Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beware -- Making your own videos could be dangerous for your image!

With the proliferation of cameras on every type of electronic device, we have access to more video than we can consume these days.  And everyone assumes it’s as easy as turning your camera phone on someone or something, uploading to YouTube and BAM “hey I make Internet videos.” 

I don’t create videos as a hobby.  In fact, I hardly have any “home video” of my own family because I don’t want to work when I’m at home or on vacation.  And the consumer tools for what I do are so…well, how do I put this nicely… NOT professional, that it makes me CRAZY to even think about using them for personal projects. 

I am a professional storyteller and I do it with moving pictures and sound.  And I have clients who need my skills and talent to communicate their stories.  But my part of the industry is a niche for sure.  And it is a conundrum of how to explain it.  There are nuances to persuasive messaging, intelligent storytelling – and as a director, writer, editor, producer I have to understand the end goal for my clients so I can finesse the visuals and sound to resonate with the audience.  It’s a skill, it requires experience and a gentle manner to coax meaningful content from your average everyday (read: not-media trained) person.

Perhaps an analogy will help explain what I do:  You want to build a house that is beautiful, safe, well-laid out and works for your family’s lifestyle, but won’t be the most expensive house on the block when you are done.  The kid down the street just got a new truck and tool box and has a bunch of friends who are eager to work, and they will build your house for cheap.  But they know nothing about building.  They don’t have insurance and are very likely to hurt themselves and possibly your family because of their lack of experience.   However, my company is one of the best contractors in town, who has done many high-quality custom homes.  All our subs are very experienced, safe and we carry insurance because we are professionals.  We charge for our services because that experience will produce a much higher-quality, longer lasting product than you would get elsewhere. 

I have recently received solicitations from SEO companies offering to teach my company how to produce videos.  I find this laughable when I read some of their “free” suggestions.  Yes, go ahead and “make” a video of someone yapping into iPhone camera, and you might get some hits on You Tube.  But if you really want to effectively tell your story with video and sound, make an impression on your audience and stand out from the rest, please use a professional.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tilt-Shift Camera

Just came across this cool little camera that takes the expensive tilt-shift lens and puts it into a cool little camera that will fit in your pocket without cleaning out your pockets.

The lens on this camera is mounted at an angle so you can make your real world into a teeny tiny diorama. It's got the look of the toy cameras with the vignetting, and will also take video. Fun! has it and offers FREE SHIPPING!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Respect for the Professional
Last time I talked about how much I appreciate the professional photographers with whom I work at CM Productions, Inc.   Another profession in which I hail the professional is acting.  Whether I’m working with on-camera or voice-over actors, nothing beats working with professional talent, especially the talent we have right here in Dallas, Texas.

My company is based in Dallas and we keep very busy with a variety of projects for our mostly corporate clients.  Some in the industry sneer at “corporate” work but I appreciate the opportunity to live near family, enjoy a relatively low cost of living and have a quality of life that some on either coast would give an eyeball for in these tough times.  I’ve met several ex-LA producers in the last two years begging for any work in this town after a pretty good career in Los Angeles.  So I’m grateful for the often, thought-provoking and creative work I am able to produce for my clients.  And while, I’ve produced television pilots and a few broadcast shows, the corporate client does pay the bills. 

So, when I have a particular project that requires actors, I’m excited to venture into the casting process and discover talent here. More than 12 years ago I had a project for a client from Seattle and we were looking for a warm, affable “spokesperson.” We decided we should hire Julio Cedillo (@julio_cedillo on Twitter).


With Julio Cedillo on set in Fort Worth, Texas
He was a joy to work with, on his mark, ready with his lines while portraying just the right amount of friendliness and expertise the project demanded. Over the years I’ve hired him for several other projects, including a big annual news production for a different corporate client. He’s been my “anchor” for this project, helping guide executives, (read: non-actors) through a half-hour discussion show. Bottom line, he made my life easier on this project by playing the part well and keeping my executives calm and on track.


Well, last summer it was time to shoot our show again and his agent told me that he was sporting a “bandito” look for a movie he was shooting and couldn’t shave until re-shoots were done. He’s been in several feature films in the years I’ve known him, (Julio Cedillo -- IMDB) but this time it was different, he was in a film with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford called Cowboys & Aliens.

Well, this did present a problem, as the look when sitting on set with corporate executives is a more clean-shaven, jacket wearing, business conservative look and we couldn’t wait until photography on the film was completed. Fortunately there are many great actors in Dallas, so I was able to find another actor with whom I’ve worked, Markus Lloyd. He was fantastic in the role of anchor, executive tamer, proving once again that the depth of professional talent right here in good ol’ Dallas is solid.
Cowboys & Aliens premieres Friday. I’m thrilled for Julio and can’t wait to see him in Jon Favreau’s film. I’ve been a fan since Swingers and can’t wait to see what Favreau does in a mash-up of western and sci-fi genres. Perhaps he’ll source more talent from Dallas for his next project?

Friday, July 22, 2011

One of my favorite HD photogs shooting me playing  lookout
Professional Photographers are the BEST

I am very fortunate in my line of work to get to work with some amazing talent in photography.  I myself am not a photographer, and there’s a good reason for that.  I can compose a shot, know focus is important and even know enough about aperture to be dangerous.  But when it comes to getting THE shot, I just don’t have the touch.   I work with some fantastic still, HD and aerial HD photographers on a regular basis.  What makes them better than the others you ask?  Well, the touch and ability to capture the moment for one, but I find that having a collaborative attitude, combined with an inquisitive nature makes the best of the best.

I recently discovered the HDR technique for still photography and I’m intrigued to find a way to integrate this into an upcoming project for a client.  HDR, is high dynamic range photography.  I’ve learned a bit about it from Trey Ratcliff, who does terrific work.  Here are some samples of what he does  I like that it is similar to  the video production workflow and think my clients could have several applications for this style of still photography.

Finally I recently bought a new still camera for catching photos of the kids.  I’m a big fan of Canon for still photography – I have a film SLR and will one day invest in a digital SLR, but this time I bought the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera.

I love how small it is and it takes great pictures in automatic mode, which is exactly what I need trying to keep up with a toddler and preschooler.  I’m including one of our shots from a recent beach trip.  I will probably take it on my next shoot to get some behind the scenes stills to share.