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!

If You’ve Got an iPhone, You’re All Set

If you have an Apple iPhone 3GS or 4, then you basically have all you need to do many of the things it would have taken a team of people to do just a few short years ago.

I like to look at things from the viewpoint of an entrepreneur, a professional speaker, an author, even an artist, when discussing things like this. Because we have such limited budgets, sometimes we need to be creative in the way that we do things. Do you need a quick head shot or candid photo of yourself? Have a friend use your iPhone to snap your portrait. Do you need to shoot some professional looking video? Use your iPhone. If you need to distribute your material, use the Youtube app on your iPhone. To stay in touch with your followers, there’s your Twitter app (or for the more experienced Tweeter, there is Tweetdeck or Hootsuite), there’s your Facebook app, and there are countless other social media apps.

As for running your business, there are so many amazing uses for your iPhone. You can tackle the accounting, the billing, inventory, shipping…almost anything you can name, all by using an iPhone app. Check out this article for some amazing examples.

If you don’t trust me on this, take a look at some of these success stories. One of the best examples of using your iPhone for glamorous head shots is from photographer was blown away.

The iPhone Fashion Shoot – Lee Morris Shoots With The 3GS Fstoppers from FStoppers on Vimeo.

Soon after that, I began looking at the camera in my iPhone in a whole new way. Camera phones are no longer limited to soft focused, grainy looking, low resolution photos. With the iPhone’s new technology you can take high resolution photos in the HDR mode that can capture details in even low lighting. Add an app or two, and you can even set your phone to capture a photo with a timer!

As for the video function in your iPhone, again, there are many ways in which you can capture professional quality footage.  First, just start filming with your iPhone to get the hang of it.  Then, when you’re ready, you can set the iPhone up on a tripod or even have a friend film you while holding the phone on a steadycam device. With a few lighting considerations, you can capture some amazing shots.  Do you find this hard to believe?  Well, there are even national independent film contests with the only requirement being to use your iPhone instead of a professional video camera.

The iPhone has only been in existence since 2007, and has increased in functionality each year.  Imaging the things we’ll be able to accomplish with a hand-held device a few short years from now.  Technology is truly amazing, and it makes running your own business just that much more exciting.

Life in a Day with Cosmic Panda

A few days ago, I compared notes on both YouTube and Vimeo, the two leading video sharing sites in social media. Today, I’d like to highlight just a few exciting things about YouTube.

YouTube is releasing a full-length feature film today titled “Life in a Day,” produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin MacDonald. The film is described on YouTube in the following way:

On July 24, 2010, thousands of people around the world uploaded videos of their lives to YouTube to take part in Life in a Day, a historic cinematic experiment to create a documentary film about a single day on earth.

Now, it’s time to watch their story unfold on the big screen.

Directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald, Life in a Day wowed audiences at the Sundance, Berlin and SXSW film festivals and during its YouTube world premiere in January. This summer, you’ll be able to watch the movie in a theater near you.

It’s an interesting idea, kind of like a DIY Koyaanisqatsi, if you remember that film from the 1980’s.  The big difference being these are all shot by “you”, as the trailer says.  So, we’ll be hearing lots of original dialog and seeing genuine human interaction.  I’m really looking forward to it.

The second bit of news, and it’s not , if you remember that film from the 1980’s.  The big difference being these are all shot by “you”, as the trailer says.  So, we’ll be hearing lots of original dialog and seeing genuine human interaction.  I’m really looking forward to it.

The second bit of news, and it’s not really news because it was debuted a while back, it the beta version of YouTube’s next incarnation: Cosmic Panda.  YouTube is giving viewers and users a chance to preview their next upgrade and offer feedback before they actually upgrade.  I’ve gone on and tried it out, and found myself pleasantly impressed.  The major changes that struck me first were the slick new channel view and the way it displays your playlists, and the viewer window and the playback of videos.

Upon exploring more closely, I noticed that YouTube is offering movies for rent (under a “movies” tab) and a “music” tab that displays only music videos, along with a chart of the most popular songs. This is huge, and will probably put an end to DVD rentals. (Or at least put another nail in the coffin.) Very exciting stuff.

The drawbacks I can see (but maybe just haven’t found a way around yet) are the disappearance of my friends section and the auto-play function on my channel. It may take some getting used to, but I have a feeling the upgrade will be pretty amazing.

I love YouTube, and it’s good to see cool stuff happening.  Check out the trailer for the YouTube movie and the beta version of Cosmic Panda and tell me what you think.


Meet Our Team!

Personally, I love websites that have an “About Us” page. Many businesses ask us to meet their team, so we navigate to a page that outlines the company’s staff.  If we’re lucky, sometimes we find a bunch of head shots accompanied by a short description of the position and a short bio.  It usually looks and feels kind of like a yearbook.  If we’re not so lucky, we find a myriad of names, positions, phone numbers and email addresses.

I have a solution:  Use video!  (I bet you knew that was coming!)  Depending how you look at this, the (good/sad) truth is that people would rather watch than read, especially with Generations X & Y.  I’d love to see an About Us page that uses small thumbnails that link to a short video by each of the staff, each of them saying hello and smiling.  If the company has a huge staff, obviously this would be difficult.  However, a great compilation video of different employees greeting the viewer and “inviting” us in would be awesome.

 

What About Me?

My close friend and colleague, Karen McCullough, who is also a full-time social media hound and a part-time spy, recently hooked me up with About.me. At first glance, this social network site looked fairly innocuous.  OK, so all these folks have pretty pictures of themselves…kind of like a glorified rolodex.  I then learned that most of the profiles I was looking at were for the folks who first launched the network; the marketing blitz.  This appealing batch of profiles was done by a professional photographer, so they all have this very slick and professional look.  Very clever marketing idea.  Now everyone will want to try it, just to see if they can get the same glossy, high-impact effect.

Well, my mind started to churn a little faster.  First, I was thinking about how big this was going to get.  As soon as people (entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, etc.) begin to catch on, they will be clamoring to snag their a few of these social sites, so I immediately began constructing my About.me splash page.

This started me thinking about all my other social media sites, and how they are not quite all connected.  Sure, my Twitter is connected to my LinkedIn and my Foresquare is connected to my Twitter, but I have a dangling Flickr and a lost Vimeo account that I rarely update.  About.me forced me to consider every one of them and to start thinking about them more strategically.  Why haven’t I been using Vimeo in addition to YouTube?  It is an amazing video site.  So I started to update.

The other idea that began taking shape was the opportunity for me to help my clients build their own About.me pages.  Sure, I love to design and build websites for people, with the help of my web genius Mark (Green Koi Design), but for a real quick fix, something attractive and immediate, why not design cool About.me pages?  I have a feeling this will replace the personal website for a lot of people and industries.

I’m very excited right now, because I have the feeling About.me is going to be huge.  Personal websites will begin to become less important as these kinds of splash pages start to catch on.  All you really need is a hub for all your social media.  Isn’t that what it’s really all about, anyway?  Being connected?  Well, this is the ultimate connector and I can’t wait to see how it evolves.

Let Your YouTube Channel Tell Your Story

The longer I work at producing promotional videos for individuals and small businesses, the more interwoven and entrenched we become in the social network. A lot has changed since I began working with speakers  back in 2005.  Actually, it’s a completely different landscape out there. We’ve become more open, more transparent, more communicative, more instant. Business and advertising have both joined a dialog between the product and the customer. Real time feedback forms a gauge by which folks make purchasing decisions.

For me, on the advertising side of things, nothing makes more of an impact than how well connected you are to your customers.  Websites, blogs, social media; these tools help businesses stay in constant contact with their people (internal and external).  As a film maker, I am amazed at how viable the video medium is and at how many folks and businesses are using it to it’s full advantage.  Take speakers, for example.  There is no better way to advertise your area of expertise and the quality of what you provide than with video.   Remember the ‘demo video’ and how you had to send it through the mail?  I know, I know…Speakers are definitely still using video to showcase their talents, but there are many new ways they can maximize the medium to better results.

For one, I believe every speaker should have their own YouTube channel.  Many already do, so I’m writing this in hopes that others .  Many already do, so I’m writing this in hopes that others may join them.  The Youtube channel is such a brilliant avenue for promoting yourself.  Check out what the following people have done with theirs: Dan Thurmon , Tim Gard and Christine Cashen.

By using all the options a YouTube channel gives you, it is entirely possible to tell your whole story in videos.

  • Create a play-list for each of your topics.
  • Select and display your favorite videos, thus giving us a taste of what you like.
  • Use the main player window to highlight anything important or new going on with you.
  • Tell your story in a video!
  • Search for related or influential members and subscribe to their channels.
  • Build your YouTube friends list right along with your Facebook one.
  • Connect your website and your blog to your YouTube channel.

Before you know it, you can benefit from the magic that YouTube has to offer.   And we haven’t even touched on search engine optimization.   YouTube is the second largest and most used search engine after Google.  Think about the possibilites of using YouTube in your business!

“It is estimated that by 2012, 90% of data will be video, and with YouTube unlikely to be unseated as one of the most popular site for video content, its simply a channel that brands won’t be able to ignore.”  Paul Anthony, Web Distortion
Check back with me periodically for tips and clues to better utilizing this mammoth and miraculous promotional tool.

Technology Upgrades: Arghhh!

Well, the time has come for a “technology upgrade”.

I’ve been using my Sony HDR FX-1 High Def video camera since 2006, and it has only failed me once before.  The camera has been amazing, and I have always treated it with respect.  But, alas, it could not last forever.  I need to upgrade.  I hear that most videographers upgrade their equipment every two years.  I just haven’t had a need to do that.  But I feel the time has come.

The Sony will now assume the role of “Back-Up Camera,” and the Primary Camera now goes to the Canon XL H1A.  I’m very excited about this upgrade.  I don’t want to say it too loudly, though, because I don’t want my Sony to get upset.  In all honesty, I would have purchased another Sony, but I wanted to match the quality and picture of my mentor and colleague Sharon Ferranti‘s camera, a Canon XL H1A.

The thing that has struck me throughout this process is the very modern need to upgrade.  It’s almost pathological, don’t you think?  But when everybody in America owns either an iPhone or a Blackberry, a home computer or a laptop, the very idea of upgrading has become commonplace. Whether you are upgrading your computer’s operating system (Windows Vista, anyone?), your website platform (WordPress?) or your smart phone (they keep getting smarter), the inevitable moment will come when you need to upgrade.  The same goes for cameras and video cameras…they just forgot to tell me that “upgrade” means “buy a new one”!