Why We Sold Our Canon C-Series Cameras and Bought Another RED (dragon)

There’s a really good blog post by Dave Wallace on why he sold his RED and bought a C100. Interestingly, I’ve gone the complete opposite way, selling our Canon and buying another RED. You can read Dave’s article here.

Back? Great!

Our story… back in 2007/2008, we took delivery of one of the very first RED One cameras. Up until that time, I’d been shooting with a variety of cameras, starting with the Panasonic DVX-100 and getting to the HVX-200. We used a bunch of frankenstein-like 35mm adapters with these cameras, because we were always about quality- and those cameras’ tiny sensors made everything look quite “video-y” without the 35mm adapters. When Jim Jannard introduced RED, I was sold. It was groundbreaking, and although the production process wouldn’t be as easy with the RED as with the Panasonic DVX-200, the huge jump in quality was worth it.

Unlike Dave, we didn’t start out on DSLRs, and so our tripods, steadicam, jib, and so forth were all “RED-ready”.  And we’d always done things film-style, with separate audio and camera people. After all, I’m from Hollywood.

Our RED One paid for itself in only two jobs. And we started getting better quality jobs, too- this is when my company got to jump up from “corporate video only” to “and TV commercials”. We did a series of TV commercials that won awards for their creativity as well as overall quality, all shot on RED.

But then, RED came out with Scarlet-X. I got one. I didn’t like it. It was loud, and its image was no better than the RED One MX. In some ways, it was worse (frame rates, no 4.5K). Realizing that the RED One was obsolete no matter what, we sold our RED and looked at replacements.

For awhile, we just rented Arri Alexas or REDs when we needed the highest quality images. But our in-house go-to camera became the C100 with Atomos Ninja2 recorder. And it was fine, for awhile- certainly the workflow was easier.

But the images… don’t stack up. Maybe for a lot of jobs, it doesn’t matter. But to me, given our mission statement… it mattered. I’m not saying you cannot create fantastic images on the Canon. We certainly did that. I’m super proud of a few projects in particular, where we really pushed the tech to its limits. But the flexibility in post (despite the additional work needed) and the flat-out advantages to more resolution just weren’t there with Canon (even Philip Bloom shoots in 4K for corporate interviews- these advantages matter. By the way, Philip sold his own C300 recently).

What I loved about the Canon: workflow, an ‘all-in-one’ camera out of the box, and the ability to shoot in less light (although I never used that).

And the Canon made me lazy. It was easy to “sort of” get the shot without taking the time to think things through or to bother really lighting things.

What’s worst is, it made me and my team feel like plain old corporate videographers. Not filmmakers. After all, the C100 is meant for wedding videographers. And clients were not as impressed and therefore didn’t always treat us or the project with the excitement we saw when we’d bring in a RED or Alexa. Perception matters.

As does Raw. One day, I got my hands on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera, and went out on the streets of New York City to play with it at night. I got home, and fired up my Mac Pro, and immediately was amazed at how much I could tweak the images more than the Canon imagery. I’d forgotten how much of an advantage shooting in Raw was. Now, the Blackmagic isn’t going to replace anyone’s main camera. But it did make me think, this is something I’ve been desperately missing in my year without RED.

To be fair, unlike a lot of other shops I’ve always been deep into the geeky side of things in post- we’re a full-on VFX house, and we have two DaVinci stations, here, not to mention ProTools and all the other expensive software and hardware that you’d normally find in companies 5 times our size. Quality matters, and we only go after projects where we can deliver quality to clients who appreciate that. We’re basically a mini-feature film studio, so we have always had the tools and pipeline to make it happen. But that’s us- and we’re not every production studio. If you’re not an excellent colorist and know how to run the big toys, RED probably isn’t the camera system for you.

Meanwhile, RED came out with its new Dragon sensor. It looks fantastic, and the new cameras solved my beefs with the first batches of Scarlets and Epics.

So, I bought one.

Is it the be-all-end-all camera? No. No camera is. But for our shop, which mainly does web and TV commercials, along with story-driven corporate films and narrative projects, it’s ideal for 90% of the jobs we do. If we did mostly docs, we’d go another way (such as C300 or even Sony- which we rent when doing documentary-style shoots).

In the end, choosing a camera is a very specific and unique process for everyone. What worked for Dave didn’t work for us- it actually worked against us. Our year without RED really helped me to understand who we are as a shop, and what makes us different than other production companies.

And that’s a good thing.

 

 

Posted by in Filmmaking, Rant

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Let’s Talk Video Production Budgets

The almighty dollar

For some reason, a lot of video production companies and creative agencies don’t like talking about budgets until late in the game. That’s not how we work. In fact, one of our very first questions we ask clients is “what’s your budget for this project?”.

There’s two very good reasons why we are upfront about money when speaking with a prospective client:

  • Budget drives scope. If a client comes to us and says “I have $XXX to spend”, we can set expectations immediately, and come up with creative directions that make the most of what they have. It’s like buying a house- how weird would it be if a buyer came to an architect and said “I want a house!” and the architect had no direction from the buyer on their overall budget? When you’re buying a house, your budget helps determine how big the house is, where it’s built, and how nice the finishings are. An architect wouldn’t randomly create blueprints for you without having an idea of the parameters in which he must work. Nor will we.
  • It weeds out tire-kickers. If you can’t even say approximately what your budget is for a project, it’s not a real project, yet. If someone wants to get a rough feel for how working with us would be in the future, great. We’ll talk to you for 5 minutes on the phone, we’ll even give you some sample budget ranges, maybe. But we will not make up proposals for clients whose projects do not yet exist.

Our overall philosophy about “the money talk” is this: our time is our most valuable asset. We don’t want you to waste our time, and we don’t want to waste yours. So, being honest and upfront about budgets from our very first contact is a very important thing.

Interestingly, most sophisticated clients embrace our approach, and that has made us a very in-demand agency in both New York and Los Angeles.

Camera News: The RED Dragon Breathes Fire @ PatrickOrtman, Inc.

 

Red-Epic

 

I (Patrick) was an early adopter with RED. I bought my first RED camera in 2007- one of the first RED ONE cameras available, and of course RED’s groundbreaking cameras went on to film ‘The Social Network’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’,  ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, ‘The Hobbit’, and so forth. I loved giving my clients the high-end services we could with RED. And I loved shooting our award-winning film ‘Unlaced’ with it.

Then, we had  period of time where it didn’t make sense for us to own an in-house RED. We rented them, though, for clients who wanted the ultra-high-res imagery. I missed RED’s technology on the jobs where the clients chose other camera systems, sometimes- the RED’s ability to shoot Raw, 4K film-style video is something that really helps on a lot of jobs. Even so, it wasn’t the best choice for every job, and it was VERY expensive, so we invested in other camera systems.

Now, RED’s come out with DRAGON, their latest-generation sensor. This thing is amazing! It’s light-years ahead of our old RED MX camera. It gave me one of those ‘oh, my!’ moments, when you realize that the technology in your hot little hands can create images that you’d only dreamed of until then.

And our business has grown, to where we’re working with more of the higher-end advertising agencies and clients on a regular basis. You know, the kinds of clients who want ‘the best’. Disclaimer: the RED Dragon’s not ‘the best’ for every job. But it’s ‘the best’ for a lot of them, if you have the budget in your project to support it.

So, I decided to get one for ourselves, as our in-house high-end cinema camera system. This way, we get the advantage of having it all the time, which lets my team master it (like we did with the R1) in ways you just cannot if you rent. And, we can now offer this level of imagery to clients who otherwise couldn’t afford it. We’ll still do a lot of jobs on our other, more affordable camera systems. But this lets us compete even more strongly with the ‘big guys’.

I’m really excited!

 

Two More Telly Wins for PatrickOrtman, Inc.

telly

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve won yet another two Telly awards for our video production work. These two are for our 2013 project for MPAC in Los Angeles called “American Muslims, America’s Leaders”, which celebrated MPAC’s 25 year anniversary.

The project was written and directed by Patrick Ortman, and MPAC’s executive producer was Hasnain Syed. Special thanks to Jessica Rothert, and the MPAC staff and volunteers.

The concept behind the video was to imagine how American Muslims would be seen, 25 years from now. We imagined a world where American Muslims are an even more vibrant part of our country’s political, artistic, and corporate landscape.

“I did some thinking about my own heritage- especially the Irish part of me” says writer-director Patrick Ortman “and I realized that when the Irish came over to America, it took some time for them to really become known as a strong part of our country. It’s the same for any group. And America’s this amazing place, because we’re the melting-pot. We all have strengths and points of view that can make us stronger, that make our country better. I wanted to show this process in the American Muslim community, which is a community a lot of us don’t know much about, and one filled with stereotypes.”

Patrick teamed up with Oscar-winning special effects makeup house B2 Productions in Hollywood to help realize his vision. “Those guys, wow- it was fantastic watching them take our 20-something MPAC interns and turn them into middle-aged people. I’m glad we reached out to them, and I’m grateful they took the time to do the job right. Of course, I spent some time wandering around their shop and taking in the amazing body of work they’ve done. You have to, right? I mean, they did Mr. Spock’s ears!”

MPAC’s Hasnain Syed adds “Going into this project, we wanted to make a bold statement on our vision of the future and a manifestation of America’s diversity as it’s core strength. To achieve this, both the message and visuals had to be impactful and visionary, without leaning on recycled ideas.

We had to turn to Patrick as our partner in bringing this vision into fruition. From the start, he told us to throw technical & budgetary limitations out the window and just think big. A great partner is one who keeps his eye on the project’s overall vision and emotional impact, without letting details detract from the end goal.

In Patrick, we have someone to imagine with, not someone who just executes or takes directions. If there’s a better way, or a different approach, he’ll say it.

MPAC works to make American Muslims a positive, integral and contributing member in America’s fabric. The video is a reflection of our work and it’s fruits in the future.”

These Telly awards come on the heels of Patrick’s Telly and ADDY-winning TV commercial “Meet Biff” for the Paffrath Organization

Both winning videos are also online at http://patrickortman.com

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New Web Promo Commercial- iPhone App What’s Free

I directed this one in Texas, and it was HOT out.

What’s Free is a killer iPhone app- it knows where you are, and it finds cool free stuff you and your friends will love! This is our promo created for What’s Free, learn more about the app at getwhatsfree.com

Content © What’s Free

National Video Agency PatrickOrtman, Inc. Wins Los Angeles ADDY Award for Real Estate TV Commercial

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

National Video Agency PatrickOrtman, Inc. Wins Los Angeles ADDY Award for Real Estate TV Commercial

 

Los Angeles- March 11, 2014– National boutique video agency PatrickOrtman, Inc. has won an ADDY award of merit trophy for its TV commercial “Meet Biff” directed and produced for California real estate company The Paffrath Organization.

“Kevin (Paffrath) has a vision for his company’s marketing that is unique, and wanted to create a commercial that really turned heads”, says agency founder and TV spot director Patrick Ortman. “When we were awarded this TV commercial project, our mandate was to create a spot that looked like a national TV commercial, but at a much lower budget. It was an experiment- can we compete with the work of bigger agencies, with fewer resources, and come out on top? We did, and we’re very proud of the results. This ADDY award, knowing we were up against far-better funded projects, is a nice validation of that success, and of our partnership with Kevin’s organization. Los Angeles is a highly competitive place- we feel honored.”

“Take the leap of faith; do what no one else is doing. Go all in” agrees Paffrath CEO Kevin Paffrath. “Patrick did a phenomenal job. Patrick has my business for life!”

About The Paffrath Organization
With the trademarked “No-Pressure Agents” slogan, their goal is becoming their  clients’ Realtor for life. It’s not just about one transaction; it’s about helping clients grow their aspirations while making educated investment decisions to build long-term wealth. Visit their website at http://www.meetkevin.com.

About PatrickOrtman, Inc.
PatrickOrtman, Inc. is a leading boutique national video production agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York City, and Austin. The company has worked with 9 Fortune 500 companies, and is known for creating national-quality work for clients across a variety of industries. Learn more at http://patrickortman.com.

Contact:

Crystal Cartwright
http://patrickortman.com
(818) 505-1988

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Our 2013 in Review

It’s hard to believe it’s 2014, already. Last year was a really interesting year for me as a director, and my company as a corporate video production company and film production company. Thank you to everyone who played a (positive) part in our journey in 2013, and here’s to a fantastic 2014!

Last year my film “Unlaced” won BEST DIRECTOR at FirstGlance Film Festival in Los Angeles. It also won a PLATINUM REEL award at the Nevada Film Festival, and played at about half a dozen other festivals, big and small, around the USA. We’ll be continuing to promote “Unlaced” in 2014, as I work on a new film.

On the TV commercial front, I directed a number of TV commercials in 2013. My favorite, though, was for Southern California realtor Kevin Paffrath, because Kevin’s one of those guys who’s extremely picky about quality, and yet creatively open. I loved producing and directing his “Meet Kevin” TVC, and it’s currently airing.

I got to be creative for several other clients in 2013, too. One of which is MPAC, who gave us almost total creative freedom to come up with an original way to show the impact MPAC has had in the community over the past 25 years. I suggested that, instead of looking back, let’s look forward. They trusted me, and we worked together to create something special- a vision of MPAC 25 years from now. On that project, much of the budget went to special effects makeup, and we worked with Academy-Award-Winning B2FX in North Hollywood to realize our vision.

I have a feeling both of these projects will win some awards.

In April, we tried something new- creating lawyer videos for members of NARAS at their San Diego convention. I had a lot of fun, and met some interesting characters there. It’s not the kind of work we’d usually go after, but it’s nice to stretch, and we got lots of compliments on the work. I like working with small businesses, and attorneys qualify as that, as part of our client mix.

We did a lot of corporate video production work in 2013, too- including work for Seattle’s Real Networks, a large university and nonprofit company that had us in NYC, Boston, DC, and Minneapolis, a large pharmaceutical company, a company in the United Kingdom, a startup in Toronto, Canada, and a real estate company in Austin, Texas. Among others- we did a LOT of corporate films in 2013. Some of those projects will end up on our reel, and I thank everyone who’s trusted us to tell their story in video in 2013.

Some video agencies look down their noses at corporate work. We don’t. I have always believed an important thing is to treat every client with respect, and to raise the quality of the storytelling and production whenever possible. Because good work begets good work.

And in 2013, we did a helluva lot of good work, for clients big and small, all over the United States.

Last year we also expanded. Bigtime. We kept our Los Angeles location, and added a local New York City presence, and a full-on Austin, Texas post-production studio.

Why’d we do that?

Well, simply put, as a video and film director, I want to work on interesting projects for interesting clients. And there were so many potential clients who’d call us up, asking if we would work with them. But they did not want to travel to Los Angeles. This was especially true for NYC clients. And rightfully so. Of course, that meant I spent a LOT of time in the air in 2011 and 2012, flying to clients and working with ad-hoc crews. I quickly realized that having a small permanent network of reliable resources across the country would better suit the nature of the work we were getting. I knew this was something only the largest video agencies out there had, but I saw the opportunity to grow in a way that would keep us responsive (which our clients love), yet give us the ability to cater to these clients and their interesting projects located throughout the USA and Canada. So, I did it. I put it all on the line.

And it paid off. Our LA office is still super-busy. But our NYC presence is getting serious action now, too- and our Austin Post Studio is coming online in an exciting way.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. That’s 2013. A lot of fun creative work, a lot of bread-and-butter, but still good work, and a massive expansion of our capabilities that required us to put it all on the line- and which is paying off, fast.

There’s always challenges in business. But I’m grateful that our little company is growing, and growing in a way that stays true to our mission of providing world-class video production services to clients at a reasonable price

Los Angeles Video Production Company PatrickOrtman, Inc. Completes High-Profile 25th Anniversary Web Video For The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

(This press release was posted to the world, but never made our blog. Oops!)

PRESS RELEASE: Los Angeles, California- Los Angeles based video & film director Patrick Ortman announces the completion of the 25th anniversary promotional video for Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. based nonprofit Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

The video’s unique concept, traveling 20 years into a possible future where Muslims are more accepted in positions of impact and leadership in American politics, the entertainment industry, and in media, was realized visually through PatrickOrtman, Inc.’s partnership with Oscar-winning Barney Burman’s B2FX special effects company. “Working with B2FX was critical in realizing our vision. We had to age them realistically 20 years into the future, and the client absolutely did not want it to look cheesy” says Ortman “MPAC trusted us with a concept that was perhaps a bit creatively risky, so we went to the best- and we’re thrilled with how it turned out.”

Hasnain Syed, Creative Director at MPAC, added “Having had previous experience working with Patrick, I turned to him to help us create a unique video about our organization. Patrick loves to think outside the box. We needed someone who was not going to follow convention, but throw ideas out of left field – which is exactly what we got. What makes Patrick stand out is that he values ideas before execution. If the idea is great and catchy, he’ll figure out a way to make it happen within your time and budget. That there is an awesome partner to create awesome projects.”

MPAC is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of American Muslims.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is a leading Los Angeles-based video production company with offices in New York, NY and Austin, TX.

Wrapping a Bi-Coastal Project

Los Angeles Wrap Shots- 2013

Here we are in Los Angeles this week, at the wrap of our recent bi-coastal video production project (we can’t say who it’s for, yet). We shot in Boston, Washington D.C., New York City, Minneapolis, and in Los Angeles and San Francisco for this one, and the best thing of all about this project (besides the people) is it’s a project that can make a difference in the world, for children.

That’s a fitting project with which to close out the year.

Except we’re not done with 2013, yet. We still have three other projects in process at our various locations, and two of those are at our new Austin, Texas location.

Oh, and this next photo is how we all felt inside to wrap this amazing project:

Joyful Wrap

 

New Blackmagic Toy, New Work

Blackmagic Camera

Here’s our latest video production tool. OK, toy. But a very, very nice toy. I mean, tool. We’ve been testing one of the world’s first Blackmagic Pocket Cinema cameras, as we prepare to do a big project on both coasts of the USA. The camera takes some getting used to, but I love the picture it gives, and being used to the RED world, I’m not scared to shoot in full-manual mode with our lenses. To me, that’s normal. And I’m used to the idea of making the color happen in post. What the Blackmagic gives us is an incredibly small, incredibly flexible tool to capture all sorts of gorgeous images.

If you’re looking for an automatic camera that fixes your mistakes- don’t get this cam. But if you’re looking for a tool that’ll let you dial in exactly the look you want, and you’re doing higher-end pro projects, get one. Or two. They’re tiny.

About PatrickOrtman, Inc.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is one of the top-rated video production companies in Los Angeles and New York City. We make high-end corporate videos, and commercials for TV and digital for clients that include 11 Fortune 500s.