The Production Room was founded in 1995 as one of the first full time digital commercial recording facilties on the central coast of California. We started with 4 stereo tracks, 16 mb of ram and a 250 mb hard drive. A lot has happened since then. Today we're focusing on ways to serve clients who are creating web based media content. This includes strategic planning to integrate the benefits of traditional media, web design and IT solutions into new programs produced especially for on-line consumers. Join in the conversation. Throw rocks at glass houses. Share your vision of the future. This is the most progressive time in the media arts since Johannes Gutenburg invented movable type!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Being in Need of Magic

A friend of mine once earned black daggers of death from my eyes when he introduced me to a group of witty and clever people as, "a really funny guy". What followed was the sound of crickets as every eye turned to watch me be funny.

This week I confessed to my friend Taymar Pixley that I was really blocked when it came to writing content for my soon to be re-launched website. After all, my site has to represent me to a decidedly critical group of clever and witty people. It has to say just the right things about the leading edge communications we're exploring and the down to earth values of craftsmanship and service we believe in. AAACK! Do you see what I mean? What it comes down to is that I don't want to explain it I just want to do it!

BUT - business executives don't know what I know about how to create and use the medium. So how do I tell my story to them? What the heck AM I doing anyway? I couldn't find my bearings on ground that I should and DO know very well. I was like Daniel Boone. Not exactly lost but a might bewildered for a few days.

Then I got a call from a client who was interested in what I had to say about new media applications or, "programs" as I like to describe them. I found myself warming to the task of elaborating how some simple media programs could solve several important problems for this company. They could improve communications with their sales staff. They could cut down middle management time in meetings while increasing their effectiveness. They could screen job applicants and save money on employee training, demonstrate their product benefits to their member clients, easily update their materials and adjust their strategies at will. And they could use their on-line presence to deliver different levels of service both internally and externally in an on-demand consumer world.

When I had finished, the client said, "I'll be losing sleep thinking about all those things this weekend." I had showed him the answers as if they were magic. He saw that everything I told him was true, even though his company had never done anything like it before. His realization was the answer to my dilemma. It's magic.

It's magic that makes you sexy when you aren't even trying to look good. It's magic when we take a fuzzy concept from a client and manifest it into a sharply tuned marketing program or business solution.

There are several people I consult for their explanations about how media works. Doc Searls and Patrick Gregston are two fine examples of those who can catch lightning in a bottle. But tonight I am still bogged down in the pedestrian work of explaining myself and how I work. Because it's magic that develops my creative energy and I can't really explain how it happens. I only know that the Muse is fleeting and documenting magic isn't really very sexy at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Power of a Good Idea

Santa Barbara City College is one of the most beautiful College Campuses in America.
You can visit (and study) on line:

The college sits on a high mesa overlooking the Pacific ocean. Our city set aside this large expanse of prime real estate for local citizens to enroll in higher education and it is making high quality college course work available to anyone who wants to learn. That was a great idea.

One of the latest gifts to the community from City College is the School of Media Arts and a series of 7 free seminars offered to the public in the Digital Arts Center. SoMa Now is a series of seminars offered to the public to educate and clarify current technologies that impact our daily lives. The seminar was just as advertised. A 3 hour overview explaining videopodcast production, rss and online content promotion. What a great idea!

My friend Stan Krome of First Crescent Design:, invited me to join him this past Friday at the SoMA Seminar on video podcasting. We started with a relaxing lunch at the local beach grill. We dined at a table on the beach, just a few yards from the water. We were served by pretty young women and were primed for the short (but steep) walk up the hill to our classroom. We entered a computer lab with long rows of clean tables and at each place was an IMAC ready for use on demand.

The class was called to order by Liz Russotti, chair of the graphic arts department at the college. She introduced our instructor, Peter McEwen. Peter is a relaxed man in his 30's who has studied on line technology but is also a creative talent and website developer. He was clear and measured in his delivery and very well organized in his presentation. He allowed for and answered many questions as he explained the technology, the creative process and the applications involved.

As I looked around the room I took note of the number of students (26) and their approximate ages (majority from 40 to 65 + years) and I was surprised that there weren't more youngsters in class. Isn't online video a young persons domain?

I found his approach interesting. He stripped the process down to the most practical solutions to allow all of us to understand and use the most direct means of creating, posting and promoting video content online. He explained that YouTube and Itunes are the primary and simplest means of getting material uploaded, rss tagged, search indexed and available to the most people right away because they are simplest to use. He endorsed using the power of two very good ideas that are drawing the largest concentration of active users on the net.

My thought has been to emphasize self hosted and self contained content and control of content delivered through a private channel (the owner's host site) and allowing Google to sort it all out. But I now see some key advantages to his method. You have a better chance of being seen and heard if you go where people are. Or to put it another way, these two outlets are currently the largest broadcast networks on the web and you can get your content included on their network program schedule today - simply by submitting it. (Try that at NBC). Peter added insight into posting content to other specific online communities so that you can in fact target your intended audience - a factor that is just now emerging but is of huge importance to commercial enterprise.

One other point, you can upload your content to YouTube or Itunes or any other community and still post the same material on your own host site. And you should do this so that your personal or business community are being served - by YOU.

All of these good ideas add up to some very powerful means of communication, and they are moving the very foundations of our media world.


More Power to a Good Idea!

I'm including the following press release from our friend and client Frank Christopher of Cross Keys Media. We had a tiny role in this project (I voiced the funding credits) but Frank created amazing online activity as part of the production of this ground breaking - and now award winning - PBS documentary. Congratulations Frank! More proof of the power of a good idea!

PBS Series wins First Place at 2006 Association of Health Care Journalists Awards
Los Angeles, CA, March 17, 2007 – The four-part PBS series Remaking American Medicine™ ~ Health Care for the 21st Century was chosen as the best television program of 2006 by the Association of Health Care Journalists at the eighth annual conference in Los Angeles on March 17. The awards recognize the finest health reporting in nine categories covering print, broadcast and online media. In only its third year, the contest drew nearly 400 entries.
Contest entries were screened and judged by 44 health care journalists. Remaking American Medicine won in the Television (Top 20 markets) category. A CNN Anderson Cooper 360 report, “Sick and Uninsured” by Sanjay Gupta, Shahreen Abedid and Abigail Leonard, won second place. “Battling Alzheimer’s” by Susan Dentzer of PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer placed third.
The judges described Remaking American Medicine as: “A beautifully written and produced piece that sheds light on some of the nation’s most vexing health care issues. The episodes successfully exposed problems and examined solutions. Kudos to the makers of Remaking American Medicine. We should all aspire to produce health stories of similar caliber. Impressive, informative and compelling work!” Pulitzer prize-winning health care journalist Charles Ornstein of the Los Angeles Times presented the award to producers Frank Christopher, Matthew Eisen and Marc Shaffer.
Remaking American Medicine was a four-part, primetime PBS series that aired every Thursday evening at 10pm in October 2006. The documentaries brought to the forefront of national discourse the imperative of improving the quality of health care for all Americans. Over 7 million viewers tuned in. The series was supported by a nation-wide public engagement campaign that succeeded in creating national, regional and local coalitions to re-energize and expand the burgeoning heath care quality movement.
Remaking American Medicine was produced by Crosskeys Media, a multimedia entertainment production company committed to telling stories of American health care. Frank Christopher was the executive producer of the series. Matthew Eisen was the co-executive producer. Marc Shaffer was series producer. Peabody and Emmy award-winner John Hockenberry served as the series host.
Devillier Communications, Inc., (DCI), a public relations and marketing agency with extensive public television experience, coordinated the Remaking American Medicine national outreach campaign. KQED, the award-winning public television station in San Francisco, which serves the Northern California area, presented the series to the PBS system.
Remaking American Medicine was made possible through funding provided by the Amgen Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson FoundationÆ. The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts provided additional funding. Additional support was provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
For more information about Crosskeys Media:
For more information about the TV series:
For more information about the Outreach Campaign:
CONTACT: 805.966.3700

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ISDN is a verb

This morning, the host of a radio talk show was in a recording studio in Philadelphia, having a conversation with a guest who was comfortably seated in our voice booth in Santa Barbara. Both voices sounded as if they were sitting next to each other. The ISDN codecs delivered better than mp3 quality. The studio in Philadelphia introduced telephone callers to the program, who talked to our remote in-studio guest and the host in real time. The entire session was recorded in Philadelphia to be post produced into a radio broadcast and downloadable programming.

The technology involved here is nothing to get breathless about. ISDN transmission of audio has been a daily feature in prduction studios around the world for many years. It's the creative use of technology to create programming that I think will be more interesting as we move into the near future of program production.

We've reached a point where producers and creative talent can take technology itself for granted in the creative process. In the same way that I don't need to understand elecrtical generation and transmission to know that flipping a switch lights up a room, I don't need to know how I.T. works to create new ways to use it.

I often find that the languages of I.T. engineers and creative producers are not entirely compatible. We speak about the same things in different ways. To an engineer, an ISDN Codec is a specific hardware and software application. It's a defined thing. To a creative it's more like a verb. To ISDN a session is an action that allows many possible creative outcomes. But it lacks the American tendency to brand label everything.

This summer, we intend to install and prove newer digital hardware/software applications that allow almost anybody with simple recording tools and a broadband connection to do what we did this morning. You'll be able to create and produce programming for broadcast, podcast or download - including live high quality sources from almost anywhere in the world without an ISDN based codec. This will allow the producer maximum flexibility to gather high quality source materials for post production. The talent, the producer and the studio/post production engineer can all be remote from each other, and yet a program could be recorded or streamed in real time.

Just before World War II, the Columbia Broadcasting System established a world news roundup on it's national network. This is essentially what created CBS news and set the standards for broadcast journalism. By use of telephone and shortwave radio transmission, CBS delivered live news from around the world to listeners all accross America.

We no longer need the resources of a corporate broadcast network to do the same thing. Imagine an audio blog with 2 way conversation and live reports from all over the globe. It could happen.

When it does, will creatives still use ISDN as a verb? Hard to say. The IT engineers may come up with a new acronym. And creatives may decide that since anybody can do it, it's time to start branding their product.

Friday, March 2, 2007

SEX! Now That I Have Your Attention...

I first saw that phrase on a poster at my High School as part of an ASB Student Council Election campaign. I was the editor of my school paper and was covering the campaign and so I noted it. That was in 1977 and I still remember it. What I can't tell you is anything else about the candidate or the message that followed, except that the candidate lost the election.

Later on in life I spent a lot of time working on a cattle ranch. One night around the fire after a spring roundup, I heard a ranch boss tell the story of a man who had a mule that he couldn't work. He tried everything and finally hired a man with a reputation for training the most stubborn creatures. The trainer arrived at the ranch one morning and he agreed to see the mule. He picked up a hunk of wood and stepped into the corral. He walked up to the mule, looked him square in the eye and smacked him with the wood just as hard as he could, right between the eyes. The owner of the mule was shocked! He said, "I thought you said you had come to train my mule!"

The trainer said, "Yes sir, and I will. But I've gotta get his attention first."

The first goal of most marketing plans is to grab attention - sometimes by brute force. Perhaps internet media is no different. My conversations with the web design people I know would seem to re-enforce this view. "You only have 3 seconds" they say, "to get their attention". I understand quite well the need to "brain" the victims of our schemes. But I wonder if there is some more interesting finesse required here in the online game.

We're dealing with a whole herd of, "self selecting" mules who have been "brained" for years. They won't stand for it again, will they? Perhaps we need a "Whisperer".

A whisperer is a trainer who establishes the basis for a conversation with dumb animals over time. By understanding their needs and wants, he becomes the natural leader of the individual animal and eventually the whole herd. It's a long term investment that requires patience, study, perception, communication and self control.


Both methods can work. Politicians and Car Dealers have been hitting us over the head for years. A blogger who poses confrontational points can get a quick response. But in a realm that, for the moment, seems conversational and relationship based, is there room for the "whisperer" to be more persuasive in the long run?

After we've got their attention...then what?