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

 

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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

How’s Bidness?

Business has slowed down a bit for us in the last few weeks.  After a fairly robust spring for Tweedee Productions, I fear that the lazy days of summer are upon us.  You know how it goes.  The client who says they’re moving forward with a project doesn’t get back to you for weeks because they’ve been on vacation and their boss has been on vacation and the guy making the ultimate decision has been on a remote island in the Pacific “finding” himself. 

When business is slow I unfortunately and unfairly tend to blame myself.  I start to think about unrealistic things like we should be “doing something” about business being slow.  We should react…how?  We need to…what?   

In reality there’s not much I can do.  Business usually happens on its own schedule regardless of when we need it to happen.  Obviously, all businesses need to react and adapt to a changing economy.  If they don’t they won’t be around for long.  But, some experts will tell you that it’s easy to over-react for the sake of “doing something”.  In our last economic downturn many well-known corporations slashed their workforce in response to a bad quarter, laying off talented and experienced people, only to find business improve a few quarters later. 

Believe me, we have felt the effects of the great recession of 2009 here at Tweedee Productions.  I’m not minimizing the economic events of the last couple of years nor our response to them.  But it’s easy to over-react when business “gets a little slow” given the backdrop of the financial world in 2009.  I have to remind myself that we’re in this for the long haul – keep a steady hand on the rudder. 

We’re fairly lean at Tweedee to begin with.  We’ve got the “right people on the bus”, to quote business guru Jim Collins.  The talented team of individuals we have in place is essential for providing our clients with the high degree of service they’ve come to expect.  We need to be confident that our approach is the correct one, that there will always be economic storms, and we will be able to ride them out. 

I just need to relax and enjoy the summer.  Besides, business will pick up.  Right? 

Oscar knows how to relax.

Gregg Schieve, CEO and Founder Tweedee Media Inc. 

OK! I talked me into it!

Well, I took the plunge.  I made the leap.  I threw all common sense to the wind and got a smart phone.  A SMART PHONE!  It makes me feel smart just to say the name – Droid Eris.  “Why yes, I have the Droid Eris.”  

But, will it make me smarter?  Will I work and live smarter?  It’s only A PHONE!  

I don’t need a smart phone.  In renewing our cell phone contract, I could have gotten a new, simple, easy to use cell phone.  But then, I don’t need an electric garage door opener either.  But it is sure nice to have when it’s pouring rain or the temperature is 20 below!  

So I talked myself into it.  Really, once I heard my arguments for getting one, I was convinced.  With more and more ways to watch video either on the internet or on mobile devices, I need to understand video delivery technology.  I need to understand what the buzz is all about.  After all, Tweedee Productions is in the video content production business.  I better know how all this stuff works.  

Mac Chorlton, our business development guy, has had a Blackberry for a couple of years now.  He understood the potential right away.  I remember the day he got it – he was all excited.  He explained how quickly and easily he could show someone one of our videos at a networking or sales event.  Image that you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what your company does.  You get that “why, I’m glad you asked me” smile on your face as you whip out your smart phone and play for them a short video that explains your product or service in three minutes or less.  Brilliant!  Instant emotional connection. 

Now, if I could only figure out what this button does…  

Gregg Schieve trying to figure out his new smart phone.

In a Flash

Last summer, my husband and I got iPhones.  I was a bit reluctant to enter the smartphone realm, but I’ve been surprised at how handy it is to have internet access pretty much wherever I am.  For example, one evening I left Tweedee with a FedEx package that needed to be shipped that night.  I drove past our usual drop box without a thought.  About halfway home, I realized I still had the package.  I pulled over, got out my iPhone, looked up FedEx drop box locations, and found an alternate box near my house so I didn’t have to back track.  Without an iPhone, I would’ve had to drive back to our usual box.  Is that the end of the world?  No.  But I was happy to have saved myself some time.

My biggest frustration with the iPhone is that it doesn’t support Flash.  That means that any site with Flash video or graphics doesn’t load correctly on the phone.  When I go to a Flash-based site, I get a little blue cube with a question mark on it where any Flash element is.

Now, with Apple set to release the iPad, the issue of Apple products (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad) being Flash compatible has been in the news.  But Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, is refusing to make these products Flash friendly, calling Flash a “CPU hog,” among other things.  If you Google Steve Jobs Adobe Flash, you’ll get quite a list of blogs and news sources with information and opinions about Jobs’ refusal to play nice with Flash.

So what does this mean for the users of the internet?  Not much.  Any change in coding probably won’t affect the end-user much.  But it does mean that businesses and their web designers and coders will have to think about smartphone compatibility as they build their sites.  It also means that, if a company has video on their site, they’ll have to decide if they want that video encoded to Flash or if they want to go with something else.  As a video production company, we at Tweedee are very interested in how this will play out, and we’ve already begun taking steps to make our StreamPilot site more smartphone friendly.

Blogging away!

communications breakdown…

i may not be the most prolific blogger or the funniest person on the web or the most informative, but because of facebook, twitter and my persistent friends i am becoming a new communicator.  i admit, i’m bad about making phone calls to my friends and family… it sometimes takes me a while to return personal emails… hey – i’m a busy person – as far as you know.
but now with facebook, twitter and other social sites i feel more connected.  i’m not sure when i exactly began to feel this way… but now i’m assimilated into the new media.

soon, within the year in fact, i can join the wave.  what’s the wave, you ask? its a new communications vehicle from google – the search engine people. the wave will be a hosted conversation/live typing tool/add people as you go instant message.  all waves will start at the google “hub”.  once you join the conversation wave you can add comments, just read along or start your own new wave of thought (but you don’t need to get the flock of seagulls haircut). google plans on being your common hub for the other social sites you belong to – just to keep it convenient.   now i’m no techno geek, so i don’t quite understand how it will all work…. come to think of it, neither does google at this point.   now i’m not sure if i want google to have access to all my social activities on the web.  i would like a bit of privacy – even if its just in my imagination.
but i am intrigued.

sandy kowal - trying to stay on top of things.

sandy kowal - trying to stay on top of things.

why video on your website?

have you ever gone to a web site and all you get is tons of words.  reading,  reading,  reading… how long do you spend on that site reading, reading, reading? i spend about 10 seconds until boredom or frustration sets in.  i need videos.  i need videos preferably telling a story – and i need to find them fast.  people, please proudly display your web videos on your web site – front page, above the fold, make it easy for me! videos are even better if they are not out of focus or shakey.  even better yet – if i can understand the audio.  just because you have a video camera doesn’t mean you can make a good web video.  leave the bad video making to uncle harry and his youtube page.  leave the storytelling to us.

just a thought.

stay tuned.

-sandy

xoxo

sandy kowal - has an opinion about everything. capitalizes nothing.

sandy kowal - has an opinion about everything. capitalizes nothing.