Posts Tagged ‘professional video production’

The Miraculous Reality of Fair Trade Coffee Farming

March 11, 2013

Our first trip to Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op, located in the village of Namanyoni on the outskirts of Mbale, Uganda, was in 2006. The co-op had been founded just two years earlier, the idea of regional leader JJ Keki who sought a market for local farmers’ coffee as well as a way to overcome historical religious-based intolerance. A year after their establishment – also a year before our arrival – they had signed a deal with Fair Trade coffee buyer/roaster/seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Fort Bragg, CA.

We went there as a film production team with the goal of creating a documentary about this inspirational farming collective. Still only one year into their arrangement with Thanksgiving, they had just begun selling a small amount of coffee; the first shipment was a single shipping container. We spent several days becoming acquainted with the farmers, and they opened up to us, inviting us into their homes and lives.

One farmer housed 25 children. Only a fraction of those were biologically related; the others were children of parents who had died of AIDS or other causes, or who were otherwise unable to take care of them. Another farmer showed us the graves of three of his children who had passed away, all from malaria. He did not have money to take care of many of the nutritional needs of his extended family, including children and grandchildren. Everyone complained about a lack of funds to send their kids to school. While public schools exist, families are required to pay for books, uniforms and school lunches – an impossibility for many who are poverty stricken.

Simply put, the needs were overwhelming.

And yet, the farmers had been fortunate to find a Fair Trade buyer. Fair Trade guarantees a minimum and fair price, despite the international fluctuation of this commodity market. It also enables farmers to receive a second payment if the quality of the coffee is very good. Mandating egalitarianism and democracy on co-op boards and in the general running of the organization, Fair Trade additionally gives farming cooperatives a “social premium,” enabling them to support local community projects.

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I write this now from Mbale, where we have spent the last five days with the Mirembe Kawomera farmers. It is almost seven years since our first visit. The school-age children of the farmer whose residence was home to 25 now all attend educational institutions. The farmer whose children suffered from unhealthy diets talked about his new-found knowledge of the four food groups, and how his large family is conscious of – and able to – partake in that diet on a daily basis. He has a new home that is covered with an iron roof to keep out the rain rather than the thatched roof that leaked, and his house even has some furniture. Not one farmer complained that his or her children were not able to attend school. And the co-op used its social premium to help build a new wing on a local public school that had become overcrowded.

When I asked the farmers to tell me about problems the co-op still has, each one – interviewed independently — answered the same thing: A thief broke into their warehouse and stole 15 bags of coffee.

Of course, that is awful – every bag represents a huge expenditure of hard work as well as profits. But then, thieves are everywhere. There was no additional complaint.

Pretty good support for the value of Fair Trade. And an important reminder to consumers who have buying choices that not only satisfy their caffeine longings but also have the ability to change individual lives.

My job – when I work on a documentary — is to be a producer, not a marketer. I look for objective facts. In this instance, the argument for the benefit of Fair Trade could not have been more compelling.

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.

Professional Videos Vs. DIY Videos

August 24, 2012
When Google bought YouTube in 2005, video on the web exploded, and sometimes it came in the form of pets walking across kitchen floors. For a short time, audiences became accustomed to amateur videos, which seemed to give license to uploading nonprofessional productions even as the face of companies and organizations. More recently, however, this impression has changed. Just as a DIY newsletter filled with grammatical errors and a disorganized presentation is not as effective as one created by professional writers, the viewing audience has come to appreciate the superior value brought by videos created by experts. There are several important details, often overlooked by amateurs, which separate a DIY video from one produced by a professional video production company.
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The setup before our shoot with the Riverside Company

new jersey video production, lighting, professional video production

This is what the shot looked liked inside the camera

Lighting
Lighting is a delicate but crucial step in the interview process. Often shot in interviewees’ offices or corporate boardrooms, it is the Director of Photography’s job to “paint” with light, transforming a plain white room into an interesting and relevant interview space. For Curt Fissel, V&V’s seasoned DP with 30 years of experience, expert lighting is in his DNA. “I don’t like shots that are either over-lit or under-lit,” he says. “Poor lighting tenchniques will result in a longer time in post-production and even then may not yield the appearance sought.” Curt thinks proper lighting is often overlooked because today’s cameras can be so forgiving. Nonetheless, he believes lighting plays a vital role in separating a home movie appearance from a commercial video look.
Audio
When a video has good audio, most people don’t notice, but when sound is poor, it may be the most prominent aspect of the production that most people remember. While amateurs may become complacent with the abilities of editing equipment, professionals, like Curt, know a video is only as good as its audio. “Digital filters can help improve original audio recorded, but to ensure the sound is as pure as possible, it needs to be captured cleanly,” notes Curt.  This is the case whether one or multiple microphones are utilized on a particular shoot. To demonstrate the emphasis placed on audio amongst professionals, Curt recollected: “I went to a seminar years ago called Audio is more important than video, which I don’t quite agree with, but I do think they are close to being equally important.”
Depth of Storyline
The quality of an interview has a huge impact on the depth of the final video product. Writer and producer Ellen Friedland draws upon her journalistic background when preparing for an interview. “What’s crucial is to really understand the underlying concepts of what it is we’re videotaping,” Ellen begins. “If we go into a medical device company, I do a lot of research about that medical device. This way, even though I am not a scientist, I can prompt interviewees to share more profound points that will be reflected in the final piece.” Video production is, at its heart, storytelling.  Notes Ellen: “If the interviewer does not probe for a more multi-layered understanding of the subject, the story will have more of a superficial feel , often lacking a consistent thesis or message.“

Video Production Tip: Proper Lighting

August 21, 2012
curt, photography, video production, lighting, voices and visions, corporate video production, professional video productionThis week’s video production tip comes from our Director of Photography, Curt:

Proper lighting is an often-overlooked aspect of production because cameras can be forgiving, but this separates home movies from professional videos. You need a location that’s correctly lit. Poor lighting techniques will result in a longer time in post-production and even then may not yield the appearance you are seeking. Occasionally I keep the cameras rolling as I’m setting up so I can see the interplay between the lighting and the images I’m creating as they develop. There are many books and other reference sources about lighting techniques. Do your homework!

Tune in later this week for an in-depth discussion on some key differences between amateur video and those produced by professional video companies.

See last week’s tip on business travel.

The Evolution of Video Production, Part 1

July 17, 2012
It seems that humans have always possessed desire to record events: from cave drawings to great artistic masterpieces, to photographs and motion pictures. This need to convey stories has evolved with technological innovation, presenting ever-new opportunities for industries in the storytelling business. Corporate video production, of course, is one such  industry.
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“This has been an extremely challenging industry as there have been a number of huge shifts: first from the linear world to the digital world,” said V&V’s Chief Producer Ellen Friedland, referring to the days when editing a video for clients meant only two options in transitions: cuts and dissolves (generated with special machinery). “Digital editing is a completely different ballgame than linear editing was and required completely new skills,” said Ellen, who relied on V&V Senior Editor, Curt Fissel, to master the new possibilities.
Evolving with the changing technology has been an ever-present theme throughout Curt’s career. “When I started in television news, we were shooting 16mm film and we literally had to cut the film,” he said. “At V&V we moved over from linear editing in 1998, which is when we got our first AVID editing system.” The next big shift in editing came with the jump from standard-definition video (SD) to high-definition video (HD). That was when Curt leapt into a then-newer new technology: Final Cut Pro. “The ease of Final Cut Pro, when working from a Mac, made the transition necessary,” he said, demonstrating another defining personality characteristic: the ability to adapt.
new jersey video production, new york video production, video editing, post production, curt fissel The Internet also played a major role in shifting the landscape of the video production industry. Says Ellen: “In 2005, which was the year that Google bought YouTube, everyone began to recognize that video would have a real place on the web.” As we know, this did not necessarily mean that professionally produced videos would be highly valued. In fact, the high volume of unprofessional videos initially made it harder on professional video houses. “For a little while there was a sense of ‘DIY videos are fine’,” Ellen said. “But now people recognize the value of professional created video products.” Ellen credits this in part to Google’s evolving algorithms, which rank  substantive videos higher in search results.
Curt offered this colorful metaphor with regard to DIY videos: “You can run a coat hanger down a stuck drain, or you can call a plumber. Same thing with video production.” With the constant evolutions in technology and marketing, it pays to find professionals who are committed to staying ahead of the curve. “It’s really important to be aware of where the industry is transitioning and to be knowledgeable and equipped to move in those directions,” said Curt.  “It will never be stationary.”

Read Video Production, Part 2