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Video Production Led me to a Teaching Degree

It’s been a while since I checked in on my blog, and there’s a very good reason for that. I’ve been in school!  I’m about to graduate with a Masters Degree in Education – Technology in Education, to be precise.  What is the story behind this?

I have been a freelance video producer since I left my career in advertising about fifteen years ago.  No offense to advertising, but this transition was one of the most rewarding changes I ever made (and I’ve made quite a few of those).  There was always something hollow at the core of advertising for me.  The reputation it has for being superficial, fast-paced and cutthroat is well-earned, and just didn’t suit my personality at all.  I wanted it to suit me because I had always thought I wanted to be in either the movie business or in advertising, with a secret longing to be a talk show host.

After leaving a position at one of the biggest ad agencies on the East Coast, I knew it was time to get back to my roots and do something that was rewarding.  I bought a high definition video camera, considered new technology at the time, and went into business as a freelance video producer.  My niche was to work with professional speakers, shooting and editing their marketing material; and this proved to be a very successful lane for me, at the time. I’m a self-starter, so I brushed up on all my editing skills, went online and taught myself some new ones. I used a platform called Lynda.com to learn Final Cut Pro, Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects.  These are the tools I needed to be competitive as a video producer.  I really only knew how to edit on celluloid from my university days as a film student. (To get a sense at to how editing has changed over the years, you can check out this concise and informative blog.)

Shooting speakers was fun, and it even rekindled my dream of becoming a talk show host!  It was also rewarding and a little bit like advertising.  I learned a lot from the different speakers I worked with, because each of them had a unique topic or concentration.  Mostly, the topics centered on corporate interests, but sometimes I got a chance to record a lecture about engineering or science. In particular, I loved working with Karen McCullough, Dayna Steele (now running for congress!), and Craig Karges.  Slowly, as I became more successful, I started working with other businesses like PR firms and small advertising shops.  Then, one day, I got a call to do some work for a company called STEMscopes.

OK, now this is where sound effects come in and you hear a car come to a screeching halt.  STEMscopes was an incredible experience.  All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to me.  This was a small business at the time, made up of science teachers, tech people and a small sales department.  They worked together  to create an online science curriculum for grades K through 12 in Texas. The people working here were amazing, most of them teachers, lots of them students right out of college (at the time, the company was part of Rice University). This was the environment in which I knew that I belonged.  I began to see my skills as a storyteller and a video producer being used to help young people learn. This seemed so much more important to me than selling something or embellishing on someone’s qualities for their website.  At STEMscopes, I had the opportunity to help shape the way children learn, and to help them be more successful students!

This was all happening at a time when incredible growth in the education world was also occurring.  Technology was weaving its way into the classroom, just as it had done in many other areas of our lives. Teachers were finding new ways to teach, exploring ideas and systems online and getting support from unlikely places all over the globe. E-Learning was beginning to take ahold, and STEMscopes was a pioneer in this new concept called the “blended learning.”  Things like a “flipped classroom” began making sense to teachers.  This was a new idea where the educator videotaped their lectures so that students could watch them at home and spend their time in class doing hands-on projects.  In fact, one project that I worked on was based on a grant for two Rice University professors to develop a flipped classroom for their engineering department. This was cutting edge stuff!

As STEMscopes grew, so did the need for more video on the website. We were producing several videos for each lesson, and these were all based on the Texas Science standards, or TEKS. When STEMscopes began moving into other states, we had to adapt everything for other state’s standards, and eventually for the Next Generation Science Standards.  I was offered a full-time position, and I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation. Never had a career move felt more natural than this one.

There was a small issue, however, and that was my limited knowledge of pedagogy and new technologies in teaching.  I felt under-qualified sometimes, especially when discussing concepts and ideas with other teachers.  For me, this was the inspiration to go back and get my Masters in Education. I didn’t have a clue what to expect, and to be honest, my mind was blown. Education and Technology are experiencing such rapid change right now that they need people like me!  Not many people I know go back to school for a new career at my age, but I’ve always seen myself as a lifelong learner.  What could be more exciting?

Who knows, maybe when I’m in my eighties or nineties I’ll finally get a chance to have my own talk show!

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What Do We Do?

While we have worked with most every kind of creative medium, our focus has always been video.

We shoot with a variety of different cameras to suit the needs of the client.

Our favorite camera is the EOS C100, a digital cinema camera made by Canon.

We work on the Apple Mac Pro in Final Cut Pro and Apple Motion, but can also produce work using Adobe Premiere.

In addition to our video services, we are handy with still photography, graphic design and copy writing. We’re known for the creative twist we give Power Point slides and graphic brochures for speakers.

Here’s an example:

Jim Jacobus One Sheet Brochure

 

Oh, and we do Green Screen production, on-the-go!  Ask us about our “to-go” rates!

Who Do We Do It For?

Here is a partial list of our clients:

Who Are We?

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. As the owner of this small business, I am the driving creative force behind everything we do.

To give you a little background, my sister and I were raised in the United States Foreign Service, so I grew up all over the place; namely Soviet Russia, Chile, Argentina and Panama. I went to Boston University and studied film and broadcasting.

My career has been one of those organic things that has morphed several times over the years. I spent a decade in venue management and had the opportunity to rub elbows with the glitterati of 1980’s New York Nightlife and the early efforts of people like Deborah Harry, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George and RuPaul.

This led me to the advertising world where I gained so much experience in television commercial production at Boston’s Arnold Worldwide Agency.

After a round of layoffs, I found myself in Houston, TX working for a national keynote speaker, and I quickly fell in love with the life of freelance filmmaking. It was after I was contracted by Rice University to work with their online curriculum that I began to cultivate a team to help me. This brings us to the here and now.

Oh, And Make Sure It Goes Viral!

So you want to make a viral video. Oh, and you only have a very limited budget.
Well, producing a video is a big endeavor in the first place. You need a good story, or at least some interesting information to convey. You need decent lighting and sound. You need patience and time. Sure, you can get by with very little these days. Most phones can shoot and edit video, so equipment is not as big an issue as it was just a few short years ago. Sound, on the other hand, is still a big hurdle. With a little research and some money, you can get good sound…but not with your phone. All that being said, to also want your video to go “viral,” meaning having it garner 10,000 views on Youtube, or more; well, let’s just say that puts your challenge in a whole new dimension.

When I get a request from a client to produce a video that goes “viral,” I always want to laugh out loud. That’s like saying, please go out and find a $100 bill somewhere. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, in terms of a metaphor, but you get the idea. Unless you have a huge following, meaning a built in audience of thousands of subscribers, just heading out of the gate with the intention of having a video go viral is ambitious.

Nevertheless, here are some hints that may point you in the right direction:

  • Tap into something that has a strong emotional connection, like inner beauty, true love, nostalgia…something deeply human.
  • Create a ‘Prankvert.’ This is a set-up in which an innocent bystander gets lured into a prank. The most important elements of a ‘prankvert’ are hilarity and surprise. You can try to take this one step further by making the prank ‘exhilarating’ in some way.
  • Tap into a trend, but only when it is very young.  Like the Harlem Shake trend. Even though there were about 40,000 variations on this dance craze video, collectively they were all seen about 175 million times. Don’t try to create a copycat video after the trend has faded. That’s the trick.
  • Think about timing. For example the ‘Spock vs. Spock’ video for Audi that came out just before the new Star Trek movie. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have actors Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto on hand. The success of ‘Spock vs. Spock’ really was due to the timing of its release.
  • The old standby: cute animals. Take for example this video of a Shetland pony doing the moonwalk.
  • Create an animated info-graphic, preferably about income inequality. Those usually do quite well, depending on key elements like good animation and a professional voice over talent.
  • Do an expose on a criminal underlord in Africa.

(Thanks to HuffPo for doing all the research!)



Is Lighting Really That Important?

I love this funny, creative video on how to achieve quality lighting effects with inexpensive lights you can buy at Home Depot.