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Round We Go: Virtual Reality/360 Video

This week thousands have flocked to the California desert to attend Coachella, while a very different crowd flocked to the desert in Nevada, to gather in Las Vegas for the Coachella and the Comicon of the broadcast industry all rolled into one, the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters trade show, known in our circles simply as, NAB.

And while the buzz around Coachella 2016 has been old school (NKOTB and Guns n’ Roses are back!), the buzz in Vegas among broadcast/video geeks is clearly all about 360 degree video/virtual reality. Virtual reality has been around for a few a years, but with advances in technology placing it in the hands of the consumer, and putting affordable tools for creating virtual content in the hands of the content creators, the use of VR and 360 degree video seems to be on the verge of explosion across the media landscape.

At the same time, all the way across the country hundreds gathered for Imagination Day at the Tribeca Film Festival, headlined by entrepreneur and adventurer Richard Branson. The day long summit focused on the new reality of the not so distant future. Much of the focus of that new reality was the concept and possibilities of virtual reality.

But caution! We have been here before; in 2012 our visual world was about to be rocked by a 3D content revolution that has yet to be realized. Will VR be different? I believe so, more so because of accessibility more than anything else. The Oculus Rift headsets for VR gamers cost a third of a large flat screen TV, Samsung’s VR headsets, and Google Cardboard integrate with cellphones to make it a reality, and YouTube has reengineered its platform to allow for 360 degree video. At the same time, established visual technology companies ranging from GoPro, to Black Magic, to Nokia (remember them?!?!) have produced 360 degree cameras in a range of price and complexity that will serve everyone from the true professional to the amateur early adapter.

Video games, the creation of alternate worlds, the new frontiers of storytelling through virtual reality, its all thrilling and seemingly right around corner, but we are not quite there yet. As if to underscore the fact, a proclaimed “immersive reality experience, by the masters of virtual reality Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael” crashed repeatedly on the “master’s” MacBook Pro, and the duo had to walk us through their film using our imaginations to guide rather than being able to show us the exquisite 360 degree video footage they had shot over the past year.

While that technical failure proved an apt metaphor, Derek Belch, former Stanford football player and coach, exhibited a fascinating display of the power of virtual reality as it is being used right now in real time. His company STRIVR Labs, uses virtual reality video technology to help with training NFL athletes, allowing them to review and react to actual footage in practice situations that the players participated in the same day. And we didn’t even need VR headsets to experience it. If a linebacker or a quarterback can experience 100 “real” repetitions and see themselves and see a point of view perspective at the same time, it allows the to be on the field without actually being on the field. STRIVR has also created a fan experience, allowing anybody to feel what its like to be on and NFL field shoulder to shoulder with the team they follow, not as computer creations, but rather in three dimensional as they really exist. The only thing missing is the sour stench of sweaty shoulder pads. Does it work? 10 NFL teams have signed on, as well as a dozen college programs, as well as a handful of major league baseball hockey teams.

The possibilities are endless and many of them have already arrived. Storytellers can provide viewers with an experience more intimate than before. On the job training for those working in physically stressful environments takes on a entirely new dimension. VR and 360 video are here to stay, because they’re more than 3D and the headgear is optional.


 

About the Author:   Julian Williams

 

As Director of Photography and co-founder of Mad Bear Productions, all things visual pass before Julian’s creative and experienced eyes. He has been capturing the story as it happens from behind the lens for more than fifteen years.

Julian’s ability to find the extraordinary in the seemingly mundane is his gift. As both a cameraman and editor, Julian understands the importance of shooting the right material the first time. With a developed love for telling stories and a deep appreciation for being allowed inside the worlds of thousands of people, Julian loves shooting every kind of story.

From Shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, natural disasters, historic elections, Super Bowls, The Olympics, a World Cup to the a royal wedding across the pond;  Julian brings his global experience and understanding for the latest technologies and trends to Mad Bear’s clientele.

The Power of Music in Video

The importance of music in video is indisputable. It is the subtle guide that commands an audience to sit up and pay attention. The right music can make your video memorable and moving. On the flipside, a mistaken choice of soundtrack can give the wrong impression about a brand, confuse a message and/or simply leave the story flat.

Mad Bear’s Co-founder and creative genius Julian Williams, Knock it Out Music’s Executive Producer/ Composer Ryan Nach and Mark Malekpour with Beat Suite share some tips to help choose the perfect tunes for your next video marketing project.

1. Think about how you want your audience to feel

You know what I am talking about. You get a text from a family member and it says “Stop what you’re doing and watch this video.” A distraction from work sounds nice right about now, so you take the bait. A minute later, you’re holding back tears because the video you just watched was that good. And when a colleague stops by your desk to ask what’s wrong, you lie and say “My allergies are just awful today.” Try watching that video on mute; you probably won’t need those tissues this time. Nach says “the power of music to elicit emotional reactions is one of the reasons why it’s often referred to as the language of emotion – and it’s vital you get it right.” Malekpour adds “if you’re producing content that has a high tempo and is a visual feast, you need music that compliments that and carries the energy and tempo of the content… the music is used to keep the attention of the audience, maintain the flow of the video and help it along so that a 2 or 3 minute video doesn’t seem like a long, drawn out watch.” Remember, the music is a main ingredient that pulls them in, pricks their ears and grabs their interest.

2. Pick the right mood

The mood of a piece of music is one of the most important elements to consider when choosing a track for your video. “If I had to pick one of (Mad Bear’s) videos where the music set a mood and a pace it would be a video we did for Attorney Paul Edelstein. Right away the music sets a mood and a pace. And when it changes, it still drives the timing and edits under the voice over. It’s a great example of how music sets mood and determines the pace of a video.” How about music and sports? ESPN’s Monday Night promo for the Giants and Dolphins is a terrific example of how music and image complement each other…especially the first few bars of the Lil Wayne track.

3. Use budget wisely

Budget will obviously factor in when it comes to the quality of what you can afford, but a small budget doesn’t mean your video has to appear cheap. “Production music catalogues offer a cost-effective alternative to expensive specially-composed or commercial tracks” says Nach. The internet has also made music more available. “There’s a common thought that if you can license music for next to nothing, then you shouldn’t be paying much more for it. However, you get what you pay for with music, just as you would with any other professional industry…the quality of the writer and composition of the music track, where it builds, where it breaks… the quality of the instruments… the quality of a drum can ruin a music track.” Williams adds that “music and images complement each other. Powerful images can stand alone but they are enhanced with music. And good music with some editing can enhance average images.” Check out how the music takes a fairly simple subject like “How to Choose a Lawyer” and turns it into something sexy.

So I think we would all agree. When chosen well, music sets the stage and allows your video to shine.

Our thanks to Ryan from Knock it Out Music and Mark at Beat Suite for their contributions to this blog. You can check them out at www.knockitoutmusic.com and www.beatsuite.com.


About the Author: Roshni Hannon
Contact: roshni@madbearproductions.com

Her name means “light” and that is what she is… high energy, bright and fast. And yes… she does run regularly. While we’re not sure what she is running from (perhaps her two young kids) we know she’s covered a ton of ground. She was the Executive Producer for an award winning and number one rated morning show in Tampa for years. And now, she uses her unique blend of organization, storytelling and curiosity to help Mad Bear clients find their stories. Think of her as an architect, a story architect.

 

Mandela and Mad Bear: Lessons Learned in South Africa

In addition to being one of the founders of Mad Bear, I am lucky enough to be asked to cover events for various news agencies. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa to cover the death and funeral of Nelson Mandela.

This provided me with a unique opportunity to speak to crews from all around the world, to listen to their coverage and watch their stories. I was struck by two things: At least half the broadcasters were reporting similar information from a similar perspective, hitting the same bullet points, emphasizing the headlines, their coverage by en large covering the ‘event’ as one would a pop- culture event, which, in many ways it was, given the celebrity of Nelson Mandela, his status as an icon and a cult of personality. This was generally the tack of the US networks and their western counterparts.

The other half covered the event in a more personal fashion, a perspective guided by their relationship with South Africa and Mandela based on economic, geographical, and ideological factors.

The ability to look at an historical event from various perspectives simultaneously was unique. It was a lesson learned, a reminder not to settle for the obvious. This is a great example of how our backgrounds in news influence how we approach our client’s stories, and in the way we tell their stories. Examining a story from varied perspectives allows us to to more effectively tell stories based on our clients and their audience. It is uniquely fulfilling and fun to be able to apply lessons from one world and bring them to bear in the Mad Bear world (yes… the Bear pun was intended).

About Julian Williams:

As Director of Photography and co-founder of Mad Bear Productions, all things visual pass before Julian’s creative and experienced eyes. He has been capturing the story as it happens from behind the lens for more than fifteen years.

Julian’s ability to find the extraordinary in the seemingly mundane is his gift. As both a cameraman and editor, Julian understands the importance of shooting the right material the first time. With a developed love for telling stories and a deep appreciation for being allowed inside the worlds of thousands of people, Julian loves shooting every kind of story.

From Shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, natural disasters, historic elections, Super Bowls, The Olympics, a World Cup to the recent royal wedding; Julian brings his global experience and understanding for the latest technologies and trends to Mad Bear’s clientele.

Fear Not the Metaphor

Most goods and services are not photogenic. They are not sexy.

Software. Insurance. Ball bearings. The cardboard box.

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Not every shoe is designed by Jimmy Choo.

Which doesn’t detract a bit from what they do over at New Balance. So, as varied as brands are even within specific industries, the methods to market those brands ought to be just as varied.

For example, you may sell something that is difficult to grasp through a visual medium, like medical software such as billing software for medical practices. The best way to express the indispensable nature of your product in a video would not be to have a programmer explain the software for two minutes.

That might put everyone to sleep who doesn’t have an engineering degree.

A more conventional approach would be to have the clients, medical practices, talk about how much more efficient they are with said software in use. Certainly a solid option!

However, a third approach would be to select a unique doctor or practice, perhaps a cornerstone of the community, maybe a doctor who takes time off to serve people in underdeveloped countries, and profile that individual or practice. Maybe a doctor or nurse in the practice was a field medic in the armed services. What stories might they offer?

Attach the brand to a great story. The story is the emotional connection between the potential client or customer and the brand.

This approach can be applied to virtually any product or service or brand. Red Bull is an energy drink. Yet the public associates the brand with extreme sports.

They focused on the sports and attached their brand, essentially using a different sporting culture as a middleman between their brand and their clients and customers.

Great stories make create emotional connections that can be attached to anything that needs clients and customers.

Take a video we did for Adknowledge. It was about a party they threw after ad:tech San Francisco 2013.

The video says very little directly about the client and talks a lot about Alcatraz — that’s where the party took place. The video is really simply an experience that was provided by the client.

So, I ask you this: would you like to work for, work with and around a company willing to throw this party?

Let us know your thoughts… thanks!

As Director of Photography and co-founder of Mad Bear Productions, all things visual pass before Julian’s creative and experienced eyes. He has been capturing the story as it happens from behind the lens for more than fifteen years.

Julian’s ability to find the extraordinary in the seemingly mundane is his gift. As both a cameraman and editor, Julian understands the importance of shooting the right material the first time. With a developed love for telling stories and a deep appreciation for being allowed inside the worlds of thousands of people, Julian loves shooting every kind of story.

From Shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, natural disasters, historic elections, Super Bowls, The Olympics, a World Cup to the recent royal wedding; Julian brings his global experience and understanding for the latest technologies and trends to Mad Bear’s clientele.

New Video Camera Technology = Quality & Value (Part 2)

A bass line throbs and light ephemeral strings tickle your eardrums. On screen, spectacular imagery sears your retinas burrowing into your brain.  Something, part astronaut, part trapeze artist, part condor leaps off a cliff and screams through a dazzling alpine landscape, as guitars scream and a beat throbs providing the cadence to an all out three pronged attack on your senses, audio, visual and emotional.

Just watch for yourself…

The message is clear.  “You can do this.  Its easy.   Its small, its affordable, you can be a hero. You can be a pro”  Its right there on the name of the camera.  GoPro Hero.

So you go out and buy a GoPro ready to bring videography to new heights when your attempts at heroic imagery are dogged by issues.

Take this example we found on YouTube.

Cool jumping fish but why does the video look so bland?

Where is the sound and the fury? Why does your family vacation look like a video of your family vacation and not the epic visual journey you were expecting? The answer is of course time and expertise. The adrenaline packed imagery you see is the result of many hours of labor, choreographed shoots, carefully selected music and a lengthy editing process.

Despite the democratization of video discussed in part 1 (click here to see part 1), the availability of tools does not guarantee the desired result. Tiger Woods’ golf clubs are available to you (well kind of), but you are not competing at the US Open. Its terribly unfair. You can record great video, but for the final product to look truly professional, you need the skills, and the equipment of a professional.

You need music. You need color correction. You need editing. You need a story.

So here is an example of a personal shoot I did on a recent hike in the Smokey Mountains.

It shows how color correction alone can make a world of subtle difference.

Full disclosure: This footage was shot with a Canon 5D which has a bigger sensor and a richer image than the GoPro. But the principles remain the same. The images on the right are straight from the camera and the ones one on the left are color corrected. In the color correction, notice how the greens are a bit greener, there is greater contrast and saturation to mimic the image our eys see, as opposed to the slightly washed out image of the camera produces. The difference while subtle, makes a big difference in the fit and finish of a video.

So, the the next time you pick up your camcorder, DSLR or GoPro and wonder why the output is not what you were hoping for, remember the video is not completed simply because you are done shooting.

About Julian Williams:

As Director of Photography and co-founder of Mad Bear Productions, all things visual pass before Julian’s creative and experienced eyes. He has been capturing the story as it happens from behind the lens for more than fifteen years.

Julian’s ability to find the extraordinary in the seemingly mundane is his gift. As both a cameraman and editor, Julian understands the importance of shooting the right material the first time. With a developed love for telling stories and a deep appreciation for being allowed inside the worlds of thousands of people, Julian loves shooting every kind of story.

From Shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, natural disasters, historic elections, Super Bowls, The Olympics, a World Cup to the recent royal wedding; Julian brings his global experience and understanding for the latest technologies and trends to Mad Bear’s clientele.

New Video Camera Technology = Quality & Value (Part 1)

What once cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and labor to manipulate, has been reduced to a team of 2-5 individuals who can produce stunningly visual videos for a fraction of the cost.

That is the simple result of all the emerging video camera technology.

Allow me to get my geek on.

The digital Super 35mm chip based video cameras produce amazing HD images whose full potential is actually limited by televisions and other devices that display the images.

Thanks to cameras like the Canon DSLR line, the Super 35 Sony and Panasonic products, the innovative interlopers into the market like Black Magic and the ubiquitous GoPro, one camera shoots have spawned into three and four camera extravaganzas.

And the cameras are slight enough to all be carried in one case or a bag as opposed to a box truck. Lap top editing systems allow us to put stories together anywhere, a process that used to require a room full of equipment manned by multiple technicians.

What all this means for me the “film maker” is I can bring more fancy stuff to the table for our clients and their audience at a reduced cost, but more importantly, it gives me the tools to tell better, more compelling and dynamic stories. Those stories stand out in the vast river of moving images, and hopefully they stimulate the cerebral cortex instead of merely passing through.

(Part 2: Summary)

So, you bought a a GoPro Hero 3 but your video does not quite look like it does in the the official GoPro commercial. In Part 2 of this series, we will examine how to make these new technologies work or in some cases why they are not working as you might expect.

About Julian Williams:

As Director of Photography and co-founder of Mad Bear Productions, all things visual pass before Julian’s creative and experienced eyes. He has been capturing the story as it happens from behind the lens for more than fifteen years.

Julian’s ability to find the extraordinary in the seemingly mundane is his gift. As both a cameraman and editor, Julian understands the importance of shooting the right material the first time. With a developed love for telling stories and a deep appreciation for being allowed inside the worlds of thousands of people, Julian loves shooting every kind of story.

From Shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, natural disasters, historic elections, Super Bowls, The Olympics, a World Cup to the recent royal wedding; Julian brings his global experience and understanding for the latest technologies and trends to Mad Bear’s clientele.