Word Wizards Earns A+ BBB Accreditation

This week, Word Wizards, Inc. announced its recent accreditation by the BBB serving Metro Washington DC and Eastern PA.  As a BBB Accredited Business, we are dedicated to promoting trust in the marketplace. According to a recent BBB study by Nielsen, nearly 83% of U.S. consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a business who displays the BBB Accreditation Seal. The BBB is a resource for the public, providing trustworthy, unbiased information about businesses. “We are pleased to be a BBB Accredited Business because we value building trust with our consumers,” said Ben Gordon – Word Wizards VP. “Our BBB Accreditation gives our customers confidence in our commitment to maintaining high ethical standards of conduct.”

BBB Accredited Businesses must adhere to the BBB’s Code of Business Practices, a comprehensive set of policies, procedures and best practices for representing trustworthiness in the marketplace. The code is built on the BBB Standards for Trust, which calls for building trust, embodying integrity, advertising honestly and telling the truth, being transparent, honoring promises, being responsive and safeguarding privacy.

For more information, visit our BBB Business Profile at bbb.org

https://www.bbb.org/washington-dc-eastern-pa/business-reviews/transcription-service/word-wizards-inc-in-silver-spring-md-236016398

 




ICT Refresh: Updated 508 Compliance Regulations

Earlier this year, the US access board posted their proposed final rule for 508 compliance to the Federal Register. The new laws will have a major impact on what material must be accessible, and the success criteria for compliance. ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has evolved rapidly in the time since 508 regulations were first introduced. The refresh adopted by reference the compliance requirements of WCAG 2.0. The goal was to address previously vague areas of ICT compliance and update guidance for providing fully accessible content in the modern digital environment. To gain a better understanding of the impact of these changes, we explore in the following article our insights thus far.

Both Web and Non-web Content Must Comply

WCAG 2.0 was initially developed to provide guidance for web content and online media accessibility. Legally speaking, the application of these standards to non web content is stated by the following stipulation of the “Electronic Content” section of the final rule:

“E205.4.1 Word Substitution when Applying WCAG to Non-Web Documents. For non-Web documents, wherever the term “Web page” or “page” appears in WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements, the term “document” shall be substituted for the terms “Web page” and “page”. In addition, in Success Criterion in 1.4.2, the phrase “in a document” shall be substituted for the phrase “on a Web page”.”

What Electronic Content Must Comply with WCAG 2.0?

Accesibility for all! Keyboard with retunr key in blue as a handicap wheelchair symbol.

 

 

 

 

 

Specific guidance has been included to clarify what “public-facing” and internal electronic content must be made compliant. The following is taken directly from the official rule:

“The updated 508 Standards apply to a federal agency’s full range of public-facing content, including websites, documents and media, blog posts, and social media sites. The final rule also specifically lists the types of non-public-facing content that must comply. This includes electronic content used by a federal agency for official business to communicate: emergency notifications, initial or final decisions adjudicating administrative claims or proceedings, internal or external program or policy announcements, notices of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunities or personnel actions, formal acknowledgements or receipts, questionnaires or surveys, templates or forms, educational or training materials, and web-based intranets.”

Quoted from – Overview of the final rule

Exceptions and Exclusions

There are a few exceptions to the electronic content mentioned above that do not have to comply  fully with WCAG 2.0.

“EXCEPTION: Records maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to Federal recordkeeping statutes shall not be required to conform to the Revised 508 Standards unless public facing.

EXCEPTION: Non-Web documents shall not be required to conform to the following four WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria: 2.4.1 Bypass Blocks, 2.4.5 Multiple Ways, 3.2.3 Consistent Navigation, and 3.2.4 Consistent Identification.”

Quote from – The Text of the Final Rule

Compliance Alternatives – 508 Transcript

The WCAG 2.0 standards were developed to be flexible. This flexibility is intentional because the world of ICT changes rapidly. Word Wizards has developed an alternative method of providing video accessibility we call a 508 transcript. Specific references to such technology are included in the sucess criteria for section 1.2.3 (requiring audio description or alternative for pre-recorded media) and 1.2.5 (requiring audio description for live video).

The 508 transcript contains, in compliant PDF format, a text account of all visual and audio material within a media file. Known in WCAG 2.0 as a “media alternative.” This text based media alternative is specified as the only AAA sucess criteria withing section 1.2.8, arguably proving even better access to both persons with auditory and visual disability than audio description. Please note, a AAA criteria does not satisfy the previous A and AA requirements.

We know for certain, that specifically for talking head videos, a 508 transcript is a documented form of compliance with the new audio description requirements. However, we are further building a case, that under the stipulations of WCAG 2.0, a 508 transcript could be used under many circumstances to satisfy this requirement. If approved, 508 transcripts could save government producers countless hours, and taxpayer dollars.

Further Analysis is Needed

Because of the complicated nature of the ICT refresh and the sensitive legal implications of the changes, further study of the impact is required. Word Wizards is dedicated to decoding these regulations to help electronic content producers understand and comply. If you have further information about the refresh you think we should explore, or examples of alternative compliance methods you have identified, please leave us a comment or email.

Stay tuned for our next blog article on the subject, which will provide links and additional resources  for understanding the Refresh.




508 Compliance – ICT Refresh 2017: Final Rule Posted

For the past year, we have reported on the forthcoming update to 508 compliance standards. On January 9th, 2017 the final rule was officially posted to the Federal Register. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards and guidelines refresh is intended to improve on the existing framework of 508 compliance law, updating the rules to match changes in industry trends and technology. Our team contributed to the public commentary as the rule-making process has unfolded, and we are glad to see that the new rules have now been posted.

International Standards

References to WCAG 2.0 have been added to the 508 compliance guidelines, providing more specific criteria, and the benefit of internationally recognized compliance norms. To be clear, the ICT refresh does not throw out the previous standards of 508 compliance. The access board chose to build upon the existing 508 compliance regulations, without starting from scratch. It will take some time to explore all the specific changes of the new guidelines, but in general the refresh has clarified some major issues, and expanded on areas that were not covered by the previous law.

To view the WCAG 2.0 conformance standards click here

Embracing New 508 Compliance Laws

As stated on the Access Board Website, “The final rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT.”

The new rules go into effect in one year. Vendors, agencies, and businesses must now begin to take a look at the changes, and update their compliance strategies and workflow. Our team is committed to helping people stay up to date with changing regulations. Please share your thoughts with us in a comment, or contact us directly for information on how we can help your team achieve and maintain compliance.




Out of this World – Free Animation and Graphics from NASA

On June 30, 2016 at an event hosted by Interface Media Group, WIFV (Women in Film and Video) brought the fascinating animation portfolio of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) and its director Dr. Horace Mitchell, to the attention of the local film and video production community.  The NASA-SVS Gallery of 400 videos and 6,200 visual images are free to anyone who wants to download and incorporate breath-taking scientific content, with the proper attribution to NASA of course!

Dr. Horace Mitchell makes an Impression

Man sitting in chair

Dr. Mitchell, who has a Ph.D. in physics, developed an interest in visualizing his scientific computations.  Using a variety of in house custom developed software, he and the SVS team uses raw data to produce scientific visualizations which have wide appeal in popularizing NASA’s scientific endeavors to the world.  They translate the data from satellites and earth based observations into gorgeous representations worthy of the finest impressionist painters.  In fact one these data generated videos is actually called Van Gogh Sun: (watch it on You Tube).

Check out these colorful images formed from bites and bits of data worthy of the famous one eared Dutchman himself.

The Perpetual Oceanof Data!

Another example of the NASA-SVS work which has gone viral (with over 300,000 viewings) is Perpetual Ocean which uses no audio narration at all, only ocean flow data and a software which in the erudite words of Dr. Mitchell, “drops digital particles into the flow fields” to produce graphic animation of ocean currents which translates esoteric earth science into spellbinding images.  Take a look, you won’t believe your eyes.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEe1bVjORN4 .

The SVS team, along with their partners in production at NASA Goddard, Conceptual Image Lab, Goddard Media Studios and NASA Hyper wall Productions, want you to take advantage of the work of thousands of NASA scientists to help spice up you productions for free.  A better use of taxpayer money for the advancement of “the Biz” is hard to imagine. Special thanks to award winning children’s animator Kristin Harris for organizing WIFVs animation round-table series.

  1. http://www.kristinharrisdesign.com/
  2. Scientific Visualization Studio



Augmented Reality – Pokemon Go I choose You!

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have taken both our attention and the market by a storm within the past several years.  From headsets to our own smartphones, both have come leaps and bounds from the old Disney Quest Aladdin Magic Carpet VR ride, with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset by Oculus VR being one of the forefront pioneers in this budding new industry.  Developed and initially sold as a developer’s kit (DK1) for $300 in March 29th of 2013, the Oculus Rift has recently released a consumer version (CV1) for $599 that was originally available for pre-order in January 6th, 2016. The Oculus is not alone in this frontier however, with competitors like the HTC Vive (another VR headset) by Valve Corporation released April 5th, 2016 at $799 a unit (not including shipping and handling), the Oculus has stiff competition in this market.

Rift and Vive side by side
Rift and Vive side by side

Google Wants to Play

A far more budget friendly option to VR giants like the Oculus and the HTC Vive however is offered by Google in the form of a collapsible (and eco-friendly!) smartphone mount called Google Cardboard, released June 24th, 2014 and sold for $15 a unit. This contraption requires the use of a head mount (or your hands) to play app-store games available for both Android and iOS.  In addition to the Google Cardboard, Google has also brought us the game Ingress (owned by Niantic Incorporated after it separated as an independent company from Google), which is an Augmented Reality Science Fiction game that allows players to join one of two teams to defend (real life location based) Control Fields as their territory.  This game encourages players to go outside and physically move to other locations (the game limits player’s options/abilities while driving to encourage exercise), using local landmarks and places of interest as focal points for players to defend.

Gotta Catch Em’ All! Introducing Pokemon Go

 

Pokemon go launch meme

Continuing the trend of AR in pop culture today, Nintendo teamed up with Google and Niantic to develop their own AR smartphone game based off of one of their most popular game franchises ever, Pokemon GO! After a good humored prank conspired by Google and Nintendo, where Pokemon appeared online in Google Maps, video gamers everywhere cried out for more. Benevolently answering our plea, Nintendo and Google put their heads together to develop a free game that functioned off the same landmarks/real life locations as Ingress, however with a different spin in favor of Pokemon nostalgia. Launched on July 6th, 2016 Pokemon Go offers Pokemon fans everywhere their dream since childhood: the ability to walk outside of your house and go on your own Pokemon adventure.  Utilizing your smartphone’s camera, the game’s AR allows you to hunt Pokemon in your own surroundings! The game’s immersion extends further as water Pokemon appear near large areas of water (such as ponds or pools), ground types when you are in sandy areas, grass types when you are in the woods…the list goes on! This game even uses your phone’s pedometer to count how many steps you take, as the poke-eggs in game require different numbers of steps to hatch into a surprise Pokemon.

The Future is Now!

AR comes in many forms, and with the rapidly evolving (Poke-pun intended) market it’s carved into our entertainment industry, we only have more to anticipate and look forward to! If you would like to share your experiences with any of these technologies please leave us a comment on the blog.




Film Spotlight- The “Victorious” D.C. Divas

Victorious: Women of The Gridiron

Thanks to our friends at WIFV-DC, we recently attended the Reel Affirmations Film Festival’s screening of Victorious: Women of the Gridiron. The film is about the D.C. Divas, an all-woman football team that was undefeated in the 2015 Woman’s Football Alliance season. Some of the best players in woman’s football were present at the screening, along with the filmmaker Robert Mac, to talk about the sport and the challenges of competing in a league that is widely unknown. This is real football played by the best athletes of their gender, but few people outside of their friends, families and supporters attend the games. The filmmaker explores why this is the case.

Shining the Spotlight on Women’s Sports

Women's Football Alliance

The screening of a 15 minute preview of the film showed a fascinating insight into the world of women who play league football. It got us thinking, women’s basketball has a huge following, why not women’s football? What role do the TV networks play at keeping this unrecognized talent pool in the shadows? How can these athletes break away from the stigma associated with women in a contact sport? The filmmaker is focused on these issues to draw some well-deserved attention to some of the toughest and most skilled female football players in the country.

(See a five minute trailer of Victorious here – https://vimeo.com/144878763 ).

Filmmaker Captures D.C. Divas Winning Season

Word Wizards CEO meets filmmaker Robert Mac
Word Wizards CEO (left) meets Robert Mac (filmmaker)

Robert Mac is an award-winning filmmaker and the Executive Producer/Co-creator of the hugely popular film – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, (available online for free) about the “juicing” health science craze as a way to good health. “Fat” has had over 13 million viewers, and is one of the most successful health documentaries ever made.

Mac embedded himself with this team during the Divas victorious 2015 season, and collected some amazing football b-roll. Any NFL men’s team would be proud to review such successful game winning plays at the end of an undefeated championship season. The interviews were compelling glances into each woman’s unique life story of how she got there, and the life lessons the game has taught her along the way. Yet nobody knows about them.

Support The D.C. Divas on Indiegogo

D.C. Divas Team Photo 2015

It is a story that must be told. The average male NLF player makes $1.9 million dollars per season. The average woman WFA player makes exactly $0. Hopefully, with Mac’s engaging story telling, this may not be the case for long. Support their Indiegogo campaign to help bring this team of champions and this league of talented athletes out of the shadows and into the spotlight of professional sports. Don’t forget to Check out their accomplishments and schedule on The D.C. DIVA’s web site.

  1. For more about the Reel Affirmations Festival see http://www.reelaffirmations.org/
  2. For more about the WFA see http://wfafootball.net/
  3. For more about the filmmaker see http://www.frontridermedia.com/about/



ADA and 508 Accessibility: Comparing Two Standards

Both Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (508) and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are made up of laws and guidelines requiring information to be made available to all members of the public, regardless of sensory disabilities. Closed Captioning (CC),  Audio Description (AD), and accessible digital publication technology (508 remediation), are the gold standard for providing media that is fully accessible and compliant with both these regulatory standards.

Section 508

 

508 compliance logo.

 

508 requires that accommodations be made for government employees and members of the public with disabilities who wish to access Government Information and Communications Technology (ICT), including Government websites and multimedia. 508 compliance is overseen by the U. S. Access Board, an independent agency under HHS, which promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards. During 2015 the Access Board has conducted requests for public comments related to the accessibility rules and guidelines in their efforts to institute a “508 refresh” or update to the 508 accessibility requirements. Word Wizards has submitted comments, including our revelations about new ways to achieve accessibility of ICT through the use of 508 Compliant Transcripts.

Read more about our comments here

The Americans with Disabilities Act

 

ADA 25 years logo

 

Signed into law 25 years ago by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA derives authority from the primary Federal civil rights law, the Commerce Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and as such is overseen by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The ADA is a broader application of accessibility standards to influence commercial and social practices related to persons with disabilities. Title III of the ADA requires that businesses, state and local governments and nonprofit services providers make accommodations for the disabled public to access the same services as patrons who are not disabled. Movie theaters, digital media, websites, and ICT are required to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Evolving standards

In one recent case (NAD v Netflix) the Western Mass. Circuit Court held that even though Netflix was based solely on the internet, they had to offer captioned movies for their “watch instantly” streaming service, because they were dominant in interstate commerce, with 60% of the available market. That case was settled out of court with Netflix agreeing to caption everything going forward. However another jurisdiction, the federal appeals court (9th Circuit), ruled in a class action suit that the ADA doesn’t apply to Netflix, since the online video provider is, “not connected to any actual, physical place.” Never-the-less, the trend is towards more accessibility in services offered to the public rather than less, including film and video.

 

Accesibility graphic, keyboard with blue "Access" key.

Comparing 508 and ADA

Ultimately, ADA protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities participating in interstate commerce; whereas Section 508 is a set of regulations related to access to Government ICT. 508 compliance provides accessibility for digitally published material within government agencies and entities. ADA standards apply broadly to society, commerce, and government as a whole. A comparison of 508 and ADA regulations reveals a trend of increasing complexity of accessible media technology. Word Wizards mission is to serve the needs of an evolving industry as the number of people with sensory disabilities in our society continues to grow.




508 Refresh – Public Comments Closed: Our Contribution

The time for public comments before the US Access Board regarding the 508 Refresh has passed. Word Wizards (WW) submitted our own comments in support of 508 accessible transcripts as a viable alternative to prerecorded material, in order to provide increased access for deaf and hard of hearing, as well as blind and low vision persons. You can find the full text of our public comments to US Access Board via this link.

Graphic for section 508 compliance

508 Transcript as Prerecorded Media Alternative

508 transcripts provide access for people with disabilities, at lower cost and with quicker turnaround time than traditional Closed Captioning (CC) and Audio Description (AD) in some instances. In those instances, they can be deemed as good, or better under the concept of equivalent facilitation, recognized by the existing 508 law and pending 2015 refresh. We intend that they be used by agencies and their video production departments, when the traditional alternatives of CC or AD are either too expensive, or are not feasible for technical reasons.

The Access Board has announced that current accepted international standards will be incorporated by reference into the updated 508 rules. These standards, referred to as WCAG 2.0, specifically mentions media alternatives for prerecorded material, which include 508 compliant transcripts, at section 1.2.3. Here are two case histories where 508 transcripts provided more access for less money than traditional CC or AD.

Case Study No. 1 – Fast and Affordable

In early 2014, a client asked us for help achieving 508 compliance for a video, with a rapid turnaround deadline and a low budget. The client had only two days and a minuscule budget to produce the video and provide access using AD. We suggested a 508 complaint transcript as an alternative. The end product was a fully compliant PDF document, with all nonverbal elements described in the body of the transcript. This PDF was remediated to make it compliant and accessible to screen readers for the Blind and Low Vision people. By including all visual material in the document, we were able to satisfy the requirement of WCAG 2.0 – Section 1.2.3 to convey all visual information.

Road runner cartoon.

 

The document was produced for half the cost of standard AD, because there is no need for a media specialist to record and mix audio content into the source video. In this case, budget and speed were the client’s priorities -and a 508 compliant transcript did the job twice as fast, at half of the cost.

Case Study No. 2 – Complex Visual Accessibility

In instances of highly complex video content, 508 transcripts provide a level of visual description otherwise impossible with conventional AD. In the summer of 2014, WW used a 508 transcript to assist a client who was working on a high-profile Federal investigation. During this sensitive inquiry, a video presentation was created to summarize the findings of the agency’s investigation. The video was long and visually elaborate, consisting of different camera feeds spliced together, views with multiple screens simultaneously, and an uninterrupted audio track blended from several sources.

classified material.

Given the intricacies of the mixed media, conventional AD was not feasible. The audio content had no pauses, thus making it impossible to place Audio Description content within the existing audio track. At the final stages of this investigation, a concerned family member, who was blind, insisted on receiving an accessible version of the video in order to fully understand what had happened in the case. We suggested a 508 compliant transcript to provide complete accessibility.

Conclusion

As the Access Board prepares to refresh the standards by which Section 508 compliance will be evaluated, we encouraged inclusion of 508 transcripts as a viable option in appropriate circumstances. When budgets are constrained, rapid turnaround is required, and/or visual information is highly complex, 508 transcripts fulfill real and significant needs.

Existing 508 regulations and the pending 2015 Refresh, recognizes the need to reduce undue burden on the agencies by permitting the use of media alternatives which are as good as, or better, than conventional means at achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. These comments were submitted in order to bring our actual experience to the attention of the accessibility and video production communities. As long as the international standards of WCAG 2.0 are incorporated by reference into the 2015 Refresh,  508 compliant transcripts will be included on the list of acceptable media alternatives (for prerecorded content).




Crowd Marketing – TUGG and GATHR

logo-Docs_in_Progress_477x165

 

Thanks so much to Docs In Progress for organizing the Crowdsourcing Theatrical Distribution talk.  They do amazing work helping people from all walks of life to fulfill their desire of creating documentary productions.  Since video transcription is often an essential part of making a documentary, it is only natural that WW is a proud corporate sponsor of DIP.  We were delighted to have the opportunity to cover their lecture in our Blog.

Introducing, Crowd Marketing

The crowd marketing discussion featured Jan Selby, founder of Quiet Island Films. After twenty five years as a successful marketing and advertising executive, she decided to follow her dream of becoming a documentary producer.  She has produced several docs including Beyond the Divide a film  about a Vietnam Veteran and a peace advocate healing wounds while in search
of common ground.  She applied the same organized business principles to film making, and decided to do marketing through crowd sourcing.

While Kickstarter or Indiegogo can help filmmakers get the money to film and produce their movie, Tugg and Gathr focus more on connecting the resulting films to the fans. A filmmaker works with Tugg or Gathr to make their movie available to screen, at which point fans will work to promote a local screening on a particular date, essentially marketing the film themselves. Gathr and Tugg set a specific threshold for each screening, meaning a minimum number of tickets which must be reserved in order to cover costs such as the filmmaker’s fee. If that threshold is reached before the screening request expires, the event will proceed, and filmmakers will receive a percentage of all profits above the threshold.

Tugg logo

Tugg helps market films by funneling traffic to independent websites. Tugg also offers detailed information about earnings and percentages on their website. Although Gathr may require direct contact to find out percentages, they do offer filmmakers a chance to receive funding by purchasing the theatrical rights only.

GATHR logo

Worldwide Appeal

The global possibilities of this type of crowd marketing is staggering.  Jan reported that one documentary, “Awake – The Life of Yogananda” has gone viral through crowd marketing on Gathr.  It’s about the life of Paramhansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh, who was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.  To date 35,000 tickets have been reserved in 68 screenings in the US for the “Awake” doc.  Many more have been purchased worldwide.  The popularity of yoga and the Gathr platform rewarded the two filmmakers by allowing yoga enthusiasts worldwide to do the marketing for them. So if you have a topic for a documentary with wide popular appeal, this might be the way forward to distribute your film to the world.




NetCentric to Access Board: 508 Refresh

US Access Board Logo

 

Duff Johnson, President of NetCentric, creator of CommonLook accessibility remediation software, recently spoke before the U.S. Access Board regarding the upcoming refresh of the 508 accessibility rules.  The proposed changes include adherence to WCAG 2.0 for all media types and additional conformance to other guidelines based on media type, such as the PDF/UA-1 guidelines for all PDF documents. NetCentric provides software used by accessibility remediation teams worldwide.

PDF/UA Recommended

Johnson recommended to the Board that PDF accessibility be judged primarily on PDF/UA standards, since WCAG 2.0 mostly concerns web content; for anything not usually found in static PDFs, such as Javascript or audiovisual content, WCAG 2.0 could then be consulted.  In contrast to WCAG 2.0, PDF/UA standards are based solely on PDF documents and go into more detail on making these accessible. Furthermore, the PDF Association formulated the Matterhorn protocol to create a functioning checklist that will definitely answer whether a document can be considered accessible, whereas WCAG does not offer such a definitive answer.

Protocol for Accessibility

Common Look Global Access

 

 

For example, if you’re trying to make a standard PDF accessible, WCAG 2.0 requires that the content include adequate contrast, be read in a logical order, and that all non-text items have alternate text available.  If you have access to CommonLook’s Global Access software, however, you can choose to run the Matterhorn protocol checklist, which will confirm that all images have alt-text provided, tables and lists are formatted in a reasonable manner, and that all content is either tagged or artifacted.  Although this checklist still requires human participation—it will ask if contrast and alternate text are appropriate—it provides reasonable certainty that once complete, the document can and will be considered accessible.

Broad Criteria

Johnson also recommends that accessibility of PDFs be judged by PDF/UA in general, rather than restricting this to PDF/UA 1. The upcoming PDF 2.0 will offer new structures and tags to help make content more accessible, which PDF/UA 2 will then address. Word Wizards encourages this broad stroke approach to 508 regulation because we know it allows for maximum flexibility providing accessible solutions for persons with disabilities.

Support New Technology

The endorsement of PDF/UA standards and WCAG 2.0 by major industry players further supports the viability of our new 508 transcription services. 508 transcripts provide accessibility for video productions using section 508 compliant PDF documents. These documents are in compliance with the standards of PDF/UA and are suggested by WCAG 2.0 as an alternative for video content accessibility requirements. When WCAG 2.0 is adopted by the US Access Board, 508 transcripts are poised to satisfy the requirements of many agencies who lack the resources and funding to provide more expensive alternatives such as audio description.




Media Accessibility – 508 Compliant Transcript

Word Wizards is continuing our coverage of The United States Access Board’s 508 refresh. These rules and standards set the accessibility compliance requirements for electronic publications procured by the federal government, including web sites, video assets, and mixed media productions. For video assets, the current 508 compliant standard for accessibility requires closed captioning, and audible description for persons with visual disabilities. During the 508 refresh we hope to add a third option to enable more video assets to meet 508 standards without adding undue burden to agencies and applicable vendors. Before we address our alternative we have provided a brief overview of CC and AD requirements for 508.

Accesibility for all!

Closed Captioning

The guidelines for Closed Captioning to achieve 508 compliance are clear and straightforward. All information conveyed in audio format must be provided in the captions. When speakers are off screen or multiple parties are present, clear distinction must be made in the text. The captions must not obscure faces or cover on-screen text. Each caption must appear in sync with the audio of the video, so that persons with auditory disabilities can get the full experience of the media. Closed captions are required for all video material subject to section 508 regulations. Closed Caption Logo

Audible Description

When required, audible descriptive material must be added to video content to convey visual information to non-sighted users. The process involves taking the original media and recording additional audio content to provide access to information for person’s with visual disabilities. For entertainment purposes, the audible description track must be mixed in between pauses in the relevant audio of the video. For more flexible video content, the video can be paused to include longer explanations of visual material. Audible description is not currently required for all video content, but the 508 refresh plans to increase the amount of AD required by law.

Audio Description

508 Accessible Transcript – An Alternative

Word Wizards has developed an alternative to provide media accessibility for both deaf and blind users. We can produce a transcript in accessible PDF format that conveys audible and visual material. All spoken material and relevant sounds are captured in a standard transcript. We then add specific verbal descriptions of the visual content within the text. We then remediate the document for 508 compliance, allowing it to be fully functional with standard screen reading technology. In this final form, a deaf user can read the auditory information, and a blind user can use a screen reader. Thus we satisfy both aspects of compliance for videos, in one self-contained asset.

The New Game in Town

The 508 accessible transcript is a relatively unknown deliverable, but is included in the WCAG 2.0 regulations being used as the framework for the 508 refresh. Word Wizards has submitted public comments that review the merits of “Media Alternative (Prerecorded)”, as it is known in WCAG 2.0. 508 transcripts can be produced for a fraction of the cost of captioning and audio description. Instead of weeks, it can be done in days, cutting production timelines in half, while saving substantial financial resources. While it may never replace closed captions and audible descriptions as the gold standard, it enables agencies and content providers a faster and more affordable way of providing access for media assets.




508 Refresh is Underway

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) is currently working to revise the standards for Section 508 accessibility. This revision is being called the 2015 Section 508 Refresh.

US Access Board Logo

 

Since the last revision (in 2000), technological advances have increased exponentially – going from voice-only devices to smartphones, for example. Therefore, the Access Board finds it appropriate to update the standards to achieve a higher level of accessibility with current technology, and prepare for advances in the future. Additionally, the Access Board plans to update the guidelines in conjunction with current international standards to increase the availability of accessible information.

Two hearings have already been held regarding the changes, on March 5 in San Diego, CA, and March 11 in Washington, DC.

New Rules for Accessibility Standards:

There are four expected changes for Section 508:

  • Would draw from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 in order to have a singular set of standards for websites, software, and digital documents (such as PDF).
  • Greater specificity for the scope of which federal documents are accessible (largely public-facing)
  • Greater specificity for how assistive technology interacts with current software, etc.
  • Include real-time text (gives each character as it’s being typed) whenever there is real-time vocal communication.

More information can be found in the 2015 Refresh Executive Summary.

Submission of comments for the Refresh:

The Access Board is currently accepting public comments on the refresh, which will be displayed on their site and may change some of the revisions. We intend to submit comments to share our findings for media alternatives for A/V content, and for best practices.

Comments can be submitted either through the post or electronically, and be in by May 28th. If you also have comments to share with the Access Board for the refresh, information on how to contact them can be found below:

  • Mail: Office of Technical and Information Services, Access Board, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111.
  • Fax:  202-272-0081
  • Electronic submission: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
    • Enter the ID for this docket into the search bar: ATBCB-2015-0002.
    • Click “Comment Now!” next to the link titled: Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines (or just click here!)
    • Enter any comments you want to make, attach them as a file, and enter any necessary information
    • Once complete, you’ll get a Comment Tracking Number for your comment
  • E-mail: [email protected]. Include docket number ATBCB-2015-0002 in the subject line of the message.



Title Region in Excel: Defining for JAWS 16

Since software is constantly updating and evolving, we have to keep up with changes to make the most accessible documents as possible. With that in mind, issues can sometimes arise with the new versions of our most commonly used software, such as JAWS. What works in an older version may not translate well into the newest update.

This post will cover the process of defining the title region in Excel worksheets. In JAWS 13, it was straightforward to set the title region. Users of JAWS 16 will have to take a different approach, however, as what worked in the old version no longer applies.

Issue Defining the Title Region

Excel Icon

With Excel worksheets, JAWS 13 was able to read a defined title region by announcing the row and/or column header. Unfortunately, this convenient function does not apply automatically to JAWS 16.  The newer version will read out either the heading row or the column. It won’t read both. The header it chooses is determined by whether the row or column is selected first (while holding down the CTRL key).

However, we have found that it is still possible to get JAWS 16 to define a title region in Excel worksheets. The only issue is that Excel has a setting that prevents it from doing so. All you have to do is switch that setting!

The Fix

Within Excel is a JAWS verbosity setting that will prevent the software from using the old JAWS 13 manner for defining a title region. The following steps will allow you to define a title region in JAWS 16:

  1. Go into the settings by pressing JAWS Key-V from an Excel window
  2. Type ‘name’ into the search box
  3. Change the override name setting (which should be the only search result) to ‘off.’

Now you should be able to define the title region, giving you a more accessible Excel worksheet!

 




Section 508 Compliance – Expert Advice

This post is the start of a new series concerning Section 508 compliance remediation. Our expert 508 compliance team has encountered several workflow errors while using Acrobat for 508 remediation.  These errors cause some serious headaches for both users and clients. As such, we felt it would be useful to cover some of these issues here, along with advice on how to overcome them.

Experience with Section 508 Compliance

Graphic for section 508 compliance

Being compliant with Section 508 does not necessarily mean that the document is completely accessible. Our team has been working to achieve both compliance and accessibility for over five years. We boast 100% USA citizen employment for guaranteed quality, and do not outsource our labor. The issues that we will be discussing in further posts are ones that have come up while working, and which we have been able to resolve.

PDF Experts

XI-Standard in Box

The Word Wizards team has been working with Acrobat for our Section 508 compliance since version 8. When an issue with Acrobat arises, we have worked directly with Adobe in order to solve it. As such, we’ve developed a reputation for being able to resolve some of the most difficult problems with PDF documents. If you come across a problem of your own that we haven’t covered, let us know in the comments! We will be more than happy to answer your questions.




Happy New Year: Best of 2014

Champagne toast to a good 2015.

 

Wishing you a happy new year from your friends at Word Wizards. 2015 is here and we are planning big things for our company.  Transcription, compliance, and graphic services are hot, and our company is growing faster than ever before. Our blog took a pause in the fall as we restructured our media team, and now we are back online and looking forward to another great year.

Lets recap our top 5 posts from this year:

#5: TIVA President Passes the Torch

A new era begins at TIVA-DC.

#4: DC Independent Film Festival

The fresh faces in DC film.

#3: On The Red Carpet in NYC

Word Wizards attends premier of the new movie, #stuck.

#2: Drones with Cameras

Flying cameras and the laws that govern our skys.

#1: Word Wizards HQ Moves

Our new home in downtown in Silver Spring!

 




#Stuck – New Film Spotlight

Starting this weekend #Stuck will be screening in select theaters across the country. The production team is coming along for the ride, hosting Q + A sessions after the show, and kicking off their tour in NYC at the Village East Cinema this Friday night. Through a unique combination of independent capitalization, and social media crowd-funding, this film is a shining example of the new paradigm in film production. #Stuck is the most recent release from rising film maker Stuart Acher, and represents the future of independently financed film production and distribution.

A fresh story:

The plot feels like a blend of classic Hollywood motifs, with a distinctly original plot and presentation. #Stuck’s two main characters wake up next to each other, after what appears to be a pretty wild night. After realizing she has no way of getting home, Guy, the male lead, offers to give his new lady friend, Holly, a ride home. She reluctantly accepts the ride and the stage is set for a great movie. How did they end up together, and what happens when they hit an impassable LA traffic jam? Watch the trailer below if you want more!

 

Coming Soon – Pre Order The Film Now!

For one week only, stuck will be appearing in theaters across the country. Check their website for a full list of screenings and Q+A sessions. In addition to this limited release, #Stuck is available now for pre-order on iTunes, and will soon be available on Netfilx and other digital platforms. It takes a truly original idea to penetrate the entertainment industry and secure a place in professional film media. In addition it takes a team of dedicated and hardworking film makers to bring an original idea to life without external financing. We hope you check it out and leave us a comment if you like.

#Stuck




Unmanned Aircraft in Filmmaking

One of the most exciting new tends in filmmaking today is the use of camera-equipped drones. These inexpensive Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, are more budget conscious than helicopters for capturing the overhead excitement of a vehicle chase or other outdoor scenes. Using a versatile GoPro camera on a UAV, filmmakers can easily record awe-inspiring aerial footage at a safe distance. But there are legal questions about the winged wonders: where can you fly drones and do you need a pilot’s license? At a recent WIFV panel discussion at Interface Media Group, Jim Williams, head of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office, and Lauren Reamy, representative of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) before Congress and federal agencies, answered audience questions.

Rules and Regulations

Federal Aviation Administration logo
Taken from Wikipedia.com

Jim opened the panel discussion by describing how his office is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a division of the Department of Transportation (DoT), to finalize a new set of rules dealing with the commercial use of drones. The new rules are scheduled for release later in the year, around November 4th. The FAA will also promote a safe, efficient, and timely integration with the UAS Integration Office. Jim also revealed additional regulations called Section 333, which address dangerous jobs like flare stack inspections on oil rigs. Flares are potentially dangerous for manned craft, but not for unmanned drones.

Using Drones to Capture Movie Magic

photo of drone in flight
Taken from suasnews.com

Lauren Reamy spoke about some amazing video footage—now gone viral—taken on the 4th of July by a drone flying through the fireworks and showing how effective drones can be when compared to manned craft. Unlike manned aircraft, drones do not create a wind effect, do not need a large support crew, and do not use gasoline. Some films using drones are Skyfall, Transformers, and The Smurfs 2. The MPAA supports the use of drones in American productions and hopes the new rules from FAA will help with scripted film and TV; reality shows are not included.

Audience Q&A

The panel then opened up to questions from the audience. The first inquiry came from a hobbyist who wondered if she could sell footage taken by a drone. Answer:  Yes, she could sell her footage once or twice, but after that it crosses into the commercial realm, which is prohibited. Another question: Is there a general fee for obtaining your license and registering your drone? Answer: To register is about $5, but the cost for a private pilot’s license or certification is regulated by the FAA. Before launching a drone, always assess the surroundings, and plan to fly your craft a minimum of five miles from an airport. (At Ronald Reagan National Airport, you need to be at least 15 miles away). If pilots fly within these boundaries, they may expect a visit from the local authorities, who may confiscate the footage and maybe even the drone. Pilots should always have a line of sight of their craft.
Establishing the rules for usage is key to assuring drones or unmanned aircraft are used responsibly and do not endanger manned aircraft or act as peeping toms. To read the rules and make comments, log onto www.regulation.gov. Even though regulations fluctuate around the world, a small contingent of the UN are working on global rules. Jim closed the panel discussion by saying he is hopeful that within about two years, most professionals will be able to sell videos taken with drones commercially.




Future Media Concepts Presents: Editing Tech 101

Heavily involved in many aspects of post-production, Word Wizards realizes that editing is where the magic begins. And choosing the right editing software for your project—Adobe Premiere, Avid or Final Cut—is essential. A huge thank you goes out to TIVA who recently sponsored an incredibly informative panel discussion at Future Media Concepts, Comparing Editing Platforms, which addressed the issue. Panelist included three talented editors, Virginia Quesada, Sylus Green and Matthew Nagy. Attendees spent half an hour with each editor to learn about their preferred editing software.

Avid Media Composer:

Avid editing platform.

 

Virginia Quesada a well-known trainer and editor at Future Media Concepts demonstrated Avid Media Composer. She explained that the software easily handles transcoding and consolidation. And how the software efficiently cleans movie files and copies them for editing. According to Quesada, Avid Media Composer imports and accommodates footage from the 4K camera without difficulty while the point tracker effects allows you to simply and seamlessly change the frame of an object within an image. The corrective effects like color correction are smooth are easy to use by editors of all levels.

Adobe Premiere

Adobe-Premier

Editor Matt Nagy explained why he is such a big fan of Adobe Premier. The importation of files by the software does not require transcode and works with most formats. Premiere also plays seamlessly with the rest of the Adobe family of products including Photoshop or After Effects. For example, an audio clip you are adjusting in Premiere can be dropped into Adobe Audition for tweaking then returned to Premiere.  And the warp stabilizer that smoothes out your footage gives more of a steady cam look. Important to note: Adobe offers comprehensive support for camera formats and plugins immediately after release.

Final Cut Pro

Final-Cut-Pro

Editor Sylus Green explained that Final Cut Pro Version X is very different from Version 7 and this has frustrated many users since it was missing some features they had become used to. Because of the criticism, Apple returned some of the functionality that editors demanded into the program through updates. This included reinstating features such as multicam editing, XML support, Red camera support with native REDCODE Raw Editing and editing individual audio channels right into the timeline.  And the cost of FCP X at $299 is less expensive when compared to other editing software. Green praised the keyword and smart collection tool in FCP X that aids searches, and is a favorite among documentary makers. The retiming tools of X allow you to manually affect the speed of a clip by simply dragging a bar over it. In FCP X the multi-cam editor easily and quickly syncs your work, a big change from the clunky FCP 7.

The Perfect Fit for You

While each of the different software had their own strengths, there were a few downsides. Instead of simply purchasing the software, with Adobe you must subscribe on a monthly basis to use all the features. However, Adobe, Avid and Apple all allow you try their software for a trial period. Different editors like different features, so try before you buy!

 




48-Hour Film Project 2014 – Reflections from the Pros

The 48 hour film project hosted by Mark Rupert. Video professionals from the DC metro area work to make a complete film in 48 hours.

 

When my friend Tim Flaherty came shopping for a location for his entry in the 2014 48-Hour Film Project,  I was intrigued and wanted to help him. He is a former President of TIVA, and I know him to be a rock solid television and industrial producer.  His co-leader was Ishu Krishna, another former TIVA Board member for whom I have a great deal of respect. They named their team CITRA/CVA Productions after their respective production companies (CITRA and CVA).  Together, they assembled 27 professionals, from talent to producers, writers, editors, and motion graphics.

I was happy to offer the use of my office as a set, for a chance to observe the process unfold.  Unfortunately, our new office was way too small for a set that would eventually include helicopter drone shots and human burials.  Nevertheless, I agreed to buy lunch for the cast and crew, in exchange for the right to blog about the process.

However, my problem was daunting.  As a transcription guy, my knowledge of video production is very limited.  How was I supposed to educate others about what I didn’t understand very well myself?  That turned out to be easily solved.  We decided to tell the story through the words of the participants themselves.

Participants in the 48 hour film project 2014.
John Rowles (Composer) – Tim Flaherty (Producer) – Diane Williams (Writer)

 

Word Wiz Blogger’s Challenge

Here was my challenge to the CITRA/CVA Team.  Everyone who cared to do so would state the role that they played in production.  Why did they participate in the 48-hr FP, for no compensation, on the first nice weekend in spring?  How did they do their thing?  What special equipment, techniques, and acting skills did each bring to bear which would distinguish their work from the 95 other entries submitted at the DC 48-hr FP this year?  How did they function under pressure on a project with other people who were mostly strangers to each other?  What went particularly right, and also what went wrong?

My first request for blog submissions went out before the first screening.  Although our entry, The Ultimate Event, did not make it into the finals (called “Best of DC” in this area), I am sure our readers will find the participants’ comments particularly insightful.

Participants in the 48 hour film project preparing a scene for their shoot.
James Thompson at work on “The Ultimate Event.”

Comments from D.P. James Thompson

First to respond to my request for insight was current TIVA Board member James Thompson, who served on the camera crew of The Ultimate Event.  His comments:

“The first shot after the Peter Roof Drone into the building was a mid-shot of our star.

“This was done on a slider loaned to the production from another TIVA member, we had a mid-shot with the television’s silhouette taking up the left side of frame. As the director – Rich Volin read lines from the script, we inched forward on a 50mm lens with 5 separate focal points for the dedicated 1st AC – Jyothi Sunkari to hit over the 6 foot move. So the random elements included pacing from a script read, the subject sitting up in frame, and the previously mentioned TV needing to exit frame, the 2nd AC – Tara Roberts took care of sliding the unit out as I moved through its space with the slider mount. The TV flicker was produced by the gaffer – Jorge Mera bouncing a 350 watt arri into 1/4 CTB gel and all of this took place after midnight (16 hours since we began).

“The crew was excellent to work with, moves were quick, complaints were absent, and even the on-set (Home owners) dog entering frame to sample a featured cake didn’t slow the project down.

“Many people have told me how much they like the flowers hitting the grave, this was done in 720p to get the Canon 7D to record 60 frames. To give credit, 1st AC – Jyothi Sunkari who is experienced with her own 7D rig did that shot, nice work.

“When Peter Roof’s drone got ready to shoot the end crane out, then entire camera department including myself stopped and just watched in awe as what appears to be a children’s toy (ok these units cost and the practiced skill that make the shots work, are far from child’s play) created a shot which little short of a 30 foot crane, build crew of 3 and duration of 30 minutes could want to achieve, made the end takes swift and could be repeated for best performance.

“Also based on a discussion with Director – Rich Volin, anyone watching the film understands it is a funeral, very easy to convince an audience but no one will ever find the tombstone!”

Reaction from the Wiz

The camera drone shot started the film off with stunning effect.  My first thought was to wonder whether someone actually rented a giant crane or a helicopter.  This establishing shot indicated the level of professionalism which was to follow.  Incidentally, the same camera drone and operator (Peter Roof) was the subject of a live demonstration at a TIVA meeting last summer.  The slider was featured at the same meeting.  Many of the cast and crew were solicited through TIVA.  Word Wizards is sure that other local organizations like WIFV and PGA have 48-hr FP teams out there that they are equally proud of.  Networking with other professionals pays off every time.

Actress in the 48 hour film project 2014.

Comments from Professional Actor Martha Newman

“I can certainly attempt to comment on my experience from this past weekend, and about how cohesively we all worked together.

“I played Martha (my real name), Samantha’s assistant at the event planning company we represented in the film.  It was an insanely fun time.  The script was outrageous, the creative team was brilliant, and the crew were spit-shine professionals.  It’s true that the group worked very well together, many of us for the first time as a team, but there were also team members who HAD acted, or produced, together prior to this weekend.  I knew several crew members and actors from past projects myself, and although I had not met Tim Flaherty, the producer, before, he arranged a pre-production meeting at a watering hole in DC a couple of weeks prior to the big weekend where we all had a chance to get to know each other and bond.  By the time we met at Rich Volin’s house (the director) for the Big Event, we felt like a pretty close-knit family.  And for those of us who already knew each other well, it was an opportunity to lean on one another, while under pressure, to produce the best performance we could in a stressful situation.  For example, Tanya Davis (Samantha) and I have portrayed disaster victims almost every week for more than two years as we help adult students learn new skills under a government training contract, one of several role-playing jobs she and I have worked on together.  It was wonderful having this chance to do something different and challenging with Tanya, and my other fellow actors, during the 48 HFP last weekend.

“Why do we work long hours for no pay just to be a part of this competition?  I think it must be the joy of being a part of something very creative, seeing it come to life, and competing with your peers (the other film teams) in a friendly way that just makes you want to do this again next year.”

On set at "The Ultimate Event" shoot for the 2014 48 hour film project.

Reaction of the Wiz

When I saw the shots of the three actresses in their business suits, I thought they were event planners from Madison Avenue. The use of seasoned professionals really came through for the production.   Some of the participants had worked tougher in the past. However, everyone knew their jobs, no matter if they were part of a team that had worked together before or not.

As to the question “why do you do it?” Martha’s answer could have come from any of the hundreds of thousands of people who have participated in 48-hr FP over the last thirteen years in hundreds of different cities around the world.  She did it for love of her craft, for “the joy of being part of something very creative.”

 

Comments from Steve Renard – Motion Graphic Designer

“I agree this looks like a very successful production.  I myself was only involved for a few hours, as a motion designer for a couple slates and the end credits, and honestly I have not seen the end product yet so I don’t know if they decided to scrap everything I did anyway… ;-)

Steve Renard - Motion Graphics Expert

“From something of an outsider’s perspective, it seemed to me that what made this production work so well was that everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing, and everyone there was really dedicated to the task and the craft of creating the film.  I came in on Saturday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, and the crew was working on their last few shots.  The media was being handled efficiently, and handed off to the editor, who had a clear sense from the director how the whole thing was being played, and was able to pass that on to me very clearly, so that I could start working on the graphics.  That allowed me to create something that worked, I think, the first time, rather than going through many revisions and slowing down the process.”

Comments from Team Co-Leader Tim Flaherty

Tim Flaherty

“I come from a background in television and industrial production, so “filmmaking” as an exercise for cinema was a little foreign to me before I began doing 48 Hour films. I decided participating in a 48 Hour Film Project movie would be a great way to learn about creating art in this similar but decidedly different discipline.

“I met Ishu Krishna at a TIVA function in 2011 and asked if I could join her team.  She took me on as a producer, and we have now done four of these together.  My interest in coming back is to further skills and knowledge in production for cinema, to earn cinema credits and to meet and work with other professionals as a networking exercise. I find 48 Hour is a terrific venue to come in contact with other people you might wish to work with in the future.

“I try to put together a professional crew and have all important positions filled.  Many team leaders don’t bother with full camera departments, or ignore small but important roles like Continuity Director.  Lack of a proper crew leads to mistakes and oversights that the judges are going to notice.  Rich Volin and Ishu are also excellent screenwriters, and have this good chemistry working together.  Keeping them in charge of the writing team is paramount to a good script. Nick Gay as both an editor and graphics creator is also a core team member.  I enter this to win, so Team Citra/CVA goes all out!

“On top of everything else, the 48 Hour Film Project is just something fun to be part of.  The premise is a little goofy, and there is an “anything can happen” vibe to the whole weekend.  It’s something that you often talk about with your friends for the rest of the year.  You also learn to do something well under a time constraint, so it is a good learning exercise for everything else we do. “

 




NAB Show 2014 – Trade Show Tech

Tech Nirvana

NAB-2014-LOGO

 

Word Wizards lives on the cutting edge of technology.  As a matter of fact, we first exhibited transcripts with time code at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show in 1998.  Since then we have continued to innovate using the latest technology. We pioneered new methods of transcription, developed advanced audio descriptive techniques for the visually impaired, and pushed the boundaries of 508 compliance with new processes invented by Word Wizards.  Our passion extends to our love of keep up with the latest film industry technology as displayed at NAB.

TIVA-DC, just held a panel discussing all the latest, must-have, gear and software on display at NAB.  Held at the NAB HQ near DuPont Circle, the panelists included Rich Harrington, Amy DeLouise, Tim Flaherty and Chad Heupel. Rich is CEO of RHED Pixel and is an expert in motion graphic design and digital video. Amy is a director and producer with experience in brand strategy, cause marketing, and social media. Chad manages FDA’s television production studio in Gaithersburg, MD. Tim is a television and radio producer through his Annapolis-based company, Communication Ventures of America, and a past president of TIVA.

Heavy Hitters

Crowd gathers in the main floor at NAB 2014.

The panelists related emerging trends that they discerned and described their dream equipment.  They conveyed what they get out of NAB and how to make the most of it if you ever decide to go yourself. Moderator Colin Sandy asked the panelists what impressed them the most? Chad started off by saying the he’s usually the most impressed with the smaller companies, since they tend to come up with better ideas. One thing that he was very impressed with was the various types of video walls he saw. Tim, who attended for the second time, was simply blown away by all the content on display, although he did say that he was particularly impressed by the Terra Deck video equipment he saw.

The big picture that Amy got from NAB is that people are looking for new ways to collaborate with each other, which new technology is allowing them to do in ways they have never done before. The New Media Lounge at the expo was packed with directors, not just the tech-heads who populated it in the past. These directors are trying to distribute their work on new platforms to reach the widest audience possible. Professor Harrington likes the chance to catch up with people whom he rarely sees, and loves the atmosphere.  As a program manager for the Post-Production World Conference, he was also very impressed with the show that Avid put on and how aggressive they are in trying to build a customer base.

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

Luxor hotel, Los Vegas.

The focus next turned to how to get the most out of the event. Amy directed the audience to her blog, Amy’s Brand Buzz, which had a post all about the best spots to eat in Vegas on a tight budget. Colin said he wished he had read that blog, since his diet at NAB consisted mostly of Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Tim proudly shared advice about how he only ended spending $325 on a hotel for four days at the show. NAB has a housing office that he was able to utilize to get the deep hotel discounts.  In order to get there, he used his airline miles. He directed us to go onto the NAB show site and choose from a variety of offers, register for the show, and even get some promo codes on show passes.

4K Mega-Trend and Other Tidbits

4K Camera shooting in high resolution.

Sony FDR-AX1 4K Pro Camera

One of the big audience questions was about 4K Technology and whether the panelists think it’s going to be part of the future. As usual, Rich was the technical mastermind in this area; however, all the panelists seemed to agree that it still has a ways to go. Some loved the look of the media, while others thought that it’s not entirely practical. While 4K is impressive and works great with digital cinema and projection, the inability to really monetize it, especially in the corporate setting, makes it a hard sell. The public, and much of the video production industry, is just not ready for the technology at current price.  However, 4K might become a viable delivery platform in another decade or so. Some other must-have tech items that stood out to the panelists included accessories from a company called iOgrapher, including a media case that turns your iPad into a powerful cinema camera; Timecode Buddy, which lets you share and sync time code over Wi-Fi and RF; MICRODOLLY, who create lightweight and versatile camera equipment such as jibs and dollies; and finally, there was VectorMount, which lets you attach your GoPro to vehicles for sizzling footage.

Looking Ahead

At the end of the evening, all of the panelists agreed, there is nothing like a trip to the NAB show in Las Vegas.  In contrast, we are looking forward to our return to the GV-Expo in December of 2014.  The Expo here in DC delivers the same hands-on experience, with all the latest must-have gear and software. The only thing lacking is the overwhelming expenses and temptations of Vegas.  That’s why we at Word Wizards call the GV Expo “NAB on the Potomac.”




The Art of Selling Yourself – Through Your Resume

There were valuable resume and interview tips aplenty at an informative presentation on resume building, hosted by Women in Film and Video (WIFV) and Women in Cable Television Communications (WICT), at Interface Media Group on April 2, 2014.  The panel discussion was scheduled just ten days before the ever-popular WIFV job fair, so these important tips came just in time for some last minute resume polishing and brushing up on interview skills.

Applicants at the WIFV job fair.
Hopeful applicants will make their case at the upcoming WIFV Job Fair

Packed House

The packed house was not disappointed by the professional advice disbursed by the panel of experts. First to speak was Karen Proctor, who is a senior recruiter at the George Washington University Hospital as well as owner of her own recruiting company, Kreative Recruiting Programs.  She quickly focused on one of the main themes of the evening for creating a successful resume. Rely on short concise bullet points, supported by an explanatory sentence, and lose the lengthy paragraphs.

Karen Proctor
Karen Proctor

Recruiters have to review dozens and sometimes even hundreds of resumes for every opening. So they want you to get right to the point of what you can do for their company, based on what you have done for others before during your career.  If you are lucky enough to get called in for an interview you will get an opportunity to go into the details. In the mean time keep the items in your resume short and to the point.  One highly rated resume had a box in the top right hand corner with the heading “Core Competencies” which contained a bracketed and bold short list of high value items. Put your best assets right up front, where no one has to search for them.

Of like mind with Karen was panelist Ken Nice, who is Program Manager for Yoh Company.  Ken’s recruiting accolades include current clients at Discovery Communications, TV One, and HARPO Studios.  He has been a specialist in temporary staffing at the Freeman Agency in L.A. and manager of temporary staffing at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA. Ken reinforced Karen’s point that short entries and bullet points are better for resumes than long paragraphs that no one has the time to read.  Both felt that a resume can have more than one page, if the extra space is filled with short but relevant bulleted items.

Ken Nice
Ken Nice

As far as the physical layout of the resume is concerned, for people who have been in the work force for several years, it is best to go in chronological order from your current work experience backwards.  Watch out for unexplained gaps in your work experience time line.  Put more emphasis on the recent events than the distant past.  Education goes at the bottom, as that happened a long time ago for seasoned professionals.

On the other hand, newcomers to the workforce who lack work experience can fall back on education and extracurricular activities.  Both Karen and Ken were in agreement that they don’t really care about what your goals are.  They both assume that since you are talking to a recruiter, that your goal is to get a job.  So strike “my goals” from your resume as irrelevant.  What they really want to know is how can you fill an employment need for the company that is reviewing your resume.

Both Karen and Ken were firm supporters of getting help in employment searches from the social media phenomenon LinkedIn.  For example, it is useful for job searchers to join groups on LinkedIn in their area of professional interest.  If you are going to a specific company to look for work, check who in your network group might already work there, for some advanced scouting help.  You can just type in the name of a company, and the name of people in your group who work there will pop up. Or you can just ask people in your LinkedIn groups for advice on how to approach a certain type of job opening.  Most people on LinkedIn share such information freely.

The next speaker was WIFV Board Member Elizabeth Ventura, who has managed multimillion-dollar production company operations, served as line producer on multiple broadcast series, and managed complex outreach-type hiring events.  The local production companies that she has helped to greatness include Discovery Communications favorites, Team and Base Productions.

Elizabeth Ventura
Elizabeth Ventura

At Base she played a principal role, managing the financial and production operations of this rapidly growing bi-coastal corporation and its affiliated companies.  Her own resume was used as case study of what a production company might want in a production manager.  Again she relies on short bulleted points, but with dozens of impressive credits and references from across the gamut of production management experience.

She doesn’t really care what your formal education is in the production arena.  However, if she is shooting cop shows and you mention that you edited a cop show, you are much more likely to get the job.  Talk mostly about what you can do for the company, based on your assessment of what the job calls for.  She is not a big fan of cover letters; the resume should speak for itself.  Most important is to get right to the point by putting your accomplishments in the chronology.

The final panelist was Katarina Price of Katarina Price Photography who spoke about the value of a good headshot.  Whether you are talent, makeup or any other parts of “The Biz” where glamour is a premium item, you need a good headshot to go along with your resume.  However, she showed attractive headshots of video producers in assertive, provocative, and relaxed poses, which exuded confidence and accomplishment.  Even avatars for Internet usage should be attractive color pictures set in the work environment.  The use of a professional to take the headshot is highly recommended.

Katarina Price
Katarina Price

Some of the other experts discouraged using a photograph as an actual part of the typical production job resume.  However, all of the panelists agreed that the resume was merely the foot in the door to landing the target job.  They stressed that the key to performance during the all-important first interview was to convey an aura of confidence with approachability.  I left with a much deeper appreciation of the job filling process as seen from the eyes of the experts.

Finally, I am sorry to say that Word Wizards, Inc. will not be represented at the WIFV Job Fair for the first time in recent memory.  However, if you want to apply for a position at WW, are a fast typist (at least 75 WPM,) have experience with transcription software, or are proficient in translating in a foreign language, please send us your resume to [email protected].  Best wishes for a successful job-hunt.




The Science of Good Story Telling

Women in Film & Video, Washington DC, Producing Change Since 1979

Producers and reporters of science programs for film and television are always looking for engaging, compelling stories to teach and motivate and to open our minds to infinite possibilities. Scott Gordon, C.E.O. of Word Wizard, is addicted to scientific programming and watches very little else except the News.  That’s why he joined me as we both attended the recent WIFV (Women in Film and Video) event which focused on Scientific Productions.

Main Speakers

Some of the brightest minds in science programming met at the WIFV panel discussion held at Interface Media Group. Panelists included: Karen Heineman, executive producer of Inside Science at the American Institute of Physics; Michael Rosenfeld, head of television and film at Tangled Bank Studios; Jennifer Shoemaker, director of Missions Media at National Geographic Society; Rebecca Howland, producer for Screenscope, Inc; Miles O’Brien, science reporter and producer; and Wade Sisler, executive producer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Katrina Jackson—new WIFV member and PA at Goddard—served as moderator.

The Power Of Social Media

Using social media to promote science programming. (flavor image)

One of the first issues discussed was social media and how to attract viewers to science programming. Attracting and retaining viewer’s takes a sustained social media outreach which, when updated regularly, can prolong the lifespan of a documentary over a made-for-television presentation. Larger shows offer games and interactive media on their websites like Your Inner Fish airing on PBS which allows you to view a 3D body and click on the different body parts to understand how they evolved from other animals.

With the help of the Internet, some science websites and blogs have become so popular that they make it to television. For example, I F$#$king Love science website—beginning as a popular science blog—now boasts a following of 10 million, and is being picked up by the Science Channel.

Dealing with the Skeptics

Mars Rover Curiosity exploring the rocky surface of Mars.

Whether you believe in modern science or not, it is undeniable that the Martian Rover Curiosity, which is as large as a VW Bug, is traveling around on another planet at this very moment; and uncovering evidence of water and perhaps even life itself.  By faithfully and accurately reporting on this modern marvel, the science producers at NASA Goddard, confound the skeptics every day. Therefore Science Producers can deal with the Nay Sayers and sceptics by being certain that science programming can clearly show by what means their conclusions were reached. How an audience perceives a scientist directly affects how or even if they listen. Scientists must be perceived as down to earth, likeable and exciting. National Geographic’s International Fame Lab encourages young scientists to compete in a live panel-judged competition to become potentially a new voice of science.

Producers need to reach out to educators and school systems to assure their products are accepted into school systems. National Geographic also adapts some of its programming to the classroom. Their Engineers in the Classroom program—developed in conjunction with Lockheed Martin—offers specialty lesson plans for grades K-12. Others like Rebecca Howland offer their one program Extreme Realities on PBS as well as on YouTube.

Today, Nat Geo sometimes skips the heavy camera setups and sends explorers to distant locations with only an I-phone to record a story but with the quickly evolving technology, the little guy and the smaller company may find it difficult to keep up in science programming.

Diagram showing the design of the James Web deep space telescope.

And talk about distant locations, NASA Goddard is currently assembling the James Web deep space telescope which will dwarf the Hubble in size and power.  It will travel in an orbit way beyond our Moon, and be as big as a one story house.  Who knows what it will be able to see, perhaps all the way back to the “Big Bang” itself.  You can be sure that it will be ably covered to the scientific community and to the public by the science documentary production team at NASA Goddard.  Thanks to WIFV for the first rate programming.

 




DC Premiere of CinemAbility

Expanding Minds:

CinemAbility Title Screen

At Word Wizards we are all about accessibility.  Our 508 compliant transcripts meet federal standards for multimedia on Federal websites that are accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as to the blind and low vision individuals.  That is why we want to shout out about the screening of the video CinemAbility which asks if the media has a hand in transforming the social inclusion of the disabled and the powerful impact that it can have on society. Some of the heavy weights in the documentary include Jamie Foxx, Garry Marshall, Ben Affleck, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Gary Sinise and many others. The film will be premiering in Washington DC on Wednesday, March 19th at 7 pm at Regal Cinemas Gallery Place 14, get tickets here.

A Triple Threat:

Profile picture of Jenni Gold

Just as impressive as impressive as the roster of talent appearing in the film is the directing force behind it. Jenni Gold is well known and respected editor, screenwriter and producer who has 17 production credits to her name and is behind the development/production entity Gold Pictures, Inc. Additionally she is a Director member of the Directors Guild of America which is more impressive when you discover she has Muscular Dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since the age of seven. Besides directing Jenni is co-writing and currently developing a romantic comedy titled “Mr. December”, a family film called “Lucky” and suspense thriller “Adrenaline.” She initially explored her passion for filmmaking at University of Central Florida where she graduated with two BA degrees, one in Motion Picture Production and the other in Radio and Television Broadcasting.

The Power of Film:

Director Jenni Gold on the set for CinemAbility with her staff.

CinemAbility, which had been playing in select cities, has gotten glowing reviews from places such as the Los Angeles Times and Cinema Sentries. Narrated by screen legend Jane Seymour, the documentary takes a thorough look at just how the disabled have been depicted on television and movie screens. Its primary goal is to help dispel age old and often incorrect notions that many able bodied people still have about the disabled and user in a new level of respect. The film’s in depth investigation goes behind the lens of Hollywood to talk to studio executives, well known celebrities, film historians and filmmakers. Some of the important questions asked include Do disability portrayals in the media impact society?  Or do the media simply reflect the public’s ever changing attitudes. Jenni Gold’s powerful film looks at the answers to these questions and highlights how having an enlightened understanding of disability can have a powerful impact on all.




Celebration and Cinema – 2014 DC Independent Film Festival

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One of the most successful and enduring film festivals to call DC home, the DC Independent Film Festival celebrated its 16th year as one of the area’s longest running festivals. The DCIFF mission includes supporting and showcasing talented filmmakers from around the world. And by exhibiting world premiere screenings, hosting timely seminars and workshops, as well as sponsoring discussions with the United States Congress, DCIFF offers independent filmmakers unparalleled opportunities to be heard and seen. This year the festival ran from February 19 through the 23rd at the Naval Heritage Center, and screened films from 30 different countries including China, Russia, Austria, Croatia and India.

Premieres

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The festival kicked off with two important features, Partners for Peace and Toastmaster. Partners for Peace follows a group of 13 women—led by Nobel Peace Laureates Jody William and Mairread Maguire—as they embark on a mission to the Middle East to examine the Israel and Palestine conflict and  empower the women of the region to work toward peace. A lively Q&A between the audience, Jody Williams, activist Jaclyn Friedman and director Ed Kucerak followed the film.

Toastmaster examines the Armenian traditions of toasts at family dinners and how they are passed down from generation to generation. Fittingly, the opening night party toast followed the film.

To add some star power to the festival, Jennifer Lynch, daughter of the Hollywood director David Lynch was scheduled to attend the premiere of Despite the Gods, her Bollywood horror-style film. Although she had to cancel, she participated in a Skype session with the audience following the screening.

Future Filmmakers

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Committed to promoting the star filmmakers of tomorrow, DCIFF began The High School Film Competition. Over 200 high school students from DC the area submitted their short films. The festival selected 10 entries that were presented in a competition at the Gala Theatre in Columbia Heights.

Master Classes, Workshops and Seminars, Oh My!

manny perez        Indie Filmmakers Toolkit

The DCIFF festival also offered exciting seminars, workshops and panels including an acting workshop with actor Manny Perez boasting roles in Cold Case, Law and Order and Homeland. Local talent took part as panelists including Brian Grundstrom, President of TIVA (Television Internet Video Association), who taught music scoring to the delighted crowd and dissected film music cues. Another workshop combined cinematography and technology. Documentary filmmakers Richard Chisolm and Paul Moon discussed the latest gear for Indie filmmakers while experimental cinematographer Alexander Porter displayed the RGBDToolkit, an open source hybrid filming & 3D scanning technique.

Big Winners Party On

Feature films, documentaries and animated shorts played to receptive crowds and enthusiastic judges. A big draw was local filmmaker Tim Gordon’s Blood and Circumstances. His film is a psychological thriller centering on a prison inmate’s mental examination to learn if he is fit to stand trial.

DCIFF Award

The closing night party attracted a large crowd on Sunday, the 24th and featured the film This Ain’t No Mouse Music! The documentary looks at different categories of music like the blues, New Orleans R&B, country and Cajun and how they have been collected and preserved by sound detective Chris Strachwitz. Following the film, a live New Orleans Mardi Gras band escorted the audience out of the theatre and into the closing night party where the festival awards were announced. Some of the winners were Greencard Warriors for Best Feature, Ofir for Best Documentary and 3 Mile Limit for Best International Film. To read about the rest of the winners, check out the DCIFF site: http://dciff-indie.org.




A TIVA Era Begins

A TIVA Era Begins

Staff of the 2014 TIVA Board

Following the successful TIVA presidency of Jerry Griffith with many innovations and a record membership, Brian Grundstrom now steps into Jerry’s shoes and takes over the reins. Formally Vice President of TIVA, Brian offers an insider’s view and super-charged ideas for growing Television Internet Video Association to the largest affiliation of video production professionals in the mid-Atlantic region. His fiery dedication and attention to detail will assure the association’s continued success.

New board members include: Jonathan Stein, head of the programming committee following the popular Jim Miller. Tara Garwood, secretary and head of the publications chair is taking over for Carl Randolph who is now the PEER Awards chair. New board member Bill Coughlan is serving as the current vice president while Todd Clark acts as the government liaison. TIVA veterans Lisa Laden, Rachel Targoff and newcomer  Arron Shirley are all very excited to be helping with the programming committee. Rachel also heads up the Peer Promise at the Peer Awards. And last but never least, Colin Sandy as the sponsorship chair to help build relations between TIVA and other Washington, D.C. organizations.

The Old with the New

Ten-year veteran Anne Schwab handles all volunteer activities, as well as the income and new memberships from events. She is often the photographer at meetings and spearheads events like the Christmas Party. Anne Hall continues as treasurer working with the accountants; Darryl Diamond continues as the TIVA webmaster; James Thompson as seminar leader. Finally Matt Harmelin acts as the social media master keeping TIVA current on channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The board looks forward to a year of excellent programming as well as a cooperative relationship with sponsors such as Word Wizards Inc, Docs In Progress, Duo Media Productions and Creative Management Services among others.

For more about TIVA board members, check out the official TIVA Website. http://www.tivadc.org/




Women in Film and Video Kicks Off A Revolutionary New Year

WIFV Kicks Off a Revolutionary New Year

WIFV Party

Picture taken from WIFV Website

A Truly Grand Start to 2014

The DC chapter of Women in Film and Video kicked off their 35th year in style with a holiday party at the offices of the nonprofit organization 1776. Located at 1133 15th Street, Farragut North, 1776’s workplace—and party rental space—features bright, open areas, comfortable furniture and festive ceiling lights, and was the perfect backdrop for WIFV’s gathering. Included in the merriment were video professionals, the WIFV board and past presidents including Ginny Durrin. Guests dined on a delicious buffet and an extensive selection of drinks featuring beer, wine and champagne. Also in attendance were Brian Wilbur Grundstrom, the new president of TIVA (Television Internet Video Association), Tim Lorenz from IMG and John Summer from AFI Silver. Among the festivities, raffle prizes included wine classes, tickets to the WIFV anniversary dinner, as well as tickets to National Geographic’s Women of Vision exhibit.

WIFV Holiday Party

 Photo taken from WIFV Website

WIFV president Erin Essenmacher welcomed the guests and presenters who recognized exceptional members including: Hillary DePuy and Faith DeVeaux, awarded The President’s Award for service to WIFV. And Karen Kasmauskki, awarded the Randy Goldman Career Development Scholarship. WIFV also debuted its first episode of Lunatic Fringe, a new web series produced by the organization. Lunatic Fringe centers on a beauty salon rife with intrigue, comedy and larger-than-life personalities.

WIFV Background

Women in Film & Video, Washington DC

Picture taken from WIFV website

For 35 years, Women in Film and Video has been helping women advance in the fields of film, television and multimedia through networking opportunities and an exchange of ideas and career experiences. The organization got its start when 11 women meet and realized that they wanted the opportunity to network and change experiences with other professional women.  Begun with 35 members, WIFV now boasts a membership of over 1,000 in Greater Washington. In addition to networking events, the organization sponsors workshops on a range of topics from Improving the Sound of Your Production to Budgeting for Your Documentary. WIFV also hosts an annual job fair, panel discussions, and Women of Vision Awards.

Location, Location, Location

1776, Where Revolutions Begin

Picture taken from 1776 website

Where Revolutions Begin

The WIFV party venue is the home of the nonprofit 1776. Founders of 1776, entrepreneurs—Evan Burfield and Donna Harris—established an incubator for global startups to tackle major challenges in government, healthcare, education and energy. After passing the rigorous selection process, these new entities now have access to government and corporate leaders, venture investments, politics, business and social enterprises. Their office space known as the penthouse at 1133 15th offers amenities like a fully-stocked kitchen, configurable work spaces, conference rooms with LED TVs and projectors, and access to corporate partners.




Napa Valley Film Festival – The Highlights

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo Projection
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Film Tasting

Napa Valley known as wine country once again magically transformed into movie country with a touch of “Hollywood.” The third annual Napa Valley Film Festival—November 13-17th 2013—showcased 125 independent films to enthusiastic audiences. A gathering of 300 varied filmmakers attracted high-profile celebs like Colin Farrell, original Batman Adam West, Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio, Alan Cumming, filmmaker John Lee Hancock and Glee’s Dianna Agron. Check out the sizzle reel in the middle of the article to see them as well as other great festival moments. Producers and supportive filmmakers alike believe the success of the festival enhances the economic diversity and cultural landscape the Napa Valley Region and could influence the quality of film nationally, even internationally.

The Festival

Inside a building at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

The festival took place in four nearby towns in the Napa Valley Region: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Along with the hundred plus films, other events included a veteran’s day program with veteran-themed films, a studio sneak peek at big studio films before distribution, as well as a gala, awards ceremony and wrap party.

Grapes (flavor image)                                                                                          Grapes (flavor image)

Festival attendees not only experienced great cinema but also sampled scrumptious cuisine prepared by the region’s leading chefs and showcased at the Dacor culinary stage. The Zesty Contest encouraged patrons to identify movie-inspired dishes and tag them on social media while wine flowed in area pavilions located in each town.VIP filmmakers and celebrities were treated to delightful winemaker dinners with participating vineyards  including: Beaulieu Vineyards, Cardinale Winery, Hall Wines and Jessup Cellars.

Attendees on the front porch at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

For relaxation, the festival sponsored luxury lounges, while other spaces called gathering porches encouraged attendees to mingle with filmmakers. This year the festival opened yet another social venue that mixed food, tech and media. At the Sony Digital Lounge located in the Napa Lifestyle Pavilion patrons experienced the Sony 4K TV.

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo

Check out some of the amazing festival moments captured on film in the sizzle reel. http://vimeo.com/81543047

And the Winner Is…

Giving out awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Winners included:

–Best Feature Documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth directed by Pratibha Pramer follows the story of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author and activist.

–Best Narrative Feature Hank and Asha directed by James E. Duff offers a new approach to love-letter correspondence.

–Best Animated Short Sleight of Hand directed by Michael Cusack uses stop-motion to reveal illusions.

— Best Short Documentary Sky Burial  directed by Tad Fettig uncovers a Mongolian tribe’s view of death.

For a complete list of jury winners and audience awards, check out the festival’s results page. You may also purchase tickets and passes for next year’s festival which is proving to be even bigger.

Education and Outreach

Speaking about filmmaking at a school basketball court
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

A Goal: Inspiring the next generation is a leading goal of the Napa Valley Film Festival. During the week of the festival, 1,500 middle and high school student attended documentary screenings and immersed themselves in the world of cinema. They also participated in exciting discussions with the stars and filmmakers. Through the education and outreach programs, the festival offered socially-conscious films to local schools and encouraged the next generation to create a critical audience for independent cinema.

Demonstrations of filmmaking before an audience of students
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Past Achievements: The Napa Valley Film Festival has sponsored educational programs including: film screenings to more the 2,400 students in 11 different schools; a contest for student to create and produce their own short films and showcase them in the Student Works Program that premiered at the festival; an internship program to give students hands-on experience dealing with festival production and the programming staff, and to help turn these interns into working students throughout the year.

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Photograph of festival founders Marc & Brenda Lhormer
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

About the Founders: Festival founders Marc Lhormer a veteran event planner and his wife expert marketer Brenda Lhormer, run a small production company Zin Haze Productions that brings independent films to life. One of their best known films, Bottle Shock, looks at the early days of California wine making. Other past accomplishments include Brenda handling public relations for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, as well as seminar marketing programs at Oracle and Microsoft while Marc wrote the business plan for Bain Capitol’s original start up venture. Along with his dedication to the film festival, Marc’s passion for helping students and schools succeed led him to sponsor the City Year Program (a nonprofit organization to engage students in a full-year of service) in Seattle.

 

 

 




2013 Peer Awards – $500 Prize for Best Documentary Film

Docs In Progress logo   TIVA DC Peer Awards logo

The annual DC Peer Awards is always a special event, celebrating the best artists in the DC production community and bringing them together to reward their hard work. Word Wizards Inc. has been a proud sponsor for many years because we believe they honor the absolute best in the field and encourage aspiring professionals to continue their quest for excellence. This year however, the ceremony has a new award thanks to Word Wizards, with the inclusion of a unique Docs In Progress category that focuses on documentary works that have been produced with the assistance of Docs In Progress. The category, proudly sponsored by Word Wizards Inc., gives the winner a $500 cash reward. This new prize is meant to help promote organizations that help filmmakers who want to make their vision a reality but don’t know where to start. For almost a decade, Docs In Progress and it’s founder Erica Ginsberg have been a huge part of the DC film community has and helped dozens of filmmakers, both experienced veterans and fresh novices, tell meaningful stories and reach audiences.

Humble Beginnings

Photograph of founders Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt
Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt
Photo from Docs In Progress Website

The time was way back in 2004 and two DC area filmmakers, Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt, were sharing a dinner and talking about their craft. They talked about their desire to create a space where artists and filmmakers could come together to give each other valuable feedback on their works in progress and thus the seeds of Docs In Progress were planted.  The first DIP screening took place at the Warehouse Theater on 7th Street in May of that year. The first films to be screened were Swing Legends and Up to the Mountain, Down to the Village. It wasn’t long before these screenings started attracting artists from all over the DC film community who came to critique each other’s work. Over the next nine years, the organization has grown to not only include screenings of under construction films but also production workshops to educate others, peer pitch programs which allows artists in the early stages of their films to receive peer feedback, a youth summer camp and even the first Silver Spring Stories Film Festival.

Modern Day

Docs In Progress screening
A typically packed Docs In Progress screening
Photo from Docs In Progress Website

Even though Docs In Progress has grown by leaps and bounds in it’s almost decade long history, the organization still strives every day to remain true to its founding mission and values. This mission includes programs that help nurture a vibrant documentary community as well as discussion groups and screenings to help grow public appreciation for the documentary art form. The DIP values are also important and are composed of cultivating community partnerships, building a supportive artistic environment and connecting the public with documentary filmmakers. It’s these values that made Word Wizards Inc, want to honor Docs In Progress with this special category at the Peer Awards. DIP helps people tell compelling real life stories and works tirelessly to bring these important stories to the forefront of people’s minds. Ever more impressive is their desire to help any filmmaker who is driven enough whether they are brand new to the biz or seasoned film veterans.

A Bright Future

With 2014 almost upon us, Docs In Progress is set to reach a milestone as the organization celebrates 10 years. As Erica puts it “In 2014, we celebrate 10 years of Docs in Progress in the DC-area film community.  In that time hundreds of aspiring, emerging, and established documentary filmmakers from Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and beyond have found purpose, professional development, and community through our offerings. We look forward to continuing to support films and filmmakers who have opened our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the world around us.” Erica is an accomplished documentary filmmaker herself who’s work includes Taking Threats about international student reaction to 9/11 as well as the in progress  American’s Park which looks at changes in American society and urban development specifically DC’s Meridian Hill Park and the surrounding neighborhood.

 




Documentary Filmmaking as the Ultimate Cultural Ambassador

American Film Showcase

Documentaries are a great way to be introduced to new ideas and learn about important issues, but they can also serve as a bridge to other countries and communities across the world. They excel at allowing the viewer to travel to another place without having to leave their couch or seat. No one understood this better than the United States Information Agency (USIA). The USIA was created in 1953 to confront anti-U.S. Propaganda and present us in a more positive light to other countries. Some of their work included sponsoring tours of artists and producing documentaries, with the likes of Edward R. Murrow and George Stevens Jr. The USIA was folded in the U.S. Department of State in 1999 and cultural diplomacy activities now fall under the Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The American Film Showcase

One of the most important programs that the Bureau oversees is the American Film Showcase, now in its second year of existence. I recently read an interesting article, written by Thomas White, about the showcase in Documentary magazine. While the Bureau funds the program via grants, it’s actually administered by The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.  Last year 21 different countries were visited by delegates that consisted of a filmmaker and “expert” who has a background in teaching in developing countries. These teams work with local American embassies, for seven to ten days, to screen relevant films and host workshops in various areas of production including writing, transcription, independent financing and distribution. Some of the topics touched upon by the screened films include adoption, freedom of the press, immigration and civil rights. While major cities are included in these tours, more rural areas with smaller towns and villages are also visited.

Building Diplomatic Bridges

The aim of the showcase is to utilize the power of documentary to foster a sense of understanding and create a dialogue between different cultures. This is particularly evident when you look at the content of the films that are shown. Filmmaker Steve James traveled to Mexico with his film The Interrupters ,which focuses on average Chicagoans trying to thwart violent crimes, and screened it to reformed gang members. Director and Producer Jim Whitaker took his 9/11 documentary Rebirth, which examines the process of grief over a seven year span, to where the tsunami had hit Japan a year and a half after it happened. As program administrator Rachel Gandin Mark explains, “It was extremely powerful to see people who were in the grieving process only a year and a half after the disaster to, in turn, see people who had obviously gone through a different kind of trauma [over a seven year period]. But in many ways the degree of national loss and personal loss was an amazing point of connection.”         

The Right Selection and a Global Reaction

For its first year, the roster included a total of 23 feature-length and short documentaries alongside nine fiction features and animated shorts. In its junior year, the showcase is increasing its numbers slightly with 30 docs and six narratives and and animated shorts. Mark Jonathan Harris, the head of the selection team, pointed out that these films aren’t picked because they are thought to be the best films in the U.S., but rather because they target certain themes and represent the diversity of American values. Some of these themes are youth empowerment, women’s rights, and diversity in civil society. Additionally, the program is seen as a way to reach out to future leaders and future video production professionals, who will hopefully see these films and be inspired. Word Wizards, Inc. applauds these programs because they can make a difference in people’s lives, both young and old, and can act as a universal language between different countries. This is just a small piece of the story, go on over to the article to read the rest.

 




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