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MULTI-IMAGE FEATURE a Voyage Into Video A Multi-Image Producer Reflects on Five Years of Life Without Slides Just to prove that I'm not infallible, and that 1 can make boneheaded Tand my associ ates left the old Sorgel: Lee just as that company was getting into com- puter graphics—an ar in which it has. since strongly excelled, and sofar as I can see, really pushed multiimage to the brink But perhaps that’s part of why five years ago I was, as we liked to call it in those days, a leading edge, concept to completion, multi-image producer.” I, along with my partners, were the winners of Crystal “Ami’s” and Gold and Silver Awards. 1 was set to be host of AMI's Awards Ban- duet in Philadelphia. I was writing and producing demo shows for AVL, and our names were on the tips of everyone's tonguesat that convention. With the help ofa tremendous staffanda hard-working and creative partner, | had managed to produce mixed-media shows that had risen Ed Sullivan from the dead, dropped 420-foot wide vacuum cleaner in front of 2,000 people, and literally re-created Star Trek down to Mr. Spock and transporter rooms, both in Chicago and London. Why, then, did I feel so lousy? Forall the public praise, all the shows that had gone right, my ex-partner and 18 July/August 1987 3 Mul mages others had told me more than once that |_| sometimes less dramatic than th tended to be “two years out infront” of | Wars” trilogy or even “Witness. the business of the day. In August of 1982, [was thinking about video. So what, else was new? I was doing twin-dissolve shows in college in the sixties, years before I ever started a business. I was playing with tape recorders before I could spell. collected comic books back when they weren't worth anything. I've always been driven by creative sues, but not necessarily economic ‘ones. That's why, on October 11, 1982, just a few months after the glories of Philadlephia, I walked out on multiim- age and into video. ‘The concept was simple: this time, I was going to do what was coming, and was going to make a BY BRIEN LEE Tiesto the vido show proud by Bin Loe & ofr th Brigg & State Cpr, wh was hela Jy ding he erana own, orden & Powe nape! Ep in Lal profit doing it Creative expression is, thesingle mostimportant reason why so many of us got into audio-visual com- munications, Audio-vis- ual communication, whether it’s called multi image, video, flmstrips or talking flip charts, offers an opportunity to put sight and sound togethi on a daily basis for the average guy, even ifsome of the subject matter is tar Why Slides? 1 got into side shows (this was 1972, and remember that multi-image did not. really exist) because it was a cheap and easy way to communicate. Aprofessor at Marquette University showed me a Kodak “black box” dissolve unit, con- nected to two projectors, which created that dissolve ramp triggered by a 60- hertztone, tha led so many of usinto the business. I saw sound (my love) con- nected to sight—35-millimeter slides, and I knew that [had a creative outlet Without knowing it, [had committed to a strong financial start because pro- ducing dissolved slide shows required very little in the way of overhead, For the first five years of our business, we did a slow build—$20,000 a year, $100,000 a year, $200,000 a year. Our enthusiasm and beliefin our product ed banksto give us small loans, and perhaps, most impor- tantly, our overall creative effort lent credibility toa corporate concept without much brick and mortar. In the face of good shows, even bankers ery. From the beginning, the common denominator was creativity; our first hires in the company were writers, and before we ever hired a second photogra- pher or a multiimage programmer, we had hired two additional creative direc: tors/writers. By 1976, bigger customers were be. ‘ginning to approach us for work because they saw that we weren't doing slide shows, somuch as we were communicat ing. ‘Then, the business became medium: specific: Chuck Kappenman invented the Show Pro Ill, Up until the invention of clock track, Positrack, reverse-acue, etc., multiim: age was risky business. There was no compatability in playback equipment; the stuff was not exactly infallible; and a program produced in Milwaukee may not have been able to be played back reliably in Toronto. By giving multiim- age reliability and accessibility, and by adding a new dimension in creativity to the visual content, Chuck Kappenman made multi-image a medium, and our worlds changed. Twindissolve images no longer just supported the soundtrack, they were now partners of it. Between 1977 and 1981, most multi- image producers made heavy equipment investments—Marron Carrel animation stands, AVL Eagles, Golden Eagles, Doves, Dove X’s, Road Runners and sophisticated recording suites. The heat was on. Multiimage was becoming ac- cepted, and the end result was often stun: ning, Becoming o Business As multi-image took off, our company had to make some serious decisions. ‘There were three owners, and each rep- resented a different disciy the multi-image maven. Another was the film honcho. The third, me, wasalittle bit of everything, who also happened to do the videotapes when they came in the door. Just prior to multi-image’s emer- gence we made serious investments in film equipment, studio equipment and to red ourselves communi- cators, so we could do anything in our ‘medium. But the business was becoming, intensive, and the growth was certainly not in 16millimeter film. The growth was going to be in multiimage, sincevideowas sill primarily abroadcast ‘medium. So the company decided to empha- size multiimage. It was the only way to 0, really, Now that we were in an eq ment race, we didn’t have the capital resources to support three mini-compa- nies. We were a business, and once we admitted that, we were a successful ‘company. Like many of us, I've been lucky enough to do a little bit of everything— writing scripts, producing soundtracks, editing. shows, programming shows, even, God forbid, mounting and tr slides. But perhaps it was because our company was chosen by AVL to do its first non-demo, corporateimage show that I began to really look at whether I was a multiimage guy, or something, else, AVL was, and is, the standard of the multiimage industry. By 1981, it had nearly 80 percent of the marketplace. In doing the research to write “The AVL. Commitment,” [realized thatthe success of AVL was in many ways dependent upon the fact that multiimage produc- tion, whether it was for meetings oreven smaller comprehensive “knife and fork” corporate-image shows, provided an exciting, easy-to-produce, easy-to- change, easy-toupdate alternative to film. In meetings, it provided additional drama and wide-screen effects just like film, but cheaper. In smaller shows, it provided an alternative to film, but was easier to produce, and cheaper. ‘The only thing it didn’t do, was move. You could fake it, and more than once Doug Mesney certainly did, and stil does. But most rational people generally ‘will want to know, given the option, why ‘we would attempt to recreate motion if there was another way of showing mo- ‘Now you can create the magic of multismage without the cos and complenty of multeprojectors, and without pin registered camera Met ae reed the Grouper which allows ou to voduce multiple images on one 3am slide in an en [ss combination of 2% 2, 8%, 4x4, and 12 around standard formats. All you need isa camera, cop-stand, inottom hight source, the Groaper, and your restred ‘or non-registered original sides. The Grouper elimi- mates tne need for a compound lable, calculations time constiming paste ‘Write to Wess and find out how to make your own, rmult-image ae THI E GROUPER Multi-Image without Mult Wess Plastic AMOUNTING SUCCESS 50 Schmit Bh, Faring, NYT (56) 285.8804 July/August 1987 [) Multitmages 19 gr errr rrr tion. Up until the beginning of this dee- ade there really wasn't another option, except 16millimeterfilm, and that wasan expensive alternative. ‘Moving Toward Video But by 1980, the umatic cassette system was debugged, reliable, and thanks to companies like Convergence and its “joystick editing system,” was becoming a viable player in corporate communications.. Granted, training pieces were not the stuff that I liked to Produce—video, like filmstrips, first made its major inroads into training. But nonetheless, corporate executives were being exposed to it and, slowly, condi- tioned to it. What they saw were talking, heads (something multiimage certainly can't do), sight, sound, movement and a fairly quick turnaround time. They also were told it was cheap. In 1981, I did not see video that way. What I did see was a medium that simply wasn't being used properly. Having, as early as 1977, produced major video meetings (the Credit Union Executives Society in New Orleans, with a 20-ot: wide, 9to-4 projected image) and a number of major video projects (a 30- minute broadcast documentary on Et gene O'Neill for public television), 1 knew that with video I could get the same visceral response out of an “indust audience that I had gotten out of college audiences in 1969; and I knew it should be es Philadelphia, 1982: Chuck Kappen ‘man receives the lifetime achievemenet award. Brien Lee is hosting the banquet and Sorgel-Lee has taken home a Crystal “Ami.” Brien Lee is also bored. 20 July/August 1987 Muli-Images ‘conta com om Bin Lan {Conny 2 or oped intarew wih Opin Joon Banat Sonu, npr ot. ico pre Bigs USanen Creatively, I could no longer accept the limitations of multi-image; | wanted to do dialogue; I wanted to show move- ment; I wanted, ifnecessary, to be able to h the air, or a athlete. But also wanted ito be as cheap to get into as multi-image was back in 1972. ‘There's something fairly dumb about leaving a company at its height, espe- cially after you've helped engineer a -nth-anniversary celebration like the orgelLee Orientation,” a humorous ten-year retrospective of our company shown at Philadelphia back in 1982, ‘There were plenty of personal rea- sons to want to do that, but creatively I realize that the cart was dragging the horses. I, Linda Duczman, SorgelLee’s oldest employee, and a number of others felt that our creative options were begin- ning to be limited by multi-image, since the company was bent on making more ‘major investments in computer-graphics hardware. Deep down inside I knew it was going to make money—big money. I also knew that I was going to be limited, unhappy and left with less than a sense of creative freedom. Video could provide all the creative freedom I wanted, Ironically, however, up to that time, those people producing video were ¢ television hacks or primarily ing in training. They had no sense of lighting, and certainly no sense of show pacing—something my sound- track and writing backgrounds had al- lowed meto strongly develop. Video was television news, or shaky camera tech- nique documentary, ortwo men ata plant in front ofacamera. I decided that [could help change all that and formed may own | company. The world of vdeo that I found in 1982 was one diametrically opposed to the multiimage world. In multiimage, most of us were used to having our own equipment. We produced our own shows, and the equipment served the | creative process. However, video | undercapitalized and underfunded. ‘There was no way I was going to find a ion dollars, or even $150,000, to put into sophisticated video editing equip ment that meant, pure and simple, less freedom to make mistakes. Making the Breok Out ofthe gate in 1982, Brien Lee & Company won an account in New York that represented more than 50 percent of | our volume for the first year. It was al most entirely video-based. Frankly, we knew what we wanted but we weren't quite sure how to get there, Not only were we going to be experimenting in Video, but we also were going to be ex: perimenting in video in New York Ci Amistake or reo in multi-image that ‘would cost you an hour's time and film, now was costing me $750 an hour. I | quickly found out that video can be ex: pensive, especially when produced to thi production levels that we've grown to expect from multiimage. | Inour first year we produced a mix of about 50-percent video, 50-percent multi | image, but by a year or two later we had | to leave multiimage behind. Based on | the lessons learned in Sorgel-Lee, we decided that what we would concentrate ‘on were creative issues, couched in video. We stressed our writing, which closed some doors to us (especially ad agencies), and we stressed video. De- spite our strong background in meet- ings, we had tostress video that would be used in non-projected environments. For themost part, although the GE PJ and the Eidophor have existed for more than ten Years, most meetings stay away from video, simply because producers and clients don't want to mix media and in crease their percentage of fai the next three years we produced key"-modules, corporateimage piec new product introductions and public. relations pieces. With New York too expensive for my limited funding, we retracted to