30 years and counting

 

CVWmedia turned 30 years young today. I wish I could use this space to personally thank everyone who made this happen, but the list would be too lengthy for a blog, and I’d inevitably leave someone out. So let me just say thanks up front to my co-workers, contractors, former co-workers, clients, former clients, future clients, friends, family, vendors, and even naysayers and competitors: Without your help along the way, CVWmedia wouldn’t be what it is today.

Our tagline, which we unveiled earlier this year as part of our rebrand, is “Yeah… we can do that.” It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes, because this company was founded as a result of me hearing a professionally produced audio recording of my own high school band and saying, “I could do that.”

I think the most surreal part of us turning 30 is that I still feel like we’re just getting started. It’s like the hard part is over and now we’re really ready to do great things. But the reality is, we’ve already done a lot of great things. Here are some highlights, and some of the lessons I've learned along the way.

  The scene: A rent house on Bedford Ln. Gear: 4-track cassette recorder + two very different microphones + dual cassette duplicator + friend with computer and printer. Staff: Yours truly + friends and occasional hired help.

The scene: A rent house on Bedford Ln.
Gear: 4-track cassette recorder + two very different microphones + dual cassette duplicator + friend with computer and printer.
Staff: Yours truly + friends and occasional hired help.

 
 

In 1988, a 19-year-old kid walked into every band and orchestra classroom in Norman to pitch an idea: I’d record their performances at no charge and make money by selling tapes to the parents of their students for $5 each. What a bargain. They all said yes—parents loved $5 cassette tapes of their kids playing music—so off we went. As much as I love the excitement of what we do now, there’s a soft spot in my heart for the days of duplicating cassette tapes, two at a time, seven days and nights a week, to fulfill those orders.

 
 

Do one thing very well for a very long time.

I’ll let others debate whether it really takes a full 10,000 hours to become a virtuoso. After 30 years on the job, I’m thinking 10,000 hours may be on the low side.

 
 
  The scene: Stubbeman Village, then in the back of a detective agency, then Midtown Plaza. Gear: Hi-8 video camera + tape-to-tape video editor + Amiga Video Toaster, then Video Toaster Flyer Nonlinear Editor, then DVCAM video cameras and decks + PC-based nonlinear editor + 2-D and 3-D software. Staff: 2-4, plus contractors.

The scene: Stubbeman Village, then in the back of a detective agency, then Midtown Plaza.
Gear: Hi-8 video camera + tape-to-tape video editor + Amiga Video Toaster, then Video Toaster Flyer Nonlinear Editor, then DVCAM video cameras and decks + PC-based nonlinear editor + 2-D and 3-D software.
Staff: 2-4, plus contractors.

 

What you might call vintage, I prefer to think of as “coolest kids on the block at the time.” Our gear list from the ‘90s sounds like Wayne and Garth’s technical director placed all the equipment orders. But if you’ve ridden on an elevator or escalator in the past 25+ years, the people repairing and inspecting them likely watched three hours’ worth of training videos produced on that gear. And as analog turned to digital, our video for an Oklahoma-based manufacturer of water garden pumps and supplies went VHS-viral as 300,000+ copies sold through Lowe’s and other retail outlets. Oh, and if you ever have a few hundred hours to spare, hit me up, and I’ll show you our 1999 projects—roughly 100 TV commercials, two TV shows, bunches of concerts and dance recitals, some projects of a particular R-rated variety, a dozen or so wedding videos and even more photo montage videos, a few sorority rush videos, and an F5 tornado. After all that, we were too tired to worry about Y2K wiping out all our technology, plus we had tape backups of everything anyway.

 

Get back up like it never happened.

During my first corporate video shoot I fell smack dab on my backside in a room filled with at least 100 people. I saved my video camera (it landed on my face) so there’s that, but as I bounced back up and continued shooting, out of the corner of my non-viewfinder eye I saw my client run out of the room laughing hysterically. I got the shots I needed (and that video won an award), but oh, how I wish I could tell you that was the last time I took a literal or figurative stumble in front of the people I work around.

 
 
  The scene: Colonies at Rock Creek office condos. Gear: Video Toaster for Windows + giant racks full of video gear + 200 VCRs + DVD duplicators and printers, then HD video cameras + 10 editing workstations + a small rack of network storage. Staff: 4-9, plus contractors.

The scene: Colonies at Rock Creek office condos.
Gear: Video Toaster for Windows + giant racks full of video gear + 200 VCRs + DVD duplicators and printers, then HD video cameras + 10 editing workstations + a small rack of network storage.
Staff: 4-9, plus contractors.

 

The 2000s started off simple enough, with a single contractor providing most of our videography needs while a couple of us back at the office kept editing workstations pumping out finished videos day in and day out. Meanwhile, office managers and interns answered phones while tirelessly duplicating and packaging tapes and discs. Then, what started as a one-off edit session for a local tire retailer turned into a mind-numbing array of various projects for a tire manufacturer and their 2,000+ retail stores around the country. Along the way, we became specialists in producing inspirational videos for event management companies, spent some time working closely with some Olympic gold medalists, jetted around the country working on videos to support federal reading program policies spanning two administrations, and produced video and animation work that has been seen by literally millions of sports fans on just about every type of video screen you can imagine. 

 

To be successful, you need a niche.

As an individual or organization, this is a must. You won’t find it if you go looking for it though; your niche has to find you. If you work hard and do things the right way, the market and your clients will make that connection for you.

 
 
  The scene: The Railhouse in historic downtown Norman. Gear: 8 production workstations + 3 operations offices + 3-D render farm + giant rack of servers and network storage, then 4K video cameras and DSLRs + 4K editing hardware. Staff: 7-11 of us, plus contractors.

The scene: The Railhouse in historic downtown Norman.
Gear: 8 production workstations + 3 operations offices + 3-D render farm + giant rack of servers and network storage, then 4K video cameras and DSLRs + 4K editing hardware.
Staff: 7-11 of us, plus contractors.

 

The current decade has been our time to find our own voice, so to speak—to settle in and take control of our destiny. Creatively, our efforts to produce in-house work as a form of research and development have resulted in a few of our most unique projects, as clients have bought into our more cutting-edge ideas. That’s how Frank showed up just in time to star in a medical research educational film, and also in print materials and animated training videos for an international green energy company. Meanwhile, we’ve churned out photorealistic 3-D animations representing everything from physical products to a construction site to a convention center, music videos for local musicians, culture videos for a local brewery, cartoons that educate kids, and fish swimming around sunken treasure chests for casino video signs. 

 

Some of the best ideas are accidents, well-crafted after the fact.

Our new brand look contains one particular element that came about by accident, and it turned out to be one of the coolest parts of our new look. We didn’t create it consciously, but once we realized what we had it became the foundation for the entire new brand. There’s no shame in owning an idea that showed up without invitation, waiting to be discovered.

 
 

Above all else, it’s important to love what you do and who you’re with. I certainly do, and no CVWmedia retrospective would be complete without letting you know about my co-workers, who have taught me far more than business itself ever could:   

Morganne, whose presence here reminds me that the root of this company is being the underdog who just decides to straight-up bypass the odds and jump to the front of the pack.

Olivia, who has shown me the value of authenticity in the workplace. Thanks to her, I’ve come to understand that while critiques should never be personal, compliments always should be.

Jordan, my everyday refreshing reminder to dispense with the formalities and be who you are, and that overcoming fear of the unknown can be our best ally.

Micah, a model of reliability, who over the years has taught us all the value of true in-the-trenches leadership. Hopefully this will be the year that he uses all his vacation time.

Becky, who, by having and demanding patience and persistence, has made me realize that when you place your trust and respect in the right person while working toward earning theirs, anything becomes possible.

And Pickle (the office dog, a.k.a. Chief Happiness Officer), whose mad dash to visit my desk each morning reminds me that every day starts fresh whether the previous one was fabulous, terrible, or something in between. That’s a nice safety net to have.

Right here, right now, is a very good place to be. For that, I’m grateful, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. In the meantime, here’s a look back at the some of the projects that got us here:

 
 
kevinhr, small business, oklahoma