A Challenging Assignment At Las Vegas Wedding Show

For today’s post I want to write about a pretty challenging project we took on a few weeks ago which involved the whole team spending 4 days in Las Vegas. I know, it’s a tough life, but this really was a challenging assignment that had us working 16 hour days with a lot of people we had not worked with before. This always brings up problems as sometimes people and technology don’t quite interact as they should and solutions have to be found very quickly. Luckily, we had a great team and the people we worked with at the Las Vegas Wedding Show were extremely helpful. So, on this occasion, what happened in Vegas will not stay in Vegas.

The Vegas Wedding Show is a huge trade expo for literally everything wedding related. Thousands of people come through the doors from all over the country trying to find out about the latest and greatest ideas. Our job was to assist with the whole multimedia display at the main hall’s stage which was hosting dozens of different speakers. As already mentioned, in unknown situations you sometimes end up with systems that just don’t want to quite work with lighting etc. that is already in place.

vegasBut all those problems were overcome with relative ease thanks to a great team of event organizers that had seen such problems before and were quickly able to come up with solutions. For the first afternoon speakers we did have a couple of technical glitches, but all of them went unnoticed to the audience and even the head of the organizing committee did not realize the issues when we later talked.

For the first afternoon the main speakers were from the photography and videography industry who were presenting new techniques, equipment and technology that they had come across and were very eager to present to colleagues and of course brides to be. One of the standout presentations came from a Las Vegas Wedding Photographer Brian Reagan who has over 40 years’ experience in the photography industry with much of it spent taking pictures of newlyweds in Vegas.

Surprisingly, Brian still worked a little bit with film, which is practically unheard of these days, but when I spent some time with him after the presentation he asked me to pick the digital and film photographs from a selection of enlargements he had. I was absolutely amazed at how great his film images looked.

But what stood out the most for me was that of all the wedding photographers his images from Las Vegas weddings were the most unique, artistic and absolutely amazing I have ever seen. I could see so many other photographers just drooling over his work and taking notes to try and improve their own techniques.

If you would like to see some of Brian’s work, check out VegasPhotoArtist.com, he really has some amazing and unique images.

Once we had mastered the technical difficulties with the media interfaces and projectors the rest of the 3 day event was pretty much plain sailing. It was quite amazing to see how many different types of companies were present, covering literally everything from dresses to make up, outdoor event planning to travel advisers and florists to chair covers. We learned an awful lot about wedding planning ;-)

Digital SLR Cameras That Make a Difference

When you need a digital camera for your visual production then have to go for a DSLR. The good news is that even some of the entry level devices are now very affordable while not sacrificing too much on functionality. Canon and Nikon are two of the most commonly used and popular makers and you will really not go too far wrong with either of them. Personally we have preferred Nikon for many years and we have got used to their functionality and software so it is our first preference of choice, and our main recommendation would be to look at the D3200 vs D5200.

At the high end of DSLR cameras you can expect to pay $4,000 + for equipment like the Nikon D3 or D4. But this can be pretty much overkill for the majority of projects. Of course, if you have very high end clients with large budgets then making that impression with your cameras may be worthwhile. But for most jobs an entry or mid level camera will be more than enough as they all have some pretty good basic functionality.

Entry Level

If you going for an entry level model then you should really consider the above mentioned Nikon D3200 vs D5200. They are very versatile and come packed with features that up until recently would only have been found in high end professional cameras. The great thing is that they will both record audio and HD video, so this reduces the amount of equipment you actually need.

Mid Level

At the mid level you should look at the difference between the Nikon d5100 vs d7000. The D7000 does give some extra umph that you might need especially if you are regularly working with low light conditions and difficult focusing situations. But all of the options will give you some pretty powerful equipment that will serve you well in pretty much all projects you work on.

Conclusion

No matter what your plans are for projects you will be taking on, you will need a DSLR camera, but as mentioned this does not have to break the bank. Entry level cameras are now so advanced that you can accommodate for even tricky jobs. You are better off saving some money on the camera body and spending the extra on some better quality lenses. You will really notice the difference there.

Visual Production And Photo Equipment

No matter what you are of visual production you plan to be working in there are a few things you will need. One of the most important things to consider is a photo and video camera. The great thing is that today you can buy digital SLR cameras that record HD video as well as photographs. This means that at the most basic level you will only need one camera to fulfill both jobs. Nikon has long been a favorite among photo and video professionals, and you do not need a high end DSLR. Most of the introductory cameras now come with enough features and power to do the job. We advise that you try to choose between the Nikon d3200 vs d5200.

Visual production is a very computer hardware and software intense process. Dependent on the size of the projects you take on you will require more powerful and feature rich equipment. These are the bear minimums:

  • Computer
  • Video editing software
  • Photo editing software
  • Video/photo camera
  • Projection equipment

Your budget will dictate a lot, but you have to make sure that you do not take on projects that you are not physically able to complete with what you have. Photo and video equipment is vital and you should not scrimp on this as it is at the core of what you will be doing.

All the above come with features and prices that widely vary and you will need to figure out exactly what you will need for each project. In some cases you may need a lot more stuff than you usually would, so you can always consider hiring some of these items to complete a job. This will allow you to take on much larger projects with a much lower budget.

Photography Equipment

Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200

One of the most important items you will need is decent video and photo cameras. As mentioned above, Nikon DSLRs are a great option and even the entry level ones will come with HD video recording ability. This will reduce the amount of equipment you have to invest in and reduces the weight of your gear bags. This is something that is often not appreciated, but it will make your life easy when you can simply switch between photo and video recording.

You will also need a decent tripod and there is a huge selection here. I would stay away from the cheapest models when you are starting out as they can be very flimsy and will not be as steady as some of the heavier models. Unless weight is really am important factor you should opt for a model that is a little bit heavier as it will be a lot more solid and stable, even in difficult conditions.

 

Dozens Of Strollers And No Screaming Babies?

We were hired for a small event a few days ago, smaller than we usually would cater for but was as a favor to a good friend of mine who has been working on some new business ideas. As we had some of our equipment idle and I am a helpful kind of guy, we saw to it that Jenny got the help she needed.

Jenny’s business is mainly in the nursery furniture area and she has been working as a small wholesaler and distributor specializing in the more luxury end of the market and also in unique and custom made pieces. For the last 5 years she has been able to grow her business and she had heard that we had been to some major trade shows in the past year and wanted our advice.

She was planning to take part in a major trade show for baby and kids furniture and equipment and needed to figure out a way that would make her stand out from the rest. With our visual production expertise she just wanted to figure out how best to present her products especially some of the new stuff she was branching out into. So rather than just tell her what to do, I offered our services to help out a friend.

The main area she wanted to focus on is that she was now starting a distribution of strollers with the initial focus being on umbrella baby strollers. The first thing we had to figure out is where we could quickly source some marketing material without starting it from scratch. Thankfully the guys at BabyWheels were more than happy to help out. Within a few hours we received a load of photos and video that we could then use for visual production purposes.

Our main focus was to make Jenny’s booth stand out from the rest and make it noticeable from quite far away. The idea was that as people entered the trade show they would immediately see her advertising and would want to come and find out more. We had seen some similar stuff being done at the Las Vegas wedding show that we wrote about before.

What we did was to use back projection in three directions from on top of her booth. This worked an absolute treat as no one else was doing it. So, o matter where you entered the trade show from you would see one place stand out from the rest. With the video and photos from BabyWheels projected out and visible from almost all angles, Jenny’s company was a magnet for visitors.

This meant that she was able to compete with some of her much bigger competitors, some of whom actually approached her for some joint ventures. She couldn’t believe how well it all worked out.

As I mentioned above, we don’t really deal with smaller events much, but I will probably reconsider that a bit now. AfterglowVP has a long track record of success and it was such a great feeling to help out not only a friend but a small business owner as well. If we can help her get off the ground some more, we are more than happy that we could help.

It really was a great experience and the best thing was that despite being surrounded by dozens of strollers for an afternoon that was not a single baby screaming ;-)

Video And Photo Editing Innovation

As business has changed over the years so has our approach to video and photo editing. There was a time when everything was done in Adobe software, and we certainly still use their suite of applications for a lot of work. But the great thing is that as our business has expanded so has our ability to invest in more technology to further allow us to become more creative. In this month’s post I want to point out some pieces of software that we have accumulated in recent years that we think is worth considering if you are working in the visual industry.

photographyThe first thing I want to talk about is Apple’s Aperture. When it first came out about 7 years ago we were not too keen, as it was just a nice way to organize photos but its editing features were only OK. But with several iterations there has been a huge amount of improvement, and we have practically switched all our photos to being stored in Aperture. It just provides for a great workflow system, and you can directly install plugins, e.g. Nik Software plugins, or open files in Photoshop if you need a little bit extra power.

Apple’s Final Cut Pro probably barely needs mentioning, and along Adobe Premiere is practically in use every day. We use both systems as some of our employees would have learned different systems, and we do not want to limit our ability to hire the most creative people.

One of our most recent additions has come through the Corel suite of applications. Due to its very reasonable price I decided to give it a go, just to have a larger set of tools to work with. What I have really come to like is the workflow process that is seamless and it really integrates photo and video editing in a great way. The Corel Draw Graphics Suite is probably something we will consider some time in the future, because at present a lot of that sort of graphic stuff and vector design is outsourced.

As our business grows so does our need for employees and different applications to better serve our customers. Fortunately there is a great deal of choice in the graphic, photo and video editing market allowing us to experiment with and implement new processes. This approach has served our customers really well and the feedback is very positive.

First Impressions Of Using Video On A DSLR

As part of our equipment pool we have several DSLR cameras and also a Sony HD camcorder. The camcorder is a semi-professional one and it gets used a lot. As we have ramped up the amount of projects we work on we have increasingly found ourselves in situations where the camcorder had to be in two places at the same time.

Rather than invest a huge amount of money in a second camera we decided to test run the Nikon DSLR cameras’ video recording functionality. The results have been mixed but overall we are very positive.

The first thing we discovered is that we needed to invest in some microphones which can be attached to the flash connector. This made a huge difference as the built in microphone is pretty poor. We also found that some of our older cameras like the Nikon D5100 the video quality was not great unless you were in perfect light conditions. However, on one of our latest additions the Nikon D7100 we were literally amazed by how great the recordings turned out.

To be honest I have no idea why we never tried the DSLRs before now, maybe it was because they were previously not up to scratch, but there have been some huge improvements in recent years.

So with the addition of a couple of microphones to our equipment pool we have managed to save ourselves the expense of over $3,000 for an additional Sony video camera. Now, for some of our most visually intense projects we still resort back to the Sony camera, and it is certainly the go to device when it is available.

However, it is great that we now have the flexibility to serve our clients much better. This recently paid huge dividend when we arrived on site with a customer to be told that they had decided to go with some video material after initially having decided against it. Had we not run the tests with our D7100 we would have probably had to delay that part of the project. But instead we simply gave them a quick quote for the additional work and then started with the project.

The client was so impressed with our flexibility that they have already booked us back for another marketing and promotion project that they will be starting in a couple of months’ time. All I can say is: Know your equipment!

High End Visual Entertainment Software

One area where modern technology has advanced capabilities is in what VJs can now achieve with Software that synchronizes video with audio. Gone are the days where you had to plan long ahead and mix up a VHS tape for a nights worth of entertainment. Once that was done you had no real chance of making adjustments, not in a practical way anyway. But modern software and the advent of many digital video formats like mpg, there is huge potential there.

Vjs today can simply turn up at a club, party or corporate event and match up the videos that are projected onto screens with the music they are playing as they go along. But not only can you just go ahead and select music and video from libraries as they are queued up, but you can mess around with speed, direction and also the overlap. Software like Resolume Avenue can sit right on your notebook with your music library and you will have huge flexibility with how you sync up video with audio.

As a night goes on you will get requests for certain music that deviates from what you had planned to play, but this should not pose a problem to changing videos to match up. With designated software you can quickly transition from video to another with some pretty cool looking effects built in. This all adds to the visual effect on the audience and your customer will be very happy with the outcome.

Another great thing about professional VJ software is that you can have built in VJ footage that automatically generates moving and expanding shapes. This is similar to what is included in iTunes visualizer, and can be a really cool addition to evening’s entertainment. This is particularly effective at large events with large screen projections. Examples would be large out door music events and concerts. With relatively simple software you can achieve some incredible visual impact.

Importance of Visual Production In Web Design

It should be of no surprise to anyone that websites have become ever more media intense. This has mainly been made possible through an amazing increase in Internet connection speed for the average household, but also through the increased speed in computing power. Media rich visual impact is now possible for every company, with relatively little effort. Whether you want a simple video to display on your website or you want a photo slide show to appear, or you want some very fancy looking flash animations, there are hardly any limits these days.

web buildingEmbedding video in websites has become simpler than ever through sites like Youtube and Vimeo. With simple copy and paste code you can implement a video in any section of a site. But just because this part is simple does not can that such a project is quickly done. While the implementation is easy you still have to make sure that the actual video is professionally produced and of a high quality. If it looks very amateur then you will not have the same impact, no matter how good the web technology is.

To incorporate photos you can use simple slide show plugins that are available for pretty much all content management systems. You can also use Adobe Flash technology for photos, but Flash is something that is a bit more complex. Done right it can be a serious wow factor for a website and you can very powerfully combine photos, animation, videos and interactive menus to provide very unique visual impact to the visitors of your site.

Conclusion

Visual production is hugely important for modern website design. It is now, more than ever, possible to capture and wow customers and other visitors to websites by making an immediate visual impact. There are many tool necessary for such projects and you will find many explanatory and informative articles about some of the tools needed.

Photography – Visual Production’s Best Friend

When you are trying to create a marketing and branding campaign then there are two areas of focus:

  1. Videography
  2. Photography

Obviously videos are crucial for most advertising campaigns that are TV or internet based, but you will rarely encounter a marketing project where photography is not a crucial part. Mastering this area can take years but getting the basics right will help you complete projects to perfection. The great thing is that there is a lot of overlap between photography and videography especially in the areas of composition and exposure.

photographyYou can encounter jobs that only require photography, but it rarely happens that a client only wants video. Most video material will be accompanied by photographs whether it is web based marketing material or on TV, there will be a request for photos to accompany the project.

DSLR photography has now become very cheap and affordable. You can still buy extremely expensive cameras that will put you back $5,000+ but most of the lower end cameras will now give you so much power and flexibility that it compares to professional cameras of just 4 or 5 years ago. For under $800 you can get some truly great devices. Nikon is one of the most popular camera makers and at Afterglowvp.com we generally recommend this brand. But Canon are just as good, it really comes down to preference.

For all visual producers it is a fundamental tool, just like a hammer is to a construction worker. It is rarely out of reach on any project and knowing your camera is very important. You should be able to pick up your camera at a moments notice and modify settings blindfolded as time is always money and you do not want to waste the time of a client. The more you use your camera the more you will be able to operate it without having to think too much about it.

Photography is really a visual design producers best friend and you should get very familiar with this piece in your gear bag.

Visual Production Guide Coming Soon

We are in the process of setting up a guide to visual production and all the equipment that goes with it. This site will contain valuable information about hardware and software used in the industry that will help people understand different approaches. In the coming days and weeks this site will be updated so make sure you check back regularly.