Quantity or Quality

I just watched a short film from a guy I know, and it really struck me that his movie would have been a lot better if it was half the length. Not just in terms of tightening up the story a bit, but also by giving him an effectively larger per-minute budget, which would let him compete with the big guys.

See, there’s a reason national TV commercials cost millions of dollars to make, and feature films cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to create. If you want to compete with the big guys, you need to find ways to increase your production value on your limited budget. In my experience, one of the best ways to do that is by simply making a shorter film.

In filmmaking, if given the choice, I’d go for quality over quantity every time.

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Making a Corporate Video

Corporate Video Production Tip of the Week: When you settle on a video production company to work with, you should really include their input from the beginning, at the conceptual stage of your video. It’s always amazing to me that some clients don’t ask for help when it’s time to flesh out their ideas. A good director or production company can really help you put your best foot forward, and make the most of the budget you have. We know all the tricks about how to make you look great, and we want your project to succeed. A few paid hours upfront can save you untold pain and suffering later on.

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Website Design Wednesdays- What is a Good Website Redesign?

Welcome to Website Design Wednesday. It’s a new thing, I’m hoping it catches on. Today’s topic: what is a good website redesign? I know a lot of people wonder about this subject. Well, I do at least. Here’s some things that a great website redesign should get right:

Don’t screw up your audience’s expectations.
Oh, sure. I bet you were thinking I’d talk about CSS or web standards. We’ll get to those, someday. But first, you need to keep your audience in mind. If they’ve gotten used to using your site one way, you better have a very good reason for making huge changes to that experience. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make wholesale changes to your site architecture. But if you do make huge changes, you should really make them with your audience in mind. Anticipate their needs. How can you do this? By spending a bit of time with your Google Analytics or whatever website stats app you use. Learn how your audience is using your site today, before making changes that could mess them up.

Simple is good.
Many times in a web redesign project, we’re asked to have a billion huge buttons screaming and competing for attention. That’s just nutso. Don’t fill up the pages with billions of competing messages. Settle on a few key actions you want people to do when they visit your site. If you do that, I’ll stop exaggerating. Truth is, we’re not asked for billions of huge, competing buttons. It’s usually in the low millions at most.

Consistency is better.
Websites that don’t work the way you think they should ruin the experience and make customers hate you. A consistent user interface throughout the site is best. But it’s not just the UI I’m talking about, here. A certain consistency in the tone of the written and visual content of your website goes a long way towards a successful website redesign.

Make sure the new design fits your brand’s image.
Every once in a while, a potential client will tell us they want a website that’s nothing like any of their marketing or advertising materials. Something that doesn’t truthfully reflect the company. This is almost always a mistake. Your brand is something that needs to be nurtured and carefully protected. It’s OK to extend your brand or identity by stepping out a little with your website. But the best websites are readily identifiable as representing the brands and organizations they were created for. There’s a reason for this.

That’s all for today- happy Website Design Wednesday!

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Wabi-Sabi

Michael Tuck wrote a great article today on Six Revisions called The Wabi-Sabi Aesthetic. Wabi-Sabi applies to all sorts of design, not just website design or page layout. Most good filmmakers use a bit of the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, like when we’re working on tv commercials or whatever for clients. We commonly add a little bit of imperfection, or organic elements, to shots in order to better sell them. Sometimes it’s adding a bit of grain, a lens flare, or even a bit of camera shake. The idea is, sterile perfection is not what you should aspire to. A little bit of imperfection is much more interesting to us humans.

If you create things, it’s pretty cool to keep the Wabi Sabi aesthetic in mind.

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Valentines Day

What can Valentines Day teach us about marketing our businesses? Plenty.

1) Planning matters. If you leave your marketing plans to chance, odds are you’ll end up with the equivalent of dining at Dennys. Not cool.

2) You know that guy, the one who over compensates every Valentines Day because he doesn’t lift a finger to show his appreciation the rest of the time? Don’t be that guy. Your digital marketing needs to be purposeful… and ongoing. It’s not enough to tell your customers you love them once a year.

3) If you build it, they will come. Valentines Day is a made up holiday created by the greeting card industry. They made it up out of thin air. And yet, it worked. Same with your marketing, assuming you have a good product or service. So get your story out there!

Happy Valentines Day!

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MPAC Chooses Us To Redesign Website

Los Angeles Digital and Interactive Agency PatrickOrtman, Inc. Completes the Website Redesign for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

LOS ANGELES, Calif., Jan. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) proudly announces that digital agency PatrickOrtman, Inc. has completed an extensive redesign of the nonprofit’s website.

“We’re very proud of the new website design, and it couldn’t have happened without PatrickOrtman, Inc. It’s a much friendlier and accurate reflection of our organization as we have grown,” says Hasnain Syed, Communications Designer at MPAC.

The new website was designed to give policy makers, members of the Muslim American community, and the citizenry at large the resources and information needed to help make better decisions that impact the Muslim American community and our nation.

“Working with MPAC was a great experience, and not just because it’s always nice to work with people who want to make the world a better place,” says agency founder Patrick Ortman. “They also listened to our expertise, as we listened to their needs, and that really helped the project succeed. The website redesign was a true partnership.”

Created in 1988, 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. Their website is at www.mpac.org.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is a digital agency based in Los Angeles, California. They’ve designed websites and created video and interactive projects for 8 Fortune 500 clients and hundreds of smaller organizations. Their website is at www.patrickortman.com.

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Happy Year of the Rabbit

greenRabbit

New Years’ resolutions hardly ever work, because we don’t tend to integrate our new habits with our lives- we look at the resolutions as short term fixes. Thus, we fail. It’s the same thing with marketing. If you want to succeed, marketing needs to become something that your company does on an ongoing basis. It needs to become a part of your DNA. It requires an ongoing commitment.

This is especially true with digital marketing. We’ve designed stunning websites and video or social media marketing campaigns for companies in the past who didn’t embrace the program, but instead hired us for a short term fix. After some initial success, the work invariably loses effectiveness.

It’s kind of like building a beautiful house. If you hire a great architect, get a great set of blueprints, hire a great construction company to build it, and so forth, you’ll have a great house. But time and the elements will conspire to take that great house and turn it into a rusty shack if you don’t maintain it properly. You need to cut the lawn and paint, you need to update the systems regularly, and sometimes you need to do a complete remodel. The thing is, unlike a house, your digital marketing is aging on “internet time”.

On the one hand, it’s a real drag to have to consistently invest in your digital marketing. On the other hand, it’s probably the best investment your business can make. By understanding that your commitment to digital marketing needs to be ongoing, you up your chances of success.

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What Makes You Special?

When a business or organization comes to us for a project, the first thing we often have to do is figure out what makes them special. Unless your products truly are commodities, there’s something about your company that makes it a little different from the next guy. It’s important to show your potential customers just how you’re different, and we really work to do that, whether the project at hand is a website redesign, a tv commercial, or whatever. Sure, all this is about branding. But it’s deeper than that, and not a lot of companies take the time to differentiate themselves.

When I first came to Los Angeles, we needed a business attorney for our company. We spent a lot of time trying to find one who understood the convergence of digital/Internet and Hollywood. What was the problem? Well, every piece of marketing material put out by every law firm in LA looked exactly the same. The similarity of these lawyer tv commercials, marketing brochures, etc made every one of those lawyers seem part of a bland sea of faceless, interchangeable cogs.

Now, I know a lot of those law firms spent a lot of money marketing their businesses. Too bad they were mostly failed efforts and wasted money, because nobody took the time to figure out why their firm was special. And yes, eventually we did find a good attorney, but it was through a personal referral.

Sure, there’s tons of books and seminars designed to help businesses figure out their USP (unique selling proposition) and the basics of branding. But after working in this digital marketing business for the last decade-plus, it’s become painfully clear that business owners and their staffs typically don’t have the time to do all this on their own. They’re so busy running their business that it’s tough to find the time or the vision to really look at their company and figure out what makes them different from everyone else. It’s up to their marketing resources- whether internal or external, like us, to help them down this path.

More than ten years after coming to Los Angeles, almost every lawyer’s marketing still looks the same. I’m starting to see some changes, though, including one law firm we work with in the midwest who really seems to get it. Every organization has something special about them. Once you find out what that is, and make sure that your marketing reflects that, you’re golden.

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New RED Color Science Test- Our Video Promo

Back in 2009, our very first “real” project shooting on RED in a greenscreen environment was our own promotional video, as seen on our website’s homepage. Well, one of the huge advantages of shooting in the state-of-the-art RED RAW format is the color science improves with each build of the camera’s system. This means you can go back and get better and better results as the color science improves.

We shot our original promo using RED version 16, and now we’re at RED version 30. Just for fun, I thought it’d be fun to resurrect our old footage and see what re-rendering it through build 30 did for it. I was blown away! The quality of colors, the ease of pulling the greenscreen key, and so on really blew my mind.

You see, this particular video shoot wasn’t shot under the best of conditions- not only were we using an early version of RED, we also were shooting without enough light (the footage was underexposed by a stop or so), and we had some very serious IR (infrared) contamination at the soundstage to deal with. It was a mess.

Bottom line: I spent days massaging the old footage to get it to where it was good enough to present to the world. In the end, I was reasonably happy with the results. But this time, I spent one day working on the video. And it’s far superior to the original.

Here’s the results, courtesy of Vimeo. You’ll also see this on our homepage shortly:

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Response to Happy Cog- Story!

Jeffrey Zeldman over at Happy Cog wrote a post recently about how it’s our responsibility to design websites that are better than good. As he wraps up, he asks an interesting question:

“Engaging sites and apps have that extra something that commands our loyalty without demanding our constant attention. It isn’t a showy opulence, and it isn’t a technology—bragging that your site is built with HTML5 and expecting users to care is like Certs hawking Retsyn. So how do we set our sites and apps apart? What ways of thinking and working lead to the details and touches that aren’t just special, but are special in a way people care about, and to which the right customers will respond?”

To me, it’s all about story. All the whizzy CSS3 and HTML5 stuff, all the killer layouts and so forth don’t mean a thing without it. If you’re designing a website and have a solid understanding of your client’s story, you’ll be inclined to make design decisions that enhance and support that story. Sort of like how Zeldman’s ceiling moldings and sweet hardwood floor enhance, support, and define the space that is his NYC apartment.

The best stories are true. Certs hawking Retsyn feels weak, and possibly untrue. I mean, I’ve never seen that drop of Retsyn, and it really feels like an artificial device created by a copywriter. However, Altoids do indeed feel curiously strong to me. That story resonates, because it feels true. Curiously enough, Altoids’ marketing (online and broadcast) is decently well designed to support and enhance their core story. Certs doesn’t even have a website, anymore.

Now, yes, we do a lot of video over here, and I do live in Hollywood so I’m a little inclined to want to yell “story!” like a psycho wants to yell “fire!” in a theater. But most of the website redesign projects we’ve undertaken need a lot more than a new design. They need a real rethinking of the project from the ground up. Done right, that starts with a clear and solid understanding of your client’s story.

Without it, all the whizzy stuff just doesn’t matter.

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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.