Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Look Inside: OSX Mavericks

The next major software upgrade for the Mac is here and includes many under-the-hood refinements and new features. Simply by installing Mavericks, you will notice a bit of a speed boost and battery gain in your Mac. Youll also find new apps, like Maps and iBooks. Its a fantastic upgrade, and the best part is that its FREE. I've spent the last day navigating and discovering some of the nearly 200 new features, and I'm excited to share some of my favorite new features with you.

1. My favorite new feature is Tabs. I always have five or more Finder windows open at a time, and I hated having to resize them all to fit on my screen. Now with Finder Tabs, I can easily consolidate all of my finder windows to one window and easily navigate between the several storage drives we operate off of at Swagger.

2. I have two additional displays connected to my Mac. A part of my job is converting, compressing, transferring data between storage drives, and uploading files, so I set up one monitor to manage all of my finder windows, Compressor, MPEG Streamclip, FTP, etc.  My other monitor acts as my viewing screen to watch all final outputs of our videos before we send them to the client. Until now I couldn't full screen any apps on my additional displays, which became frustrating when trying to review outputs. Even more frustrating is not having access to my dock on the display I maintained all of my Finder windows, etc. Finally the software has adapted to my workflow, instead of me adapting to it. Desktop with menu bar and Dock. Now each display connected to your Mac has a desktop with its own menu bar, no configuration required. The best part, the dock is now available when you move your cursor to the bottom of the screen, allowing you to easily access menus and apps from any display. Full-screen apps on each display. You can use full-screen apps on each display connected to your Mac. All you have to do is swipe on the trackpad or mouse to switch between full-screen apps.

3. App update notifications always pop-up at the most inopportune time, especially the ones that require a restart. In the past, I would click on the notification just to get the annoying thing out of my way. If it didn't require a restart I would go ahead and install the update. If it did, I would close it out, then I would open reminders to set a reminder for me to update the app at the end of the workday. Now with Install Tonight, if an update requires a restart, or if an app cant be updated because its running, youll receive a notification that lets you choose when to apply the update. If you choose Try Tonight, the update will be installed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. No more reminders, no more extra step.

4. This new feature makes returning files sent to me from our clients simple and easy. No longer will I need to download the file, update it, go back to mail, search for the email (that is now buried under 100 other emails that were received during the time it took for me to update the file), re-attach it and hit send. Return files. Files that you receive have a Share menu option to return the file to the sender, so now I can open an email attachment, edit it, and send it back with just a few clicks,

5. I constantly switch back and forth between applications while working on a project (or often several projects at a time), which eats up my memory and ultimately slows down my system. With Compressed Memory, when your systems memory begins to fill up, it automatically compresses the least recently used items in memory. When these items are needed again, they can be uncompressed right away.

So you may have noticed a theme, I'm totally digging all the features that help improve my workflow (yes, guys, I will add a quarter to my jar... you will have to check out my next blog post to understand the meaning of this). Comment below and let us know what are some of your favorite (or least favorite) features in OSX Mavericks.  Has it been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below or tweet at us @swagger_media. And if you haven't downloaded Mavericks now, DO IT NOW!

Monday, 28 October 2013

The 7 Best Movies to Watch for Halloween

Greetings boys and ghouls! 'Tis the season of mischief, a celebration of the cycle of death and rebirth, of spirits and monsters and everything else that goes bump in the night as enjoyed by many cultures in many forms around the world.
And what better way to enjoy it than at the movies?! 

As such, here is a brief and in no way comprehensive list of some of my favorite flicks that best embody the aforementioned themes.


This is one of those movies that shaped my childhood and set me on my life path of creating animation and visual media. Masterfully directed by Henry Selick, The Nightmare before Christmas features the visual style of Tim Burton at the top of his game alongside some truly great music by Danny Elfman. This is one of the few films I've seen where there is no issue of style over substance because the style IS the substance. It defined an aesthetic (that was unfortunately and unintentionally turned into a parody by Hot Topic) and is one of the few flicks that is both a cult and mainstream classic. Plus, it's an equally good watch for both Halloween AND Christmas!


In my humble opinion, this is one of the best and most unique horror films ever made, Hellraiser introduced us to the now infamous character Pinhead and was directed by Clive Barker, based on his own story, 'The Hellbound Heart.' This is a surreal, visceral nightmare that puts a different spin on the classic haunted house setup and to this day is creepy as hell, thanks in no small part to the fantastic lighting, character design, and ingenious practical effects that no modern digital wizardry can ever hope to hold a candle to.


Hands down, the best of Sam Raimi's original trilogy. What started with attempting to play straight horror in The Evil Dead (an indie classic in its own right) evolved into slightly more goofy horror comedy in the sequel/remake, Evil Dead 2, and became fully realized in this no-holds-barred piece of macabre slapstick starring Bruce Campbell as the cynical and incidental hero Ash, everyone's favorite chainsaw-armed, womanizing Deadite slayer who knows his hardware. Full of great one liners and visual comedy, Army of Darkness is one of the most fun films of the era. Hail to the king, baby!


They just don't make kids' movies like they did in the 80's. This was an era before movies for children were shanghaied into playing nice and clean and talking down to their audience, and this film, which features a group of monster-savvy kids taking on classic Universal Monsters who invade their hometown, is a prime example of why that was infinitely better than today's standards. If you haven't seen this yet, remedy that. It's fun for the whole family! 


The ultimate slow-burn, this is one that intentionally takes its time so that it can catch you off guard and then some. But you won't get bored as you're carried along by the beautiful, charming Jocelin Donahue, who plays a college student desperately in need of funds and accepts a job taking care of...someone...offered by a quietly creepy Tom Noonan. To give much more away would spoil the fun, but trust me, if you stick it through, you won't be sorry. 


Like an episode of Scooby Doo on lethal amounts of LSD, this insane Japanese take on the haunted house genre is something that really can't be described and has to be seen to be believed. 


This is a weird one for the list, but I'll take any opportunity I can to advertise this movie. It's not really horror, though parts of it are terrifying. It's not really a ghost story, but we are taken into the post-mortal realm. Shown almost exclusively through a first person perspective, this story of the life and afterlife of a drug dealer and his long lost sister in a hypnotic, neon-soaked Tokyo is less about establishing a cohesive narrative and more about immersing the viewer in a psychedelic experience of what might lie on the other side of life. Artistically and technically one of the most impressive and original films I've ever seen, this essentially does for the supernatural what '2001: A Space Odyssey' did for sci-fi.

Do you agree with this list? What are some of your favorite flicks for the season? Tweet 'em at us @swagger_media!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Our Work: Neighbors Emergency Center "Choices"

Client: Neighbors Emergency Center, a network of 24/7 emergency care centers staffed by board-certified physicians located in Baytown, Bellaire, Pearland, Pasadena and Kingwood.

Goal: Conceptualize and produce a light-hearted :60 commercial for television that highlights Neighbors' short wait time and high-quality care, in comparison to the "typical" ER experience.

Spot: "Choices", starring local Houston actor Shelton Jolivette.

Monday, 21 October 2013

My Favorite Movie Scenes: Before Night Falls

The scene begins with Renaldo Arenas (played by the Oscar Award-winning Javier Bardem), the film's protagonist, sitting in a top-down convertible driving through 1950’s Havana at dusk with his friend and lover Pepe Malas. The star of this scene is the music. It’s a dirge of a tune from Lou Reed called "Rouge". Julian Schnabel, the film's director, known primarily as a "neo-expressionist" artist/painter, made the wise choice of eliminating all sound from this scene aside from the music track. This is why this scene works, but more on that after the jump.

After pulling up to the Tropicana-esque nightclub and cutting to an interior shot of an aquatic show, we are thrust into pre-Castro Cuban nightlife and all its splendor. In a typical movie scene, we would be greeted by foley sound of club goers, the band, layers of conversations. We would then expect, after seeing Renaldo and Pepe sit down and greet a couple, the traditional cut to a tight shot with ambient sound faded out to make room for dialogue. Not so fast, sayeth Mr. Schnabel. Instead, the music serves as the only audio guide through the scene and we become intimate observers of the following:

- Renaldo enamored with his date: the bold, uber-masculine and bisexual Pepe.
- They are approached by Tomas Diego, played by Olivier Martiniez, and his female date.
- Pepe leads Tomas’ date to the dance floor where heavy petting ensues, visibly upsetting Renaldo .
- Renaldo is forced to watch said petting from a lonely vantage point until Tomas mercifully offers him a cigarette and the two share a moment.
- Tomas and Renaldo leave the club together and meander across a bridge overlooking the Malecon.
- Cut to Renaldo’s POV removing Tomas’ glasses and fade to black.

 What’s remarkable about Schnabel’s decision to forgo all sound other than the music track is how well it punctuates the feeling of being in that nightclub. You can smell the cigar smoke, the vibration of the percussion, the sweat flying off the throngs of dancers. The camera floats through the room and cuts away from the actors on all the right downbeats. There is a resonance to the sounds that aren’t made by the background actors, making the music and emotion pouring on screen all the more palpable.

 The scene is a standalone short film with a run time of less than 3 minutes. No dialogue or special effects needed. For all you young filmmakers and directors our there who don’t have access to a 50’s-era Cuban nightclub and Javier Bardem, try filming a scene at a local bar, club, restaurant, or even park. Find 3 people who can tell a story with their eyes and build a narrative with body language and your own unique point of view. You may not be Julian Schnabel, but you will be surprised at how liberating it is to embrace your limitations.

What did you think of "Before the Night Falls"? What are some of your favorite movie scenes, and why? Tell us what inspires you!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Our Work: Pic N Post

Client: Pic N Post, a modern-day digital photo booth for parties, events and businesses that makes it easy to share directly to Facebook.

Objective: Produce and animate a web video that combines live footage and original graphics and explains what the device does and how it works.

Spot: Pic N Post Introductory Video

Monday, 14 October 2013

Creator's Block and What Inspires Me

Working in the creative industry can, at times, be slightly overwhelming.  I mean, the demand alone to create visually appealing, beautifully designed, well-crafted multimedia day in and day out isn’t easy. Sometimes the ideas populate your brain like words in a book, and you have to take the time to discern which of the many ideas is the best look for the project. Other times the process is like pulling teeth, and you can’t come up with one design concept, edit, effect, or look to save your life or your client’s project. Over time I have found the best way to cure 'Creator's block' is to find the things that inspire and motivate you to create. 

Whether it's music, film, TV shows, commercials, music videos or a combination of them all, there’s something that triggers your inspiration immediately when you look at it or listen to it. For myself it’s a combination of all of the above, and after much debate, I’ve decided to share with the Swagger World what inspires me when I need a bit of inspiration.

 I firmly believe in order to work in the media industry you must be crazy. It takes a crazy person to conceptualize the television we watch, the music we listen to, the commercials we can’t help but enjoy (despite wanting to skip them). This commercial reaffirms that it’s okay to be crazy, which inspires me to get crazier and crazier with my work.

2. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon

This album always gets my creative juices flowing. There’s something about the way each track flows effortlessly into the next which creates this beautiful sound. My mind begins to wander and my ideas begin to flow.

3. City of God

This film has some of the best stylistic film editing I’ve ever seen, with a brilliant use of jump cutting and cutting between two different sets of action. This is incredibly technical editing at its best.

It is particularly spectacular even from very start of the film, as it has to introduce the main characters immediately. This film reminds me of just how important editing is to telling the story of the film; the editing inspires me to be a better editor.

The first episode of Lost is the best first hour of TV I have ever watched. I thought I was watching a film the entire time. It's beautifully shot, with amazing editing, and well-written. I wish I had half the brain it took to develop such a phenomenal show.  Every time I watch this episode, it inspires me to write.

What in particular inspires you? Are you most compelled by music, film, books, or a combination of everything? Tell us about your inspirations in the comments below!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Our Work: Reaching Higher Iowa 2013

Client: Reaching Higher Iowa, an Iowa-based non-profit committed to advocating for a more effective Iowa K-12 public education system to provide opportunities for every child and foster long-term economic growth in the state.

Objective: Script, produce and animate a web video to be shown to potential donors at a local conference as well as on the we that illustrates the problems of Iowa's educational system today (highlighting the inequality in educational outcomes among varying income groups) and inspires viewers to further discussion of this topic and seek solutions.

Spot: Reaching Higher Iowa 2013

What the Client Said:

"The product that the Swagger team produced was absolutely outstanding - and it came in under budget. Moreover, the team was very professional and very easy to work with. I would highly recommend them for anyone in need of video production work."
- Mark Jacobs
Founder, Reaching Higher Iowa

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Video Production in 10 GIFS

Working in video production isn't all relaxing on set and munching on green M&Ms in your trailer; often it can be a wild roller coaster of emotions- especially when you work behind the scenes. If you've ever worked in this business, you understand. In fact, from filming to the final cut, these are just a few of the emotions we've been known to feel working on video projects.

1. When a client wants to shoot first and decide on a concept later...

Followed by...

2. When you get to set and realize your camera battery isn't charged...

3. When someone on set says, "That's ok, we can just fix it in post..."

4. When you're ingesting footage and realize a crucial clip is corrupted...

5. When editing a project requires you to listen to the same sound bite/jingle over and over and over and over...

6. When the Final Cut hot keys don't work in Premiere...

7. When you finally get that color key JUST RIGHT...

8. When your render time is longer than your last relationship...

9. When you've just completed your export and realize you missed one revision...

10. When someone compliments your video, after you've spent the entire process working your butt off and believing it would truly be the death of you...

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Our Work: Northstar Healthcare's CuraSpine Procedure

Client: Northstar Healthcare, a recognized leader and innovator in the healthcare industry, is a full-service healthcare development and management company which manages over 100 surgical centers.

Goal: Cast, produce, edit and animate in Houston a :30 spot for television broadcast that highlights the simplicity and quick recovery time of the CuraSpine spinal procedure.

Spot: Northstar Healthcare's CuraSpine Procedure