How Long For Those Changes?

One of the biggest issues that often sets any team back is underestimating how long a project or task is going to take. Often times it’s difficult to know what a project is going to take before you’re into it. That’s why its very beneficial for the people bidding the projects and for those managing it to know what it takes to accomplish a task. This is something that often separates the good producers from the bad producers. At LooseKeys I play the role of the producer and I’m also the one working on some of the projects so I have a very good idea of what it takes to get something done. This allows me to not over promise to the clients and to be able to know what kind of manpower will be needed in order to complete the project. 

You’re just asking for trouble when you say yes to all the clients requests without considering what it takes to make it happen. Some producers and younger people fall into this trap and they say yes without consulting the people who really need to make the changes. They tell the client it will be done in a couple hours and the designer, animator or even developer tell them “no, that’s two days of work”. Now the producer is in a difficult spot with the client and your team looks like they can’t handle what’s thrown at them. 

Thank god for all the freelancers out there, coming into help in order to handle those sorts of set backs or issues. 

What it all comes down to is that everyone working on your team should understand the process and understand how valuable time is. Don’t just say yes to clients to make them happy before you know what it’s going to take. After all, the client won’t be very happy when the team under delivers or isn’t on schedule.

Getting An Intern And The Next Step

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to grown LooseKeys. It’s like a strategic game of Risk, where do I move without putting a strain on our cash-flow, hurting the quality of the work and not overwhelming myself. 

I see a lot of friends businesses and startups grow fast and that can make me a little envious, I would love LooseKeys to grow to a world domination level. However, our business is a little different and I’d rather take it slow and know the direction we’re going and not get blinded by the money or prestige of working with a certain client or product.

The next step for us has to be to add another team member.  By adding another person my role would change a bit and if that’s for the better or worse I’m not sure at the moment because I still like what I’m doing, I don’t want to totally change that up. It helps that we’re moving slow. Right now rather than adding another full-time member we’re going to be bringing on an intern. Although I’d love to add another full-time person, right now just isn’t the time and freelancers can fill the role at the moment nicely. With an intern I’m able to see what it’s like to have that third person without having them in the office everyday and since they are only here once or twice a week, I’m not constantly being taken away from the work I should be doing. 

Although with an intern comes a different set of responsibilities and a different level of work they can do, I’m excited to see what we’re able to teach them and what ideas they might have that would help us shake things up. 

Starting Small

One thing that I quickly learned after starting my own business was that you have to start small, you can think and dream big but it has to start somewhere. Just because you think you and your team can do better work than that commerial you saw on TV, doesn’t mean you’ll get to do that work. Just because you can do the work doesn’t mean you will do the work.

You’re not going to score that big client or nab those huge budgets when you first start your business. I think that’s what a lot of students or younger people realize quickly when they start out. I know I wanted to believe when I first got out of school that if I grabbed a project with Nike or Google, either on my own or working with a studio then I’d be set. But I had a lot to learn… and at the time I didn’t even realize that. By starting small you learn about your business, yourself and you get better.

If I didn’t start LooseKeys small I wouldn’t of been able to learn how to manage people efficiently. Not sure if I could of handled a team of four starting out, but a team of two I understood. Being small allowed me to take risks and test new ideas, something that’s harder to do when you’re big and worried about making sure every piece of the machine is moving correctly. At some point you’ll add people and get those bigger jobs which is what I see happening now at LooseKeys  It’s not a straight climb up by any means but sort of feels like a game of shoots and ladders. I’m working my way up and soon this small team will be a small army.

Editing On Set

Editing on set isn’t a new thing; it isn’t always possible for everyone’s shoots and it isn’t something I’ve been able to do till now. Boy, does it help and it even saved us some time this past week on our LooseKeys shoot in Sonoma

Sure, it’s nice working with digital cameras and being able to quickly review each and every take. But on those small screens you don’t always know if it’s perfect. You can always rent a larger monitor for playback but that would only help to make sure each shot looks right. When you’re able to edit a rough cut on the fly, it allows you to check for more than just that one shot. You’re also able to check if the edit is working, audio levels and give the clients a little tease of what it’s going to look like. 

This is the first time I’ve been able to work with the editor on set and wow, did it help. Having Maeve Price there to drop in footage from the camera was amazing and since we were using Premiere we didn’t need to convert anything. We were able to make sure that the shot looked great and we were also able to make sure that the video was cutting together like I had planned. A couple of times the video really wasn’t flowing right and because Maeve was there to help with the edit we were able to make adjustments on the fly and shoot some pickups. Being able to do the pickup shots and re-shoots that day was great. It saved me from having to deal with it after the shoot was wrapped and trying to come up with a creative solution. 

Not only did it help me and the rest of the team but it also gave the client something to see. They were able to basically see a rough cut a few minutes after we wrapped for the day. Which I think helped to put their minds at ease and made the LooseKeys team look good. At the end of the day I want them to be happy with the product.

Being able to edit on the fly isn’t something that works for every shoot but if the project is right and the budget is there, do it. It will save you later.  

Taking The High Road

The other day I got an email from another company that wanted me to contract LooseKeys work out to them. A bit of a strange request because why would I want to unload work that LooseKeys can do… It’s always a little flattering to get  emails from other explainer video and production companies because it means that someone is noticing what you’re up to. I took a look at their portfolio and found something very, very, very similar to the Lemon video that I had created. The colors were similar and two of the characters were basically the same; tossing a tie onto someone doesn’t make it different. Over the years I’ve grown accustom to seeing Groupon video clones either in the script, illustration or the animation.

This one was a surprise, since it was the first time I’ve seen the Lemon video copied. My email response to them was pretty simple; I told them that they must have really liked the Lemon video that I did and left it at that. I figured that would be the last I hear from them. But no, they responded and said that they had never seen the Lemon video and that it was just a coincidence. Son, Please! 

What to do here… spend hours arguing with them. Taking screens and placing them side by side to prove that they basically stole the work? In the end, I decided to take the high road on this one and not push it or take it much further than that.  In this case I wasn’t threatened by them trying to take work from me or LooseKeys  If a client wants to work with someone who steals other peoples work, then that’s not a client I want.  

I did share the video with a few friends and colleagues, just so they’d be sure to watch out for their own stuff. It seems like this has been happening more and more lately; other companies or people ripping off videos that me or people I know have created. There will always be imitators out there but those guys don’t last; just be sure to rise above them. The authentic ones will always stand out above the rest.

The Rough Cut

I’m sure we’ve all sent a rough cut to a client before and the feedback we’ve received hasn’t been the best. “What is this?” or “This isn’t What We Expected,” are never words you want to hear. At LooseKeys  our clients are often people who run businesses or startups and not people necessarily familiar with all that goes into the creation of a video. 

 People who work in video or film, tend to toss around phrases that aren’t always widely known outside of our industry; terms like rough cut, styleframes, and codecs. People outside our circle might not be familiar with them. I know I’m not familiar with banker terms like M&A, LBO and below the bar. 

As creative people, we tend to get upset when others, especially clients don’t understand our vision or process. You have to take the time to educate and inform them on what they are seeing, otherwise you’re going to work yourself up and out of frustration end up freaking out on the client. 

So what’s a rough cut?

A rough cut is one of the first steps in putting together a video, this is the first phase where the project starts to resemble a real video and not just a bunch of random pieces. Typically rough cuts will still undergo many changes before the final. If you’re working with video, assembling a rough cut is a time consuming process; you have to go through all the footage trying to figure out what is the best and in what general sequence it should all go in. You typically go through many versions of rough cuts before you get to the fine cut and are near completing the video. A rough cut is really just the first step in the editorial process, there are many more changes that can and will be made.

Since most of the videos at LooseKeys are animated, our rough cuts are typically very advanced animatics. All the movements of the characters might not be in place but the pieces are there to make sure the scenes are working and flowing together. 

No matter what you show the client, make sure you’re happy with it and assume that they are looking at this video like it is the final. If there are changes that need to be made let your client know. Give them a list of things you’ll be fixing or doing. It helps to signal to them that this isn’t the final cut and you’re still working on it.  If you get bad feedback on a rough cut, remember to breathe and take a moment and try to understand that sometimes it will take a while before the client understands that this is a process. 

Doing The Same Video Twice

I’ve been having the feeling of déjà vu this past month. At LooseKeys we’ve been working on making the same video again… well not exactly the same video. I know last month I mentioned that a client wasn’t happy and we were re-doing the video to make sure they loved the video we were giving them. This challenge was a bit different. 

Recently I was approached by a business who was a competitor of another company that LooseKeys created a video for. 

I went back and forth on this for a bit, wondering if we should take it on. The original video we did was now public and had been for months, that’s how this new potential client found us. So there weren’t any issues with an NDA or giving away information about the business. Even when I do sign an NDA I know very little of how the business is being run. So right there, I wasn’t concerned that if I took on this new client I would be giving away any information about my other one. 

For me I didn’t see this as being any different than doing a commercial for McDonalds and then next month doing one for Burger King. Both businesses approached me and LooseKeys because of our skills with explaining a complicated subject in a simple manner.

Instead I saw this new project as a challenge. How could we make a video for a similar company but do it differently… this is the same question I think about when someone asks me to make them the Groupon video. Although I would have no trouble executing the same illustration and animation in the Groupon video since I did the original ones, I don’t want to repeat myself and make the same video twice. That doesn’t challenge me creatively. For me I try to figure out how I can deliver something different. Something better, something all it’s own that stands out.

Knowing that there are many explainer video businesses out there, I had a feeling that if I didn’t take on the project then this company would likely hire someone else and that company would just make a carbon copy of my original video and just swap out the logo. I’m sure there is someone who would have no trouble in just getting paid and be happy that they won’t have to think about the animation or script. Like I said, I saw this as a challenge. I wanted to make sure this was a video I was proud to show off and add to the LooseKeys portfolio. I know every project can’t be a winner but I try to make sure it’s something I’m proud of and that there’s something different or unique in every video. 

So everyone at LooseKeys put their heads together and re-worked the script and came up with a new design that pulled from the other video for inspiration but stood on its own. We then animated the new video without trying to be influenced by the original and overall we put together something that we were very happy with. Because the subject matter is so similar, when you see the two videos next to each other they do look like brother and sister but this isn’t a video we’re just going to hide under the rug. As soon as we have the ok, I’ll be posting the video. 

Show The Work You Want To Do

"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." I’m sure you’ve heard that before many times. Its good advice that can also be applied to your portfolio. You need to be showing off the work you want to do. It can take some time to figure out the type of work you love doing and want to be doing. But once you figure it out, you need to immerse yourself in it and work with the businesses and companies that do that type of work. And make sure the work is heavily represented in your portfolio. If your website is dedicated to wedding videos, you’re not likely to get a music video project. You have to show prospective employers or clients that you can handle their specific job. They may have seen the work you’ve done in the past but sometimes they just can’t visualize how your previous work applies to them and their needs. And doing a free animation for them just to win a job usually isn’t a great option. If you want to model mobile phones for commercials then you need to have a mobile phone commercial in your demo reel or on your website. I love working with startups and social apps are some of my favorite projects to work on. On these projects I’ve created primarily 2D characters with simple shapes. This is the type of work I continue to get and I rock out every one I have the chance to work on. Clients trust that I’ll be able to deliver a quality product for their brand because I’ve proven what I’ve done for similar businesses. If you’re not happy with the types of projects you’re currently working on, make sure you portfolio reflects the types of projects you want to work on and leave out the projects you don’t.

© Copyright 2002-2014 Brad Chmielewski. All Rights Reserved.