3D Television Networks: 3 Years Later

By Chris Blair

I published the original post below in July of 2010, saying I couldn’t imagine how 3D television networks could find an audience, and more importantly, lure enough advertisers to survive. Predictably, ESPN3D announced on Wednesday that it would soon be shuttered. Their official statement cited, “limited viewer adoption.” That’s fancy talk for, “nobody was watching.”

I was utterly villified in a forum thread on Creative Cow for my disparaging views about 3D back about the same time as my original post.

http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/17/869138#869224
http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/17/868718#868765

Most people took issue with the fact that I disagreed with the consensus that 3D in TV and movies was going to soon be the norm for production, and that if we didn’t all embrace it we’d be left behind. My argument at the time was that our clients weren’t even asking for (or using) HDTV, much less 3D. I also questioned how the economics of 3D television, even at the network level, would ever produce profits. Above are links to the now amusing threads in which many on the Cow predicted 3D television was “the future of broadcasting and production.”

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The NRA’s Response to Newtown: A Lesson in How NOT to Stage a Press Conference

We’re not a public relations firm per se, but we do a fair amount of PR type work for clients, from writing press releases, to occasionally staging press conferences. The NRA’s recent press event in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was a classic lesson in how NOT to stage a media event.

From the tone of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s speech to the physical setup of the stage, they did almost nothing right from a public relations perspective. And no, this is NOT another attack on WHAT the NRA said. But more of a review about what WASN’T said, and the combative tenor of the event.

But first, I need to point out that I am not a gun owner and therefore (obviously) not an NRA member. In fact, I’ve never shot a weapon and only held a firearm once in my entire life. But I also have no real beef with the NRA, its members or how it does business. I grew up in a town filled with people that love hunting and almost every family I knew (except ours) owned multiple firearms and used them often, either at gun ranges or while hunting.

But back to the NRA’ press conference.  In my opinion, the most shocking thing about it wasn’t what was written and said, but it was how it was said. LaPierre looked and sounded like a General preparing to go into battle. His second sentence in the speech was:

Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent.

Really? Is that why you were silent? Until more facts were known? Let’s face it, almost no new facts have emerged since the days immediately following the crime. They were silent because of the beating they were taking in the press. And speaking of the press, LaPierre said this:

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

That national media machine did what it’s supposed to do, cover a story that shocked a nation, if not the world. A story not unlike the horrific shootings in Norway in 2011, which also involved children. Never mind that the NRA could easily be considered an enabler of any type of copycat crime related to Newtown. This brings us to perhaps the NRA and Mr. LaPierre’s biggest PR mistake. Blaming the media for the event your press conference is addressing!

How did the NRA think that was going to go over in the press? Did they think anyone in the media was going to nod their head in agreement? Forget your opinion about either of the quotes noted above. Forget my interpretation of them. From a PR perspective, you don’t explain your unwillingness to comment on an event by claiming your opponents are being exploitive, especially when it comes to something involving young children. You likewise do NOT suggest complicity with the very people covering your event! It’s just going to piss the press (and just about everyone else) off.

This nation’s obsession with firearms and gun owner’s argument that gun control advocates are trying to take away their second amendment rights is widely seen as incomprehensible by people in almost every other part of the world. Doesn’t that say something to the NRA? What if we fervently held onto the literal interpretation of other parts of our constitution, like civil rights, or the right to vote? If we did, women wouldn’t be able to vote and there would still be slavery!

The NRA needs to remember that it’s called “public relations.” That means ALL of the public. Not just your members and surrogates.

 

 

Review: CPM Filmtools DSLR Flyer Shoulder Rig

When I bought a Canon 60D at the beginning of 2011, I quickly realized I was going to need some sort of mounting rig, as well as handheld support. DSLR cameras are simply not designed to move the way traditional video cameras do, and the controls, especially camera start/stop, are inconvenient at best. So a rail and cage system for mounting accessories, as well as a shoulder mount that faciliates handheld shooting are pretty much necessities if you’re using it as your “A” camera on shoots. Continue reading

PROAIM Shoulder Rig Kit-201 – Review

We recently added a Panasonic AF-100 camera along with several lenses to our shooting gear and after testing our CPM Film Tools rig with it,  it became obvious we were going to need a heavier-duty rig to make the setup functional. After hours spent researching various options, I decided to take a chance on the Proaim Shoulder Rig Kit-201 from www.cinecity.com.

Here’s a direct link to what we bought.

Considering that we only shoot about once or twice a week on average, I couldn’t see spending several thousand dollars for similarly configured kits from Redrock Micro, Cinevate, Zacuto or half a dozen other support companies.

Now I already know what you’re thinking. Equipment made in India is cheap and poorly made! Well…I’m hear to tell you that I’m more than happy with the purchase and am in fact quite impressed by the quality and value of this kit. Continue reading

Canon 60D: Final Thoughts

We’ve been using the Canon 60D for 10 months now and I’ve already posted twice about our experiences with the camera. We’ve used it for TV commercials, marketing videos and short-form promotional videos, many of which involved on-camera talent requiring scenes with dialogue and on-camera spokespeople.

So what are my thoughts now that I’ve used it extensively? Well…you can get great results using these cameras, but when it comes to ergonomics and workflow in the field, the 60D (and DSLR cameras in general) just doesn’t compare to a dedicated professional video camera. The 60D certainly has its share of good qualities, especially its excellent video quality. It’s also generally easy to operate. But in my opinion, using DSLR cameras as your “A” camera for professional projects simply requires too many peripheral devices and convoluted cabling setups. Continue reading

The Value of Time and Experience in Advertising Design

In the last 25 years the growth of computer technology and the internet have both fundamentally changed how companies market themselves. The early to mid-nineties saw the birth of digital production. Then in the early part of this decade, digital television and the internet matured. And in the last three years, social media came of age.

Obviously this technology has had many positive effects when it comes to marketing and advertising, but in my opinion that same technology has had some negative effects as well. Most prominent is a tendency for people to think that digital workflows are inherently faster and more efficient.

When used properly, digital tools can certainly speed workflow and productivity.  But two things that are still key to selling people anything is developing great ideas and producing compelling stories. Getting these right STILL requires the two things the best digital tools can’t deliver — time and experience. Continue reading

Learning from Dick Ebersol’s Resignation

Dick Ebersol resigned as head of NBC’s sports division on May 19th and just a few days later Joe Posnanski wrote a piece on Ebersol in Sports Illustrated’s May 30th Point After column. What struck me about the article wasn’t anything about Ebersol’s vast list of credits, or any claim about his influence on modern sports or entertainment programming. It was what Ebersol told Posnanski about the most influential thing he ever learned:

“The most important thing to me, was to tell stories.”

Ebersol said it was a lesson he learned from his first boss, the legendary sports producer Roone Arledge. Ebersol told Posnanski that television seems to be turning away from storytelling, with everything  becoming fragmented and announcers making radio calls shouting about every play.

I had to chuckle and agree. I turned 50 this year, and while I can probably pass for 10 years younger (on a good hair day), I can’t help but feel a little old sometimes when discussing content for marketing and promotional projects with many clients. The idea of storytelling seems unimportant to most. Yet I still believe that a good story trumps style and glitzy design every-time. Great production values certainly never hurt a project, but a non-existent or poorly written story can kill one. Continue reading

Canon 60D: Second Look

By Chris Blair

I just completed our first broadcast project using the Canon 60D and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Since the 60D is primarily designed as a still camera,  I was initially skeptical about both the camera’s reliability and quality in a broadcast environment. But once I got used to the controls and became comfortable with the capabilities (and limitations) of the camera, I came away impressed.

Getting up to speed with the camera is really no different than adding any new piece of gear to your arsenal. Before our first shoot with the camera, we spent several hours experimenting with various cabling setups, mounting configurations and menu settings. Despite this, the first shoot was nonetheless nerve-racking. You just can’t reliably judge quality until you use a camera on a real project under real location pressure.

If you want proof that you can do broadcast work with the Canon 60D? Here are two spots recently shot with the camera for HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital.

[jwplayer mediaid=”1045″]
[jwplayer mediaid=”1044″]

Although there are definitely drawbacks to using the Canon 60D in the field, most notably monitoring audio and using multiple monitors for client viewing, the image quality is much better than I expected and there are affordable workarounds that overcome these limitations. Continue reading

Ecwid: A great E-commerce solution

 

ecwid512x512I recently created a client website that needed an easy to use e-commerce solution for selling books, CDs and digital downloads of documents and audio files. On the client’s old website, she was just selling her book and CDs using a very simple PayPal link for processing and payment. It worked, but wasn’t very attractive and offered little more than credit card processing.

I use WordPress to build client sites so I spent a couple of hours researching and testing various e-commerce plug-ins. There are several out there that are extremely popular but they all seemed unnecessarily complicated to setup and convoluted to use…not to mention buggy.

Then I found Ecwid. It’s not only a WordPress plug-in, but also a complete e-commerce solution that can be used with literally any web authoring platform. The plugin is simple to install, and it’s hands-down the best WordPress plugin (of any sort) I’ve ever used. What makes it so good? For starters, it just plain works, which is a nice change from the bulk of WordPress plug-ins out there, which are typically buggy and offer little or no instructions for use. Ecwid is rock-solid, full-featured and has just about the best documentation, tutorials, and knowledge base of any product I’ve ever used. That’s a tall statement considering I bought my first computer in 1984 and have worked on all the major OS platforms at one time or another. It’s also FREE for store-fronts up to 100 products, with incredibly affordable pricing plans for stores with up to 20,000 products. Other than the product limit, the free version offers virtually the same functionality as the paid versions, minus some security and SEO features. This software is so good, my guess is that many people try the free version and gladly upgrade to the paid one. Continue reading

Canon 60D DSLR: First Impressions

By Chris Blair

I’ve read with great interest and some skepticism all the hype surrounding digital single lens reflex cameras, commonly called either HDSLRs or DSLRs. I’ve also watched quite a lot of video shot with a variety of these cameras and the results are impressive to say the least. Since our digital still camera is almost a decade old, I thought now was a good time to upgrade to a DSLR for still photography and at the same time test out the HD video capabilities.

After reading a lot of reviews, I settled on ordering a Panasonic GH2, but unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone in the U.S. who would actually sell one. Amazon was taking orders and said they were “back-ordered,” but I read recently that because Panasonic keeps missing release dates, Amazon canceled all orders dating back to September.

B&H Photo published a January availability date, but wouldn’t take orders for them because they have no idea when they’ll actually have any for shipment. This obviously doesn’t bode well for the GH2 despite all the great pre-release reviews from people like Phillip Bloom and others. So I settled on my second choice, the Canon 60D, which is a nice compromise between Canon’s more expensive professional models and it’s much cheaper consumer ones. Why the 60D? Well, for starters it has manual audio capability right out of the box, without the need to install quirky third party firmware, which several other models need to disable the automatic gain control (AGC) during audio recording. The 60D also allows for external monitoring during record, albeit in down-converted SD resolution, which some cameras still don’t provide. Last, it has an articulating LCD screen much like mid-range HD camcorders from Sony and Panasonic, which allows for a lot more freedom when shooting from unusual angles.

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