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
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


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


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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TV Commercial Shoot in Toledo, Ohio

Here’s the Flickr photo proof I was in the midwest last week, between Detroit and Toledo. I directed two TV commercials and a PSA, along with a web video. We shot on RED One, of course, and the sets ranged from a greenscreen stage, to downtown Toledo, to a truck stop. Fun times! If you can’t see the pictures, blame Flickr and click here for the non-Flash version.

Now it’s time to hunker down in post-production. Always fun.

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Manifesto: On Clients and Projects

be different

Maybe the economy is coming back, maybe businesses are realizing what a great deal digital marketing is, or maybe people are just figuring out what a great deal we are. Whatever the reason, we’ve been fortunate to grow the business. As we’ve grown, I’m still involved in most aspects of the company, but I’ve decided that it’s time for me to set some standards for the clients and projects we take on.

You know what that means- manifesto time! Hey, guiding principles are a good thing, and I expect everyone at PatrickOrtman, Inc. to follow these principles when an opportunity to grow our client list comes to us.

Of course, I’m a big believer in transparency so I’m sharing my little manifesto with the world. Maybe it’ll help your digital agency- or whatever type of business you run- to set up and codify your own set of guiding principles? After all, you can’t have a revolution without a manifesto! Without further ado:

1) Every project and client we take on will get our best efforts, and the personal attention and resources necessary to knock it out of the park. At the same time, we expect that any client we work with will do their part in providing us the resources so that we can knock their project out of the park. The best client relationships go both ways.

2) When we choose to work with a client, we will be honest and truthful in all our dealings with them. We are not ‘Yes Men’, and when we disagree with a client we will, as tactfully as possible, tell them where we stand. After all, a client hires us for our expertise. Similarly, we expect our clients to be honest and truthful with us, too.

3) We will not work with a client who does not meet our standards of being an ethically run organization. We hate liars, spammers, users, and shady people. Dealing with those types of clients makes us feel so icky that bathing in champagne and $50 bills doesn’t remove the stink. No, thanks!

4) We will not compete on price. We’re certainly not the most expensive digital agency out there, but we’re also not the cheapest and we don’t want to be. We love creating great work, and great work deserves to be well and fairly paid.

5) Every project we do has to be interesting, in some way. Sure, this sounds a bit high-falutin’ at first, but think about it: we’re creative people. To do our best work we need to be engaged. For us to be engaged, there has to be something about the gig that’s interesting to us. We’re not clock-punchers, we’re not assembly line workers. There’s other, lesser digital agencies that fill that role. We’re artists and craftsmen.

6) Similarly, we understand that part of what makes us special is we’re constantly learning new things and finding ways to apply our knowledge to our clients to help them improve their businesses. Too many companies only care about this quarter’s bottom line, and have cut down or eliminated the ‘R” in R&D. Not us. Therefore, from this day forward I am implementing a program where everyone at PatrickOrtman, Inc. is to spend at least one full day a month working on something they want to work on that is not client-related. This could be as simple as adding a feature to a website CMS, figuring out a more efficient video production pipeline, shooting an experimental short film, learning a new technology that could be used with website design, or playing with some new features in Photoshop. The idea is, I want to encourage everyone here to do something creative and not directly client-related for at least one full day a month.

Of course, everyone- myself included- has to present our findings/film/photos, or whatever at a company meeting the next week. The idea is to stretch, to grow. And to share that knowledge.

So, for now that’s my manifesto. I’m interested in any ways to grow this document and make it better, so if you have an idea- share!

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Vlog Episode 7: On Social Media Marketing

Here’s one about the common mistakes that businesses and organizations make when they decide to start working with social media marketing. As with all of our vlog episodes, this one was shot and edited on an iPhone (alas, still a mere iPhone 3Gs, but soon to be an iPhone 4). This way, we’re able to give you a much more casual, immediate, conversational vibe than if we pulled out the big guns and lights and made a big production out of things. Enjoy!

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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.