"No Kenny G" for Kansas City Blues Jazz Fest
Created by David Marks
Voiced by Skip Quimby
Produced at Wheeler Audio
"Blues Helpline" for Kansas City Blues Jazz Fest
Created by David Marks
Produced at Wheeler Audio
"12 Minutes of Chrismas" Wal-Mart/Bernstein Rein
Created by Tyler Hattery, Chris Corley, Dave Thornhill, Matt Stegman
Produced by John Pace
Sound Design by Elevensound
Broadcast & Theatrical Mix (5.1 Surround)
by Wheeler Audio
"No Kenny G" for Kansas City Blues Jazz Fest
Created by David Marks
Voiced by Skip Quimby
Produced at Wheeler Audio
Screen Magazine - 10/8/2007
In today’s home video market, behind-the-scenes films are something of a standard. Pop in any DVD, from a deluxe two-disc edition to a standard issue transfer, and there’s likely to be at least one featurette guiding viewers through the filmmaking process.
But while the volume of these short films has increased, few companies can match the years of experience that Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions (Kansas City, Mo.) brings to the table. The company just completed its 50th behind-the-scenes film, “The Making of Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness,” all of which have been cut by editors at Substation K and mixed by engineers at Wheeler Audio, both Kansas City-based companies.
The collaboration started in 1993 on a making-of film for “Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End.” Mark McCone, executive producer at Substation K, says Hallmark was looking for a way to distinguish the VHS product that it sold in its Gold Grown stores and hit upon featurettes as a way to boots sales and offer more to viewers.
While such shorts are common today, they were a rare occurrence 14 years ago, before DVDs offered expanded room for extras. “The challenge back in those days was [that] we had to wait to see the length of the movie,” says McCone. “[Everything] had to fit on a 120-minute videocassette.”
Even with major shifts in technology, the goal of the shorts has remained the same, says McCone – to tell simple, engaging stories that enrich the feature films and invite viewers into the world of the filmmakers. He says a typical featurette is cut using five or six hours of interview footage, along with just under two hours of footage from the finished film.
Although Substation K has access to plenty of footage and on-camera interviews, McCone points to Jan Parkinson, vice president at Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, as the glue that holds the project together. He credits Parkinson, who has written and produced all 50 shorts, with a thorough understanding of the process. Not only does Substation K receive detailed and accurate paper edits, says McCone, but the editors also enjoy the flexibility of creating the best possible cut.
On the audio side, Jim Wheeler, owner/audio engineer at Wheeler Audio, says the documentary-style footage requires the usual sweetening, especially for location sound issues. In recent years he has also enjoyed the benefit of mixing in 5.1 Surround Sound, creating a more immersive experience for viewers and a consistent mood throughout each film.
But Wheeler’s biggest contribution, he says, is integrating the rich musical scores from the film into the behind-the-scenes featurettes. Wheeler says he receives anywhere from 35-45 minutes of music on each project. He assigns segments of the score to correspond with the on-camera interviews; a technique that Wheeler thinks ties the feature film and the behind-the-scenes film together.
But mainly he uses music to serve the needs of the featurette and make for a compelling behind-the-scenes story. “We treat it more like a short film than a documentary,” says Wheeler. “We pack as much emotion into it as possible.”
Hallmark Hall of Fame recognized its partners at a Sept. 10 event hosted by Substation K. In addition to McCone and Wheeler, the behind-the-scenes featurettes have benefited from the talents of Jim Birdsall, a voiceover actor based in Kansas City. Others working on the project through the years include editors George Greb, Craig Brown and Greg Light, and audio engineers Jim Schrader and Don James.
McCone gives special recognition to all the Kansas City names that have collaborated throughout the length of the project. “We’ve all had opportunities to leave town, but we’ve decided to stick it out here because we like it here,” he says.
Hallmark Hall of Fame airs four films a year, two in the first quarter and two in the fourth quarter. The 51st behind-the-scenes film is currently in the works, for “Pictures of Hollis Woods,” which will air on CBS this fall.
Kansas City Business Journal - Friday, August 31, 2007
Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions Inc. has completed the 50th short film in a series that was key to selling the Hall of Fame movies in Hallmark Gold Crown stores.
The Hallmark Cards Inc. subsidiary's 12- to 15-minute films, with clips from the making of the movie and interviews with participants, appear exclusively on Gold Crown Collector's Edition copies.
"We created the behind-the-scenes films to differentiate the product in Gold Crown stores," said Jan Parkinson, vice president of development and distribution for Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions. "It's helped strengthen the retailers' relationship with Hallmark Hall of Fame and strengthened retail sales there."
Before the behind-the-scenes movies, about 10 Gold Crown stores offered the Hall of Fame movies. The first Collector's Edition, for the movie "Sarah, Plain and Tall," pushed that to almost 1,200 stores, Parkinson said. Today, about 2,500 of the 3,800 Gold Crown stores sell a variety of the Hall of Fame titles, and 500 more stores sell the most-popular titles.
Next month, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions begins work on its 51st film, about "Pictures of Hollis Woods."
Profit margins were plump when Hallmark began distributing its Hall of Fame movies in 1991. Videotapes cost $10 to produce and sold to rental stores for about $60. But when consumers began buying instead of renting movies, prices fell significantly.
To differentiate the movies sold in Gold Crown stores, Parkinson suggested repackaging the movies with gold foil features and adding the behind-the-scenes films.
Differentiating products can succeed in driving sales when the strategy is executed well, said Cheryl Holland Bridges, director of Texas A&M University's Center for Retailing Studies. Bridges spent eight years as a vice president of merchandising for Halls Merchandising Inc., another Hallmark Cards subsidiary.
"More now than ever, savvy retailers are seeking out more ways to differentiate their businesses by exclusive products and brands, exemplary customer service that goes beyond expectations and unique retailing environments," Bridges wrote in an e-mail.
Extending product offerings for historically successful Hall of Fame movies was "brilliant," she wrote.
Hallmark Press Release - August 15, 2007
The “made in Kansas City” label can now be attached to 50 short films that take a behind-the-scenes look at how Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are made. The 50th production – “The Making of Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness” – is available on the DVD of the movie starring Dean Cain.
Substation K, Wheeler Audio and Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, all Kansas City-based companies, have collaborated to create all 50 of the productions, which are narrated by local actor and voice talent Jim Birdsall. Each short film includes location footage and exclusive interviews with the actors, director, producers and others involved in the production of movies for the award-winning Hallmark Hall of Fame series.
“The movies were shot all around the world – Italy, Ireland, Australia and throughout the U.S. – but the behind-the-scenes productions were truly made in Kansas City,” said Jan Parkinson, vice president, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions. “They were all written, edited, recorded and mastered by people and companies from the area.”
“A lot of people don’t realize that there are a number of state-of- the-art production facilities right here in Kansas City,” said Mark McCone, president of Substation K, a video production company that has worked on Hallmark Hall of Fame projects since 1986. “It’s an honor for us to work with the most recognized name in quality television. We take great pride in being part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame legacy and the visibility it gives the area.”
”Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness typifies the kind of meaningful story presented by Hallmark Hall of Fame,” says Jim Wheeler, president of Wheeler Audio. “Mixing these productions in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tm is a total blast, but I especially enjoy working on such worthwhile narratives.”
For Jim Birdsall, the actor whose voice has welcomed viewers to every broadcast for two decades, working on the Hallmark Hall of Fame has special significance. “Growing up in a small town in North Dakota where there was no live theater, watching the early live broadcasts of the Hallmark Hall of Fame was my introduction to great drama,” Birdsall says. “It’s very satisfying to be part of that continuing tradition.”
“The Hallmark Hall of Fame has a very loyal audience,” said Toni Houghton, product manager of the Hallmark DVD series and associate producer for the “making-of” videos. “Each behind-the-scenes production tries to give viewers a different perspective on the movie by showing why the actors made the choices they did, what obstacles had to be overcome and other inside information we think they will find interesting. Consumers tell us the ‘making-of’ stories help them enjoy the movie even more.”
Jan Parkinson has written and produced all 50 projects. Mark McCone, George Greb, Craig Brown and Greg Light of Substation K were video editors. From Wheeler Audio, Jim Wheeler, Jim Schrader and Don James were audio engineers.
Work will begin shortly on production number 51, “The Making of Pictures of Hollis Woods.” The movie, which stars Sissy Spacek and Alfre Woodard, will air this fall on CBS.
The Hallmark Hall of Fame DVDs are available exclusively at Hallmark Gold Crown stores and on the internet at Hallmark.com.
Kansas City Star - August 20, 2007
When Brad Brzon of Advertising@Large was tapped to create a TV spot for the recently opened National World War I Museum, he wasn’t sure how to script it. So instead, he decided to wing it — to a degree.
“We did the spot on a budget, a really tight budget,” said Brzon. “And we did it in kind of an unusual way in that we didn’t go in with an exact storyboard but instead got together with the director and others and took a lot of input from them.”
The Ralph Appelbaum-designed museum has opened to mostly rave reviews, in both the national and international press.
As my colleague Matt Campbell wrote in a Nov. 26 story in The Kansas City Star: “The challenge was to convey the relevance of a war fought from 1914 to 1918 to today’s world. How do you remind people that the war largely defined the rest of the 20th century and redrew the world map in ways that we are still dealing with in Iraq?”
Bill Patterson of Nation Ranch Marketing has been involved with developing a marketing communications plan for the year, as well as a marketing plan for group tours, while media planner/buyer Paula Holmquist has worked on placing and buying the media.
The Advertising@Large spot is currently running on KMBC, WDAF and KCPT, as well as the History, Lifetime and Family cable channels.
Giving their time, talents and equipment at cost to the effort were T2 and Wheeler Audio.
“Jim Wheeler (of Wheeler Audio) had such a blast with all the sound effects, I think I could have probably convinced him to pay me to do it,” Brzon said.
Screen Magazine - 7/30/2007
This summer, there’s no slowing down for Kansas City-based Wheeler Audio, which has been rolling out some interesting and varied work recently – namely sound design jobs for Houlihan’s Restaurant chain, the Kansas City Symphony and the World War I Museum. This year also marks Wheeler Audio’s 20th year in business. With so much going on at the company, let’s cut right to the chase.
If you read SCREEN Magazine, chances are you’ve probably played the popular drinking game “I Never,” where you must admit to having done something devious by taking a drink. If you truly did not do said deed, then you don’t take a drink, but really, where’s the fun in that? Wheeler Audio engineer Jessica Levin worked on sound design for an interactive online version of “I Never” for the restaurant chain Houlihan’s.
According to Levin, Houlihan’s is trying to promote its Monday night specials by using the game to draw customers into the restaurants to play with real drinks. “My assignment was to make each sound different and fun,” she says.
“I looked over the website and went through some specifics with the team at [Kansas City agency] Sullivan Higdon & Sink,” notes Levin. “Each drink button wanted a different sound effect – the wine has a cork popping, the martini has a shaking noise, etc. I added ambient background noise for the restaurant and the occasional laugh or giggling sounds to add personality to the scene.”
On the site, players can create their own “I Never” games and invite their friends or they can join in on others’ games. On a less alcoholic but still noteworthy note, Wheeler Audio worked on an orchestral piece performed by the Kansas City Symphony as a tribute to outgoing mayor Kay Barnes, who was instrumental in major rehabilitation projects going on in Kansas City.
The project was slated to be a video piece of the symphony performing a special arrangement of “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein composition from “Oklahoma.” The actual performance was shot by local directors John Altman and Aimee Larrabee and the sound was recorded by Boston audio company Sound Mirror. Wheeler Audio was recruited to do the final audio mix to picture.
“[Sound Mirror] basically did a 16-track digital [recording],” explains owner and sound designer Jim Wheeler. “I got the files from them and was able to create a mix where I actually had control over the woodwinds versus the brass versus the percussion versus the strings. I had pretty good isolation on all those sections, and then I got the video after it had been edited.”
The visuals were cut by Jim Holopter at Take Two. “[They] brought over the video and then I conformed the Sound Mirror tracks up against that, synced it up and then did the mix,” says Wheeler. “Every time we’re doing b-roll cutaways of the piccolo, the piccolo steps forward in the mix. It was a nice little piece, so that was a fun deal.”
In addition to the online game and the symphony mix, Wheeler Audio also recently completed sound design on a spot for the National World War One Museum. According to Wheeler, the museum, which is the only one of its kind in the nation, opened this past Memorial Day after a re-dedication of the Liberty Memorial, which has been a Kansas City landmark since just after WWI.
“I went to the re-dedication because I live in Midtown and I like getting involved in local stuff,” Wheeler says. “I think the initial dedication of the memorial was the only time ever that all the generals got together. There’s a lot of history about it...so it’s a big deal here and it’s [about] three blocks from the Crossroads area where our studio is and Take Two is.”
The 30-second spot is a re-enactment of a WWI battle scene compiled from archival footage provided by the museum. Wheeler says the spot was a huge job for which he “was sound designing my ass off.”
The spot pulls back from a WWI scene to reveal an interactive console, which visitors to the museum are using to learn about the war. At the end, a ghostly image of a WWI soldier appears amid a crowd of visitors and roams about the museum while the voiceover says, “Experience. Learn. Honor. Through the eyes of those who lived it.”
“I think that the museum is doing really well,” Wheeler says, then laughs, “I mean, that’s the only TV spot they’ve produced, so it’s got to be the ad, doesn’t it?”