Transforming Media & Supporting Veterans: Michael Wood’s Vision for Video Production Excellence

June 25, 2024 Carlos

Transforming Media & Supporting Veterans: Michael Wood’s Vision for Video Production Excellence

In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Michael Wood, a respected U.S. Marine Veteran and visionary leader at both San Diego Media Pros and Never Forgotten Media. Michael’s discipline and strategic mindset drive his efforts to transform San Diego into a premier film and media production hub and to support veterans through media training.

Throughout the discussion, Michael delves into the challenges and strategies involved in live and recorded media. He highlights the importance of thorough pre-production to avoid common pitfalls in live broadcasting, emphasizing how proper rehearsals can safeguard against potential issues. His insights extend beyond the technical aspects, underscoring the importance of team dynamics and the role of personal experiences in crafting compelling narratives.

Join us for this in-depth interview with Micael Wood. As we discuss various aspects of the industry, readers will benefit from Michael’s deep understanding and expertise in production.

Technical Expertise in Live and Recorded Media

Regarding technical direction, especially for livestreams, what are some common pitfalls to avoid? How do you handle the real-time demands of live broadcasting?

The biggest pitfall is not allowing pre-production to happen properly and not having enough time to develop. Go through those rehearsals and make sure all the assets work, especially when the client comes in at the last minute and has a change on a graphic or a video.

It just adds to the amount of things that could go wrong, especially without those proper rehearsals. It’s just like shooting in the wind. And that’s not something that you want to do for live productions.

Can you discuss some advanced techniques in cinematography that you find indispensable? How do these techniques enhance the storytelling?

You want to take and focus on your own experiences. Our environments and upbringings inform us, and those all play a critical role. Obviously, we want to look at other filmmakers and how they’re doing things and creating their workflows and stories, but don’t dismiss your own experiences and upbringing.

Anybody can be an editor. But really, what’s unique and important is our personality and how we do things.  

One of the local documentary screenings we just watched with San Diego Media Pros was “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.” One of the soundbites from that screening was about finding purpose in your work. Focus on the team you’re working with because the people around you on your crew are probably the most important thing.

Without that team effort, your project will not get too far.

Sound and Visual Harmony

As someone experienced in both sound engineering and cinematography, can you discuss how you align audio-visual elements to create a seamless viewer experience? Can you provide specific examples of when this was critical to the project’s success?

When you have a video and audio that’s out of sync, it pulls you out of it. It’s about the performance and focusing on what the viewer you’re catering to or creating for by stepping into their shoes. So, if you point a cell phone at something without focusing on the best audio you can get, your viewer will have a hard time hearing and being immersed in that environment.

So, make sure that your audio video is in sync. There are different tools for that, but it comes back to that performance piece of making sure the lighting is good, or the tones are set for the music that plays with the content you’re providing to your audience.

If you don’t know your audience, you’re just creating a bunch of stuff that will go onto YouTube, and nobody will want to watch it.

Post-Production Mastery

Detail your approach to editing, especially for narrative-driven projects. What editing techniques or principles can dramatically alter the story’s impact?

From a foundational perspective, I start all my edits as radio edits. I don’t even care about the visuals.

I want to hear the content, the dialogue, what people are saying, and their breaths in the moment. Their breaths inform us of how they’re feeling, whether they feel rushed or sad.  

So, doing the radio edit first and not caring about the visuals helps to create better dialogue. Then, you can go back because of visuals, create overlays, and switch them around. But it’s the performance of that dialogue in that radio edit that is the most important part of its foundation. 

Color grading can profoundly affect a film’s mood and tone. Could you share some advanced color grading tips or tricks that have been particularly effective in your projects?

Color is just like a story arc. So when you open up a film or video project, and the colors of blue are generally welcoming, you’re brought into the story differently than if it’s moody and noir black and white. Throughout your project, you can change the color palette depending on what’s happening in the scene.

So if you look at any TV show or any film and break it down frame by frame for each scene and just look at like a big visual map that I have put as my desktop for my editing suite, every film that I appreciate, I can see the different palettes for the different segments in the scenes. It looks like a roller coaster that ebbs and flows that story arc with just the visuals. The color palettes for those segments help the viewers engage in that environment. If you look at The Mait’s, it’s pretty different from Fallout, the TV series. Different color palettes and different environments sort of set that tone visually.

Content Strategy and Creation

As a content creator and strategist consultant, what methodologies do you employ to ensure that your content engages and retains audience interest over time?

This one comes down to knowing your audience. For example, I like my coffee black, without cream or sugar; that is the perfect coffee for me. But in terms of the audience, there’s not a million of me. So, I need to look at my audience. What do they appreciate in their coffee? Do they like sugar? Do they like cream? Do they like a little bit of coffee with their cream? You have to get to know your audience.

Once you understand that, you can create compelling content for them. For example, in the case of viral videos, if I make content like cat videos on social media, I will have a lot of 12-year-olds who like it. But that’s not going to help my business clients sell their new demo or their new product.

So, we have to look at a business’s audience to understand what their problems are and how we can solve them, and then talk to that piece in order to have good content. And the engaging piece of that content is having a story. So even if it’s just a product demo, you still need to have that component of “where did it start?”  

What problems are people facing, and how do we showcase your product as a solution? As for the interest over time piece, part of our productions we focus on is making sure some of that content is evergreen, meaning it can be used over and over again. We think in the long term about what some of those trends can be, those ideas that viewers will always want and appreciate that will never go away.

As an example, if we’re talking to the viewer about a type of shoe that might change in about six months from now, we really want to talk about how they can utilize those shoes and style them, instead of them just being that one trendy item that might be replaced in six months. 

How do you develop a content strategy that aligns with both brand objectives and audience needs? What metrics do you consider most critical for evaluating content success?

Developing a content strategy doesn’t happen overnight. It’s rinse and repeat. You set the structure, create milestones or key factors that you can measure, and then make the necessary adjustments after you measure it.

Going back to the aspect of my coffee, if I just put out black coffee and keep on providing the same thing without hearing feedback from my audience or how they interact with it, how they appreciate it, or how many sales it has made and never make any adjustments, then that strategy is not going to get me very far. 

What metrics do I consider most critical for evaluating content success? For business client projects, typically, it’s that sale, that lead generation piece, that I would say is most important. Viewership is one aspect, but it’s not the only one. We could have a million views, but if nobody clicks to sign up for that product, it doesn’t get you anywhere. 

For a documentary, it’s a little bit different. It’s more about engagement. What people are saying about it and what people are talking about regarding the top topics of that documentary. But it really comes down to you creating those metrics,  measuring them, figuring out if that’s what you’re looking for, and then making adjustments because success means many different things.

And so looking at, you know, what that success is, definitely measure it.  

Given your extensive experience, what advice would you give creators about leveraging technology to tell compelling stories?

We have so many tools. We’re at this amazing intersection, almost a collision of storytelling and technology.

We have AI, virtual walls, and productions. We’re doing so much more with so little. I mean, we’re doing live streams for clients that just ten years ago would have cost $20,000 an hour. Now, we have one technician, a couple of pieces of equipment, and bam, we have a whole conference that’s going live just from a small fly pack.

Get to know your tools. Don’t be scared of them, but don’t get focused on those tools so much that you dismiss another tool. As editors, you know, we do have our preferred platforms. If we sit there and say one is better than the other and have no desire to cross into the other one, then the reality is that there are certain projects they won’t bring you on for because you don’t fit that workflow. 

At the end of the day, it’s just a tool. Learn the craft. Instead of focusing more on the tool, figure out how to make an edit more compelling—the nuances of bringing the viewer into your edit. 

Instruction and Industry Advice

In your role as an instructor, what are some essential skills you believe every emerging filmmaker should master? How can they best acquire these skills?

An essential skill is to figure out the story arc to take your audience on a journey. Don’t treat your audience as idiots and think that you’ve got to spell everything out for them. Provided it’s an engaging story—even if it’s a corporate or industrial video—take your audience on a journey.

When you master that skill, you can better help the production team carry forward that aspect. You also need to trust people, find people you can work with, and lean on them to do the best work. As instructors, yes, we want people to learn how to do their craft.

But at the end of the day, it’s an instructor, a director, or a producer who takes on and solves problems for the crew so they can do their best work.  

What trends do you see emerging in the next few years that aspiring filmmakers and media professionals should be aware of? How can they prepare for these changes?

I would say that we can’t dismiss AI. It’s not going away. It’s been in our world for decades now, just in smaller bytes. Noise reduction – that was AI. Now, we have a lot bigger language models that are creating more of the workflow we used to do before manually. 

I would say don’t be scared of AI, but also learn how to utilize it without replacing your skill set. Don’t rely on AI to become your go-to tool or pipeline for your creativity. It’s just a tool. Use it to help you speed up things, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Want to learn more about Michael Wood? Check out our Industry Insights podcast episode, where host Jim Ellis sits down with Micahel to go over his career in the industry.


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