New Projects

We’re working on a new product video for a consumer products client, and it’s shaping up to be a pretty cool project. We’re doing some interesting visual effects work, such as having text that turns into sand and blows away, a bunch of morphs, and some nice faux-3D work. The project should be completed in about 4-6 weeks. More then!

Today we helped Andy put some finishing touches on his PSA that promotes the Jewish Film Festival. This piece will play at the start of the festival Sunday night in Los Angeles. I believe they’re serving food and wine, but I probably won’t be able to attend.

Our national television commercial for Biotene PBF Mouthwash begins airing on May 12th. We’re very excited about that.

We’ve begun working on some ideas for a possible season two of Couch Cases, and we’re working on a new feature project as well.Things are busy, but fun.

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Diversity, Inc. Online Video Project

This weekend we shot the intro for Yoji Cole at Diversity, Inc.’s new online video series on being biracial in America. We also edited a previously-shot interview for the initial installment of the series.

We shot the footage on one of our Panasonic HVX200s, using only natural light and one reflector.

Yoji Cole, Diversity Inc.

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New Television Commercial Spot: Biotene PBF Mouthwash

This spot begins airing nationwide in early May. Check out our work page for a preview of the new Biotene PBF Mouthwash 30 second spot.

We created the spot using After Effects, Shake, Motion, FCP, and Bias Peak Pro. 

Update April 22, 2008: We’ve been asked to temporarily pull the spot until May. However, if you click on the Work link above, you can see the new trailer for our show Couch Cases.

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The Face of New Urbanism

I am a New Urbanist. There, I said it. It’s true, but I never set out to make a statement by my living situation. I simply needed a place to live, and after looking at shitty place after shitty place I just chose the place that didn’t suck as much as the others. That place happened to be a loft style place in the NoHo Arts District. Which, it turns out, is a major example of New Urbanism, Los Angeles Style.

For those who, like me until very recently, are ignorant of exactly what New Urbanism means, click here.

Sounds great, huh? I mean, living here means I’m all ecologically friendly and stuff. And, yeah- there’s a lot to be said for my neighborhood. It’s nice walking to EAT Restaurant, or any of the even-newer (or better, yet- older, like that Indian restaurant on Lankershim) places in the neighborhood. It’s nice being near a big park.  It’s kind of cool, getting on the subway and ending up in Hollywood.

I’ve done that. Twice. Oh, and I went to Universal on the subway to meet my uncle for dinner, once.

 I’ll also tell you, for all the eco-friendly glamour of living in a New Urbanist community there are a few pitfalls. First of all, it’s expensive to live here. Crazy expensive. Like, my loft could easy be a house the way things are priced in Los Angeles. The almost-nightly gunshots, and the every-night sirens and “ghetto birds” in the air get a bit tiring at times. Then there was this homeless lady on the corner, whenever I’d run by she’d try to spit on me. I never took it personally, though: she spit at everybody. I think the gentrification of the neighborhood eventually pushed her out. Is it weird that I miss her?

I have a diverse group of interesting neighbors, in my New Urbanist neighborhood. There’s the agent at Endeavor whose mail I keep getting, the actress in indie films, a bonafide rap artist on a major record label (he just moved to Beverly Hills last week), my neighbor the production designer for Hollywood, and me- struggling but awesome writer-director guy. And my buddy Brandon who does editing for us lives only 5 minutes away.

There’s also a few scary neighbors, like the Russian guys who don’t like it when I work out in the gym while they’re trying to sleep at 2 in the afternoon after a late night of gunplay and recreational drug abuse. Speaking of drug abuse, there’s a crackhouse only 2 blocks away.

And lastly, there’s a ton of spoiled young adults who live on trust funds and think the world revolves around them. I think I like them less than anyone.

Still, if you ignore the bad there is a lot to be said for this New Urbanist lifestyle. I enjoy walking to the bank and the grocery store. I love my impromptu jogs through the city (contrary to one’s preconceived notions, not all of said jogs are inspired by the local gangs). I like that I’m “in the middle” of things, here. It’s interesting. It can be exciting.

And of course, there’s that whole eco-friendly vibe.

Even though most of the people who live here have no clue about how green their lifestyle really truly is.

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NAB 2008

I admit it. I don’t always attend NAB, the big digital/broadcast/gear get together in Vegas every year. Like Apple and Avid, who both dropped out of the show this year, I’m finally finding that the amount of information I can grab online matches what I get out of actually going to the show in person.

That said, there have been some interesting developments at NAB this week. Most notably, for me, is the introduction of RED’s new products: the Epic, Scarlett, and some sort of media player thingamabob.

Like a lot of video shops, we’ve been waiting on delivery of our very own RED ONE camera for quite some time. The ONE is a very revolutionary camera, and we decided it was something we needed to jump on. But now, even before our camera is ready to ship there’s a new and better RED camera system announcement. Whereas the ONE has 4K recording, the EPIC has 5K. Whereas the ONE has tiny weird little mini-XLRs for audio input, EPIC has full-sized XLRs.  The sensor in the EPIC kicks the ONE’s butt. And the biggest difference to me: the ONE is pretty heavy. The EPIC is 30% lighter in weight.

Of course, the EPIC costs twice the price of a ONE.

RED’s being pretty cool about things, though. If you own a ONE, you can turn that in for $17,500 in credit towards an EPIC. What other camera companies would even consider doing this?

So, the question quickly becomes: does one forgo getting a ONE and wait for EPIC, renting a ONE in the meantime as needed? Or does one suck it up, buy the ONE and figure on a later “trade in” if the EPIC becomes RED’s new main product?

The decision shouldn’t be a light or emotional one. Many numbers ought to be crunched in many spreadsheets. The bottom line for us and any other video shop is: will the ONE now pay for itself and the accessories to support it before it must be upgraded to an EPIC?

Part of our decision hinges upon RED: will they support the ONE indefinitely? For a lot of us, the 4K images are, quite frankly, way more than enough for the foreseeable future as long as RED continues to support the camera and offer software improvements. 

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One of those days

Ever have one of those days where you just don’t do a whole lot?

It’s pretty rare for me. I’m usually running on all cylinders. All the time. But not today.

Therefore, here’s my list of things of note that I did today:

  • Smelled my girlfriend’s neck.
  • Enjoyed a 100 calorie fat free jelloâ„¢ brand chocolate pudding while wearing flip-flops.
  • Took a picture of a bird on my balcony. I call it “North Hollywood Dove”. Others call it “Flying Rat” or “Pigeon”.

Here’s the picture*:

north hollywood dove

* Yes, I do believe this poor bird only has one leg. Therefore, let us call him “one-legged north hollywood dove”. And no, having one leg does not seem to have affected this stalwart feathered being one whit. I’ve always wanted to say ‘whit’. Now, I have. 

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Couch Cases- Now Online!

Visit www.couchcases.com for a preview of our show! Couch Cases is the first project from High Five and a Hug Productions, and I co-created and directed it.

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Announcing the Couch Cases website

Couch Cases is a show about a neurotic therapist who can’t follow her own advice. We had a blast in production, and now we’re releasing the website (in Beta form) to the public. The trailer is now online, along with cast & crew info, photo galleries, and more.

Visit the Couch Cases website

Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Web Design

We’ve been working on a new website for Couch Cases, and the process got me thinking about web design as it relates to video projects. Genius Monkeys was created to give our customers the ability to exploit the new opportunities where video and new media converge. And part of that mission involves website design and development.

By the way, our sister company, Empty Street Productions, handles a lot of our heavy lifting when it comes to website development. Empty Street has been around for over 14 years now, and has built websites for clients ranging from small startups like Netscape (remember them?) to huge multinational companies like IBM and Motorola. They know what they’re doing.

Back to planning a website. It’s not enough to have a slick-looking design. When I started Genius Monkeys, I issued a mandate- the websites we design and build must meet web standards as much as possible.

A lot of our clients don’t initially understand the importance of developing a website that follows web standards. Websites that implement web standards tend to cost a bit more than “old-fashioned” websites  upfront. So why spend the extra money on them? It turns out that there’s plenty of good reasons to do so: 

 

  • They make it easier to add to your website as time goes by
  • Search engines love them
  • Separating design from content using CSS allows you to make huge changes to your website with a minimum of hassle
  • A website built with web standards in mind tends to display better on iPhones and other new web-enabled devices 
  • Most importantly, the majority of web users will be able to view and use your website

Most web design companies do not design for web standards. Their reasoning tends to be along the lines of “my customers won’t pay for it”. And it is true that learning to build web standards solutions requires a web design company to completely rethink how they approach a web design project. It’s a whole new way of working, and it requires a huge amount of discipline.

Generally speaking, web designers who only work in “visual” view- who are used to dragging and dropping items around when they build a website- are unable to create websites that follow web standards. To create a web standards website, you need to be sort of like Neo in The Matrix. You need to be able to “see” the code and how it will appear once it is deployed.

And that’s a tough job, but a very rewarding one.

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On Being Afraid

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering – Yoda

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear… And when it is gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear is gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. – Frank Herbert, Dune

Al-Qaeda’s entire existence is based on fear. So are some of the actions of our own government. It’s easy to be afraid in a world where airplanes crash into buildings, stock and housing markets crash and burn, torture is allowed, and bombs fall on people. I don’t think too many people would try to dispute that the overall amount of fear in our world has increased in the past decade. And it’s certainly not limited to “Big Fear”, the kind perpetuated by terrorists and governments. On a personal level, it’s incredibly easy to act like a virus- replicating and spreading fear throughout our environment. It’s an ever-escalating cycle, and it affects every aspect of our lives.

I’ve dealt with a work situation that was fear-driven recently. The client felt that their previous agency had treated them terribly, so they approached every aspect of our interaction as if we were trying to take advantage of them. Being of a good nature (usually at least), I decided we should press on with the client and prove to them that we’re on their side by delivering incredible value and top-notch work, even allowing the client to add in features that were beyond the scope of their projects for free.

This didn’t work out very well. As often happens, the formerly abused became the abuser. No matter how low we cut our prices and how great our work was, this client was unable and unwilling to let go of their preconceived notion that they’d been taken advantage of, and their fear of a repeat situation permeated every aspect of our interaction. Things got so paranoid with this client that they accused us of working for the competition, and demanded that we don’t show our work off to others.

Finally, of course, we had to part ways. It’s a shame, because some of the work we’ve already completed for them is truly amazing stuff. I think that’s part of why we held on to them for as long as we did. We all like to show off our best work. Artists like the world to see their work, that’s our nature. But this client’s fear had completely overshadowed everything else in their lives. And the state of their organization reflects that fear.

I don’t want to become like them. I don’t want to shut good things out of my life because I am afraid. And I don’t want to perpetuate and replicate the fear of others. Dealing with that former client’s fear made me take a good hard look at myself.  It made me wonder, if macro-level “Big Fear” can trickle down to the most mundane actions we take and color all that we do, perhaps the antidote is to take those mundane interactions and make them positive. Perhaps that could result in a sort of “bubble up” process, where little fears are eradicated, leading to larger fears being eliminated.

So, being me, I decided to try an experiment this morning. 

When I first moved to the city, I’d go for a jog and say hello to people as I passed. Over time, I stopped doing this because of all the sour-faced thin-lipped non-reactions I’d get from passerby and fellow joggers. I learned that in the city, you don’t say hello. In the city, we act like “the other” doesn’t exist. Because “the other” is scary.

Well, that’s bullshit. So today, I went for a jog. And I said hello and smiled at 5 people. You know what? 2 of them looked at me in a surprised way, smiled back, and said hello. Sure, 3 of them were rude. But that’s OK. Baby steps.

Maybe if we all start to do one or two little things a day that replace fear with love- as corny as that may sound- our love will replicate and spread like a virus too. Maybe John Lennon was right. Maybe love is the answer. Perhaps love is the weapon that can overcome this culture of fear. I’m not advocating that we let other people take advantage of us. I’m only advocating that we don’t let the dark side win by ceding ground to it on a personal level. We can control how we interact with others.

It can’t hurt to try.

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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.