| Reel Chronicles |

To Err Is Human

In honor of Purim season, we pull back the curtains and walk you through Mint Media’s blooper reel

The video production field is a serious business, and there’s something about creating a video that will be seen by thousands of people, on a huge screen that makes you concentrate on dotting every i. In fact, the first question we ask anyone we interview is always the same: How do you spell your name?

But careful as we are, working on many projects simultaneously leaves us vulnerable to human error, which can creep in from either our end or the client’s. (Of course, there are those factors beyond anyone’s control, such as the time a tree fell on a school building the night before the shoot.) And even though we double-, triple-, and even quadruple-check our work at every stage, paying especially close attention to that final video, at the end of the day, we can only do our best.

We’ve been privy to some memorable missteps over the course of 11 years and thousands of videos in the business. In honor of Purim season, we pull back the curtains and walk you through Mint Media’s blooper reel of near misses, actual misses, and something-is-amisses.

Disclaimer: None of the stories below have been embellished for effect, though identifying details have been changed to protect the innocent (and the client’s identity). Sit back, grab a drink, and remember, there’s no such thing as true perfection in this world!


Identity Crisis

A couple of years ago, an event planner commissioned us to create several videos for a local school’s upcoming dinner. Two couples, the Kleins and the Schwartzes, were being honored, and our job was to make a feature for each honoree, highlighting their involvement in the school.

When the cinematographer brought the footage to our office, I asked if he was able to get good shots of the Schwartz and Klein boys, who were students in the school.

“Yup — the secretary pointed them out,” he assured me. “I got a bunch.”

After he left, Post Production Manager Mrs. Rivky Leibenstein stopped by my office.

“I know which boys to highlight, but we forgot to ask which one is Klein and which one is Schwartz!”

“I’m not even sure the cinematographer will remember,” I mused. “Let’s look at the footage and see if we can figure it out.”

I opened the file of the honoree interviews and compared them to the boys.

“I don’t think we need to ask anyone!” I said with a smile, because it was clear that the tall red-headed boy is the son of the imposing auburn-haired rav, and the smaller, brown-haired boy is the son of the slightly built, dark-haired businessman.

It was a no-brainer, and in any case, we’d be sending the first draft to the client to review.

Friday morning, two days before the dinner, the call came in.

“I was just showing the video to the secretary of the school, and she was confused why there’s so much footage of the Klein boy in the Schwartz video, and so much of the Schwartz boy in the Klein feature,” our client said.

“But we sent you the first cut weeks ago!” I asked. “How did this slip by?”

“I don’t really know the boys by face,” he explained, “I assumed if they look so much alike it must have been right!”

Baruch Hashem we were able to make the changes. I can only imagine the honorees leaning back in their seats to enjoy their well-deserved nachas only to discover their children were swapped….


Devil in the Details

Before we send a client the final video, I’ll shut myself in my office so I can focus solely on watching it for even the smallest glitch or mistake. Even after multiple rounds of revisions — or sometimes because of them — there will always be those small tweaks that make for a flawless video. Sometimes it’s a tiny gap between two shots that makes the screen “jump,” other times it’s too-loud music in one spot; whatever the case may be, these small details matter.

But of course, things can slip by even after that final review.

Post-Production Coordinator Usher Weldler recently pulled up a video we had just released the week prior.

“Did we film the Rosh Yeshivah twice for this?” he asked.

“Happens to be, we did,” I said. “He wanted to add another point, but we made sure to film with the same background. Why?”

“The background may be the same, but the tie sure isn’t!” Usher grinned. “When he starts the sentence it’s a dark blue, then we don’t see his face for the middle of the thought [which was covered with basic yeshivah footage], and then for his closing line, his tie is light gray. It looks like he quickly changed in the middle of his interview!”

We can’t fix what’s already been released, but I told Usher that should someone call us and say they spotted that glitch, he should offer them a job. We’re always looking for that kind of attention to detail!


Well Suited

People without prior experience in the world of video production are often wowed by the effects we can pull off. It’s nice to impress, but it can be a double-edged sword when clients think we can do “magic.” Yes, we have many tools at our disposal, and the technology is constantly improving, but there are limitations to what can and cannot be done. And even when a client asks for something in the realm of possibility, they may assume all it takes is the click of a button, when in reality that small change entails days of tedious work.

Years ago, an executive director we’d videoed decided his suit was too light.

“It won’t reflect well on the institution I’m representing,” he said. “Can you please make it a darker blue?”

Simple enough on a photo, where we can trace the jacket and adjust the shade with color correction software, but video is made up of hundreds of still frames. Remember those flipbooks, where you turn the pages and see the magician pull the rabbit out of the hat? Every second of video is basically a compilation of 30 pictures. His ask of “just darken the suit” was a painstaking frame-by-frame edit … hundreds of times.

This was a long-time client, and we had a strong relationship, so Executive VFX Director Mordy Fisgus made the change, but I don’t think the executive director ever really appreciated how big a deal that was.


Wacky Asks

Sometimes, a client’s request isn’t just difficult, but literally impossible. One that comes to mind was a client who shared an amateur video of a well-known singer performing at a simchah. It was filmed by a family member, a woman on the ladies’ side, from a vantage point that showed the singer from the back.

“I need you to put this in the feature you’re making me,” he said. “But the video is the wrong angle, please turn it around so we can see the singer’s face.”

It took me several moments to understand his request — and all of my self-control to not laugh as I explained the limitations of changing video reality after the fact.

Another time, a client thought the interviewee’s hair was a little unruly, and he matter-of-factly asked me to comb it neatly for him — yes, after it was filmed. Oh, and once we were editing, could we also remove the mic from his lapel?

Moshe, Moshe, Vayomer Hineini

Readers of the column will have noticed that there are two Moshes here at Mint Media — myself and Senior Production Manager Moshe Niehaus. Having two people with the same name has caused its share of confusion over the years. (Mordy Fisgus’s first name is actually Moshe as well, but fortunately he goes by his second name.)

Generally, Moshe Niehaus schedules the interviews for our Lakewood office and I conduct the actual interviews. When I introduce myself, interviewees will say, “Moshe, right! We spoke on the phone the other day.”

I used to take a moment to straighten out the wrong-Moshe misunderstanding, but it invariably seemed to cause even more confusion, so I just started taking it in stride and not correcting anyone. After all, no harm done if they think I scheduled the interview, or that they met Moshe Niehaus when they came to the office.

One time, Moshe Niehaus was having a difficult conversation with a client, and the man on the phone was a little more forceful than necessary. I didn’t know anything about it, so a week or so later, when a man called my cell and began apologizing profusely, it took me a moment to realize he had the wrong Moshe.

I tried to interject to explain, but the apologizer was having none of it.

“Let me finish!” he exclaimed. “I have to get this off my chest.”

This went on for several minutes, with me trying to tell him I was the wrong guy, and him not letting me get a word in edgewise. He finally finished his heartfelt monologue, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he would have to do it again — to the right Moshe this time.

“No need to apologize, and of course I’m mochel b’lev shalem.”

I then called Moshe Niehaus to inform him that he’d better forgive the man… because “he” already had.


Dressing up a Video

We were doing a series of award videos for a large corporation, and the technical nature of the field meant the 12 (!) videos started to feel a little monotonous. Their highly creative marketing director decided that a good way to keep things interesting would be to have all of the interviewees wear a funny accessory.

“We can’t change the content, but at least the audience will have something interesting to look at during these long presentations,” he explained.

He sent out an email to all of the high-level executives informing them of the time and place of filming, and he added a one-line instruction that they should dig through their costume boxes and bring in something funny to wear: a clown nose, a quirky hat.

Ten of the 11 interviewees promptly disregarded the bottom part of the email and showed up in their typical business attire. Then a recent hire who innocently followed the instructions came with a huge pink bow — and I mean huge, like what you find on a birthday present — perched prominently at the top of her head.

Fortunately, we were halfway through the interviews, and we could already see that the executives were ignoring the accessory request, so when her turn came, I gently suggested that we film her twice, once with the bow and once without it, just in case.

I still cringe thinking about what could have been, with everyone at the company retreat wondering what on earth she was thinking wearing a costume to a professional video shoot.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1002)

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