How did we capture that amazing ZinZanni footage?!

As a creative agency, when we set about working with the great folks over at Teatro Zinzani, we first had to brainstorm the concept that would inform the creative. We came up with half a zillion tag lines until we hit upon the perfect one: “Words cannot describe”. Based upon our near endless discussions about finding the right words to describe ZinZanni, we decide to admit words just weren’t going to do it… we had to use video to show it.

Our client loved it, and hired us to execute on our creative.  

Partly because of the involvement of the talent that performs the show, the pre-production was intense. The best explanation of how the whole thing came together probably comes through our Director of Photography, Brian Stevenson.

Yeah, the whole project was ambitious to say the least. To get what we needed for the spot, we had to capture nine top-tier performers in a day, a 16-hour day. We had to really do a lot of planning, especially because we had to augment Zinzanni’s theatrical lighting with ours. Theatrical lighting needs some boosting to look good on camera. So not only did we have to change camera position for each act, we had to completely re-light it.

“The most important thing was the pre-production work,” says Brian. “I went to the venue with our producer, Marika Dye and our director, Kelly Sparks four times in the planning process. We had to see the show, walk the tent, plan shooting angels and figure out how to get the height we needed to capture that trapeze act. We also had to find the right people pull focus, light and advise. We had a great team to pull it off.”

“You have to remember that we only had a short time to capture each act. First, we had a LOT to shoot that day, and second the acrobats could only perform the feats a few times…one was so difficult they could only do it once. So the pressure was on.”

Brian smiles and says, “My advice when you want to capture something like this? Plan, plan and plan. Have a great team like VMG do all the pre-planning and execution. Talk to your performers a lot and then keep your focus and execute. Simple.”

Our guess is when we submit this on awards season; this ‘simple’ little spot will win its fair share. 

Using Non-Professional Talent

(When do you use your friends and employees?)

Did you see the video of the month? All the on-camera talent is team members of either Microsoft or VMG/studio520. (Did you catch the Queen Bee’s cameo?)

So when can you save money on your video and use friends and team members instead of professional talent? There are no simple rules … but here are a few instances where non-professionals can be used:
- Quick shots of smiles and simple movement
- You have an expert who will give you an authentic performance
- You need a specific look in your video and that non-professional actor is ‘it’

Usually the ‘expert’ has had some experience on camera, or is so well versed that they appear very natural. We rarely have any issues with these folks.

As for the friends and team members you press into service for your video or the person who has just the right look?  Surprisingly, we have had very good luck using these people.

The fact is we live in a culture where the non-professional is pretty sophisticated when it comes to understanding working in front of a camera.

In our experience it is rare to find a person who doesn’t already have some sense of video work. With a bit of rehearsal, the right director/direction, so they understand what is required, you get totally believable performances.

Also… and this is crucial… make sure they are available for the time you need them.  Waiting for talent to arrive can get very expensive.

Limit their time on video, explain what is needed, rehearse (especially blocking), until they are comfortable and voila, an actor is born! At least enough of an actor, for your small-roles and extras who can add a valuable presence to your video.

White Chocolate Peppermint Martini Recipe

With the holiday season upon us, VMG Queen Bee, Kelly wanted to share one of her favorite things of the season – WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MARTINIS!
Below, please find the recipe. We picked up this fancy recipe from blogger Arlene Cummings of Cooking with Sugar. It’s one of her favorites, too!


Marshmallow Sundae Topping
2 Peppermint Candies, crushed
1/4 cup Vanilla Vodka
1 Tablespoon Peppermint Schnapps
1/4 cup White Chocolate Liqueur


1. Dip the rim of a martini glass in marshmallow topping then crushed peppermint candies. Drizzle some marshmallow topping on inside of glass; place glass in freezer.

2. In a shaker with ice, add vodka, schnapps, and white chocolate liqueur. Shake until mixed; put into glass. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint.

3. Drink and enjoy!

Makes ONE Martini

How to get the ‘emotional punch’ in your video

Did you see this month’s featured video from the Puget Sound Blood Center? As we said, it packs a big emotional punch. How does one go about capturing that on video?

Capturing the emotional punch of a story entitles a lot more than just turning on the camera and letting the subject talk. In the Blood Center’s case, we had to start with the end in mind: what did we want to accomplish with this video?

These inherently emotional stories had to be crafted in such a way as to move the audience to donate. Donate blood and donate funds. So, there was an unspoken ‘ask’ or ‘appeal’ in mind when we started. And, when it comes to getting people to part with two very dear things to them (their money and their blood) that appeal better be tied to emotions.

Besides the lighting, music, and editing that is key to success, the very core of these types of videos is the questions that are asked of the interviewees. The questions that are crafted for the interviewee are designed to elicit the emotional center of their story.

The questions should be built so that they allow the person being interviewed to get comfortable in the discussion of what has to be a very emotional topic for them. The questions should peel away layers, until the emotional core is revealed. “What was the day like before your accident?” “Describe the events leading up the phone call from the doctor.”

Help the interviewee re-experience events that lead up to the center of the story. In the case of the blood center interviews captured on the video, the center was the pain and fear of their dire circumstances and then their deep gratitude for their second chance at life because of the donation of blood from total strangers. We helped them slowly relive the moments before the event, so that the event became very real to them once again. You can see them actually relive what had to be some of the most trying, horrifying moments of their lives.

After we lead them through to the eventual happy ending, the big payoff at the end, then, came when we asked our final question, “What would you say to those who donated their blood so you could get your second chance at life?” You can see the unmistakable very real gratitude of the “Thank you” they all spoke. That’s the emotional release that brings tears to eyes, and gets people to donate their blood and money.

At any rate, that is one of the ways that we help bring out the core emotional punch that story has to offer.

Our favorite Halloween Treats!

When summer begins to fade, the air gets brittle, and the leaves start turning those magnificent yellows, oranges, and browns, it’s a definitely signal that Fall is coming. Fall is, in our humble opinion, one of the most beautiful of seasons. We gladly open our arms to beginning to light the fireplace, spending those holidays together with the families, and frankly, pumpkin spice, EVERYTHING. But it’s not all about the pumpkin spice, there are so many other amazing Halloween and Pumpkin flavored treats. What is your favorite treat during this season?

Here are some of the VMG team’s favorite recipes:

Richard, Director of Sales, can’t get enough of these Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

Ryan, Design Supervisor, loves the topping for this Pumpkin Cake with Broiled Coconut Toppings

Ziggy, Production Coordinator, loves pumpkin pie but still can’t compare it to this Sweet Potato Pie

Alysia, Account Manager, likes to stay on the low-cal side with this Pumpkin Spice & Cream Cheese Bread

Dezzy, Digital Web Producer, likes to follow the same route as Alysia and stick to the Pumpkin Spice Roll

Finally, if you haven’t had enough pumpkin to feed your fancy, Joe, Motion Graphics Designer, recommend’s Bethenny Frankel’s Pumpkin Mask

Who develops and designs a video’s look and feel?

My, my; don’t we sound all artsy-fartsy. The fact of the matter is, there really is a method to this whole ‘look and feel’ in creative video.

Our creative director, Bryan, likes to say that every video has its own soul, and that soul is its script. He is right; everything begins with the writer. They are the one who establishes the ‘feel’ side of the equation. They craft the style, the emotion, and the flavor that needs to imbue the video in order to get the message across.

They work with the client to establish the best approach to the message. Is this spoof? A straight-ahead, no jokes message that needs to be to the point? Maybe a ‘slice-of-life,’ with a humorous twist that drives an important message home.

That’s the person who creates the ‘develop’ and ‘feel’ of a video. Depending on the budget, the producer, the director of photography (DP) and the head of graphics will now work on the ‘design and look’ of the piece. For larger budgets, an art director will be added to the mix.

These are the folks who will choose or create the settings, graphics, the visual elements, props, camera angles, lenses, etc., that will combine to deliver the representation of the script. If talent is needed, a casting director will be assigned to find just the right actors and extras.

There are of course, all sorts of other professionals involved depending on the size of the budget and the demands of the script. Generally though, these people (the writer, artistic director, head of graphics and DP) working together will develop and design the look and feel of your next video.

A Brief History of the Tellys

Way back in 1978 cable TV was just getting a full head of steam and broadcasters were worried. But, the broadcasters had several things the cable industry did not … one of which was an awards program called, The Emmys.

So, the cable folks started the Telly Awards.

The awards were to honor excellence in local, regional and cable TV commercials. Soon after the non-broadcast video and TV program categories were added. Today, the Telly is one of the most sought-after awards in the television industry. Its categories have expanded to over 200, reflecting the diversity of efforts in the television/internet/video world.

There is even a Telly Awards Hall of Fame, which honors past winners who have helped shape the industry by creating on-going award winning work that expands the creative boundaries. These winners have included NFL Films, Fox Sports, Discovery Channel, ESPN and Time Warner Cable.

What Is a Demonstration Video?

A demonstration video is a targeted advertisement designed to express complex ideas about your product in a more relaxed pace than broadcast television allows.

Without the time constraints of primetime broadcast commercials, a longer and more informative video is possible. Demonstration videos, or product demonstration videos as they are also known, take advantage of this by taking their audiences on a journey through the product’s use and benefits. They allow the audience to imagine themselves using the product in real-life scenarios; the audience can imagine how their lives would be improved. There simply isn’t enough time in 30 seconds to convey more than glamour and emotion and lifestyle.

For the MILO Misting Lotion Demonstration Video we incorporated all of the design elements from the rest of the campaign. We used the same sets and lighting and props from the glamorous commercial but this time brought in an actress who could really deliver both the looks, nuanced performance, and delivery needed to sell a brand new product like MILO Misting Lotion. This considered approach to the creation of the MILO Demonstration video makes for a very upscale and effective sales tool.

If you think of a standard 30-second commercial as an awareness teaser of your product, then consider a demonstration video as the follow-up call that closes the sale. Watch the video; we are banking that you will want to try MILO for yourself!


What is a Creative Director?

Even my mom asks me what I do for a living.
“Mom, I keep telling you, I’m the Creative Director.”
“Okay, fine, so you’re the Creative Director,” she’ll say, “So what does the Creative Director do?”
Consider this my own personal Wikipedia explanation. In four words.
I’m the Idea Guy.
Ever watch Mad Men? Familiar with Don Draper? The philandering, hard drinking, hard smoking Director of the Creative Department for the Manhattan advertising agency Sterling, Cooper, Pryce? (Eventually Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce) He and his team brainstorm ideas on how to effectively sell their client’s products, then they put together a “pitch” for the client that explains their creative concept and why they feel it will be effective. That’s pretty much what I do. Except for the philandering, hard drinking, hard smoking part.
The title Creative Director means different things to different companies. At some ad agencies the CD is more of a graphic artist, but at VMG, as the Creative Director I’m responsible for coming up with the concepts, the ideas for our client’s projects. They might come to us and say, “We want a marketing video for our company that will really set us apart from our competition.” I will then sit down with the client and get as much information about their company or product as possible. I then take that information and start the mysterious creative process.
     What is that creative process? Usually lots of research and staring off into space. Seriously. I’m always searching for inspiration and I never know where it will come from or when it will strike. Maybe it’s from a cut of music, maybe it’s something I heard someone say, maybe it’s a movie I saw or a book that I read. Ideas have a tendency to show up at their convenience. But regardless of when and where the idea comes from it doesn’t become real until it hits paper. And this is where it all comes together. The writing. The writing is the soul. There has never been an exceptional movie with lousy writing. And so I write. A lot. I use my computer for writing scripts but when I’m developing ideas I’m still a pencil and paper guy. It’s more spontaneous and organic. I’m scribbling, I’m doodling, I’m drawing lines connecting words to other words. The only thing I go through faster than pencils is erasers. Creativity is all about tinkering with what you just came up with. When you get in the zone you simply cannot write or type as fast as the words are pouring out of your head. It’s an amazing feeling. That’s when you know you’ve got something.
Inspiration really is like the proverbial light bulb going off. Except most of the time the light bulb isn’t very bright at first; it’s dim and flickering, but the more you dwell on it the brighter it gets. Frequently that idea leads to another idea, which is frequently even better than the last one, and so on and so on. The creative process has a tendency to take you all over the map, which is a good thing, because then it gives you ideas that are completely different from each other. That’s why when I pitch to the client I usually have multiple ideas for them to consider. You never want to pitch a client and have them say, “Okay, what else have you got,” and you not having another idea at the ready.
The idea is everything.
So, mom, if you’re reading this, now you know what the Creative Director at VMG/studio520 does. And he loves it.

Is your website mobile friendly? (It better be.)

If your website isn’t adaptable to the mobile world, then you are missing a HUGE percentage of your audience.

According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 85 percent of U.S. adults own a mobile phone. Of those adults, 56 percent of them use it to access the internet. With the percentage of people using their mobile phones instead of their computers increasing, the needs for a mobile-friendly website have risen steeply.

According to a post by Google Mobile Ads Blog on September 25, 2012, after surveying 1,088 US Adult Smartphone Internet Users, 74% of people are more likely to return to a mobile-friendly website and 67 percent of users claim they are more likely to purchase from a mobile-friendly website. With a mobile-friendly website, there is a trust between the consumer and the brand. So what is a mobile-friendly website? A mobile-friendly website is a website that, when viewed on a mobile devices, is fitted for the resolution of the screen. The graphics have been built specifically to fit within the frame and the user does not have to operate the website using the pinch/zoom technique.

There are two main types of mobile-friendly websites – Responsive Design & Mobile Web.  Responsive design is a site that is responsive, or adapts, to the devices and platforms that access it. Since there are so many different screen resolution types and there are constantly new types of devices and tablets, your website needs to have the ability to be flexible to as many devices a possible.

Using media queries, a website can control how styles are applied based on which device it is being presented on. Media queries give you the option to be able to turn off, or remove from view, different parts of your website that might not be necessary for an on-the-go mobile user. In doing so, it decreases load time and increases the functionality available with a mobile device.

The best part of Responsive Design is that the programming is all located in the same spot! You can use one HTML document and then use different media queries to eliminate and move only the already existing pieces (such as divs or classes) you need for the smaller screen resolution. Additionally, it’s all hosted on the same domain. A user will only ever have to enter one URL as opposed to having to use or

Mobile Web, on the other hand, is a set of entirely different designs, each built from the ground up. Each design is only meant to work on one specific device or resolution. It is light on graphics, to reduce rendering and bandwidth needs, and designed with touch friendly controls, e.g. larger navigation items, no rollover or interactivity.

The biggest advantage of mobile web is that it caters better than Responsive Design to websites that are large or feature a lot of content. It also allows for the ability to just show ‘highlights’ rather than showcase the entire website. Then, if users want to view more ‘archived’ pages or posts, they have incentive to view the full website experience as well.

Is it important to have a mobile-friendly website? We think so! And apparently, so do a lot of Americans. In the same survey by Google Mobile Ads, 50% of people answered that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if their website isn’t mobile-friendly. 48% of those same people said that they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that’s not mobile-friendly and 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company. A website that is non-mobile-friendly still pulls up on any internet device but the functionality is limited and a lot of times, there are errors for important parts due to a conflict between interactive elements. Users want the experience they receive to be catered to their view. If it takes a lot of time, or is too difficult to figure out, they’re far less likely to utilize the feature. 48% of people answering the survey stated that if the site didn’t work well with their smartphone, they felt like the company didn’t care about their business.

Having a mobile-friendly website is the key to getting people engaged in your products. The key to creating a happy customer is to cater to their needs and their need for a fast-paced experience. A mobile-friendly website gets your customer engaged in your product.