Tuesday, April 13, 2010


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Sunday, December 30, 2007


Making mistakes

Having made a lot of mistakes and learned from them has left me weary of anyone who hasn't made those mistakes; I'm afraid they might make them at my expense. Because of past experience I can review a situation and predict the biggest dangers and oncoming pitfalls. Once I see the problems coming I can react to fix the problems before they appear! It's an excellent radar system for succesful productions; it's a system that only experience can teach.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


Your expert trainer is leaving your company?

Let's say you have an expert who travels all over the country training your employees to get better results in sales or to use a certain computer system or just to motivate and inspire. Let's say that expert has been with you for ten years, and now that expert is leaving to take a position with another company.

Can you download his brain and save it as a learning tool for future employees?

That's the call I got a few days ago. How can we preserve our employee's amazing presentations? How can we capture his teaching process to allow new trainers to see his style and content, in order to develop and improve their training sessions?

Watching a past trainer in action could be priceless.

This weekend we captured the trainer's two-day training on video, including of course his white board notes and pristine audio.

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Monday, July 09, 2007


Ivory Webb case - Acquited! - Not guilty!

Not guilty. On all counts. After deliberating on 2 1/2 hours the jury brought back their verdict.

The suspect went through 4 stop signs and 1 stop light and then played chicken with the deputy before the suspects crashed into a wall. The crash occured in a residential neighborhood.

It was 10:30pm and the neighborhood had no street lights, so it was very dark except for the officer's headlights and his flashlight. The suspect car's truck was open.

Then the suspects' passenger car door opened and a leg came out of the car. The deputy feared the suspect was going to flee, run into a nearby residence, and create a hostage situation. The deputy approached the suspect to stop him. Later this suspect was found out to be Elio Carrion, a recent military officer back from duty in Iraq, but to Deputy Webb he was a nameless, faceless, suspect.

A bystander across the street heard the car crash and pulled out his video camera.

The next minute and 11 seconds prior to the shooting were recorded on video.

After a minute of verbal confrontation and physical non-compliance, with the suspect refusing to be quiet and refusing to get onto the ground, the officer saw the suspect put his hand toward his coat and lunge toward the officer, and the officer shot the suspect three times.

For the last few months I have been analyzing this video footage, boosting the audio and video with various filter to try and glean any new details from the video evidence.

In addition to my work, the FBI, the San Bernardino Sherrif's department, and other private firms did work on both the video and audio in the original footage.

One of the pieces of evidence I uncovered in the video was something no one else found. This one piece was mentioned by 3 jury members after the case as something that was very important in their understanding of the case.

It has been a bit frustrating reading the news, seeing clips on the internet, and hearing directly from people about the manner in which this case is covered - and NOT covered. The news was so biased that even I, who worked in news for 1 1/2 years as a producer, writer, and editor, was shocked. Webb's side of the story has been largely ignored, and so viewers are left with believing he should be found guilty. So many crucial bits of evidence I wanted to tell people, but of course we had to wait for the jury verdict for saying anything to the press.

See the dramatic verdict read in court

Even after the case, the news did not cover the evidence that led the jury to believe the just verdict was "not guilty," and so television viewers are left confused. Of course they are asking, "Was the jury just plain dumb? Were they tricked? Were they bribed or payed off? Is justice possible in this country?"

View the Today Show interview of Ivory Webb and Michael Schwartz

It is very clear to me that justice was done in this case, and I am proud to have helped a man to be free.

After the verdict, a most wonderful moment was when the judge said, "Mr. Webb, you are free to go."

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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Video expert for Ivory Webb court case

They sometimes call me the "tech guy" in court.

I've been spending a lot of time lately as a video expert to help the defense of Ivory Webb, a deputy for the San Bernardino Sheriff's department at the time of an incident in which Deputy Webb shot a suspect after a 100 mile an hour car chase and resulting crash.

A part of the incident, including the shooting itself, was captured on video by a bystander who lives across the street from the scene of the car crash.

The case has received national attention, and I was asked to help the defense enhance and analyze that videotape.

I was also asked to setup the video system in the court and to run the system during the court case.

It's been a fascinating few months.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


What's the difference between a happy and unhappy client?

It's all about expectations.

You may get along great with your video production company, you may love their past corporate video samples, and you may come to terms on a fair budget to do the job, but if the details of the job are not clear to everyone, you may, in the end, hate the relationship.

What's the difference between a happy client and an unhappy client?

It could be one detail that was left off the discussion.

Such as, what will the DVD look like? A complex custom menu or a simple "burn"?

Or, how many revisions of the edit are included in this budget?

Or, will your DVD play in Europe?

An experienced production company will guide you in these discussions. If they don't have the experience, be prepared for lots of surprises.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


5 Questions Before Starting a Project

WebVideoUniverse interviewed us and their article is linked below. It's about creating videos for the web in corporate settings.

What are the 5 questions to answer before starting a project?

The posted article is here:

Enjoy, and thanks to journalist Troy Dreier and WebVideoUniverse.com!

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Monday, February 26, 2007


Pre-record your presentation -- an hour can save a day.

Recently a president of a major bank was unable to travel to an important internal company celebration due to scheduling conflicts, and yet the company wanted him to give opening remarks there.

How does the bank bring their president to a location at a time when he's unavailable?

Since cloning is not yet an option, second best is recording him before the event and playing the video at the celebration.

We were asked to shoot and edit this presentation, and to create two versions, one which played in New York, and the other which played in London.

A great time was had by all.

Sometimes it's just better to pre-record your presentation to save all that travel time to conferences.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007


Court cases, security cameras, and video

We have of late worked on a number of court cases as a video production consultant and analyst.

Video surveillance has become commonplace. Police officers have video cameras in their cars; they are often required to have their cameras running even while issuing a common traffic ticket. Jails, retail businesses, banks, freeways, amusement parks, casinos, and even many parking lots have security cameras.

Lots of video being captured, lots of crimes being caught on tape, and lots of police responses being recorded. This is creating many situations for using video in courts of law. It is also creating many situations when lawyers need video production experts to analyze and testify in court. It's a new trend.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007


Promoting a book release using video

To promote the release of Harry Medved's new book, "Hollywood Escapes", a moviegoer's guide to exploring Southern California's great outdoors, we were asked to edit clips from movies for use in his book publicity tours. He has written an amazingly detailed book of films shot in Southern California, the locations used, and directions to find those locations, to help people create their own outdoor adventure.

For the series of book signings and publicity tours done throughout the greater Los Angeles area to promote the book, Mr. Medved hired us to edit various clip reels of specific regions of Los Angeles. For example, he brought us tons of clips of Venice Beach Boardwalk, and we created a wonderful compilation. He brought us clips of Sunset Strip, and later he brought us clips of Malibu Creek. Lots of fun!

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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Live broadcast online streaming

Each month live streaming becomes easier, and corporations are increasingly relying upon live broadcasts in their marketing, education, and training programs. Keep in mind that the number of simultaneous viewers of your media will dramatically affect your costs.

We got a call last week from a Florida company that was coming to Los Angeles for a 4 or 5 hour event. Can you do live streaming of our education and recruiting sessions? "Of course," I said.

I asked a number of questions to help us clarify the scope of the project.

We learned that the event will run 4 or 5 hours,
that they expect about 200 people to be viewing online at any moment during the event, and that we may need to switch between PowerPoint presentations and the live video of the speakers.

"OK," I said. "Let me look over your plans. I'll get back to you with a bid in a few days."

The difference in the bid between 200 simultaneous viewers and 300 simultaneous viewers was about 30% of the budget...

Fortunately, if you want to have better control over your budget, you can limit the number of people who can view the live event. Once the viewer limit is reached the user will get a message similar to: "Total number of viewers currently exceeds the allowed limit. Please try back in a few minutes or wait until this seminar is available for download at the end of the day."

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Sunday, December 03, 2006


Maintaining a cohesive final product while shooting with various production companies

Let's say you need a 30 second interview with your CEO to add to your 4 minute video pitch. But you're in Florida; he's in Los Angeles. How do you properly make this happen to avoid the costs of sending people out to Los Angeles but at the same time match the style, quality, and tone of that clip to the other footage you already have?

This just came up with our company, and it worked out well because we maintained clear communication with the producers of the promotional video from beginning to end.

Detailed specificifications are extremely helpful in a situation like this.

Here are a few things to think about, discuss, and coordinate for a successful production:

1) VIDEO FORMAT (HDV, HD, DV, PAL, NTSC, 16x9) - there are a great deal of popular video formats these days, with some better for broadcast, some better for home DVDs, and others better for internet streaming. Be sure you know the end goal for the footage you're shooting, and be sure all the players talk about format options.

2) AUDIO (wireless mics, boom mics, handheld mics) -- each of these sound options has a very different sound quality, so if you want to have the audio of your CEO match audio from other speakers throughout the rest of the promotional video, it's best to use the same or similar audio equipment throughout.

3) BACKGROUND OF SHOT - What's going to be behind the CEO while he talks? Trees, the ocean, a white wall, his top-floor office overlooking skyscrapers, a window framing a large factory? Try to nail this down if you can, because it can add a lot to the polished professionalism of the final product.

4) CAMERA MOVEMENT - What will the camera movement be while your CEO talks? My advice is to stay away from requesting the shakey "MTV look" because not many videographers can do this right, and there are so many varieties of this look that you will most likely be very disappointed with the results. A much safer, easier to work with, and still very professional look is to ask for a locked off camera. This means that the camera will stay still throughout each take. Between each take you can request that the producer adjust to get a variety of close, medium, and wide shots to help you in the editing stage. Remember, our goal is to shoot one small clip or series of clips to be used in a much larger promotional project; you want the clips to blend into the style of the existing project.

5) SHOT SIZE / COMPOSITION - Send the production company photos or drawings with examples of the composition to help them understand the shots you want.

6) DIRECTION CEO SHOULD LOOK - Will the camera be setup eyelevel and will you ask the CEO to look straight at the camera, or do you want him looking slightly off camera left or right?

7) SEATED OR STANDING - Should he be in a comfy executive chair behind a desk, standing in a conference room, or do you want the CEO to be walking through the company offices?

8) TELEPROMPTER - Can the CEO talk on the fly, adjust his words as he is recorded on camera, or does he prefer reading from a teleprompter with an exact script? Most would want a teleprompter, but a few can handle the ad lib situation because they've done this for years.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006


Tight video production deadlines - FTP to the rescue!

A fast turnaround demands careful planning.

Let's say you have an HD (High Definition) video shoot coming up Monday morning and you need the edited footage in your hand by Monday afternoon... but the shoot is in Los Angeles and you're in Singapore.

Can this happen?
The newest production tools, editing techniques, and internet file transfer technologies can get the job done, and within a reasonable budget too.

A great tool in your arsenal is transfering the HD files via FTP on a fast network.

Most importantly, as with every project with tight deadlines and new technology, test every step before the day of the shoot.

What video compression and decompression solutions ("codecs") are best these days? I have enjoyed working on the H.264 Quicktime format lately, but again, everything depends on your testing the process from start to finish prior to the day to prevent any unexpected glitches.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006


Choose one employee or consultant to mediate the project

So, you're ready to initiate a video production. Who's going to manage it? Find one person within your company who will manage your project from start to finish, who will communicate with the video production company, giving feedback with a unified voice to the producer on behalf of all those who will have a say in the final product.

Your point person on this project will need to have the talents to gather feedback from different people within your company, sift through differing opinions, and coalesce all responses to give the production company one set of opinions, corrections.

What I've seen happen a great deal is that a company won't specify one person, and then as the project gets close to completion the video production company is getting various differing feedback and conflicting opinions about music and editing styles, and this can lead to a more expensive project as the video producer tries one version, is told by someone to change it, and then by another to change it yet again.

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Monday, October 16, 2006


Test your video before it's too late!

Before a film studio finishes a film, they do a series of test screenings, inviting specially selected attendees to watch the film and then to fill out a questionaire detailing their feelings about the film. Questions asked include, "Was this film too long or too short?", "Would you tell your friend about this film?", and "How did you feel about the ending? Please explain." The questionaire might ask, "Would you bring children to see this film?" and "Who is the perfect audience for this film?"

Studios are in the business of making a profit, and they will do what they can to improve their product, to better target their advertising dollars, and to increase their profits. Studios have been known to reshoot the ending of a film in the attempt to raise audience ratings.

Similarly, you, as a corporate producer, should test your video before you finish it to be sure the video is achieving the goals you desire.

When conducting test screenings, here are a few hints:
1) Gather together a group of people similar to your target audience.
2) Reproduce a viewing experience similar to how your final video will be viewed. For example, if there will be a speaker presenting at a banquet setting before the video, attempt to have someone introduce the video in the same way.
3) Write up a series of SHORT and CLEAR questions that will help your audience give you the feedback you need.

After the questionaires are turned in, spend time having a discussion with your test audience. Now is the time to get honest feedback about what is right and what is wrong with the video. Is the main message getting across? Is the audience bored? Are there any sections which are particularly confusing?

Having a friendly and open attitude which encourages honesty will get you the best results. Your job is to get the audience to open up and give honest feedback, without the fear of reprisal.

As the discussion progresses, you may be curious about a particular section of the video that no one yet mentioned. Save all leading questions about a particular moment in the video for the end of your discussion.

So often my clients don't do this final step which I feel is crucial for success of their video. Get feedback! Sometimes a comment from one person can save you from making an embarrassing mistake!

Don't get too caught up in the details of the feedback and make changes for every comment! However, often the comments and discussion will give you invaluable ideas for vastly improving your video, bringing better results, improving your bottom line, and increasing your job security.

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Deadlines - plan for corporate video success

The best way to ensure a successful video project that's completed on time is to set reasonable deadlines, and to base payment to your videographer upon his achieving those goals. A great incentive is to offer a bonus % if he delivers the final video within the agreed timeline.

Setting deadlines is good for everyone. It reduces the stress to you and those you must answer to. It increases the quality of the final product because you have the time to test your product, make changes, and add production if necessary. By making clear deadlines in your agreements, with incentives, you will increase the professionalism of your video and have a more satisfied boss.

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Friday, October 13, 2006


What is your working relationship going to be?

From the beginning of a project it's crucial that you and your video production company come to an understanding of what your working relationship will be.

How often will meetings be needed? Where will the meetings be held? Who is responsible for what steps of the production?

Our clients sometimes write their script themselves. Sometimes, on the other end of the spectrum, they have no idea what a "script" is. Most commonly the writing process falls somewhere between these two extremes, with the client or us doing the first draft of the script. After that it's a collaborative effort.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Creating a video is an investment, which should have an ROI

Creating a video for your company is an investment, and you should treat it as such. Why are you creating this video? Who is it for? At what venues will it be shown? What is the result you want to achieve?

You should discuss this in detail with your video production studio, to be sure you succeed.

Make sure your company's money is spent well; make sure you get a good ROI, and make sure your communication is clear and focused.

I'm going to say something a bit controversial -- It doesn't matter what equipment is used to create the video. If you've seen the studio's past work, gotten excellent references from past clients, and are pleased with their intelligence and focus on your needs, then equipment doesn't matter.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Get a clear letter of agreement with a video production company

Before doing any business with a video production company, you must get a clear letter of agreement outlining your project. This agreement will summarize your responsibilities as the client and the responsibilities of the video production house.

The Letter of Agreement is important because it forces all involved to clarify the needs, expectations, and scope of the video project.

In your first meeting with the video production company you should discuss:
1) Your reasons for wanting the video produced -- often my clients have multiple purposes in mind.
2) Your audience -- who will be seeing this?
3) The goals of the video -- how you want the audience to be affected.

After clarifying the above three areas, you are ready to discuss possible directions the video could take to achieve the stated goals and to have your desired affect on the intended audience.

It is very important to detail exactly what the videographer expects from the client and what the client needs from the videographer.

Your Letter of Agreement should include details of equipment to be provided, and a list of deadlines for writing the script, planning the shoots, number of days of production, and editing.

It should also deliniate the possibility for additional costs if initial production expands to exceed current budget.

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