Is anybody there?

toon-3310I had to include this cartoon in my blog. This is so important to any business – customer service. You must be available, in the moment, authentic. Many businesses have lost the personal communication, customer service, the credibility of a real voice – the trust that comes with personal interaction. Our video production businesses may be creative and one of a kind, but we are also a commodity. Lots of people can do video –  some better, some worse – and many times the only thing that differentiates us is customer service. Answer your phone -stay in touch. Out of sight IS out of mind.    

Horror Stories Wanted

I’m looking for horror stories. Video production is a learning process. Everyone makes mistakes. Stuff happens! How we react, how we recover and hopw we learn from our mistakes – these are the lessons we learn from our experienced MPVA members. Please contact Allan Block at with your story so we caln all be entertained and learn some cvaluable lessons.l

March 2015 meeting

Our Next meeting Monday, March 16, 2015


Field Trip at the CW23 TV station, 1640 Como Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108


Timothy from will discuss his growing video business, what drives him, his approach at create wedding films, and maybe show some of his non-profit work.


Tim will also talk specifically about the Sony A7s and how he sets it up.


WUCW 1640 Como Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108

7:00 pm

Lessons Learned 01


“We don’t know what we don’t know”. A cliche – yes, but true none-the-less.

During the late 70’s and early 80’s I owned and operated 4 video retail stores.
We sold video equipment and rented video movies – VHS and Beta.
I call these times the “Wild West” days of video. My stores were called Video Central.
I worked everyday and I was burning out. I needed a diversion.

My wife Donna and I had a miniature schnauzer at the time named Maggie.
We were blessed because Maggie was a great dog and very smart.
She had done really well at dog school and we were encouraged to try competing in the local dog obedience trials.

Donna signed us up for an amateur dog competition and she took Maggie to the groomers. Clipped her short and Maggie looked beautiful.

The weekend turned very hot but beautiful. The location for the event turned out to be a farm a short drive from the city. There were at least a hundred dogs there. There were rings set up for the different classes of competition. I was hooked. I could feel the excitement in the air.
Dogs and their owners everywhere – they all seemed to know what the were doing.
We had no clue. Someone pointed to the registration desk and we followed.

Each dog and their owner complete two sessions in the ring following a set of guidelines that are reviewed by a panel of judges. Start with 100 points and deductions are made for each error.

I was nervous and I was sweating from the heat. Maggie was cool and enjoyed socializing with the other dogs. I notice she was not sitting down and resting – but she was young and excited.

On our very first run in the ring we scored 99! Many of the other dog owners took notice and congratulated us. Our second run was not so successful.

The second trial included the long sit and the long down. The dog must remain stationary and not move while the owner walks away and waits for the judge to “release” the dogs.

Maggie would not sit still – she was fidgeting the whole time. I looked on in horror. This was her best trick. The long down was worse. We only scored a 76. As I walked out of the ring, three veteran dog handlers pulled me aside and asked me if I knew what had just happened.
Again – I had no clue.

Bottom line – Lessons learned – this is what you have been waiting for.

(I use these lessons learned in my video production business every day.)

They laughed and told me what should have been so obvious.

ALWAYS check the location of your event. We were outdoors – things happen. The grass had recently been cut short. It had burned from the heat.

ALWAYS check your equipment. Maggie had been recently groomed. She had no protection – cushioning – from the sharp burned grass. It was poking her exposed skin. Her stomach and her tush. She didn’t want to move but it hurt to sit and lay in the sharp grass.

ALWAYS seek advice from the more experienced professionals. We didn’t ask anyone about the ins and outs of dog competition. I could have avoided this situation and won the competition.

NEVER give up. Learn from your mistakes. Keep practicing and success will come.

JOIN a group that will help you and encourage you to achieve your goals.

Maggie and I continued training. We took weekends off from my business and traveled throughout the Midwest. In 1981 Maggie became the Number 1 Miniature Schnauzer in the country and the Number 3 Terrier in obedience competition in the country.

Allan Block, video producer,

I encourage you to check out the MPVA – Minnesota Professional Video Producers Association.

Then & Now 01

Then and Now 01

My 7 Paradigm Shifts

I thought I would start this new segment of my blog that I call “Then and Now” with a flashback on the paradigm shifts in my own video production business.

Today’s video producers have wonderful high definition, high quality tools to work with. Tools that enhance the beautiful images and storytelling skills that are expected in video today.

It wasn’t always the case.

I shot my first wedding video in 1977. (I was just a child.) I owned some video retail stores. We sold equipment and eventually rented movies. Customers would look at the equipment on my shelves and ask what they did. Video recording for the average consumer was new and confusing. ” You mean I can see myself on television?” “Time shift – what’s that?” VCR, VHS, BETA ? “Too technical for me!”

I was asked to tape a wedding. I had the equipment so it was assumed that I knew what I was doing. “Never let the customer see you sweat.” Sure I said I would do it. And I became a videographer. Believe me when I say that people couldn’t even pronounce the word – “video what?”

I started recording with a two piece unit. The camera – big and heavy and awful in low light – tethered to a side pack video recorder – again heavy and bulky compared to the modern day camcorder.

Around 1982 Sony and Panasonic introduced the camcorder – BETA and VHS. This was huge for the “Pro” videographer. Easier, lighter and BETTER battery life. But the quality of video hadn’t changed much.

Paradigm Shift #1

The Amiga A1000 computer from Commodore was introduced in 1985.

I was able to add professional looking graphics and titles to my productions. This was a big step forward and the future looked bright.

Paradigm Shift #2

I purchased the new JVC 611/811 VHS player recorder combination for $7200.00. Professional quality – slightly better video. But this equipment allowed me to make frame accurate edits. Precise editing – inserts. Linear recording only – but my productions became more creative and we got many thank you notes from happy brides.

Paradigm Shift #3

A small company in Topeka, Kansas led by a visionary named Tim Jenison introduced the Video Toaster for the Amiga computer in 1990. A hardware and software package that started the non-linear editing industry. Every editing system today uses non-linear editing. It was the word processor for video. Today I use Final Cut Pro X on a Mac computer to edit – non-linear video.

The company is called Newtek. They produce the world famous Tricaster today.

Video could now be edited out of the original order it was taken. BIG boost to creativity.

An interesting side note. In order to make non-linear work, a storage system was required to digitize taped video for use in the computer. Hard drives were invented for this storage purpose.

My first hard drive was 9 gigabytes. It cost me $4500.00! Last week I purchased two 5 terabyte

drives for $109.00 each. 10TB for $218.00! It is WAY easier to get into quality video production than it was in the “Pioneer” days.

Paradigm Shift #4

In 1995, Sony and Panasonic lead the way to DIGITAL video recording with the miniDV tape system. This was a big leap in the actual quality of the video being recorded. Video produced digitally looked a lot better. Videographers became more confident in their abilities to deliver visually high quality content.

Paradigm Shift #5

A new medium of delivery arrived around 1999 – the DVD. Finally we had something that could playback the higher quality of video we were achieving with digitally edited video.

Paradigm Shift #6

I’m including this because it became a big time saver. Digital video cameras now included hard drives and flash drives internally. This eliminated the weaknesses of videotape and kept everything in pristine digital quality. Downloading into a computer takes a couple of minutes.

An hour of tape takes an hour to download.

Paradigm Shift #7

Finally, my most current shift is the appearance of what some call the “fusion” camera. The digital DSLR camera that records video. Traditional still digital cameras used to record video.

Full HD – 2k -4k – Big beautiful images with INTERCHANGEABLE lenses! This is a huge boost to quality and creativity. Traditional video cameras have now adopted the chipset and lens features of DSLRs.

There it is. This is essentially my career history of growing up in the video production business.

Video producers have all the greatest and latest tools today.

Now that being said – I want to leave you with this thought.

A video production is not about the equipment and it’s really not about the techniques and it isn’t even about the experience you have. Video is all about the story. I’ll repeat that – Video is ALL about the story. Tell the story. Learn how to tell a story. Make the story look better with good production value. Good images. Good sound. Use good equipment – but tell the story. That’s all people care about anyway.

Allan Block , producer and editor. MPVA Blog master. 763.550.9797

go to our site and learn more about the benefits of a membership in the MPVA .

Lessons Learned 02


This is a follow up to my previous post Lessons Learned 01

I am going to title this lesson ” You can’t have enough cr@#**^p in your accessories kit.”

If you go into the field on a video/photo shoot – take everything you can think of and add more.

Murphy’s Law states that “if it can go wrong – it will!”

Backup and redundancy are words every professional lives by. Once you are on location – you better have everything you need to get the job done.

That being said: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had great fun and success showing my Miniature Schnauzer Maggie in obedience trials. We achieved #1 Miniature Schnauzer status in 1981 despite a miserable mistake on my part.

The National Obedience Trials were going to be held in Chicago. Only the top dogs from around the country are invited. Maggie and I were on the list. We just had to pass one final test.

I was a pro dog handler by this time and Maggie was in top form.

A group of us “top dogs” traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to the Cow Palace. Two Wire Hair Terriers, a HUGE Rottweiler, a Golden Retriever and Maggie (the little guy.)

I did my research – Cow Palace = smell, dirt, dung etc.

Maggie was groomed but not too short.

I brought our “kit” bag with everything I could think of.

We spoke about the trials while driving down to Omaha.

We were set – or so I thought.

The “Cow Palace” was NO PALACE! It smelled and the 200 dogs there were peeing and pooping everywhere. 7th heaven!

Maggie was, as always, a little lady. Well behaved and I think a little offended by the smells.

Two days of competition. Day one – almost perfect. Maggie was #2. A good start.

Day two – a fermentation smell had started in the big barn.

The flies were having an orgy.

We were down to ten dogs – 6 going to Chicago.

The final exercise was the sit-stay. All ten dogs are lined up and the handlers walk away.

I noticed that the woman next to me spent a little extra time with her dog. Rubbing its ears.

As soon as we walked away, a swarm of flies descended on the dogs. A couple of dogs bolted right away. Maggie tried not to move but I could see she was in distress. The flies were around her ears ( which are cropped and open to the air on Miniature Schnauzers.) In the last few seconds of the sit-stay she moved. She just couldn’t take it anymore. It was enough to eliminate us from going to the Nationals in Chicago.

I was terribly disappointed but I was very proud of Maggie and our showing.

Afterwards, the lady next to me – who did go to Chicago – came up to me and offered a bit of advice.

Lesson Learned – You don’t know what you don’t know.

I thought I knew it all. But this lady knew more than I did. She had more experience. She knew about the effects that flies have on dogs – especially ones that have open ears. What she did in the last few seconds of placing her dog for the sit-stay was rub “OFF ” fly repellent on the tips of her dog’s ears. The flies did not go near her dog!

So – if you think you know it all. If you you think you can get everything from the internet or books. YOU DON’T and YOU CAN’T!

There is always someone with more experience than you.

Join a group. Learn from others. Share your experience and help others grow and build their skills so they in turn can help others. Pay it forward.

Allan Block video producer,

I encourage you to attend one of our monthly meetings. If there is a fit – join and learn! Minnesota Professional Video Producers Association – Third Monday of every month for 26 years1

Welcome to the MPVA

by Allan Block
 visit our website for more information.

This is my first blog post to the Minnesota Professional Video Producers Association blog.

I think it is important to offer some insight into why the MPVA actually exists.

Not so much who we are , but why we have been meeting as a professional organization since 1989. Do the math. That’s 26 consecutive years. I know we are one of the oldest video oriented professional associations, if not the oldest, in the country.

Groups, clubs, organizations and associations start and fail on the strength and commitment of its members.

I believe “You are what you share”. The members of the MPVA share information, tips, tricks, equipment reviews, business techniques and experiences.

“Ok Allan, but I can get all the information I need from the internet. All I have to do is Google and I can get everything I need from the World Wide Web. Why do I need to join a group and commit to attending meetings in person. My time is valuable.”

That is a true statement – with a few important exceptions.

Why Join a User Group?

User groups offer many benefits — regardless of your skill level and interest level.

Make new friends.

Meet people who share your interests and passions. Make friends – face to face – with whom you can talk about all things video. Production, equipment, business practices, troubleshooting, problem solving and more, or just hang out. Go to a monthly meeting or to special events.
On-line forums and chat rooms lack the personal interaction, the camaraderie, the help you may need in an emergency. 
Above all, you will learn that you are not alone, that others share the same success and failures that you do.

Get support and enhance your skills.

You’ve got questions. The MPVA has answers. Enhance your skills so you can take yourself to a new professional level, or create projects for your family or hobbies.

Learn, Teach, Mentor.

Maybe you’ve got some of the answers. A group like the MPVA is a rewarding way for you to share your expertise. Someone may have helped you learn about technology; now you can repay the favor while meeting new people and making new contacts. Learn and benefit from the experiences of our MPVA members.

Find local resources.

The Internet provides many answers and resources. However, nothing beats the personal connection of meeting with local video producers and exploring the resources that are available locally — from resellers to technical support to community activities.


Need a freelancer, an editor, a sound man, a voice over pro, a grip, a secretary – a date. Find a mentor. Find a business partner. There are so many networking opportunities.

Make business contacts.

Maybe you’re not looking for a date, but you could be looking for professional contacts and networks. Meet people who run and manage area businesses, law practices, and medical centers and discuss ways you can build relationships that are beneficial to all parties.

Volunteer in the community.

The MPVA can help you use your video skills to help community charitable and non-profit organizations. Help create awareness about important causes and help make a better world.

It’s just plain fun.

There’s something about the MPVA and user groups that makes members come back time after time. We love it. We love the people we meet and the opportunities that the MPVA creates. Being a member is just plain fun.

And on a final note,

I want to put something out there in the open.

There a many, many experts and “gurus” on the internet. They love to claim they are giving away a “free” training. I have watched many hours of training. Much of it has a valuable tip or lesson.

But, I want you to understand that there is no such thing as “free”.

You pay for it with your time and attention.

If you value your time as much as I value mine, then you can be sure that my membership in the MPVA over the last 26 years has been the most valuable time I have “invested” in my professional career. I never fail to learn something new at each meeting.

The members of the MPVA are committed to making sure you are rewarded with that much value just for showing up.

I encourage you to visit one of our meetings. Meet our members, learn something new, share your experiences with us, see if there is a fit for you and consider joining.

If you are one of our internet guests and don’t live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Minnesota, I encourage you to look for video user groups in your area and benefit from the valuable friendships you will make.

I am Allan Block. Questions? contact me

Visit the MPVA .net website for more information .