27Dec

2011 Update: On Digital Agencies

bluearrowmac

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article on how to choose a digital agency. Back then, a lot of people really didn’t have much of an idea about what a digital agency actually was, and our transition towards defining ourselves as a digital agency was a somewhat risky thing to do. Now, it’s 2011 and digital agencies have gone mainstream.

Back in 2009, I defined a digital agency as being composed not only of great technologists, but also of excellent creative storytellers and problem solvers. I said that a great digital agency “rises above the noise by insisting on a creative partnership with its clients, and is constantly thinking up ways that its clients can take advantage of online technology to better reach their customers”. Since then, as the role of digital agencies in client successes has expanded, we believe in that statement more than ever.

These past years, we’ve aggressively grown our digital agency, making serious inroads into high-end video production, social media, and of course keeping up with the latest trends and techniques in website design. All of this effort was Read More »

27Dec

A Great Website Design…

We’re often asked, ‘What makes a great website design?’ It’s a great question. A great website…

Is Well-Planned
Successful companies understand that, to the world, their website is their business. That’s one reason why we don’t work with clients who demand design mockups during the proposal phase—a great website design is created through a great partnership, between agency and client, and requires a deep understanding of your business. If you skimp on the planning phase, you decimate your chances for success.

Is Easy To Use
The best website designs appear simple and clean, and are deceptively difficult to create, but are a joy to use. They combine right-brained artistic sensibilities & left-brained technology in a way that makes the most of both, and elevates your business.

Uses Flash Wisely
We love Flash, and it can add to a user’s experience online. But too many companies build full-Flash websites for their clients, and those aren’t easy to update and don’t give a very good search engine ranking.

Embraces Web Standards
Websites that follow web standards serve more people on a wider variety of devices. A company website design that uses web standards also helps with search engine optimization (SEO), and is easier to update and maintain. Many of our nonprofit and government website design clients are legally required to embrace web standards, but it’s the right thing to do no matter what kind of business or organization you are. Luckily for you, we know how to make web standards based websites rock.

Provides Measurable Results
Too many businesses have no idea if their website is helping their bottom line. Our clients know that their website redesign efforts are paying off, because we work with our clients to determine measurable goals, and we implement the online tools needed to help measure the website’s success over time.

23Dec

You Gotta Believe!

I used to play a video game called Parappa The Rapper, and that was its catchphrase- an optimistic, shouted “You Gotta Believe!”. I loved that game, and I got pretty good at it. But I think I like the catchphrase even better than the gameplay, because it applies to everything. Especially on working for clients.

If my firm decides to work with a client, it means we believe in their product or service. We gotta believe! I mean that wholeheartedly, and I can tell you that the very few times I’ve allowed my firm to work with clients that suck I’ve profoundly regretted it.

This insistence on only working with clients one can believe in may sound like a luxury, but it’s not- at least, it’s not if your company is all about providing the best work possible, without losing your hair or stress-eating. If you have a client you can believe in, you’re motivated to really get inside their business, and you look forward to working with them to really make their tv commercial, website, or video rise above the industry norms. You’re invested in their success. And almost always, clients you can believe in are also the kind of clients who respect and appreciate the hard work you and your team put in for their benefit. They usually pay better, and come back for future projects, too.

Doesn’t working for clients you can believe in sound like a lot more fun than working for indifferent, stupid fools who are a waste of oxygen, who beat you up at every turn, while putting out shoddy products and inflicting pain on the world at large? It does to me!

Sure, some fellow digital agency owners have approached me privately and told me they take on every client who comes through the door, and that we’re foolish for not doing the same. Actually, one guy called us “arrogant twats who deserve to go down in flames”. That was twelve years ago, and we’re still in business while his agency is long dead.

I’m not saying that if you embrace our policy of needing to believe in your clients that your company will prosper. But I am saying that if you’re interested in coming to work each day with a smile on your face, while you do the best work you possibly can do for your clients, that you gotta believe in them.

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22Dec

Year End Web Design Articles You Should Read

webdesign

Sorry, clients- this post is for all the other digital/interactive agencies who read our blog on a regular basis.

Well, 2010 is pretty much over. I hope it was a great one for your company, and I’d like to share a few articles that we really enjoyed over here at PatrickOrtman, Inc. Without any further ado:

The Designer’s Cross Training Toolkit . There’s a lot of articles every year that talk about how designers- for the web, video, whatever- should work to expose their brains to different creative venues. I’ve certainly written a few articles about that, over the years. This article from Smashing is a nice update to the idea that as designers do their best work when we’re not in a rut.

Persuasion Triggers in Web Design. If you’d like your clients to be more successful, I highly recommend reading this article about how to design websites with an eye towards driving user behavior. Like the author says, a lot of successful web designers use many of these techniques intuitively, but it’s nice to have these things written down.

Web Design Questionnaires. OK, the truth is we get a lot of prospects who come to us looking for a website redesign, a video production, whatever. But we don’t want to work with everyone, we’re somewhat picky in the clients we accept, and I bet you are, too. Without a good set of new client worksheets, questionnaires, etc., you may find your staff spending more time screening leads than doing the work that pays the bills. Last year I implemented a series of new client worksheets, and it’s saved us a ton of time. It’s the end of the year, so now’s a great time to revisit how your company screens and qualifies potential clients.

That’s it. Three little articles. They should only take you ten minutes to read, and hopefully you’ll learn a few new things from them!

Thanks again for reading our blog, and Happy Merry to all.

[like] (neato image by Marc Theile)

14Dec

New HD & 2K Video Editing Bay

We’re proud to announce our new HD and 2K/4K editing bay here at PatrickOrtman, Inc. The setup includes a brand new 8 core MacPro with 16GB of RAM, a 512 GB SATA SSD array for scratch and render disks, SSD startup drive, and over 20TB of online SATA RAID storage for client projects.

It also includes an AJA Kona 3 capture and playback system, a MOTU 828 for audio work, a Tangent Waves control panel, Mackie audio monitors, and dual displays.

Like any group of geeks, we love our toys. But this new edit station lets us do a lot more for our clients, including dealing with upcoming RED Epic footage, and helps us meet challenging tv commercial and web video production deadlines. And that’s pretty cool.

Check out our new edit bay.

12Nov

Video Is Now Essential

another red

After downing a real sugar (available for a limited time only!) Pepsi yesterday, we started our year-end marketing roundup. This year, I found a very intriguing fact- in the last 12 months, about 87% of all initial potential clients who contacted us wanted more than a website or a social media marketing program. Over 87% of these potential clients also wanted video.

That bears repeating: even companies that would formerly only want a website are now realizing they need video, and well-produced video at that, whether it’s for YouTube, their company website, or television.

Cool pic by Raster

27Oct

MPAC Website Design Project

mpacHomeScreen

I know, we’ve been so busy with tv commercials and web videos that we haven’t really talked much about our website design projects lately. Well, let’s correct that right now.

Here’s the MPAC website, a web standards based project that we launched this month. The site, as mentioned, follows web standards and is built using the MODx content management framework, which makes it very easy for the client to update on a regular basis.

It has a nice content rotator and some nifty interactive features, like a staff listing, that use JQuery. We’ve been using the JQuery framework a lot in the past two years, to replace a lot of the functionality that in the past we’d have done with Adobe Flash.

A big challenge of this project was the sheer number of pages of content that needed to be easily accessible by the users of the site. This necessitated a lot of information architecture work, but the end result was worth it- the client is thrilled, and we are, too!

20Oct

Rainy Day Advice- Back It Up!

269815165_d2085c885e_z

I love it when it rains in LA. These are the days when I make myself a cuppa tea and settle in at the edit station, wearing a Mr. Rogers sweater and shut out the world, emerging once in a while to stand by the door, watching the rain fall and traffic crawl along Ventura Blvd.

Days like this also remind me that rainy days do indeed come to us all in the form of lost files, dead hard drives, and so forth. In this business, that can be a really terrible thing, meaning not only some lost work but also possibly lost footage for clients.

We subscribe to DropBox, which is absolutely great for our website design and social media marketing client work. But 50GB or so just doesn’t cut it when you’re dealing with multiple HD and 4K video projects at one time.

To give you an idea, we have 5 video projects in production right now, and all have been shot at least partially on the RED One. This comes up to about 4TB of storage, all told. If you have a safety of each live project you’re working on, that means you’ll need 8TB of storage (and half of that should really be stored off-site for safety). But it doesn’t end there- when you go above 1TB, you get into the world of RAIDs, which means multiple drives. Which means multiple points of failure. So double that storage need to 16TB. This is just for projects we’re currently working on, of course.

There are times when our media storage costs exceed our rent.

You also never know when a client will need old footage. One project we just finished up used footage that was 5 years old. No joke. Your mileage may vary, and it’s not cost effective to hold copies of every file you work on for years, but it seems to me that a smart backup strategy will include some form of a longer-term storage solution.

Our strategy is always evolving, as it should. Disk prices drop, storage requirements change. No matter what backup strategy you choose, though, you absolutely must use it religiously.

After all, a rainy day is coming to you at some point. It’s best to be prepared.

(kickin’ photo by Eyeline Imagery)

30Sep

Twas The Night Before Launch…

launch

We’re getting ready to launch a new website that’s been many months in the making, and I’m taking a little bit of time in between meetings and quality control, thinking about what a huge undertaking a large scale website rollout really has become.

See, I remember the days when my partner and I would, after meeting with a client, slam out a killer website, including some form of database functionality or eCommerce, sometimes over just a few weeks of late night pizza deliveries to the office. Sure, it was hard work that often went late into the night- but it was fun, and that’s what one’s twenties are for, right?

These days, while a lot of the tools we use to design and develop websites have made our lives much easier on a lower level, the fact is almost every decent sized website rollout has become incredibly complicated and quality websites require a rather large, sustained team effort by both the agency and the client to succeed. It requires more than excellent creative and technical. It requires a true partnership between client and agency.

The work is still a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. It’s just different.

This particular project was also the first large scale website project I’ve personally been a part of where I didn’t do actual design or development. I did project management, and I was the creative director on the job. It was a huge change for me, but it was absolutely the right decision: Ryan’s design work is stunning, Tyler’s coding was top-notch, and Jeff’s hardcore development skills are outstanding. Tip of the hat to Crystal, too, who kept things humming on the admin side.

The team on the client’s side was also excellent, and I am very proud of our joint efforts. I think we exceeded the client’s expectations, and that’s the name of the game when you’re a digital agency.

Great job, people!

27Sep

Another New TV Commercial, King of the Road

Here’s another TV Commercial I directed and we produced. This one’s for TruckAccidents.com, and it’s got a very different feel from our previous spot. The concept was the truck is a monster, like a shark, and Michael (our client) can stop the monster from hurting you.

TV Commercial: King of the Road (director’s cut) from Patrick Ortman on Vimeo.

Client: TruckAccidents.com
Title: King of the Road
Producers: Michael Leizerman, Patrick Ortman
Version: Director’s Cut
Length: 30 sec

Director, DP, Editor, Visual Effects, Composer: Patrick Ortman
Writers: Michael Leizerman, Patrick Ortman
Camera Department: Jacob David, Joel Washing, Phillip Stark
Sound recordist/mixer: Larry Gold
Gaffer and More: Rick Thomas
Color: Hugh Keller
Assistant Editor: Brandon Balin

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