18Jun

Lawyer TV Commercial Production

I’ve been noticing a lot more terrible lawyer tv commercials, lately. I won’t advertise (or embarrass) the law firms putting them out, directly. After all, some of them aren’t being terrible on purpose- they just don’t know any better. It’s painful, though, knowing what these law firms are paying to broadcast their commercials. If you’re going to do tv commercials, you really should do them right.

I directed and produced a few award-winning lawyer television spots for my client and good friend Michael Leizerman about 18 months ago, which started airing regionally about 11 months back, and which have won awards as well as new clients for us both. So I got to learn a lot about law firm tv spots, what works and what doesn’t. Law firm tv commercials are, in a lot of ways, a unique animal. And they’re very easy to get wrong.

The first thing I’d tell a law firm interested in diving into television commercials is, think about your image and spend some time developing your story in a way that’s flattering to your firm. Too many lawyer tv commercials are thrown together haphazardly, and make your firm look foolish. Since our award-winning lawyer tv spots started airing, I’ve spoken with several potential clients who’ve called us up, offered us a pile of money, and told me that they wanted me to shoot them tomorrow, without a script and with no planning whatsoever. That doesn’t work. Find someone who understands story, and let them work with you to create a script that makes your firm look amazing.

Second, it’s important to spend the money on quality video production services. Don’t skimp and buy the internet special $399 commercial. Be smart- what you’re interested in doing here is telling your story and rising above the competition. A lowball production company will put out garbage that absolutely makes you look as foolish or as mediocre as the 30 other law firms they’re promoting. Go with someone with taste and chops. Like my firm, of course. And it helps to work with an actual director like me, as opposed to a videographer. Why? I know how to get great performances from you. The videographer knows how to hit ‘record’.

Third, don’t skimp on post production. If you have a great story, and got some great performances during production, then some effort in post production will make your commercial shine far brighter than the competition.

In a nutshell, mediocrity is a huge waste of money and makes you look stupid. The whole point of doing tv commercials for your law firm is to rise above the competition. To blow them out of the water. To get your unique story out there in a way that attracts new clients for your firm. To do these things, you need to put your best foot forward. Create something that works for you, not against you.


Patrick Ortman is a tv commercial director, and his Los Angeles based, world-traveling production company creates award-winning, successful video marketing for clients across the USA and abroad. You can contact him here.

11Jun

New Apple Stuff

Apple released some new stuff, today. Some good, some bad.

The good: the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I can see this as the new hub of a video editing/creative suite- but only if you get a thunderbolt display, and the new Magma PCI expansion box. Why the Magma box? Because professionals use lots of very expensive PCI cards to do their jobs. For me, that means (at minimum) a RED Rocket, a BlackMagic Design video card, and an NVIDIA GPU expander. That’s the minimum for me to run things like DaVinci Resolve and work with RED footage. Of course, I’d want a couple other cards, too, but Magma will only take 3 cards. And set you back another $1K.

So, OK, a laptop could theoretically do for editing. Theoretically. But you’ll need max out this MacBook Pro, too. And that’s not cheap.

But the retina display’s wicked cool.

What I’m really disappointed with Apple about: the Mac Pro tower. The tool of pros everywhere. Today, Apple basically gave us a collective “f you”, and refused to put reasonable connections on it (no USB3, no thunderbolt), still only 3 PCI slots, and the same useless ATI graphics brand.

I think we’ll hold on to our lovely maxed out previous generation Mac Pro towers, thank you.

8Jun

New Client Web Promo Video

Here’s a web promo video I created for a new online company called PLUSdoc. PLUSdoc is the world’s first verified patient review system, and the video is meant for a very specific audience: skeptical doctors who need to learn about how to harness social media and review systems to help build their practices. It’s definitely not a TV commercial, but web promos can be a lot of fun.

What’s more, the client let me bring in some live action scenes to relate better to the audience, which we shot at a real medical center in Encino, California. I think, and he agreed, that the live action work really added to the project’s appeal to doctors.

I directed, Aaron Champion AD’d, and we shot a mix of greenscreen and on-location RED 4K footage for the promo.

3Jun

Food Truck Documentary

grillemall

We’ve been shooting video footage for a documentary produced by our client in the UK, and it’s been a blast. The documentary’s on Food Trucks in Los Angeles, and it’s been quite an interesting jump into a thriving culture for me. Best of all, almost everyone we’ve spoken with or shot has been incredibly friendly. And, of course, finding a good lunch or dinner’s pretty easy on these sets.

22May

Thoughts On Photography

Like a lot of filmmakers, I also spend time doing still photography. Unlike a lot of photographers, I love taking pictures of people, not just buildings or landscapes. I love taking photos of all kinds of people, almost always using natural light. Sometimes I take photo gigs for pay, and it’s always a rewarding experience. Today was one of those days.

All of a sudden in the middle of a shoot, I realized a truth: as a photographer you’re in every picture you take.

This is true on a physical level, as your image will show up in the subject’s eye when you shoot closeups. And it’s true on a deeper, less tangible level, too.

What I mean is, your vibe- your energy- will reflect back at you when you’re shooting. If you’re having a bad day and putting that out into the universe, you’ll see it in your photos, in the subject’s face, somehow. It’s subtle, but it’s there. If you’re having a great time, enjoying the process, and enjoying the person you’re shooting, well, that comes back to you in the photo, too.

When I shoot somebody, I feel incredibly privileged. I know that I’m asking them to let me in, and that can be a very intimate thing. When I get the chance to see someone with their guard down, being themselves instead of putting on the masks we all must wear to protect ourselves, it’s a beautiful, honest moment.

That’s what I am trying to capture. And it requires that I, as the photographer, also let my subject in. I must be as completely vulnerable, open, and alive,  as the person whose image I am capturing. Because that’s when the good stuff happens.

17May

Thoughts on Facebook

GM just pulled its ads from Facebook, because they don’t work. Studies show that Google has a far higher click through rate than Facebook, and that their ads have far better reach than Facebook’s. Here’s a good article from BusinessInsider about it, although this stuff is now all over the interwebs.

One of the points of this particular article that I hope everyone notices is that advertising on Facebook is actually FREE. If you create compelling content.

Well, well, well. So here we are, a few years after everybody got all hot and bothered about tweeting and status updates for their brands, and put all their money into building social media “presences” instead of creating quality content. The tide has begun to turn, as businesses realize that getting people to talk about your brand only matters when you have something cool/fun/useful to say, and which leads to actual purchase decisions.

Finally, content is king, again. If you’re smart.

If it sounds like I have a love/hate relationship with social media, you’re right. I love how social media can connect us and keep us involved in each others’ lives. But I hate how most of it has been vapid claptrap nobody cares about, and that goes triple for corporate presences in social media. Too often, it’s just noise. And noise sucks. In the end, Facebook is one of many tools a smart business can take advantage of and use to build and communicate with audiences.

Let’s get back to work, people. How to do that?

First, create cool, killer products and services that matter. Then, hire an agency like mine to craft compelling stories that help sell your awesomeness.

As for Facebook’s IPO, and the effect of corporations finally wising up to reality and refocusing their efforts on Facebook’s bottom line: I really don’t care. The billionaires and insiders will get richer (especially that Facebook founder who just renounced his U.S. citizenship to save millions of dollars in taxes), and the poor saps who invest at the wrong time will get taken for a ride.

16May

Hot Rodding RED-MX

I make films with a lot of different cameras. But my favorite cam is still the RED MX. It’s absolutely perfect for cinematic shooting. Problem is, it’s a little bulky at times. So I’ve been working at hot rodding our faithful serial #2464 to give it some new life, and let me use it a bit more often in tight spaces and flying on my steadicam.

As great as the camera itself is (built like a tank, all the ins and outs a pro needs, stunning RED Epic sensor inside which makes gorgeous Oscar-nominated pictures), RED really failed on the accessories side of things. They clearly erred on the side of “make it big and heavy”. And expensive. Here’s a few of our hot-rod pieces that I’ve found that make things much, much nicer for camera operators and for day to day use:

Longvalley Equipment lightweight 15mm rods for RED ONE and MX
This setup is awesome! It replaces several pieces of heavy RED hardware with an elegant 15mm rod setup that lives on the front of your camera. It’s not only lightweight, but it also lets you finally take best advantage of the 15mm rod accessories out there (the stock RED supports are 19mm). The 15mm world has a ton of lightweight and much cheaper accessories thanks to the DSLR explosion. Best of all, my existing follow focus and matte box are convertible to the 15mm standard.

SmallHD monitor and EVF System
Again- lightweight, great quality, and the ability to use the RED menus. The whole system weighs less than the plain RED LCD monitor we also own, and it weighs about 2 lbs less than the RED EVF.

These two sets of hotrod tweaks to my RED MX make it possible to do handheld and steadicam shots I wasn’t able to easily get, before. It cuts about 6 pounds of weight from our setup- when you have a camera on your shoulder, that’s a huge difference. More than just cutting weight, it also cuts bulk. Now, my RED MX is about the same dimensions as a new RED Epic, when the Epic is using the pro i/o module. That’s stunning!

Of course, the next phase in this process is getting rid of the stupid, FAA-banned RED brick batteries and replacing those with airline-friendly, lighter weight batteries. I can’t wait!

9May

Do You Need a Mobile Website?

In most cases, you do not need a mobile website. What you need is a website that’s designed and built to work on a variety of platforms- from desktop to mobile- automatically. If you build your website using web standards, you’ll be about 90% there.

The only reasons for having a mobile-only website are if you have large Flash items on your site (most mobile devices, smartphones, etc., don’t do Flash), if your homepage is extremely “heavy” (tons of scripts and big graphics), or if you have a legitimate need to present totally different information to your mobile audience.

The money spent developing a mobile website is often better spent enhancing and streamlining your main website.

I know, short post. You’re welcome.

9May

SEO Spam- Beware!

Like a lot of businesses, we get a ton of spam emails. From phishers trying to get you to put your account info into a phony site, to that crazy Nigerian prince, still trying to get that $8 million out of his country, which he could, if you’d only give him your bank account information. But one spam tactic that’s been a bit more than annoying lately is “SEO consultants” sending emails offering their services.

These aren’t real SEO consultants, of course. It’s just spam. But they send messages claiming that your site isn’t performing well on Google, and promising 1st page results if you only give them your information.

Many businesses probably fall for these spammers. After all, everybody wants a great ranking in search results on Google, right? Here’s a sample from today’s email:

“I think you should know that your site isn’t being properly promoted on Google. I don’t know if you’re satisfied with your current results, but it appears that not enough is being done (almost nothing, to be frank) to make sure you reach the top 1st page results. I’m promoting sites in much more competitive markets and have promoted tens of sites with excellent results. (First results for extremely competitive keywords). In addition, I’m the owner of a global Internet-marketing training center, which you’re invited to view and form your own personal impression of, available at www.eMarketSchool.com. I can assure you with all confidence that I can promote your site on Google better than its current position, and I’d love to show how you may significantly improve your rankings. -David Moore”

Scary, right? But not to worry, David Moore of eMarketSchool.com has the solution!

Too bad it’s all bullcrap. First of all, we pretty much own the keywords that matter to our business on Google. First page results all around. Secondly, perhaps more importantly, David Moore’s eMarketSchool.com has, itself, an absolutely terrible Google search ranking. Abysmal!

If I didn’t have a policy against working for nitwits and spammers, I’d say we should help Mr. Moore market his failing site.

And for those reading this, hoping to learn something about how to actually get a better search result on Google, there’s no real trick to it. Just create and publish relevant content for your audience, through a well-structured blog and website. The search engine love will follow.

7May

New website and web video launch… coming.

We just finished work on a huge new website design project that includes a web promo video as well. I can’t say much, but it should be publicly launching in a couple of weeks. I can say the whole team’s pretty excited, and that the web application part of the project was massive and turned out great.

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