web use only? The answers to these questions will help you to determine many of the choices that are to be made concerning production.

What is it? Is this an emergency or does it allow reasonable time for us to help you set up a smooth and flawless shoot that will get you everything you need? If this is an emergency (one week or less) please click here and we will do our utmost to expedite a solution for you. If you cannot reach us by phone, please send an email with the words ‘production emergency’ in the subject line

Camera Format
The end use as well as any existing client infrastructure will help to make this choice. You may have a particular format for which you are already set up. We have shot in almost every format that exists today and can usually accommodate whatever you and your editor are set up for.

Green Screen
If you are shooting in green screen, the camera format must be of suitable resolution. Mini DV or most consumer cameras, even those labeled as “High Definition” are not appropriate. Though inexpensive, they do not provide the resolution to allow a clean compositing of the subject. So you will need a format with enough resolution and lens quality to allow good quality keying.

Do you really, really have the final edit of the script or is there anything you can do before the shoot to ensure that no last-minute script changes are needed?

Popular sources of problems include:
a. Grammatical or typographical errors that are discovered on set resulting in wasted time, increasing pressure to finish on schedule, increased fatigue for the subject and potential cost overruns if it all takes longer because of lack of preparation in this area.
b. Acquiring authority to make final script changes prior to the shoot. This will eliminate delays making phone calls to get permission.
c. Legal permission for the subject to read the final version of your script. We have seen occasions where entire shoots were cut short with frustrating results because no one had discovered that the subject had a conflict of interest until most of the way through the shoot.

Is your script long enough to require a teleprompter? If so, you probably know that a great operator can save many headaches and expedite the entire flow of the shoot. Not to mention, make your subject very happy with intuitive cuing of re-takes. In order to ensure a smooth start, it is also helpful to email the script ahead of time, in order to be placed into the prompter software so it is ready to go when you are. Check with the production company to ensure that the format you are sending is acceptable.

Not many great video shoots work well without good quality audio. Be specific about your needs and whether you will be using a voiceover or the talent’s voice will be recorded. How many people will be speaking at once? A good audio tech can make the most of any recording environment. Using only the microphone on the camera or going home with distorted audio can be disastrous. A professional with professional gear is definitely required here.

A solid workflow for raw video files must be in place. If you are shooting to tape, this is not an immediate issue, but will be addressed in post-production. However, at the time of this writing, card-based systems or systems that record directly to hard drives are rapidly becoming mainstream. These systems eliminate the considerable time required to load a tape of raw footage into an editing system in real time. (On a retrospective note, “back in the day”, the real-time load-in process was often useful to editors unfamiliar with the footage who would watch it as it loaded into their editing system. They would take this time to make notes and become familiar with the content, eyeballing preliminary edit points, identifying lighting or audio issues etc. Things move a little faster these days, though the editor now just scrubs the data to identify such issues in a much more cursory fashion.) No pun intended.

With card-based systems, files must be off-loaded as you shoot and ingested into a compatible system (properly tested and configured to take the files in their digital wrappers) in such a way as not to interfere with the flow of the shoot. For example, without sufficient cards for a camera such as Panasonic HVX200 (P2 cards) or Sony PMW-EX3, you may find yourself stopping the subject in the middle of a nice productive flow in order to dump raw footage into an ingest device.

So it may be best to allow for ample cards to permit swapping them on the fly for the shoot. This process also requires a laptop with the correct software loaded and operating correctly, an external drive for portability. A crew member who is familiar with the process and perhaps able to double-check color and lighting issues is also required.

Secure Document Transfer
An intuitive system should be in place to allow secure file transfer of sensitive documents, such as last minute script changes or contract revisions directly into the email of the client while on location. The client must be able to retrieve these documents from their own email system to avoid sending them through third-party email accounts where the security of such information could be at risk. Thus, a fast wireless connection is a very good idea.

Expedited Delivery via FTP
For your finished files, you may require expedited file delivery globally via a backbone web service. This is the fastest file transfer available and serves to get time-sensitive material including very large amounts of data, such as raw footage, delivered to an ftp site immediately following your shoot. From there, the files can be downloaded for editing anywhere in the world. Your production company should be able to take care of this.

Upon occasion, your project may require specific pieces of gear that are less than common. Find a company with a large inventory of their own gear for studio and location production, but with long-standing relationships with the best rental houses in the area.

Depending on the scope of your shoot, you may be able to cover several of these tasks with one person, if the workload makes sense.
Some of the crew you may need includes:

Camera Operator
Lighting Director
Video Assist
Audio Tech
Production Assistant
Teleprompter Operator
Makeup Artist
Wardrobe Supervisor
Set Design
Script Supervisor
Jib Operator
A host of other crew may be called for. Your production company should be able to supply them for you.