Posts Tagged ‘new york’

Loving NYC

August 21, 2013

I have the best job in the world. I get to see nature as it twists itself into infinite manifestations adaptive to the climates that envelope our planet. I travel across continents and immerse myself in cultures, meeting people in conversations that dig into their psyches and their worlds. I visit a kaleidoscope of international businesses that reflect human creativity, invention and need. In other words, I live anthropology, all because of the value of the stories our company’s video cameras can capture and tell (with a little aid from us humans).

And yet, with the countless places I’ve visited on earth — the breathtaking land and seascapes, the fascinating range of activities that dot different urban streets – the one I can’t help but love the most is the city that has been my home (in a suburban sort of way) almost my entire life: New York, NY. Here’s why:

It is a warm summer night this evening, and I am walking 22 blocks from Penn Station to the East Village to meet my daughter for dinner at Souen, a macrobiotic restaurant that has been around since before I became a vegetarian in 1974. The streets are so crowded that I am momentarily annoyed at being jolted out of my peaceful day. Within a few blocks the throngs thin out into gentler waves of characters that my brain can process. That is when I fall in love with the city again, each time anew.

I see the soft blur effect between the people ending their business days, heads appearing stuck in issues that refuse to stay behind in their offices, and the people on their way to a fun evening – a date, a birthday dinner, a social gathering.  I chuckle at a group of tourists, all standing at a corner and taking the same photo of the Empire State Building. I strain my ears to hear two young men speaking so loudly in Polish that I can make out some words from across the busy street. I shop in a cute little kitchen store with all kinds of fun gadgets and buy a new coffee grinder at the same price as the department stores advertise. I pass a street where my daughter once bought an armoire that refused to slide into the back of my CRV, but no problem – this is New York! Within minutes we found a man with a van who whisked the armoire to her apartment.

Life here is animated, electric, like thousands of separate cartoon strips all interwoven into a fabric of people accustomed to and comfortable with the differences that surround them – cultural, linguistic, racial, religious, sexual, and sometimes just in terms of personality. “It’s all good,” as they say – as they all seem to say — here in New York.

I arrive at Souen before my daughter, and I wait at the counter that overlooks the street. Next to me is a woman eating her dinner with a literary companion in the form of an E-Reader. The letters are larger than 12-point font, and she turns the page with a swipe of her finger, as engrossed in the novel as she is in her dinner. Feet away, on the other side of the window, real live stories walk by. They don’t distract her, though the older gentleman with unsteady legs trying to sit in the open chair between her and me causes her head to turn with a concerned expression for a few seconds. She seemed poised to help if necessary, despite the draw of the characters on her electronic screen.

My daughter and I share a delicious macrobiotic, organic food dinner and interesting conversation. We say good bye as she goes to the #4 or 5 train and I begin my return 1.25 mile trek on foot to Penn Station. I could take the subway too, but that would require trading in my imaginary ticket to the greatest show on earth — the streets of New York — replete with countless moving parts that provide a never-ending source of inspiration.

That’s my New York: dinners with my kids and interesting friends, tasty veggie food at affordable prices, hearing every language on the planet spoken within a city block or two, observing non-judgmental people passing non-self-conscious people who are busy doing their “thing,” and reveling in the intelligence, creativity and happiness that seems to waft out of apartment windows opened wide on beautiful summer days.

Corporate Video Production Group on LinkedIn

April 17, 2013

Two months ago V&V, through an initiative spearheaded by our Director of Marketing, Lea Spencer, launched a new professional group on LinkedIn designed to address topics related to video in the corporate world. Already having attracted more than 200 members and growing by a number of additional people each day, the Corporate Video Production group has become an active platform for sharing advice and starting discussions on a wide range of relevant issues. Examples include:

Please join the LinkedIn Corporate Video Production group to gain insight into the most current trends in video from our dedicated community of industry professionals.

NAB Show: Day 2

April 10, 2013


Day two in the Nevada desert, and the NAB Show is up and running at full speed. My focus today was post-production content editing software. The big players here in the South Hall are AVID and Adobe Premiere, with a field of smaller companies having set up tent as well. Notably absent from the floor as usual is Apple and its content editing software platform, Final Cut Pro X.

I began digital storytelling at Voices & Visions Productions using AVID on a Power MAC 9600 in the late 1990s. I was an avid AVID user until about eight years ago when I switched to Final Cut Pro 7 based on advancements that system offered, so I was curious to spend the first part of my day today at the AVID exhibit. AVID has a proven track record of innovation. Many of the content producers here still recognize it as the industry standard.

avid, NAB Show, Las Vegas, video production, corporate video production

Avids’ exhibit area on the South Hall upper level at this years NAB Show

Traditionally manufacturers use the NAB venue for making announcements about their latest upgrades, and AVID did not disappoint, announcing audio and performance upgrades to its arsenal. Enhancements include a fully redesigned audio engine with a new 64-bit architecture, expanded metering and a direct HD video workflow. The new technologies are successfully luring back some former AVID editors who, like me, had made the switch to Final Cut Pro 7, but fell off the Apple cheerleading squad when the FCP X (ten), less professional-friendly system, was introduced two years ago.

The FCP X launch took place in Las Vegas at the same time as the NAB, but in a separate venue (sigh), and was met with a cool reception. Among the devoted FCP 7 users with whom I have been chatting this week, there are some who have switched away from Apple’s FCP platform, others who are still considering alternatives to FCP X, those who have decided to embrace it, and a group who takes the approach of fluency across all systems.

avid, NAB Show, Las Vegas, video production, corporate video production

Adobe’s exhibit are on the South Hall lower level at this years NAB Show.

Following the tradition of announcing new innovations at the NAB, Adobe introduced Adobe®Anywhere, a collaborative workflow platform that enables editors using Adobe professional video tools to work together, allowing access and management of centralized media and assets across almost any network. This program works well with the Adobe Cloud introduced last year, which allowsusers to access all of the relevant software for one monthly fee. Updates are free, and the workflow is fully integrated, making content flow seamlessly streamlined. Adobe’s price structure for the package makes it a creative powerful suite of production tools worth considering.

Tonight is the Final Cut Pro Users Super-Meet. The event is an evening long gathering of some very creative storytellers exploring the latest innovations and industry trends.

 A few NAB notes as of noon today:

There were over 4200 tweets by @NABShow

There were almost 22,000 followers of @NABShow

@NABShow had a total reach of over 10,700,000

NAB Show: Day 1

April 9, 2013

The annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show opened its door this morning, Monday, at 9am for the first of four days of exhibits and events. The NAB is the world’s largest and most important media and entertainment event, featuring everything (and I mean everything) needed to bring “content to life.” Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the exhibit halls were teeming with scores of international industry professionals and providers.

The popular topic of the day in the camera exhibits area of the floor focused on advances in digital television, particularly higher resolution video formats. While industry professionals have now completed the transition to HD, there is a groundswell shift toward 4K products. 4K UHD has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p HDTV format, with four times as many pixels overall. Vendors recognize that total integration will not happen overnight, but 4K is on its way.

In this interim period, some of the major producers of video cameras are providing creative solutions for the industry, and third party manufacturers have produced some awesome gadgets that give professionals options to customize their core units.

NAB Show, National Association of Broadcasters, Las Vegas

A Canon EOS production rig on display
at the 2013 NAB Show. This is a nice example of all the
possibilities available to maximize productivity.

Some NAB notes:
Attendees come from 150+ countries; there are 63 delegations.
Over 91,000 media and entertainment professionals are expected.
NAB Show participants represent $20.7 billion (USD) in purchasing power.

More from the floor tomorrow.

Returning to Uganda

March 4, 2013

 

I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”

At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”


delicious peace, documentary, coffee, fair trade, Uganda

Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning in two weeks for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow.  Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.

In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.

This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.

delicious peace, documentary, coffee, Uganda, fair trade

In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.

Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.

We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. Uganda, here we come!

 

Investor Relations Videos

January 17, 2013

Funny thing about the category of “investor relations videos”: it does not enjoy the popularity of other adjectives associated with video, like “marketing video” or “web video.” The expression just doesn’t seem to have search engine appeal – at least not in this particular three-word combination.

Perhaps that is not so surprising. Traditional industries like financial services clothe themselves less in fashionable (or any) video than other business types. And digits – while long known to possess magical qualities that might make the stuff of a good story – often seem most legitimate when presented in typed black numbers on sterile white pages.

Certainly the nature of some types of financial services companies is less amenable to colorful storytelling than others. But investors today are presented with unlimited opportunities in a market that is still recovering economically. They have the difficult job of distinguishing between a wide array of different kinds of funds in which to invest as well as companies to trust with their investments. In a world in which people prefer to watch rather than read, why not enliven the marketing pitch with a compelling video?

www.riversidecompany.com

Storyline is key here.  Private equity and venture capital firms have an easier job than others in the industry since they are comprised by definition of companies in an array of industries that have wonderful stories about their origins, growth and substance.  But even traditional investment firms can unearth good stories to share with their investors. For instance, a new policy roll-out that is investment-friendly would be of interest to current and potential investors and could be presented in a creative way. Or a video created for a different purpose – such as an HR video – could be modified to focus on the skill sets and personalities of staff who play key roles in successful outcomes (and therefore impress investors).

An investor relations video can be a very helpful tool, especially in an industry in which this type of marketing initiative has not yet come of age, but the ages of younger investors see the world in visual motion.

Starbucks Photo Exhibit

November 16, 2012

Whether the medium is video or stills, talented photographers see space in ways others do not. Curt Fissel, our DP at Voices & Visions Productions and JEMGLO Productions, carries this third eye around with him wherever our jobs take us. Sometimes our destination is a corporate video shoot when his task is to transform a boring boardroom into a compelling interview space. Other times it’s in the field shooting footage for an upcoming documentary. Some of the places our projects have taken us are beautiful landscapes, others war-torn, but few places stand out like the Mbale region of Uganda, where we shot Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean.

curt fissel, starbucks, voices and visions, corporate video, documentary productionIn addition to capturing hundreds of hours of footage in this beautiful Eden, Curt also documented the essence of Ugandan life through his first love: the still photo. Living in the artsy epicenter of Montclair, NJ, he has had the opportunity to show his “Delicious Peace” photo exhibit at several locations, including the Montclair Public Library during African American History Month and Parlor Hair Studio’s wall gallery. This month the show is at a Starbucks in the next door township of Glen Ridge.

The documentary tells the story of the Mirembe Kawomera coffee cooperative in Uganda, which is comprised  of Jewish, Muslim and Christian famers. Once at odds with each other over religious differences, these men and women have united by forming the co-op together, focused on  building prosperity for their families and fostering peace in their community. Their story is one of triumph; their initiative is a model for the world.

curt fissel, starbucks, voices and visions, corporate video, documentary production

The nature of Starbucks’ business and its corporate philosopahy make it, an appropriate location for this photo exhibition. Curt is very excited about the exhibition being held throughout the month of November, and we hope everyone in the area is able to stop by to see it! The farmers’ story is a message of peace. Our goal is to spread the framework of peace they have created through art, coffee and film.

Video Production From The Road: Interviews

October 26, 2012

One of the great upsides to shooting corporate videos at locations around the globe is that we spend our days at facilities with people with whom we have the privilege to become acquainted. After all, we are usually interviewing them on camera, and even when we’re not – such as in the production of a video that uses musical backgrounds without words – we are interviewing them off camera to understand the nature of their work so we can properly capture and present it.  Formal interview time is always bookended by plenty of informal chatter, making the former more comfortable for everyone. And so we learn things like colleges that interviewees’ kids attend or where they went on their recent vacations. Those conversations lead to others, and before we know it, we often all discover how much we are enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes dinner invitations follow, and even when they don’t, recommendations for good dinners (and all the colorful context) are usually a good bet. By the time we are departing, we find that we have collected valuable insiders’ perspectives about the places we have visited even if the trips are only for small amounts of time.

corporate video, video production, professional video, france, video marketing, travel, business

Of course, we don’t always hit it off as good ol’ buddies with the folks we are interviewing, nor do we have any expectations. But we do maintain an attitude of “work hard, play hard,” so we find fun spots to spend the off-hours, with or without our professional colleagues. A few days ago at a pub in Rouen, France, we met a woman at the next table who had come to have a drink after week. After a few friendly comments, we all found that we had many things to discuss, and we spent quite awhile talking, laughing, taking pictures, and sharing stories. Today, of course, such encounters don’t end with the last drop of distinctive French wine. We have become Facebook friends, and if prior such meetings are an indication, I am confident our knowledge of each other’s lives and cultures will continue to expand over time.

Video Production From the Road: Interview Space

October 24, 2012

This is not atypical: We travel to the other side of the world for a corporate video shoot, then the interviewee takes us to a generic conference room that could be located in Anywhere, USA. I say, respectfully: Are there any other options for a background, and they respond, respectfully: No!

If possible, the story can’t end there. It just doesn’t seem fair to our clients, who – trusting our production values and committed to consistency in video production — invest in these international jaunts. And so the search begins for elements that resonate place (Melbourne or Hong Kong or Paris – or Houston or Wilmington, Delaware) or industry space (software or manufacturing or law or whatever). Decisions about backgrounds depend first, upon the substance of the material in the video; second, upon availability; and third, upon creativity.

corporate video production, travel, business, melbourne, australiaFor example: Two weeks ago we videotaped at two different companies in Australia, both of which escorted us straight into their conference rooms upon arrival. The first company is in the medical software business, the second in HR compliance materials for online consumption. The actual industry background for these speakers are rooms occupied by individuals at computer desks – a setting almost as common as white-walled conference rooms. But in both cases, the companies sell solely into the Australian market, so backdrops that say “Australia” fill in some color. In the first case, we set the interviewee in front of a large window that overlooked a recognizable panorama of Melbourne. For the second, we added to the side of a window view some distinctive company props that had just been used at a trade show the week before, emphasizing both geography (the view) and branding.

Note that skylines can be tricky. Natural lighting is not uniform in places around the world or during different times of day, and familiarity with details of how it might fall in a particular place at a specific hour cannot be easily predicted from another corner on the globe. Key to successful execution is a good knowledge of lighting that ensures thoughtful yet expeditious set-ups as well as a good kit that not only contains all the necessary components, but is also mobile-friendly.

At a video shoot a few months ago in Washington DC, the nondescript conference room into which we were taken was windowless.  With only about 20 minutes to set up a two-camera shoot, our director of photography washed the walls in colors reflective of the interviewee’s agency – another alternative when few tools and no time were at our disposal.

Hong Kong, corporate video production, business travel, video marketing, interviewsOutdoor interviews work well, too, if the choice is between a quiet space that says nothing and an interesting street scene where noise might be a challenge. Here the interviewee must feel comfortable with the setting, and proper audio is crucial; if carried out well, the end result can be very visually interesting.

Last week in Hong Kong, we conducted an interview from the top of the Peak, overlooking the city below. It was a beautiful scene, unmistakably highlighting the speaker’s location, which is an important aspect of the nature of his work. We walked around the path for a bit to find a spot less populated with passersby. Nonetheless, there were a number of cold stops in the middle of sentences as people passed or made other noise. It was a small price to pay for the beauty and inherent message of the background. And it was a far better solution than videotaping in another typical conference room, indistinguishable from millions of others everywhere.

Read last week’s entry for Video Production From The Road on Flying Tips.

Video Production From the Road: Flying Tips 2

October 12, 2012

Having become a semi-learned student of the airline rules, I wield them like constitutional rights.

Last year I chose to become an APP (my designation for the 25,000 plus mile status) on two airlines: United and American. The former is part of the OneWorld network, and the latter is a member of Star Alliance. Since my home bases are Montclair, NJ – 10 miles from Newark Airport – and Los Angeles, the most convenient airline for me to fly in the US is United, which has the Newark-based hub of its recent mergee, Continental.  American sometimes flies out of Newark, but more frequently its NY flights originate in and go to JFK and LaGuardia, making it a second choice for me.  However, the Star Alliance has more airline partners than OneWorld, and they fly to many more destinations, so I’m glad to have at least the APP-1 (more than Any Passenger and less than Any Passenger Plus) benefits.

video production new jersey, corporate video nj, flying tips, travel, business

I write this blog now aboard a flight from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. I am traveling with my husband/business partner Curt. We are videotaping for a corporate client in both locations. The decision to do the shoot happened late in the game, so arrangements were made last minute, when few flights were still available.  The only feasible and affordable option required traveling with Cathay Pacific from JFK to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Adelaide, Australia, then Adelaide to Melbourne, where we worked for three days. This flight goes from Melbourne directly to Hong Kong, where we will stay for two nights. The next leg is to San Francisco, where we will work for a day. The last segment will take us from San Francisco back to Newark.

Cathay Pacific is a Star Alliance member. With our American gold status, we are classified as Ruby travelers on Star Alliance, going through the first and business class check-in and security lines, and boarding earlier in the game than other passengers. Since the economy class tickets had been sold out for the eastward bound flights at the late time of our booking, we purchased the next level: premium economy. That gave us a little more room and an APP+ status. But here is how being a partner airline APP member served as an advantage: The flight from NY to Hong Kong was 15 hours; the one from Hong Kong to Adelaide was another 9. When we arrived in Hong Kong, a ticket agent was waiting for us, informing us that we had been upgraded to business class. With open seats on the plane, priority went to us instead of others who had bought premium economy tickets since we had a combination of those slightly more expensive tickets and APP status on another Star Alliance partner airline.

Business seats on these eastern airlines are amazing for a number of reasons, but best of all, the seats fold down flat like beds. As someone who has a hard time sleeping in planes, I slept more than half of the journey, waking up refreshed enough to work for the afternoon in Melbourne. It made a huge difference!

curt fissel, voices and visions, travel, business, corporate video new jersey

Director of Photography, Curt.

The seats en route back west are only economy. But because of our APP status with Star Alliance member American, Cathay Pacific was able to offer us bulkhead seats, ie, front row in economy, with unlimited leg room.  For non-ruby passengers, these seats would have cost an additional $100 each, but our status ensured we could get them, and at no extra charge. We have reserved the same seats for the trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

The last leg of our trip will be provided by United, enabling us to return on a direct flight to Newark Airport. Checking over the seat availability, it seems we will be doomed to the last row. But as APP members, we stand a chance of getting upgraded, if anything is available.

I am well aware of the disadvantage of accruing miles in more than one airline per year. By this year’s end, I will have accumulated just short of 100,000 miles on all my flights combined. Had I stuck with one airline or partnership and taken a few extra trips to reach that mile marker, I would have been a lifetime status holder. Instead, the status I’ve earned over the last 10 months – which in another three weeks will be APPP on United and APP on American – will be good only through 2013. Come January 1, I will have to start all over again for 2014. But the offerings didn’t leave me much of a choice. The flights that gave me the most miles were available at specific times on particular airlines. At least I will enjoy my status in the coming year, always keeping an eye on changing rules and new opportunities.

Read Flying Tips 1.