Posts Tagged ‘los angeles’

Video Production From the Road: Flying Tips 1

October 10, 2012

Comfortable travel is all about loyalty to airlines that are a part of larger networks and awareness of ever-changing benefits that accompany annual miles traveled. To take advantage of a variety of offerings described in more detail below, you need to start by becoming a member of one or more specific airlines. Joining is easy; it costs nothing, and you can do it online (and sometimes as part of an offer in which frequent flyer miles are given for your membership). Membership per se does not give you entitlements, but it starts you on the path toward them. If you choose membership on more than one airline, it is best to ensure that each is part of a different airline network so you have only one membership within a network.

As a generalization, if you travel 25,000 miles or more in a calendar year on the airline of your membership or any other airline within its network, you will be rewarded for all the money you spend with that carrier/network. (All major airlines – but not some smaller ones – are part of larger airline networks, such as Star Alliance or OneWorld; a quick web search will pull up the partners of your preferred airline.) You will be bumped from your airline’s class of Any Passenger into its status of Any Passenger Plus (APP) (nomenclatures mine), good for the remainder of the year and the entire next one. The benefits of being an APP are small but meaningful:

traveling with equipment, voices and visions, corporate video production

This is what a road-worthy light kit looks like.

  • On flights with the airline of your membership, you get to check in with the first and business class passengers, reducing long lines and interminable waits
  • Similar advantage going through security lines
  • Your checked luggage is coded with priority tags, putting them at the front of the line at baggage claim in your arrival airport and getting you on your way to your destination much more quickly
  • You can board the plane earlier than the rest of economy class passengers, which is significant for storing bags overhead before the space is gone
  • And most valuable, if the flight has upgraded vacant seats, you have a shot at getting them, depending on how many others are on the flight with your status and in the order of upgrade requests made by others within your APP status.

Once you’ve become an APP, you’ll want to stick with the airline of your membership in order to receive the benefits of your status for the remainder of the year and all the next year. However, sometimes that is not a feasible option: Your preferred airline might not fly where you need to go, or the ticket price might be way out of league with offerings of competitors. If that happens, choice number two should be flying with a partner of your preferred airline.

In addition to depositing the miles for your flights on the partner airlines into your account for the airline of your membership, the partners will award you with what I will call APP -1 (minus one) status. While some of the advantages your membership airline bestows will not be respected, others will be. Which advantages you will receive vary between airlines, and even within a single airline, the rules constantly change. For instance, until a few months ago, US Airways would mark the luggage of silver-status members (25,000 plus miles) of their partner United as priority, then they reversed that policy. Or Cathay Pacific will allow other Star Alliance APP members to check in through the first and business class lines, but Star Alliance member British Airways does not bestow that benefit. (Note that these observations were true as of the last time I traveled with each of these carriers – Cathay Pacific this month, and British Airways a number of months ago. They are constantly in flux!)

While disappointing to be treated as an APP-1 when you’ve grown accustomed to the benefits of APP status, it is important to keep in mind that it is a better option than simply flying as an AP! And name-dropping your status occasionally bumps up the benefits you receive if it is easy for the airline to do, even when this treatment is not written in its rules book.

flying tips, corporate video production, business travel, airport navigation

Taken from the window of the plane.

If your travel miles in a given year exceed 50,000, you have two options. Stay with the same preferred airline to become an APPP and get even more benefits, or choose a second preferred airline to get the APP status on two. If you choose the latter, you should ensure that your choice airlines are part of different networks, which will give you minimally APP-1 status on a wide range of airlines and APP benefits on your two preferred ones.

If you go for the 50,000 mile marker, the benefits are substantially better. Again, as a generalization, the additions include all the benefits of APP status plus:

  • Free access to the airline’s club while you wait for your flight to board. These clubs vary, but ordinarily have big and comfortable chairs for resting, free wifi, free snack food, and even free alcoholic (and other) drinks
  • A higher priority status for upgraded seats, when available
  • Check in on business and first class lines on partner airlines
  • Boarding immediately after first class and business passengers

The advantages improve again at the 75,000 mile marker, but they really get good at 100,000, where you earn lifetime benefits. Without those, you have to start re-collecting every year from scratch. Note that the benefits described above are different than frequent flyer miles accrued, which enable you to fly for free on non-blackout dates to different destinations using pre-set numbers of miles you have accumulated. For example, you can use 25,000 -30,000 miles on many airlines to fly round trip anywhere in the continental USA and 50,000-60,000 to fly to destinations like Europe. These numbers vary, however, depending on the airline, travel dates availability, and destinations.

Tune in on Friday for the 2nd part of this series on Flying Tips.

See last week’s Video Production From The Road report on getting from home to the airport onto the plan with as little pain as possible.

Video Production From The Road

October 5, 2012

Day 1: Departure from JFK

Our corporate headquarters is in Montclair, NJ, about 15 miles from Newark Airport, but unfortunately for us, the majority of international flights still depart from JFK – a one hour drive when there is no traffic (a rare occurrence). When we are shooting a documentary about which we feel passionate and are working on the hope that funding will follow, we become beggars for free rides from friends on the much-disliked trek from NJ to Jamaica, NY.  And when we travel for quick stints, we take the car and find parking lots near airports that are priced less expensively than an hour of parking in midtown Manhattan. But when we travel for a more lengthy time for corporate clients who pay for our expenses, a car service saves the driving stress and guilt for swallowing hours of friends’ time.

Warning! Not all car services are the same! Most of those coupons in the Val-Pak envelopes that come in the mail suggest discounts of all kinds, but when you call the company to get a quote, you often hear about a host of other add-ons to the rate they advertise as total – things like tolls and extra bags and tips and taxes. You do the math and realize the discount drowns under the supplementary fees. There are exceptions, however, if you do the research. (All good things in travel come with extensive, time-consuming research. But once you’ve got it figured out, the knowledge goes a long way for a long time.)

We use a car service that is truly a one-price, no gimmicks. Tolls and even driver’s tip is built into the fee, which gets charged on my credit card at the end of each airport drop-off. The car of the driver Kenny (973.573.7142 or abovelimo123@yahoo.com)  is a bit old-world – a Lincoln Town Car that was probably a “beaut” about a decade ago — but it is a smooth ride and does the job, even if the permanently-jammed front window requires the driver to open his door to dunk in the change as he goes through the tolls for which he does not have EZPass. Those are his choices, but I don’t care. I’m usually busy in the back seat, distracted from the road by the constant flow of new messages into my smartphone.

The next hurdle at the outset of a videotaping trip is checking bags without paying for extra weight. Considering that we typically carry two professional cameras; one or two camera tripods and several more for lights; a full light kit; a set of microphones including wireless, lavs and shotguns; supporting equipment such as cables, batteries, chargers, and all kinds of Mary Poppins’ bag accessories – not to mention a few weeks’ worth of clothes to be worn in different climates – this is no small matter.  First on the list of packing is thinking about which items must travel with us onboard, either because of their fragility and expense, or in case the suitcases don’t arrive when we do. Over the years, we’ve had luggage end up in all parts of the world, sometimes opposite sides of our destination. That unfortunate occurrence is not an excuse for failing to work upon arrival, so back-up plans need to be considered in advance.

travel for work, business travel, video production, corporate video

Susie (available from B&H Photo/Video)

Ordinarily two of us travel per shoot, with two carry-ons each. That leaves the checked luggage, which in the days of BetaCam SP were numerous but now are down to three, each of which comes close to the 23 kilogram or 50 pound maximum weight. One is our 28 inch suitcase carrying all our clothes and some smaller pieces of equipment that lightens the load of the other bags. For this trip we’ve added a 21 inch, two-pound screen since we’ll be setting up a mini-editing suite in the hotel room.  Another bag has our full lighting kit, and a third has the tripods, light tripods and cables. Our big suitcase and light kit have wheels that roll on all four.  One additional carry-on is our prized possession, so important that she merits a name: Susie (derived from “wuski” – Polish for “carts”) – a powerful baggage cart holding up to 250 pounds that folds up into a flat item less than three feet tall and one inch wide. Susie, who we wheel into the airport with the tripod case and carry-ons, has seen more of the world than most people I know! After we check-in the bags that get stored under the plane, her load goes down to the heavier carry-ons, which we wheel through airports with ease except in LaGuardia where there seems to be a prejudice against her and they require her to go the way of the rest of our luggage.

The last major obstacle on the departure side – assuming no plane delays – is getting through security. Since the essential equipment accompanies us on board, we are usually subject to bag checks –almost always a delay, but never a problem.

Significantly, we’ve finally splurged the extra annual $250 for the American Express Platinum card, which lets us use US Airways lounges regardless of the flight we will be taking as well as American and Delta lounges when we travel with them. We also have access to Priority Pass lounges around the world, where I write this now from Hong Kong. (After the next trip, we’ll have enough miles on United to get into their clubs at no charge, too.) These spaces provide a much more comfortable waiting area, replete with free wi-fi, large comfortable chairs, snack food, drinks, and nice bathrooms. I’m doing the same thing in this lounge as I would be doing back in my office in New Jersey.

Next week: Flying Tips.

Corporate Video on the Road

October 3, 2012

The end of the calendar year brings corporate meetings of all kinds. In today’s visual world, a constant flow of intermittent video throughout the course of these lengthy gatherings ensures more interest and participation, which ultimately translates to greater success for hosting firms.

Enjoying fish soup in the Traveler’s Lounge in HKG Airport (Hong Kong).

As a full-service corporate video production company working in this world, autumn ushers in a heavy travel schedule for us at Voices & Visions Productions as we work this year in Australia, Hong Kong, France, Finland, and various cities in the US – all in a single month.

Success with a schedule as hectic as this requires a deep-seated knowledge of how to travel as lightly but completely as possible to ensure the video captured looks as beautiful as it does when we shoot in our home territory.  Another important factor in preventing plane and road burn out is knowing how to plan the travel experience on a limited budget, to ensure comfort and even playtime in the after-work hours (when they happen). Over the coming few weeks, I will write blogs that address a bunch of video tips on the heavily traversed road.

Traveling with Equipment

September 21, 2012

curt, photography, video production, lighting, voices and visions, corporate video production, professional video production

This week’s tip is for businesses who travel with equipment and comes from our director of photography, Curt:

“When you travel as much as we do, it’s crucial to ensure our equipment can take the abuse of the road. I would never check a camera underneath an airplane, but a lot of the rest of the equipment can be thrown around if it’s well protected. I recommend investing in a hard, waterproof, protective case for microphones and other delicate equipment. I remind myself that these are my tools and I need to make sure they’re going to be in proper working order when we arrive on the job.”

Optimizing Photos For SEO

August 31, 2012
The Facebook Timeline update and the increasing popularity of Instagram and Pinterest demonstrate how visual the marketing climate has become. A study by Skyword analyzed 78,000 pieces of content and found that articles containing at least one image saw an average of 70% more views than articles with text alone. It isn’t enough to just add a few photos, however, to ensure the maximum SEO power; the images must be fully optimized themselves. Here are a few key aspects of photo optimization for SEO:
santa monica beach, photo optimization, SEO, photography, corporate video production, video marketing, video productionFile Format/Name
First, make sure that each image is saved as a .jpg or a .gif, as these are the preferred formats. Second, never use the default file name for a photo. Before uploading it to any blog or site, save the image with a name that is descriptive. If the photo is saved as GDB00002.jpg, for example, Google or other search engines will have no idea what  the image depicts. If it’s saved as beach-santa-monica.jpg, it will be seen as such by search engines.


Alternative Text (Alt Text)
Think of “alt text” as doubling down on keywords. There’s more space here to use more words, so pack it in with keywords that are relevant to the content. Google will read this and be able to paint a larger picture of what the photo actually is, which will increase the relevance of its search results.

Share on Social Sites
Publishing a piece of content used to be the final step in this process, but thanks to social media it is now just the beginning. After publishing a blog or press release, share it across as many social sites as possible. Facebook and Google+ in particular are important for SEO. Facebook should be obvious, as it is far and away the most popular social network, and photos are among the most shared content on the site. While Google+ doesn’t have the same volume of users, Google owns it. If optimization on this search engine is a priority, don’t write off Google+ .

Instagram users, please post your handles in the comments!
Follow our photos: @voicesvisions.

Photo Optimization Tip

August 29, 2012
This week’s tip for photo optimization comes from our marketing director, Lea:
marketing director, video production, corporate video, voices and visions, professional video, business video, photo optimization, SEO
Never use the default file name for a photo. Before uploading an image to any blog or site, save it with a name that is descriptive. If the photo is saved as GDB00002.jpg, Google has no idea what the image depicts. If it’s saved as beach-santa-monica.jpg, it will be seen as such by search engines.
Tune in later this week for an in-depth discussion of photo optimization techniques.
See last week’s tip on video production.

Small Business Organization

August 10, 2012
We run two full-service video production companies from our offices in New Jersey and Los Angeles. One is a corporate video production company; the other is a nonprofit documentary production company, both of which come with unique sets of challenges. They are small businesses, requiring each of our dedicated team members to wear multiple hats on any given day.Voices and Visions, New Jersey Video Production, Organization, Small Business, New York Video Production, Corporate Video Production
It would be impossible to accomplish the multiplicity of responsibilities without the high level of organization that, in our office, begins with Krystal Sancho, our director of operations. “I like to prioritize by the week because the work is always changing,” she says. “That’s the thing about video production, it’s always exciting.” Ours is an industry in which each day brings new clients, stories, technologies, and challenges, the latter of which often require immediate attention. In this kind of environment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Krystal has learned to manage the stress of constant change with these few tips: “Be patient. Communicate well. Believe that you will get the job done.”
Voices and Visions, New Jersey Video Production, Organization, Small Business, New York Video Production, Corporate Video ProductionOur senior producer, Ellen, always encourages her team to be open and forthcoming with any concerns or issues in the office. She firmly believes that a happy team is a productive team, and with the number of balls Ellen has in the air, she really doesn’t have room for an unproductive team. “There are a million jobs a producer does, so if you’re not completely organized, they begin to bleed together,” states Ellen, who encourages the members of her team to develop their own methods for effective organization. As for her, Ellen often keeps it old school, citing a pen and paper as her most important organizational tools. “I’m a list-maker,” she says. Curt Fissel, New Jersey Video Production, Small Business, Organization, New York Video Production, Corporate Video Production, Voices and Visions
Curt, as senior editor, makes lists too, but in a more modern way. These “lists 2.0” are of the hundreds of video files he manages for different projects. “You have to keep your files organized. You should keep your equipment organized, yes, but file management is paramount.” Curt is constantly juggling projects, an endeavor which requires super-organization. Says Curt, “We may have six projects going on at the same time, so if streams get crossed, it can really create a problem.” For a small business in an industry like ours, problems cost a lot, so organization is considered one of our most valuable resources.  

How To Optimize YouTube Videos For SEO

July 30, 2012

According to studies conducted by the marketing research firm Forrester, sites with video are over 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a Google search results page than those with text alone. Recognition of the value placed on video by Google probably accounts for the popularity of this form of media; a survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers found that 80% of marketers are using video this year. Yet equally important to the proliferation of professional video is optimizing the productions  for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

Above is an example of a YouTube video we uploaded and optimized.

There are several key elements to optimizing marketing videos on YouTube which begin with the file name and description. The title should not only reflect the nature of the video, but it should have keywords that cause Google to pay attention. Additionally, posted videos should contain an accurate description of the content. to ensure that folks searching for this type of information find them.The reason keywords are so important is because Google can’t actually read the content of videos (yet!). Rather, the title and description of the video tell the search engines what it is about. The more accurate, content-rich and keyword-filled, the more information Google will be able to use in its optimization formula. Ever a step ahead, descriptions that are bombarded with random keywords put the videos with which they are associated in jeopardy.Another SEO clue is to provide a URL to a website – preferably the page where the video lives on the website – in the video description, creating a link between two respected sites. Significantly, when there is an increase in the number of locations to which content is uploaded, Google views the video as having more authority and ranks it higher.

The Tags section of the uploading process is where all the keywords that don’t weave smoothly into the description can be highlighted. Prospective clients and customers will search for products or services using specific words, which can be tagged. The tags should be separated with commas, and each should not be more than one or two words.

Finally, the video should be accurately categorized, and the visibility option should be set to “public.” These details may seem obvious, but they are often overlooked and can affect the reach of a video (or lack thereof)..

In addition to Youtube and website postings, videos should be posted across a wide range of social networks. Online communities should be encouraged to share them. Repostings on separate sites increase the authority of the material in the eyes of Google and Bing.

Neelam’s Kitchen: Cooking California-Indian Style

July 27, 2012
When you have a professional video production business, love Indian food, crave fresh California produce, and meet a top chef who specializes in the latter two and is beautiful and humble in front of the camera, you have no choice: You must spec on a cooking show.

neelam batra, indian cooking, cooking show, voices and visions, video production

Neelam shopping at the Santa Monica Farmers Market

Meet Neelam Batra, the author of the popular Indian cookbook 1000 Indian Recipes — the 2003 Cookbook Award winner in the International category of the International Association of Cookbook Professionals. Neelam also wrote The Indian Vegetarian and Chilis to Chutneys: American Home Cooking with the Flavors of India (all are available on Amazon). As these things happen, Neelam and I “enjoy our coffee” together in Santa Monica (see the Enjoy Your Coffee group on Facebook). A few conversations about new directions led to a joint decision to embark on a venture together to produce a pilot cooking show featuring Neelam and her healthy California-style approach to Indian cuisine.

Born in New Delhi but living in Santa Monica for most of her life, Neelam’s style weaves the two traditions in ways that emphasize food that is both delicious and healthy. She stocks her pantry with grains and flour, her freezer with basics she pre-prepares, and a kitchen drawer with spices – many of which she grows in her yard, dries out, and pulverizes into powder. These staples are mixed with whatever produce inspires her each week at the local Farmer’s Market; in southern California, there are no end to the possibilities. 

To produce the pilot, V&V filmed Neelam two days ago walking around the market as she examined and chose the produce that enticed her palate this week. Yesterday we videotaped her cooking the dishes that she envisioned as she worked with the ingredients. She shared some of her philosophies and recipes in interviews, and two cameras captured her beautiful works of art at their various stages of unfolding.

neelam batra, voices and visions, indian cooking, cooking show, video production, santa monica

Curt videotaping as Neelam cooks, explains and inspires.

When the cameras shut down, our mouths opened up to a scrumptious delight: parantha bread with rosemary and cheese, charred purple cauliflower and sushito peppers with cha’at masala, stove-roasted heirloom tomatoes, and baby potatoes covered in an array of delicious spices. There are many reasons we hope the pilot that now goes into post-production editing will be successful, not the least of which is the anticipation of the next set of  Neelam’s California Indian delights!

Spyros’ ENJOY YOUR COFFEE Group

February 22, 2012

Up until recently, I never had favorites. No favorite color, number, outfit, airline, or even restaurant.  Though my son Jared is a magician, I was never a good candidate for his mentalism tricks, like “pick your favorite card in the deck.”

But now I have one favorite thing I can talk about: My favorite part of my job, which is getting the chance to brainstorm and create little visual video stories about every person, place, company, thing, event – whatever – that comes my way.  Sometimes I feel like this opportunity has transformed my brain partly into a lens that captures infinite elements as I go about my day, and partly into a computer that crafts the endless possibilities into a fantastic string of short stories.

Unfortunately, not all of these videos-in-waiting become videos-in-reality, but I am delighted each time they do. The most recent video web clip focused on ONE of my favorite initiatives by ONE of my favorite people, Spyros Dellaportas, the organizer of my morning coffee klatsch in Santa Monica where I frequent when we are working out of our Los Angeles base. (Okay – that is my favorite real-life coffee gathering.) Spyros has formed an e-group, now living mostly on Facebook, called ENJOY YOUR COFFEE, with the goal of connecting everyone in the world through coffee. (I admit that I am excited about anything coffee-related since we produced our Delicious Peace documentary about Fair Trade, interfaith Ugandan coffee farmers.)

While you are enjoying your morning cup of coffee, please join ENJOY YOUR COFFEE on Facebook and become part of Spyros’ movement! With so many folks around the world already members and responding to posts on the page in multiple languages, I am certain the group will become a favorite page for you — whether or not you are prone to having favorites.