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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sometimes, the Best Things In Life Are Free

Dan Bailes: Technology can be a great tool or your worse nightmare. And unless you’re a techie, when you’re ready to buy a new piece of personal tech gear you’ve got to wade through the river of hype and hope that’s out there to find something that works for you. Or you can do what I and lots of other Wall Street Journal readers do, which is turn to Walter Mossberg and see what he has to say about it.

I’ve been reading and enjoying his columns for years. He writes clearly and effectively as he tackles complex tech and tech gear in language that anyone can understand. He also tells it like it is, unlike a lot of the blue sky type reviews that seem to populate so many trade magazines. He’s a strong consumer advocate and cares as much about ease of use as he does about what the gear actually does.

The only downside is that up until now, you pretty much had to subscribe to the WSJ or it’s website to have access to his wit and wisdom. But now you can just go to a new free website and not just read him, but some of his WSJ colleagues as well. The website’s called All Things Digital and there you’ll find “news, analysis and opinion about the digital revolution”.

It’s fun, informative and just the thing to check out before you plunk down your hard earned cash on the latest greatest tech wonder. Or you can just go to the site to get a heads up on what’s coming down the pike.

What You See Isn't Always What You Get

Dan Bailes: Someone once said “your view of the world is shaped by what you see when you wake up in the morning.”

Those words came back to me after yesterday’s screening of a rough edit with a client. This was one of those situations where we were working on a video project that had two mandates—1) introduce people to the organization’s programs and services 2) use the video as a fund raiser.

The client wanted both mandates to focus on the value the organization brings to patients and their families.

So… here’s the topic I’m really getting at: how do you go about making a video that has two different goals? What do you show and what do you see? In preliminary discussions with the client we decided to focus more on the first goal –introduction of services– with the assumption that if you do something that works well for patients and their families it will also work for fundraising. So I began creating a warm and welcoming piece for patients and their families about how to use the organization’s services for the first time. Our hope was the video would put people at ease and assist them to learn about how the organization had helped other patients (like themselves) in need.

As I worked with the editing, I tried to put myself in the place of someone in the audience. One thing I’ve learned from working on hundreds of political campaign and issue ads is to first understand the mindset of your audience and then hone your message to fall within that point of view.

I found we had a host of comments from people who had been helped by the organization—so there were a lot of moments to choose from. There was so much worthy material our first edit draft was way too long – given the large amount of quality comments it felt like the perfect moment to ask our client to help us decide what should stay and what should go. After watching the edit draft they made a decision. We should change direction and orient the program more to potential funders—if it worked well for them, it will also work well for the patient/family members. With that simple change in perspective, we now saw everything in a new light—our lengthy first edit became much easier to tackle; the new direction in thinking made it obvious what should stay and what should go.

Of course we would need to re-edit the piece—but that’s okay—because we knew where we were going; the content now had clarity. Knowing where a piece is “going” brings new energy into the edit room.

And once you clearly understand who your target audience is and what you want to tell them, everything else falls into place.

Dancing About Architecture

Bob Burnett: I was once kiddingly called an “Urban Planning Geek” while serving as a Planning Commissioner in my community. And I proudly admit to being one. I take great interest in observing traffic patterns and parking. I also like to chat about “floor area ratio” and “building fenestration”.

Excellent building fenestration!

Part of the reason I’ve become so planningcentric is because GVI has created video projects about planning, architecture, affordable housing, school design, green buildings, new urbanism, etc. for the American Architectural Foundation, The US Conference of Mayors and the National Association of REALTORS among others. I’ve been able to talk to incredible people and see fascinating places. Imagine my surprise when on a recent visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City I came across a video monitor that was playing a multimedia presentation called “Picture a City”.

It was amazing. Here among some of my favorite artwork in the world I found myself smitten by a planning video.

To make “Picture a City”, Squint/Opera, a group of urban design savvy filmmakers/animators out of London, merged together urban planning ideas with graphic design, music, video and still photography to make a short video-styled communication tool that advocates a new approach to thinking how the city of Bradford, England should redevelop in the future. That’s right—a less than 5 minute music-driven presentation without a narration track that made perfect sense and inspired action. And in addition to being used as an effective communication tool for Bradford I had to pinch myself because I was watching it in the Museum of Modern Art! I know the late Frank Zappa once snidely said, ”talking about music is like dancing about architecture” but he never saw visual dancing about architecture that is possible the way it is now. In a production idea dancing happens when you allow the visual elements to lead the way. Your viewer is able to absorb and interpret the content – and come to their own understanding of the information in new and interesting ways they may never have considered. No white paper, cluttered 25 bullet-item powerpoint or panel discussion video will ever capture that sort of fresh thinking.

We recently produced a video called “Schools Designed for Learning: The Denver School of Science and Technology”. Like the
Bradford approach taken by Squint/Opera, the video lets the information unravel—driven by images of the school, music and the thoughts of the teachers, students and administrators of the school. I can proudly say the universal reaction has been “I wish I went to a school like that!” which is music to my architecturally dancing ears.

And best of all the video has been available not just as a DVD but as a streaming video on the American Architectural Foundation’s webpage and is on youtube where organizations and people around the world are linking their blogs and webpages to the video as an example of positive school design.