Rainy Day Advice- Back It Up!

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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)

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Twas The Night Before Launch…

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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!

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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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Movie Magic, Behind The Scenes on a TV commercial

Here’s a very shot video that shows some of the “movie magic” visual effects work I did for the E. J. Leizerman & Associates tv spot.

Visual Effects Reel: E.J. Leizerman & Associates TV Commercial from Patrick Ortman on Vimeo.

Toledo is a great city, but on the days we shot there we had a lot of weather issues that prevented us from getting exactly the look we wanted for some of the shots. So, enter post production!

Here’s a very shot video that shows before-and-after versions of a few key shots for the tv commercial. Some of the work we did included:

Sky Replacement
Image Stabilization
Rotoscoping
Keying
Selective Color Enhancement
Multi-exposure HDR Simulation
Color Correction

We used a variety of tools from Apple, Adobe, Imagineer Systems, and a ton of plugins from Red Giant, Trapcode, and so forth to make these shots happen.

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E.J. Leizerman & Associates TV Commercial

Here’s a new tv spot I directed for Midwest law firm E.J. Leizerman & Associates. The firm’s been around for over 30 years and has become an important part of its community. The brief for this commercial was to create an honest, folksy look at the firm’s hometown of Toledo, Ohio, highlighting their roots and mission. It was a lot of fun, shooting around Toledo- especially the day we mounted the RED camera on our picture car.

The spot actually had a huge amount of post production- we replaced skies, water, did a fair amount of motion tracking items into scenes, and some rotoscoping work. The tools we used were RED One and Canon 7D, Final Cut Pro, the Adobe Master Collection, Shake, Imagineer Systems Mocha, and an acoustic guitar.

The spot is now airing on broadcast and cable in the Midwest.

TV Commercial: “You Know Us” from Patrick Ortman on Vimeo.

Client: E.J. Leizerman & Associates
Title: You Know Us
Producers: Michael Leizerman, Patrick Ortman
Version: Director’s Cut
Length: 30 sec

Director, DP, Editor, Visual Effects, Composer: Patrick Ortman
Writers: E.J. Leizerman, Michael Leizerman, Patrick Ortman
Camera Department: Jacob David, Joel Washing, Phillip Stark
Second Unit Photography: Jacob David, Joel Washing
Sound recordist/mixer: Larry Gold
Gaffer and More: Rick Thomas
Dolly Grip: Michael Leizerman
Makeup: Betsy Leizerman
Color: Hugh Keller
Assistant Editor: Brandon Balin

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Creativity Reboots

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It’s pretty easy to get so busy with client work that you look up and realize you haven’t done anything creative for yourself in quite a long time. That’s a problem if you’re a creative professional. I’m convinced that everyone here- including me- needs to have a pet project, something creative and personal, to help fuel their passion and make them look at their world a little differently. I firmly believe it makes you better at your job.

When I started this agency, I’d take Friday mornings or afternoons and wander the streets of LA, taking digital photographs of stuff I liked. These days, I’m finding a Rickenbacker 330 and a Vox AC15 amp at my deskside help me get through a day. I don’t think what you’re doing to feed your personal creativity is important, but I think taking the time out to feed yourself is vital.

Call it a creativity reboot.

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Happy Labor Day!

The studio was very quiet today, thanks to the holiday. Of course, I came in for a full day since we’re in post for a tv spot. That’s how it goes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Still, when you go outside and look up and you see this, life’s really pretty decent:

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Does Good Design Matter In A Recession?

We finished a great little website for a midsize b2b company recently. The work was wonderful. What’s more, the client loved it, too. What’s even better- web traffic went up 20% and online sales went up commensurately with the new design. We were cooking!

So it surprised me when the client stopped paying to support and improve upon the site. Still, it’s their money, and their business… But what really got me was seeing the client completely trash the great design work we did, junking it up with amateurish third rate “improvements” that were very poorly thought out and which made the site harder to use as well as ugly.

I asked our old client contact at the company about it, and he told me that his boss had decided that we cost too much and that nobody cared about great design in a recession, so he was making changes to the website himself. Our contact noted that their traffic had indeed dipped since we were on the account, and that sales had dropped as well.

I shook my head and hung up the phone. But then, a few weeks later I ran into the company president, and asked him about things. He told me he truly didn’t think people cared about good design, and he was convinced that his heroic efforts to ‘save’ the website were working. I pointed out that i knew sales had dipped after he took over, and I offered to help at a reduced rate, but he wouldn’t hear it.

It’s now 6 weeks later, and that company is no more. They have folded. Kaput. Gone. I heard from their advertising agency that the president, in his last throes, had tried to take over their ad campaigns, too, trashing months and months of work.

I’m not happy that this company floundered and failed. But I talked about this client and their failure today for a reason- a great website or tv commercial or social media campaign cannot save a sinking ship, but a crappy, poorly thought out effort can certainly hasten your demise. Your digital marketing is your company’s face to the world. It represents you. Yes, even in a recession, good design matters.

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Every Film Is Made Three Times

I’m in post production right now on three tv commercials (plus a bonus PSA!), and while I watch the render bar progress in After Effects (most film work I do is pretty heavy on the compositing/visual effects) it really hits home how the old saw about how a film is made three times- once on paper as the script, once on set, and finally in the edit room- rings true.

I like all phases of production, and I’m one of the lucky guys who usually gets to be very involved in all three phases of a project. It means we do fewer projects, but it also means I get to make sure the quality and vision are there. Back in the day, filmmakers regarded post production as a mysterious black box, something they weren’t involved with. George Lucas pretty much blasted through that stereotype, but even today, some filmmakers aren’t very hands-on or knowledgeable with post. What a huge mistake! Can you imagine leaving a third of your story up to someone else who doesn’t grok your vision? Can you imagine being on set and not knowing exactly what you need to capture for a shot? But it happens. Then again, there’s the amazingly hands on filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez. I love his credits in some of his movies: “shot, chopped, and scored by”. Nice!

Anyway, I’m in post now, and I’m finding that we’re basically rewriting a lot of the work, whether visually (setting emphasis on something else in frame, relighting something digitally, or placing an element in a whole different background) or, sometimes, actually messing with the delivery of the dialog in the spots so things flow better. It’s truly mind boggling, the things we can change- and hopefully improve- with good post production. Yes, it takes a huge effort. Sometimes it’s tedious, too. But the results are amazing, and totally worth it.

Our RED Rocket is getting a huge workout on this stretch, and I’m excited to see how it fares with our new DaVinci color station. Supposedly they’ll work together very nicely. Some of the other tools we’re using for these spots are the whole Adobe CS5 suite, Final Cut Studio, a huge number of products from Imagineer Systems, and Shake. Shake’s one of those tools I always think we’re done with, but it seems there’s always one or two tasks it does more elegantly than anything else in our toolbox.

I love post production.  Knowing all phases of production is vital- there’s no way we could have shot for a week like we did and gotten everything needed for these 4  tv spots, otherwise. Call me the postman.

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Apathy- Why Most Businesses Fail With Social Media Marketing

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A former mentor and client stopped by the other day, and as part of our catching up he said he noticed that one of the services we provide is social media marketing. He told me that he’s seen a bunch of companies try social media marketing and fail miserably, so the rest of our meeting was talking about why that is. After all, social media marketing is the hottest new trend for businesses and organizations of all sizes, and there have been a lot of wins in this space- when businesses do social media right, the payoff is huge. So, why do so many companies fail in their social media marketing efforts?

We came up with one major reason. Apathy. That’s right. Plain old disinterest and inability to see social media marketing for what it is: an amazing way to reach your audience, and convert customers into evangelists.

I know, it sounds harsh to say that most companies who try social media are lazy butts who don’t really “get it”. But I’d say about two thirds of the companies who come to us think  social media is about an occasional tweet or Facebook posting. They’re still thinking push instead of interact. They think social media marketing is akin to a record company hiring a street team to promote a band’s album, that it’s merely a promotion effort. It isn’t. They’re thinking one-way, shallow, and wide- but they should also be thinking two-way, deep, and focused.

Most of those guys also think social media marketing is something to just bolt onto their organization and they’ll instantly rake in the profits.

We do our best to help educate clients on how best to use social media as part of their marketing mix, but it doesn’t always work- the client has to be willing to learn and to be a part of the process.

Social media marketing, when done right, requires a true commitment from the organization. We need access to a client’s marketing and executive team. We need to get inside a client’s business and learn what makes it tick. We need to be in marketing meetings with your company, to know what campaigns are being developed and pushed in traditional media. We need to know your company, and we need to have access to people who really know your company’s story and values- and the answers to the kinds of questions we may be asked when working to promote your brand and helping to develop these relationships with your audience. In the end, social media marketing take commitment from every person in your organization, and a certain amount of transparency on the organization’s behalf. Yes, it also takes money and time.

Most companies are not willing to put in the effort. So, they relegate their “social media” efforts to the occasional Facebook status update and tweet. It’s pure laziness. And that’s why they fail.

(cool Fail stamp by Hans Gerwitz)

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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.