Alcon Laboratories | Creative Services Video Studio Upgrades
Overview of the Client
Alcon Laboratories, a leading Eye care company, is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Within the walls of their main office is a small Creative Services group which is comprised of Graphic Design, Photography, and Videography Departments. Each of these 3 departments has a different office and studio space.
I was brought in as a Video Producer for Alcon in May of 2012. Prior to my arrival, the video projects that were filmed in the video studio and recorded within the audio studio were minimal. A majority of these shoots consisted of talking heads and group interviews. Production equipment was acquired over the years as a necessity such a studio set purchase prior to filming with CEO's, or the purchase of a Tricaster 300 to supplement high editing expenses. My vision for the studio space was to design an environment that allowed us to shoot quality videos in a timely and efficient manner, as well as creating a space that was welcoming and easy for talent to utilize on a daily basis. From my tenure at Alcon (between 2012 - 2017), I designed a plan that completely changed the face of the studio and thus allowed us to net over 300 videos a year in the space.
Prior to my start at Alcon, the aforementioned studio set was removed and they essentially gave me a blank set to work from. Throughout 2012 I spent a great deal of time learning the in's and out's for all of the productions that came through our office. I began to set plans in motion when I presented my supervisor with some proposals for studio upgrades. We first began with painting the walls a neutral grey color, mounting our lights on the ceiling in certain areas where we were consistently doing similar shoots (chroma key or talking head productions) and outfitting our cameras with additional teleprompters.
Over time we realized that we were conducting a number of shoots on a chroma key backdrop and to make efficient use of our time we opted to re-paint our walls green. By doing so this introduced other issues such as green spill that would fall on the subject when we were conducting non-chroma key shoots. To remedy this problem we acquired a number of foam-core walls which we utilized for both light bounce and to minimize the green spill. We also acquired a Monfrotto backdrop system which allowed us to quickly and easily swap out our backdrops for talking heads and other demos. We also found ourselves utilizing our Tricaster 300 more and more. The chroma key features, graphic overlays, multi-camera and computer inputs allowed us to make quick edits and deliver projects in a timely manner.
Stacking all of these minor adjustments up I realized that we could make our productions even faster if we made further upgrades to our studio. My goal was to be able to quickly switch between different setups (chroma key/backdrop) with minimal downtime, as well as create an environment that was welcoming and inviting for incoming talent to conduct shoots in a professional manner. The next upgrade to our studio would require a significant upgrade. So I made a long list of upgrade items, drew out schematics, met with vendors and then we shut down our space for a brief time for construction.
Over the period of a few months, I worked with Whitlock to design and implement a significant upgrade to the studio space. We installed a rack that networked our Video Studio, Audio Studio, and Editing Suite altogether. We measured and had holes drilled so that we could run audio and video cable underground to our audio studio 50 feet down the hall, and into our video studio in the next room. We also ran cables so we could utilize our teleprompters at 3 hook-up points in the studio, cables were run so that we could install a dimmer pack to manually control light intensity without having to scale a ladder to make adjustments, we also installed video inputs in our video and audio studio so we would have the ability hook up computer or surgical equipment and transmit the signal to our tricaster, and finally we installed a large confidence monitor in the video studio so that talent could see themselves on camera or their slides if needed.
Following the installation of this upgrade, we saw a significant improvement in how quickly we were able to conduct shoots and change from project to project. We also found ourselves utilizing the Tricaster further and further. On many occasions, we were having to pack up the unit and take it out of the office for location shoots. This presented significant downtime when setting up on location and then re-installing the Tricaster when back in the office. We figured that with the next upgrade we would purchase an additional Tricaster to keep in the studio and then purchase a travel case for our Tricaster 300.
When we acquired a Tricaster 460 it made it very simple for us to transition our Tricaster 300 to a portable unit. Around this time we found that we were beginning to get a number of requests for live video streams. Having a portable switcher was perfect for interactive demos with associates located in remote locations in Europe, Japan, Russia and Latin America. We were also seeing that my live edits in the studio were coming together faster than ever before and our clients were very pleased. In most cases, we would have a live edit completed before the client had returned to their office from a shoot.
The final upgrades that I oversaw to the studio were the installation of a Manfrotto Sky track system which allowed us to quickly reposition our lights for shoots and thus made for super fast setups. We also installed sound insulation on the wall behind our camera to minimize echo when an individual would speak on camera. Beyond this, we further upgraded our system with Whitlock to add another teleprompter input, additional camera inputs for our recently acquired RED Scarlet-W and an Apple TV for remote iPad applications. Looking back on this whole process I'm happy that we were able to make these upgrades for the Alcon team. By doing so we saw a significant uptake in project requests and faster project turn-around overall.