Hearken Creative Services’ blog

Jakarta waterfront
Blog, business, film/video, post production for film and video

What are you doing in Jakarta?

One of the “perks” of working with international organizations is that — sometimes — you are needed for filming overseas. Last week, I conducted interviews and filmed b-roll for Asian Access at a conference in Jakarta. I have worked with them for twenty years, and have traveled many times with their people, filming both documentary-style footage of relief work and interviews at conferences.

This event posed a few new challenges. I was not given an area in which to film, so I decided to use my hotel room (keeping it spotless!); it is relatively quiet in a hotel room, and I could control more variables. (Outdoor shoots proved sketchy because South Asia rainstorms kept pouring at the most inopportune times.) The next issue: most hotel rooms don’t have much light. Even though I have never been to Jakarta, I was able to locate a local production company [Amazing Productions] that brought in a pair of 4-bank fluorescent lights for the week:

4-bank fluorescent lights

Like my hotel room? We dressed every corner of the room I could think of to get different setups for different interviews.

I wanted fluorescent because I don’t like doing interviews with hot lights, and KinoFlo’s can be fitted with daylight bulbs so that I can use both the lights and exterior light from windows. We needed the lights because I would be filming interviews at all hours of the day and night, so we needed to be able to blast light into the room at any time. Here are just a few of the looks that I was able to get:

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Late-night setup with 4-banks flooding entire room with soft light

Midday setup with 4-banks as key and window as backlight

“Magic hour” setup with 4-bank providing key light and shooting directly through the hotel window

I am happy with the setups, although I would have loved to have more time and more room. More room enables me to separate the subject from the background more easily; as you can see from the above photos, though, I was able to create quite a bit of separation even in a small (325sf) room.

While traveling, I try to “go light,” even with photo gear. So I left my camera slider and mini jib at home, as well as my Steadicam Merlin and my large Cartoni tripod. All of these are great tools, but for the footage I would be shooting, I couldn’t justify the extra weight. Here is what I ended up with:

  • Sony PXW-X70 camera. The main camera for all interviews and b-roll
  • Canon EOS 7D. I have shot so many stills — and video — with this camera that it has paid for itself over and over. Sometimes used as a b-camera for this project, but mostly stills on this trip. Took along a 70-200 lens as well as a 24-55.
  • (2) Sennheiser ew100 G3 wireless microphones
  • Two Canon flash units, with CowboyStudio radio-remotes to control the flash off-camera
  • Zoom H4n recorder. I used this for years as the primary audio recorder — when I was shooting with DSLR cameras. Now it serves as backup, and I can also do audio recordings for sessions that I’m not filming (which we did on this trip).
  • Two little lights that I got off of Kickstarter called The Kick that are awesome for an accent light, or even a quick interview using the diffuser.
  • Audio Technica AT897 shotgun microphone.
  • Manfrotto 5001b lightweight “anything” stand. I could put a light on the top of this, my SmallHD monitor, or a flash
  • Additional cables, chargers, two camera tripods, my laptop, a bunch of CF and SD cards, lenscloths, and lots of batteries for the cameras and microphones.

This all fit into three bags: my laptop backpack (carry-on), my Pelican 1510 waterproof case (carry-on), and my suitcase. It didn’t leave much room for clothes, but I managed to fit in enough.

Some videos were produced in real-time and posted immediately to the Asian Access blog. Others will be rolled out over the next few months. Some will even be held for a larger event happening in 2017.

We were really happy, though, with everything that was filmed, and look forward to working on a project like this again in the near future.

Doobies Inc., with Loren A. Roberts at the far right. Photo by Kat Roberts
Blog, film/video, graphic design, Pasadena and local, photography, portfolio, sound

“Music is my life, man.”

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love music. My entry into filmmaking came only after an internship at a North Hollywood recording studio brought my recording chops up, and then I used that skillset to start location recording, and then sound editing, picture editing, post production supe duties, and finally producing…but I digress.

I’ve been playing music since I was five years old. First piano and drums (orchestra percussionist for five years), then classical guitar for a while, then cello for a few years, voice lessons in high school, and on-the-job accompanist training in college. So it should come as no surprise that my current business has a soft spot for musicians.

What does that mean? Well, I still need to make money. But I can cut deals that benefit an artist or label because of my varied skillset. I can do your product packaging, but I can also work on your website and advertising. We can work on a music video, brilliant photography, and even do some recording. Later on I’ll show you a few examples.

Matt McCormackBut first: the newest project that I’m working on is with a fantastic San Antonio-based artist, Matt McCormack. Check out this guy’s amazing songwriting. We met through a friend, and I played onstage with him a few months ago when he traveled to L.A. at Genghis Cohen (fantastic venue, and fantastic restaurant too).

So when Matt asked me to add some keyboard parts to his new recording project, we embarked on a long-distance back-and-forth to find the right sounds for these new songs. Here are the first two:

I’m really excited about the collaboration, and I hope to be onstage with Matt again sometime soon.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Check out this amazing 70s-style photo from a recording session with Shakedown Mambo:

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…and the photo that ended up on the back cover of their most recent album:

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PACKAGING

I did a rather long blog post on the creation of the CD packaging for T-Lou, a Zydeco/accordion artist here in L.A., but there are a few other recent additions. These are varied, but fantastic:

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(notice that I started with photography and moved to doing Shakedown Mambo’s packaging?)

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(Buddy Zapata is also the guy who introduced me to Matt McCormack…)

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MUSIC PRODUCTION

  • Avery Roberts (my son!)(see the above CD cover) needed some demos recorded. Those demos turned into a self-published album entitled “Where Nothing Can Hurt Me“.
  • The aforementioned keyboard tracks for Matt McCormack’s new album were recorded in my studio, and then added to the mix by Matt’s amazing production team in San Antonio — an engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer.
  • Check out my “audio” page for more examples of my experience working as a composer, engineer, and producer.

WEBSITES

VIDEO PRODUCTION

All of these videos were shot and produced by Hearken Creative:

LOGOS

I was a founding member (keyboards again) of a Doobie Brothers tribute band, and developed an “homage” logo for that band:

Concert Crowd

 

As you can see, we are a one-stop shop for marketing musical acts. Does this limit us? No! We are still working on communications and marketing for pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits, colleges, museums, and more. But it’s fun to look at one market segment, and see how much incredibly fun material we have produced.

(The blog post title is from 2003’s movie “School of Rock”…)

Blog, business, film/video, graphic design, photography, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

Are you busy or not?

I dislike the question “Are you busy?” — because I don’t know how to answer it. I don’t crave “busy-ness” — being busy just for the sake of being busy. However!…I love filling my life with experiences. Over the past decade, between my wife and I, we have added a teaching credential, several certifications, graduating from Cal State L.A., thousands of miles of travel for both business and pleasure, and — as of a few days ago — not one but two teenagers in the house! (Ooops — I forgot — now I’m directing a church choir too.) And that’s on top of the day-to-day running of a household and business.

The point is this: I love learning. Lately I have been reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why (unsure if I agree with his premise, but still interesting), a bunch of blogs on HTML5 and e-mail deliverability, someone’s senior thesis comparing the Contemporary Christian worship/music industry to European Communism, and a bunch of online articles on both marketing and studio music production. I also try and read at least one work of fiction per month. Tonight I’ll be a chaperone for a children’s choir while they rehearse with Gustavo Dudamel at Disney Hall. All of this activity keeps my mind constantly seeing new things, new solutions, new issues, new opportunities. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

But would I jump at helping you out with a new project tomorrow? Of course! Give me a call.

Busy-ness aside, here are some new projects that just launched this week:

Matt Frazier/TAIMusic website homepage

Matt Frazier website. Matt and I have been friends for over 20 years, and when it was time for him to get a website makeover, he came to me with very specific hopes: short, easy-to-navigate, boldly individual, and something that he could continue to update on his own. We developed a one-page website out of relatively-simple HTML5, and Matt has already done a bunch of updates himself since it launched a few days ago. Matt has been in the music industry for a long time (and he’s a fantastic musician himself!), and has a deep understanding of music theory, money — as it relates to music, and recording/producing. We wish him all the best with the new website, and a new stage in his career.

Jon Leonoudakis website homepage

Jon Leonoudakis website. Jon and I have worked on several films together — both behind the camera, and in the marketing department. I shot footage for his award-winning documentaries “The Day the World Series Stopped” and “Hano! A Century In the Bleachers“, and then designed the packaging and websites for both films when principal photography was wrapped. So, when Jon needed a new website, he contacted me and we worked out a deal that was win-win for everyone. Like Matt, Jon was interested in having something that he could continue to update himself, so Hearken Creative set up a robust WordPress site where everything is modular, and Jon can continue to grow the site as his production company grows. We’re excited to see where Jon goes next with his unique brand of storytelling, and awesome producing style!

Other projects that have been happening recently:

  • I designed much of the collateral artwork for The Planetary Society’s spacecraft-building Kickstarter campaign, and they have almost completed fulfilling all of the “rewards” for the campaign. They also have recently named the new spacecraft — which will hopefully launch later this year — Lightsail2. You can see many of my photographs in the updates to the campaign.
  • Kendra Celise continues to post music videos from the live studio session we filmed at my studio. Over the course of six weeks, these videos have given her several thousand new views, and helped her launch her upcoming EP and her newest single “Admit It Baby” — we love her music, and hope that the launch is wildly successful!

Finally, I have been going back to revisit the footage that I shot during my two trips to northern Japan after the tsunami. We only publicly released one video from that footage — the wildly-popular “Nozomi Project” mini-documentary — and I’d like to see if I can show more of how local churches in Japan have been assisting with the re-building…both physically and emotionally. The people that I have met on my many trips to Asia are held in a special place in my heart, and it makes me happy when people see what great community-building work is going on there. So I hope to have some new Japan videos out soon — maybe even to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the tsunami in a few weeks.

So yes…we’re busy. But not in a bad way. And do you need a project like one of these for yourself of your company? Give me a call — I’m sure we can get something wonderful going. I’m never too busy to sit down and talk with you.

Blog, business, graphic design, Pasadena and local

Watching Your Baby Come Off the Press

interior page from December 2015 issue of The Planetary Report

It’s always fun seeing the fruition of months of work. We get to do it every quarter, with The Planetary Society’s magazine The Planetary Report. Because I am a stickler for details and always want to see projects through to the very end, I spend a day in Orange County at the printshop doing press checks and ensuring that each magazine prints perfectly. (They print over 50,000 copies of the magazine, on a big web press. It’s a fun process to watch.)

This type of work is not what most people think of when they hire a creative director or marketing manager, but quality counts. My aim is to make every project we produce a home-run for the client. It’s all about matching the right message with the right media — be it a website, or magazine, or brochure, or e-mail blast.

Over the next few weeks we will have a new website launch to feature, some more video projects, and more! Stay tuned…

Blog, business, film/video, Pasadena and local, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

New video project trickling out

Kendra Celise - Cold Coffee

We keep pressing forward on many projects simultaneously. The newest video clip is the first of a series that we recorded and filmed in my studio for singer/songwriter Kendra Celise.

Kendra sent a few sample YouTube videos so we could get a feel for what she wanted, and we spent the better part of a day filming her performances. A new camera — the Sony PXW-W70 — was used for this shoot, as well as some of our amazing Michael Joly-modified microphones. The camera was mounted on a mini-jib so that we could move around smoothly throughout the song.

The rest of the videos will drop over the coming weeks. We had fun on this project, and believe the final product will help Kendra market her new EP successfully. Congrats to Kendra!

Blog, business, graphic design, Pasadena and local

Enjoying My Clients’ Happiness

I received two notes in the mail this week, both with checks for payment on recent projects:

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It is gratifying to see clients happy with the end product, and Hearken Creative’s designs working as marketing tools, communication tools, and catalysts for increasing sales.

How can I help you over the rest of Q4 of 2015? New identity? New marketing strategy? Implement new tools for marketing and communications?

Writer John Schulian
Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

New website launched for writer John Schulian

A confession: my wife and I loved watching Xena: Warrior Princess when it was on TV back in the ’90s. So when a friend introduced me to the co-creator of that series, I kinda geeked out. And then he asked me to build him a website!

So…my newest website is for John Schulian, who is promoting his first novel after writing magazine columns and editing books and crafting screenplays for the past few decades. For someone who is writing hard-boiled noir, and has covered bloody sports (he has some great articles on boxing), John is a wonderful human being — we end up talking about life, music, favorite books, and film every time we get together.

My aims in building the website were:

  • reflect the gritty quality of the novel, as well as the iconic L.A. skyline that graces the book’s cover
  • create an easy-to-navigate, responsive website that encouraged sales of the book
  • honor (and capitalize on) the body of work that John has amassed through books, magazines, and online stories

website-john-schulian-300x240

I think the initial website is very successful here, and we will keep adding more content to the site as the book drops — signing and reading dates, sales, reviews and endorsements, and more.

As the web continues to evolve, it becomes more and more important to recognize the specific needs of each client. Do we need a static website? Do we need dynamic content? Is some sort of interaction warranted? How does what’s online affect the overall brand? As a marketing expert, these are the questions that I ask at the beginning of every project. Beautiful websites (or any design, for that matter) are secondary to the ultimate goal: achieving increased sales, donations, or overall market share. What we do is innovate in such a way that your company — be it one author or a major company — can attract eyeballs…and sales.

Blog, business

Why Marketing?

You have a product, a service, a cause. You need to make sure the world knows about it. You also need to make sure that the world knows about it in the way you want them to.

[box]You want the public to understand that yours are the best, not someone else’s. That’s the power of marketing.[/box]

Someone mentions your company, and that becomes an opportunity to promote the business…and hopefully make a sale.

A marketing strategy is the set of guiding principles that help you make decisions about how to talk to customers (and potential customers), and how to leverage that communication for the most sales.

How do we do this?

First, we must know and understand your customer. Experience, constant communication, and feedback are vital. If we don’t know who we’re marketing to, there’s a good chance there won’t be traction when the customer sees or hears something about your organization.

Next, once we know the customer we can tailor a marketing plan that fits your target, as well as your budget. Why? Again, the more you can craft the message (or brand) of your company, the more you are “in the driver’s seat” of determining sales volume and return customers.

[box]A marketing plan is a set of actions, based on research and budget, that will bring about the most sales for your organization.[/box]

That sounds crass, right? But see — it’s not exactly…because the best customer is one who is going to develop a relationship with your brand, and come back again and again. Your customers have a whole internet-worth of data with which to make a purchasing decision. You need to do your homework so that you know what they are comparing, what features or perks are going to make a sale, and what messages resonate with your potential customer. A long-term relationship with a customer involves not just one sale…but a strategic marketing plan that cements your relationship with your customer.

At Hearken Creative, we have over 20 years of working with clients to determine the best marketing for every job. We’ll even tell you to go elsewhere if we have a company that we think will do a better job of getting a specific customer for you. We have experience in print, web, e-mail, radio, and video. We started — as everyone did — with “outbound marketing” (ads, flyers, brochures) but we also have a ton of experience with “inbound marketing” (content on YouTube, your website, etc.) that draws the customer to you.

Give us a call and see how we can help you create your own marketing strategy, and generate success for your organization.