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phone: 386-774-8881 fax: 386-774-8908 e-mail: 366 East Graves Avenue, Suite D Orange City, FL 32763 Publisher Associate Publisher Editor-In-Chief

Janet Karcher

Jon t. Hutchinson

Associate Editor

Christine Bunish

Contributing Writers

Christine Bunish Michael Fickes Mark r. smith

Art Director

lynne Bass 386-774-8881

Advertising Sales Director

Gayle rosier 386-774-4628

Classified/ On-line Sales

lynne Bass 386-774-8923

Markee (ISSN 1073-8924) is published bi-monthly by HJK Publications, Inc, 366 E Graves Ave, Ste D, Orange City, FL 32763. Subscription rates: USA $34 one year, single copy $5 (back issues $7); Canada and Mexico $60 per year; all other international $100 per year. All subscriptions must be paid in US currency. Markee is a registered trademark of HJK Publications, Inc. Entire contents copyrighted 2009. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

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Vice President

Janet Karcher

Vice President

Jon t. Hutchinson




nate evans





Myriad uses By Christine Bunish

12 Soundstages

In the Northwest

VOL 24

NO 4

DEPARTMENTS 4 5 6 32 33

Biz Tips Making A Scene Broadcast TV Inside View Classified

by Mark R. Smith

23 Mobile Production

Meeting the challenges by Mark R. Smith and Christine Bunish

28 The East

online extras Across America World Business ON THE COVER

Road Trip

UniSat provided continuous coverage of the events surrounding the death of Michael Jackson for CBS News, including this standup commentary on the roof of their truck with Forest Lawn cemetery as a backdrop.

by Christine Bunish

SPECIAL SECTIONS 15 Music & Sound Guide 34 Locations Gallery

In the next Issue of markee




by Michael Fickes

Do You Use Social Media? Your competitors do. So do your customers, freelancers, suppliers and employees. Do you know what they are saying about you?


ocial media fits right into businesses like those run by film and video directors, producers, animators, graphic artists, visual effects artists and musicians – businesses that thrive in relationships and communities. “Inherent in the label social media is the idea of building communities and using them to build your social life or your business,” says Jessie Nagel, a special agent with Los Angeles-based Hype, a communications agency specializing in entertainment. “Either way, the communications style is conversational instead of marketing oriented.” Are you building communities? Blogging? Tweeting? Making friends on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn? If you’re not, you’re falling behind. Facebook alone reports having attracted more than 200 million members. Nagel says she meets a lot of people on Facebook in the advertising industry. One of the key strategies that social media experts recommend is joining the media that your customers join. What brands have you worked on lately? Without being commercial, find a way to work those product categories into your tweets on Twitter. “I can give you a silly example why,” Nagel says. “I put a cocktail recipe on my Twitter feed. In less than two hours, Jim Beam was following me. The brands set up their systems to find people using words that describe their brands.” What would you say on Facebook or Twitter? Your news. If you finish a spot, upload it to YouTube and put a message about it on the wall on your Facebook page and send out a Tweet. Include the YouTube link in your messages. Before sending out messages will do you any good, however, you will have to build an audience. Connect with your customers, colleagues and employees to build up the numbers. Nagel suggests making up contests and posting top ten lists – related in some way to you and the industry. “List your top 10 favorite shooting locations and why,” suggests Nagel. “Make up a contest



and give tickets to the best special effects movie running now. Post articles that will interest people interested in your craft.” Are you looking for an animator or an effects artist? Post it. Social media sites can serve at least as supplemental recruitment tools. Do interesting things on your social media sites and build an audience. Then when you complete a noteworthy project, tell your audience about it. Don’t overdo it, though, cautions Nagel. “Don’t update your Facebook page too often,” she says. “You’ll burn people out.” Do you keep a blog? That’s a social media tool that you can update regularly. The more you update it the better. People who find it interesting will check back regularly to see what you’ve been up to. Keep the blog right on your website. According to Daniel Boyle, owner of, a Boston-based web design business, web sites and blogs are merging. As a result, the web sites that Boyle creates often contain a blog along with a button for it on the home page. “Blogs are becoming important,” he says. “The search engines today are being set to favor the most current content. If your web site has a blog page that you update regularly, it will help optimize your chances with the search engines. In fact, I’ve started recommending that you set your blog page to open first when someone clicks in to your site. That will enable the search engines to find you even more often.” What’s more, a blog button on your web site will attract readers. Make it interesting and it will attract repeat visitors checking for updates. Make it interactive – that is, allow readers to post comments – and you might generate even more traffic. A lot of film and video people spice up their web sites in line with the personalities of the people working for the company. Sometimes that makes it difficult to get the point of crucial parts of the site. A blog gives you a place to show off your firm’s personalities and the freedom to edit the “wise guy” copy on the marketing part of the web site so it will spread the word about your brand instead of confusion. n

by Michael Fickes

makInG A sCene

Shooting For Effects When Night Elf and Orc break out of the World of Warcraft game box, they tear a Los Angeles grocery store apart.


n a Los Angeles stage built out like a grocery store, a five-foot, four-inch tall stunt man dressed in a greenscreen suit covered with tracking sensors races down an aisle, leaps into the air, comes down on a small trampoline and catapults himself into the air toward a tall stack of beverage cartons labeled Mountain Dew Game Fuel. Hundreds of cameras shoot the scene from all angles. The stunt man tucks his legs into his chest and wraps his arms around his legs. Resembling a small, green cannonball, he plunges through a display of stacked cartons, slams into the floor and writhes in agony as the boxes fall onto him. The writhing was an adlib that turned out to be a prescient. Director Tarsem Singh of Santa Monica-based Radical Media and Creative Director and Visual Effects Supervisor Leslie Ekker of L.A.’s Zoic Studios are collaborating on the practical shots for a commercial that will include a huge complement of visual effects. In the spot, a cross promotion for Mountain Dew Game Fuel and Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.’s World of Warcraft hit video game, two pleasant looking moms in side-by-side grocery checkout aisles are buying Game Fuel. Each has selected a different flavor. They hate each other for that. One mom turns away, and the other seizes a sword and attacks the other mom from behind. The other mom blocks the sword with a staff. The moms morph into the seven-foot, four-inch tall Orc and the seven-foot, six-inch tall Night Elf, both major World of Warcraft characters. The ensuing battle tears the store apart. Two examples from the fight illustrate the complexity of the effects work. In one scene, Night Elf smashes a milk bottle. In another, an energy blast from Night Elf’s wand sends the Orc hurdling through a stack of Game Fuel cartons. Except for the animated Night Elf and Orc, everything that happens in the spot is real. A stunt man did plunge through the cartons. Another stunt man did smash a milk bottle. The stunt men caused the rest of the carnage as well.

“I believe that if it can be shot, it should be,” says Ekker. “There’s nothing like photography. Tarsem, the director, feels the same way.” To shoot the practicals, Singh and Ekker choreographed two stunt men, each five-foot, four-inches tall, and each dressed in green-screen suits covered with tracking sensors. “The technique is first to shoot the stunt man affecting the environment, smashing the milk bottle or flying into the cartons,” Ekker says. “Then we paint the stunt men out and insert the characters.” With the live scenes in hand, Zoic inserted the animated characters, a difficult chore. For instance, when the stunt man smashed the bottle, the action sent up a spray of milk droplets between the camera and the character. To paint out the stunt man, artists had to work around tiny droplets of milk. “We used the frames before and after the smash to get pieces of the frame that were clear of the stunt man,” Ekker says. “Then we reapplied them to the parts of the frame where he was revealed.” Then the Zoic artists made mattes of the spray, added the characters and composited the spray back in on top of the characters. Adding the characters was complicated. For instance, when the five-foot, four inch stunt man swung his wand and smashed the milk bottle, he did so from a level lower than the seven-foot, six-inch Night Elf. “We had to compensate for the height difference by about 20 percent to make it look natural,” Ekker says. “We did that by lowering the height of the shelf the milk bottle stood on for the stunt man and by globally scaling up the tracking points when inserting Night Elf into the scene.” The same technique painted out the stunt man cannon balling into the cartons and to insert Orc. Ekker also added a magic power blast that emanated from Night Elf’s staff, shot across the screen and blasted Orc into the cartons. Blizzard sent references for a blast visual, but they didn’t work in the resolution of the television format. Early in the process, Mountain Dew had asked for a halo effect to highlight the bottles in the product shot that closes the commercial. Ekker came up with a blue and red electrical cloud. Blizzard suggested manipulating the cloud effect to create the blast. In the spot, Night Elf blasts Orc with an electrical cloud beamed from her staff. The beam knocks Orc into the cartons. While Orc writhes on the floor – an action made possible by the stunt man’s adlib – small balls of left over energy from the blast dance over Orc’s body and appear to cause the writhing. Night Elf raises her arms and howls in victory. But Orc leaps up and charges. As the scene dissolves to the product shot, the characters wreck the rest of the store. n



BroadCast Tv

by Michael Fickes

Shooting A Coma What visions are dancing around in the mind of a coma patient?


fter the car accident, Dan Humford lies in a coma in a hospital in Bakersfield, California. Whatever comas are usually like, Dan’s coma is not a blank, dark night of nothing. Dan’s psyche has begun telling comical stories, which Los Angeles-based Lead Balloon is recording in High Definition. The company plans to distribute the stories as a serial webisode sitcom. Webisodes have matured dramatically in recent years. They have earned an annual awards program, called SXSW (South By Southwest, Inc.), YouTube and Yahoo Web Series Awards. Equally, if not more important, webisodes have begun to develop a means of generating revenue. Consider The Guild, a serial webisode about online gamers. Fans, mostly online gamers, supported the first season of the The Guild through Paypal donations. That first season generated over 9 million web hits and won the SXSW, YouTube and Yahoo Web Series Awards in 2008. Currently in its third season, the series is now funded by Microsoft. Lead Balloon, the producer of Coma, Period, hopes to support that series through viewer donations. A new company, Lead Balloon was formed by executives of Psychic Bunny, a Los Angeles-based motion, graphics, animation and live production company. Four creative partners – directors, producers and writers – from Psychic Bunny run Lead Balloon, which is also based in L.A. “Lead Balloon is our foray into original content,” says Rick Castaneda, a creative partner in the company and director of Coma, Period. “We want to make the series a jumping off point to sponsored shows.” Coma, Period is set in Dan Humford’s mind, a white void, which constantly creates odd, funny dreams. Shot with one camera on a tripod against green screen, each webisode requires about 70 shots per day, 8 plus pages of script, over three 12-hour days. To get the 210 shots that compose a webisode, Castaneda consid-



ers the result of about 500 takes. As the director, Castaneda sets up and selects shots in cooperation with Lead Balloon’s video effects artist. Castaneda directs a crew that includes the director of photography, three producers, production designer, make up artist, audio technician, gaffer, a couple of production assistants and a still photographer. To get the shots, DP Jeffrey Waldron wields a Panasonic HVX200 High Definition camera, which comes with a wide-angle 13X Leica Dicomar® zoom lens. It offers a wide 30mm viewing angle, covering most shooting situations without the need for a wide-angle conversion lens. Waldron lights Coma, Period with studio tungsten lights and Kino Flo fixtures from Ringleader, the L.A.-based production facility that provided the green screen stage for the shoot. On the set, Waldron uses a ring of tungsten-balanced Kino Flos to form a ring around the overhead lighting grid to keep the green screen evenly lighted. “Our main source is a 5k studio light through thick diffusion to achieve a large, soft, wrapping key,” he says. “Kino Flo fixtures on stands are walked around as edge lights where necessary and overhead 1k light through diffusion served as additional backlights and hair-lights. The grid-rigged lights were easily manipulated by a dimmer board for easy adjustments scene to scene.” Castaneda describes the show as a series of comic strips, each lasting two or three minutes. In one webisode, Humford’s comatose mind creates a staring contest with a fetus. In another, he searches for a restroom, unsuccessfully, because there is no restroom in his mind. “In still another webisode, people from Humford’s past, buried in his subconscious, begin to haunt him,” says Castaneda. “Trying to find his

tormentors, Humford rips a hole in the white floor of his conscious mind.” “To shoot that scene we pulled the ‘ground’ up by creating a floor with white paper,” Waldron recalls. “From the camera’s perch high on a ladder, we could look down through a hole torn in the paper to see the people below. We blacked out the green screen floor beneath them, and I lighted the paper floor to match the rest of the footage, letting the shadows beneath the people fall dark. It was a low-budget, practical in-camera solution that worked out really well.” After a shoot, Castaneda, who also edits the webisodes, reviews the selects and works with the visual effects artist to determine the best way to composite green screen scenes, like the one with the crowd of people in Humford’s subconscious. Finally, he organizes the selects in a way that tells the story of the video comic strip and cuts a show together. Castaneda also tapped The Maybe Happening, a Portland, Oregon-based band run by his cousin, to create an original score for the show. It is a string-based score that reflects Humford’s alternately high and low moods. Coma, Period is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of webisode serials competing for attention on the web today. As are its competitors, Coma, Period is odd and quirky and tailored consciously to the tastes of a younger generation that may be re-making the way that talented directors, DPs and producers make a name for themselves. n


A Format For All Seasons As HD acquisition choices proliferate so do the uses of HD. By Christine Bunish Wimberg Productions, LLC

Weston Productions


Weston gives HD northern exposure In the Anchorage, Alaska area Russ Weston of Weston Productions has been shooting HD since it “hit the market.” Although it’s been “slow coming on as a sole [acquisition] source,” HD has become “more and more prevalent” for the majority of his TV programming clients, he reports. Weston’s “workhorse” HD camera is Sony’s PDW700; he also uses Panasonic HVX900 and HVX200 cameras along with Sony’s Z1, his most- often requested small HD camera. Known for putting together live broadcasts from remote areas, Weston has extensive experience taking HD gear to inhospitable environments. He has covered more than 20 Iditarod races with “just about every format since ¾-inch,” tapping the Sony PDW700 last March to chronicle legally-blind entrant Rachael Scdoris for NBC from snow machine and sled. “I was very pleased with the way the camera performed,” he says. “It takes a tremendous beating exposed to the elements with just an occasional jaunt indoors while I shower and change the batteries.” Weston also spent two weeks shooting with the PDW700 for a National Geographic fishing show. He accompanied crabbers to the Bering Sea where 50-foot waves buffeted their 100-foot boat. “You can put raincoats on the cameras but when the waves crash down nothing is going to protect you and your equipment,” Weston points out. “That’s why I’m excited about tapeless technology because less can go wrong. The PDW700 uses optical disks, so it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.” Weston has also shot HD at high altitudes during the climbing season and hooked an HD camera to a Tyler mount for aerials over glaciers. The only continuing drawback is the format’s big power consumption. “We use Anton Bauer’s new dionic batteries which are very expensive. We carry eight with us, but we have to be very conscious of battery management.”

Streamwerx flies high for HD aerials

Wimberg Productions, LLC



“Everything looks beautiful when you shoot it in HD”, says Streamwerx President and DP, Decker Campbell. Campbell, and her business partner, Writer/Producer Ann Woodroof Williams, capture HD content from the air for clients and for their own unique stock-footage division. This spring Campbell used her Sony EX1

XDCAM to acquire aerials of a mock city used for target practice and training at Marine base Camp LeJeune. Campbell recently rented her gyro-stabilized camera system to the JAARS aviation ministry to use with a Panasonic VariCam for air-to-air filming of their latest Kodiak aircraft over Lake Wateree, South Carolina. Campbell and Williams just returned from gathering stock footage of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes National Park of Colorado. They also shot air-to-air stills and HD footage of noted aerial photographer Jim Wark flying his Aviat Husky Aircraft. Streamwerx has also added HD day and night aerials of Tampa, Miami and Montgomery, Alabama to its stock-footage collection. Campbell employs Aerial Exposures helicopter mounts, including the KS12 gyro designed to accommodate larger cameras. She’s still looking for a nose mount, though, and is working with noted DP Jordan Klein of Jordan Klein Productions on a mini Mako head tailored to fit “whatever camera you want,” she reports. Nevertheless, “the vibrations of the helicopter are definitely a challenge to overcome no matter what remote control system you come up with,” she explains. “Cameras with hard drives don’t do well with helicopter vibrations, and media storage is an issue. Solid-state media, like Flash cards or P2 cards, are best; I use Sony SxS cards.”

Wimberg chows down on buffet of HD formats As a freelance videographer/cinematographer in Bozeman, Montana, Randy Wimberg, of Wimberg Productions, LLC, is hired for broadcast shoots and regional projects, often for non-profit and conservation groups. He was an early adopter of HD, even for programs broadcast in Standard Definition, to extend their shelf life. “I use a lot of different HD cameras in a year to meet very specific client needs so I usually rent cameras or the client supplies them,” he notes. “But I own a Sony PMW-EX1 XDCAM.” His wife, Kristin, is an editor who cuts on the latest version of Apple’s Final Cut Pro HD. Recent for-hire work includes Warm Spring Productions’ Duck Commanders, a 13episode reality series that debuted this summer on Outdoor Channel. Wimberg used Panasonic PX2000 and HVX200A HD cameras for the shoot in Louisiana. He has also been documenting, for DYI Channel, the ground-up construction of The Ultimate Sportsman’s Lodge, a pri-

vate residence in Melrose, Montana. Wimberg has tapped an array of cameras for the latter series: VariCam, Panasonic’s HDX900, JVC’s GYHD-110U for timelapse, plus his own PMW-EX1. He’s deploying his Sony camera for Wimberg Productions’ project for Keystone Conservation about the non-lethal techniques used by the Range Riders to keep wolves at bay during cattle drives. The video, edited by Kristin, will end up on DVD and the web. “As a freelancer I have to be really flexible as HD technology evolves and changes,” Wimberg says. “No camera system is perfect, and you have to learn to adapt to using different cameras for different jobs.” While higher-end HD cameras tend to have operating similarities, each of the smaller camcorders “seems to have their own way of doing things” which can mean mastering learning curves for every system. Nevertheless, Wimberg lauds small HD cameras for their increasing high quality and “flexibility in getting the shot whether from horseback or ATV.”

Karst takes HD high speed and underwater DP Wes Skiles of High Springs, Florida’s Karst Productions, who’s best known for shooting science, adventure and exploration shows, has been shooting HD since 2000. He owns two Sony CineAlta cameras and an XDCAM and partnered with Amphibico to design the first commercially-available HD underwater housing. Over a seven-month period Skiles was DP for seasons one and two of Discovery Channel’s Time Warp series which uses ultra high-speed photography to examine the world beyond human vision. “I was in charge of six cameras: two Sony F900s shooting 29.97 Progressive Scan, Photon S-1 and S-2 cameras, a Phantom V10 and a Fastec Cube,” he reports. The HD high-speed footage – of a medieval catapult, kitchen utensils and culinary disasters, magic tricks, Olympic platform divers, airbags in cars, Cirque du Soleil performers – is “simply jaw dropping.” Skiles began shooting the National Geographic/NOVA special, The Blue Holes of the Bahamas, in July with his pair of CineAlta cameras, one dedicated fulltime to underwater shooting in the Amphibico housing. The show will document the islands’ amazing underwater cave system with “new discoveries and revelations” promised. “The new science from this will be off the chart,” he vows. Skiles built large aquariums to temporarily accommodate the marine species captured during the shoot for high-speed photography “in a natural environment that’s also a controlled space.” He has also modified an Amphibico housing to fit the Fastec camera for the project. Skiles believes that “HD is in a very strong position” for his specialty niche. He sees two issues emerging, however: camera optics and media management. “I look forward to real versatility in the types of optics we’re able to use,” Skiles says. But as “a visually-oriented person,” he’s having to make big adjustments in the move to tapeless acquisition. “I still want to shove a tape in a tape deck, scan shots, capture them, log them and digitize individual clips,” he notes. “I worry about creating a media record that stays real and accountable, that’s easily recallable, that you can’t lose track of. How do you keep everything on a drive that has no personality or character?” continued on next page

HD: A Format For All Seasons

Locke Bryan implements new tools for spot markets Locke Bryan, a director with Houston’s Locke Bryan Productions, finds his largely commercial clients turning “more and more to HD” especially with cameras such as RED, Panavision’s Genesis and the Phantom, all of which he rents through the local Panavision office. He’s a longtime owner of a Sony F900 HDCAM package, too. “What I like about Genesis is that you get a full Panavision system with lenses and accessories; it’s robust and well thought out and easily available,” Bryan reports. He’s done Military One Source spots in studio and a

Reliant Energy campaign on location with Genesis. Phantom’s high-speed capabilities came into play last year with a national spot for the Silestone countertop surface which combined regular and ultra slow-motion footage (1000 fps) for a unique look. This spring he lensed an Academy Sports & Outdoors retail chain spot at 1000-1500 fps on a golf course and in June he shot gymnasts and dancers at 500-600 fps for an American Total Orthopedics spot. In the year between his first two Phantom jobs “the camera had really grown,” Bryan reports. “It became more of a production tool. When you shoot 1000 fps at full 1080i, it’s pretty impressive. With film, you shoot a bunch of slo-mo takes and hope

you’ve got them; with Phantom playback it’s immediate and assured.” Since Phantom is a file-based camera, Locke Bryan Productions, which boasts four Avid edit suites, had to develop a post workflow for the format with a realistic timeline. “Bringing back Phantom files to load into Avid Unity shared storage takes a couple of days,” Bryan recalls. “You have to know things like that going into a project.” Media management and archiving are other areas that need to be tackled with tapeless workflows. “We’re at the cusp of changing over higher-level production to some of these newer tools,” he notes. “With cameras like RED, Genesis and others there are enough options to make really good choices for any project.”

Tacoma tackles HD and HDV challenges In Tacoma, Washington Craig Kelly wears two hats: He’s a freelance director shooting high-end, multicamera HD nationwide for live events via Vantage Road Media Services and the owner of Tacoma VideoWorks which caters to the South Puget Sound corporate world with HDV production. Typical of his Vantage Road work is the multicamera live switched show, Peter Gabriel Live in Concert in Seattle, which he directed. He also served as camera operator on a new DVD for Jack Black’s band, Tenacious D, and provided directing services for an HD flight pack used in a Microsoft web project shot on campus in Redmond, Washington. For Tacoma VideoWorks he recently produced and directed an HDV international recruiting piece for Tacoma Community College that was authored on DVD and compressed for the web. On the high-profile live shows HD camera focus is the biggest challenge, Kelly reports. “The camera operators’ focus chops have to be real good. Experience, familiarity and a natural ability all make a good camera operator.” Apart from meeting that critical challenge, “HD doesn’t add more concerns but offers more luxuries,” he says. “When you raise the stakes you pay more attention to details and enhance the creativity of the product.” HDV production has its own issues, however. “DPs have to figure out how to light and shoot with that small a camera,” says Kelly who uses a Sony EX3 with prime lenses recording to SxS cards which delivers “gorgeous” pictures. “With a 30-year career shooting tape it’s been hard for me not to walk away with a tape and know I have the show. I’m trying to adapt the best I can.” But Kelly and his crews are still devising media management and archiving procedures as new post workflows are established. “There are no real rules yet,” he points out. “That makes it difficult – not hard, but difficult.”

HD settles in at Teak Motion Visuals A full-service production company in San Francisco, Teak Motion Visuals has been shooting HD for the last few years starting with Panasonic’s HVX200 camera and increasingly with RED Digital Cinema’s RED ONE. About 60 percent of the company’s work goes to the web often after Teak Motion edits content and adds motion graphics and 3D elements. “HD is a big part of our lives here,” notes owner/Executive Producer Greg Martinez. “And



among those of us who worked with film, we find that HD does hold a candle to film while being less expensive and with a faster workflow.” Staff Director Greg Rowan shot a 14-minute documentary with Panasonic’s HVX200 for JanSport backpacks that followed the life of founder Skip Yowell. Lensed in Seattle, Kansas and the Bay Area, it premiered at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado and will be submitted to other festivals. The company’s DJ Joo edited. Rowan tapped the Sony F900 to capture liveaction and bluescreen footage for Van, a JanSport brand marketing piece which debuted at the SXSW Film Festival. “It’s an effects piece with heavy compositing,” Martinez explains. “The HD content made it easy to do tracking, rotoscoping and compositing with After Effects and Smoke that wouldn’t have been possible with SD footage.” DP Doug Chamberlain shot a pair of Pizza Whisperer spots for Round Table Pizza with RED. “The original campaign was shot on 35mm but Round Table challenged Y&R to produce the remainder of the campaign for a more resourceful budget,”

Martinez notes. Spy Post’s Chris Martin color corrected. “The RED footage had such great information that the coloring process was very easy. There are some tricky things to remember when shooting with RED, but the color space is pretty amazing.”

HD is good sport at Headsouth Headsouth Productions in Tampa and Orlando, where Stephen Grandoff is DP, primarily works with the sports market shooting programming for networks and independent clients as well as event promos and highlight reels. HD predominates, says Grandoff, with Headsouth completing an estimated 100 HD shoots in the first half of this year with the company’s VariCam and CineAlta cameras. “In sports you only get one shot at it – whether it’s the US Open, NBA Finals or the Super Bowl – and it’s a learned technique,” he notes. “HD’s detail and definition is so crisp that the focus is more critical. It doesn’t matter where you are in the focal point, you have to be right on or it will show. But I wouldn’t

want to shoot anything else for sports.” This spring Grandoff and cameraman Marten Kaufman shot the NBA Playoffs and Finals and compiled a US Open highlight reel and promos, the latter for a European customer. Earlier he shot Tampa scenics for the Super Bowl’s global show. “They were used throughout the five-hour pregame broadcast and in live game coverage as bumpers,” he explains. A shot of the city and its waterways which dissolved to the Super Bowl trophy was also deployed in the game open. Grandoff, with Samson Chan and Ken Woo, also shot several three-camera interviews with Bob Costas, including one with Bruce Springsteen. Headsouth recently added a Sony 700 XDCAM to its arsenal. “Networks generally want the VariCam or CineAlta F900, and Panasonic’s 900 HD camera is also in rotation,” Grandoff points out. “There hasn’t been a big demand for smaller-format HD” from sports producers, he reports. “The larger cameras are much easier to handle. The challenge, as an operator, with the smaller cameras is the feeling of a lack of control. You need the bigger element and larger lenses so the camera can do what it needs to do.” n

Northwest Soundstages

– By Mark R. Smith

The Pacific Northwest offers a bounty of stages for producers requiring studio space in a region whose matchless natural beauty already lures many for location work. Fir Street reinvents packing plant Some soundstages are built for production, others have had previous lives: Fir Street Studios in Medford, Oregon, was once a pearpacking plant. The 70,000-square-foot facility has evolved nicely and made effective use of its vast space. It now comprises a 5,000-square-foot stage with a two-wall, pre-lit hard cyc; an 18x22-foot projection theater for dailies; a 17,000-square-foot scene-building shop; a 10,000-square-foot production support area and a 10,000-square-foot prop house. The latter came in handy for three features Fir Street hosted in recent years. “You won’t find anything like that,” in the northwest, says owner John Foote. “You’d have to go to Warner Bros. in Hollywood” to find similar offerings. Oregon just passed a substantial filmincentive package, he notes, which is crucial to a business that’s been quiet lately. During the last six months of 2008 and the first six months of this year, “we had nothing,” says Foote. So Fir Street self-produced a pilot and two webisodes of a new media sitcom, The Dickweeds, based on the alt-rock band Chesterfield. Fir Street also created stand-alone music videos to use as content enhancers for The Dickweeds and to drive the show. “We’re shopping them now,” Foote reports. The good news is that business is looking up lately. The Lanphier agency rented the stage for a regional spot and segments for an internal educational resource video for client Asante Health System and its Road Valley Medical Center; Clear Compass Media, an environmental company that explores the effects of global warming, has booked the stage for an October corporate shoot. 12


The nearby Ashland Independent Film Festival is gaining momentum, too. “Plus,” Foote says, the Medford environs are “a beautiful place to do business.”

PG&L sees seasonal spike Pacific Grip & Lighting (PG&L) is located about nine miles south of Seattle, just off of I-5 between downtown and the airport. It, too, offers 5,000 square feet (50x100) of stage space, making it “among the larger stages in the market,” according to Production Manager Ray Hammond. A bottom-line boost usually occurs at PG&L during the fall and winter. “In the summer people want to work outside, but in the winter we tend to get more work [business] due to the colder and often rainy weather,” he reports. Most stage shoots come via corporate projects and local agencies. As an equipment rental house the company also supports location shoots. During the economic downturn PG&L has been doing more work outside the studio than on the stage it turns out. Still, the stage’s chief client is Microsoft, for training videos as well as other projects; PG&L has been working with them since they opened for business. Hammond and crew worked on a big corporate project with Boeing recently filming the third installment of an IMAX movie about the 787 Dreamliner aircraft. PG&L has also hosted shoots for four different area churches in 2009 as well as car spots for Toyota and Chevrolet within the last year. While the automakers typically lens commercials on the road, producers always need a stage for close ups and interior shots, he points out. PG&L teamed with local companies like J.H. Productions and Piranha Productions on spot projects, too.

Also noteworthy last year was the Robin Williams black comedy World’s Greatest Dad which shot interiors at PG&L and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and the Seattle Film Festival. It’s due for widespread release later this year.

Portland has stage @Large Juliana Lukasik, principal and director with @Large Films, a film and video commercial production company based in Portland, says the company’s 4,500-square-foot facility is the first stop “for a large percentage of our jobs filmed here” especially when “there’s a chill in the air” and the Northwest’s famous precipitation is imminent. “During the winter, approximately 75 percent of our projects are shot on the stage,” she notes. During warmer weather that number declines but @Large “does stay quite busy in the special-events market” which today frequently includes video components. The stage features a 36 by 28-foot cyc wall that includes an elevated client viewing area, a full green room and a shower. Shooting game cinematics for video game developers is another important business sector. The company has hosted shoots for Nintendo’s Wii and DS products and for gaming firm Ubisoft, which markets the Rayman Raving Rabbids game. “For these clients we build large sets, sometimes as many as three at a time,” Lukasik reports. @Large also shoots an array of projects on the cyc wall, ranging from high-end commercials for Nintendo, Ubisoft and Performance Designed Products to educational projects for the Oregon Center for Applied Science (ORCAS). In addition, the space works well as “an insert stage for car spots, product shots and

opposite (l to r) – Pacific Grip & Lighting; Cine Rent West; Chambers Productions; @Large Films

square-foot and 5,400-square-foot studios, with the latter featuring a two-wall covered hard cyc. All told, a total of 87,000 square feet of shooting space spans eight acres. Jeanna Minshall, Chambers’ production manager, reports that the “script-to-screen HD production facility” rounds out its capabilities with multiple Avid bays and three Apple Final Cut Pro suites, a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mixing suite, duplication facilities and other amenities that “have helped to keep us busy during the down economy.” Noteworthy projects at Chambers include an independent film, Something Wicked, that

wrapped in early June. Produced by Merchant Films and Executive Producers Scott Chambers and Dan Giustina, the crew used Stages Four (14,000 square feet) and Three (5,400 square feet), plus Eugene-area locations for 29 days. Chambers is also very active in the corporate arena, with clients like Samaritan Health Systems, Harvest House Publishing and Stahlbush Island Farms, which grows and sells organic food nationally. Educational institutions, like the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Lane Community College, also tap the stages. continued on next page

larger set builds,” she notes. Product shots for Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors and local Dodge, Honda and Toyota dealerships are among recent credits.

Multiple stage offerings at Chambers The offerings at Eugene, Oregon’s Chambers Productions, vary from those of some others in the region due to their extensive nature. The company boasts five studios that range in size from a 600-square-foot insert stage with blue screen to two matching 14,000square-foot studios on its back lot. Also under the facility’s roof are 2,300-



Northwest Soundstages A healthy amount of spots, direct and via ad agencies, are booked for the insert stage, including commercials for Keifer Kia, via longtime client Prevedello & Associates, and Western Oregon University and Lane Forest Products, a local landscaping supplier, direct.

Cine Rent West turnkeys productions Today’s economic environment, says Chris Crever, the owner of Portland’s Cine Rent West, “is forcing all of us all to think out-

side the box to keep the stage occupied.” Billed as the city’s “only turnkey stage,” Cine Rent West’s studio recently “wrapped an untitled Hollywood feature [known as the Crowley project] that stars Harrison Ford,” Crever says. Since the producers converted a large warehouse across town into a soundstage, Cine Rent West’s 6,000-square foot space was dedicated to hair, makeup and camera tests as well as casting late last winter. For years, the stage’s bread and butter has been spot and corporate work, Crever reports. That’s “still coming along pretty well,” he reports. Recent shoots include a direct-

response spot for Brookstone from Respond 2, an Adidas campaign from Sockeye Creative and HP spots from CMD. Also, Food Chain Films lensed spots for Microsoft and Legacy Health Care on site. In the corporate arena, Owen Creative just produced content for Pacific Northwest Golf ’s company web site and Graystone Media produced clips and interstitials for Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of the Portland Lumberjacks lacrosse team. Infomercials for BowFlex and Gold’s Gym were also in the mix. Crever owns the 14,000-square-foot building housing Cine Rent West. He notes that the stage space, which would comprise “an insert stage in LA,” is “a big deal” in the Portland market. The company’s turnkey services have launched a program called Movie Camp, which is geared to introducing teens to fundamental aspects of commercial production. The next-generation of stage customers is in the making.

SG&L serves diverse mix Variety has been the name of the game at Seattle Grip & Lighting (SG&L), whose recent projects range from spots to music videos to infomercials. That’s the good news in a year that has included the company’s “largest decline in business in 15 years,” says co-owner Mick Lane. While SG&L has seen a drop-off in local and national shoots in particular (as well as location production), the company is making adjustments to boost its bottom line, most notably adding what Lane terms, “a new, to-benamed tenant” that will make liberal use of its stages. To enhance the arrival of the new tenant, SG&L is set to embark on a major renovation that will “touch every room of the building,” says Lane, with a focus on faster Internet service to expedite film and video playback. Despite this year’s downward trend, SG&L has a healthy number of projects to its credit as it looks to the future. They include XBOX spots shot by local production company, World Famous, plus commercials for Amazon’s Kindle electronic reading device and Taco Time, a local restaurant chain in the Emerald City, the latter from Leonard Creative. In addition, SG&L worked on its 100th spot over a 15-year period for the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team with Blue Goose Productions. It also set the stage for an infomercial for Space Bags Storage Systems with a local production company, Envision. On a musical note, the company has worked with two industry titans hosting a shoot to capture video content for Pearl Jam’s new album, Backspacer, and a music video for the Dave Matthews Band’s Funny the Way It Is. Productions tap both of SG&L’s stages: the larger is 5,300 square feet with a two-wall hard cyc, the other 2,100 square feet. Both are used for a mix of projects and have picture car access, Lane notes. n 14


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Cover Story

Dubbed, with tongue in cheek, an economic stimulus package for broadcasters, the massive deployment of mobile facilities covering the death of Michael Jackson helped boost company balance sheets with weeks of on-site “breaking news.” Sweetwater shifts gears

By Mark R. Smith and Christine Bunish

Sweetwater Digital Productions – mobile production and uplink vehicles jam the roadway at the Staples Center during the memorial service for Michael Jackson

When ABC News called Van Nuys, California-based Sweetwater Digital Productions for assistance, General Manager Kimberly Scholter supplied the company’s biggest truck, the 53-foot multi-format doubleExpando, Cobalt. The truck’s crew worked round-the-clock split shifts of 12 hours each at the Staples Center from the second Sunday following Jackson’s death through Wednesday morning, the day after the memorial service. They acquired and delivered live content for ABC programs like Good Morning, America, ABC News and Nightline. To illustrate the demand for mobile companies in LA to handle Jackson coverage, Scholter points out that Sweetwater doesn’t take news assignments very often. “We usually work on entertainment,” she says, although ABC News called on Sweetwater last year for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. As “one of the only TV mobile companies that offers a full complement of fiber services in-house,” Sweetwater proved a huge asset to ABC for the Jackson

“short-notice production,” Scholter says. According to Cobalt’s engineer-in-charge, Scott Heames, “One major technical challenge was the complexity of transmission paths connecting to ABC – we had eight paths at any given time. But Cobalt has the capability to manage multiple transmission paths even when they are all different formats.” “The incredible amount of communications circuitry kept adding up as we went [along], and [we] quickly outgrew the ability of our Telecast Adder to handle all the audio inputs and 18 Telos channels,” explains Dan Young, Cobalt’s audio engineer. “But we were able to accommodate by using our new MultiMode Madi fiber stage boxes, which handle 64 mic pres, 32 line in/32 line out, with full control from the Studer console.”

Big Vision goes behind the scenes Jackson’s Santa Barbara-county Neverland ranch served as the temporary address for an estimated 40 percent of mobile production and uplink trucks, includcontinued on next page



Cover Story ing the TBJ production unit from Las Vegas-based Big Vision. Big Vision worked with a host of TV programs, lensing behind-the-scenes content for the likes of CNN’s Larry King Live! which featured King’s interview with Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, NBC’s the Today show and ABC’s Nightline. Other “talking head” material will go into Big Vision’s stock archive. Like Scholter, Big Vision owner Chuck Haifley reports that the scale of the coverage proved challenging: The sheer enormity of the event may have turned a few hairs gray prematurely. But Big Vision’s own work “was made easier by the use of our TBJ production unit, a 53-foot Expando motor home” whose built-in garage was commandeered as a production office, he UniSat – TES 2 HD unit on locaton at the Staples Center for CBS explains. The TBJ is typically used to house extra equipment or serve as a the CBS Network which brought Katie Couric prep area, control room or edit bay. For the west to anchor her evening newscast for two Jackson coverage the TBJ acted as Big Vision’s days and produced a live 48 Hours special, all “command center,” according to Haifley, prep- in High Definition. The CBS Early Show also ping and monitoring shots. The unit’s moni- produced several remotes from LA and toring and preview decks combined with four anchored its entire show with Harry Smith Panasonic HDX900 cameras to create a con- and Maggie Rodriguez from the Staples trolled production environment that helped Center on the day of the memorial service. “One of the biggest challenges was simmake the assignment easier. ply being available,” declares Executive Vice President George Edwardz. “You don’t sit UniSat goes multi venue around waiting for these events. We had to for CBS rearrange our schedule to make sure there were other ways to cover clients’ events and UniSat’s two LA-based satellite produc- devote our two satellite production units to tion units “leapfrogged” from Jackson’s rent- CBS.” UniSat’s trucks were covering the preed house in Holmby Hills and the family com- miere of Bruno and involved with a movie pound in Encino to Neverland, the Staples shoot when Jackson died. Center and Forest Lawn cemetery to serve CBS had worked with UniSat before on



scheduled events and “felt comfortable with the trucks,” says Edwardz. UniSat’s units are believed to be “two of the most capable KU trucks on the West Coast.” Completely selfcontained they “can be dropped in anywhere in North America to provide live coverage. “CBS made good use of the units” for all of their Jackson-related coverage, he notes. The TES 2 HD truck did duty at the Staples Center where Edwardz estimates that “half of the available KU trucks in the nation” were massed. TES 2 was required to “uplink multiple paths of HD to CBS in New York where they integrated the evening newscasts, live coverage of the memorial service and the 48 Hours special,” he explains. To handle all the HD routing and extended cable runs, UniSat bolstered its fiber optic gear with equipment sourced from Bexel in Dallas. “Our Tandberg High Definition satellite encoders worked very well; they really made a difference in the shows,” he reports. At Forest Lawn, where a private service was held out of range of cameras, UniSat was prohibited from running cable across the driveway and had to resort to microwaving signals about 1,500 feet. “We had to go back to the way things were done in the past utilizing microwave links. Our TES 1’s microwave receiver and transmitter ended up saving the day for the client,” he says. Due to the remote location of Neverland, truck parking at that venue and access to facilities proved to be quite a challenge. “Having worked in the business for over 27 years, this will go down as one of the largest mobilizations of satellite production units ever,” Edwardz says. n

Scoring with mobile sports solutions

Mobile Production

Meeting the Challenge of Sports, News and Entertainment Production on the Road By Mark R. Smith

Token Creek Mobile Television – Jamie Bath setting up at mid-1st base position at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI

You’ll often find Jim Moriarty of New Orleans’s YES Productions covering the Professional Bull Riders for Versus from coast to coast, with an occasional trip to Canada and Mexico. Production for the sport includes close-up,“inyour-face action with a damn brave cowboy and a mean 2,000 pound bull,” Moriarty says, with the animals sometimes directing their anger at the shooters. “We’ve had bulls decide to throw the rider into the stands and get so close to the rails that they put their hoof in the gap to give the camera [and lens] a good, swift kick. “Fortunately, the Fujinon repair guys are very familiar with our lenses,” he says, though that’s not the bulls’ only revenge: “They get so [angry] that they blow stuff out of both ends – so the lens needs cleaning as well as repairs.” A challenge of a different kind arose when the videotape stock for a bull-riding competition wasn’t ordered until the Thursday afternoon before the July 4 weekend – and just three of the 15 cases that were requested showed up. After many frantic phone calls, Moriarty found a company on the West Coast, EVS, that “gathered as much tape as they could” and delivered by the deadline. “I found the rest at a [TV] station in Baton Rouge,” he reports, noting that “it pays to order in advance and have contacts on both coasts.” While the gang at TL Mobile Television in Springfield, Missouri has not pushed the HD butcontinued on next page

Cover Story ton yet, management “will during the next year,” says Vice President Nicholas Appleton. The changeover will require something of a balancing act: Although TL is still having “a very good year, thus far” working in Standard Definition on events like ESPN’s spring football scrimmages and Pay-Per-View college football for Fox Sports, “we’ve lost some work this year because we have not [migrated to HD] yet,” he reports. While the upgrades will be easy, simply taking TL’s sole 50-foot digital Expando truck off the road to make the transition is the hard part. Owner “Troy Fain and I know how to make the upgrades,” Appleton says. “That will not only save us money but result in a better finished product because we will be operating what we built.” That helps alleviate issues like a producer not being able to hear the intercom in his head set, for example. “When you do your checks, you catch things like that,” he notes. One challenge that’s hard to overcome, though, is travel issues like overnighters. “When you’ve worked four jobs in a week and driven 500 miles overnight, you’re grouchy,” he observes. “The battle is getting on the air. Then everything seems to flatten out.” “Challenges? We deal with all kinds of them,” says a laughing John Salzwedel, president of Token Creek Mobile Television in Madison, Wisconsin. For starters, how about when your unit happens to be the second or third truck to roll in to a smallish NCAA Division II arena or a high school facility designed for one truck? “These arenas were only built to accommodate so much coax and triax and have just enough cable and power to accommodate one truck. Some of them aren’t cabled at all,” Salzwedel says, recalling a Division II game in the Deep South for ESPNU. What to do? Usually, Salzwedel and company end up spending an extra half-day in preparation, laying extra cable and setting up a large enough generator to power a three-phase production truck. “If we have three trucks, we’ll need two generators because they only have power for one.” Smaller venues actually represent “a burgeoning market for TV



Turning a Loss to a Gain

By Mark R. Smith

This spring, the power belly bay of one of the mobile units at Cape Canaveral, Florida-based Communications Concepts Inc. (CCI) caught fire, leaving its insurance carrier deeming the truck a total loss. That may sound like the end of a story. Actually, it’s just the start. Although The Hartford, CCI’s insurance company, made that assessment of the 36-foot SD analog straight truck, the equipment that was housed within it – and insured under a separate policy – was undamaged. That allowed Jim Lewis, CCI’s president, to turn a lemon into lemonade so to speak: Not only did he save the truck’s SD guts, he stepped into the burgeoning HD market while doing so. “If you were going to build a new truck, you wouldn’t do it with seven-year-old equipment,” he says. “We also had customers asking for HD production, which is expensive. So we were at a crossroads anyway.” With a job for International Launch Services set to begin less than a month after the fire, Lewis and company had about three weeks to get a new truck back on the road. So CCI hired additional freelance engineers to help disassemble the $500,000 worth of SD equipment before buying a used, rack-ready 40foot straight truck that was “already somewhat wired for HD,” Lewis says. All of the digital SD gear migrated to the truck, including an EVS, Chyron Duet LEX graphics system, and Sony Digital Betacam and Panasonic D5 decks. Next to be installed was the Ross Vision Free HD/SD switcher, which has a smart converter, 24/7 support and free software upgrades for the life of the product. “That’s unusual in the business,” Lewis notes. Ross Vision “is a vendor that really ‘gets it.’ The switcher simply converts to the appropriate signal, and we get about our business.” He also gives kudos to Interface Technologies Group’s monitors that “also switch between SD and HD, are hi-res and come in durable metal frames. Their setup allows us to reconfigure the truck’s monitor wall at the punch of a button.” The result of Lewis’s nimble thinking? “We can take care of existing clients for rocket launches at the Kennedy Space Center here in Florida and medium-sized sporting events like Division II basketball and soccer,” he reports. “But we also have expanded to do some side-by-side work where we park next to a bigger truck so we can distribute an HD broadcast in SD or vice versa.” n

and especially the web,” that’s hungry for content, he explains. Producers want their Internet connection “almost before [they] see cameras,” he says. “They may be streaming the production instead of using satellite or fiber, or they need it to get score feeds and check in with the network.” George Williams makes no qualms about what can happen on a given day in the craziness that is the mobile television business. The vice president with New Century Productions in Allentown, Pennsylvania, notes a range of issues from the need for specialty equipment, like robotic cameras and graphics machines, to last-minute changes on site and dealing with equipment failure. Take the Chyron Duet HyperX, for example. “It can malfunction because it’s computer-based,” he says. “An operator will load it from their laptop and a virus may get in; then we have to find someone to diagnose and repair it over the phone with our engineers – or find someone local in a hurry. That happened a couple of times during our NBA coverage for various regional carriers. “Depending on how time-sensitive the challenge is, there are different steps we take to tackle it,” Williams reports. For the least time-sensitive equipment needs, New Century can source internally or locally for replacement gear. But when it absolutely positively has to be there fast shipping in new gear may be the only option. “It’s become more difficult in the last year” to ship replacement equipment, however, “due in part to airlines reducing the number of flights, as well as the size of their planes,” he says. “The best way to tackle the problems is simply to pre-plan – and have a very thick address book” of reliable names to turn to in times of need. Any network that broadcasts more than 1,700 events a year, from the NFL and MLB to the NBA, NASCAR and the XGames, could have someone write a book on this subject. The biggest hurdle at ESPN, says Paul DiPietro, coordinating director for event operations, “is simply coping with the number of events we cover, [dealing with] several hundred [of our] people at many events and preventing unforeseen circumstances that could impede our ability to present the best event.” He explains that “when you are moving all of those people [or two mobile units and a crew of about 50 for a smaller event], Monday Night Football or a NASCAR event can take on Olympic-sized proportions. For instance, some NASCAR events [where the crew has hearing tests and uses customized ear protection] involve 12 mobile units and a crew of 250 that go from track to track every week. That’s logistics.” A peak example was the Winter XGames with about 500 people in the mix. “That’s not only a large event, but it takes a week to set up at 8,000 feet,” DiPietro reports. Even a minor snow melt in Aspen a few years ago posed challenges for an ESPN truck. It was parked level, then the snow melted and the

truck came off level ever so slightly. “So the diesel fuel was not as evenly distributed as it had been,” he recall, “and that led to the generator shutting down. We got burned once and have made sure that it doesn’t happen again: Now we just top off the tank.”

Entertaining power and transport needs Every entertainment and event venue has its challenges, says veteran Producer/Director Carey Goin of Jacksonville, Florida-based HMTV. Take LP Stadium in Nashville. HMTV was covering The Call, an allday Christian music and speaking event from the venue, with more than 90,000 in attendance, when the power source proved to be too far away from the trucks. It was time to get a generator. “When we did, terrible ground hum loops developed between us and the PA system vendor,” who was on house power, Goin explains. “We all had to be tied to the same generator, with the lighting on house power.” That situation is not unusual during concerts “where we tie into a split from house audio to a recording truck to the video truck,” he notes.“We always request an isolated transformed split with ground lifts to prevent this problem, and a crystal lock generator so the timecode won’t drift between recording video in our truck and audio in the audio trucks.” The crew then sends the audio trucks’ timecode drop frame with black burst to ensure, after the re-mix, that it can sync back up to broadcast DVDs. In addition to crucial power concerns, HMTV is also dealing with the effects of nextgeneration lighting. On music shoots, it has started to white balance cameras to 5600K

(instead of the traditional 3200K), because so much more intelligent, and higher-intensity, moving lights are in play today. It’s Goin’s intention to resolve these issues and to post venue schematics and contact info on the Internet so “all video, audio and lighting vendors can [check their parameters] before a shoot – instead of putting out fires on site.” Mike Skehan, vice president and general manager of East Coast Television (ECT) and a vet of the Washington, D.C. production market, keeps his service relatively local, usually within “about 100 miles or 250 miles” at most doing live remote broadcasts for associations and corporations and a few government agencies. His reasons for limiting the geographic range are myriad. “I’ve been running into fuel permit issues,” he says.“If I take a truck to New York, for instance, there is a state fuel tax issue and you may have to pay at the weigh station. If you go long haul you are basically in the trucking business.” He also notes restrictions on Commercial Drivers Licenses since ECT’s trucks exceed 26,000 pounds, and“buying diesel used to be less expensive than buying gas, but not at the moment.” On the tech side, Skehan’s concerns include maintaining the power supply and having backup equipment when covering breaking news and there’s no second chance to get the shot. Power failures are not an option so he always brings a second generator; access to spare/rental cameras assure that the shoot continues. He also knows whom he can call on in times of need. “This is TV,” he says, “and you have no control over blown fuses, cut cable or transmitter problems. That’s why 95 percent of the people in this business know the importance of helping each other.” n



roaD triP East



Strong Base in the East Stretching from Maine to Virginia and encompassing New England, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, the Eastern slice of America features a strong roster of production companies making creative contributions to every facet of business and every media platform. >BY CHRISTINE BUNISH

news & Updates > by Jon T. Hutchinson

Crystal Pix – Director/owner Ray Manard shooting the company’s own feature documentary Signs of the Times

Energy generates business worldwide


ull-service production company Energy Films in Portland, Maine does a wide range of work from its base in the city’s Old Port district. It shoots in the region for crewing agencies representing American Express, Bank of America and Prudential; handles ENG for national news networks like CNN, ABC, NBC and FOX; covers segments for The History Channel’s Modern Marvels; lensed a music video for the band Assembly of Dust; and shot a PSA campaign for Efficiency Maine, part of the public utility. Energy’s owner Tom Pakulski, who is a producer/director/cameraman, doesn’t always stay close to home. He traveled to India to capture footage for the feature documentary, Dirt: The Movie, which premiered at Sundance; he also headed to Arizona to collect DVD and web footage for Hussey Seating, the world’s foremost stadium seating company. His workhorse Beta SP package is giving way to increased HD acquisition this year. “I’ve rent28


ed Panasonic VariCam as needed and Panasonic’s HDX900 seems to be my new workhorse camera,” Pakulski reports.

The Troupe scouts out diverse client base At The Troupe in Windham, New Hampshire modern media design and production is the order of the day along with corporate projects and commercials, the majority of the latter in New England. The company has witnessed several economic recessions in its three decades of operation. While “nothing is recession-proof,” notes COO John Connors, The Troupe’s “diversity of clients has helped” it withstand the vagaries of the market and achieve a longevity that’s rare in the industry. Recent credits include animation and liveaction sequences for a Philips medical imaging trade show piece and a new product video for an arthroscopic devicemaker; customer testimonials shot worldwide for TAC, a division of Schneider Electric; a corporate DVD for ProCon construction; a marketing video on Hypertherm’s latest

Kickstand Launches BROOKLYN, NY – Kickstand LLC, a character animation and research development studio, opened its doors in June. Founded by experts with backgrounds in feature animation, video game development, television, and commercial production, the company intends to bring sophisticated tools and character technology to the industry. Kickstand specializes in commercial and custom software development for 3D modeling and animation programs. Guerilla FX and GoPhone NEW YORK, NY – Guerilla FX shot, created the visual effects and posted a 15-second rich media banner ad for AT&T GoPhone. GFX shot the banner on the streets of Manhattan’s Upper Westside with the RED ONE camera, did compositing and effects in After Effects and edited in Final Cut. In the spot an actor who is engaged in an animated cell phone conversation walks into an invisible Plexiglass wall, built by GFX, and falls backward to the ground. Tecate Light spots NEW YORK, NY – Advertising agency Adrenalina/NY tapped Director Steve Ramser and Outside Editor Jeff Ferruzzo to complete the latest commercial campaign for Tecate Light. The fully-loaded spots ( two 30-second versions) illustrate Tecate’s take on “change,” highlighting their bold twist on marketing “cerveza.”

plasma cutting devices; and spots for longtime clients The Christmas Tree Shops and Canobie Lake Park plus the New Hampshire Lottery, Centrix Bank, Courville Communities, and Andersen’s Renewal windows. The Troupe is housed in a 12,000-square-foot facility with a pair of Final Cut Pro on-line suites, a Steinberg Nuendo 4 audio recording and mixing studio and two graphics suites running Cinema 4D, Modo and Adobe software. Over the past year the company’s commercial and corporate work “has transitioned to HD,” Connors reports, with rental Panasonic VariCams and HVX200s “our go-to cameras.”

Verde reaches out from picturesque locale Verde Group Films, where Denis O’Brien is executive producer and director and Isela Marin producer and owner, makes its home in Burlington, Vermont, “the best little city in America,” according to O’Brien. Located on Lake Champlain, just 45 minutes by air from New York City, Verde hopes that Big Apple agencies will discover how practical it can be to work in beautiful Vermont. The company owns a Panasonic HVX200 HD camera and rents film cameras when needed as they were for a recent Kinney Drugs campaign; Kinney is a longtime client and Verde netted a 2007 Gold Addy for one of the retailer’s spots. Verde also has an Apple Final Cut Pro HD editing system. O’Brien directed Awaken, a national spot for The Natural Dentist, which won the Vermont Association of Broadcasters’ First Place award recently. Verde shot and edited a four-hour DVD series for and an ongoing campaign for New England Vision Correction that has webisodes and on-air spot components. The company is also participating in The Death of Socrates, a collaborative feature for which 23 directors around the world will shoot four-minute segments depicting the philosopher in all sorts of guises both human and animal. “We’re also being considered for another collaborative feature,” O’Brien reveals.

A&M does big business Last year and this year have been the “biggest ever” for Providence, Rhode Island’s A&M Productions, an internal/external communications company which also does commercials, documentaries and web content. “Business has been unbelieveable,” reports President and Executive Producer Michelle Ahlborg, “to the point where we’ve had to hire more people.” The company offers Avid Adrenaline and Final Cut Pro edit suites, owns a Sony HD camera and rents other format cameras as needed. Production is largely on location. A&M recently shot an HD documentary, including aerials, about the Naragansett Bay Commission’s new sewage tunnel; it will be used for marketing and is expected to air on PBS. The company also created extensive web content about Rhode Island activities for a guest channel available in hotels across the state. A&M has expanded its services for non-profit clients to include event planning, web site construction and webstreaming. Ahlborg designed and planned the annual Pell Awards, one of the biggest events in Rhode Island, which honored actor Kevin Spacey in an exciting evening at the Pell Estate last June.

EVTV makes a success of corporate consultation In the last half-dozen years Stamford, Connecticut’s EVTV has focused on “the consultative side of corporate communications and information,” says Michael Macari, president and supervising producer at the 25-year-old company. EVTV’s corporate clients include Nestle Waters North America, Bayer Healthcare and the Knights of Columbus national fraternal organization. Pitney Bowes has been a customer from day one. “In a recession, companies only used to do video to generate continued on next page

Moody Street has prime address In Waltham, Massachusetts Moody Street Pictures does a wide array of work although “we’re known in the TV market primarily for our sports programming,” says President John MacNeil. Moody Street is regularly hired by ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN 360; New England Sports Network; Comcast Sportsnet in New England; and TV38 and WBZ. With the latter two broadcasters the company co-produced Celtic TV, a 10-episode series on the Boston NBA team which ran from the All Star Game to the end of the 2008 season then was extended through the championship to capture the Celtics’ win. Moody Street produced the indie film The Shuttle in Massachusetts; it’s now on DVD following a limited theatrical release. “Massachusetts probably has the most attractive [production] tax credits in the country now,” McNeil notes. He’s one of the founders of the Massachusetts Production Coalition while Moody Street’s head of marketing, Tim Egan, is president of the New England chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Additionally, the company has done web videos for MIT and the Massachusetts Biotech Council; corporate projects for Pitney Bowes and Blue Cross; holiday spots for Hasbro featuring Star Wars toys; branded entertainment spots for New Balance and Major League Lacrosse; and WBUR radio’s first-ever TV campaign. “Our diversity has helped keep us really strong,” MacNeil points out. Moody Street shoots film, HD and RED formats and boasts a greenscreen studio and six Avid and Final Cut suites for HD and SD editing. JULY/AUGUST 2009


THE EAST business,” notes Macari. “Now they have to keep employees informed and motivated with internal videos, webcasts and other web-delivered content” as well as meet their needs for material for conference and live events. The company also does some regional commercials shooting the higher-end spots on S16mm. It also captures documentary footage for A&E and The History Channel and has done concert pledge specials for PBS. EVTV has its own complement of Final Cut Pro systems and partners with a number of local vendors for equipment rentals and additional post services. “2009 to date has been the best year we’ve had in 10 years,” Macari reports. “Nobody is throwing money around, but new and existing clients are saying, ‘we’ve got to communicate’ in order to lead and survive.”

Crystal Pix sees big picture Crystal Pix in suburban Rochester, New York is a projectbased “big picture company” which crafts “every kind of visual for film, video and multimedia,” says Ray Manard. A director and editor, he co-owns the company with wife Caroline, a 3D animator and graphic designer. Crystal Pix has worked with Mason Selkowitz Marketing on projects for Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Sylvan Learning and the state of Florida, the latter a series of hurricane preparedness PSAs featuring pro sports coaches. The company also works direct with longtime client Paychex on internal corporate communications and events and Constellation Brands beverage and alcohol company on employee communications. It teamed with Orange County, California’s Avery Marketing to create simultaneous HD video displays for a Toshiba Medical trade show booth. In January Crystal Pix completed its own feature documen-



tary on the origins of hand signals in baseball. Signs of the Time, narrated by Richard Dreyfus, is now on the film-festival circuit; Manard hopes for broadcast and DVD distribution as well. He served as cinematographer on the doc which was directed by Don Casper with Eric McMaster DP. The company boasts Avid Media Composer and DS HD suites along with a Final Cut Pro; Caroline Manard uses Softimage XSI and After Effects. “Last year was one of our best ever,” says Manard, “and this year is pretty much on track. If you’re passionate about your work, it will be there.”

Get-Kinetic delivers for clients near and far Philadelphia’s Get-Kinetic, a commercial and emerging video production company, follows a largely tapeless workflow, shooting with RED Digital Cinema’s RED ONE camera and Panasonic HVX200 P2 cameras and editing on a Final Cut Pro system. Get-Kinetic deployed RED on a music video for Peruvian singer Periko, for which Director/DP Kevin Hackenberg partnered with Director Wilfredo Manzano, and on a series of broadcast and web commercials for Valley Forge Christian College directed by Hackenberg and lensed by Ed Buffman. The company also completed three music videos for Thurston County, Washington on the subject of recycling. Destined for elementary/middle school and high school students as well as the business community, the music videos were conceived by GetKinetic and shot primarily on greenscreen in Philadelphia. GetKinetic’s Dan Gautier designed colorful graphic backgrounds, and Milk Boy Recording crafted an “old school hip hop” score to the company’s lyrics, Hackenberg reports. Last year Get-Kinetic shot an HD feature documentary for the

Pennsylvania Department of Health and Brown Partners which followed the trials and tribulations of four urban youths attempting to give up smoking. The film has been distributed to urban communities and recut as webisodes for YouTube. “Our first quarter 2009 was well over last year,” Hackenberg notes, “and we’ve been pretty busy in June.”

STVP enjoys waves of success Ocean City, New Jersey’s Seriously Total Video Productions (STVP) was founded by Steven Trauger eight years ago when he was a college freshman. Today he is a TV/AV facility engineer for the Ocean City school district, an on-line graduate student in motion graphics and broadcast design at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and creative director of the thriving STVP. At STVP Trauger keeps busy with a diverse array of work creating the in-show video and marketing content for comedian Dena Blizzard’s show One Funny Mother: I’m Not Crazy; crafting a motion graphics package for River Force Financial; updating the Ocean City Tourism Commission TV campaign which he produced before; redesigning the station ID for York College Television at his alma mater; providing all the pre-recorded content and show production for the Miss New Jersey pageant; and supplying a new logo and web site design for the Miss New Jersey Educational Foundation. He just completed a spec HD news package for KSNTV/Kansas City which he hopes will go to air. STVP boasts Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects software, Final Cut Pro and Avid edit systems, and mini DV and Panasonic DVCPRO cameras. “I’m eyeing P2 and other HD-format cameras,” says Trauger. “But no clients are demanding [HD] yet.”

Watermark makes its mark in corporate and spot projects

Driving, which distributes a revolutionary Finnish-made pile driver. It’s currently working on a new-product video for cargo control specialists Kinedyne which will take Bill to China this summer.

Interface Meets Market’s Diverse Demands A creative media company operating in a 360-degree production environment, 32-year-old Interface Media Group serves the diverse marketplace of metro Washington, D.C. (where it makes its home) and environs. The company offers two soundstages and Sony F900 and Panasonic P2 cameras for the studio and field production; satellite, fibre optic, microwave and streaming media transmission; nine Final Cut Pro suites; three Autodesk Discreet Smokes and a Flame; three Pro Tools sound design suites; and seven design, graphics and animation suites. The Interactive Digital Media Department handles web site authoring, content and management. Interface recently upgraded its soundstages’ control rooms for an all-HD signal path, reports Vice President Adam Hurst. It also added a Baselight color grading system and a new Sony MVS6000 HD switcher and Harris Inscriber character generator to one of the control rooms. Recent credits include on-air promos for PBS, National Geographic Television and the Discovery Networks; spots for Sirius XM Radio; a host of political advertising; an informational video for the Corporate Executive Board; and media support for the Fritz Scholder exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian. Interface’s Interactive Digital Media Department created a microsite and furnished location crews and satellite transmission for the World Wildlife Fund’s international Earth Hour event. “The beauty of being in Washington is the wide array of work going on,” notes Hurst. “We’re lucky to have a variety of clients in the marketplace and a variety of services to offer.” n

At Watermark Productions in Milford, Delaware owner Bill Sammons and son Josh handle script-to-screen duties for corporate marketing and spot clients. Coming off its best year ever last year, the company “just went to HDV this year” with a new Panasonic HMC150 camera, says Bill; editing is done on Final Cut Pro. “We do all the TV spots for Ad Strategies in Easton, Maryland which specializes in events and trade shows,” such as various boat shows and the Market Pro Computer Show, Bill reports. Watermark shoots footage at the events, posts the spots and traffics them to stations. The company shot and posted its first network spot intercutting kids racing on Big Wheels with audio and video of real race footage; it aired nationally on FOX and ABC. Still in the racing mode, Watermark crafted an award-winning marketing video for Monster Racing, a fantasy NASCAR driving program based at Dover International Speedway. “It was one of the most fun things I’ve done,” Bill reports. Watermark also finished a marketing video for Sun Pile

BUsiness CarD





T2, Kansas City, MO


mong T2’s many credits are editorial for Cook’s Ham, Kansas City Power & Light, Rival Crock Pot, McDonald’s, and Time Warner Cable; title design credits include Rigged for C47 Pictures, ABC’s Desperate Housewives, Relativity Media, and the Hallmark Channel.

Markee: T2 has emerged on the national – and international – scene little more than a decade after its founding. Can you trace its history for us? Rogers: I bought the video division I was running for a Fortune 500 company about 11 years ago and named it Take 2 since we started to do business with outside corporate clients. The name evolved to T2 and we began doing post, design and VFX for advertising agencies. Michael Ong, our amazing creative director, joined us and has been a heavyweight in shaping our national reputation for motion design, 3D and VFX.

can work on multiple platforms like the Wade Brothers who have a wonderful reputation as conceptual photographers: Not a single one of our directors has just a 30-second spot reel. Clients can work separately with T2 and Back Alley or we can work together. The strength of our union becomes more and more obvious with increased collaboration between production and post today and as budgets get more challenging. When people go to our new web site they can move a cursor to doors for T2 and Back Alley but they’ll end up in the same place: a visual design and storytelling enterprise.

Markee: T2 now has a sister production company? Rogers: We launched Back Alley Films in June 2008 and have really cultivated directors who

Markee: Is Kansas City something of a bestkept secret for the production and postproduction industries? Rogers: In the last five years we’ve started to see people recognize that everything they want for production is here: talent, a real diversity of locations, camera equipment, crews. When the Wade Brothers recently created an eight-minute video for British fashion company Fly53 they were able to do everything from start to finish in Kansas City – casting, set building, original music, post and VFX with T2. The British clients flew in and were completely blown away. They didn’t expect that level of production in the middle of the US. Markee: Most of us forget that Kansas City has always had a strong creative community. Rogers: The city’s visual arts community has a long history starting back with Hallmark, and we have a great blues and jazz scene and



some very contemporary groups now, too. But when we bring in directors from New York or LA or clients from larger markets they’re all rather surprised by Kansas City. We don’t want to tell too many people or we’ll ruin it! Markee: And T2 is located in the heart of the thriving Crossroads Art District. Rogers: We moved about three years ago to a former popcorn factory. Two blocks from here architect Moshe Safdie is building a new Performing Arts Center and the whole area is filled with galleries, unique shops and restaurants. Every first Friday of the month there’s a huge celebration and thousands of people come to Crossroads. We use First Friday as an opportunity to invite our best clients of the previous month to a big private party. Markee: What recent projects at Back Alley and T2 are you most proud of? Rogers: We collaborated with Sullivan Higdon & Sink/Kansas City on a pro bono web spot for Water Partners, an organization which raises awareness about unsanitary drinking water in developing nations. One of Back Alley’s directors who’s also an editor here, Pete Meyer, directed the spot for the mock bottled water, L’Desh Fresh, and we’re really happy that it’s getting a lot of attention. We’re also in the final stages of editing The Next American Dream, a documentary feature that uses Kansas City as a petrie dish for urban revitalization. Editor Cara Myers has been working on the film for four years and now we’re trying to find distribution. We already have PBS networks interested in it and want to see what other national exposure it might get. Markee: T2 is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise. How have you seen the role of women change in this industry? Rogers: It used to be that my entire editorial and VFX staff was all men. That’s not true now. Every day we get requests from amazing young women coming out of art institutions who want to be interns. And we get lots of calls from freelance editors and interactive designers who are women. It’s nice to finally see that. Women bring a different perspective to the work and are changing the face of the products we create. n

marketPLACE ad Index a d ve rt Ise r



P aG e


615 Music Productions, Inc............................................................................21 ABQ Production Outfitters .............................................................................33 Alan Gordon Enterprise Inc............................................................................33 Amarillo Film Office .......................................................................................34 American Music Company, Inc. .....................................................................16 Assignment Desk, Inc. ...................................................................................04 Barbizon Light.................................................................................................09 Bron Kobold....................................................................................................10 Camera Copters, Inc. .....................................................................................C4 Cammate Systems .........................................................................................33 Canon Professional Broadcast Equipment Division ......................................07 Cine Rent West ..............................................................................................13 Communications Concepts Inc.......................................................................24 Cornerstone Media Productions, Inc. ............................................................31 Crew Connection............................................................................................30 dCranes ..........................................................................................................33 Dempsey Film Group......................................................................................11 FirstCom .........................................................................................................17 Gerling & Associates .....................................................................................25 Glidecam Industries Inc .................................................................................33 HB Group, Inc .................................................................................................29 Killer Tracks....................................................................................................19 Kinescope Camera And Deck Service ...........................................................C2 Locke Bryan Productions Inc ..........................................................................10 Mastersource Music Catalog ........................................................................20 Media Plus Insurance Services......................................................................27 Mississippi Film Office ..................................................................................34 New Mexico Film Office ................................................................................34 Northstar Studios...........................................................................................13 Omnimusic......................................................................................................22 Payreel............................................................................................................31 Premier Studio Equipment .............................................................................33 ......................................................................................33 Raleigh Studios ..............................................................................................14 South Dakota Film Office...............................................................................C3 Specialty Cams...............................................................................................33 Stephen Arnold Music ...................................................................................19 Streamwerx Digital Studio ............................................................................09 The Music Bakery ..........................................................................................16 The Pocono Mountain Workshops.................................................................33 TM Television.................................................................................................11 Tupelo Film Office ..........................................................................................C3 Virginia Film Office ........................................................................................C3 Willy’s Widgets..............................................................................................33 YES Productions .............................................................................................26

For classified advertising details, contact Lynne Bass, 386-774-8923,




Palo duro Canyon state Park Contact: Jutta Matalka Director, Tourism/Film

Considered the second largest canyon in the U.S. and one of its most magnificent scenic attractions. More than 30,000 acres display extraordinary vistas of color and beauty. Today’s visitors appreciate the fact that they can drive 800 feet down to the bottom of the canyon.

amarillo film Commission 1000 s. Polk • amarillo, tx 79101 Phone: 806-342-2012 • fax: 806-373-3909

Pascagoula river Contact: Ward Emling Manager

The free-flowing Pascagoula River meanders for 80 miles through bottomlands and bayous rich with wildlife, slipping into coastal cordgrass marshlands. More direct, Mississippi’s Motion Picture Incentive Program flows to you a 20-25% cash rebate on spend and payroll for features, television, documentaries, and commercials.

mississippi film office P.o. Box 849 • Jackson, ms 39205 Phone: 601-359-3297 • fax: 601-359-5048

Plaza Blanca Contact: Lisa Strout Director Jennifer Schwalenberg Deputy Director

In the Rio Chama Valley of Northern New Mexico sits the natural wonder known as Plaza Blanca, also immortalized as “The White Place” in a 1940 painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. This is an easily accessible location with 360 degrees of unique views.

new mexico state film office 418 montezuma avenue • santa fe, nm 87501 Phone: 505-476-5600 • fax: 505-476-5601




mount rushmore national memorial South Dakota is a state of many startling and beautiful contrasts, emphasizing the geographic division of the agricultural Midwest and the mountains of the rugged West. The majestic mountains, rolling prairies, thundering buffalo, and the endless wide-open spaces, make South Dakota a prime film location.

Contact: Emily Currey Film Commissioner

south dakota film office 711 east Wells avenue • Pierre, sd 57501 Phone: 605-773-3301 • fax: 605-773-3256

tupelo, mississippi Located in the hills of Northeast Mississippi and home to Elvis Presley, Tupelo offers a unique blend of locations for film projects: Natchez Trace Parkway Scenic Byway, historic buildings and battlefields, railways, and buildings that offer innovative alternatives to sound stages plus a competitive motion picture incentive package.

Contact: Pat Rasberry Director

tupelo film Commission P.o. drawer 47 • tupelo, ms 38802 Phone: 662-841-6521 • fax: 662-841-6558

Colonial era Backlot, farm and Wharf Virginia offers a unique 16-acre Colonial era backlot, farm and wharf sets with 95 period residential and commercial buildings, cobblestone streets, alleyways and a town square. The Richmond area also has a wealth of historic architecture, crew and services. Photos at

Contact: Becky Beckstoffer Marketing Manager Andy Edmunds Location Manager Kathryn Stephens Locations Assistant

virginia film office 901 east Byrd street • richmond, va 23219 Phone: 800-854-6233 • fax: 804-545-5531 ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT



Markee JulAug 2009  
Markee JulAug 2009  

Markee JulAug 2009