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Check Out Cliff Matheson’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cliff Matheson. He and his team share their story with us below:

We are a firm of seven experienced videographers and four talented editors. It is our full-time profession and our living depends on our continued success. There are many part-timers and “run ‘n gun” videographers – unfortunately only a few can truly call themselves “professional.” Consider us if you want to be sure we will create a great movie even under difficult lighting or audio conditions. That is where the less experienced falter. We use “state of the art” digital camera and audio equipment and expertise to capture the images and audio. Come for a no-obligation studio appointment or call to discuss your needs over the phone…

Established in 1991.

Our firm originally started out in print communications – we were newsletter publishers, foreign correspondents, and photojournalists. In 2001, we first became interested in video production. In 2004, we sold our print communications interests to concentrate on what we loved – videography. Since then, this has been our full-time profession.

Cliff Matheson started out in engineering but while he enjoyed many of the technical aspects, he soon found he preferred people to machines. This led to more than a decade in print communications and being a foreign correspondent. In 2001, he became interested in video communications, bought equipment, hired a producer and mentor, and offered his service to news bureaus. He then sold the print aspects of the business. Social videography (weddings, mitzvahs, etc.) was soon added and the business grew into a well-regarded videography firm in the Washington, D.C. area.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Potential clients need education about what videography entails. This helps build an understanding of pricing and other considerations. They might see you on-site or on set for just an hour or two but have no idea that post-production Editing is a pain-staking process and little understood by clients. Even making a small change can result in several hours of computer time. In our industry groups, there are plenty of arrogant videographers who constantly preach: “charge them!” and “make them pay!” While I agree we have to make a living, we generally are respectful to client’s wishes and will do whatever it takes to ensure a satisfied customer. When we feel an extra charge is needed, our clients are usually okay with this.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Besides wedding and event videography, niche clients have found us to be reliable, willing to understand their specific cultural needs, and willing to go the distance. We are the go-to videographers for the little known but very significant Indian Classical Dance videos. Every Indian child whose parents want them to have a solid knowledge of their culture and religion will start Classical Dance training at the young age of about 3 or 4 with a Guru (a dance teacher) in one of the 9 Classical Dance Forms. The most popular in our area are Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Odissi, The training takes about 12 years and most children are considered fully trained and ready to ascend to the stage around the time they finish high school. This is an occasion where the dancer dances for about 2.5 hours on a proper theater stage with a 5 or 6 person live orchestra and an audience of family and friends (even dad’s business associates) – typically 300 to 400 people. The dance usually takes the form of a Hindu bible story or multiple stories (sort of an opera) and some people call it the “graduation dance”. After this event, the dancer is considered professional and this is just the beginning of their dance careers. Most students go on to university and study medicine, science or law. Learning this dance has been an intensive exercise in learning how to multi-task because school work, homework, social activities, sports and music is also part of the dancer’s young life. With the pandemic, most events do not have audiences therefore our “live-streaming” services have are in great demand. We have two live-streaming equipment sets and take great care to set them up and test them thoroughly before going live. Usually, we directly stream to Facebook or YouTube live but sometimes when interaction with the audience is needed or where multiple people in different locations need to be on-camera, then we use Zoom.

Another niche that I have captured is filming military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. It takes a while to learn all the rules and proper protocol but I have now delivered about 300 quality videos to the families of the deceased who were buried with honors at the cemetery. I usually meet the family at the administration building, then follow the convoy of cars to the burial site or transfer point depending on the level of service. The chaplain controls the service, the firing party does the 21-gun salute followed by a trumpeter playing TAPS, then the flag is folded in a special procedure and presented to the next-of-kin. Luckily, most of the funerals that I have video’d have been for soldiers or former soldiers that have had full lives. Only occasionally I have had to video a ceremony for a young person killed in Iraq and had their whole life cut short. Still they get the full honors for their dedicated service. There is lots more I can say on this subject.

Another niche is “industrial training videos”. Some of the newly constructed buildings, court-houses, even WSSC industrial facilities, have hired us to make videos on various aspects such as maintenance, repairs, operation, etc. of their installed equipment and systems e.g. fire suppression, HVAC, electrical systems, even carbon monoxide warning systems. We usually video the visiting trainers from the various trades while they are conducting on-site sessions for the permanent staff. Our client is usually the general contractor or sub-contractor. In the future, new employees can simply watch the videos as part of their induction training. We even had to make a video for a successful restaurant chain so that new employees can familiarize themselves with the company’s business philosophy and procedures.

I enjoy the diversity that videography gives me – I meet and get to know people in very diverse situations. I video nutrition and cultural programs in poor South East D.C. elementary schools. Few kids have nuclear families and even fewer have tasted real nutritious foods – they only know fast food or factory processed meals. Drive-by shootings are a daily occurrence in those neighborhoods. My work takes me there about once a month.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
I started out by understudying a broadcast TV veteran, working with him or checking in with him almost daily for a few years. I also joined a few industry groups and associations – helpful to learn from others to network and discover new procedures and equipment. I did take all the photography courses at the local community college and this was helpful in the understanding of composition, lighting, exposure control, and camera work albeit still cameras. I had already been in print communications for a number of years so I had some experience in story-telling. Nowadays, it is possible to take classes in video production and editing at the local community college or at a public TV entity .e.g. in our area, we have Montgomery Community Television. Website: https://www.mymcmedia.org/training/upcoming-classes-2/

Volunteering is also a way to get some real experience. For example, early on, I volunteered to do a series of short interviews with elderly patrons at two retirement homes. Each was allowed to speak on-camera for up to 3 minutes on a subject of their choice. Most were in their 80s but some were in their 90s. Many spoke about the aftermath of WW2 and the need to get married and get on with their lives. So some described their courtship, others talked about their careers or hobbies. It was an eye-opening experience for me. After the videos were edited, I went back to the facility and we had a “movie afternoon” along with some tea and cookies. The people found it therapeutic to reflect on their lives in this way and to share their stories with their fellow residents.

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