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!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Little Horse Sense For Media Producers

In the modern world, we are used to dealing with machines and the fickle whims of technology. We approach most things as though they ought to work to satisfy us and be completely reliable and predictable. Gone are the days when a city boy like me depended on animals to get things done. But the lessons I'm learning from my two buckskin geldings, Dakota and Casey, have the same steep learning curve as an Iphone might have for you. They also carry some interesting information about creating good working relationships with the human beings in our lives.

I'm hoping that a few of the lessons that have tried my patience and have on occasion caused me pain are worth sharing. A little horse sense can serve a man pretty well in the modern world as he tries to work well with others.

1) Unreasonable fears can cause real problems. My horse Casey took a shock to the nose from an electric fence. Now he's afraid to go through gates. How many of us find ourselves dealing with the unreasonable fears of others?

2) You've got to have more time than the horse. To move past Casey's fear of gates, I've spent days just standing or working with him, to ease him past this "fear barrier" so he can see that there is no danger. How many times do clients react to creative ideas with this kind of unreasonable fear?

3) Leadership requires earning the trust and confidence of others. Dakota spooks pretty easily. I've spent a lot of time with him earning his trust with calm handling and steady riding. At times I have to push him past obstacles that scare him so that we can move forward together. How many times as creative talent, do we get frustrated when a client backs away from our direction? Sometimes you've got to take time to learn what bothers a client and stay constant with some gentle pushes to work through it. These challenges also force me to stop and reconsider what I'm doing. Can I take responsibility and find an innovative answer to the problem?

4) Losing control. When I get irritated with a horse, I often lose the initiative and trust I've worked hard to create. I've had to remind myself to be a calm, firm leader to get us where we need to go. As soon as I lose patience, I lose control.
My modern, by-the-clock mindset is often the trouble here. Horses don't wear watches. So again, takng the time to understand the problem and see the solution is more productive than simply getting mad. How many times have we let some bit of creative frustration hurt our progress with a good client?

5) Reward. We usually look to results alone as our measure of success. This is clearly important in business. But we work as a team with people who call on us to serve them. It's important to recognize and congratulate our creative partners for their work on a job well done. Sometimes we have to give a little to get more done.

Fresh carrots or apples seem to work for the horses.

A sincere, "Thank You, you did a great job on this." might work better for us and our working partners.

You might have some horse sense of your own to add to my list of suggestions for dealing with people in the creative process. I hope you'll share what you've learned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thanks From the Farm Studio in PEI

Thanks to those not away on summer holiday for some wonderful work in the past few days...

Thank You Barnett Cox and Associates for letting us finish the first series of your wonderful creative campaign for Community West Bank.

Thanks also to EC Productions for allowing me to voice track your HD documentary on the Save Our Seas Foundation and it's work with sharks and manta rays. I can't wait to see the final production!

Also, thanks to EHY for calling on us for your ongoing work with the Chumash Casino.

While Steve Gordon is calmly manning the helm in Santa Barbara, I am frantically managing summer production of a different kind here on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
And though part of each day is devoted to studio recording and business issues on the West Coast, we're finding time to plant and harvest a good crop of family fun and fresh vegetables this summer.

For those whose geography is as poor as mine, you'll find that PEI is Canada's smallest province, located just a few miles off of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the east coast of North America.

My wife and I are here with our two boys for the summer, managing our organic farm.
We're growing a variety of herbs and produce which we sell to the fresh market.
The crops are pretty much in the ground already for the short summer season. Long daylight hours help things grow (it isn't dark until almost 10:00 PM). We've had a late start of summer with lots of clouds and rain. But the last few days have been sunny and hot, which has really launched our plantation into full swing!

The Goleta Valley Mesclun Salad mix we grow is very popular and the French Breakfast Radishes have been a good accompaniment. We're also rich in Spinach right now and the Swiss Chard and Beet Greens too are selling well.

We're about to be awash in sweet shelling Peas and it won't be long before we're digging up baskets full of new Yukon Gold Potatoes. Summer Squash is flowering now and Zuchini and Yellow Crook Neck varieties will be coming soon. The Cucumbers are flowering and these are in much demand locally for fresh eating and fall pickling. Yellow wax beans will be coming in August and Pumpkins will be big and orange by the time I return to Santa Barbara in September. Corn and tomatoes have been slow to start, so we'll see what nature does with those crops. There's too much more to mention!

In addition to our cash crops, there is other work that goes on. We're planting a fourth of our crop rows in green manure crop to keep out weeds and feed the soil for next year. To do this we planted field peas and oats which will die off this winter and leave rich compost for the spring plowing. To that purpose, we're encouraged by warm rain forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully this will start the California poppy seeds I've planted along the lane.

Nature on her own also blesses us with wild harvests of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in their seasons. On the shore we dig clams and harvest mussels for steaming pots of savory seafood.

Summer truly is a time of bounty. Here's hoping you are enjoying the gifts of summer wherever you may be!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Help With Flash Audio Presets and Internet Audio Quality

For those of us in production one of the problems we face is the bandwidth issues that are established in production tools themselves.

When we match audio to picture we often find ourselves creating large files which get digitally compressed by default presets in the software. These defaults tend to be particularly tough on audio, often squashing it down to a low resolution file that sounds grainy at best.

These settings are designed to protect a certain level of picture size and resolution in playback through streaming media. But they destroy the delicate nuance of sound and make it the rough equivalent of a telephone.

There are several ways to improve this situation and deliver quality picture and sound to the user. But we're still looking for help, particularly in Flash, to adjust the defaults and allow better sound while preserving the picture. We've seen some very good examples of this and we know it can be done, but we need help from a Flash wizard who can help us understand the processing and how to optimize it. We think this is an important step toward guiding our post production clients to appreciate and expect better results online.

First of all, we know how to create good sounding files for marriage with Flash. One trick we employ is reducing stereo files to mono files whenever possible. This reduces the gross size of a full resolution file by half and allows for less compression in the mixdown. We then compress the mono file to a 192k resolution MP3 file that retains good, clean quality. Even so, we find that our pre-compressed and configured files are then re-compressed by Flash so that the results are often muddy and unsatisfactory compared to the compressed files we deliver.

Does anyone know how to strip in premixed audio and prevent Flash from further compression of the audio in the mixdown to picture?

The problem seems to be just as bad or worse when Flash handles full resolution audio
in a mixdown.

Your input would be helpful.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Rabbi, The Bull Rider and the IQ Test

Did you hear the one about the Rabbi, the Bull Rider and the IQ Test?

Well, neither had I until a client presented us with a challenge.

We were called on to produce a series of radio commercials for an agency that needed us to co-ordinate production between their creative talent in another city, a professional bull rider in Colorado and a local Rabbi. They also needed us to cast an authoritative voice to be the "brand" announcer. The agency directed the talent by phone patch and finished production was delivered to broadcasters from a virtual studio on The Production Room website.

Then there was the IQ test. Or more properly there was Stephen Murdoch, local author of the new book, "IQ: Smart History of a Failed Idea". If you're an NPR listener, you probably heard our live ISDN feed to "Talk of the Nation" from Washington DC. The program feed came from The Production Room in Santa Barbara. As a listed ISDN service provider for NPR stations, we're increasingly using ISDN to link guests in our studio to programs on this national network.

I'm hoping more of our local Industry, Agency and Independent producers will discover that we can do for them what we're already doing for major companies, producers and networks around the world. We've come along way to bring professional production options to Santa Barbara.

If you need a level of service compatible with major studios and networks, a connection from a major market to Santa Barbara or if you're a regional agency in North America, Asia or the EU in need of a professional production partner, we're ready to help you.