Monday, 29 June 2015

An Open [Love] Letter to the Swagger Team

Greetings, dear readers!

I have been a member of the Swagger team since 2012 when I joined as a marketing and production assistant. Since then, so many things have changed - I'm now a Creative Director, our team has doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and whatever you say when it's five times the size it started as, we've moved from a tiny corner of the third floor to a fancy schmancy office on the second, and we've collectively produced and executed hundreds of video and marketing projects that I never could have imagined doing in such a short span of time if it weren't for the dedication and talent of the Swagger team. 

As of last Friday, my run with Swagger has come to an end - it's time for me to follow new dreams and opportunities and all that - and it's got me thinking about some of the moments when I've been most proud of Swagger and the things that never change, even though everything else around us seems to do so oh so frequently. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a few of those stand-out impressions and memories with you.

1. We are never NOT proud of the work that we do. 

Deadlines are always tight. And budgets are never generous. Yet there is not a single person at Swagger that would allow us to put out a subpar product because of those limitations. I could name a hundred projects that when we were given the details, we thought, "There's no way; it can’t be done." But Swagger always finds a way. I will always remember this and respect the integrity of my coworkers for taking such pride in their work.

2. We are able to laugh together.


Whether it's hunting down who "murdered" Adam's balloon friend, dressing up in costumes (and Joy always shows everyone else up), drawing silly cartoons on the walls, playing murder mystery through the office, playing kickball, one-upping each other's animated GIFs, or just laughing at some goofy tweet, we're all able to get silly together. Being a silliness enthusiast myself, this has been clutch.

I'm eternally grateful for everyone for humoring all the themed parties and activities that I've propagated over the years, which reminds me of another Swagger tradition...

3. Beer-thirty.

4:30pm every Friday. Never let my legacy die. (And please, if you can, avoid the macro stuff... ;-))

4. On Set Food Adventures

(I love food, so obviously this is going to make the list.)

One of the things I love about going out on location is getting to try whatever local hole-in-the-wall restaurants from each little neighborhood and small town we can find, and I was lucky that Michael, our videographer, was always game for these adventures. We ate giant cheeseburgers out of an airstream van, we ate giant cheeseburgers covered in peanut butter and banana at Hub Cap while trying to keep the stray cats away, we ate giant cheeseburgers with donuts for buns (ok maybe that was just me), we stuffed ourselves with Mexican food in El Paso (I didn't want you to think it was ONLY cheeseburgers), the list goes on and on. Michael may still think that Subway makes "good"/"edible" sandwiches, but I like to think our adventures and my food mentorship has elevated his palette a bit (although I still can't get him to enjoy a decent IPA...)


5. We started a freaking film festival together!


Swaggerfest is like Cannes, but for the cool kids. Swagsquatch. 'Nuff said. I can’t wait to see y’all take Swaggerfest to the next level. (And I’m available to be a guest judge… just sayin…)

6. Swaggrrrlzzz



The Swagger office is a very female office, which is not something you are lucky enough to see in many companies in our industry. We edit, we animate, we direct, we manage, we do it all. I'm so proud of all of the women of Swagger for representing the Swaggrrrlzzz with talent and style, especially Sophia.

7. Pic-n-Post

While there are many Swagger projects that will always be memorable to me (directing my first television commercial, interviewing Lou Ferrigno, traveling to various locales for various clientele...), this was one of the most important projects of my time at Swagger, because this was the first project that I worked hand-in-hand with my righthand lady, Ms. Cortney Naylor. We worked together to design, film and animate this short marketing video over two years ago, and we quickly realized that we spoke the same language, had the same vision, and I just downright enjoyed her company - all of the things that make the perfect collaborator. As Swagger has grown, so has our relationship. As Swagger's two Creative Directors, we share an office (and she's never begrudged me for taking the window). At this point, we basically don't even need words to know what the other is thinking. She's always there for me - whether I need support with a project, or whether I just need an enabler to tell me it's ok to stress eat a couple of cheeseburgers when the going has gotten tough.

I respect you deeply, Cortney, and not just because you agree with me pretty much all the time. I respect you because you're the most passionate, empathetic, intelligent, PATIENT, and hard-working person I've ever had the pleasure to work with. I’m so lucky to have had your yin to my yang.

I'll feel jealousy toward whoever gets to collaborate with Cortney next, and it all started with Pic-n-Post.


As my journey continues, I will miss the whole Swagger team. Jarred, Cortney, Crew, Michael, Mariana, Nathan, Daniela, Joy, Tricia, Adam, Olivia, Emmett, Brenda, Laura, Lizzie - You’ve helped a New Yorker make a home here in Houston, and I'm proud and honored to have worked with all of you. 

Taken the first time I went on set with Swagger.


Friday, 26 June 2015

Our Week with the University of Houston

This week we spent 2 days traveling across 3 different University of Houston campuses to gather footage for the second series of videos we'll be doing for them. If you remember, we had visited their main campus a few months back but we just couldn't wait to get back out there and talk to more of their students and staff. We can't show you any footage yet but here are some images to hold you over!


Just because it's summer doesn't mean we can't get outside! Here we are shooting by the Kissing Rocks on the UH Clear Lake campus.

Here's a little action shot of our audio guy, Danny, adjusting those levels.

Gotta love that monitor shot! 

No, that's not a donut, it's our camera. 

Check out that natural light beaming in through the window at UH Downtown! 

 Had to get on my tippy toes to grab this shot of Rob.

Uh oh! Michael busted me creeping on him and his shoulder mount work.

Angela's asking those hard-hitting questions! 

That's a lot of equipment for such a tiny space! 

Look how focused everyone is. 

Uh oh! Busted again! 

 We hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look! If you want to see more of our on set photos, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Podcasts to Make You Smarter

If you're like me and have a long commute to and from work, you may have already discovered the wonderful world of podcasts. If you haven’t, I urge you to keep reading about this underdog form of entertainment that’s just sitting there, waiting.

Not only are podcasts a great change of pace from my usual Spotify playlists, but I personally think they make a good brain exercise, too. I’ve never been an auditory learner, preferring mostly visual techniques to absorb information, but listening to podcasts forces you to pay attention with your ears instead.

Podcasts are a free, vastly underrated form of media. I'm hoping that, with these 5 recommendations, you'll see what you've been missing out on.

Serial 

Hosted by Sarah Koenig, season one of Serial ended with a total of 12 episodes, each about an hour long. The first season focuses on a botched murder investigation that all began on January 13, 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland, where high school student Hae Min Lee disappeared after class let out, only to be found murdered in the woods a month later. 

Adnan Syed, Hae’s classmate and ex-boyfriend, is still in prison serving a life sentence for this murder that he may not have been responsible for. (I personally believe Adnan had nothing to do with Hae’s death, but I’m just another spectator.)

Over the course of Serial’s 12 episodes, we’re led through all the muddled case details, and witness some truly eye-opening failures in our justice system. This podcast has become a worldwide phenomenon, spawning loads of blogs, media articles, and even other podcasts dedicated to talking about the case. They even won a Peabody Award in 2014.

Serial was the very first podcast I ever listened to, and it was a fascinating place to start, so this is my suggestion for any newbies. All 12 episodes are available on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or click here. (It’s free, obviously)

Undisclosed

Undisclosed is a spin-off of Serial, but bear with me here. Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer who also happens to be a close family friend of Adnan Syed, is the host, along with two other lawyers, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller. This series continues the attempt at untangling the facts from the lies in Syed’s case.

As Chaudry states in the first episode, Undisclosed is not Serial, Part 2, but a deeper look at what happened in 1999. So far, they’ve nailed that goal by scrounging up a multitude of additional unexamined errors and flat-out lies that were presented as facts in court. I love this podcast because it follows the case as it’s unfolding today, while still tying it back to the events that took place in 1999. People are going crazy about this series all over the world. Not to mention, it’s wonderfully produced.

Chaudry, Simpson, and Miller also answer a lot of listener questions from Twitter, which I think is important in podcasting, to keep the audience engaged. And although my own Twitter question has yet to be answered on Undisclosed, they did see my Tweet and Favorite it, so I’m hoping to get a shout-out sometime soon. :)


You can listen to Undisclosed on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or right here.

Bizarre States

I am fascinated by the paranormal; pretty much anything spooky or scary...I am ALL about it. Bizarre States is from Nerdist.com, which, by the way, produces a ton of different podcasts/blogs/etc., for free, of course.

The hosts of Bizarre States, Jessica Chobot and Andrew Bowser, talk about a different paranormal or spooky topic every week. Topics like the infamous Aleister Crowley, UFO sightings, and even some urban legends have been covered so far.


Chobot and Bowser pepper the show with their opinions and slightly off-brand humor, which I think makes the whole topic of paranormal activity a bit less cheesy. Either way, I now follow Chobot, Bowser, and Bizarre States on all social media platforms (I may or may not creepily follow their significant others, too). They’re the coolest nerds I’ve ever listened to, so check out Bizarre States on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or click here.

We're Alive

Fans of The Walking Dead, this one’s for you. This fictional drama podcast series tells the story of a group of survivors in Los Angeles after the zombies take over.
I was skeptical about We’re Alive at first; I wasn’t sure I could get into a dramatic story like this one without any visuals. As it turns out, I like how it allows your imagination to truly run wild, especially during the action bits. (Warning: the gun-shot sound effects can be really startling at first, and they didn’t add a disclaimer about this until a couple seasons in. You’re welcome.)

I have to give the voice talent in this series a big pile of kudos. It takes a lot to convey the level of emotion that runs through this story’s plot, and they do it beautifully. That could be the reason We’re Alive has been so successful and has even been nominated for numerous podcast awards. 

We’re Alive is currently up to 48 chapters, split into 3 parts each, and they are still producing episodes regularly. This podcast is available on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or click here.

Nerdist Writer’s Panel

The Nerdist Writer’s Panel, another fabulous nerdist.com production, really appeals to the writer in me. The host of this podcast, Ben Blacker, has some amazing guests come on, including various writers and producers for Better Call Saul, Bates Motel, and Robot Chicken, among others.

Ben Blacker and his guest(s) of the week spend about an hour or so talking all about what goes into producing their shows. From animation techniques to script writing and the casting process, it’s all in there. This one is a lot more educational/informative for anyone involved in the media industry, or just fangirls/fanboys in general.

My favorite episode of the Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast features the executive producer and co-producer (Matt Thompson and Casey Willis, respectively) of Archer. Archer is one of my absolute favorite shows, so it was fascinating to hear Thompson and Willis talk about their process.


The Nerdist Writer’s Panel is available on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or you can listen here.

So just pick one and try it out during your next morning/evening commute. Your earballs will be delighted and you might just learn a thing or two! Which one are you going to try out first? Have I forgotten any podcasts that you’re just crazy for? Or do you have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Our Work: The Southwest Impreglon Team

Client Overview: 

Southwest Impreglon is a specialized coating facility located in Houston, TX. Through years of experience, the Southwest Impreglon team has perfected their coating process and now shares this method with their customers across all industries. 

Project Challenge:

Southwest Impreglon wanted a commercial video to advertise the array of services they offer, including over 300 coating solutions, as well as a number of pre-treatment options. 

Action Taken: 

We visited Southwest Impreglon and gathered a number of shots including their facility, storage areas, employees working on custom masking, testing quality, and applying layers of coating to hardware of all sizes. We then cut together this footage, utilizing split screen displays and multi-camera angle shots. In addition, we wrote a script to encompass all that they're capable of doing and had a voice-over artist come in to record. Finally, we added some text graphics to underline the audio and an animated version of the client's logo to wrap it up. 

Result: 

Monday, 15 June 2015

3 Things You Need to Know About Compressor


You may have noticed that here at SWAGGER Media, we're HUGE Compressor fans since we mention it in a lot of our blog posts (guilty!). This software has been part of our post-production workflow ever since I joined the team, and I have to say that it has truly helped us improve and standardize our file packaging processes. 

"What makes it so wonderful?" You may ask. Well, here are my favorite Compressor features that make our post life A LOT EASIER. Plus, they're pretty cool. 



1. Presets, presets, PRESETS! 


On my last blog post I mentioned how Final Cut Pro X and Compressor work together while “sharing” a file, including the ability of importing and using your Compressor presets while exporting media.

Setting up your own presets is so EASY, and it saves a lot of time, especially when you’re packaging 10 videos at once, using different codecs and extensions. To set up a preset or custom setting:
  • Go to your Built-In settings tab in your left side panel.
  • Right click + Duplicate the setting you want to add to your presets. You can also go to the plus sign (+) located on the lower left corner + Click on New Setting.
 

  • You'll now see your duplicate or your new setting underneath your Custom droplet. 
  • Double click on your preset + Rename is as desired. 
  • Double click on your preset + Go to your Inspector in your right side panel. 
  • Modify General, Video, and Audio settings to meet your personal preferences. For example, if you're creating a YouTube preset, adjust your settings to create your ideal or standard YouTube compression.
  • If you want to group your custom settings per category (which I highly recommend), you can go to the plus sign (+) + New Group. This will allow you to organize your presets by group or droplets. I'm currently working with the following:

2. Video Effects

Compressor also allows you to add final touches to your project when needed. This includes features like restoring black & white, sharpening, adjusting brightness or contrast, or even adding a timecode or watermark to your video. To add video effects: 
  • Add a video file to Compressor by dragging or importing 
  • Drag or add a custom or built-in setting.
  • Click on your setting + Go to your Video Inspector
  • Scroll down + Click on the Add Video Effect tab.
  • Select effect(s) of your preference and enjoy! 

3. Source & Output Comparison Display 

This is where it gets even cooler! While you’re playing around with effects and corrections, you can easily check how your output is going to look in comparison with your source file. Let's say you wanted to add some Gamma Correction to your video: 
  • Follow the steps started above to add the video effect.
  • Click on the Source & Output Comparison icon (underneath your video player).
  • Position the comparison divider (vertical line) where needed. 
  • Preview effect while adjusting it. 

Pretty cool, right? 



So, tell us, are you a Compressor fan? What are your favorite Compressor features? If you are not familiar with it, what kind of software do you prefer when it comes to compressing and packaging files? Tell us all about it in the comment section below or tweet to us @Swagger_Media!


¡Hasta la prĂ³xima!