As the Velvet Underground famously sang, “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” Or at least a recent project I was slated to direct forced me to turn my eyes even more towards a light to which I’ve already been headed. Irregardless, now that I’ve had a look? I ain’t ever going back.
Our client, Go RVing, needed a wide-range of marketing video content for Broadcast and Web use, and they brought me in to direct a 4-day shoot on Michigan’s West Coast. The first day was all interviews with actual users telling their unscripted stories to camera. The second and third days involved shooting 8 different scenic broll situations with 20+ talent members in various camping situations. The fourth day was a practice in planning, logistics, and highway patrol as we shot 7 vehicles on a large stretch of a US highway, through rolling vineyards and driving on wooded country roads.
On paper, this seemed like a pretty involved shoot when we first got the specs. This 4-day shoot for Go RVing would need a symphony of coordination, with more than 40 crew & talent plus 10 vehicles and their drivers spread out over 2 campgrounds and 120 miles of beautiful Michigan scenery. I can’t believe I actually toyed with the idea of directing this with only our producing team for support! But you have to understand the production background I come from. Previous to directing branded content & campaigns, I had cut my teeth producing television entertainment segments and specials where I was required to plan the shoots; also direct & produce during the shoot, and then in post-production I’d be responsible for writing the scripts and producing the edit all the way to output.
Multi-tasking is inherent in my background, but relying on true professionals to focus on specific roles has been an acquired (and thoroughly embraced) taste in my career. In moving to directing ad campaigns, I have embraced the idea of hiring bigger crews with a DP, an AC, a Gaffer, Grips, PAs, Stylists and Prop Directors to make the image and talent look great. But on the Directing side I still stubboringly had held on to both scheduling/talent details AND the directing roles.
With the amount of locations, vehicles, talent & crew in this shoot, after a few reality checks, I finally admitted I had a problem. Thankfully, my therapy came the way of a few DP and AC contacts in Chicago who work on films in addition to the branded content TV spots we collaborate on, and I was able to pick their brains to find a solution: an Assistant Director or AD!
To get started using an AD, I had to find someone I could trust to make decisions on set. I got an explanation from Quinn Wilson, a Chicago-based AD, as to what services he could provide. Here’s the best explanation I’ve seen for what an AD does:
- Time efficiency – once I really learn exactly what it is we are going after, my main focus is getting as much done as possible in the amount of time we have. On a macro scale, finding better ways to schedule the day and find ways for all units to be staying productive simultaneously, on a micro scale, making sure we are moving efficiently in terms of getting talent through MU/War, rigging shots, calling the roll and prepping scenarios and overseeing people doing everything they need to get done for the shot to be ready and you to get what you need while we are rolling.
- Centralized info – I would be the go-to person on set for the crew to get marching orders from, be it info for the next day or what shot is up next and how best to prep for it. This allows you to focus more clearly on directing, crafting the story and relaxing in your down time as opposed to managing the team.
- Client relations – While on set, I can also disseminate info to the clients, keep them comfy and happy, and relieve you of the elbow rubbing that may take you away from directing.
- Misc – My job as an AD is to make sure we get everything we need to cut the project as seamlessly and efficiently as possible while keeping everyone happy (not always a possible job), but if we needs hands to help move logs or there is a chirping bug in the BG that we need to find a way to make quiet I’m usually the first one to step in and deal with it, so we can get back to shooting. My approach to the job is to get all of this done, while maintaining a low stress, enjoyable, and fun environment.
- Pre-pro – As an AD when we step onto set I need to know everything we’d like to do that day and how/when/where/with who we’d like to do it, so I can make sure the crew is doing what needs to be done to knock it all out. I can come up a half day early and do tech location scouts with you to get a solid idea of what you’d like done, or we can talk each night before the next days work starts to get on the same page.
Does it get any better than that for a Director looking to maximize his workflow? After getting this explanation from Quinn on what an AD could provide me on the shoot, I got a little greedy and hired not just one, but two ADs for this shoot! Stephanie Clemons with SEC Visuals was our 1st AD and Quinn Wilson became our 2nd AD.
The interview day was a great day to settle in with the new Directing crew and get used to the workflow. But the next two days balancing talent, locations, vehicles and a photo crew who needed to use everything either right before or right after we shot, I really got to see the value of ADs. And the last day shooting, where we had Police Detail, Highway Closures, and two cameras shooting seven vehicles from a Camera Car, it really showed me not only how much better Stephanie our 1st AD was with a Walkie Talkie than me (mine was taken away several times due to losing it and not speaking in crew code), but also how much better I was when I could focus on capturing the best shots.
The shoot was pulled off without a hitch, working with two ADs helped me see some areas where I didn’t need to worry about being perfect, and reinforced the idea that I can excel by focusing on what I most love to do: direct! Our client also made several comments about how great the ADs were, and couldn’t believe this was the first time the Directing team had worked together. If you’re a multi-tasker like me and are waffling over the value an AD can add to your video productions, I hope this article has given you some insight into how an AD can help make your life easier. Happy shooting!
The DP, Pete Biagi, and I settled on the ARRI Alexa with a 25-250mm Optimo Zoom to shoot all the primary scenes and interviews. With the limited timeframe with talent, we immediately moved towards adding a 2nd camera to capture more angles during interviews, and also to give us an option to grab scenic broll moments which might be more “off the cuff” and need less lighting setup than our Alexa. For Camera B we shot with the Canon C300 and used Jamieson Mulholland as our 2nd Camera Unit DP.
In working as a director and also as an owner of a video production company for 10 years, there are many different categories of relationships I have experienced. There is the all-crucial client relationship. Then there’s the relationship between collaborating colleagues. There is a certain dynamic between myself and staff employees. And finally, there is the relationship I develop with vendors and freelance video production crew. This last relationship with freelancers is one I want to look at from the perspective of my experiences from both sides of the coin. To read this entire article, visit my guest blogpost Here on Production Hub
Did you ever think you could get a Super 16 size sensor in a camera the size of an iphone? Much like Canon DSLR cameras five years ago, Blackmagic has now released enough “turn the industry on it’s ear” cameras over the past two years to establish themselves as a major player in furthering the collective quality of indie films and lower-budget TV commercials.
The video above was shot using a Redrock adapter and Canon L Prime lenses, but as a Chicago director, I see the future of this camera, if it ever hits rental houses liked Fletchers, Daufenbach Camera and Magnanimous, as an MFT lens mount rig where you rent all the necessary components to get the picture you desire. My prediction for this camera? ENG, crowded places, high-tight spots, concert and undercover news applications.
According to B&H photo: The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera from Blackmagic Design is a compact Super 16 format camera designed for digital film production. The Super 16 sized sensor has an effective resolution of 1920 x 1080 and is capable of capturing 13 stops of dynamic range. The Pocket Cinema Camera records Full HD video in either the lossless CinemaDNG RAW or Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) format. The active Micro Four Thirds lens mount can accommodate a growing range of MFT format lenses as well as a host of excellent legacy lenses via optional adapters. Blackmagic Design has packed all of these impressive features into a remarkably compact (5 x 2.6 x 1.5″) and lightweight (12.5 oz) magnesium alloy chassis.
The question is, this camera may get a great picture at a great size, but when you’re bidding for projects do you really need to bring a smaller camera that may even make your clients nervous about the quality of your work? Or do you stick with proven competitors like the Canon C300, Sony F55 and ARRI Alexa? If you’re a Director or Producer you may never say never, but the projects gotta be the right fit!
For more information about Explore Media and Chicago Commercial Director Jeremy Pinckert:
- NYC Director Rep Page: http://www.firstwave.tv/#directors/jeremypinckert
- Jeremy Pinckert / Explore Media portfolio (it’s my company so I Directed / Produced the work in this portfolio) : www.explore-media.com/portfolio
- Notre Dame TV nationally-broadcast spot, my biggest directing commercial thus far: http://explore-media.com/a-message-from-the-students-of-notre-dame-university-tv-ad/
- Jeremy Pinckert’s productionhub.com blogs:
As we enter the beginning of Summer Blockbuster Season, there looks to be a large amount of big-budget movies coming out in 2013 which are adapted from either books, comic books, or earlier TV series.
Logic tells us not all of these films will be successful or worthy of your viewing time. With so many options you’ll either break the bank and gain 15 extra buttery-popcorn induced pounds, or you’ll simply be more critical in deciding which movies are worthy of your viewing time, money, and…eh…your self-image. So what makes a movie into a blockbuster? Read below for ideas as to why some of these adapted films will succeed, and others will fail!
Star Trek Into Darkness
1.) Directors / Producers must take the stories as seriously as the fans
The most common complaint you’ll get in many adapted films are from fans of the original works who say, “It was different than the book!” The reality is the film or TV series is of course going to be edited for length and not able to include all parts of the book. Viewers seem to accept this fact without too much issue. Where fans get really upset, however, is when film producers & directors take creative license to stray too far in creating the world around the books, or worse, to introduce new characters or endings.
Lord of the Rings is a great example of a very hard-to-adapt fantasy book genre which nailed the story, the acting, and the look. In short they created a world both Tolkien and fans could be proud of. By contrast, The Hobbit, some could argue, is an example of straying too far from the author’s original intent. In trying to follow up on the impossible task of at least equaling the Lord of the Rings series, Peter Jackson gave us a good film, but two films for a short children’s book? A new villain not found in the original book? Seems somewhat arrogant and gratuitous to this fan.
In short, the successful films seem to eschew the cheese factor, or the “Hollywood ending” pressure, in favor of creating a film reflective of the already-successful original. Here are some examples of films or TV series which have succeeded in this realm:
2.) Story gets as much emphasis as special FX
Crafting a careful balance between CGI graphics, 3D, and storytelling seem to make the difference in the success of many films. Unless you have an Avatar-like technological surprise, for the most part the bar for special FX greatness is so high in 2013 filmmaking, it’s hard to sell a movie purely on CGI. Put more simply, there won’t be a quality difference between the special FX of Thor 2 vs. Start Trek vs. Man of Steel. This is where storytelling makes a difference.
“Once upon a time” has a magical quality to immediately enthrall viewers, and a movie like Captain America captured my attention with it’s World War II backdrop. In fact, until well into the second-half of the movie this felt more like a combination of Rocky & Bourne Identity than an “Avengers” comic book.
The Great Gatsby should have no problem focusing on the 1920′s story of extravagent emptiness, but will Man of Steel be as successful? In going back to the beginning and retelling the story of Superman’s origins, Man of Steel is taking a cue from Batman Begins. By essentially crafting a coming-of-age story from the beginning, Batman Begins reset the franchise and allowed the viewer to connect with Christan Bale’s character, we’ll see if Superman has this same sort of story pull.
Man of Steel
3.) At least one outstanding actor as Hero
In on of the my personal favorite adaptations, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in the HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones lends credibility to this argument: you won’t have a successful movie adaptation without one vulnerable (hence believable) hero. A small-person besting others in the ultra-violent, midievil world of knights and physical brute strength? Not hard to see why Tyrion is the beloved face of the series.
In another example, Jennifer Lawrence plays a character so manipulated and innocent in the beginning of the Hunger Games, viewers can’t help but fall in love with her as she gains strength, insight, and confidence, all while still maintaining a sense of vulnerability. Checkout Hunger Games 2, set for a November 2013 release:
In the Iron Man series, Robert Downey Jr. is the smart-mouthed, witty driving force behind stellar FX in a fairly straightforward action-movie storyline. Without such a powerful personality, does a man in a robot suit succeed? Iron Man 3 drops May 2013.
4.) Don’t use Spiderman, Batman, or Superman as reliable litmus
Spiderman, Batman and Superman are franchises so widely adapted, with many hits but even more misses, they are a case study alone amongst themselves. In addition to the current franchise movies, you’ve got 50′s and 60′s TV shows, Saturday-morning cartoons, and so many changing lead heroes to further muddy the waters.
Michael Keaton Batman? Good. Val Kilmer & George Clooney Batman? Bad. Christian Bale Batman? Stellar.
Tobey McGuire Spiderman? Okay. Andrew Garfield Spiderman? Better.
Christopher Reeves Superman? Believable. The Guy Who Plays Superman in Every Movie Since Then? Unmemorable.
See what I mean? Trying to predict or analyze the success of those unique franchises could make one feel as hapless as Jim Carrey in a Riddler costume.
Faced with an alien in my backyard in the middle of the night, I’m going to be scared. I’m also scared by raccoons, cats, and some large moths at night as well. The point is, villains can entice varying levels of emotion from viewers. One thing, however, is true of the Antagonist in any story…the more believable the villain, the better the story. Evil robots or sub-human villains may work. But if that “evil-quality”inherent in every human is effectively translated into the villain? Blockbuster. Read More
SOUTH BEND, IN Explore Media has been honored with two awards in the 34th annual Telly Awards competition. The Telly Awards honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions.
Explore Media is a full-service video production company located in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. This year Explore Media won two Bronze awards in the competition, which annually showcases the top video and television productions in the world out of over 11,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries.
“Your Credit Union,” three television commercials produced by Explore Media for Interra Credit Union, won in the Promotional/Branding TV Campaign category.
“African Scholars,” a short promotional video produced by Explore Media for the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, won a vintage clothing store, won in the Non-Broadcast Productions category.
To view the three winning TV ads in the Interra Credit Union campaign, go to: http://explore-media.com/?p=550
To view the Notre Dame “African Scholars” Video, go to: http://tinyurl.com/c4z8cfa
“The Telly Awards honors are so gratifying for our clients and all the hardworking creative professionals within our organization. Being rewarded for creating something is the ultimate honor and provides our associates with the utmost satisfaction.” said Jeremy Pinckert, executive producer of Explore Media. “We really are fortunate to partner with such trusting, loyal clients who always let us look for new ways to tell their stories. A Telly Award recognition also truly validates the quality, style and creativity of our productions amongst our worthy peers.”
About Explore Media
Explore Media is a full-service digital video production company focused on “brand storytelling” through TV ads and Videos for successful organizations. They have South Bend and Elkhart offices, and can be found online at: www.explore-media.com.
About the Competition
The Telly Awards was 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.
In weeding through yet another advertising case study on Brand X who is blending a cross-promotional Scavenger Hunt – MobileGame – SkyWriting stunt in a Silly YouTube Kitten Video, I started thinking:
Why do we believe kitschy needs to sell?
Now don’t misconstrue; silly has a place and is successful in selling things like snack food, personal grooming products, and video games. But do you want a kitschy Vehicle? A kitschy Medical Treatment? A kitschy Electronic Device? For these products, consumers don’t want kitschy. They want significant, better, worthwhile. They want smart video advertising. So why do businesses and advertisers want to all jump on the silly train?
The obvious answer is YouTube Videos. YouTube videos that go viral are largely silly. Kitsch gives us a laugh so we share it. I can’t tell you how many times we get phone calls from a business who says, “We need a YouTube Viral Video.” Viral can change balance sheets overnight. The lottery can make you rich overnight too, but you don’t use it as part of your investment strategy.
The point is: know your brand, your audience, and the deficiency or question you can answer with your marketing video. Dollar Shave Club answered a deficiency in the marketplace with this video. Old Spice answered their stale perception questions with their recent videos. But razors cost $6, and deodorant cost $3.
The degree of seriousness in web videos or TV ad campaigns is directly proportional to the price of your product.
In short, if you’re selling $3 deodorant or $6 razors, you can afford to be silly, and in fact you may need to be kitschy to grab a consumer’s interest in the hundreds of under $20 transactions they make every week
But when your product is $50, or a $100, or $5,000, your brand videos need to take a different tone. Consumers reach a level where they are researching the products more thoroughly. They want quality, they smart technology, they want significant or worthwhile. If your product is B2B, you shouldn’t even be considering a viral video.
Know your audience, know your brand, and create a Web Video series or Television Commercial that fits you. Kitschy vs. Smart Video Advertising…which product are you?
The old saying claims “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” As a father with a child just out of kindergarten, I can definitely say she’s way sharper than me, but sharper is different than having more knowledge. And while the saying is cute, and perhaps only a reference to an uncluttered pallette of a young & eager mind, that saying is obviously silly in actual application. The same holds true for creative Videos and TV Campaigns for Universities or Higher-Education organizations.
In reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers“, there are astounding connections he argues in his research of what makes successful people truly outstanding. Once you reach a certain threshold of smarts, there are other factors involved which make a person outstanding regardless if their IQ is 130 or 180. Einstein’s IQ? 150. Christopher Langan’s IQ? 200. Which one made an outstanding difference in the world?
What makes a person successful? There are many, many factors involved, but one of the overarching common denominators Gladwell argues is experience.
Once you gain 10,000 hours doing anything, he argues, you gain mastery. 10,000 hours gives you time to practice. Time to make mistakes, refine processes, and gain insight. Experience. Knowledge and Smarts.
Many times in creating videos and TV ad campaigns for higher-education, we can fall into the trap of “genius stereotyping”. We assume the identified geniuses are going to be the outstanding successes. And we assume people are born smarter, and smarter people rise to the top no matter what.
But something I’ve learned from producing university videos is excellent people need the kind of excellent opportunities given by an outstanding college or university. And the insightful marketing folks who hire me to direct stories for universities and colleges have taught me this: you almost never feature the geniuses.
You market using the student who is smart, but who also has the other intangibles which cause them to be memorable. If they’re memorable now, chances are they’ll be the ones who have the right combination of smarts, personality, and the ability to make connections between different disciplines to be memorable once they get their 10,000 hours in. And memorable people make for memorable college marketing videos. And in the marketplace, “memorable + quality” has a better chance of selling than merely “quality” everytime.
After almost 10,000 hours directing and producing university videos for higher-education, I don’t know if I’ve gained the outstanding success of Gladwell’s outliers, but I’ve learned a few things. Don’t script non-actors. Emotional moments are more important than statistics. And don’t be afraid to use real students and professors to tell real stories! Take a look at one more university video, and remember to keep working on getting your 10,000 hours into whatever genre of Video or Film production you dabble.
Blackmagic rocked the commercial video production industry last year with the announcement of a 2.5K camera for 3K pricing. Now they’ve released not one, but two cameras in time for NAB, and one of them is a tiny video camera the size of an iphone! But this digital video camera can shoot at super high-resolution using prime lenses! Read more from Hollywood Reporter, and a review about the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera here.
Explore Media is an Indiana-based video production company focused on brand storytelling for organizations. This means we write, produce, edit, and deliver web video and television commercial campaigns. Give us a shout for your next campaign!