All posts by Dan

IMG_3553

The Importance of the Corporate Video Library

By | corporate video production, Tips/Techniques, Video Production | No Comments

The Corporate Video Library

Shooting corporate video in TexasLet’s talk about a key part of having great corporate video—building a library of footage and videos. When we start shooting for a new corporate client, it’s usually for a very specific video… maybe a training video or a web video. When we shoot, we don’t ever delete anything. That footage goes onto harddrives and those harddrives are backed up to tapes.

Building Videos

Then we get called to shoot for a second project. And then a third. And that footage starts to build up. Then you call us because you need a quick internal video on your company culture. You send us a script or voice over and we pull from these previous shoots to put video over that voice over. Without ever shooting anything. And it’s fast. Clients that we’ve been working with for years, will call us and need a short, quick video that they can put on the web, or in their e-learning portal and with a growing library, this becomes a much easier process. Of course, sometimes it’s a mixture—one client had an announcement of an upcoming meeting. We shot a little new footage and used a lot of library footage from their last conference. Having a library to pull from gives you the flexibility to have great looking videos at lower cost and quicker turnarounds.

Increasing Production Value

And we’ll use that footage often to increase production value. Maybe the talking head interview talks about the warehouse… we could stay on that shot, or pull from the library that time we shot in the warehouse.
And often, I’ll use interviews as an opportunity to build the library—maybe asking some questions that aren’t necessarily the focus of the current video that can be re-purposed from something down the road. One client I have, we were shooting events at their retail locations. In addition to asking associates the questions of the day, I also asked them what they liked about working for the company. Later, human resources needed a video to play at job fairs—they were extremely pleased that we were able to get them a great video from footage they didn’t have to pay for again.
One note—if you’re using outside video companies, the industry standard is that you, the client, own the footage, even if the video company keeps it at their place. You should never have to pay to get footage back from a video production vendor.

Job Posting: After Effects Artist/Editor/Shooter

By | corporate video production, Info | No Comments

After Effects Artist/Editor/Shooter

Serendipitous Films Inc, located on the east side of Fort Worth, is looking for an After Effects Artist who can also handle overflow editing and some shooting. While the position doesn’t necessarily require many years of experience, we are looking for someone who is “advanced” in After Effects. This will be a staff position at our Fort Worth offices.

The most important aspect is how well the applicant fits in with us—chemistry is everything here at SFilms. Secondly will be ability. Everything else follows those two things. So if you like to have fun and enjoy working extremely hard, this might be for you. Contact dan@s-films.com by sending resume but more importantly links to your reel. No phone calls please.

Responsibilities:

  • Create 2D animations, motion graphics, logos and other animation support for video projects. 3D not mandatory, but is helpful.
  • Handle overflow editing of projects in Adobe Premiere.
  • Shoot—be able to go out and shoot BRoll, client interviews, etc, as needed.

Requirements

  • Advanced skills in After Effects, Photoshop and other Adobe cloud platforms
  • Intermediate skills in Premiere
  • Takes initiative
  • Great interpersonal/social interaction
  • Works great under deadline pressures
  • Gets satisfaction by over delivering on production value

Serendipitous Films, based in the Dallas Fort Worth Texas area, primarily handles corporate videos, commercials, some TV and occasionally feature work.

shooting run and gun video

Levels of Corporate Video Production Companies in Dallas

By | corporate video production, Info, Tips/Techniques, Video Production | No Comments

When looking for a company in Dallas to produce that corporate video, you will find several different levels of production companies. And the corporate video production we’re talking about here are marketing videos, training videos, internal communications, sales and product videos, and web videos.  This is for the Director of Sales and Marketing, the head of corporate communications, the public relations team, or the person in charge of corporate training.

We break down the levels into four sizes—the Big Dogs, the medium size, the small company and the one-man band. Let’s start at the bottom and work up. For some reason, the creative services industry can bring out some of the biggest egos in people. And this occurs throughout the following list. When you are looking for a great video production company in Dallas to work with, in addition to sampling their work, make sure you can enjoy working with the people. It’s one of the biggest comments we get from our clients.

The One Man (or Woman) Band

This “production company” is one person, maybe with an office or maybe not. The older, more experienced One Man Band can write, shoot and edit. And maybe he hires freelancers to assist. The younger One Man Band is typically a student or someone just out of school just trying to explore their craft.

This person will be the cheapest estimate out of the three for a corporate video. But they will usually be the lowest in quality as well. And because they’re alone, the project can take some time—especially the larger video projects. The adage “you get what you pay for” is especially true for this layer. But occasionally a corporate client will get lucky and find a gem.  This level is the biggest gamble and some might say the payoff for a win isn’t worth the risk in the corporate video industry.  Jobs and reputations are at stake within the halls of the company, and you don’t want to roll the dice, spending money for an ineffective video.

The Sweet Spot – The Small Companycorporate video production in studio

In corporate video production, the small company (2-4 employees) offers the most flexibility and value. This company is doing medium and sometimes large company production work, and usually hires a team of contractors they work with often to keep the quality high. Contractors are specialists and superb at what they do. Only hiring contractors for specific shoots rather than hiring full-time staff is a savings that is passed on to the client.

They can estimate jobs on the lower side of the range while bringing top production value. But be careful, because many companies can be this size, quality can be all over the map. With a little research, this company can be the answer to top notch corporate videos. Make sure you look at their portfolio and, if possible, talk to some of their clients.

This size company is flexible– they have a small permanent team to keep consistency and dependability through the projects, and they can scale up quickly if needed.  Because of that, they can still estimate towards the lower side while delivering outstanding value.  Many corporations will go with this company, and stick with them if they deliver strongly on that first project.

The Medium Size Company

The production companies at this level usually have 5-10 employees. They can estimate low or high, depending on how busy they are, but typically will fall in the middle of the estimates as far as price. The overhead for a medium size company is greater and thus can reflect in the estimate. Therefore a client may find that they are paying for more that what directly contributes to what is seen on screen.

As far as quality, it can be hit or miss. Maybe they got to be medium sized because of one rain-maker client, but still lack many other skills and/or tools in their tool box to do more than what they specialize in. But maybe they’re really good and offer incredible value—high production quality at a decent price.

Usually there will be a strong creative type (probably running the company). An editor or two, maybe an animator. And a couple of shooters or production types, and a production or office manager to keep everything organized.

The Big Dogs—The Large Video Production Company

Dallas is a center for corporate and commercial video production. National commercial work ends up being a big ticket item. Large video companies, 15+ employees, will specialize in commercial production to help pay the large overhead they carry.corporate video shoot in studio

The Big Dog work will be first class (they can’t survive otherwise), but they will charge significantly more than all the others. And I do mean significantly. It’s possible that the One Man Band, the Small Company, and the Medium Company all come in fairly close with their estimates. The Big Dog’s price will often be a multiple of the others.

Larger corporations will pay this for several reasons—they feel more confident that the company will deliver a high quality corporate video (which makes them look good to their bosses), and the Big Dog can wine and dine them more, treating them a little more “Hollywood.” It’s the comfort level that the client ends up paying for.

Conclusion

Now there are exceptions up and down this list. You might find a small company that consistently delivers Big Dog quality (and maybe they even charge Big Dog prices). Or maybe a Big Dog will low ball an estimate for some reason. So it’s important that you do your research when picking a corporate video production company in Dallas. Comparing apples to apples is a difficult process in the video industry for the director of marketing, or the head of corporate training.

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Where does SFilms fit in this chart? Call us and we’ll tell you. 😉

Drone UAV Preflight Checklist 3DR Solo

By | corporate video production, Info, Tips/Techniques | No Comments

3DR Solo Flight Checklists

What follows is our UAV checklist specifically for the 3DR Solo drone (or UAV).  We require all operators to follow the checklist to insure safe and proper operation of the aerial platform.

Before Leaving

  • Charge drone batteries
  • Charge controller
  • Charge ipad mini
  • Ensure GoPro Hero 4 has card

 

Arriving Exterior Location

PREFLIGHT

  • Visually inspect area of operation, noting poles, antennas and other physical hazards
  • Observe wind direction and approximate wind speeds
  • Place props on motors (make sure they are tight)
  • Put fully charged battery on drone
  • Remove Gimbal foam, protecting gimbal during shipping
  • Choose launch site—make sure it is a safe place for an emergency “return home” command
  • Place drone on launch site (must be away from metal and be level)
  • Power up drone
  • Discuss with Spotter the flight path and flight plan
  • Power up controller
  • Place ipad on hold and power up
  • Make sure ipad connects to Solo wifi and start app
  • If App requires orientation, then follow steps on the screen
  • For non-manual operation, make sure enough GPS satellites have locked with drone (on screen of controller)
  • Make sure Spotter is ready.
  • Clear the area around drone for take-off
  • Hold button for engine start

 

AFTER FLIGHT

  • Wait until props have completely stopped
  • Power off drone
  • Power off controller
  • Power off ipad
  • Place gimbal foam protector in place
  • Remove props and put in case
  • Place ipad mini into lid
  • Place controller into spot
  • Pull microSD card out of GoPro and download
  • Return card to GoPro
  • Charge drone batteries
  • Charge controller if needed
  • Charge ipad mini if needed

 

It’s important to leave the drone ready to go for the next operator.

corporate video dallas with DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo Review – Great for Corporate Video

By | corporate video production, Info, Reviews, Tips/Techniques | No Comments

Handheld gimbals are not new anymore, and the release of the DJI Osmo moves the handheld gimbal into the next generation.  Ever since we grabbed our small phantom drone, turned it on, and held on to it, moving around the location to get that “steadicam” effect, it was clear a new market (or call it a new tool for the videographer) was opening up.

Several years ago, we here at SFilms in Dallas purchased a relatively cheap powered gimbal (sold by a US distributor, but clearly made in China).  It required a GoPro, but we used the device constantly in our corporate videos.  It was taken on road tours for a corporate retail client of ours, for internal communications, and we used it on construction sites and other places as well.  And it fell apart.  We had to take screws from one side, to fill in ones lost on the other.  But using the GoPro gave us some flexibility.

Now DJI, maker of the phantom line of drones, has taken the gimbal and camera used on their Inspire drone, and stuck it on a stick.  Although I’ve had a history of disappointment with DJI (five times, their drones have simply fallen from the sky), there’s no where for this handheld gimbal to fall.  So here’s my rundown:

Receiving the DJO OsmoDJI Osmo in packaging

First, I ordered it, and it came with a few senseless accessories.  A selfie stick?  You can’t use that with the gimbal.  A cool pouch… but the gimbal already comes with a form fitting “miniature guitar” case.  So the pouch was unnecessary.  What I quickly learned is that a battery or two would have been an ideal accessory.

After unboxing, I connected it up.  For someone new to DJI’s app, it will be fairly confusing at first.  But I’ve had some experience, so I was able to get it working quickly.  The construction of the gimbal is pretty solid and well made.  The holder for the iphone or whatever you want to use as a monitor is very well designed and thought out.  I use a lot of ipads and iphones etc and I drop them a bunch so I use hard core cases.  That makes it difficult to mount onto things, but this holder is flexible enough to hold the iphone with the Lifeproof case.

The First Gig– Corporate Video Event in Ballroom

 

Then came the first big gig to use it on.  Here’s where I learned a lot.  The gimbal’s battery is a pretty quick burn.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to charge, but I jumped online and ordered some backup batteriesDJI Osmo at a corporate video event.  I also ordered an ipod touch.  Using my phone works well, but I was in the middle of text conversations with clients on my phone and using it for the gimbal became problematic.  A cheap ipod will fix that.

The gig was a corporate event inside a ballroom.  I quickly changed settings via my iphone.  The image was slightly better than my GoPro Hero 4.  But, as expected, not as good as the Canon C100 Mark II we were using as well.  I experimented with the slow motion settings as well as the 2.7k and 4k resolutions.

Limitations

Although the Osmo is a great tool for BRoll, it does have some limitations– not great for a quick cold start.  Connecting the app can take crucial seconds when you rea

Osmo tilting

Image from the Osmo with the tilting going on making the image off level.

lly want to grab that handshake the CEO is giving the top sales writer.  You can just start shooting in the blind.  About one out of every five startups, my iphone does not recognize the Osmo’s wifi and I have to restart it.  And the camera lists to port.  I’m guessing this is because the iphone sits on the left side of the stick and so I think I start tilting left.  But reversing it sometimes doesn’t work.  So some of the footage is not level.  And double-clicking the trigger (which centers it) doesn’t have any effect on the level.

It was easy to get used to it because it operates similar to the cheap chinese one I’ve been using.  You rotate one way and the camera follows.  That’s how you drive it.  The thumb switch for manually moving the camera is not a great feature while shooting.  Factory setting is way to fast, so I slowed it down in the settings and use my wrist to turn the stick which will pan the camera smoother than the thumb switch.

Overall

In spite of the limitations, overall I really like it.  It will be a great tool in our arsenal for corporate video production here in Dallas.  If anyone has comments, I’d love to hear them.

corporate video teleprompter

The Corporate Video Soundbite

By | corporate video production, Info | No Comments

You’ve been asked to be in the company video.  You’ve read our blog on what to expect and what to wear here.  There are a couple of different ways you will be shot and included in the company video.  In this article, we will discuss these different methods and how you can best represent yourself and your company.

Most company videos are shot documentary style, the subject being interviewed by someone off camera.  Another method is to do a “stand up” looking straight at camera, like a news reporter.  There isn’t a best way, because all these are “tools” and sometimes you need a hammer, and other times you need a screwdriver.  So it all depends on what job you need the video to do.  So let’s discuss.

Documentary Corporate Video ShootDocumentary Style

You will usually sit down (occasionally you might stand), and someone sitting right next to the camera will ask you questions.  This person might be your corporate communications specialist for your company, or it might be one of us.  The video is not going to use the interviewer– so the audience will never see or hear them.  When you answer, try to incorporate the question into your answer.

Don’t worry about messing up.  Just take a pause and pick up just before you fumbled.  Try not to get self-conscious.  Slow down.  Avoid saying “as I said before,” because we probably won’t use the other take.  You can say the same thing over and over, just using different words.  It’s okay.

There are two schools of thought on having the questions prepped before you begin.  Yes it’s good to be prepared, but coming across rehearsed might be counter productive to the corporate video goals.  But being totally cold might not work either.  I recommend for most to have bullet or outline points.  You can write them down, but don’t read anything when answering (and don’t look down at cards or a note pad).

And for this style, I strongly advise against teleprompter unless you are a professional actor.  I had a client insist on doing documentary style interviews with all the corporate leadership.  Then we ended up redoing it later– it came across very poorly.

The Stand Up

This is where the teleprompter actually works really well, and where I advise using it.  The corporate spokesperson looks right at the lens and tells us what he or she wants us to know.  Scripted truly is the best way for this.  It’s hard to keep looking right at that lens and it feels very uncomfortable for the people not used to doing it.  You don’t want to be searching for words.

Relax, and enjoy.  Most people will do just fine in the corporate video and the production team wants you to look good.  We’re going to make you look as good as possible.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Corporate Video Production Dallas

Building a Freelance Career in Corporate Video Production

By | corporate video production | No Comments

Corporate Video Versus Movie Making

corporate video puppetFor all those film students who are graduating from different colleges and some film schools, one of the first choices you have to make is money or art?  (It’s a trick question we’ll address below).  You’ve just spent two or four (or six) years studying film and video.  You’ve learned to shoot and you’ve learned to edit.  You might have learned how to work with a crew.  You’ve problem-solved and you are now looking for that job (career) you’ve invested so heavily in both time and money.

If you’re driving goal, you’re burning obsession is to make narrative feature films, then really this article is not for you.   This is for the film and video professional who enjoys shooting or editing one person corporate stuff, or working with a three to five person crew in the corporate buildings of America.  I graduated from a University with a BA degree in Radio/Television (technically a degree in Communications with a major in RTV).  I wanted to be a filmmaker, but didn’t understand the difference at that time.  My first job after college was as a “field producer” (a catch all term meaning I was that one man band traveling all over the country shooting).  But more often than not, I found myself shooting in company offices, making marketing videos for corporations, or doing training videos.

About five years in, I still wanted to make a movie.  So after a few more years of getting ready, I left my corporate video production job and made the leap to feature films, which I did for over ten years (and five movies).  BTW, those were ten hard years as I starved myself and my family to chase it.  I returned to corporate video with a new found passion (where I could combine the “art” of movie making, with the projects my corporate clients were looking for).

BTW– I’m not as keen on hiring freelancers who are frustrated filmmaker wanabee’s.  If the corporate video job I’m hiring for you is a “bummer” or something that you”have” to do, I’m not as interested.  That lack of passion will permeate your work.

So this brings us to you.  How do you get started making a living in video/film production?  You’re still reading, so I’m assuming that you’re not the one saying “feature films or nothing!”  Here are some tips to getting started.

Freelancing in the Corporate Video World

When I graduated and started fulltime with a company, I didn’t know you could freelance.  I accidentally fell into freelancing and before long was making pretty good money.  My biggest client (production company) realized they could save money by bringing on someone, offered me the fulltime job.  If I said no, they’d find another person and I’d lose that significant freelance work.  So I said yes and took a huge “pay cut” and increased my hours.  So today, there are many production companies looking for freelance people.  We hire PA’s, Audio, Camera Operators and DP’s.  Occasionally make-up artist and other specialists.

Corporate Video Freelancing Tips

  • corporate video production attitudePut yourself out there.  To get started freelancing, you need to get known.  Go to networking opportunities.  In Dallas, there is a Dallas Producer’s Association– the perfect place to shale some hands.
  • Volunteer if need be.  The whole point is to get yourself known.  Volunteer.  Get on the set.
  • Shine.  Here’s the most important part.  When you do get on the set, you need to shine.  You need to have a great “can do” attitude, whether it’s getting coffee for the client or lugging that equipment up two flights of stairs.  I can tell you about three or four out of ten get my attention on the set.  And when they do, I can promise you it’s not necessarily ability, but attitude.
  • Appearance.  You’re working in corporate USA.  You don’t need to wear a business suit (it will get snagged and dirty).  But your clothes need to be nice business casual and clean.  (Visit our Facebook page here and scroll down for the “Dear Freelancer Article).  If you’ve have a lot of tats and body piercings, just know it might be a little harder to get established in corporate video.  That image is great for the feature film work, not so good for the boardrooms of the corporate video world.
  • Don’t Say No Too Often.  If we call you and you’re not available, that’s okay.  By the third or fourth time in a row, we will probably stop calling you.  When corporate video production companies are crewing up a shoot or project, we usually call people that come to mind first.  So be on our minds.  Which brings us to…
  • Followup.  It’s okay to send emails out to production companies reminding them that you’re available.  Once a month is fine. Once a week is overdoing it.
  • Lots of Baskets.  It’s always a good idea to not put all your eggs in one basket.  Have several production companies giving you business.

The corporate video freelancing world can be highly enjoyable.  You can actually earn more money than a staff job and work less hours.  You have freedom and flexibility in your schedule.  It can be very rewarding.

longterm construction timelapse

Longterm Time Lapse for Construction

By | corporate video production | No Comments

Defining “Time-Lapse” (or timelapse)

One of the services we’ve had an increasing call for is longterm timelapse for the construction industry.  And by “long term”, we mean a camera that is up for six months or more.  This presents a unique set of challenges.

Timelapse Camera Placement

installing timelapseFirst, the placement of the long term time lapse camera.  The best spots are usually elevated, as high as possible.  When we get the call, we look for a building overlooking the construction site.  Ideally, a camera placed inside looking out a clean window mitigates the necessity to weather proof the camera.  When we have placed indoors, we come prepared to battle glare issues off the window in front.  If we are placing on the roof, we have to weatherproof the camera.

If a building is not available, we’ve had clients install a pole.  We are OSHA certified to operate moving scaffolds (lifts) and will place the camera on top of the pole.  One issue to be aware of is “sway” in any pole you set the camera on.

Timelapse Camera Types

We also consult with the client to determine the best type of camera.  A “timelapse video” is actually not created as a “video.”  Timelapse is a series of still images, that later are combined together to form a video clip.  We’ve had clients that have had us take over timelapses from large companies who install timelapse simply because the large company doesn’t get it– they put a low quality video camera up.  They then deliver to their client a “timelapse” of a few seconds of video all stitched together.  And the quality can be horrendous.  (One client’s footage from a large national “timelapse” company was 640×420 video– very low quality).

If a timelapse vendor keeps pushing a “video” camera on you, find out what the maximum size of an image will be if you take a screen capture.  640×420 is really low quality.  A high end DSLR might be 3,000×2000 (ish).  For high def video, you want an image at least 1920×1080 in size.  Professionally, I like the larger than 1920×1080 because it provides options to zoom in or make animated moves in editing.  Remember, this is not a security camera situation.  If you need that, do a separate system.

The best quality is a DSLR camera taking still photographs. But accessibility can be an issue.  You can get high quality “surveillance” type cameras, but they need to have a feature where still images can be grabbed (like one every 15 or 20 minutes). These cameras can be set to send images over radio or cell, thus giving instant access.

Other Timelapse Considerations

After picking the location, then power has to be determined.  First choice is a dependable AC outlet nearby.  When that’s not available, we set up solar panels and batteries to power the camera.

The interval between the “pictures” is a factor as well.  If you are doing a three year time-lapse, a once a day picture might be okay.  We’ve found one picture every 20 minutes to be pretty good– but you will have shadow issues as the sun moves across during the day.

Timelapse cameras can fail.  We highly recommend backup cameras on important timelapse setups.  Often, we’ll put a radio/cell controlled camera as the primary, and a DSLR as a backup.  At 20 minute intervals, a DSLR can take many, many months to fill up a large SD card inside the unit.  If the primaray fails, we access the DSLR and pull the images off the internal SD card.

There are many different variables with long term time-lapses, so the cost can vary as well.  Call us at S-Films to find out more about your timelapse need.

 

The FAA 333 Exemption for Drones

By | corporate video production | No Comments

drone, solo, 3drsoloOkay– I’m starting to see more and more activity for the FAA 333 Exemption and want to throw some thoughts in there– especially to help those UAV operators who might consider plopping down some fat stacks to companies offering to help them with their 333 exemption.

Now I’ll preface by mentioning it’s all changing anyway. But right now, if you want to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes, you have to either have a commercial pilots license, or you have to ask the FAA to give you exemptions from those rules.

To be the Pilot in Charge of a UAV, even with a FAA 333 Exemption, the PIC must have some level of pilot’s license. Some people (I know a few), have applied for and gotten the 333 exemption without having a pilot’s license. What this means, is that if they want to be legal, they must find a PIC to fly their drone for them.

So let’s talk about the pilot’s license. You can get a Sports Pilot License– it requires 20 hours minimum. Probably cost you about $4,000 to $5,000 and will take you about 3 months depending on how often you take lessons. Search the nearby airport for lessons and you’ll come up with some choices.

When I started to chase a FAA 333 Exemption, I did some quick research. I found some firms offering me help for the paltry sum of $5,000 or $6,000. I found a couple “budget” ones for $1,500. It was a Saturday. I sat down at my computer thinking “surely it can’t be that expensive?”

I found someone offering a how to Youtube video for $10. I paid that. I also researched some other successful petitions. After two or three hours of very intense work, I hit the “submit” button to the FAA. It took months and months later, but finally I received my FAA 333 Exemption. So my drone friends, you can do it yourself, or if you don’t want to spend the three hours, you can pay those fat stacks to someone who will assist you. Heck, pay me a bargain grand, and I’ll give you some advice.

Honestly, if you’re thinking about applying now, it’s probably too late. It might take 8 months for the FAA to grant you that exemption and by then, there will probably be a “UAV License” program. Plus, you need that pilot’s license.

DSCF0187

Wayward Son Carries On

By | corporate video production, Faith Filmmaking, Music Video Production | No Comments

When we shot our faith-based movie “The Imposter” in 2008, we were fortunate to cast Kerry Livgren.  In the 1970’s, one of the biggest acts in rock music was the band “Kansas.”  Kerry Livgren, with the long blond hair, was one of the main songwriter/musician of the group.  He write their break out hit “Carry On Wayward Son,” followed by one of the biggest all time hits “Dust in the Wind.”

Kerry is the real deal.  We sat down with him on the set of the movie and talked about his own personal journey.  Here’s that video.  Hope you enjoy!