JJ’s New Horizons: Advancing Pediatric Care

So excited to show off this latest project for Janssen, which was featured on their parent company, Johnson & Johnson’s site. Johnson & Johnson’s New Horizons is a collaborative initiative to build awareness, inspire action, and advance learning around the unmet needs of HIV treatment-experienced children and adolescents globally. The RMP editing team edited footage recorded on location in South Africa and crafted the story that accurately depicts New Horizon’s amazing work. You’ll notice there is b-roll used in the overall video (the first one) and the second one featuring Josephine is just simply her telling her story about living with HIV. We felt it was more impactful for her to tell her story, purely and uninterrupted.

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Cinemagraphs: Too Hot to Handle?

The year was 2013 and Tyra Banks’ investment arm Fierce Capital was pumping money and ANTM publicity into animated-picture app Flixel. They were slated to be the next big thing. Fast forward 5 years later, and we’re still waiting for animated-pictures, also known as cinemagraphs, to become a “thing” at all really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Wikipedia, the term “Cinemagraph” was coined by U.S. photographers Kevin Burg and James Beck to animate their fashion and news photographs in 2011. The simple definition is a still photograph in which a minor and repeated movement occurs, forming a video clip. They can be created from compositing a collection of photographs or freeze framing a video clip into a seamless loop of sequential frames, so that one components moving while the rest of the video is still. In the example above, the bird and moving water are moving, but the hands are completely still.

While cinemagraphs are certainly interesting to look at from an aesthetic perspective, the lack of interest in user-generated cinemagraphs is evident in their limited use throughout the web and social media. Theres a number of factors stacked against them that I’m going to explore.

First, cinemagraphs would be regarded by many non-professionals as far too complicated. Many social media users will post either a picture or a video, neither of which require the use of a third party app. Even if the App is fairly easy, it’s still an extra step that I just cant see people like my mom taking to post pictures of her grandkids. When considering Pew Research Center’s statistic that 72% of Facebook Users in 2016 fall between the ages of 50 and 64, apps like Flixel are simply asking too much of the user.

Second, this picture-video morphed format falls right through the cracks of standard content platforms because it isn’t optimized for either. Not on photo galleries nor Youtube or most video players would these nifty little moving pictures play well. Furthermore, I don’t believe they are effective for illustrating articles or blogs because they pull too much focus away from the content. Editorially speaking, imagery of any kind is paired with an article to complement content, not to outshine it. I also don’t believe billboards are a great option because displaying a moving picture would require a digital face, which most don’t outside major cities. I believe the best home for cinemagraphs is the GIF feature in chat applications like iChat and Facebook Chat, which often takes the place of a words.For example, if a friend asked me if I would like to meet for happy hour on Friday,

I might reply with this Gif of Alec Baldwin pouring  liquor. The entire image has been frozen except for the liquor, so it seems to never finish pouring as the video component loops but everything else remains still.

Renowned media scholar Marshall McLuhan theorized two types of media (as in the chart below), which I believe is relevant in explaining the limited success of the cinemagraph format.

Hot Media which requires minimal participation by the user because information is being spoon fed to them including movies, reading and lectures.

Cool Media uses low definition media and demands more interaction of the part of the audience for example, TV, dialogue, seminars, comic books.

 

Though McLuhan theorized long before the advent of smart phones, he might have found the devices to be both hot and cool at the same time, since phones have come to play so many roles. For instance, a FaceTime conversation would have been much cooler, but watching a movie movie would require minimal, so hot.

I suspect if McLuhan were around today, he would define the cinemagraph as a warm media, but not quite hot. Cinemagraphs have all the qualities of a photograph, but then spoon-feed key information which would have otherwise been up to the viewer to decipher. By animating just the air coming out of the girls mouth in the picture above, the viewer no longer has to study the otherwise still image enough to learn that.  Instead, its as if there is a big arrow that points “Look here!” In fact, I believe its just too hot a medium to challenge any viewer on platforms that otherwise thrive on dialogue and interactivity. No one posts entire movies in their social media status because its intended for cool media. Interactivity, dialogue and participation and reactions of short-form content is what drives the success of social media.

Credit:

McLuhan post by Diane Burley on Linkedin

 

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2018: Time to Go Live

What Do I think is going to be ‘YUGE in 2018? Live Video. Live Content. Live Everything. Live was big in 2017, and its going to be even bigger in 2018 as affordable hardware and access to high speed internet catches up with the technology. Live content and the stories feature on Instagram instantly dated all of our collections of pictures and its going to continue to make stale content even more obsolete. Net neutrality repeal aside, my prediction is that 2018 will be the year we move closer towards a state where content isn’t relevant if its not live. More individual consumers will be creating and consuming live video, companies will be using live video for corporate communication, announcements, investor relations, public relations and product demos for better transparency and cheaper production overhead. I leave you with the breathtaking NASA LIVE ISS feed.

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Wearable Technology: Too Close for Comfort?

Companies are now leveraging their intimate relationship with our bodies more than ever. Think about when you tuck into bed, get underneath the covers, shut off the lights and beam a charging iPhone towards your face, as if to get the last bits of information your already full mind can intake before clicking off to shut-eye. 

This race to get hardware as physically close to us as possible is showing no signs of slowing down. I believe its not consumers who are trying to get closer to their tech; rather, it’s the tech companies that are relentlessly latching themselves onto our bodies, one appendage at a time, in a race to see who will be the first to truly reach control of our brains. But what really counts is how successful they are at it.  
In 2014, Google Glass was released to the public at a mere $1,500 and thats all I have to say about that.

And in late 2016, lets not forget Shapchat Spectacles. Oh wait, did you already forget them? You wouldn’t be alone, along with the 99.92% of Snapchat users who didn’t spring for a pair.  As for me, I’ll keep my Maui Jims.

Google also partnered with Levi Strauss to design Jacquard, a connected jacket which allows users to, “connect to your digital live instantly and effortlessly. With a literal brush of your cuff, you can navigate your life while living it.” But is a jacket that can only be washed a handful of times what consumers are asking for? Especially those that spring for $350+ jackets, who are least likely to shop at Levi Strauss today. Perhaps Google should have partnered with a higher end brand with a customer base who spends $350 on a single jacket like John Varvatos, Prada, Marc Jacobs, SuitSupply, Paul Smith, Moncler, Lululemon or even The North Face. Take a stroll on Bedford avenue in Williamsburg and you’ll see that Levi Strauss is what millennial with money would refer to as their fathers or grandfather’s jeans.

Another concern about wearable technology is the health risks they present. According to The Guardian’s December 25, 2017 article “Techy Christmas Gifts Raise Child’s Cancer Risk,” California has recommended that residents take measures to keep more physical distance between themselves and their cell phones to minimize radiation exposures. California Department of Health further recommended that people sleep with phones shut off or at least an arms length, and in a bag rather than a pocket, and that ration exposure may be even more dangerous for children’s developing brains.

It takes much searching to find other articles as forthright on the health risks against wearable technology and smartphones as The Guardian. Its not that far-fetched a theory that Google might edit their algorithm to sink down search results focused on the risks of wearable technology, which they have a considerable stake in.  Or, perhaps wearable technology is still too new for the medical community to study the long-term effects.

That being said, do you feel comfortable wearing a watch that beams a heart rate sensor into your skin day and night?

 

Credit:

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Cityscape Backdrops for Video

Talking head videos can get pretty stale, so often clients will request that we find more creative shots. While there are only so many angles available with the standard abstract conference room faire, the only option left is to turn towards the window for a cityscape background. Sounds simple enough right? LOL

*Subjects blurred for privacy.

Under just the right conditions, this can be pretty painless. Overcast days leave a nice evenly lit background which, if your camera and lights are adjusted accordingly, is the most ideal circumstance with a lower risk of overexposure.

When weather changes. For a piece < 15:00, clouds movement aside, sun angle change will not be detectable unless sunrise or sunset. However, once you go into the half hour + you will begin to see the light changing as the sun’s angle moves across the sky, requiring regular stops for camera adjustments.

Night. This can be the trickiest, because everything in the room will inevitably be in your reflection if you’re not careful. A work-around is green-screening the shoot and imposing a nighttime background.

Overexposure. Lets say you have a beautiful shot. The sun is behind the clouds, all the components are just right. Your subject begins to read off a teleprompter and BAM, the sun comes out. Time to stop, and completely start again after about a half hour or resetting. For the rest of your shoot, expect to be chasing a moving target.

Hire an Expert Gaffer. Budget-dependent, if you have a client who is insistent on shooting out the window, hiring just the right gaffer will help make this work by blocking out the sun at just the right angle. Still though, add at least an hour to two hours to your start time if this is the case and expect lots of time-delays if the light changes.

Temperature. If you are sending your material out to be colored, then mixing color temperatures between your foreground and background won’t be as difficult. However if you are your own colorist and doing a quick job in Premiere or Avid, I don’t advise mixing color temperatures since color correcting will be much more difficult than if you can apply a single effect to the entire picture rather than a section of it. Nothing worse than a cool background and an orange subject (IE The Donald).

Watch out for Dirty Windows.  As you can see in the second example above, just to the left of the subject (camera left, subject right). there are lines on the window from rain. It can be tricky to get these out since when you start lowering your aperture to sharpen the focus and get these lines to appear less defined and blurry, you’re going to also risk overexposing your background since the higher the aperture, the larger the depth of field and more light that is being let in to the camera.

But they do it all the time on the news and in Donald Trump interviews. The news is recorded in perfectly lit studios with non-reflect windows with ND tints built in and has been designed specifically to get those perfect out the window shots. Never compare what you can do in a studio with what you can accomplish on the field with a portable camera, lighting and audio setup. Donald Trump often has interviews overlooking central park from his gaudy penthouse. However, (a) he often looks horribly orange because they typically throw tungsten lights on him, and he’s already very orange to begin with. (b) Trump also has gold items throughout his penthouse for decor, so light reflecting off these items will inevitably be warmer and give an orange glow, and (c) I’m assuming his living room contains some built-in studio lighting for interviews since he does them of often from there (which is why I always wonder why his lighting isn’t better!). and lastly (d) the background looks horrible in most of these interviews.

 

Bottom Line. When shooting out windows, under the right circumstances, the final product can be gorgeous. But when it fails, it can be a huge waste of time and money. If you have an exterior window interview shot, download an app that will tell you exactly where the sun will be at any given time throughout the day, look at the weather forecast, and be realistic with what can be achieved, especially on a perfectly sunny day.

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When Direction Changes

I just got off a transAtlantic flight and had the good luck of sitting next to a really interesting character. Of Welsh descent, he now resides with his wife and two kids in Connecticut and manages construction of large scale residential projects in the tri-state area. We got to discussing working with clients and he told me about the rare but frustrating situation where a client commissions a new construction home, tearing down the old property on the lot, with a price tag in the range 10-40 million dollars and up, demanding many architectural and design choices despite his recommendation otherwise. And when their shangri-la is complete to their specifications, some customers will change their mind and ask for something entirely different than they demanded. This new request often incorporates the contractor’s initial recommendations, which fell on deaf ears.

New Residential Wood Frame House being built next to an existing Mansion

It’s at this point where the changes to the project are dependent on how much the client is willing to fork over to rebuild or redesign. While this is good for the local economy by providing hardworking people with jobs, it doesn’t always fare well for the contractor whose business is reliant on their reputation and client relationships, trust and referrals, especially in markets where many of the customers know one another like a high end residential neighborhood. An unhappy customer, no matter how much extra they are paying, comes with a price tag that no business can afford.

It’s evident how this situation mirrors a challenge that many of my colleagues in creative professions experience on the regular. For designers, producers, artists, making the client understand costs they cannot see can be daunting. This is because resources in a creative field are a bit less apparent than in my aforementioned plane friend’s brick, mortar and white onyx marble business. While the construction manager can point to specific hard costs which include building materials, stones and workers, creative workers can only reference time, talents and intellectual property which might be viewed less concrete than….well, concrete.

When a client changes their mind, creatives have to find inventive ways of solving issues, fixing creative material and finding a common ground with the client, even with daily seachange in direction. Most important, avoid blaming the client and instead focusing on finding the solution because there always is one, no matter how difficult it is to see.

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Working with HGTV’s Drew Scott

Last month I got to work on a Grey Global shoot with HGTV’s Drew Scott for Ally Bank. Drew was an unbelievably awesome guy to work with. A consummate professional, charming and when the camera was rolling he really was just part of the crew. I was especially impressed with his ability to come up with funny ideas on the spot, which added so much to the production value of what we were shooting. The only challenge of working with Drew was the swarm of people (men and women alike) who wanted to meet him on the street wherever we went with him.   We basically had to fight people off with a stick, but he seemed used to it.

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Vine!

A few months ago I began co-producing original Vine series The Life Weasel with comedian Elena Simon. Out of 22 episodes, “Being Awkward w/ Your Black Friends,” has soared to 60,000 loops and grows by at 1,500 – 2,000 per day. Lets talk about why.

I’m not entirely sure why this episode has, and continues to be so successful. It’s likely a culmination of many things: social relevance, tight editing, strong hashtags, comic timing, the cows. Elena and I are wondering, did we tap into white guilt for having fleeting, borderline racist thoughts every so often?

Or, did we tap into the sense of humor that many black people have gained as a defense mechanism for dealing with that subtle brand of racism thats hard to pinpoint. Of course, having an awkward moment or thought doesn’t automatically mean someone is biased towards one group of people, or secretly harbors hatred or ill will. Our bottom line in making this episode was simply that people can be awkward sometimes, with no deeper underlying cause or nefarious intention.

Perhaps the popularity of this episode indicates that as a society we’re just getting started in a long conversation with race, and that comedy is merely serving the role of a giant, proverbial ice breaker.

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2016: Year of the ‘Social Short’

2016 will be the year of the Social Short. It’s all about micro-versions that supplement broadcast, print or web campaigns to extend reach and essentially get more bang for your buck. Social shorts are a series of videos or photos that are tacked onto a main shoot, re-appropriated from leftover content or cut directly from the main product.

pandora 2

FB social short

Facebook: Keep it wide (16×9) & upload a very high res file – old blue’s platform can finally handle it.  If you dont have a facebook page for your campaign, embedding via insta or Tweet is seamless.

Instagram: 15 second limit. While you can now upload media that is wide frame (16×9), I still rec the standard 1:1 height width ratio due to the mobile app’s vertical design.

life weasel vineVine: 5 rules – Quick, witty, funny, edgy, and raw. With a 6 second time limit, you’re going to find a very young audience here who loves comedy. Its good to incorporate music (licensing is super lax). To get views, posts need to be fresh, current and you should be an active part of the vine community both in sharing, liking, commenting on other pages, as well as posting original content. On-screen hosts should either be a recognizable celebrity or someone under 30, but ideally both. Another plus is the ability to categorize your post for a particular sub-community within vine (IE: Comedy) so your post can reach the right people. I currently co-produce an ongoing series for Vine called The Life Weasel, and have discovered that time of day really does have an impact. Young people are logging in after school, so anytime between 6-8 PM EST seems to be an ideal time.

YoutubeI include Youtube on this post, but the way the platform has evolved, I no longer see it as a social media platform since it is fast moving towards being a source of paid content and much less user generated / community based. The best part of incorporating Youtube into a campaign is its Google ownership, so videos are always highly searchable.

*Its important to remember that each upload really does need to be treated as its own micro-campaign and requires promotion and/or paid placement for real, valuable traffic. No upload should be treated as set-it-and-forget-it. These posts require promotion, preparation, keywording, proper thumbnails and sharing.

*Please note that Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+ are other great options, and I will report back when I have more hands-on experience with distributing social shorts on those platforms specifically.

To learn more about best practices in video, check back at rmp.nyc/blog

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