Thursday, 29 May 2014

Our Work: NEC Family Bowling Night

Client: Neighbors Emergency Centera network of emergency care facilities committed to serving the communities of the Greater Houston area.

Goal: To produce a :60 video, using still photos, highlighting the best moments from their company's Family Bowling Night. 

Spot: Neighbors Emergency Center Family Bowling Night

Monday, 26 May 2014

Finding Your Voice [Over]

Choosing the right voice over artist for your radio ad, television spot, or corporate video can be an overwhelming task. Where do you start? What should you expect to pay? How do I know I'm making the right choice?

At Swagger, we use voice over artists for many of our projects and there are a lot of things we keep in mind when choosing an artist.

1. What kind of voice do you want?

Male or female? Old or young? Accent or no accent? The style of your piece may dictate this to a certain degree, but if you're VO isn't playing a specific character, many "voice of God"-type VOs are open for interpretation.

Contrary to popular belief, Morgan Freeman isn't right for EVERY project.
When choosing the right voice over style, start by thinking about who your audience is. (This should be your first step in practically every production/post-production decision-making process.) Sometimes, it may be appropriate to pick a voice that matches the demographic of the audience. Other times, it may make more sense to choose a voice that matches a demographic that tends to influence your audience, as in choosing a soothing, maternal voice for a message aimed at young children.

Is your copy more authoritative or informational? Choose an influencing demographic. Does it have more of a confiding feel? Choose one that matches your target audience.

2. What's your budget?

Obviously the longer the VO, the more it will cost. Broadcast outlets will also affect this cost- a television ad costing more than a web video of the same length, for example. The thing to remember about VO costs is that while they range greatly, the amount you pay typically is going to have a big impact on recording quality and professionalism from the artist. In other words, you get what you pay for. To give you some ballpark figures, a :15 radio ad can cost you $50-75 while a 5-minute video can cost you $500 and up.
That voiceover cost WHAT?
You might be thinking right now, "$500 to read for 5 minutes???? That's insane!" I hope you're not thinking that, but just in case you are, consider the following: a high quality recording suitable for broadcast requires expensive equipment and software, specialized audio expertise, availability at the drop of the hat, extreme consistency in output... and a pleasing voice that's constantly well-cared for. And they often don't get residuals the way on-screen talent might. Now pick up a book and read out loud for 5 minutes straight and count how many flubs you make. Not so easy now, is it?

Some sites like or make it easy for you and have fairly set rates dependent on script length, whereas some outlets will let you post a job with a vague budget range and artists submit an audition with their bid for the project, such as Again, you get what you pay for in these situations, and although you can set criteria for what you're looking for, you often have to sift through a lot of folks who aren't right for the part but submitted themselves for the gig anyway. It's definitely a more time consuming method.

If you don't have time for that hassle, you can find your VO through an agency, however keep in mind that these tend to be pricier from the outset and include an agency fee, although the professionalism and quality is guaranteed.

3. Do you want to hear them record?

"Can we get that once more a little more... Freeman-y?"
You may be able to bring someone local into your studio to record, and that's great. However, because we don't have a recording studio in our office, and because we like to be able to widen our search for talent beyond Houston, this is typically not possible for us at Swagger.

Thankfully, some artists offer the ability to conference call or video chat during their recording session so that you can provide them with direction in real time and get it right the first time. While most artists will often do re-takes for free if you (or your client) wants something read a little differently, doing it live is always easier than trying to communicate those changes later over the phone or worse- through email. Which leads us to...

4. What's your direction?

Be as detailed as you possibly can when providing instruction to the voice over artist. What's the pace? What's the style? Provide pronunciation for ALL proper nouns, even ones you think are completely obvious. Is your video an advertisement for the Computeritron H2100? Find out from the client if they want it said "Computeritron H twenty-one hundred" or "Computeritron two one zero zero". (Pro-tip: Just because you've heard them say it one way, doesn't mean that's the official way! Oftentimes we use slang names for the things we work with on a daily basis that would make our marketing managers cringe.)

The point is, spell everything out, let them know what you want emphasized, if there's accompanying artwork or animation then provide it to them, and give as much information as you possibly can.

5. Is your script finalized?

A word to the wise: While most voice over artists will re-record for free until the cows come home to alter inflection, speed, pronunciation, and correct mistakes, the second you change any words in your script you should assume they will be charging you. It's typically a reasonable fee (a small percentage of the original cost) that prevents their time and services from being abused (a freelancer failsafe), and you should expect to pay it every time they go back into the studio due to a script change.

For that reason, if you know your client has given you a "final" script that probably isn't really the "final" script, you have a couple of options to keep costs down.

Script changes? At least buy me a cotton candy!
  • Record a temporary "scratch track". Grab someone from the office with the most similar voice and record a lower quality temporary placeholder VO to use during the post-production process until you know the script is as finalized as it's going to be.

  • Find a voice over artists that's willing to negotiate some revision time into the upfront cost. (For many, this will simply be non-negotiable.)
  • Build more VO cost into your budget than you think you'll need. This way the client doesn't feel like they're being dinged for changes, and hey, if you don't need them, the client will be even more pleased to have completed the project under budget!

The very least you should do is always be aware of what your artist's revision policy is before they begin the work so that there are no surprises down the road.

6. Did you have a good experience with your last voice over artist?

USE THEM AGAIN. Keep their information and be loyal. It will pay off, as a good working relationship with a voice over artist tends to mean quicker turnaround times and more flexibility on pricing and revisions.

And hey, if you've worked with a great voice over artist in the past we'd love to hear about it, as we're always looking for vetted recommendations!

But ultimately, all of the previous information can be ignored if you can take my last bit of advice here-

7. Just use Morgan Freeman.

I mean, if you've got the budget...

Let's be honest.
If any voice over artists out there are reading this, chime in! What do you think makes a good/bad working relationship and what should clients be looking for?

Monday, 19 May 2014

7 Things You Need To Know About Hispanic Marketing

If you are wondering whether you should be investing in marketing your brand’s product/service to the Hispanic population, the answer is: yes, yes you should. And here are a few reasons why:

  • At over 53 million, Hispanics constitute 17 percent of the nation's’ total population.

  • Hispanics have a budget of $425/ month for shopping and eating out, which is larger than the U.S. national average of $416.

  • A particularly fast-growing market within the Hispanic community are the “upscale Hispanic households,” which are defined as Hispanic households with an annual income of $75,000 or more. The members of this market account for a quarter of all Hispanic consumers and they generate 51 percent of Hispanic aggregate income.
Had enough stats? Let’s talk business then: here are 6 things you need to know about how to market to a Hispanic audience:
  • To begin the process of targeting part of your marketing towards Hispanics it is imperative to understand one fundamental fact: a successful Hispanic marketing strategy can no longer consist of translating all your already-existing marketing materials to Spanish and buying some media space at your local Hispanic TV or radio stations. Now more than ever Hispanic marketing should be approached with the preparedness and enthusiasm with which you approach your overall marketing campaigns. This means that you need to recognize Hispanics as an integral part of your total marketing plan from your foundational research all the way to tracking and measurement.
  • It is important to understand that “Hispanics” as a group is comprised by a broad and diverse set of individuals, so you will need to narrow your target audience down to a more specific group within this demographic according to what you’re trying to market. Once your target audience has been established, research will be key to figuring out how to best reach this group.

  • When thinking about what your marketing campaign should look like, consider that Hispanic marketing does not equal Spanish-language marketing. Don’t assume that your message needs to be in Spanish; English or bilingual strategies can be effective when trying to reach acculturated Hispanics. One aspect to consider when figuring out if your message should be delivered in English or Spanish (or both) is determining the best time of day for messaging; bicultural Hispanics may switch from Spanish to English depending on their daily activities. Again: do what works best to reach your target audience.
  • However, you should also keep this in mind: when a Hispanic individual speaks English this does not mean he or she ceases to be Hispanic, and that their cultural sensitivities have disappeared. When you market to people, you should market to their lives, their values, and their culture, not just their language. Cultural relevance is the key to success. In order to succeed a brand’s messaging should reflect the Hispanic culture of the group they are trying to reach. They should consider their audience’s acculturation levels, geographic location and country of origin, among other aspects.

  • Hispanics influence each other and highly value peer recommendation when choosing a brand or product. So seek out influencers and market to them. Social media and word-of-mouth are powerful ways to reach Hispanic audiences.

  • Consider whether your product, brand or service could be a good fit for the following most promising targets within the Hispanic audiences:
    • Hispanic women, particularly mothers, who are becoming more educated and more financially independent. Because these moms are challenged with balancing work and family, they rely more heavily on brands to create a loving and nurturing home environment, which is important for them to maintain. Even though these women are open to new methods, they still believe in maintaining their traditional attitudes and behaviors, particularly in cooking and child rearing.
    • Hispanic youth, who are generally more acculturated and yet they tend to hold on to Hispanic family values.

  • Finally: be patient. Building relationships with a new audience does not usually happen overnight but it can definitely pay off in the long run.

    Have you tried marketing your brand to Hispanics? What strategies work and which did not work for you? 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Corporate Swagger Way

Before working with Swagger, I didn’t have much experience with corporate videos, besides what I had learned in school (and what I had seen in life). I was more used to work in fiction short films or TV productions in Venezuela, so this was kind of new to me.

When I got here, I was surprised to see how broad and interesting the corporate media field could be. I spent a lot of time getting to know different clients, their expectations, learning the corporate video essentials, their post-production workarounds and workflows (Swagger’s favorite corporate word). After a while, I realized these projects had some aspects in common, and once I managed to feel comfortable with them and the Swagger Way to handle them, I could finally say: “I was IN”. I GOT CORPORATE!

So, what exactly is a Corporate Video? A corporate video is an audiovisual piece made to be used (often internally) by a company, business or organization. It could be an overview video about the company itself, their services, products, promotions, trainings, safety procedures, employees and events.

Here’s an example of our corporate video work: Charming Charlie - HR Video.

Now that you are familiar with corporate media, I’m going to present some of the characteristics and aspects of our Swagger Way of producing and post-producing corporate videos -or basically how we manage to create corporate videos with Swagger-:

1. Multi-Camera: If a corporate video includes interviews on camera, we usually set up at least 2 cameras:
·       CAM A: Wide angle.
·       CAM B: Tighter angle or close up.

When we want to spice it up a little bit and make it more dynamic, we set up a 3rd and 4th camera:
·       CAM C: Camera set up on a dolly or a slider, to give the sound bites an interesting movement.
·       CAM D: A floating camera for hands movements, gestures, and other details.

You may be asking why would we set up so many cameras? Let me tell you: first, this will make the video look much more interesting. And second, it will help us get cleaner cuts, especially if we need to cover a cut between sound bites, stutters, mistakes, etc.

The Swagger Way: Always try to get at least two takes of each question or statement, if possible. It’s better to be safe than to find ourselves missing a good sound bite.

2. B-roll & Stock: I’ve learned through experience that b-roll helps us deliver a message in a more powerful way, because it accompanies the speech while illustrating it. If the client is open to incorporating b-roll, so be it. They may have some of it already shot for us to include it, or we might need to go out there and get it. It depends on what the video is about, and if it’s logistically feasible for us to get it.

Then, if the subject we’re trying to demonstrate is not realistically possible to shoot, we can always rely on the stock option. Stock footage or photos are usually very helpful for illustrating something we don’t have b-roll for, but we still want to exemplify.

The Swagger Way: Always try to look for stock clips that are not that cliché (that are not the same 10 clips we have all seen already on other commercials and other corporate videos). If we think we’ve seen it before, we’ve probably seen it before. That’s why we keep looking, modify our keyword search or tags, and try to think about different and creative ways to represent the theme in question.

3. Graphics: This may not sound like a MUST on corporate videos, but here at Swagger we personally believe that business communication in general is significantly more effective and engaging when supplemented with branded graphics that reinforce the company’s voice and personality. The graphics we implement in corporate videos include:

·       Title Slides: used to display the video title. It generally involves the company logo, and other important information like date and place (if the video is about an specific event, for example).
·       Lower Thirds: lower bars that identify interviewees’ names and titles.
·       Text Graphics: text slides that point out or highlight certain information throughout the video. We use them to show bullet point lists, definitions, quotes, etc. They can either be full-screen or side bar slides, depending on what we want to communicate.
·       Charts: these are particularly helpful when we’re trying to picture growth, progress or simply data analysis of a particular business.
·       Animations: 2D & 3D animations are also a great and creative tool that we like to use when featuring a company’s facility tour, activity, characteristic, or subject.

The Swagger Way: Follow the company’s branding guidelines when designing our graphics to keep it consistent. This includes color palettes, fonts, and logos, among other elements.

Before moving forward to the last element, I wanted to share a great example of how graphics and animation can creatively illustrate a company’s service. This is the video we developed to showcase our own Swagger GRASP service, the key to effective Knowledge Management. [Shout out to our awesome Animator & Graphic Artist, Nathan Bayless, for his amazing job on this one!].

4. Music: When I first started doing some research about corporate music, I didn’t expect to find whole libraries named “corporate” and “motivational”, full of tracks that almost make you feel like you’re in a business fairytale. Corporate videos generally have background tracks that could be either upbeat or more of an ambiant style, but at the same time inspirational and stimulating (depending on what the client envisions, of course). Even though you might think background music is not going to have much impact in the video itself, you can be surprised on how inspiring a piece can turn out to be once you find the right song. That’s why we never underestimate the power of music.

The Swagger Way: Look for many different options, following the client’s vision and your own instincts as an editor. We aim for tracks that align with their brand and their voice. Once we feel we have enough options, we let the client pick their favorite and then work our post-production magic to put all the pieces together!

I hope this post helped us introduce you to the world of corporate videos and our Swagger Way when developing them. Now tell us, what do you think of our corporate Swagger Way? Are there any other corporate elements or characteristics you think we should keep in mind? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the comment section below or on Twitter @Swagger_media!

And remember, if you ever need help on scripting, producing or post-producing a corporate video, reach out to us at or (832) 831-7592.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Monday, 5 May 2014

How to Know if the Upgrade is Worth It: Blackmagic URSA Edition

Media professionals have some of the worst cases of ‘gear envy’ known to man. I’m no exception to this, so naturally when I saw Blackmagic was releasing a new flagship camera, the URSA, I didn’t pay any attention to the $6000 price tag. It’s easy to want this incredible camera, but what I wanted to know is if I truly needed one. Below are some questions one should ask themselves when looking to invest in any new camera system.

When I first read about the URSA.

1. How does it advance the potential of my business?
Do you really need a 4K camera? What do you shoot mainly? Corporate interviews? Action-packed short films? Moving documentaries? It could be argued that any video looks better in 4K, and while I’d agree, the issues here is if it needs to be in 4K. Nine times out of ten the answer is no. The first consideration is, will it ever hit ‘the big screen’? If the answer is no then you can safely assume you do not need 4K. While many companies are beginning to release 4K televisions we’re still years away from the average viewer watching videos in 4K. It’s nice to have but 4K is largely wasted on videos meant for anything other than theaters.

Summary: 4K is nice but it’s not a huge selling point for this particular camera since 4K isn’t the resolution most audiences will view your final video at. This is even more true when you consider there are cheaper 4K cameras out there.
2. What features does it bring to the table that I don’t already have?
Here’s where you’ll start finding some capabilities you may not have. Does your camera shoot RAW? Does it have continuous recording? When it’s outdated can you simply swap out the sensor? Oh yes, you read that correctly. With the Blackmagic URSA you can simply swap out your sensor when a newer one is available. Before we get too excited about this let’s remember that it’s extremely likely that only Blackmagic will sell new sensors, which means there will probably be an incredible markup. Only time will tell. Even so, it’s safe to say your camera probably doesn’t support RAW video shooting (without some hacks) and it almost certainly does not support continuous shooting. I come from photography so the power of RAW editing is no stranger to me. What I wouldn’t give to be able to go back later and change a slightly off white balance of certain clips. There have also been plenty of times where we’ve had to pause an interview due to a camera reaching it’s recording limit or  card filling up. The ability to just pop in another card and keep rolling is infinitely valuable.

Summary: You’re definitely going to get some nice features with this camera. The RAW capabilities alone could be worth the investment, so just consider continuous shooting and future-proofing the cherry or two on top.
3. What hidden costs are associated with the product?
So you’ve purchased a new camera, congratulations! Oh, but I see you don’t have a bag/case for it. You’re going to need one of those. Oooh, and you don’t have an on set monitor? Well that won’t do, better throw that in the cart as well. And what about sound recording, does your camera do that? No? Hmmmm. If you’ve ever bought a camera you’ve definitely experienced the never-ending road of accessories and gear that you need to go with it. Your camera rig is never quite complete. The URSA is no exception, however, it does come standard with several pieces of equipment that are nice. For instance, a 10 inch fold-out on set monitor. These suckers are expensive, usually clocking in between $1000 - $2000 depending on the brand, resolution, and features. Having one included easily helps justify the cost of the camera, especially if you don’t already have a production monitor. But the train doesn’t stop there folks, the URSA also come with a ton of mounting points and brackets, including a standard 15mm rail mount. You’ll still need to invest in the rails themselves, but essential the camera has a cage built into it. Considering camera cages can run you anywhere from several hundred to several thousand, I’d say this is a very nice feature that Blackmagic has included.

Summary: Anyone lacking in production gear is going to find some added value in this camera due to the accessories included right on the camera itself. There’s a diminishing return, however, for anyone who has already invested in a lot of on set gear. If you already have a cage and a monitor you’re paying a lot of money for something you don’t necessarily need.
4. What sort of post-production time is involved?
This may be a deal-breaker for some. If you don’t have the time and/or processing power to color correct all of your footage then go ahead and turn back now. RAW video is amazing, but it is time consuming in post. Blackmagic is kind enough to throw in a version of DaVinci Resolve, which makes color correction a breeze, but this still takes up valuable time and processing power.

Summary: If your can spare the extra time it will take you to color correct your footage then shooting RAW will be a huge asset for you. Keep in mind you’ll need to build this into your deadline and billing structure though.

When you need to color correct several hours of b-roll.
5. Can I afford it?
This may seem basic, but it’s arguably the most important question of all. Too many people dig themselves into debt in order to purchase a new piece of gear. Credit cards can be useful tools but they can also put you in a hole that’s difficult to climb out of. Use credit reasonably and make sure you’re only charging what you can pay back.

Summary: If you happen to have six grand laying around that’s begging to be spent then think carefully about whether this is the best investment. $6000 is a lot of money and could buy you all sorts of goodies that may have been on your wish list for a long time (several high quality lenses for example).

Spend your money responsibly. Or don’t. It’s your money.

What are your thoughts about the Blackmagic URSA? Do you think it’s worth the Money? Will you be upgrading? We always love to hear from you.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Our Work: Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas

CLIENT: Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, a group of physicians located in Houston and Dallas who are experts in minimally-invasive hand surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

GOAL: Write and produce a :30 spot for broadcast which informs the audience of HSST's experience, their previous affiliation with Brown Hand Surgery and their new title and positioning.

SPOT: "Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas: :30 Commercial 1"