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File Management for Production Companies

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On Set File Management

Production Companies Problems

One of the biggest “gotchas” that production companies can encounter is lost or corrupted footage.  It sounds simple: “Copy camera cards over to hard drive.”  But it’s the most critical job on the set.  You mess this up, and you can lose that great performance, that wonderful camera work, those awesome sets.  So to avoid this pitfall, let’s look at the tools you need.

File Management Tools

First of all you need a computer and hard drives.  Preferably two (or more).  Industry best practice is to take the camera card, copy it over to two different hard drives.  And make sure you copy to each hard drive from the card—don’t copy to a hard drive, eject the card, and copy from the first hard drive over to your back up hard drive.  If you have anything corrupt, you just copied that over.  Always copy from the camera card to your primary hard drive and your backup hard drive.

Software and Apps to Use

production companies on set file managementNow when you copy, you can use Finder (if you’re using Mac OS) or windows file manager and just copy the contents of the card over to the hard drive.  But how do you know there was nothing corrupted in the transfer?  There are several apps that will copy for you, and run verifications (check sums) to make sure every single 1 and 0 was copied over.  We use Hedge for the Mac—it allows you to copy straight through from card to hard drives, which speeds the transfer up a bit, instead of going through your computer bus.

Have a system.  Use one color box or colored tape for cards that need to be transferred, and another for cards ready to go back to the camera team (they’ve been verified).

In addition to the physical system, make sure you have a good file management system on the computer.  A master folder should be created for the Production.

Smaller Shoots

On smaller shoots, it might be that you have other jobs on the set—make sure you don’t get confused on file management.  For our video on the small video crew file management system, click here.  What good is it to help craft a well shot scene, only to mess up the transfer and that scene get deleted?  I’d say your file management duties are more important than any other job you might have on the set.  If you mess up, everyone’s work was practice for the re-shoot.  Yes it’s pressure—that’s why you have to have a system and follow it religiously.

One last word—I used the term File Management instead of DIT.  A true DIT also does first pass coloring and is responsible for the image being created on the set.  In corporate video, it’s mainly just managing the data from the cameras.  Remember—keep it straight!

History of the Camera, Part 1

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Intro to the Camera

For incoming interns and new students of corporate film and video, we cover the basics of the camera and answer questions such as “what is progressive scanning?” and “what’s the difference between component and composite video?” and more.

Brief History of the Camera

Cameras were created in the 19th Century by utilizing glass to focus light onto a chemically treated surface.  As technology improved, glass got better and the chemically treated surfaces were improved.  By the early 20th Century, the cameras had become somewhat standardized.    Then motion picture cameras came along.  Same principle- but instead of taking one frame or picture, now a motor was created to speed the chemically treated surface (film) through the housing to enable taking many pictures each second.  This started by hand cranking the film through (resulting in variable speed– notice in those old movies all the action is sped up).  But motors eventually were added which led to a standard of 24 frames per second.  Each image was exposed in it’s entirety, creating a “progressive” order in the images.  And these cameras were all mechanical.

Now for Television

Then television was invented.  Now, images were created electronically, not mechanically.  Since the United States was leading the world in the new technology of television, a group of bureaucrats and engineers sat down (actually mandated by the FCC) to create standards so that everyone who bought a tv could see the same programming.  Up to this point, you had RCA making television signals with 400 or so scan lines across, and Philco making theirs with over 600 scan lines across– the signals weren’t compatible, so the government stepped in.  This group called themselves the National Television System Committee (nice name).

In 1941, this group, with the acronym NTSC created the television standard of 525 scan lines at 30 frames per second.  (Important note: the television would “draw” the odd lines by skipping every other one on it’s way down to the bottom and then go up and fill in the even lines.  It would do this every second, so each pass was called a “field.”  This procedure is referred to as “interlace.”  So technically, the NTSC standard was 60 images a second).

Creation of Color TV

When color was brought into the industry in the 50’s, the NTSC mandated that it must be compatible with everyone’s black and white set.  So the three signals of info that create a color picture had to be composited into one signal.  Thus “composite” was born.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world took what the US had done and improved on it.  The PAL standard was created much closer to the film rate and had 25 frames per second.  The scan lines were an improved 625 lines across.  And when color came around, PAL redid it to keep the three color signals separate or “component.”

And this was the way it stayed for decades.  Watch Camera History part 2 for more (coming soon)!

Houston Harvey Aftermath

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Houston Harvey Hurricane

With the exception of one fast food worker in Fort Worth, most people have heard about what the hurricane Harvey has done to Houston.  We’re reporting today from Houston where we’ve spent the last few days doing some filming and lending some helping hands.

Driving Down

The drive from Fort Worth Dallas was pretty much a non-event.  On Thursday morning when we left, there were some gas stations in the DFW area that were closed.  So we drove with the philosophy of refilling when we got down to 3/4’s of a tank.  But we never had any issues.  As we neared Houston, we still couldn’t see any of the devastation we were seeing on the news.  And fuel was fine and actually cheaper than DFW prices.

As we headed to our clients headquarters near the NRG Stadium, the only clue was a shut down of the Sam Houston Tollway as it went into Sugarland– we could just make out the water over the highway.  We arrived at our clients building and got to work.


houston harvey devastationWe drove into some surrounding neighborhoods and that’s where we saw the devastation.  It was a bright and sunny day (the second since the hurricane hit), and all seemed normal– until you see yard after yard of furniture, mattresses, dry wall, all stacked, in some cases over our heads next to the curb.

People were very busy cleaning up.  If you look at each house, the floodwaters left a mark where they topped out at.  Some were a foot.  Other neighborhoods had water marks much higher.  We talked with one survivor who hasn’t been allowed back to her house in Katy, Texas.  She’s told they still have four feet of water.  It was over their chest on the night that had to be rescued by the coast guard.

We helped one of our Encore friends clean out his house.  Old albums and pictures ruined and tossed in the trash.  The “keep” pile noticeably smaller than the “trash” pile.

Houston Strong

houston harvey refugee cotsWe are able to see first hand the strength of these people.  And not just Houstonians.  We saw trucks with license plates from Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana and others.  Everyone wants to help and that brings people to tears here.

Some people have insurance.  Some don’t.  We talked to one woman who has lost literally everything but the clothes she’s wearing.  Her co-workers at Mattress Firm brought her a bunch of clothes.

We stopped by the refugee center at the NRG Stadium, (host of the Super Bowl six months ago).  There were blackhawks flying constantly overhead, mobile command centers set up in the parking lot, and supplies stacked, being distributed.  One of the center’s guys told us they were not taking individual donations anymore.  They could handle pallets, but not the smaller stuff.

houston harvey NRG stadiumToday, Saturday, we’re going to some more houses to help the cleanup.  We’re short of masks, water proof gloves and water boots or waders.  There’s no more plastic gas cans on the shelves.  But the Houston spirit is strong and alive.  And there is an amazing amount of love, generosity and community down here.


Shooting Video at Tradeshows

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Video Tradeshows

Shooting video at tradeshowOne of the calls we get a lot, is to see if we can shoot video at tradeshows.  Because companies and corporations drop a serious investment in tradeshows.  The cost of attending, with travel. The exhibitor fees.  And the booth construction.  With all this investment, businesses want to make sure the marketing pays off.  And that’s the bottom line: Sales.

So video at the tradeshow extends the reach of that investment.  Whether video is used to grab the attention of potential customers walking by or used as a broadcaster on social media, video at the tradeshow can magnify the marketing and multiply the results.

Tradeshow Video’s 4 Components

Usually this has four components:

  1. Pre-shot and edited content to be displayed at tradeshow
  2. Video coverage of the tradeshow, both the booth and the tradeshow itself
  3. Interviews and testimonials with clients attending
  4. Onsite editing for immediately use for social media or at the event itself

Pre-Event Videos

You have those huge monitors.  You want people walking by to be drawn in to your booth.  Engaging videos playing on the screens, usually in a loop is an ideal method for capturing attention.  Videos are usually made with the soundtrack optional– most tradeshow floors are noisy and the videos playing cannot be dependent on sound.  Here’s an example of a video we did for a construction company client.

Video Coverage

Clients sometimes want video coverage of their booth.  They might use it later for social media or other marketing.  Or to cover a big announcement happening at the tradeshow.


This by far is the biggest call we get.  A tradeshow floor is the perfect place to grab those customer testimonials that are otherwise hard to get or expensive due to all the different geographical locations you’d have to go to get that interview.  We bring the camera, small lighting package, audio and setup to move quickly.  Here’s an example we did for Pratt & Whitney Canada at the recent HeliExpo.

Onsite Editing

This has become an increasingly important service. For the Pratt & Whitney job above, they wanted the videos same-day to post to social media.  Therefore, having an editor with computer at the tradeshow can power a lot of marketing muscle.

If you’d like to know more about our tradeshow and conference capabilities, click on contact above and give us a ring.


Dallas Area Can Help Houston

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Here in the DFW area, many of us have friends, family, clients, loved ones in the Houston and South Texas area.  While it’s good to donate to national organizations, I like to see help at the local level… where the rubber meets the road.  If you live here in DFW, one of our partners Encore Live, is actively taking steps to help.   Here’s what they write:help houston

Encore Live will be headed to Houston later this week to help with the cleanup from #Harvey – we will be taking donated goods to various Houston based charities seeking help. If you have supplies listed below you would like to donate, please drop them by our office at 1635 Rogers Road Fort Worth, Texas 76107 between now and Wednesday at the close of business.

The supplies they list include:

• Canned goods
• Non-perishable food
• Water
• All-purpose cleaning supplies
• Gloves
• Towels
• Batteries
• Industrial strength trash bags & cans
• Diapers & wipes
• Baby food & formula
• Toiletries
• Ziplock bags
• Pet food

So pick up some items and drop them off at Encore Live by tomorrow afternoon.  Here at SFilms, we will take some stuff over to Encore Live, so if you want to drop off at our studio, that will be fine.  Click on our contact info for address.  Let us know if you have any questions!

#harvey #helphouston

The Corporate Video Documentary

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The Corporate Video Documentary

There are many different styles to use when crafting a corporate video.  Some might be news-style– a “reporter” or spokesperson talking directly to camera.  Others might be conceptual– recreating scenes out in the sales environment or such.  But out of all the video styles in use in corporate America, the documentary is probably the most common. 

corporate video documentary talking headThe Documentary Style

This is the video that is interview driven, what people call talking heads.  Some might view this style as boring or flat.  But it all depends on how you approach it. The talking head, documentary-style video can be highly effective.  There’s a reason it’s the most common style of corporate video out there.

The Power of BRoll

To make it more engaging, the key is to cover the interviews with footage about what they’re talking about.  This is called “B Roll”—the “A Roll” is their interview talking head.  BRoll goes over that.  It’s an old news term and you’ll hear us use the term.  For example, if I was on screen right now talking to you, and you see me talking—that’s the A Roll.  Now if while I’m talking about the beautiful corporate campus, we go away to footage of what I’m describing, that’s the BRoll.

Length Matters

When building a corporate documentary video, it’s good to keep it short.  Two minutes is great.  Definitely under five.  There are times for a ten to twelve minute video, but the subject matter needs to be engaging or necessary, like a training or education video.  And if you’re doing that under five minute video, three people interviewed would be nice for pacing.  You can do one person for a real short video.  Avoid just doing two people.  Three’s a better number.  Call it part of the rule of thirds.

Order of the Shoot

We usually like to shoot the interviews first—that way we can determine what BRoll would be best to shoot.  A common shoot is interviews in the morning, lunch break and then BRoll in the afternoon.  Or we shoot an interview, then supporting BRoll and then go to the next interview.

An interview can take thirty minutes to an hour to setup and then the interviewee is in front of the camera answering questions for maybe ten minutes.  I can go as long as twenty, but anything over that can wear the interviewee down and the laws of diminishing returns take over.

Graphics are Great

One thing you’ll need to decide, is how much and what type of graphics you might need.  Maybe it’s just text only.  Or maybe you need some animation to keep it interesting.  In some industries, like medical or mechanical, you might even need 3D animation.

One other common technique is the use of photos and client supplied videos.  It can be as simple as putting photos over the talking head, or it might be as complicated as layering the photos and giving it some movement.  These are all options for you when you make your corporate documentary video.

Last Thoughts

Just because the corporate video documentary relies on talking heads, you can still be incredibly creative and effective.  Your corporate story is important and needs to be told in a way that gets your audience engaging.  If you like this blog article, please share on social media, leave comments, or click like.

Aerial Video- Drones, Helicopters and Airplanes

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helicopter aerial videoWe are often asked by our clients for aerial video.  And with the latest technologies for drones, this has made aerial photography much more accessible and led to higher production values.  But what are the different methods for aerial video?

Helicopters and Airplanes

Today, it’s easy to point at the drone.  But an important tool in the aerial arsenal, is the helicopter or fixed wing platform.  For many years, this was the only way to get the aerial shot.  And when you shoot from a helicopter or airplane, there are several different methods.  At the top of the production value is the remote controlled, enclosed gimbal camera.  This is inside a housing hanging off the helicopter (or airplane).  Some of these camera platforms easily run $200,000 to $400,000.  That’s the camera, gimbal and housing– not the helicopter or airplane.

A pilot is needed to fly the helicopter and a camera operate works the camera remotely.  This video was done by us with such a setup:

helicopter aerial dan a promise keptFor the budget minded– an operator can shoot out the window with a handheld gimbal system.  Or even just hold the camera out the window.  In which case, support ties are encouraged.  When we shot our feature film “A Promise Kept” (shown in the picture), we shot our final shot this way– holding the 35mm camera out of the helicopter.  To combat the shakiness, there are ways to make the video smooth in the editing.


Drones have opened up a new world of aerial photography.  The helicopter and airplane was primarily used for higher shots– over 500 feet and more.  But with drones, now shots could be made from ten feet up.  Or less.  And you could fly indoors and get shots only cranes could get before.

At SFilms, we utilize three different drone platforms.  On the large side, we use a professional Matrice 100 that can handle bigger payloads and better cameras.  We also use the phantom and 3DR Solo products for the medium jobs.  And for small, extremely portable jobs, we use the Mavic Pro.

Drones versus Helicopters

So when is it best to use drones versus a helicopter?  Drones have some serious limitations.  To be legal (unless you get a COA that allows different from the FAA), you need to keep the drone within sight of the pilot in command or spotter.  Also, you’re not supposed to fly over 400 feet (500 in some cases).  In the above video, our client needed a continuous video of a 12 mile stretch of highway, right next to a major airport.  It’s very difficult to get that by drone, but with a helicopter, it’s perfect.

And when you just need that quick shot from 50 feet in the air of the outside of your corporate offices, the drone is the perfect tool, not the helicopter.

Other Considerations for your Corporate Aerial Video

remote controller for aerial videoInsurance is an important part of the package.  Things can and will go wrong.  make sure your aerial video team is properly insured.

Are the operators licensed properly?  Is the helicopter pilot commercially rated?  Does the drone operator have a 107 license?  In addition to the proper paperwork, are they more than technicians– are they artists?  You need both.

What’s critical is that you find a company for your aerial video needs that has all sorts of tools in their toolbox and that they know how to use them.

Why Video Tape a Corporate Conference?

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Video at Corporate Aw3ards ShowCorporate Conference Video

All the sales people from all around the country are gathering at a hotel in the big city.  An agenda is set– you’re going to hear from the president and CEO.  VP of Sales.  The marketing team might present their plan for the new fiscal year.  A motivational keynote speaker inspires the troops.  The national team goes into the city for a dinner cruise on the river.  And the top producers in the company get awarded.

Your Story

Why are they gathered?  To hear your STORY.  The company STORY.  And if you don’t tell the story, someone else will.  Your competitors.  Or your colleagues.  Or someone who doesn’t tell your story accurately.  Your story your way.

Your STORY can live longer than the moment it was told by using video.  You spend all this time, resources and money on telling your story at this conference.  Make it last.  Put it on video.  Let your story be told over and over.

By incorporating video at your corporate conference, you bring sustainability, motivation, and excitement to the team.  Your story, on video, reminds them of your company mission, corporate culture and the values throughout the year.

A Sale is the Transfer of Enthusiasm

As the budgets for the big sales conference are poured over, it can be difficult to substantiate the importance of video.  Some people might only look at the cost versus a direct measurable metric.  But what our clients have seen, over and over, is that when video is used strategically, it can motivate and lift the sales team. Furthermore, it keeps them motivated much longer than without.  Sales rise.  Over and over.

A recap video brings the feelings, the motivation, the excitement right back up to the forefront of their minds weeks and months later.  When there’s no video, things vanish from the memory at a much faster rate.  Lots of clips of faces, stunning and compelling excerpts from powerful talks, that moment when the guy was honored for his community work, unbeknownst to him, the fun of the golf tournament.  All these things continue to motivate, pull the team closer together, energize the field force.  It’s the STORY of the event.  The story of the company.

With planning, videos can be created pre-event to add excitement and spice to the meeting.  Whether they’re funny segues and meeting openers, or support videos to illustrate important speaking points, conference video is powerful.

The Hollywood Effect

video at corporate conferenceWhat we have found is just having camera crews following representatives makes them feel special– like they’re a player in Hollywood.  And that’s one purpose of the national sales conference– to let them know how special they are to the company.  Lights.  Cameras.  Action.  It’s part of your STORY to the team.

And then that moment, in the last hours of the conference, they see the week played out on the big screen.  They laugh.  And learn.  They experience the passion and culture of the company.  The team will remember the meeting for the next twelve months by continually reliving it every time they click play.


Some of our clients make use of the large national conferences and seminars to build a training library.  At this event, they’ll have some of their best and brightest on the stage, and the magic from the lights and the energy from the audience can create wonderful messages that need to be repeated throughout the year.

Even if you aren’t a believer in the power of video to motivate the sales team, the training that can come from your conference can be a huge cost saver throughout the year.  Proper video training creates consistent methods, cost saving techniques, sales tips, and many other ways to increase a corporation’s bottom line.  This establishes the STORY for the team.  They are taught to go back home and repeat the story to their team members and to their customers and clients.

Video at the Corporate Conference Pays for Itself

Video coverage at the corporate conference pays for itself.  So the investment the company makes by utilizing the powerful tool of video, consistently comes back in creased productivity, increased sales, and renewed passion.  Video makes a difference.


Top 4 Tips for Freelancers in Video Production

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The Top 4 things every Freelancer needs to know about Video Production

History of the Freelancer

The word freelancer comes from medieval times– when a fiefdom needed an extra lance or two for the defense of their city or for the attack on someone else’s city, the would hire an extra knight or two to bring their sword and lance along.  A “free lancer” did not belong to anyone or any fiefdom.  Today, a freelancer is usually not employed, but works job to job, gig to gig.  And they usually make more money for working less days than someone employed.

And it’s easy to start a freelancing career in corporate video.  You can begin at the entry level– a production assistant.  And this goes all the way up to directors and producers.  How you set yourself apart will determine how often you get called and what rate you’ll get paid.

Corporate Video Freelancer Tips

corporate video studioWhen you start working as a freelancer in video production, it’s a great opportunity to work for several companies and hopefully catch the attention of those video production companies,  by showing them just how professional you are, so that they continue to want to ask you to come back to work for them.

  1. COMMUNICATE.  When you are contacted to work for a production company as a freelancer,  it is important to respond to phone calls, emails or texts  from the production coordinator of that company as soon as possible.   Sometimes the person who contacts you has plenty of time to schedule crew for a shoot, but often times,  productions pop up fast and scheduling crew can be tedious.  If you do not respond in a timely manner, the coordinator may need to start looking for another freelancer to book for the job.
  2. BE ON TIME – Honestly, “On time” usually means “Be Early” in this business.  Being consistently late to set,  can result in not being asked back to work for that production company. Go ahead and map out the directions to the shoot and check to see how long GPS expects it will take for you to arrive and allow for extra  driving time to get there.  Always plan for bad traffic, because that can pop up at any moment.
  3. Dress Appropriately.  Remember you are representing a production company when arriving on set, and more importantly,  yourself.  Wearing something casual is often appropriate, but you could also be asked to dress in “Business Casual”…something a little nicer for certain clients or business locations, or Dress Blacks for more formal occasions.    If you aren’t sure what you should wear, then you should ask.
  4. ATTITUDE. Always have a friendly and professional behavior on set.  Keeping a good attitude is always appreciated , even if the shoot becomes fast paced or a little intense.   Talking with your peers  is fine, but don’t let it interfere with getting the job done.  Respect the client’s time by doing your job efficiently.  And… It is the Director’s place to talk with the client and discuss thoughts or suggestions about the shoot.  Unless you are directly asked for your opinion, you should let the director and client make the decisions.   Listen to your instructions from the director, follow through on your tasks, and always be open to new ideas and suggestions.

Keeping  these tips in mind next time you step on a set , will ensure that the director sees you as someone who is giving 100%, and wanting to be a team player.

Best Strategy for Making a Viral Video

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shooting run and gun video for viral videoViral Video– We all watched Charlie bite his finger.  We’ve seen cute cats and dogs and squirrels doing cute things.  We’ve watched, laughed and cried at what we’re seeing on the internet through youtube, vimeo and facebook.  But what is the key to making a hit viral video?  How can you make a video that will go viral?  What we’ll talk about here is the viral video for corporate marketing– not just the everyday guy that wants his fifteen minutes.

Viral Video Defined

First off, let’s define what a viral video is.  To be “viral,” a video must be passed around.  Someone sees the video and then posts it on their page, or tweets it to their followers.  And the numbers must be high.  YouTube monetization doesn’t really make a difference until you’ve got over 25,000 followers or a million views on a video.  So let’s use those as a benchmark.  Also, a viral video is usually between 15 seconds to three minutes.  Occasionally they’ll go longer, but rarely over five minutes.

Many clients come desiring to make a viral video, but the other common characteristic is that viral videos tend to not have heavy branding or a hard sell to them.  Of course their are exceptions, like when a brand is making fun of themselves (see Dollar Shave Club or PooPouri).  But for the most part, the best viral videos for corporate marketing are soft sales.  (Check out Beware the Doghouse, you’d don’t realize it’s JC Penney’s until the end.)

Types of Viral Videos

The strongest viral videos use one of three genres for success.  Comedic, Emotional, or Sensational.

  • Comedic – These are not mildly funny– these are split-your-side-laughing funny.  These are so humorous, that the viewer watches and thinks “I’ve GOT to show my friends this one.”  But the humorous approach is tricky.  Different cultures around the world find certain things funny that another culture finds offensive.  So you can knock out some hits or views if going this direction.  But these also tend to do the best.
  • Emotional – This is the heart-warming story of someone who overcame a huge obstacle.  You actually shed a tear when watching this one.  Often, it is not used for corporate viral videos, but when it is, it can be incredible.  Check out the Pantene “commercial” in which they used the emotional approach.  Or any of the America’s Got Talent pieces where the deaf/handicapped/small child does something amazing.
  • Sensational – This is the video that you just drop your jaw in amazement.  Someone does something absolutely incredible and you can’t turn away.  Also check out the America’s Got Talent where it’s amazing but not done by a deaf/handicapped/small child act.  This genre has the problem of going to far.  What it takes to amaze people today, is not what it took thirty years ago.  And this can easily lead to crossing some lines.  Think “Hunger Games.”

And then there’s the occasional video that hits two or more of the above genres.  The number one viral video?  I’m sure you’ve seen it.  Gangnam Style.  It’s so weird (sensational) and funny.

The Most Important Factor in a Viral Video

The most important element for a successful viral video? Content.  Doesn’t matter the production value (as opposed to the normal corporate video).  Or the acting.  The direction.  Content is king.  It all comes down to the idea.  So spend your time here– come up with a concept that is so strong, people cannot ignore it.  Then go about producing the viral video.