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Happy Birthday Windy!


Four Years Later: What We've Learned

Four years ago today, the local newspaper in Concord, Mass published the following report from their police record:

JAN 18, 2009. 5:30 PM. Two twenty-three year olds (1) wearing black skull caps (2) interfered with the inbound commuter train at the Concord Depot by placing a mountain bike on (3) the train tracks. They then proceeded to photograph (4) the approaching train from the parking lot. The conductor warned them to cease and desist before alerting the authorities. Thus, a film production company was born. (5)

1. Actually seventeen years old

2. Clearly thugs

3. Near

4. False

5. True; however, not actually printed in the police report

Four years later, what have we learned? Here's a few lessons, in order of the year we learned it the hard way.

2009. Partnerships only work if we delegate separate responsibilities. Trusting one partner to reinvest in new equipment, another to keep production on schedule, and another to communicate with clients for example, only works if you do just that - trust. So yes, being friends also helps. Ultimately, a healthy partnership of three can produce more than three independent freelancers could alone, so always bet on the power of the collective.

2010. Demand a deposit. If the client doesn't have a third of the cost now, they won't have the rest later. And more importantly, if they don't have any skin in the game now, they won't email us back later. In a broader sense, we learned to price our jobs not based on how much we wanted our clients to pay, but how much we wanted our clients to respect us, relative to what they could pay.

2011. Stay creative, stay relevant. For us, these two are intertwined. For both documentary and commercial work, we find our creative inspiration from real world experiences and social issues. Even if your brand isn't social relevance, using creativity to cause your audience to feel, and relevance to cause your audience to think are two keys we try to remember.

2012. Owning equipment allows you to say "yes, now," instead of "maybe, let me check the rental rates for next week." At the same time, don't feel the need to own everything. Overhead, or NOverhead, is the plague. Before making a one time or recurring investment, we always ask how our audience can see that investment on the screen. Finding ways to invest in the screen without overhead has been our goal, but this doesn't have to literally be the camera/lens/lights. The production trailer, for example, has nothing to do with image making directly, but allows us to become more professional, organized, and efficient storytellers, and is incredibly low maintenance with high function.

Of course, we're leaving a lot out, but we'll leave it here for now to avoid sounding too preachy and hokey.

The point is, we rarely ever have the answer to a complex problem, but we aren't afraid to ask the client or collaborator for advice. We find that the only way to solve a challenge is to remember to always have fun. And that's why, you always leave a note. Our last lesson.

Happy Birthday Windy! It's been an awesome ride.

A Smoother Workflow

It's now been five happy months since the introduction of three essential pieces to our work flow:  (1) Adobe's After Effects/Premier/Encoder package on the (2) super sexy and powerful iMac, thunderbolted to the (3) Pegasus Promise raid drive system. Premier's live rendering and Encoder's live rendering reverses the computer-editor waiting game. While we used to feel productive when watching the Daily Show and eating burritos, waiting for Final Cut or Compressor to render for hours, Adobe's suite has basically eliminated comfortable waiting times. On top of that, the iMac eliminates comfort from the waiting times. And thunderbolt to the Pegasus eliminates the waiting. The last three finished products have evidenced a dramatically faster post work flow. Each project dramatically different in almost every way imaginable, yet a near flawless workflow on the back end.

The first example, a holiday video for a great cause with Ennis, Inc. we shot with one partner, one camera, one day. The post production may have actually taken as much if not less time than the shoot itself. Any editing platform on any machine could have turned out the rough cut as quickly as we did. Ultimately, the ability to tweak the minor details in the successive revisions mattered to the client. These edits were a fast moving process the freed up communication between us and multiple parties on the client's side. By nature of the short and very specific concept of this piece, the ability to make these detailed changes efficiently was imperative.

The second example, the Wyss Institute's Third Annual Retreat, demanded efficiency in post production in a completely different way. After rolling three cameras almost non-stop for six hours, we needed to deliver a ~three minute product. Luckily, the controlled environment allowed us to sync almost all the footage. Will's great notes about the project allowed Tripp to edit the whole piece in a day and a half, and Harvey to grade just hours before flying back to Nashville on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving. The changes that the client requested account for maybe two percent of the final product, but took many more days to finish. While there isn't much we can do to speed communication with the client (yet) and therefore we don't have much control over the revision process, here we were able to dramatically reduce our overall post time by cranking out the first edit in less than three days.

And in the third example, CC Productions and Jaguar, we needed to plan our every hour of the first two weeks of the new year to complete the product in time. Our post-production responsibilities were clearly established in a calendar with next to zero room to spare. Six days of two cameras and microphones soon filtered into three minutes. And to go another step, beyond previous work, title work and motion graphics demanded sometimes hours of attention to individual frames. So much of this blog post has been about the importance of an efficient and reliable editing station, but so much can be said, especially after this job, about human capital. While Will sees his family on vacation and Harvey hosts friends at his apartment for New Years, Sam Ewing designs the perfect music and Tripp recreates the sleepless production schedule in the firehouse office. After a week, he can hand off the picture lock for noise reduction to Will and color grading to Harvey, and take a few days off himself.

We are a team of stunt doubles, because there's no way in Hell any one of us could crank out these final edits on our own in the same amount of time. Both the new editing suite and the human collaboration has since become so integrated into the workflow that we now shoot with post-production efficiency in mind. California, here we come.