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

New indie movie released with HCS support

I did mention that we do movies, right? Hearken Creative supported the release of Hano! A Century In The Bleachers on so many different levels:

  • Loren A. Roberts shot some of the interviews for the film
  • HCS designed the e-commerce website for the film
  • HCS designed the DVD packaging and marketing graphics
  • Loren A. Roberts shot the “hero” studio photography for the film’s key art

HanoDoc-DVD-hero-box-final-733x1000When coming to Hearken Creative, director Jon Leonoudakis knew the breadth of skills that were available from us: Jon has collaborated with us on two previous film projects — Not Exactly Cooperstown (camera) and The Day the World Series Stopped (camera, packaging, website). Jon’s passion for baseball is infectious, and we have found ourselves with a new respect for the game — even hitting up some major and minor league games recently! Jon’s professionalism and passion has paid off: both previous films have been recognized worldwide in film festivals (and Not Exactly Cooperstown has even been screened at the Baseball Hall of Fame).

We love working on projects like this: where quality and passion come together to make something truly unique. We congratulate Jon on his newest release, and look forward to the next project that we get to work on with him!

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

Case Study: Lloyd Ogilivie Institute for Preaching announcement

Back before Fuller Theological Seminary had even hired any staff for this new venture, the Lloyd Ogilivie Institute of Preaching needed a multichannel piece that would bring in relevant candidates for the new chair of the program. So it needed to be high-end, concise, fast, and under-budget. We designed three pieces: a magazine ad, a direct-mail piece, and a (mini) website. In addition, we filmed several people on campus, all talking about what the Institute was going to do.

All design and filming (and subsequent printing and DVD replication) was turned around within one month, and perfectly on budget. The campaign was successful: Mark Labberton is now the chair of the academic program, and has successfully moved it from infancy to relevancy across the campus.

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

How we get from point A to point B, or, how a CD package design comes into being

Well, I’m finishing up another CD this week, but the T-Lou CD is out and people liked the art, so I’m going to talk through how we came to the final art. Oh, and by the way, if you want to buy the album on iTunes, you can do it here. Unsure when the CD is going to show up on Amazon…

Initial Design Brief

First, we’ll talk about what the client brought to the table. They wanted something that said “party” and “Zydeco” and “fun” with the artist front and center, since it’s been a really long time since his last record. We needed to position the talent front and center. The producer sent me a few dozen images as reference, which included:

Essentially, focus on bright colors that conjure a Louisiana feel and the outsized personality of T-Lou.

Photography

My first recommendation was to schedule a photo shoot with T-Lou. The images from the studio (taken with a good camera by the producer) were still not good enough to make beautiful key art, so we needed new photography. Fortunately, I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with my new Canon 7D, so we scheduled the shoot and went to work. Several hundred shots later, here are some of the highlights:

So we now have great key art: the artist and the producer were both really happy with the proofs from the shoot.

First Design Presentation

Now it was my turn to interpret what feel they were looking for. Let’s look at some of the different concept pieces that I presented to the artist and the producer at our first design presentation:

Interestingly, the first proof is the one that is closest to the final. I went for a big and bold typeface, an image of T-Lou loving’ life and playin’ music, and some “dancing” crabs to tie into the album’s title. I was unsure about the crabs, because they kinda looked like the tripod aliens from Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” but this was first proof territory, so everything is fair game.

Now I got even bolder and funkier. There were these pictures where T-Lou just looks badass, so I married that up with some distressed type and some pretty heavy color correction (lots of desaturation, but adding contrast), and we get this beautiful bold look. But then why can’t I take it one step further?…

I think this might be my favorite design from the first round. I made the T-Lou art bigger and happier, and pulled all the color out of his photo. All of a sudden he pops off the CD cover. Still using distressed type on the artist name, but really clean on the album title. Simple and bold…perfect.

But my concern with the previous art was that it was getting way too non-traditional for a genre that has lots of tradition in it. So I tried a few looks that sit more comfortably within the established “look” of Zydeco artists. This first one has some issues, because T-Lou feels a little too low, and the ratio/balance between him, his name, and the album title just seems off. But still a good exercise, and if the client had liked it, we could have worked all of those issues out…

And then I went completely traditional. We added a sepia look to a non-retouched photo, did the “type on a curve” thing that lots of oldies/traditional albums do, and still added a crab — more now as just a graphic element — to keep it fun and tied-in with the album title.

Still loving the “badass T-Lou” look, I couldn’t resist doing something completely different. This keeps my mind fresh, and shows the client that there are options out there. If they don’t like something here, we can go a completely different direction. I had downloaded the curly background art from iStockphoto a few weeks previous for another project (that didn’t end up getting made) — it was originally blue — repurposed it for this proof by making it gold/brown and framing the artist. The type glows; the whole thing says “me and my accordion are not to be messed with.” Cool.

So wait, I had pretty much ignored the “let’s make it colorful” request from the client, so I did one with everything but the kitchen sink. The mardi gras feathers, some New Orleans brick in the background, a wood sign from a beach somewhere — making it bold and messy and colorful.

You will notice that I didn’t just present the artwork in a square on a piece of paper. I snagged a CD I had photographed from another project, and superimposed the T-Lou artwork onto that photograph. I believe that one extra step — making the art look like the final packaging — gives the client a much better idea of what his CD will look like once everything is done and shipping.

Client Reactions + Second Round of Proofs

Well, the clients flipped — they loved that first round of proofs. The energy, the photography, even lots of the typefaces chosen, were really making T-Lou excited.

They loved the crabs, but didn’t think they were “fun” enough, so I suggested maybe adding some cartoon eyes that I had found but discarded while working on the first set of design ideas. They liked that. So we decided to work on revising the first proof to everyone’s liking.

T-Lou comes from Louisiana, and really wanted the Louisiana coast to play a large role in the art. While almost all of the backgrounds are of Gulf Coast beaches, I had bleached out the colors of the backgrounds to focus attention on the artist. T-Lou said no, we want to see the blue of the ocean and the sky; adding back more colors would get us to that “make it colorful” initial request, too.

T-Lou also doesn’t like sans serif typefaces that much; he likes the refinement and formality of serif type better. So I needed to give him some options with different typefaces, since that first proof had the really big, thick, sans serif type for the “T-LOU” at the top.

So here is what we delivered for a second round:

Blue ocean, crabs with cartoon eyes, curved serif type across the top. Nice.

Maybe using the beach/weathered wood signpost plus the cartoon-y crabs? And we have a really bold typeface for “T-LOU,” but it still has serifs on it. Tricky, aren’t I?

Now here I have used the same design as above, but changed the colors up to see what happens. The light green allows the crabs to move to the forefront (the yellow was pretty strong), but I’m still not sure if the balance is right.

Ah, so the honkin’ big type was the problem. Pull that out, and replace it with a very refined slab serif, and the balance between all of the elements on the cover works out. So what did we accomplish? A few things:

  • lots of color,
  • T-Lou looking awesome and havin’ a great time,
  • a proper balance between his name, his photo, the crabs, and the album title,
  • a Louisiana coastal feel
  • the crabs with the cartoon eyes ensure that you know this album isn’t taking itself too seriously; in fact, you know that this guy likes to have fun.

The finished product! If I get around to it, I’ll take pictures of the traycard and CD face, which look awesome too. But for now, we see how I got from the client’s initial design brief to the final product. Everyone is very pleased with the outcome.

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

What Hearken Creative did this summer, part 4

T-Lou Zydeco makes some crazy-cool Zydeco music. See for yourself:

This guy knows how to make a party hop. And I got to create a cool look for his new CD.

The client is really happy (“Thanks, Loren; it was a pleasure working with you…job well done. Good job!”), the producer is happy, and we have another winner. Just listen to this wonderful music:

[audio:http://www.hearkencreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/06-Zydeco-LA-LA.mp3|titles=06 Zydeco LA LA]

Tomorrow, I think I might upload some of the original proofs that were presented to the client, so that you can see some of the thought that went into creating this cover.

But overall, this was a wonderfully successful project. I have another CD design that is going to press this week, so I’ll post that one in a few weeks when it comes off press.

Forgot to mention: I did the photoshoot for the artist, in the studio while they were mixing the album down. This is another benefit of hiring Hearken Creative — we work across disciplines to make the best possible product for the client. It also is a benefit of purchasing the new Canon EOS 7D a few months ago.

Blog, business, graphic design, Pasadena and local, post production for film and video, sound

What Hearken Creative did this summer, Part 2

Did I mention we were busy this summer? (By the way, my son is the one in the yellow cap above…playing the nerd. Perfect casting.)(Oh, and the fantastic photos of this summer’s shows were taken by New York-based pro photographer Matthew Murphy. He got some incredible shots.)

The Pasadena Musical Theatre Program is a decades-old training program for kids in Pasadena, CA. But I would call this a kid’s program on steroids, or, better, a pro theatre program that just happens to have kids as its focus. But this summer we held a master class with Megan Hilty of Wicked fame, held a class entitled Pursuing a Career in Musical Theatre, and did a American Idol-style solo competition, in addition to the two main shows that are produced every summer. Ryan Scott Oliver (award-winning musical composer), Cindy Abbott (wonderfully dedicated Pasadena music teacher), and Emily Clark (fabulous musical theatre performer and teacher) have transformed this program into a powerhouse that trains over 125 students every summer.

So what did Hearken Creative do? Well, for starters, I joined the board of the program last summer, because funding for arts has dried up with local school districts and I feel strongly about arts education. So, on our own, we have raised somewhere in the range of $50,000 every summer to make the program happen. In addition, Hearken Creative

  • provided all design services for print media, programs, and press releases,
  • photographed the Megan Hilty master class,
  • filmed the Promise Competition,
  • ran sound for all events, including the master class, meetings and competitions, and
  • sound designed both major shows — the Juniors (4th-6th graders) and the Seniors (7th-12th grade) shows.

Essentially, this was two weeks of wrangling a high school auditorium (that a friend aptly called an “airplane hangar”) into submission, using Hearken Creative-provided equipment, rented equipment, and the high school’s 40-year-old 24-channel mixer, as well as my own 16-channel digital mixer. Twenty wireless body mics, plus choir mics and band sound reinforcement.

And boy, did it sound good! We don’t have the professionally-produced video from KLRN yet, but several people have posted their home videos already. Here’s one:

and my son singing a solo at the Promise Competition:

Gimme Gimme, performed on July 8, 2010 from Loren A. Roberts on Vimeo.

The purpose of the program is twofold: first, arts education is vital to a well-rounded education, and music/dance hits so many of the other disciplines — math, reasoning, spatial relationships — that it seems stupid the schools are cutting performing arts. Secondly, there is an erroneous meme out there that there are no viable career options in performing arts. We aim to change that perception.

By using Hearken Creative’s graphic design skills, our production and sound design skills, as well as our music background and fundraising acumen, we were able to help make this summer’s Pasadena Musical Theatre Program a complete success.

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

What Hearken Creative did this summer, Part 1

While I can’t say that I have a new job or have turned the economy around single-handedly, this has been a marvelous summer of new experiences.

The first project I want to talk about is the West Covina High School Chamber Singers reunion, which happened two days ago after over a year of preparation. I was a committee member, and developed the website and Facebook presence, as well as designed all printed matter, and finally, managed all the stage tech for the evening, including a 16-foot screen, memorabilia slideshow, music cues, and sound reinforcement for the evening’s program, all provided by Hearken Creative.

The event was an amazing success, where 80+ people re-connected after 25 years with our dedicated teacher/director/conductor, Tom Kessler.

While the event was not specifically a showcase of Hearken Creative’s available services, we nonetheless made the entire evening possible, with HCS’ graphic design, film/video production, and live show production strengths.

In the near future, we will also produce the event “re-cap” video DVD. Can’t wait to show you how much fun everyone had at this event.

Tomorrow: Live theatre sound design for 100+ children and teens this summer…

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

Recently completed video projects

Q4 of 2009 has seen a number of wonderful projects wrap up and get distributed.

Winnetka Story is a feature-length documentary about the history of Winnetka and the North Shore area, outside of Chicago. Once again I worked with the wonderful John Newcombe, with whom we authored the DVD for Rancho La Cañada: Then and Now a few years ago. Hearken Creative did all of the DVD authoring and DVD menu design, as well as managing the production for the packaging.

Servant Partners launched several new videos prior to the Urbana missions convention that Hearken Creative produced. Most of the interview footage was interviewed and shot by Loren A. Roberts, with video from around the world provided to us by Servant Partners in various formats. HCS brought it all together and turned it into several promotional videos, for use both online as well as looping on plasmas in the organization’s booth at the 20,000-person convention. In addition, HCS authored the DVD, designed DVD menus, and duplicated copies of the DVD for all staff members. Below is one of the four videos produced:

And finally, Dave Schultze of Schultzeworks created a video promoting a computer design that he calls the “Philco PC,” an homage to the Philco Predicta television set from the 1950’s. I was able to work with Dave, consulting on camera movement, editing, and pacing for the video (Dave occupies my old office space, and we have become good friends over the past few years). We were stunned at the response after releasing the video: Vimeo shows that it has close to 100k views of the video, the design has been featured on EnGadget and the NY Times, and Dave has received calls from news outlets and potential clients. This was a great collaboration for us, and HCS looks forward to consulting in the future for other friends and clients! See the video below:

Philco PC from Dave Schultze on Vimeo.

There are many changes coming to Hearken Creative in the new year, but the one thing that will not change is our passion and dedication to making our clients look awesome, bringing creative and powerful solutions to the world of advertising design and corporate video.

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

Another bonus portfolio piece

This newsletter was produced quarterly for almost a decade. The Banning Residence Museum (I didn’t do the website!) has a fabulous collection of early California art, artifacts, and household items. We created this newsletter to highlight both the collection and the important educational work the Museum was doing.

— Details: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

We had a lot of fun with this account. Professional photography was shot of individual pieces, as well as photos taken at Museum events. The extra-large tabloid format of the newsletter made for a great read and good presence when it showed up in the mail.

Blog, business, graphic design

MySQL in trouble?

You probably don’t see it every day, but, if you are running a blog or forum, or any web application running on a database, you might have implemented MySQL on your server. I had heard about Sun and Oracle, but I hadn’t heard about what it could mean for MySQL:

Even before the Oracle buyout, there were signs of strain within the MySQL community. Not long after Sun acquired MySQL in 2008, key MySQL employees began exiting the company, including CEO Mårten Mickos and cofounder Monty Widenius. Widenius, in particular, was vocally critical of the MySQL development process under Sun’s stewardship, citing rushed release cycles and poor quality control. Another MySQL cofounder, David Axmark, left out of frustration with the bureaucracy and tedium of Sun’s buttoned-down corporate culture.

Funny: I was just thinking a few days ago on how dependent my work has become on other’s software: I use Adobe products exclusively for graphic design (InDesign and Illustrator and Photoshop), Apple products for film and video (Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro), Digidesign’s ProTools for audio, and now WordPress/MySQL for websites. What happens when one of these major tools stumbles? Let’s look at a case study: Quark XPress.

From 1990 until 2004, I was producing all of my print design using a wonderfully powerful program called Quark XPress. The toll was lean, fast, and tool advantage of Apple and Adobe’s strong support of PostScript — the language that ran every laser printer in the world. And then, the company got cocky. Knowing that they had no competition, Quark took five years to release an update to the program. Their technical support was horrible. It got to the point where I would rather have left graphic design than continue working with their software. So, with a bit of research and some soul-searching, I dropped Quark XPress for Adobe’s InDesign. Within a few months, I was producing all print projects on InDesign, and loving it. The migration costs were mostly calculated in time spent learning new software, and my clients saw a seamless workflow transition from my office.

All that to say: technology moves quickly. If MySQL transforms into something else, or morphs into something that needs more support, we will be ready. It’s easy to forget some software program that’s in the background, but all of these programs are the lifeblood of what we do at Hearken Creative. So we will keep on top of all developments, and make the necessary transitions to whatever is the most recent, workable software solution.