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August 2008
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October 2008

September 2008

Making the most of your budget

These days, every dollar is important, so one thing I try to do is let our clients know what to expect and how they can maximize their savings on a production.

Dollarsign One thing I think most clients realize is that you can't get a $15,000 production on a $5000 budget - so one of the questions I ask in trying to get a grasp of the project is 'what is your budget?' I ask a lot of other questions first, but it helps me determine if what you want is realistic for the budget. Usually it is - and there are times that we can do it for less than you have budgeted.

Companies that produce videos frequently generally know what budgets will run, but sometimes it's a first-time client that doesn't have that knowledge. I look at this as an opportunity to provide some guidance and insight on what to expect.

I go over the importance of planning. Real estate may be about location, but video is about planning. The more we can plan and prepare, the less likely we'll encounter a situation that causes us to go over budget. It doesn't matter the budget, the importance of proper planning helps every project.

Unfortunately, we don't get every job we submit a proposal on, but I do ask the client a favor - they tell me who they chose and why. Sometimes I recognize the company (most of us know each other to some degree) and can be pleased they chose a reputable company. I also get the opportunity to improve my business by hearing their feedback. I love feedback, so I ask for it constantly from my clients, from my oldest one (The Weather Channel, 1999) to my newest (Fujitsu, 2008).

It's my goal to make sure we are good stewards of your investment - from start to finish.

Live from Florida for Bloomberg Television

We frequently find ourselves on location throughout the Southeastern United States. Clients call and are in need of a crew. Sometimes we only drive a few miles, other times we drive and/or fly hundreds of miles.

I enjoy location work, especially when it's a challenge. Such was the case earlier this year when we had to travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for Bloomberg TV. We've covered many events for Bloomberg, but this one had some unique challenges. First, the area in which we could set up our live shot location was about 1/3 of the normal size, due in part that we were on the 7th floor pool deck of the hotel. The larger challenge, however was the lack of a location to park a satellite truck.

In all our years, this was only the second time we had no where to park the truck. Solution? Bring in what's called a 'fly-away.'  It's basically a satellite truck without the truck. All the equipment travels in cases that can be flown on an airplane or loaded in a van.

Once on location, we set up our 'master control' in a hotel room, then cabled across the pool deck to our uplink station (which happened to have a wonderful view of the beach). I shot a short video with my Flip Video Camera which I've posted on our YouTube page. Here's the video:

As you can see, we had a pretty nice set-up which also featured a fourth camera scenic shot looking south to Port Everglades where we watched the cruise ships arrive and depart. But don't be fooled, it was a lot of work getting all the gear up (and down) to our live shot location.

By the way - the only other location we had to use a fly-away? An oil drilling ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It took us almost 2.5 hours (and two re-fueling stops) to reach the ship where we stayed for two days and uplinked live to The Weather Channel for 'Weekend View.' Now that was fun!

Wishing the best to those in the path of Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike is several hours away from landfall, but already the Galveston, Texas area has been feeling the effects for most of the day. Most of the access to the mainland has now been cut off and a recent report from the Galveston City Manager claims that 45% of the residents have remained.

Considering a person would only have to drive 50 miles (at the most) to reach a safe, free shelter, many are taking their lives in their hands. I remember during Hurricane Katrina the National Hurricane Center issued reports that if you entered your attic, make sure you had a saw or tool that would allow escape through the roof.

I hope everyone makes it through Hurricane Ike, but by this time on Sunday, I'm afraid we'll be hearing some bad news from the networks.

Hurricane Ike takes aim at Texas

It's been interesting watching the computer models try to determine the path of Hurricane Ike. First it looked like a Florida landfall - then moving into the Gulf - much like Katrina. Then Mississippi and Louisiana were in the target.

But weather being what it is, conditions change and so does the track. A couple of days ago, it looked like Ike might be pushed into south Texas or even Mexico, but slowly weather conditions change and the ridge erodes, allowing it to begin a northward turn toward Houston.

We will all be watching in the coming days. A couple of good sources of information can be:
National Hurricane Center
The Hurricane Information Center

The networks, including The Weather Channel and CNN will have extensive live coverage. One of our stringers will be working with The Weather Channel for live coverage during landfall.

Having gone through many landfalls and the aftermath, including Katrina in Mississippi, I have witnessed firsthand the destruction from a hurricane and it can be beyond words. So many deaths are unnecessary - drowning, traffic accidents and suffocation from generators are all mostly avoidable. Slow down, evacuate to higher ground (and that doesn't mean driving 100 miles) and put generators outside the house.

I hope we see Hurricane Ike weaken prior to landfall, but if I were in Texas, I'd be preparing for the worst.

Airplanes, time lapse and Danica Patrick

Every once in a while, we get to do something really fun. Okay - so we get to do something fun nearly all the time. That's one of the benefits of being in this business. We have an opportunity to peak inside other businesses and industries and learn something new.

But sometimes it's just plane fun, yes, I meant plane. In this instance, we helped out a local PR firm promoting AirTran Airlines spokesperson Danica Patrick. She is one hot commodity right now. So hot, so big, they put her on the side of one of their Boeing 737's. But it wasn't something that happened quickly.

So we showed up at their Atlanta hanger about 11PM at night and set our Sony F-350 XDCam HD camera to record one frame of video per second. We couldn't be told exactly how long it would take, but the goal was to have it done before sunrise. Shooting one frame per second would ensure we could record all night.

As it turns out, it took less time than they expected (about 4 hours) and we then sped up the video 2000 percent so the entire process takes 20 seconds. Take a look.

Personally, I wish we shot more time lapse video. Perhaps it's because I like watching it so much.