Thoughts on Book Trailers

With video becoming more and more accessible (read: cheaper to produce at high quality) we're seeing videos creep in to more and more product categories, and the publishing industry is no exception. Book trailers are becoming common, even as authors like Jonathan Franzen express their "profound discomfort" at doing them. 

A wide range of videos are lumped together into the category of "Book Trailer"... anything from the author droning into a webcam  to a full on movie-style production.  But my favorites are the ones that blend the two. 

The joy of reading is all about transporting yourself into the world of the story, so blending the world of the author with the world of the book seems the perfect combination for this genre.  We can give a taste of the world of the story without literally re-creating any scenes or characters from the book, addressing the concern that some have with book trailers; that by they cheapen the experience of reading by removing the story from the realm of imagination.  

Here's a book trailer that I produced, that straddles that line.  It's for A Sudden Light by best selling author Garth Stein. 

Blue Chalk Website

I'm working on re-designing my website, so I've been looking at websites of other freelancers & video production companies for inspiration. 

Blue Chalk's website stood out to me. For one, because the way they describe themselves sounds more like how I would describe myself & my business (if I were better at describing myself) than any video company I've come across. 

I love this nugget:

Blue Chalk arrives at a complicated time in the evolution of the visual media industries. We embrace this moment of disruption and encourage blue sky thinking about the technologies and approaches needed to create and convey picture-led stories in a digital world.

...and I totally agree with it.  This part confused me a little though:

The world of visual communications, once a largely individual endeavor, is rapidly becoming a team sport. Blue Chalk specializes in building teams to accomplish the ambitious multimedia and video projects that clients now demand.

I think that in video production at least, things are moving in the opposite direction.  I frequently get the comment that I "came in WAY below the other bidders" on projects.  I have to assume that it's either because other freelancers are inflating their bids because they think they can, or (more likely) because I'm bidding against companies that default to hiring a full production team for everything.  They'll hire a director, camera operator, sound guy, grip, script writer, editor, etc... because "that's the way it's done," whereas I typically do all of those roles myself or with one or two assistants.

It looks like Blue Chalk offers a wider range of services than I do, so maybe that's where the difference lies.  I definitely make a point of sticking to what I know, video production, so I don't branch out into all the areas that Blue Chalk does. 

But anyways, keep up the good work over there in Brookyln, Blue Chalk!  And everyone else, stay tuned for a website redesign in the not too distant future. 

Welcome World Cuisine

For the past year or so Erik Dinnel and I have been producing a show for Allrecipes.com, called Welcome World Cuisine

Allrecipes built its business on step-by-step recipe instructions, while my thinking has always been to tell a good story first and worry about the details second.  I think with this series we were able to combine the two in a way that really works.  If you want the step-by-step recipe instructions, they're there, but if you want to just enjoy these videos for the story and for the "food porn," that's there too.

Up until now Allrecipes has been posting these to a dedicated page on their website, but they just started releasing them on youtube so I figured I'd share a couple of my favorites here.  

First is Pork Dumplings, from Liana's Cafe House in the International District.  You can buy these dumplings frozen, by the bag, and I highly recommend doing so!

And then here's Pho with Eric Banh of BaBar.  Eric was a realy interesting guy and we got two really good videos out of him (we also did Vermicelli Bowl).

You can find the rest of them on youtube here (they're saved as a playlist on allrecipes' main account).  They've posted 10 so far, and I'd imagine they'll be releasing more in the near future. 

Cook it Forward

McCormick and Allrecipes.com teamed up to create a short video series promoting McCormick's new line of Gourmet Seasoning Mixes, and they brought me in to produce them.  It's a reality/ documentary style series called Cook it Forward featuring Allrecipes members, each of whom tries out one of the recipe packets and then teaches the recipe to another member. 

It's always a little hit or miss working with non-professional talent, but the ladies all did great and it was a fun 3 days of shooting.  Below is episode 3 out of 3.  Episode 1 can be found here, and Episode 2 here.  And below are some photos from the shoot, courtesty of Valerie Brunmeier one of the stars of episodes 2 & 3, and a food blogger at Valerie's Kitchen.

We shot these on a pair of Sony EX1's.  Me on the left, Erik Dinnel on the right. 

Our two rock star food stylists, Jean and Bridget.

Someone's gotta eat it.

Quantified Self

I had the chance to get out and shoot the Quantified Self Seattle Show and Tell last week down in Belltown.  What is Quantified Self? Here's how they describe themselves on their website;

Are you interested in self-tracking? Do you use a computer, mobile phone, electronic gadget, or pen and paper to record your work, sleep, exercise, diet, mood, or anything else? ...

Quantified Self is a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking. We exchange information about our personal projects, the tools we use, tips we’ve gleaned, lessons we’ve learned.

I found all the presentations fascinating, esspecially the one below where Robby MacDonnell tracked his transportation habits, and made some really cool visualizations with the data.  Check out the rest of the presentations here.  And stay tuned, maybe some day I'll share my own self-tracking experiment that I just started!

Production Note: I usually don't have a problem telling if shots are in focus because the EX1s have such a sharp built in monitor, but it was REALLY hard to tell if the shots of the projector screen were in focus... so, appologies for the bluriness at times. 

I Love My Bike Book

Just over a year ago, I went out and shot this "I Love My Bike Book" video for CHS.  It was completely spur of the moment, I saw Justin's tweet about these guys being down at Cal Anderson so I went down and shot for an hour or so, and then had the video up the same day. 

Since then the video has been all over the place, instead of the usual spike in views for a couple days and then quick drop-off, this one has been pretty consistent over the past year.  I don't know if I'd say it's gone viral but it's definitely made a lot of appearances on various blogs and bike forums and as of today has over 5,000 views. 

Anyways... the Book is out!  I just got my free copy in the mail, and the publisher, San Fransisco's Chronicle Books, is featuring my video.  So go check it out! 

Seattle PI's Guide to Cord Cutting

Props to Seattlepi for putting together this comprehensive guide to Cord Cutting.  There's been a lot of talk lately about whether cord cutting is really happening or not.  I can't really speak to any national trends but I can say with certainty that the majority of my freinds do not have cable.  I cut the cord over a year ago and have never looked back.

Even with all the new boxes coming out (Boxee Box, Apple TV, Google TV etc...) for me the best way to go is still just a mac mini plugged into my TV.  I like and use Boxee, but there's no way I'm paying $250+ for a box that runs nothing but boxee.

But if takes boxes like these for the mainstream to start getting web video on their TV's, then so be it.  For web-video producers like me, that can't happen soon enough!

CHS Wins Best Hyperlocal News Site Award

CHS (Capitol Hill Seattle Blog), has been selected by the Society of Professional Journalists as the best hyperlocal news site in the Pacific Northwest.  Although it's been a while since my last post I've been pretty regularly producing videos for the site for the past year and a half.  Congrats to editor Justin Carder who runs the site and produces most of the content.  And I'd like to think the videos maybe had a little something to do with it too!

Here's a video about CHS that I made way back in December 08.