Saturday, October 20, 2007

WFAA: The mountaintop

When I first got into promos, I was shown a tape that blew me away. It was 1995 or so - and the tape was of promos from WFAA in Dallas. They were great promos and got me excited about the possibilities.

I later went to work for KENS in San Antonio - which is owned by Belo, the parent company of WFAA. All of the sudden, I had access to the Belo Reels - a compilation of the best promos from across the company. WFAA was always the best of the best.

I soaked it up like a sponge. WFAA promos were always light years ahead of the competition. Sure, in the late 90's - they shot everything on film and the spots were beautiful. But the most interesting thing I took away was the use of concepts in selling a news story. Unbelievable stuff. Great writing. Smart spots.

I've since found a few other stations out there doing great work. KPIX does good work, KTVT in Dallas does some incredible creative, WNBC has done some great work. I check out youtube all the time for great promo work. (More on where to find great promos to inspire yourself in a future blog)

My entire career, I've spent trying to live up to the great work that first inspired me. I've done ok with that.

Here is one of my favorite WFAA spots ever. There were 3 main :60s - but I only have this one available. I eventually worked for one of WFAA's best producers, who worked on these spots. I learned a ton from him. At the time, I had no idea what the Dallas market was like. But after seeing this spot - I was left with the impression "Wow... that must be the biggest and the best station in Dallas. How could they not be?" They didn't have to say "Biggest newsteam" and "advanced this and exclusive that" -- the spot's production left me with the "feeling" that WFAA was special. And even 11 years later, this spot holds up. Great work always does.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Right. Uh huh.So you don't know Avid? Hmm, this button, now this one...and that one... ok, now click here. Good! Now edit a national spot


My lesson in how to edit came in the small market known as New York City. I'd done some non-linear editing before - but the Avid was a whole new ballgame.

The title of this blog is just a bit of an exaggeration. I was to cut spots for the Travel Channel. I loved doing these because they were so much like doing news promos. Plus, I was always assigned anything that had the terms: bikini, beach, or babes in the title. As Yakov Smirnoff used to say: What a country!

So I was brought in to this room, was told to punch some buttons... learned the room "wasn't set up to do that" and don't forget to do this that and the other. My "trainer" was off to her office within minutes and I was on my own.

I look back now and think - Did I really learned how to Avid edit on NATIONAL SPOTS? Sure, no one was going to let me send a jumbled mess of jump cuts and black holes to the Travel Channel folks - but it was still a tough place to be in.

We are all challenged to learn new things. That experience taught me I could conquor anything. I'm now a fairly decent Avid editor, I've patiently taught it to others and the Travel Channel is still on the air, despite my having no idea what I was doing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Silly Spot of the Day

In the news promotion business, we often deal with people in suits. But how often do you deal with people in fuzzy suits with tails?

We had a lot of fun introducing the San Antonio Spurs to our air at KENS-TV. This has to be one of the silliest promos I've ever done and it stars the team mascot, the Coyote(who I still believe is the best mascot in the NBA)...

How do ideas like this form? I was coming back from lunch with our editor(the very talented Ms. Jennifer McCabe) and we started joking around. One thing led to another, we called the Spurs, rented a film camera and were shooting in no time!

Sometimes in our lives... in between the "could this kill you?" and "prepare and protect you from danger" spots -- we just have to be stupid. Enjoy!

Great blog to check out

I've recently discovered a great blog that anyone in the promo biz should check out.

It is a great place to find out who's who, who's where and who's making a difference in the world of promotion. Kate Bacon outlines new hires, jobs that are available and also profiles some of the best peeople in our biz.

It's always great to see who else is out there and what jobs may be coming available. I'm a big believer in doing your research - and this blog is a great way to stay plugged in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hate your job? Give a tour!

If you've done this as long as I have, you get burned out at times. Its easy to forget just how much we loved this when we first got into television.

Of course, TV has changed. Our roles have changed. But somewhere, deep inside, is a true passion for what we do. Otherwise, besides the massive paychecks, why would we do this everyday?

Last week, I was asked to give a tour of the station to a group of 20 kids and parents. It really brings you back to what it is like to walk into a television station for the first time. I enjoy getting the kids excited about TV, answering their questions and I find myself trying to lure the children(wait, where is this sentence going?) - let me rephrase... I find myself trying to convince these kids television would be a great job to have someday.

Now, lets be realistic. TV will no longer be TV when these kids grow up. So I show them the internet department, the graphics team and the technical folks. The technology will get better and change and who knows what TV will be in 10 years. But as excited as I was to tape pieces of paper together and run it through a crank teleprompter - these kids will be excited about uploading the latest newspod(now with smell-o-vision!) to your Apple Brain.(yes, the computer will just be wired right into your brain, trust me on this... don't fight it.)

I wanted to work in television so bad when I was a little kid. And giving these kids a tour reminded me of that.

Plus, its always great to meet your future bosses. Maybe they'll remember my little tour... right before they fire my ass. Ah, now that would be sweet indeed.

Favorite Website

I'll admit, I don't know squat about After Effects. I've always wanted to learn - but being a manager - I can assign those projects to other people!
(insert evil laugh)

But a recent project had me doing some very basics in the program and I kind of liked it. Then I was introduced to a great website.

This guy has some great tutorials and a great sense of humor. Sure, he's also trying to sell you a few things - but that never gets in the way of him sharing great information. Plus what he sells could be something you really need.

He goes fast sometimes but you can follow along with his tutorials and pick up lots of free help. Everything from sky replacement to creating your own light sabers(comes in reeeeaaaallll handing when making promos) - you'll learn a lot from watching these tutorials. I've already taken some of the lessons and put the information to good use. (I'll upload my "Consumer Reporter slays the bad guys with a super sweet light saber" promo any day now...)

I highly recommend checking out this site. Its got me recharged again... excited about learning new things. After Effects can do amazing things.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More Awards!


Last week, our company Hearst-Argyle announced the winners of their annual Promo Cup awards. This year, WESH won in two big catgories: Weather & Best of Show. We were tied for #2 station overall.

Here is the spot that won for weather:

This was truly a team effort. Kip Christine did the shooting and Matt Helf edited.

One of my favorite spots

When creating spots, music can many times help dictate the creative. Give you ideas, inspire you to do something really cool.

This spot has one of the best jingles I've ever heard. We were singing it for months around the office. 615 Music did a fantastic job on this.

We hired a company, now called Zenfilms, to work with us on this spot. Ross Wells directed and edited. He's fantastic and did an incredible job.

The spot was nominated for an Emmy and won the Promax Gold Award for use of music.

I believe this campaign and KHOU's first rate work on the Superbowl/Houston coverage was a turning point for the station. We really began to show our talent as real people who were just as excited to have the Superbowl in Houston as they were. Manytimes anchors can be talking heads -- this gave us the opportunity to get from behind the desk and really show what we had... which was an incredible newsteam.

Check it out and let me know what you think. I apologize in advance if you begin humming this song afterwards... you have been warned.

Monday, October 15, 2007

His blog is better than my blog :(

I want to use this blog to share great things and ideas I see. Unfortunately, this site I'm about to share blows away my little rinky dink blog. This is very cool:

Sincerest Form of Flattery??

I've been in the business long enough to know - we all "borrow" ideas from each other now and then. I get tons of inspiration by watching spots from all across the country. But what happens when your work is outright stolen? Word for word, shot for shot?

For me, I laugh. I actually see it as a compliment. Where I draw the line is when the offending station enters it for awards or takes full credit. Below is a :15 spot I did for KHOU in Houston. Don't turn up the sound... the spot is completely silent - on purpose. It won me a CBS Eye on Excellence Award. It went out to all the CBS stations on a reel. One year later, it showed up in a Magid presentation. But this time, it was a :30 and from another station! I was so convinced it was my spot - the first :15 looked like they may have just used my video!! Identical. Check out what I did for the spot:

More recently, I produced a spot for our new web initiative "The A-List"... with the incredible work of one of our producers, Matt Helf, we created a fun little spot. Matt really brought it to life... he's the man. A few weeks later, I'm on Youtube and see other stations have copied it word for word! I did get a very nice call from a CSD in Indianapolis praising our spot and letting me know they were using it for inspiration. I thought that was very classy. He's the only one I heard from! And I will say, they added some very clever ideas of their own. Here is my spot:

Now check out these copycats!!:

I continue to find copycat spots on youtube. flattering... but come on people! At least send us a small fee. :)

Have you ever had your work "borrowed"??? Do tell...

It's 3AM!!! I NEED AN IDEA!!!!!

During sweeps, I become a madman. My mind is always racing and with so many projects going at once... it is easy to hit a creative roadblock.

In one particular case, I had what I thought was NOTHING. The story was about abused children. I had good sound from an abused kid - but of course, no visuals as we couldn't show him on television. The rest was generic news footage and that would do me no good in selling this highly emotional story. So, at 3am - I sat there at my computer. Worried. Then I got an idea. How can you visualize the mindset of children who deal with abuse. Drawings. I found several great ones and was off to the races.

I didn't think this spot had turned out well until weeks later. I just needed some perspective and during sweeps was no time to dwell on it. Let me know what you think and if you have any "Its 3AM!!!!" stories to share...

An Honor to be Nominated

I received some great news this weekend. I've been nominated for 2 Emmy awards!! Sure... it is an honor to be nominated - but now I want to win!

The station was nominated for 5 total, so to have brought in 2 of the nominations is pretty cool. The spots nominated are:

Rolling Sings:
When a serial killer breaks out into song during a court appearance - it makes for one creepy promo. It was simple - yet effective. Take a look here -

Kids on Christmas:
And who doesn't love the holidays? I took our anchors to a local school and played "Kids say the darndest things" -- and got some great moments from these kids on what they believe about Santa, reindeer and elves. Here are 2 of the 6 spots...

Wish me luck on December 1 when the Emmy award winners are announced.