No we’re not talking about the sister of Kate Middleton. And no, we’re not talking about soup in Spanish.

By now you’ve probably been familiarized – or at least seen tweets/posts/articles – about these pieces of legislation going through congress at the moment. Today you’ve probably ran into some “blacked out” websites around the internet in protest.

Here at SEI Studios we work in web, video, and social media every day and this is a serious issue for us. I’m not going to take this whole blog post to go in-depth about what these bills are all about, but I do want to share this brief video with you that does a much better job than I could.

Please call, write, e-mail, tweet, or carrier pigeon to your representatives and stop this from happening!

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[Fashion Has Heart] & The Corporal Hoffman Series

Over the past few weeks (and continuing through this winter) we have partnered with the local non-profit organization [Fashion Has Heart]. Michael Hyacinthe (founder) and the team collaborating at [FHH] have started a new project with Cpl. Josh Hoffman – a wounded marine who was injured and paralyzed in Iraq in 2007 from a sniper’s bullet.

Hold on, let’s take a step back.

[Fashion Has Heart] was founded earlier this year and their goal is to work with wounded veterans and their families to create various works of art, design, and fashion. Their motto is “without their sacrifice, there is no freedom of fashion or art.” To enjoy the freedoms we have to create wonderful works of art, music, and film – it takes the sacrifice of mind and body from those serving in our armed forces. [FHH] wants to give back to veterans through these creative mediums and provide the opportunity to them to do something great.

Fast forward to today. Josh Hoffman is a 29-year-old marine who is paralyzed from the neck down and is unable to even speak, he has to communicate through a special number/alphabet chart. [FHH] and Josh have recently joined forces to create unique designs that are inspired by Josh’s life and experiences. He truly is the lead designer in this project, crafting the vision, colors, and imagery in the designs – [Fashion Has Heart] is just bringing these concepts to life.

They have partnered with MusicSkins, MMA Warehouse, Ranger Up, and Regal Financial Group to make this opportunity a reality – through the production and distribution of Josh’s designs to the public – thus creating the Corporal Hoffman Series.

Where does SEI Studios come in?

We have been brought on board to document the daily happenings of Josh’s life – whether it be in his home, at physical therapy, or working with the [FHH] team on this project. It has been a very humbling and remarkable experience to work alongside Cpl. Hoffman; to see his will to continue to use his mind and heart coming through the artwork – all while being almost completely disabled. Through our video work, we hope to communicate Josh’s powerful story to the rest of the world, letting his work speak not just for himself but for all of our wounded veterans.

Check out this brief teaser we’ve put together highlighting the project and a look into a larger documentary that will be released at a later date.

We also would like to invite you to attend the launch party that is being hosted at the Regal Financial headquarters. The event will be an opportunity to meet Josh, the [Fashion Has Heart] team, and to view the unveiling of the finished designs – (plus a special behind-the-scenes film screening).

When: December 9th – 6 to 9pm
Where: Regal Financial – 2687 44th St, Kentwood, MI

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ArtPrize x Vimeo: The Art of Inspiration

During ArtPrize this year, Vimeo put together a documentary about the artists, venues, and experience of ArtPrize 2011.

What made this collaborative project unique – was that the majority of the footage shot and used was the product of local Grand Rapids filmmakers. Vimeo put the call out to anyone with a video camera in Grand Rapids, to go out and shoot different aspects of ArtPrize. What arose was an amazing community experience that brought everyone’s perspectives together to complete a 16 minute short-film documenting the entire event.

We are proud to have our work featured in the project. I went out and shot lots of b-roll around the city – and most notably an interview with Mary Geeting who is the art teacher and ArtPrize curator for Coit Creative Arts Academy. The school is a K-5 elementary school in GRPS that is unique in that they implement arts education in the curriculum in all of their classrooms.

To cap off the entire experience, Vimeo hosted an “off-line” event downtown to screen and premier the film. The event brought all of those who took part in crafting the film together to enjoy the experience of seeing their work on the big screen. We thank Vimeo and ArtPrize both for including us in the project and for being so awesome!

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Steve Jobs

If there are two iconic companies in the world that we are most passionate about here at SEI Studios – they are Apple and Pixar.

Every day we work in Steve’s world. Whether it be showing a client a mockup from our iPad, tweeting from our iPhone, or editing the next big video project in Final Cut Pro from our Mac’s – Steve Jobs has played a significant role in our lives. We are fans of great design and nobody has done it better than Apple.

You might have noticed we like Pixar, a lot. How can you not, they produce fantastic films with great stories and amazing animation. Without the vision and backing from Steve Jobs in the early years, we might not have ever had Toy Story or the wonderful movies that followed in its footsteps. Steve helped change the world of computer graphics and animation as we know it today.

Steve was an innovator, a visionary, a husband, and a father. He is an inspiration to us here at SEI Studios and will forever impact our lives.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

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Tip Series #2: Avoid Cliches

In every aspect of life there are things that you need to avoid and things that you need to do in order to achieve your goals. This week we’re going to focus on another negative, (another thing you need to avoid) in order to achieve the positive.

Avoid Cliches To Achieve Originality

There are two main types of cliches that I think you need to avoid:

  • Cliches in Concept
  • Cliches in Execution

Cliches in concept are those ideas that are inherently flawed on the fundamental level. To put it bluntly: the idea isn’t any good to begin with. It has been done before and it shows little imagination, effort, and creativity. Instead of just resting on your laurels falling back on these unimaginative ideas, think outside the box think more deeply to establish a good concept and then keep on refining those ideas (even the ones you like).

In practice, not every site needs Flash. Not every site needs jQuery content sliders. Not every video needs tilt-shift or bloom lighting. Remember, your concept should serve the interests of your client and help to get the attention of their target market. Don’t be seduced by the latest trends or buzzwords. Don’t build your house on sand, make sure that the foundation you build your project on is firm.

Cliches in execution on the other hand are flawed only because of the way you execute a particular idea. Most Hollywood blockbusters for example, insist upon “orange and blue” color-grading. The posters below aren’t that bad (although you could argue they are flawed on the fundamental level and relying on this cliche to make a dull composition look interesting).

The result of this cliche? None of these films have a distinct visual identity – whether it is subconscious or not – they look like “Movie X” and consumers will notice. Movie-goers may even decide not to see your movie due to lack of imagination shown in your movie posters, trailers, or other promotional materials.

Perhaps Hollywood is too abstract of an example. How about a much more practical example of cliches in execution: Typography. This is an area where creative professionals do have control (maybe not as much as you’d like, but control nonetheless).

If a client brings you a logo with a less-than-desireable typeface, then do your best to distract from that blandness with some more more refined choices. That pamphlet, website, or video doesn’t have to be “boring looking” — it’s up to you to spice it up.

Chances are – we’ve all used cliches in our work before. As much as we may want to avoid them, they have a way of sneaking into our projects, but if we are conscious of our past mistakes then we move forward smarter, wiser and ultimately do better work in the future.

Thanks for reading!

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Tips Series #1: Avoid Corrosive Thinking

Welcome to our four-part “Tip Series”.

In this weekly series, we’ll share some important things that we’ve learned throughout the years. Hopefully you’ll learn something that you can apply to your particular field!

I think the most valuable lesson that I can impart is to avoid what I call “corrosive thinking”. If you’re hazy on the word “corrosive”, click here for a quick refresher.

Just like acid eats fabric, corrosive thinking eats us up inside. Corrosive thinking rears it’s ugly head when we don’t get that big account that we wanted or when a client is being particularly difficult. If, instead of venting and moving forward, we indulge our anger, we have already started down a dark path. The next step down this road is oftentimes playing the “Comparison Game” where we compare our level of talent/ability to that of another person or another company. We feel that we are entitled, that we know better.

Well firstly, let’s say that you are being cosmically wronged and you do know better. If you ‘know better’, then no doubt it is because you were given more opportunities in life. Maybe you had a better upbringing or education or access to technology. Then isn’t it better that someone else got that big job instead of you? As you, in the Darwinian sense of the phrase are “the fittest”, therefore much more likely to get clients in the future.

When we “rank” ourselves with others, what we’re really doing is taking pride in our own insecurity. Of course, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel, we’re all human (except me, I’m half-robot). Sometimes something doesn’t work out that we do really need – professionally, socially, or monetarily. That’s undoubtedly discouraging, there’s no way around that. But if we don’t manage our emotions properly or check our attitudes and egos at the door, we allow ourselves to be consumed by our frustrations and our pride. The infection spreads; we’re perpetually frustrated, it affects our work, it can even spread to others in our office.

In economic terms, the opportunity cost is too great to indulge in corrosive thinking. Instead, we should take a step back when these situations arise and use our energy in a more fruitful way. Instead of being angry over being slighted – feel gratitude for the blessings in your life, instead of toiling in frustration – go follow up with some prospects, instead of yelling like a insane person – continue to master your craft.

Buddhists call this “Right Intent”, Christians call this “the fruits of the spirit”, others may call it “positive thinking”. Whatever you want to call it – this way of thinking is much more beneficial and much more pleasant than the other kind.

Thanks for reading! =)

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Project Stories Pt. 4 – Chext

Yikes, seems like I’ve been typing these posts forever now. Last one, I promise!

To wrap up the highlights from our recently completed projects, we present Chext.

Chext is a new tech start-up company that was part of the Momentum program in Grand Rapids. We were first recommended to collaborate with Chext through a mutual friend and mentor, Grant Carmichael of thinkXD (thanks Grant) and the relationship we formed with the Chext team was great from the very beginning. Ryan Montgomery and Jeff Bell – the two masterminds behind Chext were great to work with and really helped us craft the vision for the project.

In short, we created 3 videos for them and designed their business cards. The videos included two testimonials/stories from avid users of their application, as well as a third video that is more of a standard introduction and promo piece for the product. All three are posted below and should give you a pretty good idea of what Chext is. If you can text, you can Chext!

Seriously though, these guys rock and Chext has a very bright future ahead of it. A great technology product with a great vision – backed by people who care about serving their customers. I started using Chext while working on this project and I haven’t stopped, it just works.

That concludes my string of blog post and stories behind our featured clients and projects! Thanks for reading along and keep an eye for all of these awesome organizations in the future!

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Project Stories Pt. 3 – UICA

Following our recent trend of shooting live events, we were fortunate enough to be asked to cover the opening night of the new UICA (Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts) here in downtown GR.

If you aren’t familiar with the UICA, they are a community organization that focuses on the arts. While being a traditional art gallery they also hosts events, classes, and independent films – a really fantastic organization we are proud to have in Grand Rapids. They recently moved from their previous location a few blocks away to an AMAZING multi-floor facility that is truly a testament to great design and will provide to be a great resource for the local arts community.

Their opening night event was themed “The Odd Ball” – your typical ball or gala event but with a twist. With live performance artists and some installed pieces, it was a super cool event and I was very impressed with both the new location and the amount of support that people showed by attending.

This video was a last-minute project, I literally was called up to cover the event hours before it took place. I wanted to get a little experimental with my process and decided to shoot the majority of the video with the “lens whacking” technique. This style of shooting involves detaching the lens from the body of the camera while shooting to allow light to seep onto the sensor (yes on purpose) that creates interesting focal points and glares.

You can judge for yourself, but I think it turned out pretty cool. Also, we featured music from local indie rock band Valentiger in the video, thanks guys!

Last but not least, upcoming is Part 4 (and final) post to this series and features a great new technology company started right here in Grand Rapids…

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Project Stories Pt. 2 – RED ALERT!

Now moving on from Le Salon, time to highlight another recent project: RED ALERT!

RED ALERT was a one-night event hosted at The Pyramid Scheme in downtown Grand Rapids. The event was put on to benefit The Grand Rapids Red Project and raised $2,000 to benefit awareness and prevention of AIDS & HIV in the local community.

The event itself was AWESOME! It featured a number of local makeup artists doing their craft live on the spot, working on the faces and bodies of local models. Being involved in the arts community, live makeup and hair in an artistic fashion is something I don’t see everyday – so being able to capture that process was really amazing and totally blew me away.

Also, DJ SuperDre was there spinning all night to a capacity crowd in the venue. Other sponsors and supporters of the event included A.K. Rikk’s, Echo Salon, The Grand Rapids Social Diary, and of course The Pyramid Scheme.

With this being a live event, the idea is to capture as much as you can – as creatively as you can. From the start of the night to the final model walk, the camera was rolling – but the end result was really great and I think we met the expectations that they wanted to capture for the RED ALERT event.

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Project Stories Pt. 1 – Le Salon Bridal Boutique

Lately, I’ve been working on a number of video projects simultaneously – and they all finished right about the same time. If you’ve been following our latest updates, you may have noticed a surge of new video content on both our website and Vimeo page.

Now I just wanted to give a quick recap and brief story behind each project. Over the next few days, I’m going to post up a daily feature of the videos – so stay glued to the blog, lots of cool stuff to come!

Let’s start things off with Le Salon Bridal Boutique.

We had been chatting with Le Salon for quite some time about collaborating on video work to boost their business in the world of bridal fashion. Jonas and Alexis who own and operate their boutique based out of Royal Oak, Michigan – created a package called “The Couture Shoot” which allows brides who are purchasing designer dresses from their Boutique to get an exclusive day to themselves. The Couture Shoot features a trip to the day-spa, a wine tasting, hair and makeup styling, and finally a fashion photography shoot with the Bride in their dress.

Basically the concept of this video was to just tag along for the day during one of their clients Couture Shoots and document all the stops along the way. What we came up with is this energetic recap of what the package includes – giving Le Salon Bridal Boutique a great promotional piece to show their brides-to-be.

We wanted to thank Elly who let us step in and follow her around for the day (real client and bride, not a stand-in model), she was a natural on camera and we wish her the best of luck in the future. Thanks Elly!

Stay tuned for Pt. 2 and more of this 4-post installment that features stories and highlights about all of our latest projects!

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