Creative Storytelling in web, iOS, and Film

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Run and Gun Test of the Panasonic DVX-200 Camera

Unlike some production firms, we shoot so often that having our own gear in-house is essential. The evolution from HD to 4K is nearly complete in our studio, except for a run and gun 4K camera. To that end, we’re excited to be testing the DVX 200 camera from Panasonic. It will be released in the summer of 2015, and we’re looking forward to comparing this camera to our already remarkable D-SLR, the Panasonic G4. OVERALL IMPRESSION I won’t mince words. This is going to be a killer camera. There’s no doubt that once an operator learns all of the ins and outs, the amount of control, image capability, and flexibility relative to the integration of software, glass, and form factor will lend itself to gorgeous productions. My only regret is not having two more days to learn how to use some of its capabilities and to fine tune it. TESTING PROCESS Our perspective was to test this as a tool for documentary work. We did not conduct portrait interviews, cinema style shots, or television production capture. Both Cameron and I used the camera as a run and gun documentary media capture device. The objective was to see what types of content we could grab using a minimal amount of gear. That meant limiting ourselves to the following: DVX-200 Camera Sachtler tripod Shotgun mic Compared to using a DSLR, this is like being used to running in cowboy boots and suddenly switching to Nike runner’s shoes. Frankly, throughout the entire testing process, we were reminded of how much we’d forgotten about using this type of camera. ISSUES TO CONSIDER: Let’s start with the things that were not so great. 1. A very important function for documentary and cinema camera operators is the ability to run with the camera, with the camera facing to the back, and the camera viewfinder facing forward. To get the image properly, when the viewfinder is flipped over, the image should flip over. Currently, it doesn’t. This is a drawback for multiple types of uses and it would be terrific if in the future, this function could be implemented into the camera. 2. This may have been operator error (due to lack of time), but we could not determine how to select a preset “look” and to then see what had been programmed after the fact. We were able to find out how to create a preset, but not how to check the preset selected. This was important because there were already presets implemented, but outside of the cine alta icon showing, we weren’t able to determine what exactly had been created. 3. When you select a preset, it might be useful if there was a reminder that you were switching presets — just as you would when you are about to format an SD card. “Are you sure?” Typically, you won’t be switching presets on the fly, as that would be highly disruptive to the image being captured. And, at the same time, you don’t want to hit a user button and switch the preset, but MISS THAT YOU’VE DONE THAT because you’re focused on the content being captured. 4. Again, this is potentially operator error, but it would be nice if you could more easily measure the noise level, notably in blacks or...

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JVC GY-LS300 Camera — Is it a Solid 4K Solution for Run and Gun?

We’re making the migration to 4K. HD video is terrific, and we’ve had great success with it for many years now. Today, 4K is not a fad. It’s not up and coming. It’s the future and it’s present. Today. So, we’ve been testing, shooting, reading, and doing the things most people do when they’re looking for a new bit of kit. Thanks to the terrific people at EVS in Burbank (and the very eager to please folks at JVC), I was given the opportunity to spend a week with the new JVC GY-LS300 camera. As I was traveling up the coast for meetings related to our iOS Studio, I figured I’d take it with me, shoot some stuff, and let EVS and JVC know what I thought. If we spin the throw-back-lifetime wheel, I used to do a lot of product reviews. NAB, NAMM, CES, and multiple auto shows were the core of my collaborations, and it was great fun to check out a product before it reached the marketplace. For the last decade, testing gear had fallen off my radar – too busy with productions, deliverables, and clients. But now that we’re seeking real world answers to help us create better looking video for our clients, testing is once again hugely important. The first thing I should share is that we don’t test like many reviewers do. There are plenty of reviews that go over the specs, the accuracy of those specs, etc. What most of those reviews don’t do is create real projects. Our testing is based on using the product (whatever it is) in the manner in which we’re seeking to solve a problem. In this case, it’s a run and gun 4K video camera. After reading other people’s reviews, it seemed as if JVC’s latest jump into the indie pro-camera market would be a huge hit. The specifications as noted are amazing. Really way beyond what one might have anticipated just a few months ago for a camera with a list price under $4,000.00. Some of those key specs include: Full size video camera body – quite different from a DSLR Micro 4/3 lens design, with interchangeable lenses Full s35mm sensor – and software that matches it up to any lens manufacturer, so no conversion math SD cards, so standard storage SDI and HDMI out (both active while shooting) .MOV files, so easy to edit with Get some of the other specs here and here. I picked the camera up on a Friday afternoon, checked it out, and put in the car and hit the road. I used it on multiple occasions over the week that followed, and while doing so, wrote several email notes to one of our most trusted DPs, Casey Goode. I was frank with him. No, I was blunt. In fact, I was furious. Casey (don’t blame him) suggested I put my email notes into a blog post. I’ll ass some bits here, but want to be fair – and everyone should note that there are many types of video camera users out there, and many of them will love this camera. Why so serious? I decided that to test the camera, I would shoot a run and gun documentary style piece. I chose the very cool Railway near Santa Cruz,...

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Introducing R/com Studios

We’re making some changes that will help us better collaborate with you. R/com Creative is now officially R/com Studios. The change allows us to focus more clearly on our mission – creative content development. There are three studios to choose from: Film Studio – Our creative film projects originate here. Many of our projects are shown in festivals and much of that work is awarded metal to show off to friends and clients. Personally, I think they should give us piñatas. At least we could fill those with candy and have our friends and clients smash ’em to bits. Cheaper, too. iOS Studio – Our team is busy at work creating interesting business related apps for the iPad and iPhone. We’re focusing on the specific market that is iOS, but who knows what we might add in the future. Web Studio – We’re working on several new projects that could be very useful for you. That includes a heavily revised Content Management System (CMS), updated survey app, and cloud based emergency services solutions. We’re going to talk about gear, production process, our work, and how all of that ties together to develop better stories for our clients and the market into which they reach. We’re also going to “let our hair down,” so to speak – and engage a bit more of our opinion in some of our blog postings. As an example, one of the key projects underway at R/com Studios is completing the migration from HD to 4K video. The emergence of 4K is more than a fad – it’s the future, and the future is present. As we look for tools to complete that migration, we’ll share our experiences and opinions with you – as our clients and co-collaborators, hopefully our experiences will help define our skill set, what we believe in, and how we can create solutions that mean something – both for you and your market. So check back often. See what we’re up to and share your thoughts and opinions. When you need anything within the creative sphere, give us a call. We’re ready to...

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iOS 9 Shows Some Maturity, Not So The Watch… Yet

At this year’s WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple debuted a number of new things, and as it happens, iOS 9 Shows Some Maturity, Not So The Watch… Yet. Core Improvements The core improvement Apple wanted to make on iOS 9 this go-round was adding intelligence to the operating system. Craig Federighi started the segment off with Siri’s upcoming improvements. New “context sensitive” features include the ability to tell Siri to “remind me about this” and it will know you are referring to the webpage currently on Safari. If you receive a phone number but are not sure who’s calling, you can also ask Siri to search through your emails to find any matches. Siri can also suggest people to invite for meetings, or apps that you might like your usage behavior during particular times of day. Apple also unveiled an API for search to help developers deep link their apps from mobile Spotlight searches. All of your searches and suggestions are not linked to your Apple ID or shared with third parties. New improvements are also coming to apps like Notes and Maps, indexing links on the former and transit information on the latter. When you look up businesses on Maps, it will also give you info on whether or not they accept Apple Pay, because of course. News Additionally, Apple announced a new app for iOS 9 called News to personalize news content, updating anytime the user opens the app. The Flipboard-like app include graphics that adapt based on the news source’s site aesthetics, and allow users to browse publishers for top stories. News will roll out first to the US, UK and Australia. Some updates coming to the iPad: New gestures are being added such as using two fingers to tap on the keyboard to turn it into a touchpad. This is helpful for when you want to drag text during an email, for example. Multi-window support is also coming to the iPad, much like OS X El Capitan. You can also simultaneously scroll on both screens… if that’s your thing. There’s a new slide-over view as well, so you can drag in another app from the side for a quick glance while you’re using another app in fullscreen. This could be useful for when you’re watching a video and want to quickly check your Twitter feed, for example. You can even switch between apps and have the video playing picture-in-picture. While it took 4.48GB for users to upgrade to iOS 8, iOS 9 will need just 1.3GB. Just like El Capitan, iOS 9 is available for developers today, with a public beta this July and a full roll out in the fall. ➤ Apple launches iOS 9 with a smarter Siri ➤ Apple reveals Siri Proactive to take on Google Now ➤ Apple will allow developers to tap into Spotlight for the first time ➤ Apple announces News, its Flipboard competitor ➤ Apple Maps gets transit directions … finally ➤ Apple is making iOS 9 work better on iPad, adding multitasking Apple Pay Moving on to Apple Pay, Jennifer Bailey, head of the division, announced that Square will launch a new reader that that supports the service. She also said that the recently-announced Pinterest buyable pins will be compatible with Apple Pay on iOS. Apple Pay...

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Responsive Web Design is Very Important

There is NO doubt that Responsive Web Design is very important for today’s webdesign point of view. Smartphone and tablet adoption rapidly increases, so does the importance of mobile-friendly websites. Smartphones and tablets have changed the approach toward design and user experience. Before the spread of mobile devices with advanced web-browsing capability, web designers had only one primary challenge to deal with keeping the same look and feel of their websites. However, interacting with websites on smartphones and tablets is not the same as doing that on a desktop computer monitors. Factors such as Click versus Touch, Screen-size, Pixel-resolution, support for Adobe’s Flash technology, optimized markup and many more have become crucial while creating websites with Responsive Design. If SEO is a core component of your digital marketing strategy, having a mobile–friendly website is becoming essential. Mobile sales have already overtaken desktop sales, and mobile Internet usage is predicted to overtake desktop internet usage by 2014. It is only logical that mobile search will overtake desktop search at some point in the near future as well. What is Responsive Web Design? Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an approach of laying-out and coding a website such that the website provides an optimal viewing experience — ease of reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling — across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones). The designer creating a Responsive Design should ensure that the website’s navigation elements, screen-layouts, text, images, audio/video players and other UI elements re-adjust themselves on a variety of devices. Thus, one need not spend extra time and money in creating and maintaining one “mobile-site version” and another “desktop-site version” of her website. Now, having understood what is Responsive Web Design, let us Check the advantages and why Responsive Design is important while creating websites. Advantages of Responsive Design 1. Super Flexible Responsive web design sites are fluid, meaning the content moves freely across all screen resolutions and all devices. Both the grids and the images are fluid. Just as a liquid spreads out or draws in to allow its content to fill an allotted space and retain its appearance, responsive web design’s fluidity achieves the same result with website content on a device screen. 2. Excellent User Experience While, content is king and discover ability of content are foremost success metrics, it is the user experience that enables visitors to consume content on any website through the device of their choice and preference, anytime. Thus, responsive web design is about providing the optimal user experience irrespective of whether they use a desktop computer, a smartphone, a tablet or a smart-TV. Responsive web design accommodates the busy professional during the day and the wide-awake college student needing access to your site anytime. No scrolling or resizing is needed for any visitor to access your website from their favorite device. 3. Cost Effective The advantages of having a single site that conforms to the need of all devices are significant when compared to having two separate websites. One website costs less than two, and the savings can be substantial. Sites designed solely for mobile device traffic don’t offer the advanced navigational techniques found in traditional websites, and they also require the user to maintain two separate web addresses for your...

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When Is 4K Video Essential?

As the world of 4K video production has evolved during the past two years, interest in the format has grown substantially – and we’re often asked, when is 4K video essential? Producing 4K video in 2015 isn’t as a challenging proposition. At the same time, there is a reasonable argument that in many cases, there is no benefit or reason to move to 4K. We’re going to discuss this from the viewpoint of a producer – because that’s what we do. We create content. Without question, our productions are viewed by our clients as “quality” pieces. Our work continues to win awards. And, we have yet to release a product that was shot and edited in 4K. Why Consider 4K at All? There are many possible answers to this question and a core response would be that 4K will future-proof your productions. In 2013, 4K was a novelty, and during the past year, some good content has started to appear. Today, you can purchase a 4K TV for under $800, so the price is now reasonable as well. 4K cameras can be purchased for less than $500, so equipment is coming widely available as well.  So, even though HD is gorgeous, if you want to consider longevity of products and equipment, 4K is becoming the standard for “new” equipment purchases. A number of people will want to stay at the leading edge of the technology curve. This isn’t ego-driven, either. If you’ve worked with HD for awhile – and more importantly if you worked in SD format and upgraded to HD, you already know how important a shift like this is. Getting in early and adjusting to the new workflow, rather than putting it off and falling behind is often the preferred route, especially considering there isn’t an huge price barrier involved. Besides, with 4K equipment, you can capture your footage in ultra-high resolution, and deliver in HD. You gain the ability to produce in multiple formats, and you don’t give up any functionality in the process. Creative Benefits There are also creative benefits involved with shooting in 4K for projects that you plan to deliver only in HD. A 4K image is four times larger than a 1080p image. This gives you the option to shoot wide on set, and then crop in later in post—without giving up a hair of 1080p resolution. You can automate crops that pan across the frame, which creates a dolly-like effect, or you can do things like zooming in or out, and making Ken Burns-style effects. With a talking head shot, you can frame a wide shot, and in post you can punch in on the same footage for tighter shots, essentially getting a mulit-camera setup from a single camera. It should be noted that when you crop in, you will no longer be able to blow that footage back up to 4K, so these creative benefits are strictly for projects that will remain in HD, foregoing the benefit of future-proofing. In our film studio, we’re making the move to 4K gradually, with every new purchase. We now have 4K cameras, and 4K capable post production tools. We’ve upgraded our software and we’re shooting more content in 4K. We’re still delivering most of our work in HD, but it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be working...

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Are You Ready for a CRM?

Are you ready for a CRM? As more Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions emerge for business management, one of the fastest growing segments involves Customer Relationship Management, or CRM. We have worked with multiple clients engaging them with a CRM solution, and there is a substantial difference between the theory proposed by the solution providers, and the real world experience of companies using (or attempting to use) the software. What is it? As a starting point, a CRM is designed around its title: customer relationships. The idea is that a provider of a product or service will engage their customers with a new ongoing exchange of information, data gathering, and promotional or incentive-based marketing activities. One of the key challenges for anyone wishing to deploy a CRM is that not every client thinks they need this solution – and in fact many would rather not be so engaged. There are many types of CRM systems in the marketplace. We provide two types of solution support related to CRM use: we’ll create a custom in-house CRM for you, or alternatively we’ll consult on implementation of a third party solution. Either way, talking about how and why you might want to use a CRM is essential – many are so feature driven it will take you literally weeks of training to learn how to properly implement some of them. Everyone Must Be On Board There is no point in implementing a CRM solution if everyone doesn’t use it. If some do and some don’t, the data you acquire will be incomplete, leading to the potential for “false math” or incorrect assumptions. The bottom line is that the most sophisticated tools are useless if your team either a) Won’t use them; or b) Spends too much time feeding the system that it takes away from their customer-facing efforts. Selling or Data Entry One of the key problems with a CRM solution is that the role of the account executive is modified – often taking them out of their comfort zone. In many examples, when implementing a CRM, all of the various departments (marketing, sales, etc.) chime in with the customer data they feel the CRM should track. The marketing organization often wants to track lead sources, organizational structure, competitor information, and an array of information they believe to be “valuable.”  The accounting and legal teams have their wish lists. What often ends up happening in most organizations, is someone from Marketing, Accounting or Legal suggests: “While sales executives are speaking with the customer, they should gather that information.” Ummm… no. Don’t let that happen. Do you want your salespeople to drive revenue, or perform data entry? Top performing salespeople are effective at planning and executing the sales process. Most are not trained or wired to be effective at producing quantities of data in digital form.  One possible comparison would be asking an airline pilot to also do the maintenance on the aircraft and provide ticking solutions for each customer. Develop and Maintain Institutional Knowledge One of the most valuable aspects of a good CRM is to have a repository of information about your firm’s opportunities and clients. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a good CRM. Using a shared spreadsheet on a network drive is not the answer. There are too many opportunities for that data to...

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Which One? New iPhone 6 Plus or iPad?

The question of the month is – Does the new iPhone 6 Plus dilute the market for the iPad? According to IDC, purchases of tablet devices have slowed quite a bit during the past year. Even the iPad, which continues to be the market leader is not experiencing the type of growth that smart phones are. Now, with the Apple 6 Plus, some people are wondering if the tablet has a future at all. Use the Right Device For the Job In our office, we use both the iPhone and the iPad. We produce more software for the iPad, but now new discussions have taken place — “could we adapt this iPad app to run on the iPhone Six Plus,” has come up more than once. For me, it was pretty straight forward: I think an iPhone 6 Plus is too big to carry around in my pocket or on my belt. So, I’m using the phone for communication, and the iPad for work. For others in the office, a bit more of a debate has ensued. My question to the team has been: “what is the right device for the job or function at hand?” First, the iPhone 6 Plus does offer behavior more like that of a micro-iPad than an iPhone. That’s a result of the third party developer ecosystem. Clearly, some apps will now run on an iPhone 6 Plus that wouldn’t be “phone capable” in the past. Still, it’s a small screen when compared to any iPad. If you need to question this, visit an Apple store and put the 6 Plus and an iPad Mini side by side. While the size difference between an iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 (or iPhone 5/5s) is small, the difference between it and iPad mini is substantial. Which one? If you think you need an iPad, you probably do. When evaluating the screen of the iPhone 6 Plus, it’s pretty clear that some tasks common on iPad weren’t going to be particularly suited to it. For moderate to extensive image editing and or anything more than light editing of Office documents, particularly large spreadsheets, the iPad is still the way to go. Even reading an entire ebook on it doesn’t seem quite so appealing. At the same time, for someone that spends a lot of time collaborating and messaging, the iPhone 6 Plus is more than capable, and apps that use that extra screen real estate the way Apple has will provide a much better mobile work experience than the iPhone 6. Reviewing documents, PDFs, presentations, or video are also great business matches for the iPhone 6 Plus. For our team, we can watch video content on the iPhone 6 Plus in full HD. That’s pretty cool. Oh, and Don’t Forget Microsoft Office… There’s one other important factor to keep in mind when it comes to functionality between these devices — the iPhone 6 Plus may behave like it’s a micro-iPad more than a larger iPhone, but it is still an iPhone. That means that, added functionality aside, you will still be loading iPhone apps onto it, and universal apps that run on both iPhones and iPads will treat it as an iPhone. If you use Microsoft Office, that’s an really important thing to consider. Microsoft did a solid job with...

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Building 3D Models Changes How We Share Via The Web

So, what about 3D? We’ve seen it in motion pictures for years now. Back in the 1990s, I was CEO of a software development firm called Aegis Development. We created a 3D modeling and animation system called VideoScape 3D. It was used for pre-production and production in TV and motion pictures. It evolved into Lightwave 3D and has had a tremendous success rate ever since. Today, 3D is being used in lots of new and different ways. Have you visited the Apple.com website recently? Most of the devices you see in the website (photographs excluded) are actually 3D models. As such, the marketing people have far more control over the presentation of data and information. We use 3D models ourselves, and quite successfully. One example is our client website PureCommand. The iPad devices in the site are all 3D models developed by our team. The benefits of 3D in today’s world include: A 3D model is a real, life sized entity built inside of the computer. A 3D model is more realistic than 2D drawings. 3D design gives you a competitive edge – one your competition may already be enjoying. 3D models are great for design reviews with other members of a design team. All construction and shop fabrication drawings are created from the 3D model insuring accuracy in the final product. 3D models are a tremendous marketing tool and can create additional revenue. Good 3D design is not easily achieved. It is the product of talent, knowledge, and skill. Its value is immense. 3D Opens up a world of design that is otherwise inaccessible. The more we use 3D, the more we’re sold on it. Look for an array of new 3D modeled images and content in our client...

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Why iOS 8 is Useful to Our Clients

As our team develops iOS apps, some of our clients are always interested in what makes advances in the OS useful to their business or services. Apple’s introduction of iOS 8 provides some important and useful enhancements that anyone using an iPad or iPhone should be interested in. Interactive Notifications —  Interactive notifications is a terrific new element within iOS 8. Now, you may respond to texts, email, calendar invitations, reminders and messages within other apps such as Facebook or Instagram from the notification banners that pops up at the top of the screen. Keyboards — For the first time, you’re no longer restricted to the keyboard Apple gives you and can pick better options from third-party developers, like Swype ($0.99). So, if you type in a particular way, now you can do it your way. Timer for Photographs — Apple added a timer to its Camera app, allowing you either 3 or 10 seconds to position the camera and then jump into the shot with your friends. You don’t need to touch the camera, either. Selfies galore. Battery Monitoring — This is one of the most useful new elements of iOS 8. Check your apps and see how much impact each one has on your battery. To identify which apps you should close when not in use, visit General > Usage > Battery Usage. This small step could add a few hours of extra battery life to your day. Homescreen in Landscape Mode — While iOS 7 users could read content in landscape mode, the home screen never changed. Now, iPhone 6 Plus owners will be able to turn their device 90 degrees and see apps displayed on the home screen in either format. Key People Shortcuts — If you press the Home button twice, you’ll not only see the webpages you have open but the faces of people you’ve recently talked to. This makes it easy to call or text your favorite contacts right away. Note that ALL contacts will be highlighted, even those you might not want others to see. To remove this feature, visit Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Show in App Switcher and switch it of Off. Shared Locations — Now, iOS 8 lets you set up a window for when you want whereabouts shared, too — for example, if you’re going to be at a specific location from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET, you can share your location with a group of co-workers or friends until you’re ready to head back to the office – or home. Slo Mo Video — iOS 8 users now have way more control over videos. What typically can cost thousands of dollars in camera equipment to speed up or slow down footage is now available for free within the Camera app, giving you the opportunity to get creative with your...

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