And Now For Something Completely Different


Today was a day full of product photography for a client’s new website and video. We’ll be taking the results of today’s work and creating some really cool After Effects animations.

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A Link from Craigslist

You have to click on this. It’s really funny:

And no, I am not looking for a nemesis at the moment. My life’s pretty crazy already.

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ADR for Couch Cases

This weekend we’re taking a break from corporate work to get some ADR work done on Couch Cases. ADR is basically when you have bad audio and need to re-record the dialog. It’s hard work, and unless it’s really good the result is kind of like a badly dubbed Kung Fu movie. At the same time, there’s probably not a single major Hollywood movie that hasn’t needed some ADR work.

In the past, I’ve flown by the seat of my pants to do ADR- the old standby of ProTools and having the actor match the lips from a rough edit. But, this time, I have enough ADR work that needs to be done that I did my research. And I’m using some amazing software called VoiceQ. It’s a bit expensive, for a little indie project like Couch Cases. But it is incredibly useful, and I’m pretty sure that we’ll make the money back on our first corporate job that requires ADR.

So today, Simon is my guinea pig in the ADR studio. And next week it’s Kathi, then Sabrina.Then, finally, our dialog work will be completed. And it’ll be time to do final edits, color correction, music, and titles.

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Plastic Soul

At the risk of being obvious: there’s far too many people in LA who look like models after too much airbrushing.

It’s not a compliment. I think people who look like that are unbearably ugly looking. They look like plastic. They are expressionless and seem to be incapable of expressing joy, anger, happiness, or sadness. Or anything, really, unless you count “looking permanently bitchy” as expressive.

Being who I am, I notice this a lot with hollywood women. But, looking around west hollywood recently, it’s pretty clear that some men fall victim to this as well.

I wonder what motivates people to get so much work done on them that they’re unrecognizable. I’m talking plastic surgery, of course, but I’m also talking about starving oneself or spending too many hours in the gym. I wonder if it all is motivated by some sick obsession that can be traced back to not getting enough attention as a child.

I’d feel a little bad about dinging on a whole group of people based on looks, except that every single time I’ve gotten close enough to listen to one of these plastic people it’s become clear that he/she is as empty and mean-spirited inside as they are airbrushed and injected outside.

I think that what makes each of us beautiful are the parts of us that don’t fit in. The parts that show us as human beings, not bland pod people. Our imperfections, in a way, define us. This isn’t a new concept, and it’s something that you also see in damn near every well-written story ever told.

What’s the point of a hero who doesn’t have a flaw that he/she needs to overcome? Or a villain for that matter. What’s more: who could possibly care about a character who doesn’t have any humanity? Who’d see that movie?*

I don’t think we should be afraid to show who we are, inside and outside.

* Note that robots, aliens, animated characters, dogs and even some cats can have ‘humanity’ too. It’s not limited to humans.

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I’m sitting on my balcony, watching- and this is weird- a white puffy dandelion drifting up past me in the wind that swirls around my highrise apartment. There are no dandelions anywhere near this concrete, steel, and stucco part of the city. Maybe it drifted over here all the way from the park. Or maybe it came from a neighbor who, like me, has a little balcony garden.

It’s beautiful, no matter what. I don’t spend enough time on my balcony. But this morning, I woke up and had breakfast on it with Kathi. Sundays rule.

I know I’m lucky. My new neighbors are an entire family, obviously coming out of a house and into a less-than-one-thousand-square-feet dwelling. You can tell by all the furniture they’re cramming into their small space. This is the reality of Los Angeles and much of the United States these days. But it’s OK. A space isn’t a life. A house isn’t family. And I think seeing them, living their lives, reminds me of this. Right now I can smell them grilling hamburgers on their sad little balcony. I think that’s cool. I’m sure we’ll never be more than hallway acquaintances- you know, the kind where if you see them coming or going you smile and say ‘hey’. That’s as it should be. This building is about transience. None of us is meant to be here all that long.

I am the 2nd most long-lived resident of this building now. I don’t know what my future housing situation will bring, but I’ve seen people come and go since I took up residence here. And it’s OK. We’re all OK.

Lately I’ve been working really hard for other people. I’ve put in a lot of hours, and let my own projects and my personal growth lag while I made other people look great. I’m realizing that I need to find a balance. This paper chase just isn’t worth it. I haven’t even been able to finish Couch Cases, for God’s sake.

Realizing this, I’ve started to turn down work that isn’t either well-paid or interesting. And the kind of work I want to do is preferably both. Sure, I know if I busted my ass I could make an extra hundred grand this year. But what’s the point, if it’s the kind of work that leaves you feeling empty and broken and prone to a heart attack?

Besides, I’m starting to suspect that turning down projects that suck can indeed lead to projects that rock. Funny how that works, but I’ve seen it happen to me and to others. I know I’m good at what I do, but if I accept just any job that comes my way all the time (there are times you have to bite the bullet and take an “eh” job) then you don’t give the universe the space to let truly wonderful things happen to you.

I started to feel this while I was in Hawaii. But I think it took me coming back and seeing how I’m letting other peoples’ needs waste my own potential and time to get me to act. I’m not against hard work. And experience shows that a lot of life is hard work. But, at the end of the day, I want to feel like I’m growing and accomplishing things. Not regressing. I believe I can find a way to reach Maslow’s pinnacle of his hierarchy of needs. I’m talking self-actualization, baby.

And why not? I deserve it. And so do you.

And what’s more, reaching this self-actualization peak doesn’t really have a direct relationship to the amount of paper you bring in. Ing Direct (my favorite online bank) has a new commercial out called “What’s Your Number?”, about how we all have numbers we’re taking with us everywhere.

I say leave your numbers at home. Let them go, when you at all can. Because the numbers are slavery. Live your life.

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What Else Are Weekends For?

I’m feeling incredible right now. The weekend has come, and this is the first weekend since my Hawaii trip that I don’t feel burnt out and beat up. In other words, I feel creative. Sure, there’s the usual client drama. But this weekend is (mostly) for me. And Couch Cases- I’m behind in editing, and I need to get started on the music.

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A New Corporate Project

We’ve been hired to create a new product rollout video for a corporate client. The project will be mainly CGI, and they’re giving us a bit of creative freedom. I love these kinds of projects. Not that I don’t like projects that are run by agencies and suits, but I think any creative team craves the opportunity to actually be creative.

Meanwhile, I am back to editing Couch Cases in preparation for an ADR session next week. We’ve been so busy with corporate work that getting time to work on our own projects has not been available for some time. I have a positive outlook on events, though- this means that the footage is fresh, and I’m a bit removed from it. This is important.

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Diversity, Inc. Project Video

Yoji Cole, LA Chief of Diversity, Inc., interview of Jeff Mendes (view video)

We helped out our good friend and colleague Yoji Cole with a short interview now playing on Diversity, Inc.’s website. The topic is being biracial in America.

We shot the opening for the video, and provided post services in this project.

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Living in Los Angeles Redux

My building is changing, the old property management company has left. A new property management company has come in, with new rules and new ways of doing things.

As I watch the new management company settle into the day to day operation of the building, I wonder if it’s time to revisit my living situation.

I’m finding that my hip little pad is starting to be a problem for me when, for instance, I am doing a shoot and a client wants a quick and dirty greenscreen insert shot. I can’t do it without rearranging furniture. And while the best way to deal with this issue is to rent a studio (there are plenty nearby), the fact is a lot of low-end clients get scared when the price for a shot goes up a couple of thousand dollars. 

And I’m not too thrilled about some of my new neighbors. I heard through the grapevine that there is a drug problem in my building, and I witnessed a pretty bad domestic disturbance by the pool just a week ago.

I don’t think this New Urbanism experiment by the City of LA has failed. But I do think that the current economic situation has resulted in a lot of undesirable side effects for my little microcosm.

What’s more, I don’t believe the new building going up nearby will be condo-only, as I’d hoped it would be. Therefore, with potential rent increases coming and a new lease that wants my signature a few months out, I am starting to look at living in Los Angeles again. It’s an adjustment to me, coming from my concrete, glass, and granite hideaway up in the sky.

One thing I’ve learned in this past year and a half is that I like being in the action. I don’t want to live too far away from everything anymore. I like that the trip to Hollywood takes me 10 minutes right now. And I can get to Studio City in 10 minutes, too. Burbank’s studios are only 5 minutes away. And Universal is close, too.

But being in the middle of things is expensive. Even condos are going for $700K in the better areas. Sure, houses deeper into the valley are dropping to well under $500K. But that means added commute times.So I’m looking at buying or renting a house in places like Studio City, Sherman Oaks, and Toluca Lake.

The difficult part of renting a house in LA right now isn’t the price. The price sucks, on e just needs to deal with that. But the difficult part is gauging your new landlord’s financial stability and sense of responsibility.

What’s happening in Los Angeles right now is a lot of people who can’t sell their houses are becoming landlords, hoping to ride out the next year or two (or 5) of declining real estate prices.

The problem is, a portion of these new landlords are renting out their houses while ceasing to pay their mortgages.

After a few months, the house gets repo’d by the bank. Complete with the renter’s belongings.

A smart renter will do a title search, check for liens on the property, and ask around about the landlord’s financial health. These days, renters should interview prospective landlords as much as landlords interview renters. Some landlords don’t like that, but it is the new reality for us all, as real estate values drop 10-20% a year in LA.

Meanwhile, on the “buy a house” front, so much of what’s for sale is just junk. Total junk. I have no idea how people in this town live the way they do. How can you own a million dollar home and live like a homeless person? It’s sad. People should have more self respect than that.

Then again, when a seller really believes that their 1,200 square foot house on the edge of Toluca Lake is worth $900K I guess it’s not egos that are lacking.

So I wait. And ponder what the best course of action is, for me. I don’t have any answers yet.

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New Project: Corporate Brand Rollout Video

We just completed a new video for a major Los Angeles corporation that is changing its name and refining its brand. The end product was a 5 minute video that illustrates the new company name and positioning statements. We used After Effects and Final Cut Pro, along with Peak and SoundTrack Pro to create a pulsing rollout for the new brand. More soon, once the company goes public with the change.

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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.