Thursday, 29 August 2013

Our Work: Gracey Group: 10 Retreat Boulevard

Client: Gracey Group - a real estate business that puts the client's interests firsts, not the agent's, owned and operated by Julee Gracey. 

Goal: Develop and produce a video to be used on the web that highlights the multi-million dollar home, 10 Retreat Boulevard, to assist in showcasing to potential homebuyers.

Spot: 10 Retreat Boulevard

And now for some extra fun, check out this behind the scenes video from this project!

Monday, 26 August 2013

What to Consider when Buying a Computer for Post-Production

So you decided to get into editing, motion graphics, or animation, and only after downloading all the required software do you realize your machine can’t handle the task. After purchasing $1000 worth of software, the last thing you want to think about is spending more money on a new machine.  Trust me, I know. I’ve been there.

When this issue first presented itself to me, I went out and purchased a new machine. Unfortunately, I still ran into the same issues with rendering times, software lag, hang-ups, and worst of all- the spinning beach ball of death.  It didn’t make sense to me that I purchased a new machine yet was facing the same issues. After some research, I quickly realized my machine wasn’t optimized for video editing, motion graphics or animation.  Translation: I needed to purchase another machine. I did my research and finally after saving some extra cash, I went out and purchased a new video editing-motion graphics- animation-optimized machine. I’ve been editing and animating away since then.  After a friend experienced a similar dilemma this week, I realized she’s probably not the only one who runs into this issue as a new editor/animator. So I decided to share what I’ve learned with my fellow friends on the interwebs. Below are a few things you should know before purchasing your next editing machine.

There are four main things to consider when purchasing a computer, especially one that’s a fast, furious, editing machine:

  • Processor
  • Hard Drive
  • RAM
  • Graphics Card


The processor is the brain of the computer. It tells all the other parts of the computer how to function and when to function. Editing requires a lot of processing. When you combine the need to import footage, edit footage, color-correct footage, adjust the audio, add text and graphic layers, then render, a multi-core processor becomes a necessity. With a multi-core processor you can tell the other computer to run multiple tasks simultaneously.   So instead of having to edit and then render, you can edit and render in the background, saving you tons of time in getting your project complete. 
*A Multi-Core Processor is an absolute necessity for any computer handling a lot of editing, motion graphics, or animation. The faster the processor, the better (and of course, the higher the cost).

Hard Drive

The hard drive is the storage unit of the computer- it is where all your files live (i.e. videos, documents, photos, etc.). The bigger the hard drive, the more you can store.  When it comes to your editing machine, the size isn’t as important as the speed. The faster the hard drive, the better. With the latest advances in our non-linear editing systems (i.e. final cut pro, adobe premiere, you can edit your footage while still importing it. This causes your hard drive to work double time.  We want to make sure we have a hard drive that can allow us to benefit from all of the features our non-linear editing system has to offer.  So, I would recommend at least a 7200-RPM hard drive; if you have the money to splurge buy a solid-state. Solid-State will increase your performance across the board. For more information regarding solid-state HD, go here.


RAM (Random Access Memory) is like your short-term memory - quick to access, but when you go to sleep it all goes away for good measure. 
Not enough RAM can throttle your processor, while it waits longer (a lot longer) to get data from the hard drive. When it comes to video editing, RAM is most useful during the render process. It stores the information so we don’t need to render over and over again, unless of course we keep changing or altering the video.  I would recommend at least 8GB of RAM, and if your pockets allow, 16GB.

Graphics Card

Integrated Graphics Cards (GPU’s) are fine for everyday graphics processing, 2D design and video playback, but with 3D games, and video production and editing you need a separate “monster” in the machine - if you don’t want suboptimal performance. A discrete GPU has its own dedicated RAM, completely separate from the computer’s RAM, making the GPU process graphics at a much faster rate and leading to increased overall performance. I believe, discrete graphics is a must for any computer used for editing/animation. The higher GPU RAM, the better the performance.  I would recommend at least 512MB GPU, and if your pockets allow, 2GB or 3GB GPU.

If you made the same mistake I did and purchased the “wrong” computer, sell it on eBay or Craigslist, and use the money from the sell towards a new, super, awesome, editing powerhouse.  If you know someone in this situation, please pass it along. 

What is your most valued hardware for your computer? Do you have any suggestions on what to consider before buying a computer for post-production?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Our Work: Neighbors Emergency Center Saves People

Client: Neighbors Emergency Center - a network of emergency care facilities serving Baytown, Bellaire, Kingwood, Pasadena, Pearland and the surrounding communities 24/7.

Goal: Develop and produce a :30 television spot that features Neighbors Emergency Center's patient-focused philosophy, using actual NEC physicians and staff. 

Spot: "Neighbors Emergency Center Saves People"

Monday, 19 August 2013

6 Things You Need to Know about Video Editing

During my editing experience I’ve been discovering and collecting tips, habits and advice that has helped me along the way, leading me to communicate better through visual media. If you’re a veteran editor you may laugh at these beginner's recommendations, but you may likely also agree with me. If you’re not an expert, welcome to the club!

The most exciting thing about a creative process like this one is that everyone can develop their own list of tips and share it with others. That’s exactly what I intend to do with this. Enjoy!

1.    Project prep is KEY
You need to make sure every file is organized in its respective folder (footage, graphics, audio, assets, etc.), labeled if needed. You can even rate your shots so you can easily locate the best ones while editing. In order to do this, you should go through your entire footage before starting, just to make sure you have everything you need to work with. For this entire organizational task I would recommend Adobe Bridge. (Unfamiliar with Adobe Bridge? Let Michael tell you why you should be using it!)

After you have your footage well organized, open your editing software (either Final Cut, Adobe Premiere, Avid, or the one you prefer) and prepare your project.

CAUTION: Pay attention to your sequence settings. It is extremely important that you set every detail correctly (frame rate, aspect ratio, compressor, location folder, etc.), just to avoid long renders or unnecessary changes afterwards. Remember, taking time in your project prep will save you LOTS of time in the future, especially if you want to return to that specific project.

2.    Sync audio first
If you are editing interviews, a short film, or any video that requires on-camera audio, the first process you’ll want to get over with will be audio syncing. I know it’s boring and tedious, but it has to be done.

My recommendation: Open a different sequence and sync your audio there (open as many sequences as you like, especially if you’re working with a bunch of different scenes). Then duplicate that sequence and start cutting over the new one, so you can keep a back-up of that sync just in case. You can also cut your first desired clips in the sync sequence, duplicate it, and then just get rid of what you don’t need in the new one. Whatever works best for you, only make sure you don’t leave this process for last.

3.    “Cut after 3 seconds”
That’s the typical film school rule: cut to another clip after 3 seconds (approximately) of the same shot. I agree that it applies to most videos, but like every rule, it has exceptions. Keep in mind that editing is supposed to be dynamic and smooth, and those perfect timing cuts (either after 3, 4 or 7 seconds) will help you get there. Just aim for that.

4.    Key frames are your best friends
I know that software like After Effects could help you animate the most amazing graphics and clips, but it’s also nice to get to know all those little tricks and tools that editing software provide.

You could really put some cool motion into pictures, clips and graphics, only by taking advantage of those tiny diamonds called key frames. Get creative with your point A and point B (and even C, D, E, F…), and you could work out some vibrant movements and transitions.

My advice would be: do some research on all the possibilities that your editing software have, look for tutorials if needed, play around with it and apply that knowledge into your workflow. You’ll get some nice results. 

5.    Commit to your style
Every editor has his/her own style. Some are traditional; some are more extreme than others… I particularly am a split screen lover (or freak), but I’ve recently learned that no matter what style you have, you need to commit to it, really apply it, go all the way in giving the project your own trademark, your own signature. Own it.

6.    Look for some inspiration
We all get creative crises sometimes during editing sessions. I love to look for ideas and inspiration in videos that I like, editors I admire, or maybe my favorite movie scenes and short films. Whenever you feel stuck, stop for a moment and try to open your mind to new ideas and references. They can help you develop the greatest concepts.

Do you have another recommendation, compulsive habit or tip that you think you can add to this list? What are your 'musts' during editing?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Why You Should be Using Adobe Bridge for File Organization

There’s a lot of software out there meant to help keep your files nice and neat. Some of these cater more to documents while others are more purposed for media, but they all offer the same basic functions: move to location, copy to location, rename, etc. Some of the better softwares offer batch functionality that lets the user organize hundreds (or even thousands) of files at once.

Today I want to focus specifically on a program call Bridge. This program comes with the Adobe Creative Cloud (formerly known as Master Suite for anyone who hasn’t made the transition) and I’m here to tell you you’re probably missing out on great features that you should be using. After all, you are paying for them. Here are a few of the reasons I think you should be using Bridge for all of your file organization needs.

1. Real Time File Organization: That’s right, move a file in Bridge and it will be moved just as if you clicked and dragged in Finder or File Explorer. For me this is one of the most powerful features Bridge offers because there’s so much more information available to me than if I was simply moving files within Finder or File Explorer. Information I would normally need to retrieve by right clicking and selecting the “Get Info” (cmd/ctrl + i) is displayed in a module simply by clicking the file. More importantly, there’s much, much more information listed. You can open or expand different drop down menus to really customize what kind of information you see when you select different files. This is great because I can filter items by file size, dimensions, exposure, date, and pretty much anything else. This makes organizing files into various folders a breeze. More importantly, all the files I organize in Bridge will be organized on my computer, so if I were to import into Premiere for example, I’d already have everything right where it needed to be.

2. Metadata: This is all the data your camera saves when you snap a photo or video.

You may not normally have a need for all of this information but it is there. This can make learning a much easier process. Maybe you took a photo and thought it looked good in camera. Well now that you have it on the screen you’re noticing a slight blur over the whole photo. If you were to check your shutter speed you’d see it was at 1/30 sec, but your focal length was 50mm. Following the reciprocal rule, your shutter speed should usually be at least 1/focal length otherwise you get camera shake. Bridge didn’t reinvent the wheel on this or anything, Metadata is available from other programs, but Bridge presents the information in a manner where it’s available if you need it but not in the way or cluttered if you don’t. You could also download an image by a photographer you really like and check out the metadata on their photo to get a better idea of how they captured it.

3. Batch Rename: This is by far my absolute favorite feature of Adobe Bridge.

This feature allows you to rename hundreds or even thousands of items, all at once. Going down the menu we see that we can create presets, which is a pretty standard feature from Adobe, or go ahead and manually set our parameters each time. You have the ability to rename files in their location, move them to a different location, or copy the files. The filename section allows you to build the filename using different pieces. You can add text, numbers, letters, metadata, and many more.

These are just three of the features Bridge offers that keep me using it day after day, but honestly I'm barely scratching the surface of what this program has to offer. The real power of Bridge comes from its incredible integration with Photoshop. You can import files into layers, set up panoramas, create contact sheets, etc.

When you incorporate Bridge into your workflow, be it photo, video or even both, you’ll definitely notice a smoother transition between production and post. Batch rename alone can help keep you from having to click through countless clips to try to find “that one clip you swear you remember seeing.”

What key features of Bridge do you think should have been included? In what ways has Bridge helped you redesign the ways you handle post-production? What other programs do you use to help keep your workflow running smoothly and efficient?

Monday, 5 August 2013

3 Simple Ways to Handle an Overwhelming Workload

Staying busy is great, isn’t it? Busy means money is coming in, which means job security for us all! There is never a dull moment here at Swagger. Not one. In fact, every single dull moment has been replaced by moments so incredibly crazy that sometimes you are completely paralyzed in all the business that surrounds you and all you want to do is crawl in a hole and WAIT FOR ALL OF YOUR BUSY PROBLEMS TO DISAPPEAR.

Right? Or is that just me?

Sometimes, having multiple tasks and close deadlines peeking around every corner can get a little stressful. That’s why I created a little checklist of the three simplest and effective things to do when things get a little too…busy… and hopefully they’ll help you out, too.

1. Take Care of the Most Urgent Task First
I don’t know about you, but when I have due tasks piling up, I go into a ‘flight’ mode, enter La-La Land and pretend that nothing is urgent, and instead begin working on the least important things (i.e. an article to write that’s not due for another month when I’ve got a task that’s been staring me down for a week and was due, oh, yesterday).  This is bad! Procrastination will only make things worse, and we all know this, so just stop whatever low priority silliness you are working on that can wait, and get the urgent task done first.  And no multi-tasking, either. Don’t do anything else but the task in front of you.  No phone calls, emails or other distractions.  Just get that urgent task DONE.

2. Make a List
I think we have all been told this at one time or another, but it is so important that I’m going to say it again: MAKE A LIST. It will make your life so much easier. A list gives you the ability to see everything that you need to get done today, or this week, or whenever. You can cross everything off as you go. It’s great! It’s just dandy! So don’t skimp on this one. Write it down. ;)

3. Take a Breather
‘Wait, what? I’ve got a huge deadline to meet in 3 hours and I’m only halfway finished with THAT LIST I AM SUPPOSED TO WRITE and you’re telling me to TAKE A BREATHER?!?!’
I know it seems a bit counterintuitive to take a break when time is of the essence, but you’ve got to disconnect from your work for a moment, breathe, calm down, and clear your mind. Once you do this, you’ll realize that things really aren't so bad, and it’ll be easier to think about the present moment. If you keep on thinking about the future and thinking about what’s next on your plate and thinking, thinking, THINKING, you’re not going to do so well. By walking away from everything for just a few minutes, putting everything into perspective in your mind, and bringing your senses back to the present moment, you’ll realize that you feel a little better about your current circumstances and can come back to work with a clear(ish) mind and be back and ready to get things done.

There ya go! Just 3 simple steps and all of your crazy busy deadlines will go away for good! Well, not exactly. But this little checklist has saved me from quite a few mental breakdowns, and hopefully it will save you from them, too.  Consider it a simple guide on getting a little more clarity, a little more concentration, and a little less crazy so you can accomplish what you need to accomplish. And if all else fails, just remember those 5 easy words:

How have you found ways to maintain your sanity when things get hectic? Share your best tips with us!