Straight From the Horse's Mouth

New Faces

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We’ve added several new faces to our team.  Ellen Phillips joins the staff as Project Coordinator. Ellen previously worked as a Broadcast Communications Specialist at the University of Mississippi. Brian Manis was an executive with several feature film companies in Hollywood before returning to his hometown of Memphis. He joins Running Pony as a Writer/Producer/Director. Corey Kenerly also joins the staff as a Writer/Producer/Director. He previously worked as Marketing Communications Manager for a major sporting goods manufacturer, where he developed marketing campaigns and strategies for multiple brands.

More Emmy Awards

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Running Pony recently added 2 more Emmy awards to the trophy shelf. The winning entries were for the video that introduces the University of Memphis Tigers football team during their home games, and for the video editing skills of our Mitch Martin. The 31st MidSouth Emmy awards were presented by the Mid-South Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences during a regionally televised gala at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville.

Storytelling with Sound Design

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Does your video have sizzle, pop, je ne sais quois?
Without sound design, some videos may seem bland…like eating a filet mignon without any seasoning.  “But my video has a music track,” you say. Great…just realize that you don’t have to stop there.

Here’s how you can tell if you have a good video:
Mute the music
—Before you add sound design, mute the music track. Is the video still engaging? If not, sound design can add the emotional punch that words and images sometimes lack.

It won’t take much to sell you on this idea.
Let’s go through some examples of why sound design can give your video the adrenaline it needs to fire up your audience.

Running Pony’s audio engineer, Nate Riesman, stripped away the sound design from a video we produced for the National Hardwood Lumber Association. What do you think? Did sound design make a difference?

Find the right sound

Sometimes, the best sound design isn’t the sound that comes from the actual object/action on the screen. For example, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is dodging a runaway boulder. That noise was actually the sound editor’s Honda Civic rolling down his driveway.
Indiana Jone Raiders of the lost ark sound design

In Terminator 2, T-1000 flows through steel bars. That sound is actually dog food being slowly sucked out of a can.

Terminator 2 liquid metal sound design

Too much of a good thing? – After you sound design, does your video sound like a bad video game? If yes, your sound designer over did it. It’s easy to go overboard with sound design. You have to strike the right balance. In fact, sometimes the more subtle the sound, the more impactful it becomes.

If you still don’t believe me, watch what happens when Star Wars, the movie that set the bar on sound design, gets sound designed by a complete idiot.

“If I do my job right, I can use words and sounds that are like words, or somewhere between words and music, to create images in your head. They’re so immediate and undeniable that literally those images will just pop into your head. But, those images don’t exist. You have to paint them, so I’m starting that process and you’re finishing it. It’s like I hand you the paintbrush and you finish the painting.”
-Jad Abumrad, creator and co-host of WNYC’s Radiolab

Telling a Six Second Story

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And I thought producing a :15 second ad was tough.

We had some fun when Hunter Fans asked us to make a few Vine videos for them. Vine is Twitter’s video format, and allows users from around the globe to upload videos with one catch: they have to be less than six seconds long.

We realized we had a few challenges to overcome.

First: how do you tell a story in six seconds? Just like we would on a long-form documentary, we figured out what story elements needed to be included to get the point across. Luckily, Hunter only needed to promote their “Five Minute Fan,” or at least that you can put a fan up quickly. The rest was an open book. We bounced ideas around and then gathered up our best 6-second stories to present to the client. Of course, it’s hard to know what will work once the spots are done, so we decided to make four in the hope that two would work for the client.

Second: how do you shoot it? Because vine is a platform for mobile phone cameras, we heard all types of scary warnings about Vine editors deleting videos that didn’t look like they were shot on a phone. Hunter also wanted a :15 second version of one of the ads for a “pre-roll” (the ad you see at the beginning of an online video). We chose our best idea for it and then shot it on a broadcast quality HD cam with a traditional lighting and audio setup. At the same time, we shot it with an actual iPhone, too. That way, we would match the quality level of other videos on Vine and not risk being booted off.

Third: how do you get it on Vine? Being a mobile-based platform, Vine doesn’t take submissions from a computer… only a phone. There were all types of possible solutions. We could shoot it “in-app” like most Vines are, but decided against that because of the lack of control and inability for the client to approve it. We needed to edit it in our traditional form. You can’t upload it to a phone and then port it to the VIne app…it won’t do that. You could play it on a computer and shoot it off a screen, but that would look crappy. The solution, from our crack tech team, was simple: an app for uploading to Vine from a computer.

“Well SURE: if you want to do it the EASY way.”

The shoot went well. Gabe DeCarlo, Greg Massey and Savannah Bearden knocked the production out of the park. And while we originally hoped two would work, we ended up with three 6-second stories that the client loved.

Check them out on Hunter’s Vine page.

Got a question about it or need help making your own? Email me at dsmith@runningpony.com

Charities Win In Pony Food Fight

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For our annual holiday e-card this year, we staged a “food fight”. In slow motion. It went viral. “Dude Gets Hit In the Face With Holiday Ham” is how they titled it on Digg.com. More than 11,000 people viewed the e-card. It was all for a good cause, as each of us chose a charity to represent, and we asked the public to vote for their favorites. We’re making a donation in honor of our employees and clients to the top 3 vote-getters….Go Lucy Go Foundation, Camp Good Grief, and the Jason Motte Foundation. We also made a donation to the Mid-South Food Bank equal to the amount of money we blew on ammunition ( i.e. food). A big thanks to everyone who voted, and for all the nice comments we received about the videos. And a big thank-you to all our clients for a great 2013. We’re looking forward to another crazy, fun year!

Chamber Video Produces Grizzults

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We produced several videos for the Memphis Chamber Luncheon last week, but I was lucky enough to be the producer/director featuring none-other than The Grizzlies’ Quincy Pondexter.  I don’t want to give anything away, so watch the video first.

Quincy was a great sport, and the most humble guy you’ll ever meet. Sorry, Tony Allen: he just took your spot as my favorite Grizzly. I want to follow him around with a camera and document his awesomeness. Hey Q-Pon: hit me up.

Also: big thanks to Leigh Shockley for having fun with us, my homeboy Geoff Calkins for his reporting and Undefeated’s Bill Courtney for not taking himself too seriously. And, of course, John Pickle  for perfecting his Buster Keaton prat fall. It was the Cannonball Run of shoots, but thanks to Matt Fremstad, Ryan Goble and Jonathan Epstein, it went off without a hitch.

 

Running for St. Jude

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Saturday should be a beautiful day.  Not because the forecast says it’ll be 67 degrees with some clouds and only a chance of rain.  Not because that’s a pretty good forecast for December 1st.  No, it’s going to be a beautiful day because of what’s going on in the streets of Memphis.

Saturday is the running of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, an opportunity for as many as 18,000 people to run in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  St. Jude is a jewel in the Memphis crown – a leading center in the battle to treat childhood cancer.

Several members of the Running Pony Productions team are participating in the half marathon. That includes Director of Operations Steve Shipowitz (bib no. 11928), Digital Media Manager Wally Green (bib no. 7890), Motion Graphics Artist Scott Mahr (bib no. 9667) and Director of Technology Jacob Abart (bib no. 5032).

 

Steve and Wally are going an extra length.  They are both St. Jude Heroes, encouraging others to donate to the work going on at St. Jude.  Steve, who is just weeks past a serious bicycle crash, is running in memory of Trey Erwin, the high school student from Collierville who recently lost a battle with pancreatic cancer.  Wally is running in memory of his mother, Bettye Green, who was taken by brain cancer in 2010.

Wally is also running in honor of Ava Roten, the four-year old daughter of Running Pony video editor Brandon Roten.  Ava began treatment at St. Jude this year, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Our support for the Rotens will have other members of the Running Pony family at the end of the Memphis Grizzlies House 5K – helping runners as they come across the finish line.

If you’re in Midtown or downtown on Saturday, wave as a Running Pony runner passes.  Cheer on all the runners.  Stop by AutoZone Park and congratulate folks as they finish.  It’s going to be a beautiful day.

 

Steve and Wally

 

Video “On Demand”

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The combination of ways to go online and social media that allows us to connect with each other means more of us are watching … and sharing videos on the Internet.

According the folks from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than two-thirds of adults using the Internet have watched or downloaded videos.  About half of adults (50%) are going for laughs by watching comedy videos online.  Nearly a third (32%) are watching movies or TV shows.  Almost 4 of ten (38%) are going online to watch education videos.  A few more are going online for news videos (43%).  The Pew poll shows all those categories have seen a “significant increase” over the last few years.

Most of the time, home video is the most popular thing people want to share (62% of video uploaders) – but knowing that people are watching has encouraged organizations to make sure that video plays a big part of their online presence.  How big?  Online video is the fastest growing piece of overall Internet advertising.  Companies spent a billion dollars in 2009, up from just $48 million ten years ago.  And according to eMarketer, money spent for online videos should top $3 billion this year.

Most of the people using smart phones, tablets, e-readers, and desktop or laptop computers can connect to the Internet.  Using social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and other sites to post and share video means a lot of people are watching and sharing what they see.

Who will you reach?  The Pew research has some interesting tidbits about who’s doing most of the watching and downloading.  It’s mostly men (74%), who are young men (84%), well-educated (75% with some college or a degree), and who have a good income (78%).

Source:  Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The State of Online Video.”

Going to the Movies

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It’s a story that began on the streets of North Memphis and led to the red carpet of the Academy Awards.  Many of us have been moved by the story told in “Undefeated.”  The award-winning documentary showed the struggles of the Manassas High School football team and its volunteer coach as they try to turn around of a legacy of losing.  Running Pony Productions is proud of the role it played in helping get their story to the big screen.

The Running Pony team recently attended a screening of “Undefeated,” giving us the chance to see the work that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The high point of the event was a chance for us to meet and talk with Bill Courtney, the businessman who devoted more than six years of his life as a volunteer coach, mentor and friend to the Manassas students.

This was a work meeting we were all thrilled to attend.  If you haven’t seen “Undefeated,” go.  Now.  It’s a life-changing experience.