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Stop Looking and Listen: The Importance of Sound Design to Video

A good eye can only get you so far in video making — you also need a good ear. Next time you’re on location, put the camera down for a few minutes and listen.

There are birds outside, and traffic and wind. In the office, the air conditioner hums and there is a low murmur of workers at their keyboards and telephones. The factory comes on like a cacophony, but if you listen to the individual workers and machines you notice they’re each playing their own individual parts. It’s still no symphony, but there is a rhythm to the place. Try finding it.

You’ve come with your camera to capture a story. If you’re not getting the sound, then you’re only getting half of it. Here’s some sound design suggestions and techniques that can help make your video stand out.

Not So Quiet on the Set

Interviews or dialogue between characters should have clean and clear audio free of distractions when possible. But that doesn’t mean they should sound airless. When the interview is over, record 30 seconds or more of the natural sound at the location, indoors or outdoors. Then lay it low in your mix beneath the scene. It will help to cover the sound of any cuts and will subtly bring the room or location to life.

Here are a few other suggestions:

  • While you’re gathering B-roll, look for shots that are more than just eye candy. Gather shots with good opportunities for sound. A drill in a worker’s hand, for example, water from a faucet, fingers on a keyboard. These little bits make great transitions.

  • Speaking of audio transitions, try working them into your piece with a J-cut or L-cut. A J-cut is when you hear the audio before you see the video. It’s an effective way to get from one scene to another. We’re on a shot of an executive at a bank finalizing a loan, for example, and while he’s signing the papers we hear the roar of a jet engine. Then we see him working onboard the aircraft in flight.
  • An L-cut is the opposite. The audio from the previous scene continues as we see the video from the next. The guy is being denied a bank loan, for example, and we continue to hear that conversation while we watch the beginning of the next scene: sad guy driving down the road.
  • No mic, or forgot to record natural sound? You can easily find a replacement sound online. Search for sound effects and marvel at how many sites offer varieties of sounds, from office spaces, to sea shores, to specific types of aircraft engines. You’ll find what you’re looking for, or something close enough.

Cue the Band

Music won’t make your video, but it might break it. You should put as much thought into it as you have every other element of the video. Here some things to keep in mind when selecting a track.

Taste is subjective, so be objective. You are looking for music that best works for the story on screen. Forget what you like or what makes you want to dance at your desk. Focus on how it works in your piece. Does it set the right tone and serve the scene, the story, the brand?

Regardless of style or tempo, you should look for music that goes places, does different things and has dynamic range – maybe a couple of rests or hits here and there where you can match your cuts to the cues. You’re looking for variety, and so is the easily bored viewer. This is especially true if you plan to use only one song that will play for the duration, as many videos do.

Speaking of, maybe don’t do that. Try using 15-second stings (short cuts of music) throughout the video. They can serve as an opener and then scene transitions. In between, you’ll have room for all that natural sound you’ve recorded.

Don’t fall in love. And especially don’t fall in love with a track that is out of your league. Never use a song by a popular artist, for example, even as a placeholder, if you can’t afford to use it in the finished piece. You will fall in love with it during editing only to have to settle for something else in the end. It will never feel the same.

Speaking of love, don’t marry too early. Play the field. Listen to several different tracks beneath the footage and don’t be afraid to experiment. Try different styles and tempos. You might have thought you liked the rocker, but then you tried flute beneath the scene, and it’s hard to explain, but the angels sang.

The key to incorporating any of these suggestions in your work is to try them and fail then try them again until they work. It’s an art, not a science. But you will know good sound design when you hear it.

This column ran in the February 23rd issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

Wichita Eagle: You Don’t Say

Wichita Eagle

Wichita Eagle 2.23.17

Because Content Rules, CMS Rocks

People come to your website to learn something. About your services. Your pricing. Your people. You name it. That’s why it’s such a good idea to have a website based on a content management system. A CMS puts content under your control. That is a very good thing.

Before we talk more about why you want to wrangle updates yourself, let’s talk a bit more about what a CMS is. What does CMS even mean? It’s jargon to most people. When talking to friends about the website I just developed and how excited I was because I coded the CMS “so easy to use, even an admin can make content changes” – I get blank stares.

In my attempt to explain CMS, I will say something like, “You know… it’s when I do all the coding and hide it to make it super easy for non-tech types to make updates to their website without knowing or having to see any of the difficult coding and backend stuff.” The response is usually, “Oh, okay…” But they still have no idea what I’m talking about and the topic shifts to a newly released movie or an upcoming game.

I like to compare creating a website to a movie production. It takes a team of people working together. There are stages of production from planning, writing the story, gathering assets, determining visuals, adding audio, editing, and making it all come together for viewers/users. As a developer, my role is backstage, helping the production run smoothly. The CMS is just one of my tools.

WordPress is one of the most widely known and used CMSs. I interact with it every day. Of course, there are many other systems in the marketplace that are open-source and free to use. These include Joomla and Drupal. Each one has its pros and cons. It ultimately comes down to which best suits you.

Visualize with Me

I would like you to visualize something with me. Think about visiting a webpage in your browser. There are form fields to input a title, a subtitle, upload an image, and text – like those contact fields you’ve no doubt seen (and probably used) in just about every website you’ve visited. Enter the content in those boxes and click save. Simple, right? A link then shows up that says, “View Page.” You click that, the browser refreshes and you see the title, subtitle, image, and text right there as a webpage. Add a few more pages. The next step is to create a navigation. Are you with me? Click on a button that says “Menu.” A list of the pages you just created shows up and you can select the pages and add them to the menu. Save. View page. You then have links that show the pages you created. You can move back and forth between the pages. This is the simplest form of the CMS in action. You do not need to code or learn a new language. It’s already been done for you by a developer, like me. You’re welcome.

When to Bring in the Professionals

Now wait, if it’s that easy, why do you need a professional digital team behind you? I’m going to guess that you are going to want something more impressive than a title, subtitle, image and text on a webpage. You need a professional website that builds your brand, achieves key performance goals, and doesn’t break when traffic gets heavy or the latest CMS update goes live.

That’s where you may need help. Look for a proven agency that can manage all stages of production from initial strategy to final execution. Partner with someone with marketing expertise and creative skills as well as digital acumen to lift your website to another level of excellence. Someone who will deploy search-engine optimization (SEO) tactics and help you monitor and adjust over time. Your website should not be one and done, but rather in a constant state of evolution and refinement.

And content? Why does it rule so mightily? Because today people use the web as their go-to research tool. They comparatively shop and do their homework before they pick up the phone or shoot you an email. They want to gain a better understanding of you and your offerings. Sources such as DemandMetric say content marketing generates as much as three times as many leads while costing 62% less than traditional marketing. So, you don’t just want your content to be as good and as fresh as possible. It simply must be.

This column ran in the February 16th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

A Breath of Fresh AIR

A pop of pink. The promise of spring. Cherry blossoms in full bloom. The latest issue of Eisenhower AIR plants bright ideas for a spring break getaway to DC. Fun ideas for Valentine’s Day and tips for summer vacations chase away the stale grays of winter and remind readers it’s never too early to think about warmer days – and the next adventure.

This is the fourth issue of AIR our team produced for Wichita Eisenhower Airport. A year ago, we were challenged to re-imagine the airport’s traditional enews. The new airport had a modern brand and warranted an interactive publication that kept pace.

Challenge accepted. We leveraged strategic content marketing to make this emagazine fly. This effective, workhorse marketing tool delivers immediate and long-term benefits. Content gets archived on the website, so it’s always searchable. Our optimization of search engines through key words and photo indexing continues to garner coveted online visitors. The content never stops working. It is available 24/7, heralding AIR’s message.

And the content itself? Well, it’s good. Real stories about real people from our community. Past features have ranged from the heart-tugging – a surprise reunion for a soldier and his mom; to the practical – packing tips from a globe-trotting business executive who always has a “go bag” ready.

Of course, what good is content unless it’s shared? We created an agile design to ensure AIR is simple to share on social channels. Our features frequently highlight well-known travelers with a wide social network. It makes sense to capitalize on that engagement without having to invest in a big media buy.

Keeping up with our audience continues to be a priority. More than 88 percent of our readers enjoy AIR on their mobile devices, easily navigating through the vibrant photos and eye-catching masthead that keep it fresh and teases season-appropriate content.

To date, visitors from 37 of our 50 states have enjoyed AIR. Since the first issue, it’s claimed 26,000 views and 19,000 new users.

Click on over to AIR and immerse yourself in the latest issue. Enjoy a virtual vacation as you plan your next memory-making, or business-building getaway. And, even though there’s a chill in the air, don’t be surprised if you catch the scent of spring.

Super Bowl Ads: The Funny and the Flops

Everything about Super Bowl advertising continues to get bigger and bolder. Thankfully for us in marketing, that means a larger window of exposure for the ads, as well.

When the ads are this big, this expensive and this inventive, why should companies only save them for the game on Sunday? With a full queue of the best ads available online, we took advantage of their digital generosity last Friday to kick off Greteman Group’s unofficial three-day Super Bowl weekend.

Our group came together to share snacks and laughs as we watched this year’s crop of ads. After watching spots that tried to leave a mark with humor or social messaging, one question stood out for us:

Is an animated dancing, washing Mr. Clean hot or creepy?

Whether the venerable brand icon scrubbed, scoured and slid into our hearts was in the eye of the beholder. “Those pants! Gross!” one person said.

Where we all agreed – it was funny.

Landing the Jokes

Also getting high marks from our group in the jokes department was the robe-clad, guacamole-loving secret society selling Avocados from Mexico.

“Kyle, are you streaming this?” and “Is that not cool?” delivered the funny for us, as well as the appearance of Jon Lovitz subliminally hawking the tasty green party favorites.

We also liked Pepsi and Tostitos’ “Party Pooper/Party Planner” campaigns, and Ford’s “Stuck” ad, although all of them could’ve been shorter.

And Melissa McCarthy’s Kia spots cement her status as one of the funniest comedians working today.

Greteman Group Watching Superbowl ads
What We’ll Talk About

What about the brands that took a chance with the messaging of the moment? We thought the twin ads featuring immigrants certainly left a mark – with the visuals of 84 Lumber’s to-be-continued spot painting a more powerful message than Budweiser’s story of German founder Adolphus Busch. Whether the messages were well-received by the whole country, both brands succeeded in generating a conversation that keeps them in the front of peoples’ minds.

A “message” ad that resonated for us was Audi’s “Daughter” spot, highlighting gender pay inequality. The girl racing her cart downhill against the boys spoke to the moms, dads and young people of our proudly woman-owned business.

Visually, we loved the elegance and modernity of Lexus’ “Man and Machine” ad, which combined amazing dance moves with the luxury car.

The Coen brothers’ much-hyped Mercedes ad played well with fans of their work and some of our seasoned colleagues. But how well would Peter Fonda or “Easy Rider” resonate with young people? Who knows. “Who cares? They’re not the ones buying the cars,” one of our team said. Always know your audience.

The actual gameday ads on Sunday from Tide and Snickers worked much better than the teaser spots they produced beforehand.

Super Bowl Ad Discussion
$5 Million Dud

The biggest miss? That was easy for us. The drawn-out, overly action-centric Jason Statham-starring ad for drew raspberries. It wasn’t clear how any of the punching, kicking or exploding had anything to do with website creation. Maybe this was another installment in the Transporter or the Fast and the Furious franchises and we just didn’t get the message.

“I think I just watched a terrible action film – and two crummy sequels – in the span of two minutes,” our developer said.

Maybe save the millions of dollars next time, Wix.

Picture Perfect: A Career in the Clouds

People in business aviation are so lucky. Not only do they get to manufacture, market, sell and fly amazing aircraft; they get to work with some of the best people on the planet.

The Wichita Aero Club gala is always a special evening for the Air Capital of the World. We come together to celebrate a member of our community who’s truly left a mark on the aviation industry. I was beaming with pride last Saturday evening as my dad, world-renowned aviation photographer Paul Bowen, received the honor. Since 1972, he has been producing the world’s most creative, memorable and enduring air-to-air images. His long list of accolades includes the San Diego Air & Space Museum International Hall of Fame, Flying magazine’s 51 Heroes of Aviation, Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, and Canon’s Explorers of Light. He has been part of more than 1,000 magazine covers and ad campaigns.

Naturally, it’s wonderful to see your dad singled out for recognition. As he gave the narrative of his career using his images, he started off by saying, “When I go to a concert, my favorite part is when the artist tells stories so you leave knowing them and their music better. So that’s what I’m going to do tonight.”

The Wichita Aero Club presents its trophy annually to an individual, group or organization with ties to the local aviation community whose exemplary achievements and contributions in the field of aviation or aerospace deserve special recognition. Aviation photographer Paul Bowen accepted this year’s award. Past honorees include the late Velma Wallace, Jeff Turner and Spirit AeroSystems, John O’Leary and Airbus Americas Engineering, Russ Meyer, Al Higdon and Doc’s Friends Restoration Team. Photo credit: Visual Media Group
Each image that came up on the screen was a reminder of the amazing people Dad has worked with over the years. And specifically, how filled with heroes and mentors this industry is. Perhaps this comes from aviation’s unique 40,000-foot view. Or the element of risk and responsibility assumed from those pushing new boundaries. Or the deals made on a handshake and a person’s word.

Whatever the reason, I can’t imagine an industry more defined by its close, trusted relationships. And Dad’s friendships are a testament to that. One of the many stories he told was about a photo he took of Gene Cernan, last man on the moon; Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon; and Bob Hoover, one of the most accomplished pilots who ever lived. Several years ago, Dad found them all chatting in a bar after an intimate gathering they had attended celebrating Hoover’s 90th birthday. While the sight of these three American heroes gathered together is awe-inspiring, the truth behind the photo is that Armstrong and Cernan were standing on either side of their hero, Hoover. Dad was fortunate enough to capture that shot and to consider these men his friends.

Dad reminded us that heroes aren’t only those who’ve been to the moon and back. It’s the pilots who enable him to do his job. The men and women who power this industry from the factory floor to the boardroom. Dad gave a nod to Russ Meyer, Cessna Aircraft Company chairman emeritus and aviation crusader, as his “ultimate hero.” From the comments I heard throughout the night, I know many look up to Dad. I also know what Dad would say about that. Because he said it to the full ballroom at the gala.

“I’m just a kid with a camera pursuing his passion and taking photographs of other people pursuing their passions,” he said. “I have the best job in aviation.”

This column ran in the February 2nd issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

Gene Cernan Neil Armstrong Bob Hoover
Gene Cernan, last man on the moon;, Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon and Bob Hoover, one of the most accomplished pilots who ever lived. Photo credit: Paul Bowen

Gail Bowen
Throughout the evening Paul Bowen credited his wife, Gail Bowen, for his long, successful, still-going-strong career. Photo credit: Visual Media Group
Wichita Aero Clib gala
The eighth annual Wichita Aero Club gala was held on January 28. Pictured here, left to right: Phil Michel, former Cessna Aircraft vice president of marketing; Al Higdon, former Learjet PR executive, agency principal and 2014 Wichita Aero Club trophy winner; Paul Bowen, aviation photographer and this year’s Wichita Aero Club trophy winner; Jeff Pier, attorney and Wichita Aero Club chairman; Ashley Bowen Cook, Greteman Group vice president and Wichita Aero Club board of directors; and Dave Franson, Wichita Aero Club president. Photo credit: Visual Media Group


Piedmont Airlines Launches Rebrand with Pilot Recruitment Campaign

Wichita, Kan. – The aviation industry’s been talking about the looming pilot shortage for years. Retiring Baby Boomers combined with increased requirements for commercial flying have depleted the pool of available pilots entering the pipeline. Piedmont Airlines, with support from Wichita-based marketing agency Greteman Group, is launching a campaign targeted to this finite pool.

“We asked Greteman Group to communicate our key competitive advantages and give pilots a reason to join a company that’s going places,” says Jackie Jennings, Piedmont Airlines director of corporate communications.

A key challenge is that regional carriers, such as Piedmont, seek the same group of talent to serve an increasingly competitive marketplace. But Piedmont has some unique recruitment advantages. Being a captain at a major airline such as American – Piedmont’s parent – evokes an image of glamour and respect. Also, the landscape has improved. After years of industry consolidation and uncertainty, the industry has stabilized. Piedmont has resiliently stood the test of time. Passenger demand’s growing and Piedmont’s ramping up to meet it. The company needs an identity and message to represent that change in an environment of status quo.

“To create a distinctive visual identity, we took inspiration from both Piedmont’s rich history and its modern connection,” says Sonia Greteman, agency president and creative director. “The revamped Piedmont brand doesn’t just stand out, it jumps off the screen and grabs pilots, enticing them to look closer and take action. Apply today. Learn more. Check out pilot events.”

Bold diagonal stripes mimic those of Piedmont’s Speedbird logo – a beloved icon of a get-it-done era of commercial travel. The dramatic color palette strikingly emphasizes American Airlines and the direct path Piedmont pilots have for future employment.

Bold messages communicate opportunities unmatched by other regional carriers. While some regionals offer a chance, Piedmont offers a career. Piedmont’s “guaranteed job” with American means much more than a “preferred interview” with another carrier. Digital ads, videos and print promote Piedmont’s advantageous east coast location and industry-leading pay scale. Bite-sized consumable nuggets of engaging content promote social sharing while paid digital tactics boost posts, geofence events and more.

“Our creative appeals to the target demographic of highly trained, super confident pilots,” says Greteman. “Think testosterone.”

Piedmont asks prospective candidates to do their homework in deciding which airline is right for their career. Robust website pages provide the tools and information for pilots to do just that. Powerful charts and infographics illustrate the differences. Pilots quickly see Piedmont’s strengths through salary, bonuses and upgrade time comparisons. Dramatic photography shows off Piedmont’s expanding fleet of Embraer jets.

“Pilots see a Piedmont that’s on the move,” says Jennings. “An airline that’s the right fit for them.”


WAM Views: Leaving a Legacy

The minute Chris and I became more involved in supporting the arts, our lives became richer, fuller and more interesting.

Early in our careers we worked – just about all the time. We met as designers at the Design Centre. Chris was my boss after convincing them to hire me. Our life has always been about making art and cheering on our tight-knit, collaborative band of artist friends. We started collecting before we could actually afford it. The thrill of buying a piece – falling in love, deliberating the purchase, staking our claim with a red dot – then hanging and enjoying it year after year has been such a gift. The pure joy collecting brings us (and everyone who visits our home) is immense. We get a kick out of discovering new artists and building deep collections of longtime friends as they evolve and grow.

Recently, in advance of a long trip to China, we updated our will. What we thought might be difficult actually proved to be affirming. It included discussions of what kind of legacy we could leave behind and where our beloved collection might end up, be appreciated, cared for, and displayed rather than stored in some closet. We decided to include both the Wichita Art Museum and WSU Ulrich Museum of Art in our trusts, gifting works to each in addition to monetary donations.

WAM, WSU, and the Ulrich have transformed our lives. Putting action behind our words of thanks feels right. It gives us peace to have this important decision taken care of and in writing. It is our hope that our small gesture will have a lasting effect. Inspiring the next generation of artists and collectors. Enriching our already special community. Keeping the art vibe pulsing strong.

Published in the February-April 2017 issue of WAM Views.