14 May 2017

Media producers: Ben Stassen, Ken Saba, Luke Ployhar, Don MacBain, David Love

Media producer David Love, Hollow Studios, educated at "Disney University" - October 2016, InPark magazine
..."enamored with ride films since experiencing Star Tours in 1987, David formed a long term ambition to create them. In 2008, as Hollow Studios (first iteration, Hollow 4D Studios) he had become well versed in 3D animation as well as live action 3D, and the company rolled out an original media-based turn-key attraction at the IAAPA Attractions Expo, where the company received IAAPA’s First Place, Best Exhibit 600-1000 Sq. Ft. award. They built a library of six films over the next several years... Full story

The House that Ben Built: interview with Ben Stassen of nWave Pictures - March 2016, InPark magazine
...How did the Robinson Crusoe story wash up on nWave’s shores?
I love castaway stories – and they provide good, family-oriented subject matter with good themes. Robinson Crusoe is a classic that lives in the public consciousness – a recognizable IP. Most people know at least the basics, even if they haven’t read the book by Daniel Defoe. It was ideal for our purposes, and this was such a new and original angle – seen from the point of view of the animals on the island where the hero is shipwrecked....Full story

Ken Saba: The whats, whys and hows of media production (interview) - Feb 2017, InPark magazine
...First, tell us about Soarin’ Around the World.
There’s an ironic backstory. In 1998 at Walt Disney Imagineering, during a semester off while I was working as an assistant editor, the late Tom Wright, who was in charge of film distribution, told me about this great project coming up and encouraged me to stick around for it. However, I was partway through getting my degree at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and had to go back so as not to lose my placement. It was a tough decision. I remember telling Tom, “I’m going to kick myself for this.” The project was Soarin’ Over California. I would have been assistant editor. But there I was, 18 years later, the editor on Soarin’ Around the World. If it doesn’t happen now, it’s gonna happen later! ...Full story

Luke Ployhar and "Space Next" - March 2016, InPark magazine
...Luke Ployhar began working on the new space documentary, SPACE NEXT, as a “passion project” to develop internally at his company, Afterglow Studios while continuing to contribute to other giant screen productions such as Space Junk 3D, Electropolis and Antarctica 3D: On the Edge. He founded Afterglow in 2006 after relocating from Los Angeles to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. With such films as Minority Report, Inspector Gadget, Planet of the Apes and Austin Powers under his belt, Ployhar found that his mainstream movie making skills in production, visual effects, 3D and animation transferred effectively to the alternate universe of special venue cinema... Full story

A well-oiled process: Media producer Don MacBain fosters collaboration - November 2015, InPark magazine
...At pretty much any point in his career, Don MacBain could be found working on or near the forefront of special venue cinema, whether analog or digital, flatscreen or dome, big screen or small, entertainment or education or corporate, 2D or 3D or even 4D. At this writing MacBain was just wrapping up a 15-month project with Jack Rouse Associates (JRA), which contracted him to oversee media production for the extensive re-imagining of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum (Midland, Texas USA), which opened in the first quarter of 2016... Full story

Social media, blogging and content marketing: keeping a balance and perspective

Judith Rubin
This is based on questions I often field from clients, to help everyone stay out of the weeds when it comes to the effective use of social media and content marketing. 

Clarify your business marketing goals
First of all, we are discussing social media as an online publishing and editorial tool applied to marketing and public relations goals in business. Social media has broadened the ways information can be expressed and distributed to serve the core mission and convey the message. It's easy to confuse social with business - we are not going for flavor of the month so much as an effective approach that serves the client goals. Identify the goals, identify the best channels, and formulate a strategy.

What are the advantages of blogging?
Blogs can be standalone, or integrated into a website. They can be an effective way to create an online information clearinghouse that could be quickly updated, create a body of information focused on a particular topic, be time sensitive, professional looking, and not require the services of a webmaster. Blogs help build the overall internet footprint, boost search marketing, create incoming links. They also allow for a little experimentation in what drives traffic and gets pageviews. And they can be made press-friendly. Blogs can be designed to serve up a body of reliable official information and resources. Interface with other social media formats facilitates sharing the information easily by anyone who visits the site. Blogs can also outlive their usefulness - with the number of possible directions online marketing can take, be aware when something falls by the wayside and make a decision either to bring it up to date, position it as an archive, or eliminate it.

How are we measuring our results? How do we know if our numbers are high or low?
The measure is always tied to whether you are getting what you were aiming for. What were your goals? Registration for an event? Press coverage? Increased awareness? Education? Post-event reporting? Numbers can look high or low depending what you compare them to. Find realistic comparisons based on your industry, your competitors and your own past performance.

What is the right balance of quality and quantity?
One thing to be concerned about is over-proliferation. Resist the pressure to be everywhere all the time - it's not possible, but the attempt will compromise quality. Always be looking to see what a particular channel gains you in terms of exposure and to what audience. 

Should we have individual blogs or social media accounts for departments, divisions, offices or individuals within our organization? 
This is an umbrella question. The answer may be yes or it may be no - the issues to discuss first pertain to proliferation, consistency, editorial quality, ability to update and maintaining your contacts list - all crucial factors. 

Each separate channel - whether it is a Facebook page, Twitter account, Vimeo channel, WeChat account, blog or other forum - engenders a separate database in terms of members or followers. Each channel needs a stream of content. Who will be responsible for these things? How will you keep everything under the umbrella in terms of branding and message, and access to the contacts list that is a very valuable asset? Will you find yourself competing with members of the press who have been supporting you? How will you deal with admin changes? Online forums can be damaging to a business, when in unprofessional or unethical hands. 

How do we select our editorial topics?
Do what an editor does: work to stay in touch with the community and identify what's important and possibly under-reported. Chat with leaders and people in the know about direction. Look for trends, significant projects, markets and so forth, and narrow it down. Cultivate awareness of your audience, what are you trying to convey and what you hope to accomplish. Be objective.

How much time is required?
More than you think.

How should we focus our efforts abroad?
Determine the appropriate channels and how best to use them depending on the region. There can be a lot of variation. 

Must this be done in-house? 
You can use an agency or freelance specialist or media outlet that provides such services, and make them your marketing partner. It can be an advantage to do so, in that these tasks are a part of their core business. Any good provider in this field is always working to stay up to date, to understand branding and editorial quality, and to build online followings. You are more likely to get bigger results faster, and clear explanations of what those results indicate.

17 June 2016

Grove East Provisions carries on the brick-oven artisan bread tradition established by Red Fox Baking (Saint Louis)

Chris Sheets of Red Fox Baking during brick oven construction at Grove East Provisions
On the corner of Arsenal and Minnesota in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of the city of Saint Louis, Barry Kinder operates Grove East Provisions, a bistro-style neighborhood eatery and bakery known for sandwiches, wood-fired pizza, beer and wine by the glass, bottle or six-pack, liquor, Sunday brunch and the artisan bread of Red Fox Baking. Provisions first opened its doors in June 2014 and just celebrated two years in business.
Kinder (left) and Sheets during construction of the brick oven
Barry Kinder in front of the lit brick oven

Quite a following has grown up around the bakery's crusty, naturally leavened loaves, which are produced in the brick oven designed by Red Fox co-founder Chris Sheets and constructed by Kinder and Sheets with the bakery's other two founders (Jenny Wilson and Jake Marks, who departed the business a year ago). The bread is used in Provisions' signature pressed sandwiches, including the BLT, Meatloaf Melt and Grilled Veggie, and also accompanies Barry's famous chicken soup (named one of the 100 best dishes in Saint Louis by the Riverfront Times).

Ever since the recent announcement by Sheets that Red Fox would close at the end of June, customers have inquired about the future of their favorite bread and sandwiches, in addition to expressing best wishes for Sheets as he moves on to his next challenge.

Barry Kinder wants his customers to know that their bread fix is not going away. In the absence of Sheets the brick oven still remains, and Kinder has been learning the art from Sheets to ensure both continuity and quality. In the two years since opening Provisions, Kinder, a European-trained chef, has made it his business to serve his fellow Saint Louisans with the high-quality, delicious comfort food they crave. In that time he has also gotten well acquainted with the brick oven he and Sheets built - and turned out many products from it, including the wood-fired pizzas that draw crowds every Friday and Saturday, and a range of other baked goods.

"The amazing bread of Red Fox Baking has been integral to this restaurant and its offerings from the start," said Kinder. "It's been an honor, a pleasure and a great learning experience working with Red Fox, especially Chris Sheets, who is a true artist of the grain and a real professional. I'm grateful to him and I'm going to miss him. He set a high bar for quality and Provisions will uphold that."

Grove East Provisions is at 3101 Arsenal St. (corner of Minnesota), Saint Louis MO 63118. Open 11 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. Tel. 314-802-7090. Also on Facebook

Note from the author: Local restaurants are not my usual beat - normally I cover theme parks, museums and visitor attractions - but Grove East Provisions has been part of my life since it opened and made my neighborhood a better place. See my first article about Provisions from November 2014. -- J.R.

11 January 2016

Where to find Judith Rubin

At the 2015 TEA SATE conference in Pittsburgh. TEA COO Jennie Nevin is on the left.
I have been busy as usual writing, posting and publicizing, but not so much on here. Please look me up on Twitter @judithrubin and on Facebook (Judith Rubin Etc.) as well as on LinkedIn. You can also find my posts regularly on the TEA website www.teaconnect.org and InPark Magazine www.inparkmagazine.com.

29 September 2015

Fitter tigers and splash-happy elephants: New zoo habitats

My article in issue #59 of InPark Magazine explains why new exhibits with soaking, swimming and splashing options will make the tigers fitter and the elephants happier at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Sedgwick County Zoo, respectively.

But just what does it take to create a water attraction for zoo animals? It goes far beyond making and filling up a pool. Read the story here.

24 September 2015

The 2015 Milan world's fair has the taste of success

Editorial, 8/29/2015: A delicious success in Milan (InPark Magazine issue #58)

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." -- George Bernard Shaw

Expo Milano 2015 is displaying considerable success on many fronts: popular, critical, visitation and international goodwill.

Organizers showed savvy in choosing a theme that revolves around food – allowing exhibitors to address the serious angles (world hunger, food sustainability, agribusiness) while simply celebrating the joy of food. This brilliant theme has allowed the Expo to leverage the brand of Italy – its inherent appeal for travelers and residents alike. Food and food security are subjects on which every exhibitor can shine as well. Moreover, world’s fairs have historically ushered in a wide range of breakthroughs and these have included food trends.

Food is something that never goes out of style, never loses its relevance and has always been a key element of an expo even when not central to the theme. I think Milan 2015 will stand as an example of a world’s fair perfectly tailored to its region and to its era.

Politically, the expo is established on the international radar as a place to be seen. Expo 2015 Milano has been drawing heads of state and dignitaries from around the world. A partial list includes the presidents of Italy, France, Spain, Russia, Mexico, Lithuania, Columbia, Ivory Coast and Madagascar; the Queen of Belgium; the Prime Minister of Egypt; and from the US, First Lady Michelle Obama, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Measuring success by attendance, Milan 2015, a 6-month expo running May 1-Oct 31, reached 8.3 million at the halfway mark. As, historically, visitation rates balloon toward the end of an expo as closing day looms, Milan is likely to reach the 20 million total that organizers originally projected.

A look at attendance totals for the previous expos held in this century provides context. Milan’s numbers are very competitive with the last 6-month world’s fair held in Europe, Hanover 2000, and well ahead of the more recent, 3-month event in Zaragoza (Spain). The much higher Shanghai numbers reflect the much larger local population that region has to draw upon.

Many thanks to consultant James Ogul, InPark’s world’s fair expert, who was a resource for this article.

  • Yeosu 2012: 8,203,956 (3 months)
  • Shanghai 2010: 73,000,000 (6 months)
  • Zaragoza 2008: 5,650,941 (3 months)
  • Aichi 2005: 22,049,544 (6 months)
  • Hanover 2000: 18,000,000 (6 months)

05 May 2015

How TEA fosters professional development for students of themed entertainment

by Judith Rubin

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) cultivates students and young talent through its NextGen initiative. Activities include TEA GibGab, a speed networking event bringing together TEA NextGen members, who are college students or recent grads - with TEA member companies looking for new hires.

"The talent we cultivate is our industry's future," said TEA President Steve Birket (Birket Engineering) who participated in TEA GibGab East on April 2, 2015, in Orlando. "The large entertainment owner/operators tell me that TEA’s member companies are their lifeblood.”

TEA COO Jennie Nevin said, "Especially in Asia, we are seeing dramatic growth in the leisure sector, and there is huge demand for what our members can provide."

Gary Blumenstein of sponsor company Rethink Leisure & Entertainment, sponsor of GibGab West on April 16, 2015 in the Los Angeles area, said, "It gives you a chance to meet the new talent and delve a little deeper into their skills and goals. Whether they are artists or engineers or both, they’re sharing similar goals to create the immersive stories and experiences of themed entertainment."

Click here to read the full article and learn more about TEA activities in professional development, networking, conferences and more.

14 November 2014

Bring me another bottle of stout and a salted chocolate rye cookie, Barry

Photo: Chip Cutlan, satchmos@sbcglobal.net
Grove East Provisions dishes up comfort in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri

By Judith Rubin

Grove East Provisions opened in early June at the corner of Arsenal and Minnesota and quickly distinguished itself with pressed sandwiches, homemade soups, freshly baked bread and savories, local craft beers and the friendly personality of proprietor and head chef Barry Kinder.

Casual, warm and welcoming, Grove East Provisions is for the person who wants to grab a bite, or a bite and a brew, or a glass of wine and a gelato in a congenial setting, and perhaps add on a few groceries or a six-pack of beer to go.

Note: This article was first published in the Tower Grove East neighborhood newsletter.

Looking around at our independently owned restaurants, eateries and shops in Saint Louis, each has a unique person driving it, differentiating it. At Grove East Provisions, it’s Barry. He’s a jack-of-all-trades, a Saint Louisan who studied music at Webster, has lived on both sides of the pond (Europe and North America), and had successes as a professional musician (percussion) a sous chef at a top French restaurant in London (the Village Bistro in Highgate), and a myriad of odd jobs in between.

Now all of Barry’s skills, talent and spirit – and his Saint Louis connections - have come to play in Grove East Provisions - and like the ingredients of his popular chicken soup, the combination is attractive and pleasing to customers.

There’s a big dose of comfort in this place – from the food and libations, to the snug booth seating, to Barry’s hospitality.

Two businesses are in fact housed here. Back of the Provisions building, near the herb and tomato garden, stands a brick oven operated by Red Fox Bakery. Sweat equity built it: Barry and the Red Fox team, Jake Marks, Chris Sheets and Jenny Wilson. Provisions sells the fresh bread, ricotta cheese tarts and other items such as the much-in-demand salted chocolate rye cookies.

Shelves and refrigerated cases hold dry goods, bottles of wine, Excel sodas and beer from 4Hands, Civil Life, Schlafly, Urban Chestnut, Crown Valley, Excel and a new guest beer all the way from Kansas, Tallgrass. “I just love beer and what’s happened in Saint Louis with beer, how craft beers have been adopted by the community,” Barry says.

Photo: Chip Cutlan, satchmos@sbcglobal.net
He wasn't sure the Excel sodas would catch on in comparison to the better known brands, but they immediately did. There are also produce, a few dairy items and other groceries and gelato. Behind the counter is a beer tap (the selection changes) and on the counter is a selection of locally made soaps from the South Compton Soap Company.

Barry already has plans to reconfigure the space to liven up the produce and grocery displays and add more tables, going for something more “bistro-like.” This will support the Sunday afternoon programming he’s begun, that so far includes a wine tasting and afternoon of live music. He’s adjusting the mix as he goes along and finds what works for him and for his customers.

“I’m happy that the balance has been about 70% sandwich/restaurant, and 30% grocery,” he says. Although it has been a few years since his professional cooking days, he’s taken on that role with enthusiasm and will continue to expand the menu. “I’m working the restaurant more, adding more hot food, starting with soups. My first soup was carrot and lemon ginger. Then the beer-cheese soup, then chicken noodle, and now chili. I plan to add stews soon, such as ham-and-bean, cornbread, curries over rice, and eventually, rotisserie chicken.”

The recipes are all his own, “made from scratch with real food,” he emphasizes. “The chicken soup is one of my own traditions: I have made it practically once a week for years, but now I make it with homemade noodles.” Before chicken soup came onto the Provisions menu and became the best seller, the most popular items were the meatloaf sandwich and the club. All the dishes are surprisingly, refreshingly un-salty for Saint Louis fare.

The spark of Grove East Provisions came to Barry in Dec 2012. Another local business owner, Chris Shearman of Gelateria del Leone, was a catalyst. “He introduced me to Jake & Chris [Sheets]. He thought Red Fox Bakery would be a great fit with my place, and it is,” says Barry. "I did research on bread, and they told me about the crazy, outdoor oven they wanted. It seemed like a good thing to me - I can’t have an oven in the kitchen because there’s no hood. I thought the city would never go for it, but it turned out not to be that big of a deal. Chris Sheets masterminded the design.” Barry makes use of the oven on Red Fox’s non-baking days. In addition to the oven, the group built an authentic, maple-topped baker’s table for the kitchen themselves.

The day was gray, damp and stormy as Barry and I sat discussing Grove East Provisions over a bottle of 4Hands Chocolate Milk Stout. A customer, Sharon Fowler of Compton Heights, volunteered a testimonial as she zipped up her raincoat. She had discovered Provisions the day before, and returned for more. “The wine is great, and the chicken soup is so inspiring. I will brave a thunderstorm for Barry’s chicken soup.”

Personally, I’m waiting for the rotisserie chicken.

Photo: Chip Cutlan, satchmos@sbcglobal.net

08 August 2014

Film-to-digital conversions in giant-screen cinema, GSCA and the "T" word

"Digital production of giant screen cinema remains controversial even as the 1570 film exhibition format on which the industry was originally founded is vanishing. Saying another's work looked like television was the big insult at the 2014 GSCA Film Expo." -- Judy Rubin
Steve Schklair at GSCA Film Expo. Photo: James Neihouse. ©GSCA 2014.

The GSCA 2014 annual conference convenes in Toronto Sept 20-23. In March, the 2014 GSCA Film Expo took place in Austin, Texas. This report by Judith Rubin was first published at IMERSA.org.

Of late, the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) Film Expo has been a showcase for digital technology as well as a market to bring together producers, distributors and exhibitors.

Within the giant-screen cinema specialty sector, the changeover to digital cinema technology is taking longer than it has in mainstream cinema. This is due to challenges in achieving a satisfactory digital replacement for the high visual standard of 1570 film plus the sheer size of the screen - and also because there is a powerful emotional legacy that the community struggles with.

Some giant screen theaters (mostly flatscreen) now have digital projection, but a goodly number still rely on film projection, and so the GSCA screening venue must accommodate 2D and 3D projection in both film and digital. Attendees were supplied with two different sets of 3D glasses (RealD and IMAX). This year’s digital projection system was a temporary installation furnished by Electrosonic in collaboration with RealD and Christie. The three companies have formed an alliance to provide giant-screen digital cinema systems for theaters converting from film.

Giant screen film domes have their own unique challenges when it comes to digital conversion. One of the companies specifically targeting this market is Evans & Sutherland. E&S touts the 8K edition of its new Digistar 5, recently installed and getting high marks at The Dome in the Science Museum of Virginia. An industry demonstration will be hosted in this location on Oct 22, 2014.

The technical session included a first-ever from 3ality Technica, the leading company in facilitating 3D live action capture for motion pictures and broadcast. 3ality Technica CEO Steve Schklair, who has a background in special venue cinema, appeared on camera himself in the premiere demonstration of a live 4K digital 3D theater broadcast. 

Production of giant screen content has likewise voyaged into the digital realm - not exactly a new development in the sector, but one that remains controversial, and the controversy seems to have intensified as the 1570 film exhibition format on which the entire industry was originally founded is on the point of vanishing. At this gathering, the worst thing one producer could say about another producer’s work was that it looked like television - and many were not shy about their use of the “T” word. What they are decrying is not the use of digital capture per se, but a lack of the sweeping visual language that characterizes classic giant screen cinematography. It takes more than a giant screen to make a giant screen experience.

(Cinematographer James Neihouse's Aug 12 article for GSCA, "Bring Back Our Wide Shots," addresses this directly.)

With the digital shift, there is new variety available to giant screen theaters - an array of choices that some appear to find a bit intimidating in its complexity. Distributors are likewise facing a brave new world in terms of competition for screen share. DCI compliant systems or inset projectors may be desirable in order to attain ultimate versatility. Some of those shopping for new digital systems view their spaces as something like today’s multipurpose performing arts centers – wanting accommodation for spoken word and traveling live shows as well as the ability to screen alternative content along with the main menu of educational shows.

The plenitude of titles presented with space and astronomy content - such as In Saturn's Rings, which will be distributed by Tina Ratterman's company, BIG & Digital - made it clear that giant screen distributors are actively cultivating the planetarium market, and most mentioned plans for their new titles to be available in fulldome versions. Planetarium operators were present – we spoke to representatives of Tycho Brahe and of Fels Planetarium. Lisa Samford of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival attended, looking for ideas, trends, and content to showcase at the Jackson Hole New Media Symposium in Boston, September 17-19, which will use multiple venues in order to meet its goal of screening everything in its native format – not just during the Symposium, but also for the judging of the Science Media Awards.

National Geographic's "Mysteries of the Unseen World" was a standout in its integration of science visualization and storytelling, with high production values. It is narrated by Forrest Whitaker.

nWave Pictures reported good success with its unique marketing approach for "Galapagos: Nature's Wonderland," a key element of which is a very active role for narrator Jeff Corwin, who has made numerous personal appearances to launch the film in theaters, and has enthusiastically promoted the film to his own following on social media.

At the National Geographic sponsored luncheon, Bryan Boehme of Christie, Tony Petruzziello of Electrosonic and Judith Rubin chat during the GSCA 2014 Film Expo in Austin, Texas