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THE TOURING MACHINE;JUST FOR CLICKS: A WHIRLWIND WEB JAUNT THROUGH POST AND PRODUCTION

By Published on .

A Web site: a cheap ongoing global advertising opportunity, and, for many surfers, the first impression they'll have of your company. Now that just about every production house, post house, music/sound house and anyone else you might find on the commercials services block has a Web site or is contemplating one, just what kind of first impressions are they making? Well, like anything else in cyberspace, it varies wildly. On a scale of 1 to 5.

1/33 Productions

(www.one33.com)

Designed by Red Rover Media. Nice open, 1/33 logo. It's got a circuitry background like you can get as Mac wallpaper, but the design is not bad. Directors, Reps, Info clicks. Click on Gary Weis, get a bio in not terribly easy to read gold type on a different greenish circuitry background, but it's a big bio, written like a magazine profile. Good idea. There are frames and credits, nothing clickable, then there's a clip from the Times ad column about Weis' Alliance campaign for Ferrell Calvillo. Pretty good director's page, and at the bottom are the three regional reps with clickable e-mail addresses. Go to About 1/33, get a brief statement on the formation of the company, then bios of the producers. Thorough, professional, well-written.

525 Postproduction (www.525post.com)

White home page, modest logo, series of icons arranged like a totem pole. Contacts page has e-mail addresses for everyone in the company, neatly arranged by department. Very helpful for stalkers. The editors, colorists and effects artists are all clickable for a credits list, and some of the projects are in turn clickable. No pics of people, it's all elegant, well-organized, clean type. The company bio informs that they're owned by the Virgin Group; several Virgin links. Gallery page offers clicks for sample reels or projects. Again, elegant, restrained design, no animations. Reels page offers a long QuickTime download. Projects page features frames and credits for jobs, including Madonna and Michael and Janet Jackson videos, both posted at 525. Site is very well-designed, though there are no hooks to get you back. How To page is a movie, takes 23 minutes to download, not clear what it is. Public Relations page includes clips from the trade magazines, plus press releases and awards. Thorough, with classy, appealing design throughout.

Big Fish Films

(www.bigfish.net)

Colorful but slightly tacky home page with a nice fish logo, but all the directors, producers and reps, even the receptionist, are thrown haphazardly on the page as hypertext links. Try Gordon Willis; pic, brief bio. The Fish Currents page is about who's got what upcoming job. Fish Tales is a company newsletter, nice layout, vignetted photos. Belaboring the fish motif, they have a Big Fish Club, in which you send in a pic of someone holding a big fish, and they send you a T-shirt. Can't catch any downloads. Has a real community center feel, but there's no square dancing.

Click 3X

(www.click3x.com)

A Media Circus project. Home page has a graphic that looks sort of like a piano with concentric circles over the keyboard, lines of force or something jerking to the right. Up in the right corner is a .gif animation of bowling pins or shoes rotating clockwise. Dizzyingly horrendous. Choices: CGI; Cel; SFX/compositing; Editorial; Design. A click on CGI pops up a color frame from a Spectricide spot right over the concentric circles along with a cropped b&w photo showing the eyes of the animation director, Jaime Houk. She's staring at me. Clicking on her pic goes to a quote of hers about the spot with the same pic of her eyes. She's still staring. On the left is narrow blue type with a scroll bar that describes the project. Not easy to read, but a nice touch, it looks good. There's a Morse Code beeping sound that accompanies the appearance of the frame. Or I might have tinnitus. This is how it works for all the categories. Thorough, well-organized, nice design but for the motion elements. QuickTime movies are coming soon.

Coliseum Pictures

(www.coliseumpictures.com)

A New Orleans effects company. First screen is a piece of 3-D art that looks like a torture device, something the twins would use in Dead Ringers. Nice. The next screen is built around three frames, The Spots, The Tools, The Talent. Spots is a list of eight with little frames and client/agency/production credits, nicely arranged. One spot is clickable, Iberia Airlines, it's a four-frame explantion of a compositing job. There's also a click on the Spots page called How We Did It that leads to an elaborate page with many frames explaining how they did their futuristic New Orleans skyline for the reel open. This is clever, since it makes you want to see the open, hence order the reel. The Tools page has the usual equipment rundown with nice interior and exterior shots of the facility, located in the historic Coliseum Theater, an Art-Deco wonder, apparently. Talent page is simple, witty and engaging. Five people, no pics, all ID'd by turnons and turnoffs. Sample: "Jim Land, digital editing and compositing supervisor. Turnons: 1's, clean blue (or green), outside. Turnoffs: 0's, entropy, diet anything." In the vacuum of cyberspace, a little humor goes a long way. Pretty good site for a regional company.

DesignEFX

(www.designefx.com)

An Atlanta-based effects house. Nice graphics, nice icons, subtle pastels, everything's a little faint, understated. Go to the Lounge, they have a page of links to other post houses, in a spirit of industry camaraderie. Loads of links also to global TV sites and international art museums. Great idea, bookmarkable. There's a company bio page, a convenient page with all the staff with clickable e-mail addresses. Go to the Ad Portfolio, a bunch of spots with clickable frames. Try a NAPA spot, get a 2-minute download that's a slideshow of the spot, like a moving photoboard. Go to Awards page, a column of about a dozen spots with credits, all with clickable frames, same slideshow effects. Impressive.

Dick Orkin's Radio Ranch

(www.radio-ranch.com)

Seems like Orkin's opened a Cyberspace Ranch. Vintage fruit crate art for the logo, a galloping horse named Bradley that takes you on a tour of the site, downloads like True Speech and Powwow. The Powwow link goes to Tribal Voice, the Powwow page. It's an Internet program that allows up to seven people to chat, send and receive files and cruise the Web together as a group. Orkin holds live-chat powwows on the first and third Saturday of every month from 10-11 a.m. Is this guy Johnny Mnemonic, or what? Take the tour. First comes Meet the Radio Rangers, pics and funny quotes. Next is a spot library, playable in True Speech, which you can download from the True Speech link. Next: Out in the Field; Orkin gives speeches to ad clubs, etc., a rundown of his upcoming slate. Then: Talks and Workshops, they've got all sorts of ancillary businesses here. Pages are nicely designed, easy to read black type on white, all linked by the running horse, which is not annoying, as moving images go. Orkin also sells a Chickenmania cassette and booklet for $14.95., all about his old Chicken Man character from a Chicago radio program. There's an Orkin bio, and he also sells a VO seminar on cassettes with notebook for $89.95. Then there's a contest in which you have to complete a real spot for the Earth Communications Office. Something about water pollution involving a baby. There are even radio/advertising links. Great site, engaging, well organized, a sense of humor, it's got hooks, it's got everything except kiddie porn.

Digital Domain

(www.d2.com)

The home page doesn't exactly pop you in the eyes like Linda Hamilton's biceps in T2. The site was last modified July 14, which is as ancient as Bastille Day in cybertime. The title graphic is totally underwhelming, the page is a lot of plain text with blue hypertext on a gray background. Near the bottom of the page is one of those multiclick pics. Click on a Venice poster and go to a page that's about Venice, Calif. On that page is another mapped pic, a swirling collage. Click on a cow and get a mapping server error. Click on two other things with the same result. Click on Cool Images back on the home page, and get a DD What We've Done page with links to spots and a 790k QT movie called Shred. Is this a film of Schwarzenegger when he was ripped? It's all kind of a letdown, like those undersea butterflies in The Abyss.

Editing Concepts

(www.editcom.com)

These guys are pretty cybersavvy; their Nov. 7 loft party was cybercasted live. I could've had a virtual drink. Home page: Well, this is different. Faint blue largish type running Suckish in a centered column on a white background, poetry-like, with links embedded. Visitor 1,603. Try the Concept Inspirationator, which is a search engine attached to Roget's thesaurus and Webster's dictionary. Then, a game: Can You Find the Afflictive Tooth? An X-ray of a skull, one tooth is linked to three flashing company logos and "Ahhhh, thank you." The point is painless editing. This could be extracted. Next, the Colorbot Color Harmonizer/Discorder, inspired by Goethe, Albers and Duchamp. Six different Colorbots, which are a series of rectangular panels of varying widths with solid blocks of color that change at random intervals. Mesmerizing color juxtapositions. Nice idea, kind of fun. The Goethe link is a brief explanation of his theory of color. The Duchamp link goes to what looks like a great site called Encounter with Marcel Du-champ. Bookmark for later. Sounds link is called Grooves, very striking Op Artish background, two QT movies offer dance grooves. Last link is Download Edit Decision Lists. Not quite sure what it's about, too dizzy from the Colorbots to ponder it. Haven't seen any bios or a guide to the facility. Never mind, site has artistic appeal.

Filmcore

(www.filmcore.com)

Really tacky home page, the kind of Las Vegas logo treatment you'd expect on a porn site. Very dumb red mailbox above the e-mail link with a white letter flying into it, like Sisyphus needs a stamp. Enough to make anyone go post office. Go to Editorial; blue words click to Nonlinear Offline Editing and Computer Graphics, plus snail mail addresses and a click on 10 Reasons to Post at Filmcore. Amateur design. The Editing page has a graphic that is supposed to resemble the studio, I guess, with two monitors flashing screens of static that blink with a Filmcore test pattern. Yuck. The dreadful type at the the top says "High-tech stuff we've got," then lists some Avids. The only click is a graphics bay, which goes to a wretched flying logo for Vons and a sign that says "59 cent corn dog special." Click on the Vons logo and for some reason you get an all-text list of the editors on the reel. Time to walk the corn dog.

Michael Whalen Music

(www.mwmusic.com)

Elegant home page, credited to Spout Multimedia, a division of Michael Whalen Music. B&w photo of Whalen, a halved face on white background. Shocked icons at bottom, nothing moving, thankfully. Go to bio, easy to read black type on white, photo of him, composer/produ cer/sound de-signer, very nice but for the excessive use of the word Michael. Click for Shockwave version with streaming audio. Nonshock version coming soon. Go to recordings; nice graphic, nice use of dissolves, selections from his music, good sound quality. Go to Beeps, in which Whalen offers alert sounds for Mac and Windows. Nice-looking page with a yellow fish jumping into a pail of water. Low on the annoyance scale, it's called the Beep Pool. Download the two Mac packages; page says new beep sounds will periodically be added, hence a hook to get you to come back. Good idea, and the alert sounds are fun. Try Games icon; games are coming soon. Another reason to come back.

Pacific Data Images

(www.pdi.com)

So-so graphic of astronauts looking at click choices in circles among the stars. Not exactly thrilling for a big CGI house. Nothing's moving, at least. Choices: Employment Opportunities, Screening Room, Experts at PDI, Window on PDI, How Did They do That? The last yields Plymouth Neon, Pillsbury Doughboy and All detergent jobs. The choice bar at the bottom is in the form of a very tacky piece of sprocketed film. A click for the Doughboy gets a nearly empty page with a Doughboy pic and a link that goes to a Character Animation page, which consists of three pics and no links. The pics are so far apart it looks like things are missing. It's so black here it could be outer space, can't tell. Time for the Screening Room. Design is wanting. Images and QuickTimes on features, commercials, short films and special projects are offered. Something called Takara Jun "Legend" yields another naked, empty page with one pic of a CGI dragon. It's not downloadable, no explanation of the project, nothing. Hall's "Penguins" offers a QuickTime clip. Let's try Experts at PDI. Six choices, try R&D. A giant field of black with two pics on it, one an Asian woman looking at a tiny polar bear, one a screen shot of some modeling program. That's it, no explanation, The pics are about 20 feet apart on this page, there's a mile of pure black between them, I'm looking for Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 to float by. Maybe it's under construction.

Pacific Ocean Post

(www.pacopost.com)

Decent home page, white background. Try Video Images, then Work and get a plain list of online editing, beginning with commercials, then music videos and so on. It's a very long list indeed, though some spots are credited to other post houses, which is a bit confusing. Go to Film, they tell me they worked on Independence Day, there's a link to it. Pass, try Pop Sound, get some explanatory text and a studio pic, then try Sound People and get a list of people and titles, some clickable. Try Mitch Dorf, get a credit list, easy to read largish type, brown on a parchment background, nice, and three pics of album covers for Leading Credits which are themselves clickable. Good site for a post house, very thorough.

Post Perfect

(www.postperfect.com)

Nice comic book-style opening that incorporates a Nam June Paik robot that is found in their lobby. Site is Shocked, a bunch of annoying blinking lights and dials. A folksy personal message from president Dean Winkler. Very nice gallery with stills from commercials, four QuickTime movies and a Steal This Art section with three OK images by Don Butler, who we're told is presently a compositor at ILM. An interesting tour of the Daily News Building. Looks to be very thorough, but a heavily Shocked, very busy slow loader.

Red Car

(www.redcar.com)

The familiar Red Car logo in b&w on dull gray background, dull type design with clickable offices in blue, icons on the left: What's New; About Us; Plug-ins; E-mail; Cool Sites, ho-hum. Go to What's New, standard gig info. Go to Plug-ins, they offer links for Shockwave, Real Audio, Xing and VDO Live, the latter two are for real-time video downloads, apparently. Well, I have Shock and Real Audio, where do they apply on this site? Go to About Us, a perfunctory mini bio of the company. The Cool Sites link page is kinda skimpy. Don't see any frames, downloads, bios of employees or anything to hold my interest.

Red Chili Solstice Films

(www.redchili.com)

Great logo on a sort of red parched-earth background. A Utah company, offices in Salt Lake and Park City. A big pic of jalapeno peppers, a recipe metaphor and pepper icons for all the links. The company bio link is clear and cogent, explaining why they opened in Utah (the skiing had something to do with it), with a Utah Film Commission link. Their logo has an ingenious pair of eyeglasses with three lenses, as if their third eye is farsighted. There are clicks for all directors with bios and client lists. The Chili Gallery isn't frames from spots or QT movies, it's loads of pics of chilis, sitting next to rulers like they were in a police lineup. There's something very endearing about this, even if you don't like hot food.

R/GA

(www.rga.com)

Black field, b&w eye bisected with pointers that point to nothing in particular. Clickable concepts in red type and a 3-D-ish mechanical chicken that puffs up and down like a bellows creature. Weird bird, nice touch. Click on the chicken, go to a page about Gearheads, the CGI videogame R/GA did for Philips. Downloadable demos are offered. Digital Vision page: a tiny mission statement and company history. Design is not remarkable. The About This Site page is a comedy. I'm visitor 1 since the site was launched several weeks in the future. Ha-ha. Otherwise, the usual departments. The Behind the Scenes section has a five-frame breakdown of the Shell "Dancing Cars" spot, for instance.

San Francisco Production Group

(www.sfpg.com)

Pretty good home page, icons are details of art images. Humans, for example, which is the people link, is a Lichtenstein face. Great people page with pics and joke bios, some very funny. For instance: "Ron Colbert, senior editor. A widely circulated story says that Ron was the editor on Birth of a Nation. Untrue, he says. He only assisted." Click on Ron's pic (he doesn't look that old), get a real bio of some depth and a looping slideshow of portraits. All the jobs are clickable, i.e. linked to their own sites. Go to Commercials, get a big writeup on a Riney Black Star beer campaign. A Sony Playstation job has great details and a 3.3 meg QT movie, similar for a GM Goodwrench job. Clean, easy to read, unpretentious graphics, well-written, a sense of humor.

Swell

(www.swellmedia.com)

Big red word balloon with the Swell logo in it. Or the balloon is the logo? A different cast to some of the choices: Creativity, Philosophy, Environment, Technology. Creativity page opens with a quote from Jung: "There is no coming to consciousness without pain." He had a hangover that day. Several QuickTimes, not clear for what. Spots? Philosophy page has a quote from Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Bob Dole, take note. Technology doesn't have a quote. All Swell departments go to this page. Whole site is on that standard-issue gray background. It's all a bit drab. Nothing jerking around, at least, and the literary touches are nice.

Tape House Digital

(www.tapehouse.com)

By Pie Design. Zen-simple home page with Tape House house logo in black on white. Click on that and get a b&w photo of someone running on the beach in a black robe cut across the middle like a Hockney. "Expect the Unusual." Next page are word links done as a sort of collage as if painted on a wall in the street. Nice. Go to Editorial, get an artsy page with frames, which leads to a list of services and tools and an e-mail link to John Dowdell, along with other contacts. Go to Ink & Paint. Artsy shots of mannequin heads and a poem that starts, "Remember the flat land where characters first lived?" At bottom is a box of popcorn with kernels popping out, not clickable. A click on Ink & Paint gets a similar list of services. Click on Interactive, get another artsy page with a film frame with a poem on it called "Cathedral." Not easy to read, but different. Very handsome site. Doesn't seem to be any bio info on principals, but never mind. I want to write a digital haiku.

Telezign

(www.telezign.com)

Pretty cool graphics on lime green background, flashing behind the Z in Telezign is not annoying. Click on what looks like a discus with a red H in it, turns out it's like a film winder window. Go to TV Broadcast and Design, download a 198k QT movie, a little trailer type thing, the counter now reads 2. Graphics are cool but clean, not cluttered. Nothing else clicks. Back to home, only place you can click on the categories, apparently, go to Commercials, same setup with a frame for a QT movie, the counter now reads 3. Go to New Media, there's a list of new media areas-Web, intranet, CD-ROM, kiosks, audio/video editing-but these are not clickable, just a list. Another short QT movie offered, it's an apple on a stool spinning around with a Telezign logo. Why? Site is real terse and underinformative, but the graphics are great eye candy. Seems to be all there

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