The Discovery Process
Are we making Hollywood features? No, but we're taking those storytelling attributes, techniques, and applying them to B2B communications to tell emotional stories that resonate with our audiences. We're telling the human story that comes out of products and services, whether we're working for UPS, Hewlett Packard, or Southern California Gas Company, or Samsung, or DreamWorks, or the United States Navy.
We take a documentary approach to our customer story presentations. We want the customer experience to be real and not have sales/marketing flair. The moment the client starts talking about themselves, it's marketing. When their customers talk about their experience with a client's product or service, it's the truth.
Normally for a documentary, you build a relationship with the subject and your camera over a couple of weeks. Then once you're rolling in your planned direction, you hear a nugget that takes you in another direction. We don't always have that luxury. It's not efficient, and we don't have that kind of time. We might have an hour and a half of actual shoot time, total, so before we get started, we work our Discovery Process by talking to managers, salespeople, production people, and most important, we speak to their customers, to discover the messages, the true messages, that will resonate with the target audience.
On location for Xlantic, Love in the Circus with Chris Brickler.
This helps us break down some of the barriers between our subjects, and us and helps us create a "documentary" story in a compressed timeframe.
A MAC GUY DISCOVERS THE POWER OF HP MOBILE WORKSTATIONS
We have to be time sensitive, which equates to budget sensitive. I've grown up in an Apple world but I have to tell you: the HP mobile workstation, the 8760w, is a beast. (We have the model with the DreamColor monitor, and it also looks incredible.) The time we save with it equates to money.
The HP 8760w Mobile Workstation with DreamColor display and internal RAID 1 on location.
We use the 8760w and Avid Media Composer on location to manage and edit the video data from our Canon 5D Mk II cameras. We import the media via USB 3 from the compact flash reader, so we're swapping out cards all day long. It's why you NEED a data manager on projects like these. Once the video is captured we start editing, but the data has to stay safe. Our Mobile 8760w, has two solid- state drives striped RAID 1, so they're redundant.
(We're confident that we're protected, but we still have a portable drive that we copy everything to - you can't have it all in one place! Note that the 8760w also supports RAID 0 and 5 with three solid-state drives.)
We bring the interview files into Avid Media Composer, log them, sort them, and break them up into the segments that we want. Then we render out a time code window dub of our interviews and upload them to our ftp site; this helps our transcription house to get copy back to us right away.
On a shoot last week, we had our MacBook Pro on site. My editor (who was also serving as my data manager) edits bi-platform, so we took it for a spin. We saw that it took 30 minutes to export a video for transcription using Media Composer on the 8760w, and almost three HOURS to do the same in FCP on MacBook Pro! Thirty minutes versus three hours: a beast.
When we're through, we upload wirelessly through our Verizon 4G LTW Mobile Hotspot -- and it takes longer to upload than to render!
Files from DSLR cameras are loaded onto the HP Mobile Workstations, where window dubs are rendered for immediate upload.
EDITING ON HP Z800 AND MAC
By now, we're back in the studio, editing on both Mac and Windows. I'll be honest, we are waiting to see what's going to happen with Apple Final Cut Pro long-term, but we see that at the moment, the professional world is truly disappointed in FCPX.
For now, we finish projects on both Windows and Mac, depending on what the client wants in the end -- then we shove our renders and compressions over to the HP Z800 because it's just, boom! Done. The big, heavy-duty programs are where you can see that HP's performance tuning really shines.
You know what, though? It's not HP that most Mac guys hesitate over. HP's boxes are incredible. It's Windows. Mac guys need to understand that HP technology is reliable, and just because it's running Windows doesn't mean it's a pain in the ass. Our HP Z800s are networked in with our SAN server, sharing projects and files, and it's really working great for us.
CLIENTS DISCOVERING THEIR OWN STORIES
Everything we do begins with helping clients John Lawrence understand their own stories. Sometimes this is easier than others.
An easy one was Casey Pieretti, a professional stunt man and extreme sports enthusiast who has been an amputee since high school. He started working with engineer Bill Spracher to create prosthetics for his stunt career, so when he was acting in explosions, it would look like he lost his leg! They founded AMP'D Gear to go way past the idea of prosthetics to help amputees continue their love for sports.
Bill Spracher, co-owner and Design Engineer at AMP'D Gear
For example, they've created a rock climbing "foot" that doesn't look anything like a foot. It's this kind of wedge to help you leverage against the rocks the way your foot would naturally do it -- only better, because it's not limited the way your foot is. It's designed for that task.
On location for AMP'D Gear, with Casey Pieretti, left.
Getting this right takes a lot of engineering. AMP'D Gear is using HP mobile workstations on location to sketch out ideas, and the HP Z800 in the office to perform these design calculations using Dassault Systemes SolidWorks, integrating the speed of the workstations and the speed of the software to not only talk to their milling machines, but their 3D printer.
It's a little more obvious as compared to a story for someone like Engineering Systems Design, ESD. They design heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems for high rises. Not very emotional, right? The emotion doesn't come from the story itself as much as from these very passionate people who pour themselves into everything they do. The audience for their pitch is other engineers, and they respond to the passion in ESD's storytelling.
Another client had the story, but needed help discovering it. The US Navy was trying to recruit engineers to go to Guam to be a part of a port redesign. They were not very successful getting anybody to apply, even in a horrible economy, because they were talking to everybody in acronyms.
When we first started speaking to the Navy about finding the emotional component to the story, they said, "Oh, no, no. You've got to go to Section 12 page 1576 in the book!"
Instead, we built an entire microsite at StopCreativeBoredom.com with the theme of "Live A Dream, Build a Career," offering "an extraordinary place to make a difference" -- which just happens to be in a tropical paradise.
We have clients in every field of business and technology with communication goals. They only become actual stories when we help clients discover the emotional messages that resonate with the intended audience.