Boston: A Great Place to Study!

Our friends at FLS Boston Commons routinely ask us to provide their exchange students with a little video reminder of their experience in Boston. Often this is a dance performance, but we're always open to help with anything else.

When FLS VP Michael LaRiccia asked us to produce a quick and informative video that showed parents of prospective students how effective and enjoyable it is to study at FLS, we jumped right in.

After a short meeting with Michael to tour the facilities and to find out what was special about FLS Boston Commons, Editor Tara Neves and Producer Geoff Briggs put together a timeline a script for a two-and-a-half to three minute long video, ran it past Michael, got a few minor changes, and then produced everything with a one-day shoot and two-day edit.

The result covers all of the points that Michael wanted to hit, without bogging down or going into information overload. Michael was very pleased and so were we!

Cry Havoc, and Let Slip Our Inner 15 Year Old!

Every year our senior digital media specialist, Seth Wereska, endeavors to do the impossible. He tries to produce a marginally professional promotional video of a charity fund raiser gala.

We know. You're thinking: "Really, that's not so hard."

And we'd agree, except this gala takes place over the course of about 14 hours and travels over 3 miles on foot . .  Oh, and it stops at 15 or so bars. 

The Hancock Street Pub Crawl was started ten years ago by a group of friends after one of their children was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Initially it was held to raise awareness, but now it benefits Little Hearts an organization that offers community, support, advice and advocacy for children with congenital heart defects and their families. 

Seth got involved 7 years ago, first as a crawler, and now as their resident videographer. Each year we put together a video that explains what the crawl is, while commerating the event for vetern crawlers and recruiting new ones. 

Crawl videos have helped to swell the event to having over two hundred fund-raising participents.

It's Easy; All they want it perfection.

We go back a long way with Christine Lee Halbig who now hails from the Boston University Health Policy Research Institute and is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  She is helping to revamp a website and wanted to incorporate much more video content,  and to include more extemporaneous answers that were excised from video interviews. So she's been criss-crossing the country setting up video crews at the locations where her interviewees were already meeting. 

In Boston we were happy to be her crew. 

The nice thing about knowing somene for the better part of a decade is that you can speak your expectations plainly. Christine made her expectations clear with one simple statement: "I was promised perfection."

I suppose that might seem like a tough standard, but we've been doing almost this exact shoot for the last fifteen years. These days most of the projects we work on are multicamera, live streamed, or part of a show with multiple video roll-ins, a live audience and several video projectors. There are a lot of moving peices (and a lot of last minute changes). While we generally get it right, those gigs can really keep you on your toes.

Christine's statement reminded us that we were back in the the comfort zone of a single camera interview in a mostly controlled setting, with a director/interviewer and plenty of time to slow down and approach things in a more craftsman-like manner. It was really quite nice. 

Did we acheive perfection? Well the audio guy stopped the interview a couple of times due to sirens in the back ground, and he did complain about the air conditioning system; and the Director of Photography would have liked it if there was more available power for lights. But the important thing is that only our staff was complaining.  The footage looks and sounds great.  Darned near perfect!

Asperger's Association of New England's first live webcast.

AANE is a leader both regionally and nationally in fostering awareness, respect, acceptance, and support for individuals on the Aspergers and Autism spectrum, and on a recent weekend a part of that fostering of  involved a live web presentation given by Professor Liane Holliday Willey.  Productive Media was glad to be able to enable the AANE's first ever live web event. We brought our custom encoding rig, a wireless microphone setup and an HD camera to their offices, and with a minimum of disruption we were able to capture and share Mrs. Willey' story for the paying attendees who could not arrive in person.  We also were able to archive the recording so that the AANE can post it to their website in the future.

We're always happy when we can help another good organization get started in the live internet event space. 

South Shore YMCA Gala Fundraiser

Our good friend Bob Jean called in November asking what we could do to help his client, the South Shore YMCA to add visual and audio elements to their annual fundraiser.  There was a new team in place for the SSYMCA, and they didn't have much experience with us creatures in the audio/visual jungle.  And the fun began as soon as we unloaded the truck.  The caterer took all of the generator power, instead of half. A half hour before show time, the fire marshall decided that the two 9'x12' screens and projectors blocked the (unmarked and unseen by us) emergency exits.  And could we run two different PowerPoints and picture shows and two DVDs approximately simultaneously?  And can we tie in the DVD and PowerPoint to the DJ booth? Of course!  We even got fed! (Which is a big thing for us.  Just sayin'.)

Looking Back at Past Growth

We were loading the van this week and it struck us: We had a TON of equiptment out on one particular gig! We'd tell you who, but their internal rules don't allow that. Instead we'll hint that they are a well-respected financial firm in Boston, and we'll leave it at that. 

Having a lot of gear out isn't really anything new, but we can remember the first time we did this gig--more than a decade ago--when we were using two s-video consumer class camcorders, and a videonics switcher... that the client owned. We helped shoot the event, then we went home. 

Now we were loading up a broadcast-grade 3 camera fly-pack, DVD-burners, documentation cameras, 5 video projectors, two podia, a full sound system, VGA switching gear, 2 remote speakers, an overflow room plasma screen, a confidence monitor, and a live streaming rack. 

And that is for only part of the event. The night before we had a different sound system, a single camera and three projectors in Boston's own State Room.  While we were loading out, they returned the 3 smaller projectors that they had been using for breakout sessions in the preceeding week. 

Now that the conference is over, we are post-producing the main sessions, and breaking them up into presentations that we will be hosting in a custom secure streaming viewer (that we designed for them) with embedded video and powerpoint.

Looking back, we were dumbfounded by just how much this event had changed over the years. Yes our client has certainally grown and developed more sophisticated needs, but we've grown as well. When we first started this gig, we didn't even really do multicamera work. 

We got to thinking about how we progressed from such a small show to such a complex production with so many moving parts. We boiled it down to five simple words: "Well, let's think about that." 

That sentiment happens to dominate their internal culture, so it resonated with them when that was our response to a request for a service that we didn't normally provide. We didn't just tell them that we couldn't help them, we took the time to figure out if we could do what they wanted in a cost effective and reliable way. That is how we got started helping on the multicameras. That is how we ended up taking over the multicamera. That was how we were contracted for sound, for projection, and for two different types of internet streaming. 

And I guess that's why we like working here. Our first response is never: We don't do that. Our first response is always: Can we make that make sense? Can we make that work?

College Fest 2011

Tara modeling our "Helmet" Camera.This weekend Boston Event Works, and Mr Youth, brought us in to help with some of the tech at the 2011  College Fest. Over the years, College Fest has grown into a pretty big event with a lot of moving pieces. This year we provided Chrome Books, MiFi's, DJ Gear, Wireless Microphones, Radios, Flat Panel Displays, Cameras, Post Production Services, File Hosting and Staffing . . . Not to mention a fair bit of know how and more than just a smidge of improvising.

Case in point, Mid-afternoon on Friday it was decided that we needed "Helmet Cameras." Getting the cameras from one of our partners was no problem, but the head gear is not generally included ...

Yes, Those are fender washers and commodity hardware.Not wanting to let a client down, we uttered the phrase that so often escapes our lips: "I'll figure something out."  A few ideas were thrown around--Gaffe Tape / Visor / Drill Press / Hard Hat--but in the end we solved the problem with a $6 trip to Home Depot, a couple of promotional hats we had in the closet, and Seth's Gerber multi-plier.

College fest seemed to get a pretty good response this year, and we think that its high-energy, give-it-a-go attitude is a big part of that. We love the "Can We Do _____?" questions that come up in those environments, and we're looking forward to improvising something new next year.

Heavenly Music at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston.

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The Indiana University Jacobs school of music is performing "Sacabuche" (right now) at St. Paul's Cathedral near the Boston common. The acoustics are surprisingly good here so the performance really only needs a couple of 10" speakers to help "pop" the voices.

And that works out well as we only had an hour to set up a PA system a 5000 lumen projector and a 10 foot wide screen.

Fortunately with a good crew and some forethought you can accomplish almost anything.

We managed to be ready 20 minutes early...

Supporting Charity at Pinehills

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Greg Poulos of Bluefin Events needed a way to get a bright image and clear sound in a sunlit, crowded clubhouse at the Pinehills Golf Course. Oh, and a PA system that could handle a huge number of folks and still be out of the way of the servers, who used every door and path around tables. And the golfers. He and his client, the Clark Charitable Foundation were very happy with the results!  It was a nice day for a drive to Pinehills, too.

Even the "cheap seats" are important here.

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We were asked us to help out with the UMASS Lowell graduation today by providing four 50 inch plasma screens and a speaker system for their overflow tent. There was probably room inside the Tsongas center for the 45 or so people who for various medical, personal, or comfort reasons chose to enjoy the graduation against the backdrop of the Merrimack river, but thanks to UMASS, all of the other production companies and us they had that option.

Well Planned Support for "The Improvised Concerto"

Image courtsey of Michael LutchThis Sunday, Productive Media teamed up with Susie Dangel and Pix Mix Video Services to record "The Improvised Concerto" as performed by the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras and featuring composer Mark O'Connor on violin. It is Mr. O'Connor's ninth concerto.

Since 1958 the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras have been committed to musical excellence among Americas youth. They strive to offer professional coaching, rehearsal space and instruments and have consistantly produced some of the best young musicians in the nation.

Productive Media is no less committed to providing an excellent program, so we brought back the professional crew that produced "An Evening with the Pops". We know that we can rely on our staff and our vendor-partners to produce the best quality product each and every time, and we're proud to say that it doesn't go unnoticed around Boston's Symphony Hall, where excellence has always been the expectation. We had four cameras and all of the trimmings set up in a short time, and were able to record both the dress rehearsal and performance.  The performance and rehearsal were amazing! 

The Farmers and the Funk

Seth Wereska check audio levels before shooting an interview with tap dancer Lee Payne.Geoff Briggs and Seth Wereska trekked on up to the painfully bucolic town of Dublin, NH to video tape a loft (barn?) party played by the newly formed Groove Heroes. The project is anchored by Vinx, a master percussionist and long time friend of Productive Media. The band rounds out their sound with an amazing German jazz drummer, a young New York hip-hop vocalist, a German cellist who doubles on electric bass, and a tap dancer. Yes.  Tap dancer.  From London. It's very cool.

Productive Media got involved to help boot strap GH's promotional Seth Wereska, Vinx, Geoff Briggsmaterial for an upcoming European tour. It turns out that with a lineup like that, a person really needs to see and hear the music to start to understand it. We lit Vinx's performance space and ran a three camera shoot of their first-ever live performance while also conducting up some quick interviews with the band. We're looking forward to turning out a unique electronic press kit for their label Dreamsicle, and maybe catching a show some time when we aren't glued to a viewfinder. (It's tough to nod your head to the music when there's a camera in the way)

It's a Wrap!

The Someday Melissa Post-Production TeamWe've finished up post-production on the Someday Melissa project.  We partnered with Tripp Street Soundworks for the audio sweetening, and National Boston Studios for the color correction.  We're sending them on their way with a master tape, a stack of DVDs, the full project archived on a hardrive, and our warmest wishes. We hear that the New Jersey premier was great!

Service Automatically.

Testing the screen and the microphones just befoe the live events.We've been pretty quiet about it so far, but we've been developing a webcasting solution for a leading automation company in the the New England area. (automation companies make the things that make things)

They came to us with an interesting set of goals:Two technicians and Productive Media President Geoff Briggs set up the tech table. Our encoding station can be seen in the office behind them.

  • They wanted to run three live presentations to their employees at their world headquarters
  • They wanted those presentations to be simultaniously available in their offices in Germany, California, and Washington, and they wanted managers in their Asia offices to be able to view the presentations at home.
  • They also wanted the question and answer portions of all three sessions as well as the entirety of the most informative session to be availible for on-demand consumption within 24 hours.
  • All that and the content had to remain unavailible to anyone who they didn't authorize.
  • And of course nobody want to break the bank on these shows.

We've removed the branding from this client's player. We aren't sure if we'd have to kill anyone for revealing their identity, but why take the risk?

The two screen live program with audio re-enforcement is a pretty simple and cost effective show for us provide.  We added an image maginification camera for the in-room audience, a custom encoding / streaming solution, and we partnered with our favorite live streaming content delivery network to provide the live version of the program to the web, which allowed each site to show the video, the powerpoint, or both together.

We also created a custom player solution and partnered with a different and very robust content delivery network that focuses on the on-demand space to offer the same presentation as a hosted program, with the ability to skip around within the presentation.

More importantly we made it modular, so this company can decide to expand upon their offerings, or we can quickly rebrand the solution for anyone else who might need this service.

Send in the Experts

Danna MarksonSo we were back in New Jersey working on the Someday Melissa documentary with Ken and Jerry. We needed to get some expert insight on what Melissa and her family were going through, so we interviewed Dr. Leslie Sanders and Danna Markson, both of whom are leading experts on eating disorders. We also got a chance to speak with Andrew, Melissa's Brother.

These are some pretty tough interviews, but we are getting some very powerful content.

Now where did I put my Beret?

Photography by:
Seth G. Newell Photography
We got the chance to help get the Somewhat North of Boston Film Festival back on it's feet this year. We worked with Red River Theatres in Concord, NH to provide 3 video projectors, 4 wireless microphones, sound support, a media server,  and much of the logistical support needed to make the festival happen.

Photography by:
Seth G. Newell Photography
This years festival included 35 sessions in 3 theaters, over 60 films, a DSLR film maker meetup, live music, panel discussions, film maker Q&A sessions and a local food and beer tasting.

A big part of this festival was flexibility and responsiveness, and Productive Media facilitated that by designing a media server and playback system that allowed the festival to respond to the viewers by scheduling "best of" and "encore" blocks on the fly.

Our all digital delevery and playback system also allowed us to accept High Defination materials from more film makers than ever before, show advertisments and trailers for other viewing options, and individually identify each film and director prior to it's showing.

Back into Production

A stil from our interview with Steve, Melissa's FriendNormally when we take on a post production job we focus on "editing." Specifically editng with a lower case "e". Most of the jobs that pay the bills arrive with a script and footage, or a script and we create the footage. The Someday Melissa project is a little different. This time we're "Editing." Specifically editing with a capital "E". Our first step was to totally deconstruct the existing cut of the film, and then to offer notes on issues ranging from sound signal and footage quality to the number of interviews, the style of questioning and the structure and focus of the film.

Once we were sure that we and the producing team were on the same page, we suggested a new structure and made some very rough suggestions on style. We also suggested that we reshoot the core interviews and bring them to High Defination as well as mitigating some varriation in the shooting style and sound quality.

To their credit the producers of Someday Melissa were willing to trust us and go back into production. So now were starting to roll tape (Er flip bits?) again and we are building the project from the core on up.

Seth Wereska and Geoff Briggs headed down to New Jersey to supervise the shoot and conduct the interview. We pulled in Ken Kelsch to act as our Director of Photography, and Jerry Stein to record sound.

So far we've interviewed Judy--Melissa's Mom, Emma and Steve--Both Melissa's Friends. We'll be back in New Jersey at least once more to talk to some experts and see if we can talk to Melissa's brother.

A Tragedy, a Mission and a Method.

Melissa's Journal under lights in our shooting space. It's not everyday that we turn down work here at Productive Media, but in August of this year we were offered the chance to polish a documentairy about the life of Melissa Avrin, a 19 year old woman who died from bulimia. The producers of the documentary hoped to have the film ready for a festival deadline in September, and while we could create a more polished cut of the film in 6 weeks, we weren't sure that we could do it while maintaining our standards of quality.

Well a couple of months later, we are happy to report that Judy--Melissa's Mom--was up here to let us photograph Melissa's Journal in which she recorded her desire to make a movie that would change lives. We're going to help make that happen.

The AANE Conference

The Asperger's Association of New England Conference begins, and Productive Media provides all of the projectors, screens, wireless microphones, cameras, switchers and lights for two Main Event Rooms and ten breakout rooms in two locations at the Royal Plaza Conference Center and Holiday Inn Hotel in Marlboro MA. The keynote and speeches for the first day were in the Conference Center Tent, while the breakouts were up the road at the Hotel.  Planning and good communications were an absolute must for this event!

FutureStage at Symphony Hall

Every year Fidelity Investments offers musicians in the Boston area local schools the chance to win the opportunity to perform at Boston's Symphony Hall.

The students receive a gift card, rehearse with famous musicians, Broadway stars and directors, and culimate their experience with a fully produced concert event from the stage normally reserved for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

FutureStage tapped Productive Media to help record their special event with a full multicamera /  multimedia production.

We quickly pulled the tech team together to provide a multicamera production with projection and video playback. The night was a resounding success and we're pretty sure that those students will never forget it.