Video-production technology is never constant. The pace of change always seems to be increasing, but for Kevin Martorana, Founder and President of Take One Productions, some things remain the same—the need for creativity, a focus on the story, and the pursuit of new opportunities.
Martorana is an Emmy® award-winning producer and director who started in the early 1980s, when the industry relied on ¾" tape, a high-end camcorder could cost $100,000, and portable, consumer-grade equipment could mean a camera tethered to a small VHS tape deck. "I started in broadcast television doing PM Magazine for an NBC affiliate," states Martorana.
Since that time, Martorana has been recognized as one of the "Top 100 Producers" by Film and Video Magazine and won numerous ADDY Awards, Telly Awards, and local awards for his commercials and documentaries. He's built a business by embracing advances in video-production technology to establish a competitive advantage.
Building a career in video production
Martorana got the idea for his video-production company when a friend asked him to a make a video for salespeople to show how their designers build custom stainless-steel kitchens for restaurants and hotels. "I didn't know how to make a video out of that," states Martorana. "But I said, 'Absolutely'. And as I thought about it, I realized it is just telling a story, like any other story we produce for TV."
After producing the video, Martorana realized there was a business opportunity to make high-quality sales, training, and marketing videos, so, at the age of 24, he started Take One Productions. Based in Lancaster, PA, Take One Productions is well situated just 80 miles west of Philadelphia, 90 minutes from Baltimore, and two and half hours from New York City. "I started freelancing for some of the bigger PM Magazines and for networks from Baltimore to Philadelphia, including ABC, NBC, CBS, TBS, and MTV."
We did our research and asked, 'Is there anybody else in the market doing this?' And, the answer is, 'Not reliably'. We decided on the Avid NEXIS | PRO because it's the right size and it's scalable. We can link all three Media Composer editing systems together and have all the footage available.
Kevin Martorana, Founder and President of Take One Productions
"Sometimes I'm amazed at it myself," exclaims Martorana. "I can't believe we've been all over the world, and how we've done this. Good Morning America hired us. They usually send their own camera and crew. But they asked about our equipment, and when I told Good Morning America we were using all state-of-the-art equipment, including the Avid Media Composer video editing system, they said, 'Great'. We shot for two days and they called me back a day later and said, 'Your stuff is amazing, it's better than we ever could imagine. We want to put you on the regular list'."
Martorana explains how success for Take One Productions is about being able to ride waves. "When broadcast work started to slow down, corporate work started to pick up. A lot of the companies had in-house production and if you could help with that, they would freelance you for certain gigs." Today, 80% of the company's work is high-quality video for companies all over the country.
Adapting to the shifting technology landscape
When he started, Martorana made the most out of the gear he could afford. An initial $10,000 investment went for a Sony three-tube camera, a ¾" deck, and a couple of VHS decks for playback and editing. As the industry began to gain traction, a large post-production house opened up in the area and Martorana began doing his post there. "I remember buying my first big Ikegami camera. It was $45,000 for the camera, $10,000 for the lens, $500 for a battery, $1,000 for the charger, and $5,000 for the tripod," states Martorana. The cost of the camera and related equipment was worth it. "You had that camera for ten years, because the technology didn't change. Now the technology changes constantly. Literally, it's worse than cell phones."
Increasing volumes of footage requires more efficient storage
Martorana first took the company into the non-linear editing world in the 1990s, using some of the early products available before choosing Media Composer in the mid-2000s. Today Take One Productions has three Media Composer video editing systems and Matorana notes they give the company a competitive edge.
"A friend told me, 'There's Final Cut and there's Avid. Every agency in the world has Final Cut on their computers. As a boutique house, you need something they won't have—Avid. I took his word and purchased Avid, and it's fabulous. To this day, clients come in and they're amazed when I tell them we're running Avid." When Martorana demonstrates Avid's capabilities it makes an impression. "We even have control panels for Avid. We don't use them a lot, but when the client comes in, I turn those control panels on, so the faders fly around when the demo plays, and the lights blink. It's definitely the Wow! factor."
When I told Good Morning America we were using all state-of-the-art equipment, including the Avid Media Composer video editing system, they said, 'Great'. We shot for two days and they called me back a day later and said, 'Your stuff is amazing, it's better than we ever could imagine. We want to put you on the regular list'.
Kevin Martorana, Founder and President of Take One Productions
The variety of projects Take One Productions has in process require flexible storage. Two of their Media Composer systems include Avid Nitris DX I/O hardware and are connected to a dedicated RAID drive with 16 TB of drive space, which gives the studio about 10 TB of protected RAID 5 space. "When we're dealing with larger clients with lots of footage, we immediately back up on the RAID drive."
Take One Productions also backs up smaller jobs on the drives, even if they're one-time projects, which means drive space can be scarce. "That's great when projects come in and projects go out," states Martorana. "But we're working on a project right now that we've been working on for almost two years, and we're shooting consistently for that client. I looked at the RAID drive and there was only a terabyte left, out of ten terabytes—and there's more and more work coming."
To meet his need for more storage, Martorana looked at the Avid NEXIS | PRO standalone video storage system and was impressed by its simplicity. "We did our research and asked, 'is there anybody else in the market doing this?' And, the answer is, 'Not reliably'. We decided on the Avid NEXIS | PRO because it's the right size and it's scalable. We can link all three Media Composer editing systems together and have all the footage available." The ease of managing media and supporting numerous projects was also very important. "If my business partner works on a project in the Poconos and all that footage is ingested into the Avid, we will have it available immediately, because it already will be in the Avid-world," continues Martorana.
On teaching the next generation
Take One Productions is actively supporting aspiring editors though its internship program with Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Martorana's alma mater. "They have a great Mass Media curriculum where students learn how to shoot with cameras, how to edit. They really do a fabulous job." An internship at Take One Productions is a coveted career boost. "We had one intern who took to Avid very quickly and was even cutting for us. We introduced him to one of our clients who often hires freelancers and he got a freelance opportunity because he knows Avid. It's definitely a bonus point on his resume."
Martorana is amazed by how quickly the students take to Media Composer. "I tell the interns, 'You're used to Premiere, you're used to Final Cut, but now you're going to learn Avid.' It's fun when you show them some of the tricks of the trade of Avid, they say 'Premiere does not do this. Wow, the trimming tool. I don't have trimming tool capabilities like that in Premiere." Media database management is another strength of Avid that Martorana shares with the interns. "I ask them, 'How may projects have you lost?' Then, I tell them you can't lose projects in Avid unless you try really hard."
Evolving technology creates new opportunities
Getting started as a videographer, editor, and video producer is different today than it was when Martorana began his career. "When I started, I could work either for a TV station or a cable company. Now there's so many more opportunities; there's in-house video, there's freelancing. There are eight million websites that are constantly doing video every day, you have the capability to get into those places."
Martorana has been part of the evolution of non-linear video editing and production technology and credits his experience, creativity, and ability to adapt with helping him catch many of the big waves in the industry. "You have to reinvent yourself."