Monthly Archives: May 2016

Recap: May 2016

In spite of fourteen straight days of rain last month, we kept busy and motivated by staying on the move.  We went on location to the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, one of our long-standing clients for a video shoot in honor of Vivian Bass, current CEO set to retire this year.  We shot and edited two videos for the Church of Christ at Manor Woods, both of which were used for a big successes at t in the words of senior pastor Dyke McCord, “the event was a huge success and the videos went over great – having the desired effect!”

We recorded a second round of testimonial videos at Arachnid Works, which happened to be on one of the few bright and sunny days of the month, which gave us a few challenges for lighting.  Towards the end of the month, we attended the Best Of the Washington, DC 48 Hour Film Project at the AFI Silver Theatre (where we also screened Apocalypse Rock last March).  Check out our film, Once Upon A Bedroom below!

We were in great company this year; many congratulations to Crash of Rhinos for multiple wins on their film, Rabbit Hole!

Regarding Apocalypse Rock, Brian attended the End of Days Film Festival, where the film picked up another award for Best Comedy!  Watch the video of Brian winning and answering audience questions.

EoD Photo

Even better, Apocalypse Rock DVD and Blu-Rays are nearly ready!  Final audio finishes have been sent to and returned from Studio Unknown and menus are being finessed.

We’re so looking forward to finishing the project and finally being able to share it with everyone.  Stay tuned!


Top Five Short Films

We hear it all the time: “less is more.”  But how do you accomplish that effectively?  These short films are some of the best examples of how to tell a compelling story in beautifully executed short form.


1. George Lucas In Love

Writer’s block is the worst; especially for 1967 USC college student, George Lucas.  When a young woman with an unusual hairstyle becomes his muse, he begins to see that he is surrounded by inspiration.

2. Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche explores a fleeting moment between two strangers, revealing their brief connection in a hyper real fantasy.
Watch the “Making of” here.

3. Grandma’s Not A Toaster

Three siblings plot to steal their ailing Grandmother’s fortune, without realizing Grandma has a plot of her own.

4A Cat In Paris

Dino, a precocious pet cat that leads a double life in the shadow-drenched alleyways of Paris. By day he lives with Zoe, a little mute girl whose mother, Jeanne, is a detective in the Parisian police force. But at night, he sneaks out the window to work with Nico, a slinky cat burglar with a big heart.

5. Bis Gleich

Albert and Marta, both in their late 70s, live across the street from one another in a bustling section of Berlin’s Mitte. Every day at 9:00 am, the two neighbors meet – each in their respective windows – to watch the world unfold.

DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras

In the ever-changing world of cameras and media production, how do you know what cameras to use?  There is still a general buzz around DSLRs and why they are effective, many of those reasons still being valid.  However, the mirrorless camera models are actually turning the tide and in many areas its still not clear as to why.  There are many similarities between the two, but the differences make quite an impact.  In this recent article, writer Caleb Ward breaks down why DSLRs are not the best way to go for your next video project.  His reasons include:


DSLRs used to be the top of the line and their prices are expensive, but those prices made sense.  Now, they’ve become “incredibly overpriced.”  In fact, mirrorless cameras are about half the cost, according to Ward.  The reason for this can be explained by nothing more than brand name recognition; Canon and Nikon bring significantly more impressive face value than the mirrorless cameras, which are being manufactured by companies like Panasonic and Sony, which are “not quite as accepted in the pro photography community.”  The advantages of the Canon cameras and hacks, however, short-change production, but lead to a great deal more work in post, which creates a much longer delay in getting the final product finished and available to clients.

DSLRs are bulky.

The camera size doesn’t typically matter, but a highly portable camera, especially at weddings and other live events, can make a BIG difference.  One of the biggest selling points of DSLRs in their initial release was their compact size; but why?  What were some of those original selling points?

  • Allows for more coverage; to move more quickly between cuts.
  • Less attention is drawn to the camera operator, which is especially advantageous for guerrilla style narrative filmmaking, documentary shooting and, most of all, commercial video.
  • Comfort.  As Ward points out, “if you’re going to be shooting all day on a shoulder rig, Glidecam, or Steadicam, you probably don’t want to be using a gigantic camera like the URSA mini or even a larger DSLR.”  Comfort, too, is not strictly a matter of personal endurance.  If the camera operator does not tire as fast, he or she will be able to keep the camera rolling longer and capture more footage under less strain and, as a result, the footage itself will maintain the same level of quality from the start of the day.

So what separates the Mirrorless cameras from the DSLRs?  They’re not THAT different in size are they?  Actually, yes: because mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror-box mechanism, they’re smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts.  This, again, brings us back to comfort, which, in turn, means overall quality of the work.

Mirrorless Cameras Are More Revolutionary.

There was a time when DSLR cameras were at the cutting edge of camera technology — but that’s no longer the case. Mirrorless camera manufacturers are capable of updating their cameras much quicker than DSLR camera manufacturers.  Just look at the Sony a7S series of cameras. In a little over a year, Sony was able to create the a7S, a truly revolutionary low-light camera, and create a second version that added 4k recording and increased frame rates. Canon and Nikon, on the other hand, have been very slow to update their cameras. For example, the Canon 5D Mark III hasn’t been updated in over four years.

Mirrorless Cameras Are Faster.

The interface and start up, especially.  Mostly comes into play for guerrilla style shooting; the difference between getting that perfect shot or missing it completely.  Lenses are a big part of the shot as well, and usually the lenses you’d prefer for DSLRs can be used for the Mirrorless cameras too.

Continue reading DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras

Why We Do The 48 Hour Film Project

Among our many specialities and adventures, the DUO Team produces short films by participating in 48 Hour Film Festivals on a very regular basis; in particular, the Washington DC and Baltimore 48 Hour Film Projects under Star Wipe Films,our subsidiary company.  We have been doing so since 2003 in Atlanta, GA and, as such, have accumulated quite the collection of films, with a reputable stack of awards under our belt, including Best Film for Welcome to the Neighborhood, three for Best Cinematography, two for Best Editing, two for Best Special Effects, and two for Audience Favorite.  When Welcome to the Neighborhood won best film in the 2012 Baltimore 48, the team went on to screen at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

The way DUO sees it, a 48 Hour Project is a great exercise in active filmmaking participation, by being forced to create in a specific, condensed time frame, with elements shared by all participants (namely a genre, drawn at random, a character, prop and line of dialogue).  At first glance, such an endeavor seems all too limiting and an unnecessary increase to one’s stress level.  Why do it?

Because it inevitably leaves you with a finished product.  In the filmmaking, completing a film can be more than half the battle.   It is all too easy to get swamped and smothered by editing or throw in the towel before getting out of pre-production, but a 48 Hour Film Project, you are forced to finish what you start and you learn a great deal about how to doing so.  Furthermore, such an exercise demands resourcefulness and improvisation, as well as the implicitness of thinking ahead.  Despite having the specific elements to work into your story, you are left with a great deal of work to do to make the film whole and cohesive around those elements.  It can often bring out skills you didn’t even know you have; skills that are vital to filmmaking on a larger scale.

There is a built-in showcase for your completed film, through which there is always audience feedback and the opportunity for prizes and awards to the networking before and after the screenings.   When the Baltimore 48 instated a “Best Of The Fest” Screening as part of their award-giving ceremony, Star Wipe’s films have never failed to make the cut.  In 2013, however, Brian announced that we would not be returning to the Baltimore 48 the following year due to the upcoming production of Apocalypse Rock, for which we needed to devote all our time and resources.

That said, after a swift production phase of “ARock,” a successful IndieGogo “Finishing Funds” Campaign and premiere, the film has been making the rounds at multiple festivals and competitions, winning several awards and garnering lots of positive feedback.  In the interim and new phase of waiting for results, however, it happened to be time, once again, for the Baltimore 48 and the team realized that they did miss participating.  There is a draw to produce a project on your own terms, without any forced framework—to just “get out there and do it”—but there is also a uniqueness to the 48 that facilitates content to be generated in such a way that doesn’t happen under any other circumstances.  So, in a last-minute decision, we rallied a team together—though a much smaller team than in previous years—and tossed our hat back into the ring.

Last year, we were given a roll of tape, the character Q. Treller, a secret society member,  and the line, “sometimes the best answer is no answer.”  We drew Thriller/Suspense as our genre and we were off.  This was also the first project we took on with Robin Farrell as part of our team; she has since become DUO Media’s first full-time employee.

And thus lies another benefit of the 48 Hour Project; networking.  It’s a cliche, but an honest one.  The 48 is a great opportunity for meeting other local filmmakers and creative people, as well as making new connections that can grow beyond that initial forum.

The resulting film of 2015, simply titled “Q,” earned us two more awards for our collection: Best Sound Design and Best Directing.  As in previous years, the experience was a good one.  As Karen says, whether you can participate each year “depends on…life,” but the desire to make films in this way was definitely reinstated.  So much so that we participated in the Washington, DC 48 at the end of April 2016 and it was just as much fun as the last.  Even more so, as we were able to choose between two categories and we challenged ourselves by going with the less-familiar option of COMEDY.  We learned a lot and that, too, is one of the most significant parts of why we do this at all; to learn, grow and allow ourselves the chance to become better filmmakers.  It only takes one weekend and a few willing volunteers.

What have you got to lose?

Top Ten Summer Movies

Summer is almost here and while we’ve been experiencing some dreary days recently, it puts us in mind of films that highlight the summer season.  Here are our Top Ten films about and/or for summer (in no particular order).  What are yours?
  1. The Sandlot.
    “You’re killing me, smalls!”
    The Sandlot is both a fun romp and surprisingly intelligent.  It’s a classic for a reason and definitely belongs at the top of your summer movie list.

  2. Jurassic Park.
    his is the quintessential summer blockbuster and continues to be a favorite flick for many, us included.

  3. Jaws.
    Summer vacation at the beach gone wrong.  We definitely thought twice about getting into the water at the beach again after seeing this.

  4. American Graffiti.
    American Graffiti
    A film that doesn’t necessarily leap out as a summer classic, but captures that brief time in the adolescent experience between your teenage years and taking the first steps into the rest of your life.

  5. Rear Window.
    Poster artwork by Kevin Tong;

    A Hitchcock classic!  Stuck at home recovering from an injury during a summer heat wave, what else are you going to do but spy on your neighbor across the courtyard?  And then get sucked into a crazy murder plot?

  6. Field of Dreams.
    This film encapsulates the spirit of America’s favorite pastime in a beautiful and eloquent story.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.  It’s a classic for a reason and the perfect summer movie.

  7. The Parent Trap.
    Both versions — the 1961 original and the 1998 remake — are well worth the watch.  The story extends well beyond summer, but the magic that happens at the start propels the rest of the movie and would not have do so nearly as well if not for the summer setting.

  8. Independence Day.
    “We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!”  Especially with Resurgence set to be released next month, a re-watch of the original this summer feels more fitting than ever.

  9. The Man In The Moon.
    Fairly unknown, this film, released in 1991, was Reese Witherspoon’s first leading role. Set in rural Louisiana during the summer of 1957, the handsome 17-year-old Court Foster moves in next door to Dani and her older sister Maureen. It’s part coming of age story, romance and tragedy.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

  10. Stand By Me.
    stand by me 2
    Poster design by Dani Blázquez,

    Summer vacation is here, perfect for an adventure … and finding a dead body?

Continue reading Top Ten Summer Movies

“What Kind of Videos Do You Do?”

by Karen Gill-Pennington

The question I most often find myself awkwardly trying to answer is “What kinds of videos do you do?” which in all reality usually means the person is asking, “What kind of video should I consider for my company?” That’s a very difficult question to answer quickly, so my response, unfortunately, usually sounds something like this.

“Well, we do a lot of animation, and corporate videos. But we don’t do wedding videos or bar mitzvahs.” You’ll see that I’ve given hardly any information other than what we don’t do. I don’t want to insult those that do wedding and bar mitzvah videos, but that’s a very different world and I find it important to separate ourselves from that type of filmmaking. 

So what kinds of videos DO we make? Rather than just telling you, let me also show you. Then, next time I’m asked that question, I can give a much better answer…hopefully.

While we do actually produce a lot of animated videos, we also do a fair amount of live action. Within these categories, you’ll find some of each.

Recruiting Videos.
Recruiting videos can include trying to get people to come to your event, to join in a contest or to apply for a position at your company.

Commercials no longer are limited to TV spots (although we do those!), and can include marketing pieces for your website, as an online ad (think Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), to play at an event or for a trade show booth.

Testimonials and Spokesperson Videos.
Testimonials are often short interviews of customers that give their brief thoughts about your company for you to then use on your website, and on social media. They usually speak to someone off camera to tell why they love and recommend your company. Sometimes testimonials will be included as part of a larger narrative. (See more about Narrative Pieces below.)

Spokesperson videos are very similar except that the person talking is usually a leader at your company talking about what makes your business special. They may talk to someone off camera as in an interview, or they may talk directly to the audience by looking at the camera.

Narrative Pieces and Case Studies.
Narrative videos and Case Studies each have a goal of telling a story. Oftentimes the Narrative stories are told more by visuals and perhaps a voiceover, whereas the case studies are generally driven by interviews with key people at the company or key clients for the business. Although they can each incorporate components of the other. Narrative videos can also include documentaries, short films and feature length films.

Training Videos and Product Demonstrations.
These are pretty self explanatory, but they can include step by step guides to your products, training courses for employees, or demos to encourage sales.

Sometimes these videos are used for marketing and other times they are used to train or refresh the knowledge of those already employed by your company.

Unfortunately, most of our training videos and product demos cannot be shown publicly, but we can share private links if you’d like to see some examples.

If you’d like to see more of our work, check out our Vimeo page,
where you can even view some of our short films.
Also, don’t hesitate to contact us directly here.

Dining in West Chester

While on the road this month, we got the chance to experience the best of downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania.  Here are our top five dining spots from the weekend:

1. Gemelli Dessert Cafe
This delectable little shop was located right across from the festival venue and, as such, we stopped in multiple times between film blocks.  Gelato and expresso; what’s not to love?

2. The Classic Diner (pictured below)
An upscale diner with all the staples of American dining, plus a plethora of modern dishes for the vegetarians in our group.  Our waiter also happened to look like a young Sean Astin.

3. Jaco Juice and Taco Bar
Brian was in the mood for tacos while Robin was a craving a fruit and veggie smoothie.  We found both at Jaco’s.  Organic ingredients, plentiful portions at reasonable prices and lots of flavor.  Definitely stop in if you’re in the area.

4. Lorenzo & Sons Pizza
Hands down, the largest pizza slices and pies we have ever seen.  And tasty, too!

5. Calios – The Calzone King
Our hours were crazy with the road trip down and staying out later than normal to catch as many of the films at the fest as possible.  Most places were closed down, but Calios was open until 4am!  While we weren’t up quite that late, it was a great discovery for us when we were craving a midnight snack.


April Showers Bring Adventure

April 2016 was a big month for DUO!  We hired our first full-time employee, received the green light on a series of marketing videos for one of our most valued clients, hit the road for a local film festival, made great new connections, launched a new collaboration with marketing firm ArachnidWorks, competed in and completed the 48 Hour Film Project for Washington, DC.


At the end of March, Robin Farrell joined our team as editor and writer – our first full-time employee.  We couldn’t be happier to see our company growing.

We started the “Floyd Series” for our client, SOLIDWORKS, at the end of 2015 with It’s No Secret and the main character of that video, Floyd (played by Kevin Brennan), became the new face for SOLIDWORKS World promos.  SOLIDWORKS gave us the chance to stretch our creative muscles by making an Epic Fantasy Trailer and Mockumentary, both of which were big hits.  Check them out below!

Presently, we’re moving forward with another series of videos for SOLIDWORKS, which will also star Floyd.  We’re excited to keep promoting SOLIDWORKS in such a unique way.

Mid-month, we headed north for the West Chester Film Festival, where our short film Apocalypse Rock was nominated – and won! – Best Comedy.  We also nearly snagged the H. Paul Fitzpatrick People’s Choice Award as runner-up by the closest margin of votes in the entire twelve-year history of the festival.
Check out the other award winners here.


We received so much positive feedback from the film and made great new contacts.  In particular, Vishwas (The Visit) and Connor Gabe (Snap Shot), both of whom joined us the following weekend for the DC 48 Hour Film Project.  We were delighted, as well, to be joined by Allie McFadden (Distilled, Welcome to the Neighborhood, Denouement).  We came in with a small, but strong team this year; wish us luck in making “The Best of the Fest”!

Also returning from West Chester, we teamed up with ArachnidWorks, a local marketing firm here in Frederick, MD, to produce testimonial videos for local businesses.  Round one was a big success and we’re looking forward to taking on more clients in this endeavor this month and into the rest of the year.  If you’re interested in having a testimonial video made for your company, contact us for more details:

Arachnid Background Options
Backdrop options for testimonial interviews.