Brian Buongiorno founded his post production boutique in the middle of the digital revolution. The truth is, he’s been riding the wave for years and has adapted as his industry has changed. From music videos to post-production special effects and right into digital, color correction and composites, he’s always managed to keep an eye on what’s coming ahead. He’s even managed to develop a database system to help his clients have more control over their footage. Business (and life) is good in Austin.
Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. Today my guest Brian Buongiorno, the Founder and Creative Director of Tone Visuals; Brian, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Brian: Thank you very much, I appreciate it Russ.
Russ: You bet. Well tell us about Tone Visuals.
Brian: Tone Visuals is a small post-production boutique; we've been in business for about 4 years.
Russ: Okay, post production of what?
Brian: Post production of TV commercials. We take film and video digital images, which have been shot by professional production companies, do the color correction, Visual Effects and final finishing to finish the commercials out before they go on air.
Russ: Okay, I'm kind of got familiar with what you do in your world, I find it totally fascinating but is every commercial that I see on television probably go through this finishing process?
Brian: It should if it's not.
Russ: All right, cool.
Brian: Generally yes, most commercials are shot digitally now some still shot on film but they all get a process by which the digital negatives get converted and color corrected so that they look pleasing to the eye.
Russ: Okay. I find it totally fascinating and would love for you to take what we're shooting right now and maybe show a before and after; can you do that?
Brian: I'm sure I can do that. Here's what it looks like before and here's what it looks like after.
Russ: Fantastic. All right, so now I understand you have quite a career background in this space of video capture, professional and the upper image, part of it in Los Angeles right?
Brian: Yes. I worked in Los Angeles, uh, for 25 years. After leaving Texas going to school here and working in Austin and Dallas for about 7 years, uh, went to L.A. and sort of got my PhD in Visual Effects and, uh, color grading and TV production techniques. Was there for a long time and then moved back to Austin about 4 years ago. Once I realized that I could set up my own company and afford to be able to set up a studio on current technology, it really allowed me to have the upper hand and that I could now compete with the big boys at a much lower cost level and provide my clients with a high degree of service at a much lower rate and made it more affordable for them; really so that they could put their money back into the projects, keep their budgets on track.
Russ: Cool, so you rode this paradigm shift into the digital world successfully because you're up and running and have quite a few clients and are doing well. There are those that probably are in your background that didn't make it through successfully, right?
Brian: Yeah, a lot of people have tried and it does take an eye for, you know, what's out there, keeping one eye of what's coming up ahead and also one eye on what you're doing now. And it does take a fair amount of experience and creative expertise to be able to pull something like this off.
Russ: Okay. So roll back to your years in L.A. where you got your PhD in this category; was it mainly commercials that you worked with then are were you working with movies and television productions?
Brian: Both. I actually worked on movies I worked on TV shows, I worked on mostly commercials, a lot of music videos pretty much the gamut. It was really interesting seeing a lot of young directors the make-Michael Bays, the David Finchers, Gore Verbinskies of today who are big, huge feature directors doing music videos and commercials back then because that's where they all started. So I was able to kind of work with them along their careers and see that rise and benefit from that too.
Russ: Okay. All right, so we - not only have we talked about like tone corrections, I mean we've shown a sample here too, but what are the other things that you do?
Brian: We do a database program called Tone Tags which I find really interesting. It rose out of a need to provide our clients with a service where they could locate their materials because the more we shoot, the mountain of digital footage just keeps getting bigger and bigger and it's really hard for anyone to find where that information is unless you have literally 20 hard drives plugged into your computer, which is not going to happen.
So I decided to take the footage that they shoot and create a database, much like a stop footage library, which I can categorize and tag all the footage by certain number of criteria, then they can cross reference all that material and find like where they shot was, what kind of shot it is, who is in it, what they said, where it was located, the date of it, what kind of camera was shot, what the framing aspect of it was; all the different things and every client has their own unique database. So we've done this for Popeye's, we've done this for Whataburger, for Dodge Ram, we've done it for Texas Tourism; we have 4 or 5 client's now that are enjoying using this process.
Russ: Really interesting. So as a business person you did this thinking it's an added value or did one of them come and say hey, can you help us they probably came and said can you find this stuff and you figured out how hard it was to find it and came up with the solution.
Brian: Yeah, I found that I didn't have time to wait sometimes because it took so long for someone to locate something that was shot a year ago or two that I needed to have it now and the only way I could have it now was to know where it is. So in addition to my own internal databases I created a database for them that they could simply be on their iPad or their laptop and look through their footage and find it.
Russ: I can kind of relate to this, we've done probably 1300 interviews now; we've actually transcribed them all and so we can kind of go back and search that way, but it's still difficult and time-consuming.
Brian: For a guy in San Antonio, Texas that said I love the #1 Whataburger and I come here every week with my kids, if you wanted to find "I come here every week with my kids," who said that, well you could scroll across and copy that part of the transcription and do a search of that key word those sets of key words and all the shots would come up; may have been more than one. So transcriptions are interesting because they provide a whole other level of search ability.
Russ: So I've also heard about this other category of expertise where you do what's called Visual Effects, tell us about that.
Brian: Visual Effects is kind of a broad category, but in our company it's really involved in more in compositing whereby we take elements that have been shot separately and combine them as a whole, sort as layers. So, for instance, in the case of the Annie Trio spot for Popeye's we took 3 separate takes of Annie and combined them so they looked as though they were all shot at the - shot at the same time.
Russ: Instead of doing a green screen?
Brian: Right, instead of doing green screen. And that was really more for artistic reasons because I really wanted Annie to be able to act with 2 other actors in the room as opposed to just being by herself. So here's an example of what I actually edited onset using the video tap from the film camera. This shows Annie and the 2 other actors working side by side and now you can see where I've split them together and this is actually the edit that I made onset to show the director that he had what he needed while they were there.
Russ: Wow. And I figure it was very important to you to that the other extra actors were the exact same height for eye contact?
Brian: Yeah. Pretty much so that when Daedre looked at herself she was looking at herself and not looking down or off; so eye line is always a dead giveaway when it's not right.
Russ: Wow, cool.
Russ: Okay. So what do you see for the future of Tone Visuals; I mean, continuing to do what you do? Do you see other technologies that you could get into too that are part of video for the future?
Brian: Yeah, we're really interested in all kinds of things. I mean, I'm talking to people about new ways of showing videos at trade shows, you know, 3 dimensional imagery holographics, you know 4K is the big thing happening now in our world - is being at higher and higher resolution. And, you know, as an entrepreneur it's always our job to maintain an eye on - as I said before - like what's going on down the road but also keeping grounded enough to run your company, you know at a level that you can still make money at.
Russ: Well you're obviously pretty good at that because you transitioned it to the digital world quite well. Well Brian, I really appreciate you sharing your story with us.
Brian: Well thank you very much Russ, I appreciate it, I appreciate you having me here.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Brian Buongiorno, the Founder of Tone Visuals. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.