"Even the genius asks questions." ~2 Pac


*Camera Creates New Opportunities for Kagan on the Shoot and in the Future*

According to director/DP Peter Kagan, “When great technology comes along it doesn’t just inform how you shoot something, it affects what you shoot. It creates new opportunities.” Kagan, who heads New York-based Streamline Content, believes his new Panasonic AG-HVX200 DVCPRO HD solid-state camcorder has done just that.

Kagan recently used the HVX200 to shoot “Get Inside the Five,” a 30-second
national spot for the Subway sandwich chain starring Heisman Trophy winner
Reggie Bush, who is expected to be the NFL’s top draft pick. The commercial, from
Source Communications (Hackensack, NJ), finds Bush sitting on a bench waiting
for his assignment. With his colors yet to be determined, he’s dressed in a
white uniform, bearing his white number 5, and wearing white shoes. Poised on
the verge of what everyone expects to be a great career, Bush is “ready to
burst onto the scene,” Kagan explains. In the meantime, Kagan captures Bush’s
kinetic energy as he encourages viewers to check out Subway’s new http://www.subwayfreshbuzz.com/default.aspx Web site where they can find his blog…and more.

“Even though this was a national Subway spot starring Reggie Bush that
promised to be cool, the minute the NFL draft happens, that’s it,” Kagan notes.
“The commercial has a very limited shelf life and, therefore, had a limited
budget. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to use HD instead of film.
And there was definitely a fresh buzz about the HVX200!”

The HVX200 uniquely combines multiple high definition and standard definition
formats, multiple recording modes and variable frames rates, and the vast
benefits of P2 solid state memory recording in a rugged, compact design. The
DVCPRO HD P2 camcorder offers production-quality HD with independent intra-frame
encoding, 4:2:2 color sampling, and less compression, making HD content easier
and faster to edit and more able to stand up to image compositing versus long
GOP MPEG-2 systems.

With a career spanning thousands of spots and music videos, Kagan has “always
been an early adopter of all things video and digital,” he says. “But in my
world ‘video’ has been a curse word. People really don’t want to look at 60
interlaced frames. So the 24p format really speaks to me.”

Although he owns 35mm and 16mm film gear, Kagan “fell in love” with
Panasonic’s DVX100 camera when he borrowed one from Warner Records for one night on a
quick turnaround Michael Buble music video. Impressed with the results, he
bought a DVX100 for himself and proceeded to use it for another Warner Records
project for Lenny Kravitz in Miami.

“I was so comfortable with the camera after using it only once that I bought
it for that Lenny Kravitz shoot,” Kagan recalls. “I remember reading the
instruction manual with the camera in my lap while on the plane to the shoot. I
thought, is this craziness or confidence? As it turned out, the camera was
perfect. Not only did it look great but I recorded a spontaneous acoustic audio
performance on the roof of Lenny’s house straight into the camera by myself,
very intimate, no boom operators or mixers. I’m no audio tech, but everyone
was happy with the sound!”

Kagan later made the DVX100 the A camera for a multi-city, concert-style
video for Michael Buble which he shot in London and South Africa. “For me, 24p
answered the question, ‘How do you bridge the gap between film and video?’”
Kagan says. “The DVX100 and 100A have created opportunities, enabling me to
shoot projects I otherwise couldn’t have shot on film.”

Kagan was understandably excited when he heard about the HVX200 and went to
audition the camera at Abel Cine Tech. He was bidding on the Subway spot and
wondered if the HVX200 would fill the bill.

“Since I was comfortable with the DVX100, the learning curve was pretty
quick: The HVX200 is like a steroidal version of the DVX100,” Kagan declares. “It
was very easy for me to not only get a sense of what the camera could do out
of the box, but also to drill down immediately into the menu files and fool
around with the shutter capabilities. Right there in the showroom I could see
the opportunities the camera offered.”

He teamed with HVX200 owner Evin Grant, a director/DP in his own right, who
served as HD technician on the Subway shoot and the production workflow
designer. “Evin was indispensable,” says Kagan. “He added a great comfort level
for me and showed me how I could squeeze the camera hard.”

Kagan intended to shoot 720pN at multiple frame rates and shutter angles. He
needed to output both HD and Digital Betacam versions of his footage, the
latter required for post production. Grant’s set-up allowed Kagan to shoot with
one HVX200 camera while a second acted as a record/playback head for a Digital
Betacam deck. “As soon as Peter was done with a P2 card, we’d download to a
RAID array through a laptop, then go into the other HVX200 and play it out
with the SD downconverting option on the camera recording into the Digital
Betacam deck,” Grant explains.

Kagan used two 8GB and one 4GB P2 cards for the shoot. “When we downloaded
the cards we got scratch disks for Evin and myself and downconverted Digital
Betacam tapes for the Avid editor just like the tapes he would have gotten from a
film-to-tape transfer,” he notes. “The editor began cutting away the next
morning, and I was delighted to keep my disk which was essentially a digital
clone of the dailies. Every director wants to do a director’s cut, and I’m
always trying to get negative back from the ad agency.”

Kagan kitted the HVX200 out with his ARRI 4×5 matte box and Chrosziel follow
focus. “I was pleased to be able to take gear from my Aaton package and apply
it to the HVX200,” he says. “With these accessories, the camera looks and
feels formidable. It’s truly the digital equivalent of a film camera.”

One of the biggest differences on set concerned what Kagan calls “Video
Village” where clients view the video playback. Once again he teamed with Howard
Van Emdon, but he told the veteran video playback tech to leave his cart of
equipment at home and just supply a 42-inch Panasonic HD plasma display.

“The image of the empty set on the big screen was beautiful,” Kagan recalls.
“It was a welcome-to-what’s-about-to-happen moment for the client. And
when Reggie sat on the bench, the heroism of his image on the screen was
awe-inspiring. Everyone in the room just relaxed; they were looking at what was
happening, not an approximation of the shot from the video tape.”

Evin Grant admits to being “blown away” by the large, sharp image, too.
“It’s always an eye-opening moment when you see the shot that big,” he says.
“Even people who do this for a living ask themselves how a camera that size can
produce an amazing image like that.”

Kagan shot mostly at 24pN but shifted to 60fps when Bush “was flying around
the frame, running at the camera and dodging and jumping over the camera and
lens.” In fact, Kagan notes that the HVX200′s “low profile off the floor
looking straight up” offered a safe way to shoot the vaulting Bush whom he
wouldn’t have wanted to hurdle big camera gear. Using a Precision Optics .6 wide
adapter enabled Kagan to give the jump “a warpy look.”

Kagan was especially pleased with the HVX200′s dynamic range. “We had a
white set, a white uniform and an athlete with deep skin tones. But we were able
to expose for Reggie and not blow out detail in the highlights. With Evin I
made very few adjustments to the camera — noodling the scene files and
adjusting the knee — and we came up with a really beautiful range of tones.”

Despite a very limited color palette and very controlled lighting, Kagan was
also happy with the HVX200′s color rendition. “The image was gleaming and
very seductive,” he says. “There was never a moment when I thought, ‘If I’d
only shot this on 35mm.”

He also calls the focus assist feature “the camera’s single greatest idea
from the point of view of a camera operator.” Kagan, who also shoots film for
Getty Images, has told the stock-footage giant that it needs to “get ready”
for the HVX200. He will be addressing a conference of the company’s movers and
shakers later this month urging them “to open their minds to taking
submissions in this format in the spirit of moving forward. Shooting stock with the
HVX200 will give us a chance to get glimpses, nuggets and pearls of real-life
moments. A camera like this is liberating!”

In an even broader sense, Kagan sees the HVX200 as an opportunity to maximize
his company’s name: Streamline Content. “It’s exactly the tool I need for the business model I’ve set,” he affirms. “The HVX200 will enable me to streamline the process, minimize the distance between me and the shoot day, and
diminish the obstacles of being in the office and behind the camera shooting cool
pictures — which is what I ultimately want to do.”

For more information about Peter Kagan and Streamline Content please contact:
Philip G. McIntyre, PGM Artists, 212-524-4868 Phone, 212-929-7090 Fax, philm@pgmartists.com.

The ultra-versatile HVX200 records in 1080i and 720p in production-proven 100
Mbps DVCPRO HD quality, with the ability to capture images in 21 record
modes. The DVCPRO HD format offers users cost-effective, intra-frame compression,
where each frame stands on its own for editing, and its full 4:2:2 color
sampling allows the image to hold up under color correction. The camera records
video on a P2 card as IT-friendly MXF files in 1080/60i, 30p and 24p; in 720/60p,
30p and 24p; in 50Mbps DVCPRO50 and in 25Mbps DVCPRO or DV. The HVX200 can
capture fast or slow action in 720p at various frame rates–the first time this
function is available in a hand-held camera. The shooting frame rate in 720p
native mode can be set for any of 11 steps between 12fps and 60fps including
24fps and 30fps. For more information on the AG-HVX200, visit www.panasonic.com/hvx200.

About Panasonic Broadcast

Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of
broadcast and professional video products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a unit
company of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the North American headquarters of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE: MC) of Japan, and the hub of its U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, access the company’s web site at

April 23, 2006 A new raisin in the sun/It’s a wrinkle in time: The 90-year-old Sun-Maid

The Sun Maid girl is doing a lot more than thinking outside the raisin box.

She speaks, she charms, she radiates good health and nutrition. And she sells. Ninety years after the smiling girl with the red sunbonnet carrying a tray of grapes first appeared on Sun-Maid raisin boxes, animators have brought her to life. She’s appearing in nationwide advertising and at a recently redesigned Website, at www.sunmaid.com, delivering a message — all marketers should be so lucky — that is simple and true: Sun-Maid raisins are “nothing but grapes and sunshine.”

Sun-Maid Growers of California, formed in 1912 and now the world’s largest producer and processor of raisins and other dried fruits, is not touching the image on its product containers. The portrait of Lorraine Collett, a pretty Fresno girl, has been the brand’s trademark since 1916, with slight updates made in 1923, 1956 and finally in 1970. It’s one of the most recognized brand images in the world.

Collett, the original Sun-Maid girl, was spotted by executives of Sun-Maid, then called the California Associated Raisin Co., drying her long brown hair and wearing her mother’s red sunbonnet in her backyard. They had a San Francisco artist, Fanny Scafford, do her portrait, which today is kept in Sun-Maid’s vault.

In 1988, the bonnet was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Collett, whose married name was Petersen, had a long relationship with Sun-Maid. She died in 1983.

The new Sun-Maid girl in the ad and on the Web is considerably more contemporary. On the Web page, though, she still wears the sunbonnet, she does yoga at the beach. She is sunny and happy in a TV ad — in a vineyard and in a kitchen.

The actress who gives the Sun-Maid Girl her voice, 21-year-old Andie Bolt of Los Angeles, says she “seems to be in a good mood — like she just had a great time at the spa.”

So why tinker with an icon? “This is as good a time as any to get on the wave of health and nutrition,” said Sun-Maid’s president, Barry Kriebel. The $7 million ad campaign, largely on cable television, but also in print, gives voice and personality to the girl who tells the story of raisins from the San Joaquin Valley:

“Ninety-three million miles — that’s how far sunlight travels, from the sun to the Earth (during harvest time) to turn our grapes into Sun-Maid raisins. And that’s all we put in — grapes and sunshine. Sun-Maid raisins: nothing but grapes and sunshine.”

Market research told Sun-Maid that not everyone knows that raisins are simply dried grapes. Almost all Sun-Maid raisins are Thompson seedless harvested about the first week of September and placed on clean paper trays in the fields to dry for about three weeks, with no coatings or additives. Kriebel said some visitors to Sun-Maid ask, “How big is your dehydrator? Do you dry raisins all year long?” During drying, the sun bakes the vineyard floor, producing intense ground temperatures that caramelize the sugars in the grapes to give them flavor and color. Leaving fruits out to dry in the sun and air is one of the oldest methods of preserving food.

The advertising challenge was to have the Sun-Maid girl make the point about the simplicity and natural goodness of raisins and do it in a way consistent with her image and the 90-year-old emotional bond between her and consumers.

“You don’t give her too much of a personality,” Kriebel said. “You’re not going to see her dancing or kicking up her heels out in the vineyard, but have her do what is appropriate for her to do, based on her history but also being a contemporary person living in the 21st century.”

The work fell to Jeff Kleiser and Diana Walczak, animation partners in Kleiser-Walczak Studios in Hollywood and North Adams, Mass. Walczak began the process by assembling a montage of photos of people with fresh faces, looking for common denominators in what made them attractive but what may be missing in the 90-year-old Sun-Maid girl image.

So what was lacking? Bright eyes, the animators discovered. And contemporary eyebrows, Kleiser said. Accordingly, there’s a noticeable reflection in the Sun-Maid Girl’s brown eyes — as bright and engaging as her smile.

“Our job was to create a character that has been frozen on a box for 90 years and make her a very attractive first impression, even make her stunning — bring her into the 21st century and make her look hip and healthy and fun,” Kleiser said. “We wanted someone who takes her life into her own hands, is healthy and encourages her family to be healthy.”

This may be the beginning of a new career for the Sun-Maid girl if nascent plans for additional ads are finalized. There’s talk of putting her in a variety of places — perhaps at the market, maybe the gym — and having her speak several languages, reflecting that one-third of Sun-Maid’s dried fruit is exported. The new ad has already been translated into Japanese.

“I think she should have a name,” Walczak said, who added that she has begun to give thought to her subject’s personality traits and what she calls the girl’s “character bible.”

The new girl is also more shapely that the original. “That was part of giving her a little more personality,” Kriebel said. Still, changing an icon is a difficult for some people. “She’s a classic mascot, and I like emphasizing Sun-Maid’s, if you will, roots,” said Robert Duncan, executive creative director at DuncanChannon advertising in San Rafael.

“But I’m not sure the charm of that orange-crate-label art style isn’t diminished when it’s turned into anime. Something a little creepy about this machine-made 21st century version,” Duncan said. “I keep waiting for her to peel back that improbably toothy grin to reveal the malevolent robot beneath.”

Daniel Stein, founder and chief executive of EVB, a San Francisco ad agency, agreed that it’s wrong for Sun-Maid to go techy. “By making drastic changes to a well-known character, you run the risk of overshadowing the brand equity behind the icon,” he said. “By using a high-tech 3-D character, we lose the wholesome and natural equities. The character comes across as robotic, artificial and soulless.” Whatever the verdict on its brand image, Sun-Maid has been making good business decisions. It had more than $250 million in net sales in 2005, the highest in the 94-year history of the 1,000-member cooperative.

California raisins are produced on some 200,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley, and about 80 percent of the acreage is within a 30-mile radius of Fresno. Production of all raisin varieties from the area totals more than 400,000 tons annually — about 45 percent of the world’s supply.

As a rule, change comes slowly in agriculture — particularly among grape growers, whose vines have a lifecycle of 80 to 100 years, compared with 20 to 25 years of productive life for apricot trees, for example.

“Raisin and grape people start with the idea, ‘If I do it the way my grandfather did it, I’ll be fine,’ ” Kriebel said. The 56-year-old Kriebel has been Sun-Maid’s president for 20 years and was its attorney for 10 years before that.

Last season, 35 to 40 percent of the crop was mechanically harvested, but it took 15 years of encouraging growers to get to that point, Kriebel said.”We try to keep nudging them along,” he said. “It took labor shortages (at harvest), proven technology and people willing to take some risk.”

Growers, however, are embracing the Sun-Maid ad campaign, said Glen Goto, vice chairman of the Raisin Bargaining Association in Fresno, which negotiates crop prices for farmers. “People think it is upbeat and that it is overdue,” Goto said. In the mid-1980s, an ad campaign featuring the animated California dancing raisins became wildly popular and won multiple ad industry awards.

The ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, with animation by Will Vinton Studios, created a cast of hip raisins and used Buddy Miles on the “Heard it Through the Grapevine” soundtrack. It generated sales, but more for licensed raisin-related dolls and other collectables than for raisins themselves.

Keeping a trademark contemporary is not easy, especially if it’s a person who has to keep up with the times. The original 1936 portrait of Betty Crocker, a brand icon in the food industry, was made over in 1955, 1965, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1986 and last in 1996, “while remaining true to her commitment to consumers,” said Pam Becker, a spokeswoman for General Mills.

Now, it’s getting hard to find her image on General Mills product packaging. The company has substituted a red spoon to symbolize Betty Crocker, Becker said.

“It’s difficult to keep a portrait current as women’s roles, hair and dress styles are changing so rapidly,” she said. Also, with new requirements for ingredient and nutrition labeling, along with graphics, packages are becoming crowded, she said “But you have to be reflective of contemporary women,” said Becker. “To be meaningful to the consumer you have to identify with her.”

It’s easy for Andie Bolt, the actress whose voice is heard in the new ad, to identify with the Sun-Maid girl. She was reared on a ranch in Lake Isabella (Kern County), east of Bakersfield, not far from raisin country. She has warm memories of eating a box of Sun-Maid raisins at school every day.

“It’s an honor to do the voice of someone on a box I grew up with,” Bolt said. “I was a huge fan of raisins. My sisters didn’t like them so I took all of theirs.”
SF Chronicle –Kingsburg, Fresno County
George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer

April 17, 2006 Peter Kagan in Bon Appetit Magazine