Things Are Getting Better

This past year Tweedee Productions has done work at several manufacturing companies throughout Wisconsin.  We’ve crisscrossed our great state from Fennimore to Green Bay, Milwaukee to Rice Lake for various clients.  Most recently we shot at a plastics manufacturing plant in Baldwin.  The news that we’ve been hearing is that “things are getting better.”  Companies are hiring, working multiple shifts and cranking out products.  The owner of the plastics company told us that they have been working 24/7.  In some cases, employers cannot find enough qualified workers to fill the jobs they have.  Not a bad thing in the short-term.  Nationally, recent economic reports have been encouraging.

It’s been interesting commiserating with other business owners over the tough times we’ve all gone through.  Many have told us that 2008-09 were the bad years which was also true for us.  In some cases business virtually ground to a halt and many of us wondered if it was wise to keep the doors open.  In our case, I’m glad we did.

During what has been called the “great recession” the thought occurred to me that the companies that are able to weather the storm will be stronger in the end.  When operating in a bad economy, you learn real fast what works and what doesn’t.  You learn that all major decisions are critical and that there’s not much room for error.  Ultimately, you learn to have faith in your skills and that things will get better.

Fortunately for us, our business survived.  The lessons learned over the past few years have paid off.  The last two years have brought us great success as we’ve experienced sustained growth for the past 30 months.  We’re now able to do the things that I love to do like rewarding our employees and giving back to the community.  I realize that many folks have suffered, careers were lost and companies closed.  I’m grateful we have been able to continue on.  I feel the best is yet to come!

CEO/Founder, Tweedee Media Inc.

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That Time of Year

Typically, this time of year can be a little slow for us here at Tweedee Productions.  I blame it on vacations.  You know, projects don’t get started, approvals take longer, and you get the dreaded “out of office” email response from the person you need a critical decision from.  I say no more August vacations!  (Except for mine of course, which I just returned from and had a lovely time, thank you.)  For me, my client-related workload has been a little light of late, which has given me some time to work on the business side of my duties.

I am constantly assessing and evaluating our business.  I ask myself tough questions like, are our prices in line with the market?  Are we working efficiently?  How can we improve our service?  Are our clients satisfied with our work?  That last one is the biggie, cuz without clients, we’d be nothing more than a video production drop-in shelter.  This week I observed our team handle a potentially sticky client related issue beautifully.

At the end of last week we received a call from a client we had delivered a project to several weeks ago.  Apparently, there were some “discrepancies” with some of the content.  (I read of this problem in an email on Friday afternoon while I was still on vacation.  Just before I looked at my email I thought, “looks like we had a good week at the office – no major problems”.)  A meeting was arranged with the client first thing Monday morning by Steve Donovan, our senior editor.  He arranged for our business development guy, Mac Chorlton to attend the meeting as well.

The project in question consisted of a series of hour-long Power Point presentations with a presenter on camera in front of a group of people.  We edited in the Power Point slides later in post production.  A DVD master was produced with about nine segments on it and delivered it to the client for approval.  Once approved, they shipped the master off to the duplicator.  But…a funny thing happened to some of the Power Point slides when they were imported into our editing system.  Apparently, since the slides were produced with an older version of Power Point, some of formating changed when they were imported, thus changing their meaning which was not good considering the highly technical nature of the presentations.  Since we have limited knowledge of this client’s industry, we didn’t recognize the discrepancies. This was something that definitely needed to be fixed.

So how did Steve and Mac handle it?  Well, like the pros they are!  They both listened to the client and figured out what went wrong and how to fix it.  Steve surmised that the cause of the problem was the importation of the old Power Point slides.  He requested that the client make PDF files of all the slides.  Mac realized that the client was not in the mood to pay any more for this project so he wisely did not go down that road.  Bottom line?  Nobody’s fault, a few hours to fix, let’s get this done and move on.  The client’s happy and we will do more work for them.  Nice job, guys.

Yes, running a business can be stressful even during slow months.  If I could only stay off the email during vacations!

Gregg reading his email on vacation.

Gregg Schieve

 

Screaming with Video

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

– Mark Twain

Maybe “scream” is too strong of a word to use for my purposes, but are you using on-line video to “loudly proclaim” the story of your business, organization, or message?  Video combines sight, sound, motion, and emotion to create a message that helps you connect with your potential clients and customers.  Video allows you to tell a deeper story and has a more powerful impact.

Consider this:

–      75% of C-Level Executives say they watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week (Forbes/Google Survey)

–      YouTube is now the #2 search engine trailing only Google (comScore Internet Survey)

–      Videos that are run through a simple search engine optimization program are 53 times more likely to end up on “Page One” of a search engine result than just a text-only webpage (Forrester Research Study)

A short video (up to three minutes is an accepted norm for website videos) can help you tell your story in a direct, concise, and powerful way.  In keeping with that theme, I’ll keep this blog post short because Twain also said:

“The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.”

Mac

Things keep changing.

The new year has brought us a new video camera here at Tweedee Productions.  And with a new camera, of course, new technology.  Well, kinda.  We’ve already been using Panasonic’s P2 technology for a couple of years.  Our new camera, Panasonic’s HPX500EFP is actually a compliment to our well used and reliable Panasonic HVX200.  Both shoot amazingly good, eye popping, high-definition 1080i video.  The 500 has a few more bells and whistles, and comes in a more traditional shoulder-mount, Betacam-style configuration.  So far, I love it!  In addition to shooting great looking video in several HD and SD formats, there are also loads of other menu settings that allow the user to customize the “look” of the camera.

The most amazing thing to me is the recording media.  Both the 200 and 500 record video and audio onto a P2 memory card.  We can record about 2 hours of high-definition video onto a 64gb card about the size of your average smart phone.  This technology is a far cry from when I started in the business.  (OK, I don’t want to sound like an old guy here – so no stories about how I used to lug my 25 pound video camera and 25 pound 3/4 inch record deck 5 miles through the snow.  Uphill.)

When I started working my first job as a video photographer, videotape field recording had just started reaching markets like Madison, Wisconsin.  Three-quarter-inch tape was the industry standard back then, employing a two-piece camera/record deck setup, and recording standard-definition video onto a 3/4 inch videotape cassette.  We were able to record a whopping 30 minutes of two-channel audio and SD video (yes, in color!) onto a tape about the size of a small Gideon’s Bible.  Years later one-piece Betacams came along with a smaller 1/2 inch tape cassette, then even smaller DVCPro and mini-DV tape formats with smaller cameras.  Today you can record fairly decent HD video on a cell phone.

So now that we are digital and tapeless, what’s next?  My colleague Dan Presser and I where just discussing the “next big thing” in video production technology while getting coffee last week.  You see, the weak link in the whole video aquisition-input-edit-output chain has always been the time it takes to transfer recorded media into an editing system.  In most cases videotape has to transfer in real-time.  With digital, large HD files may take several minutes to copy onto a hard drive.  Sure, there are some costly solutions now available that will speed up the process.  But what about this – a field camera/recording system that moves recorded images live, wirelessly, and as they are being recorded right into an edit system!  Sound far-fetched?  Yeah, well so did recording HD video onto a playing card sized device way back in 1980.

A 3/4 inch videotape is much bigger than a P2 memory card.

Gregg Schieve, CEO and Founder

the flu sucks.

not just because you can’t eat, you’re puking and your fever is so high you can’t get comfortable. the flu sucks because it gives you too much time to think.

maybe it’s just me.  but whenever i’m sick or unable to sleep i obsess about stuff. trying to figure out how to do a project differently, maybe more creatively, maybe more efficiently.

some of my best thinking happens when i’m sick or sleepless. not that i’m encouraging people to get ill. but i do encourage, mostly myself, to just take a moment of quiet time. a moment to just let my body rest and my mind work.

might be easier if i just meditated.
i’ll have to think about that.

sandy just needs a minute to think about it.

sandy just needs a minute to think about it.

show it to me

Sandy shedding some light on the internets.

a friend pointed some research out to me… The Nielsen Norman Group, a consulting firm whose founder was deemed by the New York Times to be “the guru of Web page ‘usability,’” has done extensive research into what makes websites successful:  1)nothing higher than a sixth-grade reading level on the home page;  2)more “scannability” — highlighting, color-coding, bullet points; and  3)one idea per paragraph.

but maybe the most interesting bit was if you’re trying to reach young people – they don’t have the reading ability, patience or research skills to successfully complete what they set out to do online. kids now-a-days have a very different learning style. they don’t read, they watch – tv, youtube, web video.

my take-way (from reading all those words): the best way to reach your online audience? VIDEO.

no one, if you’re 8 or 80, wants to spend tons of time wading through a boatload of verbiage.  get my attention, get to the point and don’t waste my time.

we tried this experiment with the tweedee productions website. instead of a bunch of words, we did videos, lots of videos. we kept them short, interesting (in my opinion) and entertaining. we tried to eliminate as many written words as possible.

some of our clients have seen the light. they’ve started doing video newsletters instead of emailing newsletters full of words, articles and clip art. the vnl allows them to highlight their important industry news and map out articles of interest that drive clients to their website for all the details.

with the holiday season upon us…. instead of bogging up your snail mail with cards you’ll toss in the trash, we’re sending out this video greeting. no natural resources wasted. its short, sweet and filled with the spirit of the season.  happy holidays.

now if you’ll excuse me, i have to get back to my youtube.

Viral Videos, Thanksgiving, & Turkey Testicles

Anyone who tells you that you need to make a “viral video” is not giving you good advice.  We’ve produced hundreds of videos here at Tweedee Productions and the only one that has truly gone “viral” did so by sheer luck.  A few years ago, we produced a short video feature about the annual Turkey Testicle Festival in Huntley, Illinois.  We posted the video to YouTube and it got about 200 hits in the two years it was up.  Then last November, some national blogger looking for something to write about leading up to Thanksgiving stumbled across our video and posted a link on their blog.  From there, the video started getting passed on, forwarded on, re-posted, etc.  Suddenly, I was receiving e-mails from people in Florida, California, and Colorado with links to our video.  The video has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times (truly a viral video with those kind of #’s).

But aside from posting it to YouTube, we’d done very little to promote this particular video.  In fact, most videos that go viral do so under similar circumstances to ours.  So basically, there is no guaranteed method to create a video that will go viral, and anyone who tells you they can help you make your video go viral is probably not leading you down the right path.

A true “viral video” is a rare phenomenon, but a video doesn’t have to go viral to be effective.  A recent video we produced about a new medical device is being distributed to a targeted audience of physicians and health care administrators.  Going viral would not necessarily benefit this particular company but showing the video to specific people with the means, the authority, and the need to purchase the device does provide a huge benefit.  The company just received FDA approval to officially sell their product.  However, they’ve been out showing the video to potential clients for almost two years so they’ve already laid the groundwork for a successful product launch.

However, if you still have your heart set on trying to create a viral video, just follow our successful blueprint:

1)      Tie your video into a National Holiday

2)      Feature people eating some sort of fried avian testicles

3)      Find a four-leaf clover

Mac

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