High Sierra



Call it optimism or just plan naiveté, but I expect every project that comes out of Monarch to explode with passion and energy. Looking through our archives the truth is, that’s just not the case. Although we put all of our time, resources, and energy into developing projects that are inspiring, sometimes we fall short. (Doesn’t sound like much of a sales pitch does it?)

On the other hand, sometimes we take on a project when we don’t have the time, energy, and resources that we need to pull off something earth shattering. Sometimes, stripped of the usual due diligence that the Monarch team dedicates to a project, a story just tells itself. Although it’s not earth shattering, High Sierra (a video piece we just rolled out) is one of those stories. High Sierra is the name of a bluegrass song, a band in southern Indiana, and a video piece that reminded me that stories are more important than the tools that we use to tell them.

When I see the pictures that were taken the day we shot this piece, I think of one thing…COLD! I was not dressed for the occasion and the cold was only one of the aspects for which I didn’t feel prepared.

The Monarch crew for this job included Tj Lewis (producer and camera operator), Eric Rudd (audio engineer), Dhruv Shankar (production assistant and camera operator), and myself (worrier and frozen grip). I’ve seen these three guys produce some amazing things throughout Monarch’s time in the industry. They did a great job on this project shooting, directing, mixing, editing and not freezing. In this case, what they did best was let the story tell itself. I’m so thankful for the talents of our Monarch crews and for their due diligence in producing fantastic media. I’m also thankful for their understanding of the power of story and their willingness to step out of the way this time to just let High Sierra be.

It’s simple, endearing, and gives a quick glimpse into the lives and talents of some of my newest friends.

Thanks to the band for their art, their patience with Monarch, and for sharing High Sierra.

Watch the quick promotional piece here:

Learn more about High Sierra here:

Utilizing and Leveraging Innovation to Drive Disruption in our Industry


What do these words even mean?  And, why do we feel like we have to insert them into every sentence about what our companies are doing?  Are these really the words that we mean to use?  Or, are there other words that carry more meaning that might be a better choice?

We are in the middle of the Mission Main Street Grants process and trying to secure enough votes to move to the next round.  I’ve been out looking at many of the other applicants company descriptions, and many of them are saying the same thing, just insert yarn shop, food truck, or software company somewhere in their description.  Other than that, many of the applications use these same words to describe their businesses.  Unfortunately, I have to admit that we are a little guilty of this as well.  The trouble is, we’re all trying to separate ourselves as unique and deserving of this grant, and in doing so we all become exactly the same.  We’re unable to tell one company from the next because we’re all trying to pander to what we think the panelists are looking for.  So, in an effort to separate ourselves from the thousands of others, we end up homogenizing.

How do we fix this?  I think the only solution is to be real, and say what you mean, not what you think other people want to hear.   The proliferation of a global economy is making it harder and harder to stand out from the crowd.  Using the same language as everyone else will not aid your cause.  So, we are challenging ourselves, and we challenge you, to think differently, perhaps more honestly, about who you are and how you talk about yourselves.  We’re hoping this way of thinking allows us to stand out as a company that is constantly striving to engage our clients in the creation of proactive, not reactive, creative marketing to achieve sustainable, scalable results by leveraging the collective talent within the organization.  That’s what we’re all really after, right?



TJ Lewis


TJ Lewis has thought more about lye soap than the average person. He believes it is socially irresponsible to ride a bike without the aid of training wheels and won’t even consider riding in a vehicle without airbags.

Stay Organized with a Simple File Structure for Video Projects

Let me start by saying that this is a file structure that I use as a base for every project that we have. Does that mean it fits every project perfectly? Of course not. But, it’s a start. And, as trivial as it sounds, having a system and keeping it consistent from one project to the next is one of the first things that we try to teach anybody that works on any of our projects. It can mean the difference between a successful project and failed project. Anyone that has worked in the field long enough can tell you how frustrating it is to lose a file, or to go back to a project after a long period of time and not have any clue what you’re looking at or looking for. So, Let’s start by looking at the File Structure in Alphabetical order.

Video Project Data Organization

Video Project Data Organization

Project Folder Template

So, it may not be entirely obvious, but you’re supposed to rename this.  I recommend something that will not change throughout the duration of the project.   Inside this folder, you should only put other folders.  Any files put into this first directory will just complicate everything, so find another folder within this folder to put it.

After Effects 

As you can see, I prefer, where possible, to open a folder and only find more folders until we get things split up enough.  So inside of the After Effects folder you will find two more folders.  One for the .ae files that you will have, and another for any exported render files you may need.  These renders are only for files coming out of After Effects.  All Asset files should be coming from one of your other folders.


Again, inside the “Audio” Folder there are only folders.  All audio files can be split into further categories.  I start with these three:  Music, SFX (Sound Effects), and VO (Voice Over).  You can add more folders as you see fit but these work for me most of the time.


Any time I export a draft of a video I add a folder to the Exports folder with that days date. If I have multiple Sub Projects within a project, I will add them here and put dated folders inside those, (Exports >Sub_Project>dd-mm-yyyy) If I have multiple drafts within the same day, I just add a version suffix to the file name (filename_v2, filename_v3).


Again, you’ll notice a theme, use folders to separate data into the smallest portions possible to make it easier to find things later.  I will separate my cards by whatever time periods make sense for that day, If I’m shooting an event I may separate by  AM and PM.  I also like to label my cards by camera.  So Inside of Footage>Monday_dd-mm-yyyy (I am flexible on how I name my folders here, use whatever works for you.  Day 1, Monday, the date, whatever’s easiest for your brain.)  I might have a folder for c300 Card 1, C300 Card 2, 5D mk3 Card 1, 6D Card 1.  Then you can put all of your card contents into the corresponding folder.


If I don’t have a lot of graphics, sometimes I don’t bother adding folders to this folder.  It completely depends on the project.  If I know it’s going to be heavy I’ll split them into PSDs and jogs_pngs, so that I have editable files along with their exports in separate folders.


Pretty self explanatory, but I use this folder for pretty much anything that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else.  You might find scripts, storyboards, powerpoint files, log notes, etc.


In this folder, you can add whatever folders you feel necessary.  I often will put in a folder for “scouting”, “production”, “stock”, or whatever else I need.  If you end up with a lot of photos from a shoot, you might separate them by day as well.

Premiere (Or Final Cut, or Edius, Or Vegas, Or whatever else is out there)

This is the folder I point Premiere to when I start a project, so it will create it’s file structure within that folder.

The Big Ending

So, my general rule is where possible I like to open a folder and see more folders, all the way to the point where you can’t sort any further.  I also go so far as to make sure where possible that I don’t open a folder to find a directory with both folders and files intermingling.  That’s just confusing.   The only exception is my “Premiere” Folder.  Because of the way that Premiere sets up it’s folders, when you open the Premiere folder you will see a couple of auto-generated folders along with the project file.  That can’t be helped.  I can’t stress enough that this is just a base structure.  This, along with the rules of thumb I’ve given you here will help you keep your stuff organized and easy to find.

One Last point of SUPER IMPORTANCE

One thing that cannot be stressed enough is that you should ALWAYS (always) put any assets that you are using for a project within this folder structure.  It may be tempting to download a file and drag into your project from the downloads folder because you’re in a hurry and you just want to see what it looks like.  That’s fine, until a few weeks go by, and it turns out you’re keeping that file in your project and it seems like a good time to purge your downloads folder – DELETED!  Now, best case scenario you have to go find that file and download it again and relink it.  Worst case, it’s gone forever and now what are you going to do?  So, just keep your project all nice and bundled together and if you move the folder everything moves together and nothing gets lost.

Unfortunately, most of the pet peeves I have developed when it comes to this come from mistakes I, myself, have made in the past.  I’m honored to have learned the hard way so you don’t have to.  If you have any questions please leave them in the comments.




Why business travel is NOT glamorous

Before I start, you should know that I’m not complaining. It’s not something I do, but I did want to dispel some myths and perceptions that I see. [Read more…]

Spicy food, dirty looks, and show tunes – Monarch’s unforgettable lesson about a common denomintor of success.

Approximately 100,000 people die in America every year from Healthcare Aquirred infections.  You read that right…. 100,000 hospital and nursing home patients look to American healthcare facilities for help and end up dying from an infection that usually has nothing to do with the reason they were in the hospital in the first place.  Monarch had the honor of working with Clorox, and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC), to inspire healthcare workers to drastically reduce those numbers.  In the process of developing three case-studies of hospitals that have taken drastic and creative measures to reduce those infections, the Monarch crew visited three very different health care faciliites in three very different cities. [Read more…]

Pro/ Con Bono

No I’m not talking about another one of Sonny and Sher’s kids….I’m talking about the question that every creative organization or individual will hear at some point during their career….the pro bono question.  Will you do what other people pay you to do, for nothing?  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a major non-profit group or your aunt Jean’s sister’s daughter’s father-in-laws third wedding, at some point you are going to be ask to spend your time, energy, talent, and other resources to provide the same quality of art you normally provide for no money.  It sounds really bad when I say it that way doesn’t it?

My first reaction to that sentence is explosive.  I feel a need to protect the value of the talent and resources that Monarch has worked so hard to aqquire.  It also makes me feel defensive about the value of art in our culture in general.  The truth is, it sometimes seems like an uphill battle to get our clients to understand the worth of our services anyway.  Doing it for free may only give more fuel to their fire.  My attitude changes drastically when the cause it right.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington was one of those causes for Monarch.  Not only is the club operated by selfless people who have become my good friends, it has impacted the culture in Bloomington in profound ways.  As I walked into the club to talk with it’s leadership about the possibility of creating a video piece to be used as a fundraising tool, I was immediately hit by the impact the club has had on me personally.  I could get sappy and emotional talking about the way that the Boys and Girls club (then just the Boys Club) helped to shape my understanding of sports, teamwork, and friendships, but this blog isn’t about the Boys and Girls Club.  The project that Monarch created for the Boys and Girls club of Bloomington is an anomoly among many attempts to use Monarch’s resources to contribute to the effort of a not-for-profit organization.  I believe there are some take aways from this experience that I will use to assess future opportunites to donate our services and I thought I would share them with anyone else who may be contemplating helping an orgainization in this way.

1.  Get buy-in from your entire crew:

In the past i’ve found myself annoucing to my crew that we aren’t getting paid for a project while on site, or on the way to the shoot.  Before this project, I sat down with the guys and we made the decision together.  From the beginning it felt like something we could all “buy in to” and it really made a difference.

2.  Do the project on your terms as much as possible:

We dictated the equipment to be used and the timeline for the project.  This allowed me to fit the project in to a schedule that was booked with paying clients.  If the leadership of the non-profit pushes back about you doing the project on your terms, it may be time to find another project.

3.  Don’t take a small percentage of what you would normally charge:

Either donate or don’t donate!  This was huge for us on this project project.  The recognition and free publicity that Monarch got for donating to the Boy’s and Girls club was worth a lot more than the $500 that we may have charged them just to recoup some of the costs.

4.  Don’t forget the tax deduction:

It’s easy to blow this off, but it’s important for everyone involved to see the financials involved in the project.  Send the client a proposal for the project and an invoice….then mark it paid by donation from your company.  It feels good for everyone and it validates the work that you’ve done.  You haven’t simply done a free project….you’ve donated an expensive project.


These are just a few of the take aways that I got from this project.  Please feel free to add your own thoughts to this list and keep giving!

Here’s the video that came from this project:

Boys & Girls Club “It Just Takes One” Campaign

Boys & Girls Club "It Just Takes One"
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Zach Majors Studio Session (or, how to shoot a few high quality music videos in less than a few hours)

We’ve been traveling quite a bit lately, so when we got a call between trips to LA and Oregon to put together a few acoustic studio sessions for Zach we had to find a way to squeeze it in.  He was looking to record some live takes of a few songs from his new album.  We knew we wanted to shoot in a style that would help contribute to the one-take feel which would also help with our time constraints.  So we threw a couple of cameras into the room with some simple lighting and managed to capture each song in just two takes.

The Lighting:

For lighting we just used a 500 watt mogul lamp in a medium pancake lantern right above Zach’s head.  This gave us a nice soft light that would cover all three musicians, and then we threw a 100 watt frosted bulb in an 8″ reflector clamp light above and behind Zach for a rim light, and also placed one above and to the left of the violinist to give her a little fill.  We didn’t have a dimmer, so we had to waste quite a bit of it up at the ceiling.

The Cameras:

we had 2 cameras for this shoot.  One camera was our conservative wide shot which covered all three musicians.  We knew we didn’t want this to feel locked down.  We were looking for a more organic feel that would go more with the feel of the music and the rest of the video, but I also knew I didn’t want to go handheld for this shot either.  I didn’t want to make the viewer sick.  This was our anchor shot and we were going to be using it a lot, so I decided to put it on a monopod.  This gave us some fluidity with the shot, but it was also stable enough that we could stay with it for longer periods of time.  Our other shots were with a 70 – 200 on a shoulder mount which would let us get in nice and close and still stay out of the way of the wide shot.

The Audio:

Fact Music Group did all of the audio and it sounds great.  As you can see there are a handful of mics in the room which help give it the feel of a live acoustic recording.  It was also necessary, because it was, actually, a live acoustic recording.

What Else:

Feel free to post questions in the comments.  Look forward to doing more with the guys over at FMG.

The Video:

Monarch updates

I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, you guys haven’t posted anything since, like, February.”  Well you’re wrong it’s been since, like, November.  Part of the problem is that we’ve been working and traveling a lot, and part of the problem is that several of our projects are longer term projects that aren’t completed yet.  We’re very excited about some of the stuff we’ve been working on recently and can’t wait to let you all see some of it.  Hopefully over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be able to start rolling out some of those projects as they get finished.  We’ve been all over the country over the past few months, from New York to California, shooting several interesting stories.  If you can stick with us a little longer we’ll get them up so you can have a look!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about what we do or how we do it, feel free to hit us in the comments, we love talking about what we do, and even more importantly, finding other people like us who love the art of making videos!

This isn’t just any old lamp…

In the midst of our busiest time of the year, we’re going to try to keep the posts coming.  This update comes as our most recent commercial is set to begin airing on a few different Comcast Channels.  So, you may see this one around if you live in the Bloomington area.  It’s a spot that we just finished for [Read more…]

Making a difference in Denver

I’m in Denver this week with the American Society for Health Care Engineers (ASHE).  To be honest, I’m tired this week.  I’ve been to Denver many times to ski or play in the mountains in some way, but this time I was trading in my ski poles and fishing rods for a projector, an audience response system, and around 1000 PowerPoint slides that outline Health Care Construction.   I reluctantly got on the plane in Indianapolis and pouted my way back to seat 7A.  My role in Denver would be to support 4 speakers as they train construction [Read more…]