Friday, June 12, 2009

Bikes for the World - Part 2

[Posted by Ben]

Hola from Costa Rica! We’ve been in this amazing country for about a week and have met many amazing people and seen some of the most beautiful scenery I could ever imagine seeing. There’s so much natural beauty, it’s almost difficult to decide where to point our cameras next!

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Two people we’ve met along the way are Travis and Ronald—in the small town of Bahia Ballena. Travis works for Finca Costa Rica, a partner organization to Bikes for the World. Ronald has purchased several bikes through loans from the local community credit bank of Finca CR. With the bikes, he has started his own rental company for tourists and for local ticos (Costa Ricans). While this may seem like a very small thing, Ronald told us having the chance to purchase the bicycles has given him a new way to support his family and has given him new confidence to start other businesses selling beautiful photos and other art made around Bahia Ballena. In addition, locals now have the possibility of renting a bicycle for the day to go to the grocery or other towns, or to go to work or school. Ronald told us how amazing it was that at the heart of it, he had this opportunity because one family in America wanted to help his family in Costa Rica.

We’ve found many other amazing stories to tell—but I will save them for the video! We’re off to our next shoot and I’m sure will have another great story to tell. As the saying goes in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bikes for the World - Part 1

[Posted by Ben]
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It's a hectic time right now in the office--Steve and Caleb are on the road filming their upcoming shows, Brandon just finished filming around DC for his next video on slam poetry and I'm filming and working on travel arrangements for the second part of my upcoming video as well. We go through an incredible amount of planning and research before we travel anywhere and the fact that I'm headed out of the country for my next show doubles the effort. I'm really excited about this one, not only because it gives me an opportunity to feature the work of an organization that I've been following for some time, but because I'll get to travel to Costa Rica to see the impact of their hard work firsthand.

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Bikes for the World is a non-profit organization in the Washington, DC area that collects used bikes and works with partner organizations overseas to get the bikes in the hands of people whose lives would be dramatically improved with something most Americans take for granted. The bikes have helped recipients start small businesses, make it possible to get to school, work or to markets and generally just improve their quality of life. I've been filming collections, where bikes are donated and "processed" and loadings, where volunteers actually pack more than 400 bikes into containers to be shipped overseas. Its a remarkable effort and one that is very well organized by the tireless director--Keith Oberg. I'll have more to say once I get to Costa Rica and once the video is produced, but you can find more about Bikes for the World at its website:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If the Shoe Fits...

[Posted by Caleb]
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One of my favorite things about being a video producer with is the amazing people you get to meet. I’ve been especially aware of that as I’ve spent the last few days with Sam McCracken (pictured above).

Sam serves as the head of Native American business for the US based athletic giant Nike. In that role, he works with health and fitness programs in Native communities across America to give them access to Nike’s products and to inspire physical fitness, quality decision-making, and genuine leadership in Native Americans of every age. And I know its working because in the short time I’ve spent with him, I’ve felt a new energy to pursue those things in my own life!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Open Mic = Free Speech

[Posted by Brandon]

To produce our next video, I've been attending, and filming, a lot of Open Mic Poetry events at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC. And the whole experience has really shown me that poetry is in the DNA of our country.

Interviewing a range of poets, and speaking to them about free speech and open expression, it sounds like I’m talking with the forefathers of the country – or at least their great-great-grandchildren. These sincere young artists believe that, through open mic poetry, they can express themselves freely, communicate and connect with other people, and nurture a community of diverse voices... all leading to a healthier democracy.

They really live and breathe it. And I’d say the First Amendment is alive and well in their art.

Enjoy this teaser, “Poetry Is...", until the full-length version of the video is released on June 1st.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In The Field: Steve Greenscreen

[Post by Steve]

Today is my 4th day in San Francisco shooting the amazing story behind Gene Yang's graphic novel "American Born Chinese".

On Saturday, I shot an interview with Gene in front of a green screen in order to "put him inside" his own graphic novel in post production. Gene was a great interview and offered superb commentary on the creation of his award-winning book.
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Afterwards, we headed over to Comic Relief, a huge comic book store in Berkeley, and there I found out that Gene is quite the celebrity here in the Bay area. Everyone knew who he was and some asked him to sign his book for them. I interviewed the owners of the store who talked about the growing popularity of graphic novels around the world and how this niche, with large audiences in Asia and Europe, are quickly growing here in America. The art form has given a voice to people like Gene, who choose to express their American experience through vibrant pictures and enjoyable narratives. Yes, comics are no longer just Superman and Batman.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reaching Beyond English Speakers

[Post by Ben]

We've been producing videos on for nearly a year and a half now and have seen our audience and outreach grow dramatically in that time. But because our videos are produced in English, we've been missing a critical aspect to reaching America,gov's mission to "engage the world." We want to start as many conversations and discussions about America with our videos as possible. And that means reaching beyond just English-speaking audiences. But subtitling videos up to this point has been a long, difficult process that takes up the time of our language experts and a video producer working side-by-side to manually add translations to a very limited number of videos.

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But for the last few weeks, we've been testing a few different programs that would make it much easier to add multiple languages to our videos on DVDs, YouTube,'s video player, all potentially without a language expert and the video producer ever being in the same room, saving time, effort and most importantly, possibly allowing people all over the world to watch our videos in their native languages. It's an exciting prospect--and one we're hoping makes it through the approval process quickly!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aptera - Creating Clean Tech Jobs

[Post by Brandon]

My recent trip out to Southern California was a fantastic experience for many reasons... warm weather, a laid-back vibe, a return to my hometown. But the highlight of the trip had to be my visit to Aptera Motors in Playa Vista.

This young electric car company was started in Co-Founder Steve Fambro's garage, and has set out to design and manufacture the vehicle of the future. In the process, they're providing clean technology jobs to a growing staff of talented and passionate designers, engineers, and manufacturers. Companies like Aptera are ensuring that our economy is adapting to changes in our climate and our economy simultaneously.

Check out the final video below.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rust to Renewal

[Posted by Ben]

I grew up in Ohio, a state in the U.S. just west of the city of Pittsburgh. I always had a vision of the city as a broken-down, dirty and polluted place, mostly because cities in Ohio such as Cleveland and Youngstown had similar problems with pollution and had undergone the same kind of dramatic decline when the steel and manufacturing industries shrank or closed all together. I always thought that Pittsburgh must be the same. It certainly did go through some very hard times over the last 30 years after the steel mills closed and people left the city by the thousands. But that’s why it was so striking to see the kind of city Pittsburgh has become. I never imagined the kind of vibrant renewal the city has undergone.

It is such an important part of life in America—this idea that people, companies, even whole cities can remake or renew themselves or change their course. Pittsburgh today is a city with a healthy mix of industry, technology and first-rate educational institutions where the scientists and innovators of tomorrow are being educated. There are still hard times, for sure and the city still has a lot of work ahead of it to continue its revitalization and continue growing "green jobs." But the transformation is dramatic and has lessons for anyone or anyplace that wants to remake itself.

It truly is a story of an entire community coming together to get through hardship and make a better city for the future generations to come.

Thanks to for sharing the video with their readers! They're a good resource for what's new in environmental news.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Re-Making Noise

[Post by Caleb]

One of the most fun parts of making Taste-O-Rama was the Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR) process. The irony, of course, is that the piece has no dialogue. What were we replacing? We were re-capturing the hilarious noises that our actor, Tim Lewis, made during his performance. I always say that audio is 51% of a project – people will put up with bad video before they’ll tolerate bad audio.

Even though Tim did a great job on set, there was no way we could control all the sounds that were happening in the restaurants we used as locations. So, rather than try to cut out all of the shouting chefs, rushing waiters, crashing plates, and clinging cash registers – we simply decided to design, create, and mix the sounds at Studio Unknown in nearby Baltimore, MD.

Because we didn’t have to worry about sound on set, we didn’t have any problems with boom pole shadows, wireless mics creeping out of the actor’s clothing, or extra wires to trip over. The end result was increased efficiency. Using ADR also allowed us to enrich the collaborative process by gleaning extra ideas from audio engineers Stephen Joseph and Kevin Hill. The end result really highlighted some of Tim’s comic gold.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aptera's Super-Efficient Dream

[Post by Brandon]

Continuing production on the story of the Progressive Automotive X Prize competition brought me to Southern California, where some of our most promising alternative energy car companies are based. One company that stands out is Aptera - whose entry into the X Prize competition looks something like a jet without wings... or a shark designed by Apple. Whatever you think it looks like, just don't call it a "car"... The team at Aptera will remind you they're building something completely new: a super-efficient (200+ mpg), ultra-affordable (around $25K) vehicle of the future!

I was fortunate enough to be invited into their growing startup company headquartered in beautiful Vista, California. A staff of talented young designers, engineers, and businesspeople is working passionately to grow this promising new enterprise. Companies like Aptera aren't just building hot, fuel-efficient vehicles... They're also providing real jobs for America's growing new energy economy.

Stay tuned for the completed video, which we'll post in early April.

Monday, March 2, 2009

West Philly EVX Team

[Post by Brandon]

Last week, Caleb and I took a three-day trip up to Philadelphia to work on our production about the new energy economy and the Automotive X Prize. This is a global competition that's encouraging people to develop and build energy efficient cars that can drive over 100 miles on a single tank of gas!

Well, as it turns out, one of the top teams is West Philly EVX - a high school team! And we were so pleased to meet this group of talented young adults. In an area like West Philadelphia, there can be a lot working against people in the community, and yet this group, led by some very devoted teachers, is doing something so exceptional... building hot cars capable of driving over 60 miles per gallon of gas, and having fun in the process. They've beat out teams from top universities as they use their imagination and strong work-ethic to build the next generation of energy efficient transportation. And with all the hands-on experience they're getting, these young men and women are preparing themselves to lead the American auto industry into the future.

It's an incredibly inspiring story.

Look for the finished video that'll be posted by the start of April.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diversity... It Tastes Good

[Posted by Caleb]

This week I had a blast directing IIP’s first-ever scripted “PSA” style video. The comedic piece highlights the diversity of American life and culture through a character who takes a trip around the world via restaurants located in DC.

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(Caleb reviews Tim's performance)

The team was really amazing – a true pleasure to work with. We contracted local legend Sheila Smith as DP. She brought in a sweet Panasonic large chip HD camera with a high speed Fujinon HD lens. Needless to say, I’m pretty satisfied with the look.

We also cast Tim Lewis as the lead character – he was hilarious. He has near cartoon like ability to express very nuanced emotions and ideas.

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(Tim fills up on Tacos at a Mexican restaurant)

My colleagues Ben and Brandon rounded off the team as sound-recordist and camera assistant respectively.

It was fun seeing the creative project come together – but what’s more, it was great hanging out on set. We worked a 14 hour day without a single complaint!
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(The video team, cast, and crew - All smiles at the end of a 14 hour shoot)

Our Inauguration Video

[Posted by Video Team]

Enjoy the fruits of our labor...

All four of us (Jason, Ben, Brandon, and Caleb) took positions early on Inauguration Day... on the Mall and along the parade route. Everyone was in such a positive mood - 2 million people, long lines, and cold weather couldn't dampen the mood. Everyone was there to see Barack Obama sworn into office.

Here's our final video... completed on the night of the Inauguration:

Shooting the Inauguration

[Posted by Brandon]

Definitely the experience of a lifetime! On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday the video team took to the streets and monuments of DC to get coverage of the unprecedented activity surrounding Barack Obama's Inauguration.

People from all over the country... nay, the world... arrived in our humble village to participate. We met people from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, California... even Mexico and Europe. The final estimate was about 2 million people packed together to watch the ceremonies. But I suppose we all helped eachother stay warm in the freezing air!

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(Brandon, HD cam in hand, poses in front of the Capitol dome)

Our First Post

[Posted by Video Team]

Hello from Washington, DC and welcome to the blog for the video team at

We produce short web-based videos for highlighting the American experience for an international audience. Through our short documentaries and PSAs, we're helping Americans tell their story.

Check back from time to time and you'll find a behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes into our videos. Enjoy!