Like the shoeless cobbler’s kids or the dentist’s kids with their neglected teeth, our old demo reel languished for four long years without an update. But here it’s only February and we’ve already got our new 2017 showreel together. We’ll try not to wait that long before updating this one again.

We thank all of the faculty, students and partners across campus for helping us capture these amazing images and find such great stories. We’re looking forward to the upcoming year.

Here’s what’s new in 2017:

  • We’ve added more robust sound production and design skills to our team
  • We have two 107/FAA licensed drone pilots on staff
  • We are now able to accept payment from and work for external clients and production companies, supporting on- and off-campus shoots with standard video gear, plus aerial and underwater cinematography (contact Larry Pribyl for details)
  • We’ll be launching the new brand video platform beginning in April; more details to come
  • We’ve finished production and are now editing Saving Atlantis, our long-term feature film project
  • In collaboration with the Scientific Diving Program, we’ll be introducing an underwater photo and video workshop scheduled to start this spring
  • We’ve launched a host of new videos on the OSU YouTube and Vimeo channels in recent months
  • Our video series on the Global Coral Microbiome Project is nearing completion, featuring our first video fully transcribed and subtitled in Spanish

As always, just let us know if you need any assistance with video production, or if you just want to chat or share ideas.

The team at URM that created the latest broadcast commercial is thrilled by the recognition from our professional organization, CASE, for the top commercial spot of 2016. With nine different locations and dozens of willing subjects in addition to our already substantial production team, it was a massive project to wrangle. So to have our peers select it for an award is especially rewarding.

While a lot of impressive technical and creative work went into the project, it’s really the amazing OSU people we had the pleasure of working with that brought it to life. Their commitment and work to address the issues facing our marine and natural systems is inspiring, and by allowing us to shine a spotlight on their efforts, they helped ensure the success of the project.

lab0

So you’ve got yourself a Drupal site, and it’s feeling a little neglected. Maybe it doesn’t have any friends and nobody plays with it anymore. Why not bring it to one the Drupal Open Labs? Or maybe you don’t have a website yet but you’ve always been thinking about getting one. Why not stop by and try one out? At the Open Labs, someone might let you play with theirs.

Think of the Open Labs as a sort of 4-H club for website owners. The free program has been around for a while as part of CWS’s suite of web training and support services, but this quarter we’re giving the sessions an adrenaline injection in the spirit of experimentation. We’re planning to hold extended sessions weekly through March, and we’ll not only have our Drupal trainer-in-residence, Sher Fenn, on hand, but we’ll also bring developers, site builders, graphic artists and writers.

We’re looking for web property owners who want to improve their sites. Bring your projects to the lab and we’ll assemble a team on the fly to either workshop solutions right on the spot or set you on a course to continue to work on your own with confidence. Are you lacking a robust web support team? Well now for two hours per week you’ve got one. Oh, and the program isn’t restricted to just Drupal. We welcome other web species as well, from WordPress to garden variety HTML.

So bring your neglected pet projects or even your major initiatives to the lab and let’s poke ’em with a stick and watch what happens.

Here are the dates for the upcoming labs. And you can sign up here. We hope to see you there this winter.

  • January 22, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • January 29, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • February 5 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 12 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 19 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 26 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 4 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 11 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 25 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Photo: Oregon Digital Collections)

walkers

“I think there should be a real war against commercials,” said Werner Herzog, the great German director famous for his cerebral documentaries and his dark narrative voice. Charlie Brown warned us of the perils of commercialism as he stood next to his sad little tree. Edward Abbey famously called the television, “the Great American Lobotomy Machine.” For much of my life I largely agreed with this trinity of wise souls, swearing off the tee vee, opting instead to spend my time with trout streams and Russian novels, pretending to be both a Luddite and somewhat clever.

Suddenly too many years have slipped by and here I am now working on commercials. Am I a hypocrite, a pragmatist, or was the younger, more idealistic me just plain wrong? Maybe all three or none of the above.

After dabbling in film, I’ve come to appreciate the artistry, creativity and craft that goes into commercials. The good ones, not the local pitches for your town chiropractor…though even some of those have their moments. Everything from the writing, visual style, editing, narration, composition can be quite sublime in a well-made television pitch. Certainly, nothing on screen garners more attention per frame than the classic 30-second broadcast spot, with many TV spots sporting budgets that rival feature films.

Which brings me to our latest broadcast commercial at Oregon State. Our budget was nominal. Microscopic by industry standards. What’s more, it was it was put together by a band of in-house state employees, not some fancy agency where creative types get to wear retro tee shirts and cool glasses. But still, our commercial will be seen by millions thanks to an agreement between our school, the NCAA and the networks that broadcast our sporting events. It’s a great deal, really…we get to show our commercial, basically for free, during the only type of programming left on television where people actually watch the commercials: live sports. Corporations would pay millions for that kind of exposure. But our little homemade commercial gets shown instead. Take that AT&T, Nike and Cialis!

So we made a commercial at OSU. In house. Take a look, and then I’ll tell you how it was put together:

So after watching the commercial, you might be wondering a few things: What’s with the ocean stuff? Well, OSU has a historic legacy of strength in marine and ocean research, plus there’s a brand new Marine Studies Initiative (so big it even has its own website!) that is bringing an expanded ocean focus to all of our colleges and programs. Why didn’t you show the campus? I really wish you would have. We usually do, but we had a different point to make this year. Oh, and we thank alumni like you for your ongoing support. Did you use a drone? No, we actually strapped and intern to a weather balloon.

We started the process with some internal conversation. We had some agreement that this would be a rare opportunity to have a focused commercial. Most university television spots say the same thing: we do a lot of stuff, and we’re good at all of it. Cue the students tossing a frisbee on the quad. Cue the one handed catch in the end zone. Cue the lab assistant in a white coat and safety glasses holding a beaker colored with food dye. You get the picture. The root word of university is ‘universe.’ It’s tempting to try to be ecumenical when it comes to your lone television spot, especially when there’s a room full of people to please. But vague, broad claims filled with cliche images and fancy boardroom words are deadly boring in the world of marketing and basically try to say so much that they wind up saying nothing.

But we figured we could be bold this year and actually say something concrete, and thankfully our leaders agreed. Our university launched a Marine Studies Initiative this year, which connected all of our eleven colleges. The groundwork had already been established, and that helped greatly to sell the concept.

We wanted to say something simple. Our basic message was, “The ocean needs our help, so we’re helping the oceans.” Bam, get ‘r done, OSU.

The next step was to brainstorm ideas. We had several versions and concepts for how we could bring the marine environment to life. One concept included a woman surfing. But the pitch that actually stuck was an idea to illustrate the path that water takes to the sea from glaciers in the Cascades to the open ocean. That had a nice downhill visual metaphor that’s easy to grasp.

This pitch had a number of things going for it right off the bat. First, the concept that the ocean environment extends to the mountains is a core concept of our Marine Studies Initiative. Next, if you follow water from the glaciers to the ocean in Oregon, you encounter some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. We knew the scenery would be a character in the piece. Probably the main character.

I wrote a rough script and made some image notes. The original idea followed a single drop of water from glacier melt all the way to the sea, and along the way you’d encounter OSU people in the real places where they conduct research or connect to the landscape. I took that script to a talented illustrator on our team, Oliver Day, and he created illustrations to match the script, giving us our storyboards.

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We asked a student worker to read the script. It wasn’t just some random intern, though, it was Claire McMorris, who had a wealth of theater experience and happens to be the very sort of exceptional, involved student who we like to show off. We set it to music and showed the concept to our leadership team next to some other options that approached the idea of marine studies from other angles, and they made their choice and green-lit it on the spot.

That posed something of a problem. We now had to execute what we had designed. And in a hurry. Our concept called for nine different locations and dozens of people across a range of environments. What’s more, we were running out of dry weather (a precious commodity in our corner of Oregon). Our team wanted to also be sure that our commercial featured people represented a number of different programs across the university and ensure that the research was accurately portrayed and was as ecumenical as possible, even if most images were on screen for less than a second.

Enter the scheduling fiasco.

But we soldiered on and started shooting, assembling different teams and sending them to the far corners of the state with some packs full of camera gear, some emergency OSU sweatshirts and a granola bar or two.

The locations we filmed included a receding glacier on Mt. Hood, mountain streams, a rocky seaside cliff and a collection of boats on the open ocean and even a dive shot in one of the tanks in the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The concept shifted away from following a single drop of water as the script was workshopped through the usual channels, but the fluid downhill motion remained a metaphor throughout the project. The script was more like the connecting tissue. The basic function of the words was to deliver this concept at the culminating point: the ocean is facing the greatest challenge in human history, and OSU is rising to meet that challenge.

The downhill motion was a vital visual metaphor…the bones of the piece. The script served as the tendons. But there is one more component that is equally as vital, and that is the transition style. Justin Smith and Darryl Lai on our team helped create this concept of a circular movement from a wide, aerial landscape shot transitioning to a handheld shot. That transition helped to emphasize two important points about OSU: our community is made up of real people, and Oregon’s landscapes are our spectacular natural laboratories. This concept of place and people was technically executed through a mechanical camera technique. I’m reminded that Tolstoy, when asked what was most vital in storytelling, plot or character, the age old dichotomy, he answered to everyone’s surprise: transition. Storytelling is all about transitions, or so says old Lev Nikolayevich.

And who said 30-second commercials couldn’t be literary?

So to get a sense of how we executed those transitions, check out our behind-the-scenes footage:

Because every detail and every person featured in the commercial was the result of a lot of thought and attention to authentic nuance, we didn’t want all of that detail to exist solely in the heads of the people who made the commercial. We developed a companion website to help tell the deeper story behind the images, and we plan to make it part of a larger campaign celebrating Oregon State’s commitment to protecting and understanding our natural resources at a critical point in history. In past years we’ve been equally faithful to authenticity with our commercials, with every person featured, even narrators, being a real member of the OSU community with a real story. But often, the only people who knew this fact were on our communications team. It would get mentioned at conferences and in meetings and the like, but through this website we hope to extend that concept and showcase the people who made this all possible.

The great thing about a project like this, where you work on location with people from different backgrounds, colleges and disciplines, is that you really become invested in their personal stories and their work. Some of the people I met on this project have already become new friends. All of them and their work will become parts of our future storytelling efforts.

Finally, here’s our extended version of the commercial. You can get a sense of the range and volume of material you need to shoot to get a 30-second spot like this:

 

Stats & Credits:
– DJI Inspire 1
– Panasonic GH4
– Audio mix by Digital One, Portland, Oregon
– Music: In Anticipation of Flight, D. Holter/M. Smith, License Lab
– Director – David Baker
– Cinematography – Darryl Lai, Justin Smith
– Behind the scenes – Kegan Sims, Oliver Day
– Storyboards – Oliver Day
– Design – Santiago Uceda, Oliver Day, Kegan Sims
– Additional writers – Callie Newton, Gary Dulude
– Producers – Laura Shields, Melody Oldfield, Brittney Yeskie, Larry Pribyl
– Web development – Kegan Sims

Since this past winter, I’ve been working with colleagues from Information Systems and college web and communications teams on mapping a digital platform strategy, a plan that will help to guide the overall direction for web and mobile for the university. It’s an exciting development: it is the first time in my seven years at Oregon State that our main IT and communications units are collaborating with campus at this level. We’re happy to be able to share this initial draft. It should be a great foundation for things to come.

Take a look and let us know what you think.

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Our latest digital campaign is underway. It’s our Beaver Nation interactive documentary, and it’s following the themes of the ongoing Beaver Nation efforts led by our sister unit, University Marketing. The whole campaign launched last year with our new commercial (also produced by our team in partnership with University Marketing).

What the interactive documentary does is establish a sense of place. Oregon State University has the great benefit of being located in a natural resource wonderland. Old growth forests, dramatic volcanoes, glaciers, gorgeous coastlines and waters rich with sea life, an array of agricultural products, vineyards, hop farms, pastures, painted hills, mysterious canyons: all of these wonders orbit our main campus like a constellation of glossy tourist brochures. You sometimes have to pinch yourself as a reminder that it’s all real.

We’re lucky to live in Oregon. And that our campus has such deep connections to every corner of the state.

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The Beaver Nation documentary and site is intended to show our reach within the state and beyond, but it’s more than that. We also want to just step back and celebrate the places that we’re fortunate to be surrounded by.

Our crew traveled to all of these spectacular places to uncover the stories of the people who call them home and are connected to them. And we didn’t just focus on OSU students, alumni and faculty. Anyone who loves where they live and appreciates their local bounty–and works to protect it–is an honorary member of Beaver Nation. It’s not just about orange and black…it’s about making a difference in your community.

We’re releasing a new chapter every few weeks through early 2015, and we’ll be finishing with coverage of Beavers around the country and across the globe.

What I’m particularly proud of is that the entire project has been produced completely in house with our full-time staff and student workers. Our team can compete with the best agencies and show the potential of committed workers devoted to the institution. Beaver Nation isn’t just out there. It’s right here, inside our studio as well.

And our staff also produced the various chapters. Each region had a different producer who pulled together the team and invested a part of themselves into every story, word and pixel. And the results are amazing. It’s a great privilege to be part of this talented crew.

– David

If you check the OSU home page after Friday, April 25, you might sense there’s something different. It’s not your mind playing tricks on you. We’ve made a complete overhaul of the design and structure.

While it looks much like the previous version of our site, there are quite a few changes. A host of accessibility upgrades have been made. The site is now responsive, meaning it adapts to the desktop and various mobile devices more readily. The top menu links are now in individual drop downs instead of one large expandable menu.

We’re planning a new design for the home page for the fall, but we wanted to make sure our interim home page performs as well as possible while that new design is in the works.

If you have any questions or comments about the new page, drop us a note.

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Classes may have been cancelled, but the campus was bustling with students and faculty taking in the rare site of a foot of snow blanketing our gorgeous campus. Everyone was capturing the moment with cameras and smartphones, or just standing and reverently soaking it all in.

 

– David

Screen shot of Kel Wer website

I’m very lucky to be able to work with an absurdly talented team. This year their work was recognized for excellence by CASE, our professional organization, for three different projects.

The  silver award for “Floralia,” an interactive storytelling site that features rich content and immersive design, is especially rewarding because that project was conceived and executed by the staff on their own initiative. They took a standard request for a video and turned it into a passion project filled with amazing images, a sleek design and creative use of prose and embedded video. It pioneered techniques and an approach to storytelling that they hadn’t taken before and that we’ve used several times since. It was a launch-and-learn project that paid dividends.

Congratulations to our team for another year of incredible collaboration and effort. Here are the awards:

Beaver Nation website
Award: Bronze
Category: Websites, Sub-site or Section

Floralia
Award: Silver
Category: Websites, Sub-site or Section

Kel Wer
Award: Gold
Category: Video & Multimedia, Multimedia for Special Events

 

– David