Your video should
make an impact

Bottle Rocket Media at 10 Years

June 2022 marked the end of our tenth year in business as Bottle Rocket Media. Ten years of action and cut, ten years bringing our clients’ messages to life, and ten years building relationships.

To thank those who have supported us as we continue to grow would be cliche and a gross understatement of the support it takes to grow a thriving business from the ground up. And still, a big thank you must be shouted from the rooftops – to clients who gave us the creative freedom to tell their stories, to team members who helped us push the boundaries of storytelling and creativity, and to friends and business colleagues who provided sound advice and never-ending encouragement when needed. Each of you has played a vital part in this grand experiment known as Bottle Rocket Media.

As far as experiments go, this one was more challenging and unpredictable than I thought it would be when we started.  We knew what we wanted to achieve but didn’t exactly know how to go about it.  So in June of 2011, I officially launched Bottle Rocket Media with Final Cut Pro 7 on my three-year-old laptop, a scratched-up Canon 5D Mark I, a healthy dose of enthusiasm, and an even healthier amount of naiveté.

JFK Airport, 2012.  Editing on my way home from the shoot.

Anyone paying attention knows that the road to a successful endeavor, business or otherwise, is not straight.  Maintaining the course requires some kind of north star; for us, it has been our core values.  Long before we had a mission statement or these core values written on the back of a hotel bar napkin, we let these values guide us through our early successes and failures.

maintain integrity in everything we do 

I arrived in Chicago to edit The Oprah Show in 2002, understanding that the show had two years left on the air.  Nine years later, we were still burning the candle at both ends.  While editing at a daily television show pretty much embodies the definition of insanity – working as fast as you can, every day, all day, long hours, unnecessary revisions, and unnecessary input. (don’t get me started) – The experience of the non-stop, daily grind taught me the importance of maintaining integrity in everything I do.

Many days (honestly, most days) at a daily television show, things are moving so fast that your creative partner, AKA the Producer, cannot pay attention to the work details.  In that circumstance, I always felt that as an editor, it was my job to alleviate some of the creative burdens for those who were busy or just unable to keep up creatively.  After all, working to create a video is only a fraction of what a television producer does every day.  And so with my daily responsibility came an understanding that if I don’t keep the work honest, who will? 

At BRM, we continue to grow with this notion in mind, always keeping the work honest and real. It keeps us in check, allowing us to approach each project uniquely, always proud to put our name on the finished product.

Bring your kid to work day, 2006.  The Oprah Show

channel the desire to grow and build and innovate 

When Oprah finally did pack up her stuff and set sail for the West, many of us did not want to pull up our Chicago roots, so we found ourselves at a crossroads. What next?  

For Brett and myself, telling stories and making videos is what we do. And it’s all we wanted to do as we jumped into the next stage of our careers. 

Bottle Rocket Media started with one client.  And while the workload might seem laughable now, there was a lot to do in the early days.  It didn’t take long to realize I was going to need help.  I called upon friends in the business, and together we… MADE A VIDEO!  It wasn’t the first video I had made, and it wasn’t the grandest of videos, but it felt different and was the beginning of something exciting. 

 One led to another, and another, and another.  The momentum had begun. 

In 2013, after a brief walkabout into the wild world of tech startups, Brett began to miss being creative and joined the team. This is when things really started to gel for BRM.  Together, we built on our 40+ combined years of experience to create a place where we could be creative, experimental, and collaborative with our colleagues, clients, and friends. 

Three-man wrecking crew, 2014.  We got a lot done for three guys and a dream.

We challenged ourselves to grow every day, pushing through any of the complacency we developed from a decade-plus of daily television. We had failures and, of course, successes, and at the end of every day, week, month, and year we never stopped being grateful that we have had the opportunity to do what we love to do for a living.

This love has allowed us to channel the desire to grow, build, and innovate. 

Throughout the years, we tested cameras, lights, computers, and an endless supply of software.  

Our creative spirit was no different.  Exploring our creativity has led us to 360 video production, interrotron-style documentaries, 3D graphics, and now Unreal Engine.  Additionally, and most importantly, the willingness to experiment creatively has led to an abundance of varied storytelling.

360 Cubs experience, 2018

And, of course, this same enthusiasm is how we continue to grow our team.  In 2014 we took our next giant leap and hired our first full-time team member, an editor, and everything changed for the better. Life became manageable, and the videos got the attention they deserved.  Equally as important, we started having more fun.  Brett always says that the best part of owning a business is that we get to choose the people we work with, and after ten years of building the best team in the business, I agree. 

always be collaborative

Call it teamwork or collaboration; there is no substitute for rolling up our sleeves, looking one another in the eye, and working together.  As a Director, there are countless obvious examples of this.  I rely on my producers to get us to the shoot; I work with my cinematographers and audio recordists to help bring my storyboards to life.  My production designers take good locations and make them great, and my stylist crew…  where do I begin????  I would be lost without them.  

But beyond the minutiae of filmmaking, there is an unbelievably healthy amount of collaborating within the walls of Bottle Rocket Media all day, every day.  Client services, pre-production, script writing, editorial, motion design, and keeping the refrigerator stocked.  We do our best to stay connected, support each endeavor, and push one another to do it better every time.  It is nothing short of brilliant work by everyone involved.

Designers solving problems at our second office, 2016

At BRM, we are filmmakers, producers, directors, editors, motion designers, animators, writers, creatives, technologists, dreamers, visionaries, and pragmatists.  Art + Story + Technology + Common Sense is what we do.  There are twelve of us at the core, with another dozen talented freelancers supporting our efforts regularly.  Every day I work with any of them is one of the best days of my life.

The creative team gets lost at a wrap party, 2021

An impromptu group shot, 2022

Of course, how we work has changed since the Covid-19 Pandemic, and I suspect it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  At BRM, we are a hybrid environment which translates loosely into; please come to the office as much as necessary to connect and do the most creative work possible.  In practical terms, this means we are in the office more and more every week.  Hybrid is here to stay, but we cannot deny how much more we accomplish when together.

Commit to excellence and take pride in our work

I mean, why not?  We spend our days telling other people’s stories.  As such, we must always do our best to learn their point of view, communicate how we think the story should be told, and embrace their audience.  It’s not a small task, and we don’t see this endeavor as successful unless we do our best and take pride in what we do.

Interrotron shoot with some very smart kids, 2016

Exhibit kindness

There are many ways we could and should be kind to one another.  I’m not going to get all preachy and discuss why being kind is one of our core values and why you should be kind to one another and yourself.  I want to shine a light on the idea of listening as one of the easiest ways to be kind.  

We are all so busy all the time.  Even when we aren’t physically busy, we are inundated with multiple social media feeds, social lives, professional lives, family, and hobbies.  It can be hard to remember to slow down and listen to your people. 

In our line of work, there is no skill more important than listening.  When we listen to our clients, we are allowing ourselves to gain an understanding of their message and their goals. This is what will drive our engagement together.  This is what will inform our creative decisions.  This is the foundation of the collaboration! When we listen to one another, we make better videos.  We gain perspective, understanding, and humility when we listen to the world around us.  

I wasn’t a listener ten years ago.  I was a determined Gen Xer looking for a community in a city that was not yet my home.  I had a goal but did not yet know the path.  Bottle Rocket Media has allowed me to get to know the Chicago community in a way I couldn’t predict.  And most of it comes from taking a step back, checking myself, and listening to what people say.  

Sharing knowledge in Los Angeles, 2019

Fundamentally, all these values have allowed us to tell the right story at the right time.

We love to tell stories.  We have studied it, practiced it, and continue to hone this craft at the behest of our clients and ourselves.  I have found that a good story shares intimate details while remaining relatable to the audience.  It can be communicated by the subtle way movement connects with audio effects and music in an animated video. More noticeable, it can be felt in how a documentary script is put together or how an actor is directed to smile.  It’s these details that excite me about storytelling.  It’s these details that cut through the clutter.

Working our way out of the pandemic, 2021

This love for story has carried us through the last ten years, and I am sure it will drive us into the future.  For a decade now, we have been working hard to bring our client’s visions to life, educate and entertain our audiences, and develop an atmosphere that inspires creativity in everyone we connect with.  I look forward to more of all of it in the next phase of Bottle Rocket Media.

Why You Always Want Lighting Hair and a Makeup Team For Your Video

During the era of social media, in the world of everlasting content on the internet, we can all agree that image really is everything (thank you Andre Agassi)! And when you commit to delivering a unique brand message through video, the last thing you need to worry about is reading unfavorable comments about your double chin, or going viral because the audience was distracted by your whacked out hair. No one will remember your brand, but they will surely name your pimple – definitely not the goal of any video!

Covid-19, more than before, has shined a light on the importance of why you always want lighting, hair and makeup for any video shoot.

We’ve all seen it, the major pivots large corporations and networks have had to take because of the stay-at-home order in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Newscasters are broadcasting from their homes, television hosts, like Jimmy Fallon are no longer in studios, but in their kitchens with their kids alongside them on live television.

Graciously, there is appreciation in knowing our favorite shows can continue during this time, but we must admit there have been some, er… major setbacks when it comes to how all our favorite celebs are looking on camera.

To put it plainly, if you didn’t notice quality lighting and talented glam squads before the pandemic you absolutely miss ‘em now that they’re gone!

1. Why is lighting so important?

Many people don’t realize that everything we do in video production revolves around light. We’ll skip the filmmaking 101 lesson, but remember quality imagery begins with good lighting. Case in point, have you seen yourself on Zoom when the lighting is terrible? Yeah, us too, and it’s not a pretty sight!

When working with professionals they know the specifics of lighting to get any person, celebrity or not, through a shoot without breaking a sweat (…well maybe a little sweat under the hot lights). The right light is often chosen like a painter would choose the right brush – the type of light, color, angle, distance, height. It all factors into what is considered a well-lit subject. And let’s be real, most people don’t know and many don’t care (and that includes the talented people on camera!)… until it’s gone.

To mitigate sweat breaking, and power consumption, perhaps you’d prefer lighting options that pull less power and produce less heat. If so, you may want to choose LED or RGB lighting options. Our friends at Magnanimous Rentals in Chicago review the assembly and basic operation of several RGB options in their blog post RGB Lighting Adds Color to the Movie Palette’.

The Boston Globe rated a handful of people making their online video premiere during the stay-at-home order. Easily, you can see who gets it, and sadly, who doesn’t!

2. Makeup or Not?!

If you haven’t noticed, screenshots are being captured left and right. Videos are being shared on social media timelines everywhere. We know that during this period of social distancing and broadcasting from home, often alone, we are forced to our own devices. The question for you is, when we finally are allowed to leave the house do you want to be ready for your cameo or not? Just know being prepared and having a quality makeup artist assist you will have you looking like you need to be on a magazine cover. The confidence implemented when you illuminate your best features, you know the ones you’re most proud of, will get you into your #forevermood! That mood where you become the new age model you’ve always known you could be.

Since the lighting crew will surely make you sweat it is always preferable for a makeup artist to start you off on the right foot, and keep you there for the remainder of the day. Let’s face it, making videos takes time. Nobody looks the same at 6pm as they did six hours earlier. It’s important to enhance your look with makeup and know with a makeup artist onsite you will have someone tending to your best look all day long.

Take a look at the ladies from the talk show, The Talk. They got the memo – makeup on deck, even from home!

3. Is a hair stylist really necessary?

Now, as we have conquered lighting and make-up, tell me do you think a hair stylist is necessary? The Atlantic offered some enlightenment. Simply put, do you want a comparable image like the one below with 15.1 million views plastered all over the world wide web of you and your hair looking like an unforgettable style, and not in a good way. If you’re one of the funniest people in the world, like Will Ferrell, this hairdo may work for you, but for the rest of us, this look is not getting us to our next paycheck.

In the end, your brand message should always be the focal point of any video you make. Looking your best doesn’t have to mean overdoing it with makeup or hair styling. It simply means that your appearance does not distract from what you are saying. Like many aspects of filmmaking it is often the case that if you don’t notice a technique it is being done correctly. That is very different than not doing it at all.


Connect with Bottle Rocket Media to produce a valuable video that represents your brand clearly and efficiently and we’ll be sure to use the appropriate lighting, makeup and hair team you need!

Maintaining Brand Awareness During Covid-19

We can all reason that when it comes to brand management Covid-19 has created a tailspin of uncertainty in the minds of practically every marketer, but if we are honest with ourselves this type of worry has always been there – if we are doing our jobs correctly. Maintaining brand awareness has always been an ultimate challenge. What do we do to keep it fresh and current? When should we consider changing it up? What needs to happen today? For those responsible for these marketing decisions the task is never ending.

Now, during a time of quarantine, massive unemployment, and with a polarized nation on edge, maintaining brand awareness is more challenging than ever.

The good news is the playing field has been leveled and for those of you paying attention there is a lot of great opportunity abound. Considering the changes that have occurred so swiftly and the ones that are sure to come, this moment requires that we all acknowledge our brand persona even more to ensure we will continue to deliver our unique brand message clearly, post Covid-19.

Here are 5 steps you should consider to make sure you are in the game for the long haul and you are maintaining your brand message clearly.

1. Take a breath

Yeah, yeah, it sounds simple. It may even sound cliche’, but the point is, adequate deep breathing has taken the back burner for many of us. Have you centered yourself enough to be able to think clearly and not act in a rash manner? We suggest you take the time to get into a space of acceptance. Take a day off to contemplate in your garden, or take a social distancing walk with a neighbor; even a virtual happy hour. Whatever will help you recharge your critical thinking can only help you to be more focused. It may not solve any immediate challenges, but it will allow you to see the bigger picture of what lies ahead. This is a marathon, not a sprint. So take that breath. A quality one.

2. Ask yourself, what is it that your brand needs to be saying now?

Start with, asking yourself, what is it that your brand needs to be saying now? Pinpoint 3 brand messages that people need to know about you right now.

Think about Microsoft. Just 3 months ago, there were a limited number of businesses utilizing Microsoft Teams. Now, with so many remote workers, Microsoft Teams has now become a necessity. According to GeekWire more people have become aware of its features and have begun to use the platform. This all occurred because, yes, these times cause for more of a demand, but more importantly, Microsoft took advantage of the opportunity by changing their messaging and strategizing how to deliver it. For them, it was by commercial advertising.

Click to watch commercial!

The point is, brands all around the world are noticing the importance of creating avenues that make sense at this time, and you definitely don’t want to be left behind. Focus on your messaging and how it matters to your audience. Then decide on the best way to release it!

3. Who is your audience?

Knowing your audience is pivotal to connecting the dots between you and your target consumer. Knowing who this audience is is the most important thing you can do when standing on shifting sands. Maybe have a Zoom call with your team with a whiteboard in the background and plot out ideas of who your target audience is. Try to draw the complete picture of who they are. Really ponder the following questions:

You may even have to consider that your audience has changed since the Covid-19 crisis has turned the world upside down. BMW now delivers your new car to your home and Little Caesar’s pizza is now offering curbside pickup. And everyone is talking about heroes, sanitary guidelines, and being quarantined!

Does any of this make sense? In the end, it’s all about staying connected to your audience and understanding what matters to them now.

4. Your message is unique – deliver it that way

There are various ways to communicate your brand message, right? Consider them all, and what makes the most sense for your audience. Would it be best to write the message in an article? Maybe an image will work best broadcasted across social media. Or maybe you need to go back to the drawing board and play around with telling a story using video.

The mode in which you select to deliver your unique message is the driver for the increase in awareness and business, so once again being strategic but authentic to your target audience is imperative.

For example, Nike ads are typically created with impressive high octane video clips. We all know them and we all love them. But just a month ago they flipped the script and came out with a new emotionally appealing and relatable video with a completely different look. Still photographs of what would usually be video. Take a look here. Due to the current shelter-in-place situation around the country, this approach allowed them to stay true to form with just a tweak on the delivery.

Click to watch the commercial!

On another note, someone like marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuck produces a variety of content in practically every mode available. Here, Gary discusses insights to help businesses during a tough time. In this blog post you will see both the written word, video, and even designed media to catch your eye. He is appealing to both his audience that enjoys visual messaging while also delivering the message through text in an entertaining and direct way. And, if you follow Gary V, this scattered approach is authentic to him. The goal is to truly grasp what works best for your audience and create the best content you can within these parameters.

Click to read and watch the video!

Are you inspired yet? Have you considered and analyzed the ideal message for your brand and how to deliver your unique brand message effectively? If you need an extra push or are looking for more direction; maybe the following will help.

5. Get with the experts

This is the best and final piece of the puzzle! Now that you know the message, you know the target audience, and you have determined the mode in which your target audience will connect with you through your message, you have to actually produce the content. But who is the right person for this daunting task?

It is our belief that it’s always best to have a conversation with the experts. A quick brainstorm session will inform you of next steps. It will help you hone in on your ideas and determine the budget necessary to pull it off.

Consider reaching out and connecting with a visual expert – someone who really knows their craft. You can ask for referrals or simply search online. Really help you grasp the best way to present your brand messaging.

Of course, when it comes to video we would love to chat with you about everything from telling a great story to the latest drone technology. From conception to delivery, we love this stuff and can talk about it all day long. To learn more about Bottle Rocket Media and what we can do for your brand, connect with us here.

Choosing The Right Music For Your Video: Q&A with Dan Fisher

Music drives much of what we do at Bottle Rocket Media.  Not just in post, but in prep and on location as well.  We are proud to be featured on the Universal Production Music website.  Check it out!

Bottle Rocket Media

If you enjoy finding the “perfect” music cut as much as Bottle Rocket Media’s founder, Dan Fisher, it’s a welcomed challenge. Dan is an Emmy Award-winning video editor who shared his thoughts on choosing good music for your video.

How do you choose good music for a video you’re editing?

There is nothing quite as subjective as choosing good music for videos. After all, a lifetime of musical influence is much bigger than any one video or any one editor. If you grew up within earshot of a radio or a television you have been raised with musical influence – obvious or not. Were you raised on country or R&B? Do you like electronic music or rolling piano melodies? Are you a top forty listener or mostly talk radio? All of these affect how we choose the “perfect” track(s) for a video.

At Bottle Rocket Media, when we are not working with a composer we need to keep the process fluid in order to allow for creativity as well as collaboration. The only way to do this is with a robust stock music library. I am a huge fan of music libraries. The good ones are great and the mediocre ones are terrible. There is no in between. With a music library, I can search in a variety of directions – emotional (upbeat, sad…), technical (beats per minute…), stylistic (electronic, acoustic…), even instrumentation (guitar, piano…). And a really good library will have a client services rep who knows the catalog well. This will save you time and help you gather more options.

What is the creative process on choosing music?

Seasoned editors develop a short-hand regarding what kind of music is “supposed” to work in certain situations. Typically, this is dictated by the emotional direction of the video and/or the region of the world where the video will be viewed. Of course, this only helps narrow down the choices. After this it’s anybody’s guess what will connect with the audience. For this reason, I always just choose what sounds best to me. No mind games. If it fits the tone and it sounds good I use it.

When do you begin to think about music tracks and what is your starting point?

We include music in everything we do, from script to final video. It’s helpful for the director, the actors, the editor and even the motion graphics designer. If I do not get direction from the client directly, I take my cues from the script, storyboards, and treatment. The tone of the video is usually pretty apparent from the onset of a project.

What do you avoid?

We are very collaborative at BRM. We take ideas from everywhere and the best idea always wins. That said, after the initial kickoff meeting, the fewer conversations we have about music, the better. It turns out that many people, even some of the most talented industry colleagues, cannot visualize how music will work in a video until they hear it in the video. So I like to pick music and present it with the first version. It shortens the conversation, allows us to find the final cue faster, and we get to be more creative with choices as well. We have had a great success rate with this method.

I assume ‘feeling/mood’ plays a huge role, talk to me about that.

Yes. It is everything. The mood of the script, the mood of the person picking the music, the mood of the editor and audio mixer. If anyone of these is dramatically out of alignment the music usually doesn’t work as well as we thought it would.


What are some mistakes people often make when choosing music?

To me most of the challenges surrounding music are in the non-fiction space. With scripted material, you pretty much know your end product before you start. Tone, talent, design, etc. And often you have a composer to write music specific to the final video. In the non-fiction space, you often have to switch musical direction after the first version of the video. The tone could be slightly different than planned, the music might compete with speaker’s voice or pacing, or the footage may simply inspire a new direction. All of these challenges are what makes non-fiction/documentary editing challenging and exciting.

And, after all is said and done, I always try and avoid stereotypes… At Bottle Rocket Media we approach all aspects of the process with a fresh and unique perspective, especially music. Finding the perfect cut of music is a fun challenge, and if you enjoy music as much as I do it’s a welcomed challenge.

Any technical tips?

Too often I find a cut I love that competes with the voice of my interview subjects or voiceover artists, especially with piano. A great way to make a music cut work when your budget doesn’t allow for a professional audio mixer is to use an EQ effect on the music. Just pull down the mids and the problem usually goes away.

Hey, thanks, Dan!

Have a video that needs the perfect track? Contact us here.

Social Media Tips to Create the Perfect Video

Posting videos on social media needs to be part of your strategic marketing plan. We know this much is true (We blogged about it before). But, how do you approach that? Read on for some social media video production tips.

Planning your video marketing strategy

Keepin’ it real: Authenticity is important. Your social media video gives you the opportunity to show your audience who your brand is, what it does, and why they need it. Your brand identity should guide your content. The social media space is casual and fluid, so don’t be afraid to give your audience a different side of your brand, and in turn, expanding your brand identity. We talked about that in this blog

When you consider planning your video marketing strategy make a list and answer the following questions:

  1. What you would like to accomplish with your video marketing strategy?
  2. Where would you like to share your videos and how often? Create a content calendar to make it easy to follow
  3. Who is your target audience? Build the persona of your audience so you can clearly speak to them through your videos

Welcome your audience into your world and (hopefully) they’ll let you into theirs by giving you a “follow” or a “like”. People don’t just “LinkIn” with anyone or let randoms in their Facebook friend-circle, but when they let someone or a brand in, they’re opening the door to their online space – their social media world, or, let’s be honest – the center of their universe.

Focus on Quality

Let’s be honest. These days, customers are extremely smart. Your audience requires much more from a brand than ever before, and quality is essential – high quality is an expectation. The quality of your video determines your seriousness and displays professionalism. Remember you have to stand out. So make your videos high-definition, use a quality camera, an appealing background, and utilize the skillsets of the professionals like great angles, motion graphics, and text overlay that captures your viewer’s attention.

We LOVE this video. Made almost entirely of employee shot videos, this video shows the heart of Centro is its people, and we hear its CEO unscripted, just talking about the company he’s built, and loves.

Including a Call To Action

People need direction. People desire clear communication. The benefits of creating video for social media are the potential reach, the ability to attract people through visual components, and the ways in which you can input a call to action that is meaningful for both you and your audience. Take a look at the video below.

Using Animation

Animation has become a growing trend to creatively get a message across. Animation and motion graphics make space for storytelling that is memorable and captivating. Have you seen the movie Soul on Disney+? From children to adults, animated films have become the trend that continues to expand. From a branding perspective, it can be extremely compelling to communicate your brand message through animation. Take a look at the video below.

Make Your Videos Short

People are busy and have the attention span of a gnat. We recommend short-form videos on your social networks. YouTube videos are a different story. They’re favoring longer content. But for your social posts, shorter is still better.

Short-form videos allow you to deliver content in the format your social media viewers want and prefer. And, what’s cool about short-form video is that you don’t necessarily have to go and shoot short after short, you can, and should, re-edit existing material.

During a big production day when you’re filming a longer piece; you’re there, cameras are rolling, why not shoot a little extra to use on social? Plus, you can use the short, re-edited pieces to drive your audience to the longer version.

No one wants to watch a long video on social media, but if they like this short “teaser,” on say, Instagram, they just might follow that link to the long-form that lives on your company homepage or on your YouTube Channel.

Not to mention if you have a long or short video that you don’t necessarily like the background, check out how you can easily change the background of your video here.

This 30-second social video was made for The Peninsula Chicago’s new rooftop bar – Z Bar.

To the Max: Maximize exposure on social media. By sharing your branded video content across all social platforms, you will increase your brand reach even further. Duh.

Caption This: Think of captions and subtitles as being just as important as the sound on your video – music & dialogue – and as the images that play on screen. Most of us don’t turn up the volume on IG or FB vids as we scroll through our feeds. But we do read along with the caption. Plus, it enables those living with deafness or hearing loss to be able to fully experience and enjoy your content.

Tactical tip: You need to know the specs, sizes, dimensions, and ratios of all your social media videos. This also includes your social media ad videos. This is a great article on social media video tips by platform for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and beyond. The team at Bottle Rocket would love to help you create videos for social media! Connect with us today to Start Your Project today!

The Importance of Audio in Video: Bottle Rocket Media’s Top Ten Audio Checklist

We here at Bottle Rocket Media acknowledge the importance of audio in video, and as video content creators we spend so much time producing, coordinating, and conceptualizing “the shot…” that oftentimes audio can get neglected. And somewhere between “Action” and “Cut” your precious audio track becomes somewhat of a Jan Brady – the middle child of the video project. So in order to protect you and your video from being distracted by “Marsh, Marsh, Marsha!” we bring you Bottle Rocket Media’s top ten audio checklist.

Bottle Rocket Media’s Top Ten Audio Checklist

1. Start by capturing quality audio.

These days it’s too easy to throw a wireless microphone on a subject, feed it directly into a camera, and roll. Alternatively we are also seeing a lot of folks recording their own audio using a smartphone. This rarely works. Think about it, imagine you’re using your phone to record someone as they are sitting across from you. Your off-camera audio is going to be much louder than their responses because you’re the one holding the device and it’s closer to you. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? If you want your subject to have an impact the audience has to be able to hear him or her.

2. Keep the set quiet. It matters.

Even if extraneous noise on location will not affect the on-camera talent, keeping a quiet set will save you time in post, keep the crew focused and allow you to dig up the hidden gems you may not have heard the first time around. Capturing broll for a non fiction video is a perfect example. If you allow your crew to chat while capturing the footage you might wind up having to find and edit similar audio into the scene versus just yelling “Quiet on the set!” before you start recording.  Not only does this waste money during post production, but it never sounds as authentic.  This brings us to number three on our list….

3. The importance of natural sound (NATS) or diegetic audio – audio that is part of the world of the video location.

In larger narrative films background noise and diegetic sound is often added during the post production process.  This is done by Foley Artists. In documentary work, the more you can record during principal photography the better. We would argue that background noise is not at all actually noise. Whether fiction or nonfiction, the realities of an environment tend to always include many layers of sound; voices, laughter, dishes clanking, ambient music, cars driving by, wind rustling through the trees. Pay close attention to all of your locations and capture those sounds. They always help set the tone for your scene.

4. Sound Effects

While these super important elements help bring the shots to life, even more so with graphics, you need to police yourself here. It’s really easy to go overboard on sound effects. They should help move your piece along and add depth, but if you’re relying on them solely there’s probably something else wrong you need to examine. Perhaps your music bed isn’t exactly right or you didn’t record dynamic audio to begin with? So use those SFX, but use them wisely.  Check out this list of the top ten most famous sound effects in movies.

5. Make sure you have a great voice over talent.

The market is oversaturated with options when it comes to finding quality VO talent. You need to invest time into auditioning the right person for your piece based on your budget. You can’t afford to compromise here. It needs to be professionally recorded and casted right, like any other aspect of the video. Have a solid understanding of what you want the VO to sound like and don’t be afraid to direct the talent and ask for several versions. Also, other than a script your VO person is likely blind to your project’s tone and high-level messaging so he/she will appreciate any guidance you can provide ahead of time. For more on this, check out our Directing the VO  blog from a few months ago.

6. Do you like to edit audio or video first?

Whatever you post-production process, it is critical that you allot the right amount of time for your audio editing needs, just as you would with the video editing. Throughout the revision process there could be music changes, major cuts, major additions, your VO could be axed and replaced by all graphics, you name it, it could happen. Your timeline will go fast, make sure you think this through on the front end in pre-production and scheduling.

7. A great editor can edit great audio

but whenever possible, try to use an actual post-production audio designer to at least mix your videos. It will make a massive difference in how your video sounds. Using a professional with a trained ear, who understands the medium, but also how things sound on various delivery devices, from a phone to a movie theater is critical to giving audio it’s due.

8. Silence really can be golden.

But… we get it. It can also be very awkward. You have to get over that though. In a conversation situation, whenever there is silence, the natural reaction is to fill it. Don’t. This is especially true when you’re interviewing someone or working with actors in an ensemble. When they finish talking or answering a question, don’t immediately jump to the next talking point. Sit there, smile and nod sincerely so they feel safe and comfortable, and see what happens next. Odds are, you’ll get more emotion, more story and the conversation could reveal something you previously didn’t learn in pre production.

9. Room tone

This one may seem obvious, but any good director/audio/sound tech will always make sure to capture room tone. Room tone is a small sampling of the environment without any talking. This can be super helpful in audio editing later in the process. When you are on location it’s easy to ignore certain ambient sounds that aren’t obvious. The air conditioner, fan, buzz of fluorescent lights, a train in the far off distance. They all make much more noise than we give them credit for and your microphone will capture it all. Recording room tone at each setup will help even out any of the wonderful impurities offered by your location.

10. Music

Last but certainly not least, one of the most important elements of your audio is… music. As you recall, it’s so important that we dedicated all of Part 1 of this blog series to this topic – The Importance of Audio in Video: Music. There are several approaches to finding the right track and it can also be very personal. Don’t be afraid to ask others their opinions.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned more tips and tricks and probably some less interesting stuff as well. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about audio recording, music, or just want to make a kick ass video.

The Importance of Audio in Video: Music

We here at Bottle Rocket Media acknowledge the importance of audio in video. Music, sound effects, voice over, diegetic sound, etc. It’s all part of a wonderful tapestry that can only enhance any video project.  Picking music for our videos is actually one of our favorite things to do. It can be challenging at times, but the hunt for a “perfect” song only leads to a sublime pay off of emotional truth in your video.

The importance of Music in Video

We think it is safe to say that when it comes to achieving the emotional goals of a video, your choice in music is critical. Of course you need the right visuals to tell a great story, and the music you decide to use requires an equal amount of passion and purpose as blocking out your shot list. Picking the right (or wrong) music track will really influence the way people feel when they watch your video.

Using big movies as a way to illustrate our point is easy. Imagine the Italian Stallion running the steps of Philly without the help of Composer Bill Conti or Luke, Han, and Chewy taking a victory lap sans John Williams’ brilliance. In both cases, it’s just doesn’t grab the audience the same way.

In this article written by Mic. They’ve cobbled together several iconic scenes from scary flicks. Watch one or all, and then watch again with the sound off. It’s a completely different experience! The audio composition usually consists of silence, strings and screams, but take those away, and the impact of the scare is completely watered down.

But what do you do when you aren’t making a blockbuster or a horror film? How do you choose music that’s right for your brand video?

How To Pick the Right Music

OK, music is important. We’ve established that. So how do you know when it works? Answer a couple of easy questions to help you get started.

Music and Money – There Are Always Options

We know what you are thinking… Good music is going to cost a fortune, right? And you’re correct if you’re trying to license from Beck. But these days there are loads of music options to choose from. If you cannot afford a uniquely composed track, check out the abundance of stock music libraries available online. All you have to do is spend five minutes on any stock library site to see that it’s all there for the taking. From funk to orchestral to indigenous music to soundalike tracks – If you can think of it, it’s out there.

Over the years we have enjoyed a variety of solutions, ranging from having our favorite composer create something specific to signing up for an unlimited use library, to scanning the web for that rarity. It all depends what you are looking to accomplish and how often you create videos. Currently we are happy to be part of the Universal Production Music family. We pay annually for a license that allows for unlimited creativity.

If it’s not clear by now, we love music libraries. Mostly because music libraries provide an abundance of music WITHOUT lyrics – a point to really consider. Very often music with lyrics does not work in a video score. The messaging can be off and the words can be distracting. So when you consider all of the factors – variety, cost effectiveness, no lyrics, high quality – we recommend starting your search for the perfect cut with a music library. And even in the occasion that you have budget for a composer, using a library will help you communicate what you are going for in the first place.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Part 2 of this piece where we explore the importance of additional audio elements outside of music. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about music, music searching, or just want to make a kick ass video.

We All Have a Story To Tell

Who’s Excited for Chicago Ideas Week?!

In a couple of days, Chicago Ideas Week kicks off with over 200 global thought leaders taking the stage to share their ideas and personal stories with thousands of people.  At Bottle Rocket Media this got us thinking about how we all have a story to tell and you don’t necessarily need a podium to share it. So in honor of this week-long festival, here’s some thoughts and tips from us about great storytelling.

We All Have a Story To Tell

Yes yes, we’ve heard this a thousand times. It’s over-used, but it is very true. And no matter what medium you’re working within, you have to find the story. Let’s stress the importance of that again… you have to FIND it.  Sometimes it’s right in front of you. Other times you have to take the facts turn them inside out and upside down before you are presented with a story that will cut through the clutter and resonate with your audience.

We’ll never forget the time we were introduced to the beautiful world of Lurpak Butter. This catalog of spots is so stunning and they aren’t really even about the product line of butter. They’re about the adventure you go on when you use it.

And when Evian Water rolled up its sleeves for some branded content, we were gifted with a comical story about the water’s hometown. Seriously, its really funny and who knew Evian had such a dry sense of humor?

The Importance of Pre-Pre… Pre-Production

When it comes to finding that great brand story it’s all about doing your homework. If you don’t put in the lion’s share of the work on the front end of your project, before you even consider putting pen to paper, you will most certainly miss something. Here are some tips we consider necessary when it comes to finding, and telling, the best story for your brand.

Do the research

Starting off your project with a nod to Google is a logical place to start, but it isn’t enough. Dig in and dig in deep. Talk to people, read articles, talk to more people and read even more. Endless articles, books, and subject matter experts are out there waiting to be consulted.

Don’t just research your subject, get to know it

Investing your time can be tricky when you’re on a budget or an accelerated timeline, but an extra 30-minute phone call, meet-up over coffee, or secondary chat with subject matter experts will only bring your idea to the next level. The more insight and information you can gather, the more authenticity you will bring to your story.

Question your answers

When considering your story don’t take every answer at face value. If you are conducting an interview be sure to probe for more detailed answers. If you are doing research be sure to follow up with the source. Anyway you slice it, there is always more to learn about a subject.

Get buy-in upfront

When collaborating on a brand story, always confirm your ideas before you advance to the next phase of the project.  The tone, style, and point of view in your head need to be communicated to the brand experts in order to confirm the project is moving in the right direction.

So there you have it.  A few reminders to help you get started with your next big story. Go to Chicago Ideas Week.  And if you are looking for a team to tell your story reach out to Bottle Rocket Media for all of your video production services needs. We’d love to hear from you!

Chicago Ideas Week is Approaching and We Can’t Wait!

Chicago Ideas Week is approaching!

At Bottle Rocket Media we are long time fans of Chicago Ideas Week.  As such, we are excited to announce that we will be official Media Partner with Chicago Ideas Week in 2019. This event is so rich with knowledge and entertainment that it really does what it has set out to do: connect and inspire others, so that we create a more joyous, thriving city. You really have to see it to believe it. We don’t like to name drop, but we will… David Lynch, Hilary Clinton, DeRay Mckeson, David Brancaccio, Hebru Brantley, just to name a few!

Five days of artists, educators, intellectuals, leaders, entrepreneurs, and influencers telling it like it is with talks, conversations, and special events. There are even a good number of hands-on labs to get you closer to the action.

Be sure to check out all that these events have to offer at Chicago Ideas and hurry because tickets sell out fast!

With Chicago Ideas Week approaching quickly, it got us thinking about all of the other incredible story and ideas conferences that take place around the country. Here’s a few favorites of ours and our clients:

The Future of Storytelling

Next event is June 3rd-4th 2020 in NYC

We attended this invite-only conference held every year in New York City. They take over the Snug Harbor Cultural Center each year for this summit. It’s a huge campus of buildings, gardens, and wide open spaces.

The The event consists big sessions, interactive displays, group social events (food and drink), and a ton of small group discussions (could be 15-30 people) with experts in a wide range of disciplines leading the discussion.

We had one-on-one chats with Damian Kulash (lead singer of OK Go), Anjali Sud (the CEO of vimeo), and even an astronaut (Leland Melvin). Oh, and, maybe the best thing of all… we hung out with Count Dracula from Sesame Street! Plus about 20 other speakers who are all really accessible during the event.

Story 2020

Next event September 24-25, 2020 in Nashville, TN

The storytelling team from one of our favorite clients attended this event just this past September. Their quick report back was that the speakers were the highlight of the event. Story says they’re an event where you’ll find innovative talk and unique performances in an immersive, transformational atmosphere.

They have a great recap video of the 2019 fest (you can find it at the link above). The speakers from this year included: Chris Bobotis (Former Director of Immersive, Adobe), Michael Margolis (CEO, Storied, Advisor to Silicon Valley), Linda Woolverton (Renowned Screenwriter, Playwright, and Novelist), Thaniya Keereepart (Head of Product, Patreon & TED), and 20 more. An impressive group. You’ll definitely see us there next year.

World Forum Disrupt – Video World Forum

Next event is October 18th, 2019 – Brooklyn, NY

While we haven’t been to this one yet, we are attending in a few weeks. This one day festival, organized by the World Forum Disrupt team who hold events all over the world. This particular event is focused on video.

A day long event of speakers and sessions in Brooklyn. Some of the sessions we’re excited for include: Video Views – The least important metric in video strategy, Panel Session: The future of video – Strategizing for digital success, The merging of short-form and long-form – and what it means, In conversation: Monetizing your content, and Antisocial Social videos.

Plus, there’s a super solid line-up of speakers from The New York Times, Conde Naste, CNN, MTV, Google, Daily Motion, Vice, AMC Networks, USA Today, CBS, and more. We’ll report back for sure, but unseen, this should be a great day.

Shooting in Tongues, Vol. II: More Video Vocab

Last week, we began our journey through the linguistically obscure world of production speak, a world of words and phrases our team constantly relies on to communicate quickly and effectively. In order to help you keep up the dialogue with the seasoned crew on your next brand video, Bottle Rocket Media proudly presents the second installment of our ‘Shooting in Tongues’ series:


In pubs across Europe, this term has a very different meaning than it does in the world of production. When it comes to video, using a “lav,” or lavalier, simply refers to a small microphone that is discreetly placed somewhere on the talent’s clothing. Whether attached snugly to a lapel or shirt pocket, these cutting-edge, powerful mics are designed to capture the subject’s words without picking up on ambient noise. They are perfect for either crisp interviews or dialogue-heavy scenes shot at long range.


Although this term has nothing to do with actual blocks, it is a technique used when building scenes. Before any professional director rolls, he or she needs to know exactly where the actors’ marks are, when the locations will change, and where the lighting/camera equipment needs to be at all times. Therefore, the cast and crew will often “block out,” or rehearse, all movements to avoid wasting time and resources once “Action!” is called.

Alan Smithee

In the late 1960s, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) created the pseudonym for directors looking to distance themselves from films they did not have creative control over (prima donnas). Al Smith? Too common. Al Smithe? Closer. Alan Smithee? Just offbeat enough to avoid a lawsuit from an actual person. In a strange twist, the name was almost completely abandoned by Hollywood after a 1998 film poking fun at the concept bombed, ironically, at the box office.

*Click to watch a trailer from An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn

Magic hour

It looks just like it sounds. Just before the sun rises, and just after it sets, our sky is illuminated clearly – yet, not too brightly. An even distribution of light during these times allows for highly captivating outdoor action shoots. If you’ve ever seen a Terrence Malick or Michael Bay movie, you’ve witnessed the warm colors and textures of magic hour. Here, the Coen brothers give us their impression in a classic scene from No Country for Old Men.

Shot list

Both a director’s – and bartender’s – best friend, this term refers to a vital list of all camera shots scheduled for a particular production. In a sense, it’s a technical script: no dialogue – just a meticulous spreadsheet of angles, movements, and locations. Of course, once the entire shot list has been completed, it’s onto another one at our favorite Chicago haunts, Aberdeen Tap

Stay tuned for more video vocab! In the meantime, click here for help with your next brand video.