September 30, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Professor: Interview with Richard Schrand

Richard Schrand is the department chair for Computer Graphics at Nossi College of Art. He is responsible for overseeing the hardware, software, and student necessities for the college. He also does freelance work. His website can be found at

How do you explain your job to your mother?

I’m an educator.

How did you get started?

30 years in the broadcast industry with numerous awards. Upon being downsized, I started my own company then decided to give back by teaching one or two classes. This has turned into a 40+ hour per week career. So, in a nutshell, I fell into it.

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

I have a degree in Broadcast Communications from Northern Kentucky University. My experience came from working in the industry overseeing broadcast graphics and print graphics for more than 20 years.

What was your first job in the industry?

The very first job I had was creating an “Emmy Consideration” ad for Janice Pennington from The Price Is Right. The ad ran in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety magazine.

How do you sharpen your skills and/or stay motivated?

I love what I do, so it doesn’t take much to keep motivated. I read 20 magazines a month, I have contacts around the world that I stay in touch with….basically just a network of top-notch individuals in the various aspects of the industry.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

Know that you will never stop learning. Don’t be complacent. And always know that even the best you do today is not the best you will accomplish tomorrow.

What was the last project you worked on?

I did some company positioning package for a jewelry chain.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working?

I teach 8 four-hour classes – at both the associate and bachelor levels. Between classes and on days when I don’t teach, I am working on client projects or on any books I might be contracted to write.

A Series of Questions:

What’s the best thing about your job?

Staying up on and ahead of the trends for the design industry.

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?


Where do you find inspiration?

Literally, everywhere.

What’s your personal motto/slogan?

I can’t direct the wind, but I can adjust the sails.

If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell him/her?

Enjoy the ride. It’s going to be fascinating.

September 23, 2008

Cool Tools: Blender

Imagine trying to create “Finding Nemo” with free software. That’s the concept of Blender in a nutshell.

Blender is a free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems. It has robust features similar in scope to other high-end 3D software such as Softimage, Cinema 4D, Lightwave and Maya.

Among its capabilities are support for a variety of geometric primitives, including polygon meshes, fast subdivision surface modeling, Bezier curves, NURBS surfaces, metaballs, digital sculpting, and outline fonts. If you’re not into 3D design just yet, know that those features mean that Blender is a serious piece of free software!

Blender is full of features and it really puts to shame a lot of similar commercial software. Anyone who's ever been curious about computer-generated images should try playing with Blender. It’s a great alternative for students who might not want to fork over hundreds of dollars for software they may or may not enjoy.

If you’re looking to get started with Blender, you need to go through a lot of internet tutorials because the software is difficult to learn. Just Google the software and you’ll find numerous sites that provide tutorials for Blender. Tutorials are extremely recommended, especially to people new to this type of program.

Blender is a great 3D suite with a huge set of tools. A word of warning: using Blender is time-consuming. It is not software that’s easily learned and it takes a lot to learn the ropes. But for free software with this much power, it does not get any better than Blender.

September 12, 2008

Cool Tools:GIMP

For graphic designers on a budget Adobe Photoshop might not a viable option because of the high sticker price. GIMP, on the other hand, is a free program that’s very similar to Photoshop and it lets creatives do their thing for free.

GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” and that’s exactly what the program allows you to do-manipulate images. There is a bit of a learning curve when switching from Photoshop to GIMP because of the different menu layouts. But GIMP is powerful enough to accomplish pretty much all the same tasks you can in Adobe’s more expensive program.
The greatest things about the GIMP is that it’s expandable, extensible, and designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions which can let you do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted. Check it out for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

September 10, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Filmmaker: Interview with W. Ross Wells

W. Ross Wells is a film director and the co-owner of Zenfilm, a film production company and HD post boutique specializing in broadcast advertising, music videos and viral media. His company website is and his director’s site is

What’s Your Job?

I am the creative interface between Zenfilm and our agency and record label clients. I work with agency creatives to help storyboards and scripts make the leap to motion pictures. I oversee all aspects of production, casting, prepro, principal photography, color grading, editorial, visual effects and motion graphic design. In essence I am the creative director that works for the creative director and am ultimately responsible for the quality of the finished work and the satisfaction of the agency and their clients. I also provide creative strategies that can enhance the presentation and the effectiveness of the finished work.

How do you explain your job to your mother?

I make TV commercials. She doesn’t get the music videos and the viral media stuff… It took many years of success before my parents relaxed about my not having an accounting degree…but now they are completely on board.

How did you get started?

Oddly enough I was hanging out in my college roommate’s office in a real estate title company in Austin, TX complaining about how I couldn’t find a job in my field. As we were talking, his boss walked by the door and said, “Hey I am part owner in a video production company upstairs…want to meet the President?”

Naturally I said, “of course.” The lucky break was that they were hiring for an editor and the post-production manager was on vacation. I was unqualified for the job and the President shouldn’t have been interviewing me. He hired me on the spot because of his partner’s recommendation. When the post manager returned, I had moved to Austin to take the job. He said he felt obligated to give me a shot at the job but if I couldn’t cut it I was out. I worked really hard and kept the job.

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

I never finished college because I was a Psych major and discovered the film department in my third year and realized I had too much to redo in order to get the degree. All of my real experience came on the set and in the post house. My first day on the set was a freaky, scary, hazing, fascinating, wonderful experience. My second day was better. Now the night before every shoot is like Christmas Eve.

What was your first job in the industry?

I worked for the first company to nationally syndicate cable advertising in markets around the country. My job was writing, shooting, lighting and editing low budget cable ads for small businesses all over the U.S. I would drive out from Austin in a Ford Aerostar loaded with production equipment and go from Arkansas to New York and back shooting “The Hog Pit Barbeque” and “Survival Specialists” and all kinds of businesses. When I returned to Austin I would edit all the spots and then go out again and do it all over again.

From there I went to work for a contractor for the original Travel Channel. In this job I would spend two to four months in countries all around the world with a small production crew creating travel docs for cable broadcast and videocassette rental. I would act as cinematographer, director and editor on a team with a writer/producer and a grip/soundman. We worked on destinations as nearby as Cancun, Mexico and as far away as China. It was a terrific experience and gave me a very well-rounded perspective. When I got into serious production and started working with real crews and real budgets I had a truly global perspective on the world of film production and a real appreciation for the new level of professionals that I was now able to work with.
How do you sharpen your skills and stay motivated?

I work with extremely talented and motivated people that push me and challenge me…and hopefully I do the same for them. We have been able to maneuver and position our business so that we are working for a lot of people that do good things for people and the planet and it is always easy to get excited about messaging that saves lives, promotes your hometown or brings an exceptional musical talent into the public eye.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

There are no job openings in the film industry…you have to make your own. You make
your own job by getting in the door any way you can, work for free, show what you can do. If you are truly talented, you become indispensable and you have created a job for yourself. We have three people working for our company that have been here a long time that just showed up one day and said they were ready to work…for nothing if need be, just to learn the business and show us what they can do. They were all on the payroll within a few weeks having proved themselves as a member of our creative team. Not everyone made the cut that way, those that washed out were not suited to the hours and the challenges of the job or simply found out that film was not the career that they imagined.

Where do you hope to be career-wise in another year?

I have learned over the years that every artist you bring to a project brings distinctly different qualities to the screen; the more diverse the team, the stronger the work. I hope to be doing a lot more collaboration with artists of other disciplines, using creative fusion to develop altogether more striking and effective media. Another goal is to put to use all the experience we have gained in viral/social/web 2.0 strategies for deployment and distribution of our clients’ message, music and media.

What was the last project you worked on?

We just wrapped up a national imaging campaign for the City of Houston called MyHouston featuring local celebrities sharing their experiences of our truly underrated and wonderful city. I am in prepro for a national spot for Kiddie- the third in a “true stories” series about Kidde’s smoke, CO alarms and fire extinguishers. I am moving into post with two very exciting new music video projects, one for psychedelic rockers, “The Southern Backtones,” and another for classical/celtic/goth, rocker Jennifer Grassman. Both are due out later this month. I have quite a few other irons in the fire but don’t want to jinx them.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working?

Never the same thing twice. Some days I go from breakfast to meeting to meeting to lunch to meeting to meeting to dinner to recording session. Some days are shooting. Some days are traveling. Lots of days are spent in editorial as I cut a lot of my own stuff. Some days are spent hanging out in our offices in a converted paint factory in downtown Houston, playing my guitar and mulling over ideas.

A series of questions:

What’s the best thing about your job?

Everyday, every project, every moment provides a new challenge. There are new hurdles to overcome everyday and it is never static or dull. I work a lot in comedy and music and spend a lot of time laughing and cutting up… getting paid for the things that got me in trouble in school. I also enjoy the people I work and collaborate with tremendously. I have been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented people and I learn something new everyday.

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?

The dancing wet dog syndrome: The belief of some creatives that if you do not already have their current project on your reel that you are not qualified to shoot their current project. We call it the wet dancing dog syndrome… the agency is doing a spot with a wet dancing dog, you have a wet dog spot and a dancing dog spot on your reel… but you don’t get the gig because your wet dog is not dancing and vice versa.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere… pop culture, literature, human nature and things always come to me just before I go to sleep. I used to keep a notepad but now I use my iPhone to keep track of concepts that pop into my head. Situational creative seems to come to me rather easily and many times my head will fill with possible approaches during a creative brief. I then have shed the detritus and present the two or three strongest concepts.

What’s your personal motto/slogan? I have many, some of them are…

Just go for it…99% of the time you will pull it off.
Never do the same thing over and over hoping for different results.
If you can only go to two-day film school, make sure you go both days.

If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell him/her?

Don’t worry…everything is going to be great, and eat.

September 5, 2008

Cool Tools: Photoshop Lady

Adobe Photoshop is one of those creative programs that is easy to learn yet hard to master. Tutorials are a great way to teach yourself the intricacies of this photo-manipulating program and Photoshop Lady is a website that give you access to free Photoshop tutorials around the web.

The tutorials are organized into categories such as Drawing Effects, Photo Effects, Text Effects, Texture & Patterns and User Interface Design. The site aggregates all the tutorials from across the net and puts them into one place so that users can access them. So if you’re looking to find something, there’s a good chance that Photoshop Lady has it.
Check out the Photoshop Lady!

September 3, 2008

A Guide to Interviewing: Interview with a Senior Industry Executive

When did you know you were interested in a career in advertising and marketing?

In college I studied Communication and took several classes where I learned about the art of advertising. Based on my interest, I received an internship at a large advertising agency; I was hooked!

What is your educational background and how has it helped prepare you for the field?

I graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Communication. My educational background taught me a lot about understanding people in general, as well as how to relate to and speak with them. It was my hands-on experience at my internship and my early days working in advertising that were most influential and inspirational.

What was your first job in advertising/marketing?

My first job was at an agency where I was managing traditional marketing for a large online financial services client. I became fascinated watching how this brand’s customers were embracing this new technology and beginning to handle their finances online, by themselves. It was then that I realized my true passion turned out to be just that, “online.” I was so impressed by the power of technology, I wanted to dedicate my career to focusing on finding new ways to use the Internet to connect with consumers.

What is the campaign that you have worked on that you are the most proud of? Why is that one a particular source of pride for you?

I had the opportunity to work on the Web site and online marketing for one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies. In the late ‘90s, as large companies were just beginning to experiment with digital marketing, I had a client that was investing heavily in digital innovation. We were testing rich media and even interactive television advertising that still has not yet emerged. Most notably, we launched one of the first social marketing campaigns aimed not only at connecting consumers with the brand, but also connecting the consumers with each other. This is essentially what has come to be Social Marketing, which I believe is the future of all marketing. We can no longer just advertise to consumers; rather we need to connect them with one another on behalf of our brands.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives looking to differentiate themselves from their peers as they look for a first job?

Understand the technology. This does not mean you need to be a developer, but you need to find ways to connect with consumers when they are online. We are in the ideas business, and in order to come up with innovative, differentiating ideas, you need to understand the capabilities the technology offers.

What specifically do you look for in a creative when you're interviewing them?

We look for specialists who embrace all forms of media. Certain individuals are experts at TV, some at print, some online. Expertise is needed. But we all use the Internet, we all watch TV, and we all read magazines, newspapers or blogs. Creatives need to think about all media, but need to define themselves as experts in an area they can own.

What is your impression of the impact that social media (e.g., blogs, YouTube) and social networking (e.g., Facebook, MySpace) have had on the advertising industry so far?

As I stated earlier, I believe social media is the future of marketing. Consumers now own brands. A brand can’t fake the superiority of its product because consumers will see right through that. Consumers now go online to speak to other consumers before making a purchase. We as marketers need to embrace that. Rather than try to sell to consumers, we need to get them excited about our products so they will leverage social media to promote our brands for us.

Have you seen a change in what your clients are looking for from you as these new properties and consumer behavior patterns have emerged?

Clients have definitely become more willing to test marketing on social networks and the Internet in general. Just a few years ago, the Web was seen as a luxury, typically the first area to get cut from marketing budgets. Now, it’s not only accepted by clients, but it is expected.

Are there any social media/social networking campaigns that you have seen that you think have been particularly effective in promoting a brand? If so, which one(s) and why?
I will tell you a personal story of social networking success. We were asked by a technology company to promote an event for software developers. If you haven’t worked with software developers in the past, I will tell you they are one of the most skeptical audiences in existence. Typically, if they see advertising, they run in the opposite direction.

To promote the event, we embraced this knowledge of the audience and rather than advertise the event to them, we built a relationship with owners of a very important technology blog that most software developers were visiting on a daily basis. By getting the blog owners excited about the event, they started talking about how excited they were for this event. And then an amazing thing happened. Developers started commenting on the blog and speculating about all the great announcements that would happen at the event. And some of them even started their own blogs to discuss the event. They became so excited, and rather than us having to advertise to them, they promoted the event for us within their community. And not only did the event sell out way ahead of time, but we actually had a waiting list of over 1,000 developers.

Social marketing is about honesty. We weren’t trying to advertise or sell; this truly was a great event we were promoting. We knew our best shot of exciting the audience was for them to get one another excited. That’s what social marketing is about, the understanding that consumers trust each other; if you embrace that understanding, you can succeed in this world of social media.

What are your thoughts on user-generated advertising (e.g., the Dorito's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest and imitators)? Where does user-generated content belong in the context of a brand's advertising mix?

Embracing user-generated content is critical to marketing. User-generated advertising, where brands ask consumers to create an advertisement, had an early impact because it was new. I don’t see the longevity of this concept because it is still about “Advertising.” User-generated content, or any content consumers create and build dialogue on with other consumers is what social marketing is all about. It’s honest and real conversation.