Browsing articles from "December, 2010"

A Stop Motion Christmas!

These days, there are plenty of sources to help you jump-start a creative undertaking. In the digital world, pre-made models and plug-ins abound, allowing you to cobble together something fresh using your own stamp of originality. However, sometimes, it’s fun to start with nothing. That was true with this year’s company Christmas card for our sister companies, Spectrum Productions and Mindclay Creative. Our hope was to tap into the spirit of Christmas-past by reviving the jerky, quirky and entirely magical look of those old network-TV animated stop-motion Christmas specials. We also wanted to update that look with a pace and feel true to the vibe of our company.

If you haven’t had a chance to see it, I hope you’ll check it out (click on ladder pic for link).  In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share some experiences from the process.

First, I can tell you that there’s a certain exhilaration that comes with having to create an entire scaled-down world from scratch. On one hand, we knew early on what we wanted our little one-minute story to be, so we did have some boundaries built in. On the other hand, none of the visuals or concepts were “off the shelf”, so there was still a very tall creative ledge to jump off from.

First came a few quick concept sketches, then the actual construction. Because we opted for inexpensive, lightweight foam as our building material, the actual shaping and building was relatively easy. The hard part was having to pre-calculate camera angles and depth ratios in a make-believe world that hadn’t been built yet. Once you’ve built, you’re kind of locked in. So you really have to get it right ahead of time! To further complicate matters, the concept called for a structure that was built to look solid, but rigged to fall apart on cue. Yikes!

The next big hurdle was creating the stop motion puppets themselves. Time and budget precluded fully articulated armatures. Crude wirefame structures would have to do. Also, we had one important departure from the traditional stop-motion look. Instead of claymation or interchangeable foam heads, we opted for something a little novel – actual photo cutouts! Thanks to the indulgence of all my colleagues, we were able to capture everyone in a series of photographs depicting certain head turns and expressions. From there, it was just a matter of replacing one head with another whenever it fit the shot! There’s something downright surreal about those 2-D cutout images brought to life in a 3-D model!

We did, however, go for pure claymation with one important starring role: The deer at the beginning of the piece serves as something of a visual and emotional anchor for everything that follows. Honestly, it would have been far easier to eliminate this character and just work with the picture puppets. But, somehow, having this little clay deer at the beginning seemed to set an important tone, not just for the scene itself, but to claim an authentic nod to all those beloved stop-motion memories. This one’s for you Rudolph! Suffice to say, we took a crash course in deer movement and the limitations of manipulating a simple wireframe. This poor deer toppled over more often than (insert celebrity here ) after a night of hard drinking. We got around some of this with some inventive cheats. But I’m not telling!

Now comes my favorite part. After spending a lot of time with design, set creation and stop-motion shooting (using the 7D), I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to come back to the team as they brought some magic of their own. Without the wonderful post-production help from Johnathan Safford, Eric “Horse” Hardesty and Sarah Wissenback, the finished piece just wouldn’t have had half the spirit or sense of fun. Also, I’m afraid I’d have to take up far too much of your time listing all the ways in which the rest of the team helped with contributions large and small to make this little video come to life. Suffice to say that, on reflection, I was struck by a funny thought. The whole point of this Christmas card was to convey that sense of crazy energy and teamwork that makes our company such a special place to be. How great that we experienced a lot of that in that actual making of the video!!

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How Do I Make My Video Go Viral?

The inmates dancing to "Thriller" in...
Image via Wikipedia

Do you want to produce a viral video? In other words, do you want to produce and release a video for your brand that absolutely goes viral?

You of course wish your video goes viral because of the tons of views that would generate. So you want to know?

Easy! All you need is:

1) A groundbreaking, original, unexpected idea. Something that truly stands out.

2) A production budget in line with the polish you expect the video to require.

3) A flawless distribution method.

There’s only one problem with this formula… Many videos use quite the opposite of these three ingredients, and yet they still go viral.

In other words, whatever road you take to get to the holy grail, you’re competing against countless other videos that took a completely different road. In some instances, these different roads were the exact reason why these videos went viral. Sound unfair?

The truth is (and here is where I should probably apologize if the title seems misleading), trying to guess what makes something go viral is as difficult as guessing what will be on the front page of Digg tomorrow morning. Come to think of it, it’s exactly the same thing…

Predicting a general tendency with people is something anybody in marketing attains to do, but when it comes to a specific, pin-pointed action, this is nearly impossible.

We can only control certain aspects of our content: its quality (relative to its purpose and expected requirement), the time/money costs of production, its relevance to a certain audience, and its originality/uniqueness.

But I’ll tell you, those things matter a whole lot.

Will those aspects guarantee your video goes viral? Absolutely not. However, if you reach towards a level of excellence in all of those areas, you will at least ensure your piece will rise above the baseline of mediocrity.

Of course, a mediocre video may still go viral. But you probably don’t want your brand to be known because of a mediocre viral video, so why the envy?

So in the end, the question is not “how do I make my video go viral?” but rather, “what is the best way to communicate my message to the greatest number of people likely interested?”

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What App Are U?

Drum roll please…The latest results are in from our companies 1st nonscientific unofficial poll on the apps we use and the findings are incredible….ok maybe not incredible but it was a fun exercise that got me thinking about a few things. The actual specific apps themselves weren’t the interesting part but rather we all seemed to fall into the same categories of apps. Just about all of us had music apps as our top picks followed by social media apps and then rounding out the list was gaming and entertainment. So what does this tell me about our group, well we’re music savvy social gamers that enjoy a good laugh. It was surprising with so many apps categories out there; the music category seemed to dominate our picks. I wonder if that’s a general normality or a reflection of how much music plays such a strong role within a creative group.

iPhone 4 Bumper + Universal Dock w/o Adapter
Image by Yutaka Tsutano via Flickr

Beyond the musical aspect, the biggest eye opener for me was the team also included their kid’s top picks as well. I’m personally not a parent so I was really surprised at how kids are already app savvy and smart phone capable at such a super young age. That really impressed me on many levels and was something I did not expect to get from the survey. In the end, the poll told more about how quickly the next set of fans, consumers and audiences are going to be engaging with us rather then shedding light on our own digital tastes. It reminded me that the digital audience coming right around the corner is going to stretch the realm of reality, capability and add rocket fuel to our imaginations!  I think the next staff poll I do on emerging technology will include all ages!

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Influencers: Mike Wargo

In our past interviews we focused on influencers in the entertainment realm such as Shane Carwin and Ami James. In this installment we looked an influencer within the business sector, Mike Wargo, the digital guru for Fox Sports Florida. If you’re a fan of any professional or collegiate sport in Florida, chances are you get your games and news from this source. Mike’s role is to dish up a never-ending stream of opinions, news and content to topic-hungry fans, while always seeking out new ways online audiences can engage in the age of social media.

Mike Wargo

Mindomondo (MM): So Mike, tell us a bit about what you do.

Mike Wargo (MW): As Digital Content Manager, I manage the day to day operation of  Overseeing a team of writers, graphic artists and editorial assistants, I manage content and implement strategies designed to reach sports fans throughout the state of Florida and across the country.

(MM): How have you personally seen the social media landscape change in sports over the last few years?

(MW): The emergence of Twitter has probably made the largest impact on the way that sports news is delivered. Websites are no longer the quickest way to break news. Fans follow their favorite news sources via Twitter and get instant updates on their phones. This forces media outlets like ours to use social media as their first response, and web sites as our home for exclusive analysis.

(MM): How long ago did the network launch it’s social media efforts and did you see an immediate growth in your online audience?

(MW): About two years ago, FOX Sports put forth a national initiative designed to launch and grow our social media platforms across the regional networks.  The response was impressive. We now have approximately 225,000 followers across all of FSN’s Facebook and Twitter platforms.

With our social media network already in place, we launched our new regional web sites with great success in November of 2009. We continue to see increased web traffic directly tied to the news alerts that we send through social media.

(MM): What are some of the positive and negative effects with social media usage in sports marketing?

(MW): There are several positives to having an active social media community. It gives us another outlet for fan interaction, and another avenue in which to promote our exclusive content.

It also comes with an additional workload, expectations and responsibilities. It can be a bit much to manage, but overall it has been a positive for our network.

(MM): In a way your role at FSN is “managing” what the user sees and hears on your digital channels, how often are your topics influenced by the audience feedback and can you really “manage” social media?

(MW): Social media helps us take the pulse of the community. If a topic generates a lot of interaction on social media, we know that it’s something that we should probably pursue further on our traditional platforms.

No, you can’t really “manage” social media.  You can control your messaging, but ultimately the fans’ voices speak the loudest.

(MM): Social Media is relatively still very new as a communications strategy, how do you see it growing in the coming years compared to other ways FSN connects with audiences?

(MW): It’s clear that social media isn’t going away any time soon, but predicting the future of the medium is nearly impossible.

Will Facebook and Twitter continue to lead the way or will something new emerge? What exciting features will new technology provide?

The only thing that I can accurately predict is that we will continue to pursue ways to reach our fans regardless of platform. Advances in technology will play a huge role in determining our strategy.

(MM): Social Media is very much about allowing the conversation to take place and connecting to fans on a much deeper level. Was it difficult in the beginning to adapt to this style of communication for such a large company?

(MW): It was definitely a challenge, but it was a welcome addition. We are always looking for ways to get our fans involved in our telecasts, and social media has allowed us to reach people on a whole new level. The biggest challenge was understanding the possibilities and then learning how to integrate this new technology into our daily workflow.

(MM): We all know how passionate fans can be when sharing their opinions, what’s your “line” that can’t be crossed during these conversations?

(MW): We don’t allow the bad language and the name calling. Other than that, fans are free to voice their opinions.

(MM): What insights have you or the network gained by becoming part of the conversation?

(MW): Where do I begin? For nearly two decades, our networks have worked tirelessly to try and give our fans what they want and expect. Now, with so many interactive platforms at our disposal, we know exactly what fans want to see.

It truly has been an enlightening process for our entire organization, and it has helped us target our audience more effectively.

(MM): How do you handle negative feedback? Do you usually ignore it, or do you think it’s better to openly respond to it?

(MW): If the negative feedback has merit, we do our best to address the issue. However, most of the negative comments we see are not network related.

Covering sports means interacting with a passionate group of fans, and they need a place to blow off some steam after games. In those instances, we are happy to provide a platform through the web site and social media for fans voices to be heard. But there is no need for us to interject.

(MM): How would you define the “tone” that FSN uses in social media conversations, does that tone differ on other platforms such as on-air?

(MW): We are definitely more casual on social media. In order to provide a world class product in our game telecasts, there’s a formality with our coverage that is essential.  The web and social media provide us an outlet for some of our strong content that may not be as heavily produced.

(MM): How deep do you see the future integration of social media into live games or programming?

(MW): If the loudest voices in our production trucks belong to our directors and producers, the next loudest voice belongs to the fans interacting with the telecast.  We will continue to look for ways to integrate the web and social media with our game telecasts, and our fans will have an increased role in deciding what they get to see in our games.

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Using Social Media To Do Social Good

So, I’m admittedly a little behind on the times with this one, but I was browsing Facebook the other day, and saw a link on my friend’s page. It talked about a great new idea he and some friends had to create a creative and cultural center in their town, and that I if voted, it could win $50k.

Intrigued, I followed the link to the main site, The Pepsi Refresh Project.

I know what you’re thinking. “Ugh, a Pepsi advertisement.” And that’s is the core of this initiative, sure. But even though they are certainly profiting from the popularity of the site, this seems like one of those incredibly cool things that I just had to share with you all at MindoMondo.

Here’s what it is:

In January of 2010, Pepsico sent out a call to action to the public, an ongoing contest giving $20 million in grant money to deserving ideas that will help “refresh the world”.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? That’s not all. These ideas can be submitted by, and voted on by anyone. You. Me. Anyone!

The site invites people of all interest and beliefs to be proactive and engage themselves to do something good, and to utilize social networking to gain exposure and strength for their cause.

Here’s how it plays out:

1- You come up with a really good idea that can make change for the better.

2- You submit it to

3- Then you Facebook the hell out of it! Twitter! Blogs. Gain as much support and votes for the cause as possible.

The site accepts up to 1,000 ideas a month, and winning grants are awarded in $5,000, $25,000, $50,000, and $250,000 categories.

Included in new proposals should be the goals of the project, the overview of what it is, and a breakdown of how the grant money will be used. From there, organizations can choose to post engaging and informative videos, calls to action, eye-grabbing logos, photos that support the cause, you name it!

If you don’t have an idea of your own, but are just interested in what’s going on around you, and want to browse the site for initiatives you’re into, you can search by name, category, current leaders, or nearby initiatives. Votes can be made for up to 10 ideas a day.

And there are some awesome ideas that only the public could come up with!

Here are some of the Current Leaders:

$250k category – Help youth who suffer from Depression or Bipolar Disorder

$50k category – Build a no-kill sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals

$25k category – Pay for food, shelter and care for sick, injured and orphaned animals

$5k category – Provide homes for retired racing greyhounds

And the ideas vary, from environmental issues to community issues, from the arts to agriculture!

The real beauty I see in this program is its availability to the public for creating and voting for what we think are good ideas!

Some other cool ones I saw are:

Empower youth to creatively cause positive change in the world” – Ohio

Install solar panels in Parkway School District” – Missouri

Fund an instrumental loaner program for area youth” – New York

Provide locally grown food to people in desperate need of healthy food” – California

So, be you a soda drinker or not, it can hardly be denied that this is a pretty cool initiative that truly lets the public get their hands on some truly good ideas!

Ideas created by the public, voted on by the public. Using social media to do some good.

Way to go, Pepsico.

(I’m still a Coke girl, though.)


Originality: An Endangered Species?

With the monotony of the mainstream, it’s easy to get sucked into the argument that nothing is original anymore. That everything’s been done. But I argue, not so!

Though there is the insurgency of those who tend to play it safe and follow the herd, there is an equal amount of people who refuse to do so. They’ve been around for years. And their numbers are growing.

John Lennon. Pablo Picasso. Nikola Tesla. Charles Darwin.  All visionaries. None of which followed the “rules” but instead created their own. Groundbreakers that shaped the pathways of all who followed.

…There’s the Old School, and there’s the New School:

Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite New School-originals, but it seems like new ones are emerging daily!

Art: Banksy (super awesome and politicaly-charged graffiti), Miguel Calderon (abstract and haunting paintings),

Music: Animal Collective (unique and manic musicians), Joanna Newsom (polyrhythmic avant-garde harpist)

Literature: Kurt Vonnegut (satire with a very dark bite), Noam Chomsky (linguist and political dissident who doesn’t follow the rules, even in his 80s!), Hunter S. Thompson (you all know the name!)

Film: Charlie Kaufman (director of mind-altering character stories), Joon-ho Bong (check out “Tokyo!” and see what I mean), Michel Gondry (king of abstractidy in films and music videos)

And these just scratch the surface! So for those of you who hold firm to your claim that everything has been done, I say look around! Look at that crazy guy down the street with tin can cutouts as windchimes, at the musicians who create microphones out of old payphones (Japanther), at the writer who refuses to follow conventional grammar, the artist who sculpts faces out of phone books!

Keep a keen eye on the crazies, the chance-takers, because those are the ones on the front lines of change and discovery.