Sep 02

side-bound-spiral-notebooks-largeThe week 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.

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Nov 21

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 by JFK found by Mike Weber at CMR Studios

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.

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Oct 30

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.

Unique Approach
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.

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Local Landscape
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.

Click Here To View The Finished Video

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Sep 20

alstom_timelapseCareful 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.

This video  won an ADDY award for cinematography

Click to view >>

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Aug 18

Caterpillar wrangling on setSo 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.RED ONE Florida shooting a TV spot featuring a caterpillar

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”.

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Jul 25


duratek It takes time to build a house. But showing this unique building concept for all concrete construction only takes a few minutes after several weeks of actual work.  This video uses time-lapse to show the many benefits of building precast homes in a dramatic fashion. It was designed to be a marketing tool to persuade other homebuilders a faster and safer solution to traditional wood-frame homes.

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Apr 16

Remember The Florida Suncoast Dome?
With the passing of Pat Summerall today we were remembering editing the video that pitched (no pun intended) the concept of major league baseball in St. Petersburg. Pat was the voice of the presentation produced by Bob Guckenberger and Landers & Partners Advertising. The narration was recorded in just one take.

Though talk has turned again to a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. It really wasn’t that long ago that Tropicana Field, then known as The Florida Suncoast Dome, was spoken of in glowing terms. In fact, it was the centerpiece of the pitch to get a major league team.

By the way, studio owner Mike Weber was the first person to place a season ticket reservation for the future team.

We thought it would be interesting to share this insight into the facts and figures that contributed to getting Tampa Bay a team and once again hear the memorable voice of Pat Summerall.

This is from an old VHS tape out of our archives so the quality isn’t the greatest. But you’ll still enjoy it.

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Mar 11

The Quiet Life

medicor_lifestyleThe client wanted to stress the portability of their oxygen generator so shot the actors in everyday locales all around the Tampa Bay area, including Lowry Park Zoo. One of the specialties of this device is that it’s FAA approved. To demonstrate this unique quality, we obtained clearance to shoot inside Tampa International Airport.

Click to view >>

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Feb 23

This six minute special effects video for Hillsborough Kids Inc. of Tampa, Florida was the result of over a thousand man-hours of hand-crafted creativity. The concept and original art for the unique pop-up book was designed, drawn, painted and assembled by the CMR Staff prior to green screen high definition filming on our in house shooting stage and compositing to create the video.

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Jul 26

Here’s the full article that appeared in the Tampa Bay Business Journal about the AAF 4th District public service campaign.

It’s likely that Tampa Bay area residents know the beaches are oil-free. But people outside the area aren’t so sure.

Now, the American Advertising Federation – Fourth District, the affiliate of the national professional association representing Florida and the Caribbean, is giving the message an extra push. A national understanding of the condition of Tampa Bay area beaches is important not only to pirate ship cruise operators, jet-ski rental companies and the tourism industry, but to the economic health of a region built around the water.

Mike Weber, president of St. Petersburg media production company CMR Studios, is leading the AAF – Fourth District campaign. He was inspired to start the effort after attending the AAF national conference in Orlando in June.

“People I talked to thought that all the Gulf beaches were black with oil,” Weber said.

The campaign will involve television spots, print ads and other media promoting the website, which contains links to social media channels Facebook and YouTube and encourages visitors to “friend” Florida. Each of the 22 AAF-Fourth District’s Florida chapters will produce and distribute advertising directing people to

The entire campaign, including the media buys, will be on a pro-bono basis, Weber said.

The idea is people will better understand the state of the beaches if they hear it from someone they know.

Timing is right

The campaign is set to help Florida as it stands at a crossroads for tourism marketing.

Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing organization, on July 18 spent the last of the $12 million it received out of BP’s $25 million grant to Florida for tourism advertising.

BP denied Gov. Charlie Crist’s June 30 request for another $50 million for tourism advertising and has yet to officially respond to further appeals for funding.

With funding still stuck in the sand, Visit Florida is trying to figure out its options.

“There’s little chance that without additional funding from BP, or some other sources, we would be able to continue at any level for the next couple of months,” said Visit Florida spokeswoman Kathy Torian.

In the meantime, hotels are taking their own steps to bring in customers and keep the public informed.

Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center in St. Pete Beach has its “Clean Beach Guarantee” that promises to waive early departure fees, allow a 6 p.m. cancellation on the same day of arrival and assist in finding other accommodations in event of a beachfront oil spill.

Negative perceptions around the country have shortened the booking window and cut into out-of-state group business, said Steve Rosenstock, marketing manager. “Everybody is losing some business because of the oil spill.”

Longboat Key Club & Resort has implemented its own “Clean Beach Guarantee” through the end of September that changed the cancellation policy from seven days prior to arrival to 24 hours.

Public Relations Manager Katherine Songster hopes the plan will increase people’s confidence.

“It’s a significant move on our part,” she said. “We want to make the consumer comfortable.”

While levels of business at the 218-room property are not dramatically different from a year ago, call volumes dropped at the height of negative press, Songster said.

Of particular concern was a call from a Tampa resident concerned about oil on Longboat Key beaches.

“We were all scratching our heads on that one,” Songster said. “It was a bit surprising someone so close to here had that perception.”

Multimedia experience
Pinellas County’s destination marketing organization Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater has taken a multimedia approach to keeping the public informed.
VSPC received $1.15 million from BP’s $25 million tourism advertising grant to Florida.
VSPC first increased the frequency of television and radio spots in the Tampa Bay and Orlando markets, which are the two major feeder markets for summer tourism.
VSPC’s efforts also have included “Wide Open” themed print ads with aerial images of clean beaches, a rotator board at Tropicana Field, e-mail blasts and search engine optimization to link the VSPC website to oil-free Web searches.
This week VSPC initiated “Underwater Updates,” short videos of footage from the reef system spanning the length of Pinellas County’s beaches.
The videos appeal to another important segment of area tourism, scuba tourism, VSPC Executive Director D.T. Minich said in a release.
Live Web cam images have been a component of both VSPC and Visit Florida’s efforts to inform the public.
— Margaret Cashill

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