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Studio Time: VHVideo.com
Posted Aug 31, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

The year was 1980. The place: Land O’ Lakes, Florida. Vance Hohenthaner picked up a video camera to capture the memories of his son and daughter growing up. What started as a hobby grew into a passion, and by 1983, he had obtained a business license. VH Video Productions was born.
"I was twelve at the time," says David Hohenthaner, Vance’s son. "A year later he put a camera in my hand." Since that day, father and son have built a successful business that has stayed at the cutting edge of event video technology for more than 20 years. Most recently it emerged as the first studio to deliver HD video on disc to a significant portion of its wedding clients.

20 Years of Innovation
From its earliest days in the event video business, VHVideo.com, as it’s now known, has been both a technologically savvy operation and a family affair. They’ve been pushing the limits of available technology since the mid-1980s, when the company began doing live edits of weddings. "We’d run hundreds of feet of wire in churches from our cameras to multiple monitors in the back," says David. "Then my mom would be in the back mixing different angles live while my dad and I were out front shooting the event."

When they weren’t mixing live, "my dad did all the editing," David says. "I had no patience for the VCR-to-VCR thing." Vance made the most of the technology that was available at the time. "He was even creating his own jumpbacks," says David. David stayed behind the camera through the ’80s and well into the ’90s, when the introduction of a new set of technologies piqued his interest in the world of postproduction. "Everything changed for VHVideo.com in 1997. Everything was going digital, and I could see that computers were getting fast enough to edit video."

David saw the revolutionary potential of nonlinear editing, but Vance was reluctant to leave behind his proven dual-deck VCR workflow. "I actually had to go out, purchase an editing system with my own money, and produce a video for him to prove that we could produce multiple videos without it crashing," says David. Today, VHVideo.com boasts 14 NLE stations.

The transition from analog A/B to nonlinear had a profound impact on the end product VHVideo.com was able to produce, in particular in the way they captured footage at their events. "To that point we had done pretty straightforward shooting, more of a documentary style so people could relive the day just as it happened," says David. "After getting our first Canopus NLE we were able to adopt a more artistic way of shooting."

figure 1The Road to HD
In order to continue improving their craft, VHVideo.com attended a number of WEVA events, drawing inspiration from the seminars of industry giants like Randy Stubbs and David Robin. "I kept thinking to myself, ‘How do we get our company to be as great as these other companies?’" David says.

David saw staying ahead of the curve on new technology as a prime way to accomplish this goal. In the last few years, a new opportunity has arisen to leverage cutting-edge technology in order to realize a better final product: the advent of HD. "This is a format that actually doubles your picture quality, enabling you to see things more clearly than before," says David.

So David pushed to get VHVideo.com ready for the HD revolution. "When Sony released the FX1 in November 2004, I had the HD edit stations from Canopus sitting at my house waiting for my FX1s to show up," he says.

In the last year, VHVideo.com has advanced from HD shooting and editing to distributing in HD as well. "In August 2006, we actually burned, finalized, and played in a PS3 and a first-generation Samsung player our first Blu-ray Disc," says David. VHVideo.com has also distributed HD DVD productions on standard DVD discs, which can typically handle 20 to 25 minutes of video.

"A lot of people out there don’t think that a local production company can do HD, as a lot of broadcast studios aren’t yet doing it," says David. "But once they learn we can do it, they begin to understand the value of things like being able to get still photos from the footage at any point in the ceremony they want."

The renovations VHVideo.com has made to its studio have been crucial in allowing the company to pitch the benefits of HD. "The only way to get brides to want HD is to show them HD," says David. So he ripped out the old VCRs from their viewing room, installed two 100" screens, and put in hardwood floors and some nice couches, creating a relaxing living room setting. The real HD hook comes when they fire up both screens for a side-by-side comparison. "We’ll have one screen playing the HD version of a wedding and the other one showing down-converted footage from the same event," says David. "We can then go frame by frame to show the quality difference between the two."

Once brides see this difference, HD delivery often becomes an easy sell. "If it’s anywhere in their budget, they’ll make room. I’ve even had brides reduce their flowers so they could have their wedding in HD," David says.

A Dream Realized
While David had long wanted to see his father gain peer recognition for his work, Vance was not one to seek accolades from anyone other than his clients. But when another videographer in their market began winning international awards, David convinced his father to submit some of their HD weddings to WEVA’s prestigious Creative Excellence Awards competition. In 2005, David’s dream was realized when he saw his father "accepting an award for our work in HD," he says. And the accolades kept on coming in 2006: Between WEVA and the 4EVER Group, VHVideo.com collected 11 awards in 11 different categories, and kept on rolling at WEVA 2007 with six CEAs, including Golds in Wedding, Reception, and Social Event.

The quality of VHVideo.com’s HD work has also been recognized through a relationship the company has established with Sony, which now uses its footage at trade shows to demonstrate the benefits of HD. "The biggest complaint whenever they showed HD was that it was always birds and nature scenes, and everyone knows that outside light will make great HD video," says David. David had built a rapport with Sony by being an early adopter and vocal advocate of the FX1. So when Sony decided to start making their demonstrations of HD more relevant to the event video market, they put in a call to David to provide clips that exemplify HD event work.

figure 1Extending the Family
As VHVideo.com’s business continued to grow, driven by Vance’s strong and established referral business and David’s HD production, the burden of success began to creep up on them. "It was just my dad and me because my mom had semi-retired, but we were doing up to six weddings a weekend," says David. "So we were at a crossroads: Should we push towards doing ultra-high-end weddings and cut it back to twenty a year, or should we add help because we needed it to keep up with demand?"

The Hohenthaners decided to expand the ownership structure and build the business out beyond its sole-proprietorship roots. In July 2006, three people became partial owners of VHVideo.com: Creative Effects Video’s Aaron Scott, who was president of the local PVA and came highly recommended for his internet savvy; Dave Phillips, who was working primarily as a freelancer but brought a strong business background; and David Hohenthaner, who’d never officially had an ownership stake in the business.

In February 2007, the VHVideo.com team was completed by bringing on David Rennie, who had been operating nearby studio Catalyst Sight and Sound.

While bringing on additional owners has extended VHVideo.com beyond the Hohenthaner family, David couldn’t be any happier with the outcome. "If you talk to any company that’s a mom-and-pop operation, they’re up all night and they don’t get any vacation. If someone gets sick, we have a provision in there that helps to take care of them. If something happens to us, the business won’t fall apart. "It also gives the bride some satisfaction that we’re not just a one-man show. That’s huge in the industry. These events are planned a year ahead of time, so there’s a lot of risk for brides and grooms. They get a lot of comfort knowing that there are five owners and ten shooters available, so there’s going to be someone to fill in if need be," he explains. Cutting-edge HD shooting and delivery notwithstanding, he adds, "I think that’s one of the best selling features we have."

Geoff Daily is a frequent contributor to EventDV and EContent, and a contributing editor to Streaming Media.

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