The day after Labor Day will always remind me of heading back to school. That brought the possibility of learning new things to fill those new blank spiral notebooks purchased for each class. The clean covers, the pages with crisp corners and all those empty lines were ready for important things to remember.
It’s also another milestone opportunity to get things going again. Like a new year there are projects to start, to re-start and actually finish this time. Go get your own new notebook and start fresh. But keep in mind the best ideas may be from the doodles in the margins, and life is always a multiple choice test.
You may be asking yourself why a video production company and recording studio in Tampa Bay would post this. But there is a connection and a twist. The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination reminded me of a job we did in 1999. CMR Studios was hired to digitize President John F. Kennedy’s personal record albums from the Robert L. White Collection for an exhibit at the Florida International Museum.
The collection included some home recordings on lacquer discs that predated recording tape. One featured “John Fitzgerald” and others singing “Smile Awhile” and “Sweet Adeline” at what sounded like a great party. Among the other records and popular recordings was an album by Roger Williams with the song “Yellow Bird”. I was told by the museum that the significance of the album was that it was played by JFK while flying on Air Force One during the trip to Dallas.
One of the well known habits of JFK was his doodling. Kennedy’s secretary Evelyn Lincoln compiled many of them that are now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. After meetings, he would leave his papers behind and Lincoln would collect them. Well maybe those are in the archives, but he evidently drew on lots of other things that were at hand. That brings us back to the record album on that fateful flight.
Holding the records that I knew had been handled by Kennedy was a bit eerie in the first place. When I pulled the record sleeve out of the Roger Williams album I was excited to see pencil markings on the paper. Because of his doodling habit, these were likely by the President himself. At first it just looked like random repeating images which are very common in the archives of his doodles.
Doodle in pencil on a record jacket drawn by JFK on the way to Dallas. November 22, 1963
Then a drawing that looked like the hands of a clock caught my eye. It was spine-chilling when I realized that two of the three hands drawn showed the time as 1:00. That was the time President Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital. Or was it representing the three shots?
The repeating square images could be interpreted as being the view looking up at windows of a large building, like the Texas School Book Depository. It appears that there are even six lines of squares. Oswald shot from the sixth floor. Could this have been some subliminal premonition Kennedy had of the assassination that came out in his drawings?
I informed the curator of the exhibit about my discovery, but nothing more was ever mentioned about it. The exhibition in St. Petersburg closed May 29, 2003 and in October Mr. White passed away suddenly of a heart attack. The collection was sold at auction in 2005. I don’t know if the album was sold at that time. If it was, I wonder if the new owner knows the mystery inside the “Yellow Bird” album perched on their shelf.
Every now and then a video production project comes along that requires all of our skills and talents in multiple crafts as well as some true artistry. This is one that we are especially proud of. The public service video promoted participation in the foster care program in Tampa, Florida. It presented several challenges. The initial one was that because of privacy issues the heart-wrenching and personal stories couldn’t show any of the families involved.
Studio president and creative director Mike Weber presented the client with the concept of writing a script that was the blending of several true cases into the story of one child. The treatment would be done in a form parents and children can relate to: a storybook. More specifically, a pop-up storybook that would become a virtual set for the six-minute video. The live action actors would seem to be be inserted into the pages using green screen compositing. “It seemed like a simple idea at the time” says Weber. “But original artwork takes time, lots of time.” Ultimately CMR artists devoted nearly a thousand man-hours over sixth months to producing the one of a kind pop-up book.
Click in the window below to see all the steps in the production process.
Every page turn reveals one of eleven scenes depicting: the Tampa skyline, the University of Tampa, a house, various interior settings, Busch Gardens and Lowry Park Zoo. They each open into dimensional art that was then shot close-up in HD. All the actors that appear on camera also appear on the pages of the book, so Art Director Marina Weber had the job of creating their actual likenesses, including wardrobe, along with a whole cast of paper extras. Multiplane dimensional background plates and animation elements add even more detail that wouldn’t be possible to physically fold in the book.
High Def Video and Special Effects
The foster care agency helped select professional talent to match their typical client profile. The green screen footage was then shoot on the in-house CMR stage. Adam Weber handled shooting the HD footage of the pop-up book virtual set and designing unique pinpoint lighting for each scene. Page manipulation was done by Marina and Melissa.
Like puppeteers, they hid behind the book and wore green gloves so their hands could be removed from the shots later.
Once all the HD footage was shot, the footage was edited in Final Cut, and the various elements were composited together. The actors were put “in” the book, background plates were added along with animated elements before a final color correction and color grading. Mike Weber then handled audio post adding a customized music track and sound effects for each scene before the final audio mix and project completion.
Award Winning Work
The video project was recognized for excellence, winning a national TELLY Award.
The creative process is an amazing thing. Getting that spark of an idea is a rush. Bringing a video, commercial, radio spot to life here in the studios brings a definite feeling of satisfaction. But sometimes it seems the creative ideas will never come. There has always been that adage of “Write drunk, edit sober.” Now it seems there is proof that it is true.
In an article by Mikel Cho at ooomf.com he cites that neuroscientists have studied the “eureka moment” and found that in order to produce moments of insight, you need to feel relaxed so front brain thinking can move to the back of the brain and activate the small spot above your right ear responsible for moments of insight. Researchers found that about 5 seconds before you have a ‘eureka moment’ there is a large increase in alpha waves that activates that. These alpha waves are associated with relaxation, which explains why you often get ideas while you’re on a walk, in the shower, or… on the toilet.
Extensive research on the subject (in actual laboratories not just bars) shows that alcohol frees up your brain to think more creatively by reducing your ability to pay attention to the stuff going on around you and relaxes you to produce a similar effect on alpha waves. That helps you get creative insights.
The Creative Director Test
Author Dave Birss brought together a group of 18 advertising creative directors and split them into two teams. One was allowed to drink as much alcohol as they wanted while the other team had to stay sober. The groups were given a creative brief and had to come up with as many ideas as they could in three hours. These ideas were then graded by a collection of top creative directors.
The result? The team of drinkers not only produced the most ideas but also came up with four of the top five best ideas.
You have the ideas, now how about some coffee?
Caffeine studies show that coffee can increase quality and performance if the task you are doing seems easy and doesn’t require too much abstract thinking. So, after you have an initial idea or a plan laid out, a cup of coffee can help you follow through on your concept faster without compromising quality.
Always In Moderation – Legal Disclaimer
If you decide to drink coffee or beer while you’re working, stick to no more than 2 drinks per sitting and try not to do this more than once or twice per week to prevent dependency. Coffee and beer shouldn’t be thought of as magic bullets for creativity. If you have to choose between coffee or beer, think about what type of task you are about to do and make sure you don’t over-do it.
So, if you’ve got some great ideas you want to produce, our coffee is always ready. Of course we’ll also be happy to go out for a couple of beers.
We will be shooting a video in Tampa of impact tests on glass doors in the next few days so we decided to practice some high speed techniques using the EPIC camera in our studio. Okay… breaking stuff is cool. Seeing it break at 356 frames per second is cooler. This is one of the shots. It shows a bamboo arrow shot from an air rifle shattering a large bulb that used to grace our front doorway entrance. Two previous shots with a pellet gun simply created the hole and didn’t shatter the bulb.CLICK HERE to view the high speed bulb shot
Look for the video of 2 x 4s being fired at 150 MPH into glass doors next. There may be a lot more glass to sweep up. Then again our client is making impact resistant windows. I hope it gets to be like Mythbusters and they finally crank the speed up to the max.
We’ve been doing video productions and commercials for businesses and products in Tampa and at locations all over the country for years. Every now and then we have encountered a talent who has trouble delivering a line. When it’s the first line of the script an involves the name of the product, the pressure is on. That happened on a location shoot in Tampa back in 2007 for a product called the Quick Shutter Clamping System. In fact, the repeated stumbles and miscues happened so many times it became comical. So we created a little blooper video of it. Posting it on YouTube it has racked up over 17,000 views. Not a lot really in the viral video realm, since cats seem to get a lot more attention for some reason. But the video did just catch the eye of producers at the cable channel TruTV. They contacted us and want to use the clips on a show called “20 Funniest”. We’ll be interested to see who the other 19 are.
It’s not unusual for clients to send us their logo to use in their video production or commercial. After all, that’s one of the most important parts of your identity. It’s important too that it look great in HD. All too often we get a little thumbnail that they actually grab from their own website. Unfortunately, it seems that many designers don’t give them the proper file type for distribution to different mediums, like print and video. JPEGs are the most common. The problem with those files is that they don’t re-size well and they don’t have transparency to overlay the video on a background without having it appear in a white box. I found a great website that explains the differences. It’s clever name says it all. www.NOjpeg.org
The bottom line is that we would prefer that you send us an EPS file of your logo. If you don’t have one, go get one handy you should get one from your designer. Send us a copy and keep a copy in you archives. If that isn’t possible, our Art Director Marina can create one for you from whatever file you send us. Even if it’s that little website thumbnail. Then you will have it for all of your video productions and even print jobs too.
“To infinity and beyond” could be what you say when you walk down the hall to our green screen studio. Though it’s not big enough to hold a car the seamless horizon of our true “Infinity Wall” hard corner cyclorama (cyc) allows for shooting special effects in-house with full head to toe coverage and room for multiple talents. With a state-of-the-art florescent lighting grid bathing the space with color-corrected, even illumination, the camera views the seamless space as totally neutral. This allows for your on-camera talent to be digitally layered with graphics, backgrounds, virtual sets and even other talent or the same talent replicated. Equipped with the RED One and EPIC cameras and teleprompter, the studio stays busy on projects including commercials, corporate business videos, product demos, web videos and photo shoots. We regularly feature behind the scenes shots on our Facebook page. Give us a buzz and we’d be happy to show you around.
Careful Positioning of Cameras Makes Time Lapse Videos Move
When shooting time lapse video of a large construction site, it’s most common to see a long static wide shot of the site. Unfortunately you miss seeing the details of what work is going on. The solution is to use multiple camera positions and angles that selected for maximum view, action and details. This video we shot for Alstom Power and Tampa Electric Company. It really lets you appreciate the skill it takes to set into place pieces that weigh almost two million pounds each.
So where do you go to get a caterpillar on short notice? That was the challenge when producing one of a series of spots for sod company Bethel Farms. Depicting a family enjoying their lawn and the great outdoors one shot was of a curious little girl watching a live caterpillar. Cute idea. But we live in a state where importing bugs is difficult. Finding one in the wild proved a futile search. Then we remembered that the Museum of Since and Industry in Tampa (MOSI) has a butterfly exhibit. It only took one call and a quick trip the day before the shoot. We got two Monarch caterpillars and a milkweed plant to feed them. We were told that one was likely to be just two days from forming a chrysalis.
The day of the shoot, we didn’t wait long to get the shot. Marina took on the role of caterpillar wrangler and gently moved our many legged friend onto a stick and kept the striped star in the shot when it crawled away. Using the RED ONE camera and a long lens at ground level produced an endearing shot of little Emma, the caterpillar and some of the lush hero grass.
The funniest part was when cameraman Rich Roddman was trying to keep little Emma interested after a few minutes of staring at the caterpillar. He asked her if she had a name for it. Not being a fan of bugs, she quickly replied “Ewe”.