Beware The Unknown

We all have our tasks, our jobs, that we do every day, and damn, but we do those well.  And, then, when we've really hit our stride, our businesses are growing, it's time to expand, to move, to create - now it gets a little scary.  Build a new commercial structure?  Yeah, we need the space, the parking, the improved functionality.  But construction is expensive!  It takes forever!  I'm going to be hit by surprise after surprise!  Not if you have a seasoned, trusted guide like BEX Construction Services at your side - and we at Solstice Productions are proud to feature their new video this month.

Let's be frank, entering into an unknown process can be daunting, and yes, let's say it, even scary. A lot can go wrong if a construction project is mismanaged, and that can mean a lot of dollars and time sunk right into a big fat hole.  The same can be said for any unfamiliar territory, any type of new endeavor.  Like, for instance, high quality video production.  And any time you begin to enter those big, dark, deep, scary woods of the unknown, it's always wise to have an experienced guide.

So, how do you know if your guide (the production company or producer that you are considering hiring), is the right person or team?  How will they alleviate your fears, save you unwanted and undeserved stress, time, and money, and deliver a quality project that gets you more business?  Here's a few steps to follow when making your selection:

1) Watch full samples of their work.  A demo reel can be sexy, cool, and fun (and should be), but does not tell you much about how effective that team is at capturing attention, delivering a clear and effective message, and creating a memorable viewing experience.  You can only determine those skills by watching at least one or two samples of full pieces.  The company doesn't have any full samples online?  Ask for them.  The company doesn't even have a demo on their website?  Time to bounce off of that one and find another.  Definitely be wary of anyone who offers video production and has no video.  Scary!

2) Get references.  Ok, next step.  You see some good looking stuff.  Now it's time to find out how the client experience was.  Was it delivered on time and budget?  Does the team help their clients design the project, make the process fun and easy?  Are their clients satisfied?  You can do this by reading reviews, asking for references, or reading testimonials on their website (like these!)

3) Hold a Discovery Meeting.  This can be done in person, over the phone, or online.  The producer (and sometimes director or account manager) will walk your team through the development, pre-production, production, and post- production process.  You should walk away with a clear understanding of how that production company will approach your project, how much of your time and energy will need to be invested, a budget or budget range, and an estimated time to project completion.  Still have fears about entering into the unknown?  Be sure to ask your questions.  If that particular team does not have the answers, it may be time to look for someone else.

Want to learn more about how Solstice Productions can guide you safely to the other side (and leave you with an amazing video that helps you win job, after job, after job for years to come)?  Call us!

Smart. Adaptive. Frictionless.

Shopping for cyber-security solutions?  You'll want something that is aware that the threat landscape changes rapidly, that is able to adjust as new threats and bad actors enter the scene, and that doesn't slow down the operation of your business.  In other words, you'll want PoliWall by Bandura (see the video here).

But the video already shows you that.  You click on this blog to learn about video production, right?  Of course you do!  And I would never let you down.


One of the most common concerns new clients have is that their businesses are complicated, unique, built upon proprietary innovations, or complex processes, or just the lightning in a bottle energy of their founder.  And this is all true, of every single one of the companies we work with.  

When it comes to video production, smart is listening to our clients.  Smart is researching the competitive landscape.  Smart is understanding not just our client, but their clients, the audience that the video is intended to reach.  And smart is decades of experience turning complicated ideas, products, processes, and people into easy to understand visual stories.


Marketing always presents a challenge - the buzzwords of today become white noise, meaningless, as every video, billboard, website, and email uses them.  What's not meaningless?The way that an innovation, a process, a team, a founder, or a product embodies that word.  Discovering that Truth, finding the human, the emotion, the problem that is addressed and solved, the authenticity of that word (or finding alternate, more honest, more resonant and accurate words), and then telling THAT story to an audience - that is adaptive.  Every project, every client, every story, presents a new set of challenges, and deserves an open mind, an open process, and the willingness to meet that client, that project where THEY are, and not shove them into a "one size fits all" box (or video).


Producing your company or product video should be fun!  It's a collaborative process between a production team and a client, and should be open, engaging, effective, and efficient.  We have four primary points of contact for our clients:  

1) Discovery/Pre-Production Planning.  This starts with about a one hour in-person or virtual meeting, where all of the project details are discussed, and a basic outline and schedule are developed.

2) Script/Storyboard/Production Plan Review.  Our team develops the next stage, whether that is a script and storyboard, or, for interview driven videos, a production plan, and submits a turn-key, ready for production file for our clients to review, give notes on, or approve.  We do the heavy lifting of "how will we fit all of this information into 2 minutes?!", and you just make sure that you agree with our approach.  Don't agree?  We'll adjust.

3) Production.  This is either a day or so of filming, or, for an animation project, building style guides and models.  Some clients build an interview schedule and list of questions with us, then sit in and approve interviews as they are captured, some just let us loose to work our magic.  Again, this process should be fun, and we like to let clients choose which approach works best for them. For animation, this entails us sending over 3D models, style guides, and sometimes test renders to make sure everything moves and functions the way it should, and that style meets the brand guidelines.

4) Review Edit.  Again, the burden of bringing the original idea for the video to life is all ours - hey, it's what we do!  What we're good at, and what wakes us up in the morning (no, maybe that's my cat.  Anyway . . . ).  Once the story is tight and moving at an engaging pace, the imagery is sharp and effective, and the sound design elevating the piece to an emotional level, we send over a review edit for your team.  Love it?  That's awesome!  It's close, but?  Go ahead and send those notes.  Again, this is a collaborative process, and hey, your company/product/process is complicated/unique/proprietary.

For a smart, adaptive, and frictionless production process, we're always available!  Call us!


Carol of the Production Team

'Tis the season to blend together voices, bells, musical instruments, foods, spices, wine (mulled or otherwise), and to create something that is larger than the sum of it's many delightful parts.  Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, we can all agree that when many pieces come together and work in collaboration towards a greater good, it's like harmony, right?

While there are many fine "All in one" people in video production (individuals who write, shoot, and edit without bringing in any additional resources), to truly create video magic I believe you must have a team.  In the spirit of that ubiquitous holiday song, I now present to you the Carol of the Production Team.

The Producer:  That consistent layer that keeps time, underlies the entire production, and delivers on the final moment, the Producer provides creative direction, pulls together the team, manages the story, the budget, and the schedule, and brings the client's vision to life.  The Producer stays involved in the project from concept through delivery, and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of any given piece.

The Writer: Every video begins with a script.  Whether drawn from interview clips, written as a narrative, or informational or instructional, a video script is a unique form of writing that considers both the words (either heard or seen as onscreen text), and the stories told through imagery.  Without a good script, you have no chance of producing a good video.

The Director of Photography: The DP, typically also the camera operator, captures the images described by the script.  Every moment, or scene, is broken down into the individual shots needed to best tell that visual story.  The DP considers color grade, lighting, and composition of the frame, and often works with a Grip or Assistant Camera to help with complex moves and shots that require a change of focal length, cable wrangling, or use of a jib, crane, or other equipment.

The Gaffer: Every professional actor knows how important it is to be nice to the gaffer.  Lighting can be very flattering, or very not (think department store fitting room.). The DP works with the Gaffer to use existing ambient light (like lamps), natural light (windows), and/or production lights to ensure the right look for the project.  Great lighting takes time, which is why most production teams work on 5 hour shifts at a minimum.  Even a single set-up can take over an hour to correctly light.  

The Audio Engineer:  Say it with me now, Sound is 50% of video.  Poor audio automatically sends a signal to the audience that this is an amateur production.  The Audio Engineer provides and places the microphones needed to capture the scene, and mixes the levels to create clean, clear, and professional sound.

The Editor: Editing is where the magic happens.  All of the pieces that were so carefully planned by the Producer and captured by the DP, Grip, and Audio team come together and are assembled by the Editor.  This is also an opportunity to refine the story - the editor works based on what has been planned, but also on what is actually onscreen (which can be different and better than what was planned, particularly in the case of interview driven videos).  Editing can make or break a project, and is one of the most time-consuming aspects of production.

The Colorist: Many Editors also do their own color work, but this can be a separate role.  The Colorist works to achieve a consistent and appropriate color grade for all the footage.  Depending on the project, this can mean creating a warmer or cooler look, natural or saturated, black & white, sepia, or even a blend of styles to highlight a particular moment or story point.  Again, poor color work is a sign of amateur production.

Post-Production Sound: This is where music and sound f/x are created or chosen, and layered in and balanced with the onscreen production audio to create an emotional journey through sound that helps to drive the onscreen story and action.  Unbalanced sound creates a disjointed viewing experience - and the last thing you want is for your audience to be turned off by a poor audio balance.


Now, different projects call for different talent, and I haven't even touched on actors, voiceover artists, composers, drone or helicopter operators, motion designers, production designers, production assistants, or makeup artists.  And, sometimes roles can be combined into one person -  Producer/Writer, Grip/Audio, Editor/Color/Post Production Sound.  But you get the point, right?  A layered video, like a layered carol, requires a choir of voices.  And the sound it makes - harmony.

Want to create your own harmonious video?  Our choir would love to help you.  Contact us!



The Little Rhino Who Could

I have a little beaded rhino, maybe 4 inches in height.  His form is sculpted wire, his black beads sparkle, just a little, and sprinkle of brightly colored beads add pops of light to his frame.  I quite like him, and keep him on a bookcase near my desk.  I bought him, along with some hand-knitted puppets, a lion, an elephant, and a soft, purple rhino, at a fundraiser for Africa Foundation a few years ago.

"What does a little beaded rhino have to do with video production?" you ask.  Good question - let me answer with another one.  How times in a year, a week, a day, are you asked to make a decision, to choose between this one and that?  How many times is your prospect, or client, asked to do the same?

One of the things we do as an organization is support charities through pro-bono video work.  You can see the latest one here.

We only produce one to two of these a year, and, as you can imagine, we field a lot of requests for it, so we have to choose wisely.  Madilika Craft Center, with it's emphasis on independence and empowerment through entrepreneurship, is an organization that we can believe in and throw our support behind.  Yes, they produce very lovely hand-crafted gifts and souvenirs.  But more than that, they embrace the ideal that process and business can build a community, can bring a better life.  We believe that, too.  And so do our clients - if there's a common thread that runs through almost all of our videos, it's that at the center business improves lives.

When a process is good and successful, it yields good and success.  When you are making decisions about which video production company to hire, or which pair of shoes to buy, or which software development firm to work with, you're not only buying the end result of a video, footwear, an application.  Your decision ultimately comes down to how is it made - how will we get to that end result of hand-stitched Italian leather, or faster production of estimates and invoices, or an authentic, moving, effective combination of pictures and sound that compels more people to choose you.

Interested in our process?  Learn more about that here.

Want an opportunity to show off your process?  Call us! We'd love to help.

I Love this Job!

People . . . people who need people . . . 

If you're like most business owners, or managers, or executives, you know that the strength of your business relies on the strength of your team.  Attracting and retaining the right talent, the best candidates for every position is crucial, time-consuming, and can become very expensive.

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is that I get to work with incredibly talented artists all the time, people who can take a vision, a concept, a script, a direction, add their own sensibility and expertise, and collaborate with a full team to deliver awesome video.  How do I find these amazing people?  I use video, of course!

Sure, you say, you're a video company.  What about me?  Don't worry, I am thinking about you.  You, too, can use video to recruit incredibly talented individuals, those special few that bring the right skill sets, the right attitude, and the right commitment to making your company an even more successful and dynamic organization.  But don't take my word for it - offers these 10 Reasons You Shouldn't Recruit Without Video.  


" 1. It Enhances the Candidate Experience

With the proliferation of video across the web, it has become part of the expected online experience. Internet users are accustomed to finding their online information in the form of video. In fact, 82.5 percent of the U.S. Internet audience have viewed a video online, but it’s not just for funny videos and personal entertainment. According to a recent study, 75 percent of all executives said they watched work-related videos on business websites at least once a week, and more than 50 percent use YouTube to watch those videos. And not surprisingly, studies show that people prefer to watch a video for information than read that same information in written form.

2. Video encourages sharing & referrals

Many companies today leverage employees and alumni networks for referrals. Make it easy for people to share your employment information with their connections. Video is one of the most shared pieces of information over the web, including on social media. An amazing 700+ YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute. And you don’t have to stand around a group of people very long before someone references a video on Youtube. That’s because a whopping 76 percent of users tell a friend about a video they have seen. Make sure your ideal candidates are hearing about your videos!

3. SEO & universal search benefits

With more than 90 percent of adult internet users using search engines, optimizing your website and content for search results is imperative. And it’s not just Britney Spears and the NFL draft that people are searching on the web. There are over 185 million job related searches through google each month, which means that your presence in search results can be critical to your recruiting success. And, in thanks partly due to Google’s dominance in the search market and their introduction of universal search, video can and should be an instrumental part of your search visibility strategy. Still not sure about the importance of video for search engine optimization (SEO)? Studies show that video appears in 70 percent of the top 100 search listings and videos are 53 times more likely than text pages to show up on the first page of search results!

4. Go where the people are!

Basic recruiting starts with identifying your target candidates and then going to where they are so that you can put your jobs in front of them. Today, the reality is that if the user population of Youtube was a country, they would be the third largest (after China and India). And while Google dominates the search engine market, they also own Youtube which is often considered the second largest search engine in the world based on number of searches per day. By 2019, online video is projected to account for more than 80 percent of all internet traffic. Your candidates are watching video on the web and if you don’t have a presence there, your competitors will (or already do!).

5. Video is 24/7

Think of whoever you consider the “master recruiter” at your organization or the employee who refers the best candidates. They probably do a great job communicating what it’s like to work at your company and they get people excited about applying. It’s just too bad that they can’t do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... oh wait, they can! One of the powers of video is that you can harness the right people with the right message and make it available 24/7 on the web. So that when you have that perfect candidate looking for a job on your career site, whether at 2pm or 2am, you have the right person available on video, encouraging them to apply.

6. Video reduces turnover

As every HR professional and business executive knows, there is a significant time and financial expense caused by employee turnover. A recent study of several research reports found that on average it costs businesses about 20 percent of a worker’s salary to replace that worker. So how can business reduce turnover? Some data implies that turnover may be a result of a disconnect of expectations that occurs as part of the hiring process. One survey found 50 percent “customer” regret and 50 percent of the people involved in the hiring process (both managers and new hires) later regret their "buying" decision. Another survey found that 25 percent of new hires regret taking their new job within one year! Helping job seekers to better understand the job and the company can help ensure realistic expectations during the hiring process, leading to better job and culture fit, which ultimately decreases early employee turnover.

7. Video saves you time

What if your candidates knew they didn’t want to work at your organization before they ever applied? How many hours would you save per week screening and interviewing the wrong people? Video gives an “insider’s view” as to what it’s really like to work at your organization. By “meeting” members of your organization and seeing their potential workspace, job seekers gain a clearer understanding of whether they see a job and company fit. Allow yourself to spend your precious time with the right candidates and help the wrong candidates select themselves out. You’ll save loads of time in the recruiting process, by letting candidates do some self-screening for you.

8. Video is powerful

We’ve all heard the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, studies show that video is even more powerful. The information retained from one minute of online video is equal to about 1.8 million written words. So, when you’ve got a message that’s really important, video is proven to be one of the most powerful ways to communicate it. And what could be more important than sharing why your company is the right place to work for your ideal candidate? Use the power of video to share your employment message with your targeted audience.

9. Video is easy

Few initiatives can have the ROI of video that we’ve described here. But you might be thinking, “That’s great, but not every company has the money, time or resources to create a video.” Today, there are a lot of options for how to approach video productions. Whatever route you choose, remember that great video shouldn’t be complicated - it’s the message that matters.

10. Video compels action

At the end of the day, you need to hire the right people and, for the most part, that requires them to submit their information and interest to your organization. Video can be the magic that entices more people to take action on your job opportunities. 44 percent of online video viewers report that they have taken an action based on ads they have seen, and surveys show that consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service after watching a video about it. And that data applies to recruitment, too. Candidates are more likely to apply to a job or company that has at least one employment related video on their job posting, company profile or career site, than those without a video.

With video helping you to reach a wider audience, encouraging the right candidates to apply and filtering out the wrong candidates, how can you afford to not include video as a strategic part of your recruitment plans?"


Ready to get started?  You know us - we're always ready to help!  Contact us here.


What the Doctor Ordered

I know you, and I know you've been sitting at your desk, or running in between meetings, or sitting poolside on your lovely family vacation (finally!), and thinking, boy, I wish someone would send me a video statistic right now.  Well, I have just what the doctor ordered, your monthly dose of Solstice wisdom (just don't ask us to prescribe anything non-video related.  We don't like to mix our medications).

Facebook, that pusher of video (at nearly 3 Billion video views a day, they are becoming a serious player in the distribution world), conducted a recent study through Nielsen Research to measure the impact of video on changing a viewer's behavior.  At only one second, one second (that's 24 to 30 frames, for you tech nerds), impact on Ad Recall, Brand Awareness, and Purchase Intent all see a lift, and by 3 seconds in, that lift jumps to almost 50%. By the 10 second mark, the lift in Purchase Intent is up to 72%, and the others jump almost as high. Hard to believe?  Just read it for yourself.

So, how does this relate to us?  Well, let's look at this in a few different ways:

1) Marketers have long been touting video as the single most effective tool.  Now we know that even one second of video impacts the viewer in a positive way.  Pretty cool, huh?

2) Short and effective can move the viewer to a 72% increase in purchase intent.  Wait, did I say that already?  Just making sure you were paying attention.

3) Every second of video counts.  What do you show in those first 24 or 30 frames?  What does it sound like, what is the messaging?  Grab the viewer, share your message, right away.  Every frame tells a story, and those stories, those seconds, can add up to a tremendous impact, if used correctly.  Don't waste them.

4) There is a learned skill in creating short, effective, impactful video.  Just getting ready to put that first second on screen requires hours, sometimes weeks, of scripting, planning, talent casting, storyboarding, you name it, and even then, it takes a collaborative team effort to bring it to life.  Just as you rely on a medical professional for your drug prescriptions, it's important to rely on a video professional for your production needs (side effects of DIY video may include: loss of interest by your audience, a negative brand perception, boredom, or upset stomach).

Ready to make an appointment?  You know how - contact me here.

Leave it to the Professionals

Managing a commercial property, keeping the site maintained, and the tenants happy, is hard.  Doing it while running an entirely different business, with that business your main focus and revenue source?  Even harder, as you can hear Hilliker Corporation property management clients testify in this month's video.  That's why these very smart, successful business owners choose to outsource to a trusted resource, right?

Producing a good video?  An effective one, with strong messaging, compelling and exciting visuals, and a pacing that keeps the audience from losing focus halfway through?  Also, hard.  Here's an interesting fact that was shared in a recent presentation I was fortunate to see: Recall is best at the beginning of a presentation, and again at the end.  All that stuff in between?  Often lost.  Unless a practiced storyteller - or speaker- creates interruptions, which we in the video biz call "beats", that spark the audience's interest, promotes recall, and guides the audience through a journey to exactly where we want them to end up.  (Saying "yes!" See more here)

Story structure is important - there's a reason that just about every film you've ever seen has a Three Act structure, it works!  Without those disruptions, that movement, that particular reveal of information, no one would ever sit in a theater (or on the couch) for 2 or 3 hours at a stretch.  And it's no different for a business video.  Did you know that YouTube prefers longer videos?  It's true - videos that perform well on the second largest search engine in the world can run up to 15 minutes in length, or even beyond.  But, the caveat.  The longer the video, the more important story structure and interrupts become.  Why?  Remember what I said earlier, about how all that stuff you say in the middle will be lost without it?  

When you want to have flexibility in your commercial property management plan, and the option to hand it all over to a professional team and sit back and collect checks, you call on a team like Hilliker.  When you want to produce an effective marketing video?  Shouldn't you turn to a professional for that as well?

Still have questions?  I love to talk story!  Let's chat.

A Study in Style

I had a phone call a few weeks ago with a prospect that I met via LinkedIn.  The company already has an overview animation, but the new Director of Marketing wasn't thrilled with it.  In his words, "It's so generic, all stock characters.  I think they made the same video for our competitors."

Animation is definitely on trend, and has been for some time.  There's good reason for it - there are processes and products that are impossible, or very expensive, to capture or explain with live action video.  With animation, if you can think of it, you can bring it to life, and connect your story to your audience in an extremely effective way.  So, yeah, we here at Solstice Productions love animation (and I hope it shows!).  

While it's not the right answer for every business (we here at Solstice love live action video, as well), when a company does decide to turn to animation, how should you choose a production partner?

Unless you produce a large number of videos a year, or have a killer in-house graphics person, you're unlikely to produce DIY animation.  There are some online tools you can use, but they all come with a learning curve, and, of course, your competition can make the exact same video.

So, what should you look for?  I say it all comes down to style.  Some companies produce a "Saturday morning cartoon" style, some work all in motion graphics (taking still images or text and giving them a bit of life), and others use a set stable of characters and scripts and repurpose them across multiple clients.  The first step in choosing an animation company is watching several of their animations.  Do they all look the same?  Well, that's what yours will look like, too.  You love that look?  Go for it!

But, if you're looking to create something that's unique, that captures, or elevates, your brand, that your audience remembers well after it's been seen, then you'll want to choose a company that showcases multiple animation styles on their reel or website.  Again, make sure the styles they showcase are in line with your taste, but a company that has a diverse portfolio is a necessity for creating a unique project.

The next step?  Talk to a producer.  Find out how they work.  Do you supply the first draft of the script, or do they?  Who provides the style guide, you, them, do you collaborate on that?  At what stages in the process can you see and approve?  How do they charge?  By the project?  The hour?  The finished second?  

If you love their style, and you feel comfortable with their production process, then congrats!  You've found an animation partner!  Sign that contract and get to the fun part.  Then use that beautiful animation for years to come, and feel that satisfaction when your prospects say, "Oh, THAT'S what you do!"

Have an animation in mind?  Like our style?  Let's talk!


If I Could Turn Back Time

The opportunity?  Help a 130 year old mutual insurance company celebrate their anniversary.

The challenge?  Available materials include a tattered, hand written leather bound ledger, policy documents scripted in pencil, and a basement full of boxes of paper.  Any original members?  Long gone.  

The solution?  Meramec Valley Mutual Insurance Company celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1987 with a well structured written history distributed via pamphlet.  Scenes from that article provided the backbone for the voiceover script.  The client had already asked for animation, which opened up the possibilities for production (although we might have had fun retro-fitting that original ledger book into an actual time machine, with animation no books were harmed).  The time machine and pages within are modeled off of photos of the actual ledger book, and many, many hours of image search, compositing, animation, and sound design brought the pages to life.

The result?  Watch it here.

But I can't possibly leave you with just this case study, can I?  There must be a lesson here, or I'm not doing my blogging job.

Cher sings about regret (you did pick up on the Cher reference in the title of this article, no?)  And we talk to companies every day about how they would really like to capture their founder on video before he/she retires (or worse), celebrate their anniversary with an eye catching video, have that product demonstration on a flat screen for their next trade show, communicate that training process to every new employee through an easy to understand video, beat out their competition by using Millennial friendly video to recruit the best and brightest new talent.  We know we're not talking to all of you whom have thought, planned, dreamed, wished, that you had made that relatively small investment in video, and have now missed the moment.  Yes, it costs money.  Yes, it takes some time (although how much depends largely on which producer you work with.  If time is precious to you, choose a production company wisely).  And, yes, you will have the most effective communication tool on your website, blog, social media, trade show booth, sales presentation, training platform, etc, for years to come.

You don't need a time machine to get started.  Just call us - and stop living with regret.