VariCam 35 grabs “perfect” images for 1st Advantage


I’ve learned quite a few lessons throughout the course of my career in commercial production. And many the hard way. But you live — you learn, and such is life. Perhaps the most important I’ve learned is how to surround myself with professionals who work on other high-profile projects all the time. They bring new trends from their varied experiences and expertise from a multitude of projects to our collaboration. If I stay open to the ideas and trends they suggest, I can evolve… learn…and be open to my pictures having an even better outcome. And no trend has more direct impact on the picture than the choice of camera system.

The constantly evolving camera landscape is at times confusing, sometimes maddingly incomparable, but always exciting. Thanks to partners in the camera rental community, we’re able to get our hands on some pretty awesome cameras for our commercial productions. Camera rental companies get all the latest cameras in to test and spec out, and then they can disseminate the technical information down to make sense to very visual Directors like myself.

On a recent project for a financial client, we needed to shoot two television spots featuring actors interacting inside a house during the day. Because we were shooting human interaction and beauty shots, my initial thought was to shoot with either the ARRI Alexa or the RED Dragon. I like to shoot in 4K if available, so the Alexa was ruled out right away. (Sorry ARRI, love your picture!)

When I spoke with the guys at Daufenbach Camera, Cinematographer Jamieson Mulholland and I kept coming back around to the new Panasonic Varicam 35. I have to admit, when I heard the name I balked and tried to avoid the suggestion. For those familiar with production in the 2000s, the word Panasonic brings back horrific memories of P2 card data issues . When the DSLR revolution started in 2009, part of the reason it was such a revolution was in revolt of the Panasonic HVX200 and P2 card recording systems. But they assured me the new card workflow is solid, and when I heard the specs I understood why they were so persistent.

If you’re a Director or Cinematographer, you’ll want to use this camera for two BIG reasons.

1. In digital cinema, you want to get the highest resolution possible with the ability to shoot in the lowest light possible. These two variables have always been a give and take before.  If you shoot with the Canon C500, you get great low-light sensitivity but no 4K. If you shoot with the RED Epic/Dragon you can capture up to 6K resolutions, but the low-light sensitivity leaves much to be desired.  With the Panasonic VariCam 35, you get both.  You can shoot in extremely low light without sacrificing image quality. Panasonic has given us a revolutionary camera with crazy-high ISOs and 4K resolution in one package. They do this by giving two bases of ISO. According to Adam McKay of in his review, “A base level ISO of 800 really isn’t all that impressive anymore as it has become pretty much standard on all new cinema cameras, but the addition of a second base ISO of 5000 is somewhat of a game changer.” Watch some of the night scenes in this VariCam Spec Video. Truly amazing!

2. You can shoot in 4K and also record smaller resolution proxy files to edit dailies or edit offline without spending precious time reformatting in DaVinci Resolve. This is also a first in digital cinema cameras, and benefits everyone in the production chain: Directors, Editors, and Clients.

Take a look and see for yourself what you think of the VariCam 35.  Below are the TV spots for the financial campaign I directed using this camera system. We lensed this with a combo of the Angeniuex Optimo 45-120mm Zoom Lens and the Cooke Panchro 25mm lens. We edited using Adobe Premiere Pro, and final color correction was provided by Color Playground in Chicago, IL. Sound design and music composition were provided by our friends at Noise Floor, also based in Chicago.

“Her Way”

“Perfect Fit”

Jeremy Pinckert is a Brand Film and TV Commercial Director. His work for Production Company Explore Media has won over 35 Tellys, Best in Show ADDYs, and an Emmy Award. To discuss commercial advertisement projects he is represented by Chicago-based Bow + Arrow Films. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremypinckert, LinkedIN, and see his commercial portfolio reel.






EM Wins 8 TELLY Awards

Explore Media has been honored with eight awards in the 36th Annual Telly Awards competition, honoring the very best in commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions in the world. Explore won two Silver Tellys, the highest award possible in the competition, and six bronze awards, the second highest honor.  Explore Media is a full-service video production company focused on delivering handcrafted brand films and commercial campaigns for a variety of regional and national clients.  They now have won over 40 Telly Awards in their twelve years in business.

Details and descriptions of the winning entries are as follows:

“First Home” a :30 television commercial for Interra Credit Union won a Silver Telly Award in the Local TV & Local Cable – Financial Services (non-bank) category.

“The Coffee Run,” a :30 HD television produced for Sunburst Races, sponsored by Beacon Health System won the Telly Award in the Local TV & Local Cable – Events category.  The spot features two office workers who both realize they need a coffee break at the same time.  Back and forth sabotage ensues as the two walk towards the last cup of coffee but are met with a surprise at the coffee machine.

“Visit South Bend” a brand film for Visit South Bend/Mishawaka, won a Telly in the Online Video – Online Commercial – Travel/Tourism

“Push Push” a brand film for CPR RsQ Assist through their agency, Current Lifestyle Marketing, won a Telly in the Online Video – Online Commercial – Art Direction.

“We are Beacon”, a series of two :30 television commercials focused on using real employees to brand Beacon Health System, won a Telly in the Campaign – Business-to-Consumer category.“

Interra Credit Union’s “All Your Next Firsts” campaign also won a Telly in the Campaign – Business to Consumer category.  The campaign features Interra members as they choose to use the credit union to help them with important “Firsts” like a First Baby, a First Home, and a First Vacation.

“The Telly Awards are always my favorite program because we’re able to test and place our creative productions alongside excellent production companies & advertising agencies from across the globe,” said Jeremy Pinckert, Explore Media’s Director.

“Eight awards, including two Silver Tellys, are the most we’ve won in a single year.  This is directly a reflection of our wonderful clients who are great collaborators, and who also trust our team to deliver videos & commercial campaigns that exceed their expectations.”

To view all the winners you can click here

Here’s the original press release

About Explore Media
Explore Media is a full-service video production company focused on Handcrafted Brand Films & Commercials for a diverse client base.  Their creative studios are located at 520 E. Lasalle Ave., South Bend and can also be found online at:

About the Competition
The Telly Awards were founded in 1979 and is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, the finest video and film productions, and online commercials, video and films. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world.



4 Super Bowl Commercials Produced by Explore Media

Did you checkout the Super Bowl game, and most importantly, watch the Super Bowl Commercials this year?  If so, you caught four tv ads produced by full-service video production company Explore Media for the exciting 2015 NFL championship between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.

The narrative device for these latest Beacon Medical Group commercials was simple: we directed the actual physicians who already practice in traditional family doctor offices. This health care TV advertisement features over 20 providers who surprised us by being pretty darn good actors!  Aired in February 2015 as one of the Super Bowl Commercials.



How can you not want to get a mortgage with INOVA Credit Union when improv comedian Joe Anderson shows you his domesticated side?  This beautiful :30 advertisement was shot on Canon C300 on location in Northern Indiana on a perfectly even summer day.

Using improv actors Quinn Wilson from Chicago and Paul Schissler from New York City, this story was an original idea brought to us by the organizers of the Sunburst Race. Director Jeremy Pinckert storyboarded out the spot, and our team found the space and put together this little indie HD Commercial for a nickle and a dime. Special thanks to improv actors Quinn Wilson, Paul Schissler, Don Watts as Ray the Mascot, and Tony Marquete as Background Coffee Guy. Thanks to Brian from Onward Coworking, and Edgar & Dan from Beacon Marketing for procuring the hilarious little touches to the set design! Also special thanks to crew Jamieson, Julia & Steve for working for peanuts to make this little Super Bowl Commercial work so well!

Answer this question: what’s the most rewarding problem you ever solved at work? These OSMC Doctors had no trouble telling the stories behind their favorite cases in this Orthopaedic TV Advertisement.

Explore Media is a full-service HD video production company focused on creating handcrafted brand films and commercials. Think eye-catching, attention-grabbing, visual storytelling for your brand. We’re a team of Directors, Content Creators, Producers, Visual Curators, Post Production Editors, Videographers and Inspired Storytellers with the award-winning experience to make your brand film (let’s use this phrase instead of corporate video) a unique, successful creation. We believe ultimately in this core idea: video content is a brand’s most powerful marketing tool. And if you communicate your advertising message clearly, creatively, and in an aesthetically pleasing manner, your target market will respond in a positive way.

Tips on How to Direct Non-Actors

We all want to work on films and commercials where we have the budget and the creative that allows for casting calls, talent agents and professional actors to deliver inspired performances. But in reality many creative concepts these days call for “real talent,” another way of saying using real people vs. professional actors.  After years of experience working with and without professional actors as talent, I have found that despite having non-pros as actors, you can still evoke great performances in advertisements or brand films.  In fact, when a good directing job is achieved, you may find the real-person performance is the most authentic, from-the-heart acting on camera.  And if anything, directing non-professionals is great practice in a more forgiving environment for your directing skills.

Working with non-actors from all different backgrounds – professional athletes, doctors, CEOs, patients, customers and members – has definitely seasoned my directing.  In fact, this is the window through which Explore Media’s full-service video production emphasis looks on television commercials, where we go through the process of casting talent and then directing actors on set .  And believe me, it’s been a growth process and will continue to be one, I’m always picking up tips in advertising techniques, storytelling, or refining my directing skill set. Here are a few tips I’ve learned on “How To Direct Non-professional Acting Talent.” Hopefully they can help you!

The First Cardinal Rule: Don’t ask non-professional acting talent to memorize anything. Ever.

Tip 1

From the moment your (probably nervous) talent arrives on the commercial set make sure your subject is comfortable.  From the makeup person to the AD to the producer, make sure everyone who comes into contact with the talent knows they are not an actor, chit-chat with them, take pictures and show them how good they look.

Tip 2

Keep the HD monitor away from the talent.  You don’t want them feeling insecure about performance or being distracted.

Tip 3

Direct talent from a physical position of comradery.  I often will situate myself and put the monitor in a place only I can see it.  This way, I can be right beside the talent, showing them we’re in this together while we make small talk.

Tip 4

Clear the set behind the HD camera of everyone except for the cinematographer or videographer and AC.  A non-actor can be easily distracted and become insecure if too many people they perceive as professionals, and also their colleagues, are within their peripheral zone.

Tip 5

Keep their focus off the black hole of the HD camera lens.  One trick we used in the spots below was to draw a smiley face on a piece of pink gaff tape and stick it on the lens. The talent could focus on the face and imagine a person vs. looking into the scary cinema lens.


“Thanks Nurses” Beacon Health System

Tip 6

Warm up your talent by having them repeat a silly tongue twister, or maybe together you can make fun of the marketing director who is making them perform. Tell a few jokes, talk about movies or music, or if you want to really get them into the flow, ask them about their profession or area of expertise.  Any directing technique which gets them talking on the same marker where they’ll deliver lines helps ease their tension.

Tip 7

One trick which works for me is to have the videographer start rolling without letting the talent know (you can easily hide any pesky red lights).  You’d be amazed how many beautiful takes we’ve achieved by using this technique. There’s nothing like an authentic, real performance that only a non-actor can truly provide.

Tip 8

Keep repeated takes to a minimum.  If something isn’t working, make the talent feel like indeed it is working and you’ve got a good take.  Then move on and come back to that same line or situation at a later time.  Like muscle confusion or brain flexibility exercises, presenting the cue unexpectedly later can often produce great acting results.

Tip 9

Don’t tell them what they are supposed to do, or who they are supposed to be.  You can’t offer the same background stories or character tips you would to a professional actor, instead using mimicry has been one of my favorite ways to get the desired performance.  “Repeat after me, just with your own voice.”

Tip 10

My last technique for Directing Non-Professional Acting Talent is to ask the subject to think of a person, situation, or feeling from their own experiences.  For a positive message, ask the talent to think of their favorite memory from the summertime, then cue them to say the line.  For an emotional delivery, ask the talent to pause and think of a person they know who is going through a tough situation, then cue them to say the line.  The key is to bring the feeling which is inside every person, professional actor or not, and help them to channel this emotion through and out to the film camera.

One last note:  At the end of your time with the talent, ask them to say the line, or give the physical performance, exactly how they want to.  Then let them flow without turning the camera off.  You never know what you’ll get, but sometimes what comes out to the viewer is a pure molten smoking hot performance.

Here are a few more examples of tv commercials and brand films I’ve directed which use non-actors as talent.

“#1” University of Notre Dame

“Why You Should RV” Go RVing

“Professors” LaGrange College

“We’re Here” Beacon Medical Group

And to juxtapose the spots above, here is a spot where we did Casting Calls, negotiated with Talent Agents, and had the opportunity to Direct some pretty amazing young acting talent.

“First Vacation” Interra Credit Union



Jeremy Pinckert is a Brand Film and TV Commercial Director. His work for Production Company Explore Media has won over 35 Tellys, Best in Show ADDYs, and an Emmy Award. To discuss commercial advertisement projects he is represented by Chicago-based Bow + Arrow Films. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremypinckert, LinkedIN, and see his commercial portfolio reel.

– This blog originally appeared on ProductionHUB where Jeremy is a contributor on video production, post production, advertising techniques, and the commercial production industry through his lens as a Director and Owner of Explore Media.

The Artisan Way

At Explore Media

We’re creators


And purveyors of fine artisan TV Ads, Branded Videos, and Motion Graphic Communications.

Like a fine wine or a favorite piece of handmade furniture, viewers will notice, will care, and will respond to a custom Explore Media Production.


We’re steeped in creativity. We’re crafters of beautiful images. And we take care of all the details so you can rest-easy knowing you’re working with professionals … who care.

Most video production companies are based on a technical model. The owner is also the “videographer.” Maybe they splurge on a producer to help with the shoot. Next the videographer switches hats to become editor and chief creative in post-production.

This model is technically able to capture video & audio, but why isn’t the target market super-engaged by the resulting video?

And why did you have to work so hard when you’re investing so much money?

Where’s the extra “umami” component of the production you’re tasked with marketing?

Our model’s a little different.

And is proven in every other commercial advertising market.

We have the knowledge and experience to collaborate with you on the big picture. you’re working with a team of professionals who, simply put, “get it.”

Our award-winning directors have the out-of-market experience to achieve creative shots and capture poignant talent performances everytime. Even when your creative calls for “real people.”

This idea involves more than just beautiful moving pictures. Our films are hand-crafted. A Director is an expert at storyboarding fluid movement and pre-planning the moments you notice and remember in top-notch productions.

If the creative calls for on-camera talent to tell a narrative story, rest easy. We use the best casting agents & services to personally find talent who fit your video or commercial advertising campaign.

A Director is experienced at pulling the extra emotion from a seemingly ambiguous scene.

At Explore Media, your personal relationship manager will walk beside you through the project from beginning to end, working on your behalf so the little creative details you notice in large productions always come through.

A production coordinator will handle all the telephone calls and scheduling logistics, arrange feeding and parking everyone during the shoot, so you have time to focus on what’s important. Your message.

During the edit, we search for custom narrators to become the voice of your organization.

Finding custom music or composers, combined with sound design, give your picture dimension & depth. And our expert color-correction & motion graphics team adds the extra fine touch to bring your project past the “local production” feel – giving you a seat at the table with any other organization in the country.

Deliver branded content that fits your needs, tells your story, and in a way that will influence your viewers to pause, take note, and respond.

Now that you see all the extra care and artisan touches that go into an Explore Media production, for a comparable price as our competitors, why wouldn’t you let Explore Media hand-craft your video?

Your Path.

Your Story.

Explore Media



Jeremy Pinckert is a Director of Brand Films and Commercials.  His work for Production Company Explore Media has won Tellys, Best in Show ADDYs, and an Emmy Award.  To discuss commercial advertising projects he is represented by Chicago-based Bow + Arrow Films.  You can follow him on Twitter @jeremypinckert,  LinkedIN, and see his commercial portfolio reel.










Copyright 2016 Explore Media Digital Video and Television Advertising Production · 520 E. Lasalle Avenue South Bend, IN 46617 · (574) 875-5565

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