Friday, 27 February 2015

Our Work: Behind The Scenes for the University of Houston

This week, we worked long and hard to produce a series of videos for the University of Houston System. The purpose of the series is to help every member of the UHS community understand Title IX and to take responsibility for reducing the risk of sexual misconduct on campus.

In order to meet this goal, the SWAGGER Media pre-production team wrote scripts, cast lead characters and is building a website where these videos will be displayed.

A total of 3 days were spent on set filming scenarios and capturing interviews. We had a blast in production and now the project is in the hands of our post-production team!

We can’t wait to share the final cut with you but for now, we hope you enjoy these behind-the-scenes photos! Stay tuned and go Coogs!

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding

Individuals no longer wait to meet you in person to start finding out who you are - they start by searching for you online! It’s true, the Internet has revolutionized how people connect, from keeping in touch with loved ones, to job interviews, to how businesses interact with consumers. A lot of our human interaction, now, goes hand in hand with an online image, and this is why it is so important to be aware and in control of a consistent personal brand.

Whether you post information about yourself, or someone else does, you are almost certain to have an online personal brand. The question is, who is going to control your brand? Others? Chance? Or you? Here are 4 steps that will help guide you in building your personal brand.

1.    Create a Website
Having an updated personal website shows professionalism, it shows that you stay up-to-date and people can easily find you. An efficient website should include a current photo of yourself, a concise biography, and contact information- email or phone number. Be sure to include a couple of facts that let people know they have found the right person, such as your alma mater. If you are feeling more advanced, feel free to include certifications, awards and even a résumé. 

2.    Start a blog
A blog is the fuel that keeps a website running! Find a subject that will keep readers coming back to revisit your page and write, write, write. If you are not a big fan of writing, bookmark online articles that may come across your desk during the week and once you have 5-10 articles, make a compilation, share the links and include one sentence blurbs about why you like them and how they relate to your brand or business. This shows readers and website visitors that you keep learning, share information freely and stay relevant.

3.     Make an account on LinkedIn
Although there are many social networks that can help build your brand, LinkedIn is the best choice for professional purposes. Take advantage of the professional groups on LinkedIn to connect with industry groups and leaders. A good rule of thumb is to complete your LinkedIn profile 70% before adding any contacts- this includes listing your skills, previous jobs and uploading a résumé.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, endorse others and professionally ask others to endorse your strongest skills or areas of expertise.

4.     Be Consistent
You want to be consistent. Being consistent with the type of information you share, your tone, and how often you publish are all things people look at when evaluating your online personal brand. It will serve you well, whether you’re looking for a better job or if you’re looking to attract new clients. Consistency is probably the most important tool to obtaining credibility in the digital world.

Some of the benefits of a successful personal brand include leadership opportunities, rewarding partnerships, recognition, higher perceived value and greater credibility. By developing your own brand, you will have control over the initial perception that people have of you and the opportunity to show people who you are from the beginning.

It is also important to keep in mind that the goal of having a personal brand is simply to have a digital representation of who you are, not to become a celebrity. So, don’t get discouraged by analytics and marketing measures if they are not necessary. My last bit of advice for you is to discover exactly what makes you interesting and build your brand on those strengths. Anything besides the real you just won’t do. At all times, your personal brand has to match with how (and who) you are in person.

For more tips on how to build or improve your personal brand, feel free to contact me! Check out my website:

How are you keeping up with your online personal brand? Do you have anything to add? If so, tell me in the comments below! Or tweet it to us @swagger_media!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Our Work: APS Zombie Game

A few months ago, we had the amazing opportunity to try something completely new. We got to develop a game for our client, Assurance Power Systems. Even better, we got to design a zombie game! Which is awesome because, who doesn't love zombies?

The idea was to create a game that demonstrated the benefits of a backup generator while still being fun and challenging to players.

We used 3D animation:

Cinematic shots:

Awesome action sequences:

And, of course, Zombie splatting!

It took hours of work from our whole team to finish, but it was so worth it! Click here to play now and tell us what you think in the comments below. Unless, you're too scared!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Check Out Our SwaggerFest 2015 Winners, Y'all!

Well, the first SwaggerFest Film Festival has come to a close. We had so much fun last night at our online screening and couldn't be happier with the turnout. If, for some terrible reason, you missed out on the awesome SwaggerFest screening last night, we're here to give you the highlights. Here is a full list of our winners, as well as links to all of their videos.

Winner of Best Graphics:

Evil From Within from Juan Lacey and Miles Bentley

"Take a trip through the mind of a troubled teen as he takes you on a thrilling ride through his nightmarish reality.. or his realistic nightmare."

Winner of Best Editing:

El Valle from Catherine Denniston

"A slice of life of what it's like to live in the valley (Rio Grande Valley/Deep south Texas). There's a narrated poem that shows different aspects of the valley and what makes it great, and images to match the narration. The valley is always overlooked and many younger people who live there always want to leave; but there is charm there that makes it much more interesting than meets the eye."

Winner of Best Cinematography:

Fall in the U.P. from Cameron Malott

"For a few short weeks in October, the trees in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan provide a dazzling display of colors, featuring every hue from bright yellow to deep red. You never know what you’ll see on a walk through the woods…"

Winner of Best Directing:

Totem from Andrew Stout and Dennis Budde

"Flynn and Ethan can't remember if they're in a dream or not. Luckily they've both seen inception."

Winner of 3rd Place:

Emma from Rachael Acosta and Bradley Lien

"A teenage girl with an overbearing mother, has a dark secret."

Winner of 2nd Place:

Soy Latino from Eddie Zapata

"I wrote a poem and directed a video to go along with it. I wanted to address my perception of being a Latino student at a predominately white ivy league school. Addressing the issue of not only facing assumptions, but facing a burden of high expectations from my family, the video was my way of putting emotions out in the open."

And, drumroll please.....

Our Grand Prize Winner:

9 Words from Will Burney

"Inspired by Hemingway's fabled 6 word short story, 9 words tells a story of finding acceptance after a great loss."

We had so much fun with our first ever short film festival and we can't wait to do it again next year! So, if you're an aspiring filmmaker, get ready to Unleash Your Swagger! 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Prepare Equipment for a Video Shoot Like a Pro

If you asked ten different production people how they pack their gear you’d get twenty different answers, ranging from “Just throw it all in the car and go” to “I spend two hours before each shoot carefully packing bags and arranging things in the perfect manner.” In the end, your method doesn’t really matter as long as all the gear you need makes it from the office to the set (and you can find it), but I’ve compiled a list of some of my most helpful tips for packing so you never find yourself stranded without the gear you need.

Probably not the best way to pack before a shoot.

1. Know your essentials - As a videographer there are few things I can’t accomplish as long as I have a camera, batteries, and memory cards. I, of course, also want to have a tripod, monitor, extra lenses, sound equipment, etc., but these are the first three things I pack and the first three things I sound off when double-checking equipment. If everything else vanished from my kit, I would still be able to accomplish something with just these bare essentials.

2. Have backups in place - So you’ve got all your equipment set up and ready to go when all of the sudden your camera won’t turn on. Uh oh. Could it be the battery? Is the camera itself malfunctioning? Are the lens contacts faulty and causing the camera to shut off? There are so many possibilities and so many things that can be checked. This can be no problem at all if you catch the issue early, but if talent is in the hot seat and ready to begin, this can be one of the most frustrating and nerve-racking experiences you’ve ever had. For this reason we always travel with two cameras, multiple batteries, and multiple tripods. That way we’re always covered if one of our essentials fails on us.

When nothing on set is working like it’s supposed to.

3. Test your equipment before hand - This is the number one way to prevent problems like those listed above from occurring. By running routine camera diagnostics, doing monthly tripod maintenance, and replacing old batteries, you can avoid these issues 99% of the time. This should be an important step in anyone’s pre-production checklist, otherwise you’re going to find yourself in hot water with the client and the director.

We put all of our gear through rigorous testing methods before adding it to our kit.

4. Charge your batteries - This is arguably one of the most important steps in preparing for a shoot. Getting on set and finding out that you don’t have enough battery power to make it through the day puts a lot of unnecessary stress on the whole crew because now every location becomes a game of “find the outlet” (this may seem easy but you might be surprised at how hard an outlet is to find when you need one). Set up a charging station in your home base so that the first thing you do when you get back is put the batteries on the chargers, thus ensuring you’re always ready to go.

When I finally find an outlet on set.

5. When things do go wrong, keep a clear head and find a solution - This is more of a general life lesson really, because if something can go wrong you can bet good money that, eventually, it will go wrong. This can be gear left behind, batteries not charged fully, or sound equipment not working on set. The most important thing to do in situations like these is to stay calm and discretely let the director know. Clients and talent have a lot going through their heads and may already be under a lot of stress, so the last thing they need is to know that you're freaking out because something isn’t working. When something goes wrong, try to find a solution rather than panicking. As frustrated as your director may be, I promise it’s not nearly as bad as if they find out afterwards when it’s too late to do anything about it. When possible, always correct the issue on set rather than trying to deal with it afterwards (your post team will thank you).

When nothing is ok and the client asks “Is everything ok?”

I had to learn a lot of these lessons the hard way, as did many other media professionals. Hopefully our mistakes help your production days go smoothly no matter what issues you run into. Always remember that, no matter how bad the problem seems, there’s always a solution on hand; you just have to think creatively to find it.

What situations have you found yourself in where you had to use creative solutions to make something work? Do you have a pre-production work flow that helps you make sure you’re always prepared? Reply below or tweet us @Swagger_Media

Friday, 13 February 2015

Our Work Blog: Altus Health Management Services

CLIENT: Altus Health System is an integrated network of highly trained physicians who are dedicated to providing the highest quality, affordable patient care across communities in the greater Houston area.

GOAL: To produce, film, edit and animate accompanying motion graphics for an 8-minute marketing video for Altus. We used a combination of doctor interviews, company highlights and service descriptions to show how Altus benefits both physicians and the communities they serve.

SPOT: Altus Health Management Services: Marketing Video

Monday, 9 February 2015

4 Tips for a Fresh Looking Website

Especially in the last few years, websites are becoming more and more advanced. Not just in functionality, but also in design. Websites built in 2010 are already feeling stale and could use a make-over. This does not mean a complete overhaul of the website or a completely new design, but a few tweaks can make all the difference. There is a lot that can be done with some simple tricks that can give your website a fresh and modern feel.

1.  High Res Images – In a world where everything is 1080p and moving to 4k resolutions, HD matters. It is no different for a website. Nobody likes oversized pixelated photos, or tiny images that are hard to see. Full width high resolution images are a simple addition that catches the user’s eye immediately. If you are not the world’s best photographer, do not worry, Shutterstock and iStock have your back. There are many other places to purchase stock photos on the web, so try not to get anything too generic. If you like something that seems generic, try editing it so that it is tailored to your look and feel. One way to make an image your own is to apply filters!

2. Apply Filters to Images – This is a simple CSS trick that can give all your website’s image the same look and feel as the rest of your website. Common filters are blur and grayscale. Many websites use blur on an image that has text overlaying it. You already know what grayscale is so use it when you want to set the right tone. Other filters include: sepia, brightness, contrast, hue-rotate, invert, saturate, opacity, and drop-shadow. You can use this nice little cheat sheet to experiment and play with filter effects and apply them to your images.

3. Drop Shadows – Use them! Drop shadows are not just for 3D effect. You can apply many drop-shadows to a single element. This means you can create a glow effect or a stroke effect also. The best part of using the drop-shadow filter effect is that it works well with PNG images also!

The demonstration below uses four filters, a drop-shadow for each side:

-webkit-filter: drop-shadow(2px 2px 2px #CFFFFE) drop-shadow(-2px 2px 2px #CFFFFE) drop-shadow(2px -2px 2px #CFFFFE) drop-shadow(-2px -2px 2px #CFFFFE);

Pro Tip: You can use the same effect on text with the CSS property text-shadow.  This is great for hover-over effects. 

4. CSS Animation – You may have seen sites where images and elements are flying in from the sides or growing when you hover over them.  This is all done with the magic of CSS animations.  For CSS animation to work, keyframes need to be assigned.  Then add that animation to the element’s property in which you want to animate.  Check out the demonstration below. 

There are a lot of animations to use, and using more than one per element can be tricky (such as getting the image to rotate AND slide across the screen).  I can’t give away all the secrets from my bag of tricks, but try putting your element in a container and animating that also.  See below: 


For more information on CSS animations, go here

Not all of these tips are needed to update a website.  Maybe just one or two, maybe none at all, or maybe something more advanced like the use of parallax or video backgrounds.  Ultimately, some sites may need to be scrapped and completely redone.  Others may need just a bit of tweaking.  Whatever you decide, SWAGGER Media is here to help. 

Do you have tips or tricks that you like to use? Does your website need a makeover? Let us know in the comments below!