RTC

Right before the new year, Corey from Round Table Companies (RTC) sent me a suspiciously polite e-mail, asking if I’d be interested in editing videos for RTC’s community website. I say “suspiciously polite” because most potential clients are very matter-of-fact, hard-line and borderline demanding. Corey approached me like a person to work with, not a service to purchase.

We started with a project that was pretty standard for my clients: uninspired footage leading me to an uninspired edit that technically satisfied the job requirements. Only, for the first time, we both realized that neither of us were happy. Corey pushed, I pushed back. I complained, Corey listened. This lead us not to part ways, but to start fresh with a new project. A better project; an amazing project. A project about Carmen.

As an avowed news junkie, I had heard Carmen Tartleton’s story. If you’re unfamiliar, The New York Times’ story is a great overview: For Victim of Ghastly Crime, a New Face, a New Beginning.

RTC sent a videographer & photographer to interview Carmen and shoot the cover of her book (Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed) in 2012. Corey handed over this footage and allowed me to create with very little oversight. Through Carmen’s interview I discovered a story line that hadn’t really been published before. Specific quotes jumped out at me, begging to heard; it seemed completely obvious.

After a year of freelancing for clients who are happy with what I consider to be mediocre-at-best video, I felt refreshed, alive, creative.

View We Can Overcome Completely – Unseen Video Footage From Before Carmen’s Face Transplant on RTC’s site.

After I completed the video, Corey asked me to spend a week in Joshua Tree, CA on an Adventure Trip with RTC. I said no. He pushed, I pushed back, and in March I’ll be shooting quite a lot of footage to edit for RTC this year. Wait for it… this is going to be good.

Greetings

I tried a dozen ways to start this but nothing does it justice. Two important facts about me: I hate things, but once I’m attached to something it’s impossibly hard for me to let go. Separately, I love letters/cards/written correspondence. I take great pride in the greeting cards I send, and am woefully in love with every card sent to me. So much so that I saved (almost) every card I received for the last 10-15 (the oldest might be 13) years.

Matthew returns from North Carolina this month, bringing back more furniture than he left with. He has an awesome IKEA desk so my old desk needs to go. In addition to a mass of Sharpies and some homemade Medieval Times popsicle-stick puppets, my desk is contains mostly old cards.

In order to let go of the physical collection, I decided to photograph all of them (and then the Playbills and concert programs). It felt like work more than nostalgia, which so far has made it easier to trash the collection of happiness I gathered over so many years. Here are my favorites, all overly-dear to my heart.

This is your pony.
Whenever I think “My cards must be kept forever!” it’s this one that comes to mind. From my brother Brian on my 21st birthday, he finally came through on that pony he promised me. Could you ask for a better sibling?

Pubes.
This creeper came from Solomon on my 23rd. He asked me for a piece of paper, markers, and scissors then returned with this. At the time I lived with Sarah, who wouldn’t let me put the card on the fridge for sanitary reasons. Solomon claims he heard a story that Tim Armstrong once did the same thing, though probably with considerably more/less class.

Multicultural Moose
This fantastic multicultural moose came from my mom last winter. She knows that my biggest pet peeve is Dad never leaving his own signature, but I’ve come to expect as much.

Will Work for Food
I don’t recognize this squiggle signature (that I guess is high school-era?), but if they’ve still got cereal and toaster strudel, I’m on my way.

Britney ain't got nothin' on you!
Another fabulous piece from Brian. I especially love the inscription “Brittney ain’t got nothing on you!” which dates this card farther back than I’d like to admit. Who would have thought I’d watch JT on Saturday Night Live so many years later?

card-7

Not technically a card, but an eerily straightforward note during my time of gauging my ears. Melinda and I used to write oddly creative letters back and forth, this one being an exception in that she failed to include a word bubble or illustration. The wax seal convinced me this came from a Medieval Times colleague, but I was instead reminded of a friend and old self-image I’ve fallen out of touch with.

Maleah Bookmark
May I first clarify that this bookmark from my brother Tony was with my other bookmarks, not tucked away and forgotten like the cards. It’s crazy having this super young Maleah pressed forever when she just turned seven and I’ve only seen her twice. Also a not-so-subtle ball joke that made me smile.

card-6

Among so many shamelessly sincere and (platonically) loving handmade cards from my dear Laura, this one may be the best. It reminded me of a long-forgotten AP US History presentation in which I sung Zoot Suit Riot, how truly fantastic our friendship is, the number of epic movies that came out while we were high school, and how much I hate riddles.

card-8

Another dog card from Tony, four years earlier than the one shown above. It’s not this card that caught my brain but the combination of this and the (unfortunately undated) card below that makes me wonder how the greeting card industry really works.

card-9

New Orleans Weekend

Last weekend Matthew and I traveled to New Orleans for the first time. One of his childhood friends got married there and we figured it was the perfect excuse to go somewhere new.

We stayed in the French Quarter, two blocks from Bourbon Street, and saw all varieties of people and events. After sadly coming to terms with the fact that we’re too old to party on the regular, we enjoyed a picnic from Swirl at Big Lake, a walk around Audubon Park, and many super-delicious char-grilled oysters from Drago’s.

Building front off Bourbon

My favorite building front between Bourbon St and our hotel.

From the green line trolley

View from the green line trolley, headed uptown to the wedding.

Lunch at Coop's

Matthew marvels at his fried shrimp & oyster sandwich from Coop’s Place.

Audubon Park, onlooking Loyola

View entering Audubon Park. Loyola University in the background. What you can’t see in this photograph is the 90-degree heat with 90% humidity.

Audubon Park

Turtle and bird, sunning themselves in the afternoon heat (Audubon Park).

Beads on St Charles, Uptown

Beads everywhere. St Charles street, Uptown near the wedding.

Christ Church Cathedral

Waiting for the wedding, outside Christ Church Cathedral.

Christ Church Cathedral

Waiting for the wedding inside the Cathedral. A gorgeous place, but too large to see or hear anything that happened during the ceremony.

Southern Yacht Club

Phenomenal view from the reception at the Southern Yacht Club.

Multimedia Bootcamp

Several weeks ago I attended UNC’s Multimedia Bootcamp. As the most fantastic business trip I could have imagined, I spent five intensive days talking about video, shooting video and editing video. Basically, it was a magical vacation.

UNC has a fantastic reputation in the world of multimedia. As a recent grad of OU that might pain me to say, but after almost a year in Marketing & Communications this was a refreshing kick in the butt.

The staff reminded me that all stories are character-driven, but that not all characters are people. As viewers we remember (anecdotally) 25% of what we see, 50% of what we hear, and 100% of what we feel. In Marketing, I often forget about emotion; experience with a product can be more important than ROI.

We learned primarily about storytelling, rounding that information out with presentations on interactive web habits, eye track & usability, and more storytelling. I highly recommend the week-long bootcamp to any working professional looking to gain or increase their multimedia skillset.

Our multimedia assignment for the week was to profile a business near campus and give viewers a sort of behind-the-scenes access they couldn’t experience on their own. We got together in pairs to find a story Monday evening and shoot said story Tuesday afternoon. Julie and I spent four hours on Rosemary St at the cash-only parking garage talking with Delano, the parking attendant. During the remainder of the week we edited (in FCP7, how strange was that coming back from Premiere!?) our footage individually without seeing the other’s work.

In this edit, I think my OU training is still painfully obvious. When I showed both versions to my Marketing colleagues they spoke to my story arc and character development, but never mentioned whether it was something they’d watch on their own…

Enjoy.

Rob & Danielle

After nine months in Afghanistan, Rob returned to Baltimore and proposed to his girlfriend Danielle. The date, June 7th, chosen far in advance, brought rain and chill. None of this stopped Rob from taking one knee and proposing to Danielle as planned.

“Is this real?” Danielle asked, once I was revealed. Definitely a fantastic, if soggy, day.

I was fortunate enough to photograph Rob & Danielle's engagement this evening. Despite the rain, Rob went ahead with the proposal he planned months ago.

I was fortunate enough to photograph Rob & Danielle’s engagement Friday evening. Despite the rain, Rob went ahead with the proposal he planned months ago.

Smiles.

Smiles.

The ring.

The ring. Rob had to hold Danielle’s hand for the picture because she was shaking with excitement.

Portraits at Harbor East.

Portraits at Harbor East.

Products of a Product Launch

Only six months into my corporate career I have experienced two major product launches. The first, equipment and the second, software. Now, we probably all have an idea of how to introduce a new piece of equipment to it’s potential users and in this case my role was simply the photographer. The magic of editing such sleek photos doesn’t even fall to me (this is a good thing).

from mt.com/particletracke25

Our software product launch required more of my involvement, because honestly, how do you introduce a software? Have you ever heard about a new piece of software directly from the company? Okay, possibly but I definitely haven’t; it’s always literal word of mouth or social media. And our product isn’t 100% self-explanatory. We created two multimedia pieces, for which I filmed, gathered audio, edited, and had some input towards pre- & post-production.

Here’s the formal product launch video–very clean and corporate–but to an outsider, does it tell the right story?

Watching that, are you more or less confused? I’ve seen the footage so many times that the message becomes increasingly confusing as I watch it now. Almost at the last minute, we created our very first whiteboard video. As a friend described it, “It’s cute, but…” But do you understand the software now?

Is it abstraction or realism that you connect with? Which narration style/narrator do you prefer?

(Fre)Elancing

I thought I was trying something new, looking for freelance work online. A couple of tries with Craigslist were enough to send me searching for a more reliable way to find trustworthy clients and secure payment. After a little bit of Google I found Elance, which wouldn’t let me sign up for an account because… apparently I already had one. Me from late 2009 must have given it a half-hearted try (according to my account settings but not my memories). Me in early 2013 threw myself into looking for side jobs with my photography/videography/editing skillset, and landed a couple of jobs really quickly.

It’s interesting doing all of this work remotely. Earth Divas accepted my bid to do product photography and mailed me a box of their product. I did the work, mailed the product back, and sent my edited files via Dropbox. The internet is a miraculous thing.

ghetto photoshoot

makeshift photo shoot

Video editing is more my passion, and I managed to find a few small projects doing that as well. When people ask why I got into my profession, my truly honest answer (that I’m not sure everyone believes) is that its like not choosing a profession — I get to meet new people, learn new topics, visit new places that I would not have license to do without my profession.

So, at least for now, I’m enjoying myself.

Carrie & Sean

My coworkers asked me to do a quick video of their wedding, and who was I to say no? Seeing Carrie fold paper cranes during every meeting since my first day at the office, I knew she had fantastic attention to detail and that the ceremony would be awesome. We celebrated at Mr Rain’s Funhouse, the restaurant inside the American Visionary Arts Museum.

Beautiful view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with audio interruptions from Baltimore’s busy Inner Harbor. Overall the ceremony and reception were phenomenal. And if you’ve never seen lion dancers before, they’re absolutely worth watching.

Carrie & Sean: A Chinese-American Wedding from Heather Haynes on Vimeo.

Web (Re)Design

Between VisCom and the corporate world, the one transition I can’t make is that of timing. During Soul of Athens production, when someone asked for something “soon,” they meant “pretty much immediately.” When an office coworker asks for something “soon,” it’s really more like “before the end of the week.”

That brings us to my first real completed project at work. From the time I got the official “Go” until the changes went live was somewhere in the neighborhood of eight weeks. Eight. Weeks. A VisCom quarter would have basically come and gone in that time and I would have forgotten all about anything I started so long ago. But here, I’m still tweaking things after launch. (As I should be, there’s still one small glitch.)

To preface, iCare is a software maintenance package. Instead of paying tons of money each time you decide to update software, you pay a fixed subscription price and all updates are included. It’s actually a good deal for the customer, but not an obvious value. (If Adobe tried to sell me the same thing for Creative Suite I’d be unsure.) So, how do we explain that online?

Here’s the original iCare page content, done by the previous Multimedia Developer:

And here’s the new one:

Our new addition is the Releases tab, to really drive home why a maintenance package is important.

Not super sexy or anything, right? That’s probably the biggest lesson I learned in those weeks of coding and recoding (and recoding). Form follows function supremely, and we’re here to inform, not woo, potential customers.

However, I’ll finish the next project faster having learned a few hard lessons.

  • Be patient. As I mentioned before, even priority projects take longer than I expect. If someone doesn’t get back to me “soon”, I ask again a little more politely.
  • Test everything in Internet Explorer first. IE users may be decreasing, but there’s still more of them than anyone else. I’m a diehard Firefox user and a Mac girl at heart, and it kills me to use IE9 on a PC at work every day, but that’s what it has to be.
  • Not everyone is a visual thinker (but remember who is!). I proudly show off my sketches and drafts but I’m not taking a web class with other students anymore. Coworkers may not have time to truly examine what I’ve shown them, or may not want to hurt my feelings/ask questions. If I can explain my visuals and try to tease questions out of others, that’s hands down the best plan.
  • Know your place. In my job position, I’m a code vessel rather than a web designer. Managers/coworkers know the products best and generally have good ideas for their web presence. All I truly need to do is make that as appealing and efficient as possible. Nothing you see above was my idea alone.
  • Know your CMS [content management system]. I wouldn’t have spent so much time learning JavaScript had I known our CMS wouldn’t take JavaScript. Whoops.
  • It’s cliche, but, honest communication. After VisCom critiques I can say what I’m thinking and digest others’ thoughts as well. But I’ve found that I don’t always get honest critiques back from coworkers. That leads to moments like “Why is that image still there? I never said anything because I thought it was a joke, but you never removed it.” Now that you’ve told me, I’ll remove it.
  • Nothing’s personal. In school I reminded myself that critiques weren’t personal (though they often were), but at work, that’s the case even less so. Everyone may love a feature but it doesn’t fit corporate guidelines or we simply can’t put it in our CMS. Sometimes my ideas suck, but sometimes they’re awesome and still can’t be used.

Sarah’s Bridal Shower

I couldn’t tell you the day I met Sarah or the moment we became friends, best friends, even roommates. However, I vividly remember the call saying “I’m engaged!”

Fifteen months later, we gathered at one of Sarah’s favorite places, Reynold’s Tavern in Annapolis–a place she and I enjoyed high tea many times–for her bridal shower. I took a few photos as a favor but still had a fantastic time.

A side table of favors, all tea related, for the attendees.

Sarah playing a “thread the needle” game where a guest moves the needle every time she’s about to thread it. Everything she says trying to get the thread through is supposed to be what she says on her wedding night. :D

Sometimes keys and knives are needed to open stubborn gifts.

The room watches Sarah open her bridal shower gifts.