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The Gadget Bag
Posted Oct 1, 2008 - October 2008 Issue Print Version     Page 1of 1

Lots of things have taken place since my last column. I survived yet another grueling season of dance recitals and graduations. I’ve found a few new methods of further streamlining my workflow. I’ve also stumbled into a new market for professional video (and it’s already growing).

Networking Creates Streamlined Workflow
A few months ago I had a total of three computers go south on me within a 2-week period. An editing computer lost the boot drive and the other two suffered toasted motherboards.

Because the editing system was a clone of the other editor in the studio, duplicating the boot drive didn’t take that long, but the other computers I lost were responsible for things such as DVD printing and label creation, audio editing, mailing and postage, and invoicing. So I could do the work, but not take care of business.

As a stopgap measure, I removed the hard drives from the two lifeless systems and installed them as "slave" drives in the editors, allowing access to the missing programs. That allowed me to get the bills out and print my postage and DVDs, but at the expense of editing because they tied up my editing systems.

There had to be a better way. And lo and behold, there is. You have probably heard about network hard drives, central data warehouses that reside on your internal office network.

I have seen single-drive units with 500GB of storage all the way to 1.5TB multidrive RAID units. But I also found network drive enclosures where you supply the drive. The combined cost of the standard drive and an enclosure you purchase separately is much lower than purchasing a network-ready drive at retail.

The unit I purchased is made by Hawking Technologies. I stuffed it with one of the dead computers’ hard drives (with all of my vital software and data), plugged it into my network, installed the drivers (required to access the new network drive) onto the other computers on the network (only a few minutes per unit), and now this network drive shows up on every computer on my network and runs the software that resides on that drive.

This is great because I can now do the postage thing and billing from my laptop via my wireless link. One word of caution: Make sure that you set up the security and have a network-wide firewall or anyone outside your network can also access that hard drive. Cost is $52 from my favorite purveyor of discount electronics, eCOST.com.

Because more of what I use and need is being networked (remember my "all-in-one" printer from May’s installment of The Gadget Bag?), I think that I will be able to eliminate one of those computers, saving me money from replacing it and saving even more by not having to run it. Another addition to my network upgrade is a Belkin dual USB print server.

Again, this allows me to not have a computer running just to support a printer, puts all of my printers in a single location (next to the print paper), and further streamlines my workflow. Best of all, this one doesn’t just save me time—it saves me space as well.

My next column (which will appear in the November issue—stay tuned) will discuss my upgrade to Wireless N (from the s-l-o-w Wireless B) and the issues that arise when you add a wireless access point to an existing hardwired network.

New Opportunity—Going to College
A little while ago, I mentioned that I had worked a deal at a school I’d worked with for years to produce college portfolios—video for college admission or scholarship/grant requests—for students and their parents. The idea behind this was that I already have a huge library of video, and I could pass that savings on to the client when I provided them with the service. Plus, the school does the advertising, and guidance counselors push the service.

Well, it has taken off. Not only with "library" footage, but with requests for additional work/footage and several sports portfolios (I have not been contracted for any sports at this particular school). It seems that many of these students are multitalented, beyond the offerings of the school.

Coincidently, a local college prep company that assists hopefuls with the application processes has also contacted me. They have had a number of people inquiring about creating video portfolios and had nowhere to send them, so I set up a reciprocal advertising agreement with them and have gotten three referrals so far.

What I am currently working on is packages to offer. This may be a somewhat seasonal venture, but it’s another income stream. Some knowledge of exactly what college recruiters are looking for is required, but that can be accomplished by talking to college admission offices or third-party college admission companies. These requirements can vary from college to college and is different for standard admission and scholarships.

Some of these requirements are provided with individual admission packages, so ask your potential client if that exists. If you are shooting for sports portfolios, knowledge of the games are a necessity—specifically, you’ll need to know what is required to highlight that athlete’s capabilities, and that means being able to recognize specific achievements and important plays.

Basic rule for these type of videos is as follows: Keep it short and to the point. Recruiters view thousands of these, so if you can’t get the point across in the first 5 minutes, then simply hit eject and toss the disc in the circular file.

These are highlight videos, so you are going to have to stifle your artistic flair and provide simple meat and potatoes. I usually open every college portfolio video with a short and simple student interview. The interview needs to convey key infomation: the student’s name, age, school (with city and state), and event, with particulars if it is sports- or music-related.

Then I’ll move right into the highlights. I use a highlight, circle, or arrow to point out the student if the clip is fast-moving, or shows a group of students. I like to use the "moving highlighted oval" for sporting events because it highlights without having to stop the action to do so. I recommend showing it just long enough to point out the person, preferably a few seconds before the target footage.

Also, be sure to start each segment with a simple title screen including info such as date (year is most important) and event.

For most portfolios, it’s not necessary to include entire performances (songs, games, etc.). The idea is that if the recruiters are interested and need to see entire performances, they will ask (so keep that footage handy).

Work with your client and your client’s coach/teacher/ instructor/counselor to pick the clips that are most noteworthy, especially if you are not familiar with the particular activity. But keep in mind that many people don’t have a clue as to what is required in these portfolios and will be asking for your input.

So be prepared: If you want to get into this segment, do your homework, because you’ll most likely be regarded as the expert when questions arise. Remember that you are the video professional, and your judgment is most important when it comes to showcasing a student’s talents on video. Make it watchable and be sure to include contact info on the DVD label, on the case, and at the beginning and end of the video itself. The first purpose of this video is to encourage college recruiters to contact the students and their families to learn more as they narrow their scholarship field.

To avoid a parent showing up at your studio with a shopping bag filled with VHS, 8mm, and MiniDV tapes dating back to grammar school days, prescreen what you need.

Ask them to log the tapes for you. You will most likely have to explain to them how to do this. This will not only reduce your required effort and improve your turnaround time on the video, but you’ll be able to tell your client that it will save them money by having them find the footage, rather than having you look at the rate of $35 per hour. (Reminding them that having a video professional sort and log footage costs money is a strategy that works for me every time.)

One misconception that I have run into, especially with regard to sports, is that you have to show only good or exceptional plays. No one is perfect, and coaches want to see how players react to miscues, how they recover, and how they set up and follow on plays by others—they want to see a "rounded athlete," rather than just a highlight reel.

Every sport, and every position in that sport has its particular criteria for what should be put on the portfolio video. Learn what matters most in the sport you’re covering and the position the student plays, and keep these things in mind as you sort the footage you have and prepare your final edit.

The last step is the packaging. Again, keep it simple and to the point. I use a clear polyvinyl jewel-type case (clamshell is OK) without an insert.

The DVD labeling includes a photo of the student (for this, you can use a frame grab from the interview), the event that is highlighted in the video (theater, music, sports—be specific, wherever possible), and the name and contact info of the student (including address, phone, and email address).

Many parents are sending several dozen of these in the mail to different schools, so packaging and postage plays a part. By keeping the product small, you are helping their bottom line.

Ed Wardyga (wardyga at kvimedia.com), owner of Keepsake Video and KVI Media in Rhode Island, has been producing event video since 1989, specializing in stage productions. He runs the website www.theGadgetBag.net and is the recipient of the WEVA Walter Bennett Service to Industry Award.

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