10 Years of Great Projects

By John Lux

For those who aren’t following at home, July 1, 2011 will mark the 10th Anniversary for IDEAS. As we look back over the next few weeks, I thought it might be fun to look at a project or two that we were working on during each year of our existence. We’ll start with a project that we were working our first day, on July 1, 2001. Then we’ll visit a project we were working on the following year and then the following year and so on until we feature a project that we are working on this year on July 1, our 10thanniversary. We’ll give a little backstory and the significance of the project in the evolution of IDEAS, after all, without each and every project we have worked on since 2001, we would not be the company we are today.

2001: SheenaSheena was a television show for Sony/Columbia Tri-Star Television starring Gena Lee Nolin and John Allen Nelson. We did 35 episodes, 2 seasons, between June of 2000 and November of 2001. We were responsible for the entire post production process including off-line and on-line editing, color correction, dialogue editing, sound design, Foley, visual effects and audio sweetening while being shot entirely in Central Florida. It seems odd to say that day 1 of our existence as IDEAS we were involved in such a high profile project but it was a great way to kick off the new company. While our future would not be wall-to-wall episodic television, Sheena was an important project for us starting up because it was committed workflow for a large number of our team not to mention a huge help with cash flow, which was important as we tried to figure out how to invoice clients in our early days.

2002: U.S. Department of Labor This was one of our first endeavors in to the world of government work. Working for the government was something we had set our sights on once we were an independent company. For three years starting in 2002 we were involved in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation Conference. On varying levels each year we were tasked with delivering an Immersive Environment for the conference attendees. This was one of our earlier projects in which our task was creating an experience. Traditionally, we were tasked with making video or writing scripts, or creating stories, but this was an overall task of doing all of that within the overall experience. While creating experiences at some level started for us in 2002 with the Workforce Conference, it lead to creating experiences for hotels, resorts, hospitals, healthcare facilities, museums, and other venues.

2003: Battle Stations 21 and Florida DEM Kids Books Keeping with the government theme, 2003 saw us involved with our largest (financially) and most high profile (to date) project, Battle Stations 21, the culminating training exercise for Navy recruits. Battle Stations 21 included a 12-hour exercise comprised of 14 scenarios that required recruits to utilize the skills and knowledge they obtained during recruit training in an environment that approximates the stressors that can be encountered in the operational shipboard environment. It is a complete immersive experience utilizing storytelling techniques and tested immersive technology developed in the entertainment industry. Along with Battle Stations 21, we were working on a series of children’s books for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The original books, for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade children, were written to help kids learn and be prepared for a variety of weather situations typically seen in Florida. A 4th grade book would eventually be added along with an interactive website with 3D animation, audioscapes, coloring pages, and games.

2004: Outpost 27 Everyone has a visitor’s center on the side of the highway. In 2004 we had the opportunity to create a unique tourist center for Polk County, Florida. This was an opportunity to get everyone on board with what would eventually be Outpost 27, before a single rendering was made. The process started with a StoryJam with the client, architects, and designers so we could create the entire experience from entry to exit. While we had been involved with projects similar to this in the past, this was a special one because the client truly wanted something different, and we couldn’t have been happier with the final results. When you are in the area, check it out.

2005: Essentials of Modeling & Simulation and Elvis Back in 2003 when the Essentials of Modeling and Simulations (EMS) project started and in 2005 when Phase II came about, on-line eLearning was still not the norm, especially for the government. So while making eLearning courses was nothing new to us at the time, making it for outdated technology was the challenge. The other element that we brought to the table that was new for government eLearning was that we didn’t make EMS a “page-turner”. We take pride in making all of our learning products engaging. Material might not be the most exciting but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the product engaging for the user and this is a great example of this work.

Another highlight of 2005 was our work on the CBS Miniseries Elvis. Elvis is the perfect example of being at the right place at the right time, then making the most of it. We were contacted by an old friend about 6 weeks before the project started for us. He was brought in to be the Unit Production Manager for the project and he was tasked with finding a post house for finishing (on-line edit and post audio) that could get it done and save the production money. Perfect fit for us. The original post schedule for Elvis was 6 weeks. However, due to delays in the production and off-line schedule, the schedule was cut to 4 weeks. After more than 550 hours working on the video and more than 650 working on the audio in those 4 weeks, the miniseries was delivered to CBS 3 days before the airing. Elvis was nominated for 6 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Miniseries or Movie and Jonathan Rhys Meyers won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his portrayal of Elvis Presley.

2006: Island Heat Movies- Coming off the success the year before with Elvis, 2006 brought 3 movies for Lifetime. As was the case with Elvis, we were introduced to the Island Heat trilogy through an old friend. Set in the Caribbean, the 3 made-for-TV thrillers included Stranded, staring Erica Durance from Smallville, Vanished, staring A.J. Cook from Criminal Minds, and Break-In, featuring Kelly Carlson from Nip/Tuck fame. We were responsible for the post audio process including Foley, sound design (sound effects editing), dialogue editing, pre-mixing, final mix and layback for both the domestic and international delivery. While the miniseries Elvis got us going on the right track, the 3 movies for Lifetime kicked us into high gear in the entertainment industry, which would eventually see us doing post on 13 movies in a 3 year period.

2007: Siemens Base21 and National Museum of Crime and Punishment 2007 brought about 2 of the most memorable projects in our 10 years. Shirley Decker and I went to a luncheon at the Rainforest Café at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We sat on one end of the table and this fellow was sitting at the other end. Before the food was even served, I was exhausted by his energy. Naturally, Shirley immediately related to him and after we ate she introduced herself. He introduced himself as a marketing person from Siemens Corporation responsible for the marketing side of Siemens and being the new corporate sponsor of Spaceship Earth at Epcot. After visiting for a little while Shirley invited him over to our place to see what we do and how we might be able to help with his vision and goals. Fast forward through 2 meetings over the next month and a signed proposal and the rest is history. We have been working on something for Siemens and Base21 at Epcot almost everyday since that initial proposal. It’s the type of relationship everyone wants with a client- there’s a professional mutual respect but also a wonderful friendship has come from it.

Another wonderful project in 2007 was our work at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C. Never did we think we would enjoy crime and punishment so much. This truly is a new-world museum where we were responsible for 64 different digital media and interactive elements for the museum, ranging from audio environments to historical videos to 20 touch screen interactive elements. Similar to the Siemens Base21 project, we were involved with this project from the creative stages, where the physical building was nothing more than a cement slab, all the way up to and including opening day.

2008: Hill-Rom / Novant Health / Grand Bahama Island During 2007 we decided to push ourselves in to a market that we believed we could help: Healthcare. Forgetting the politics, the healthcare industry is and has been in great need of help. It was something that we wanted to get involved in because we saw a lot of similarities in how we could help with the healthcare industry as we do in our experience design work in hotels and resorts. Our bottom line is that whether it’s a resort or healthcare facility, the goal is to give the best possible experience to the guest. In 2008 we were introduced to two major healthcare clients. Hill-Rom is one of the world’s largest hospital bed manufacturers. Their challenge was that they had these great beds but they weren’t being used properly and it was causing injuries to patients, nurses, and doctors. The old way of providing a manual or a 1-day training seminar to teach people how to use their beds no longer worked. Before it was over, we created 11 eLearning courses for Hill-Rom that taught people how to use many of their most popular beds. The courses included original photo shoots, voice over, and even 3D animation. The results were amazing, including an increased safety record for Hill-Rom beds and winning a Brandon Hall Gold award for excellence in the Custom Content category for one of the courses. The Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards are presented annually by Brandon Hall Research, one of the leading research firms in training and development.

In addition to our work with Hill-Rom, we began working with Novant Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in the Carolinas. Novant Health’s challenge was to define what they were calling the Remarkable Patient Experience and operationalize it across a complex healthcare system that includes three major regional medical centers, several community hospitals, outpatient clinics, physician practices, and a host of ancillary services. This 18-month project was, to date, our largest experience design project in the healthcare industry.

And finally, 2008 brought us our first international client – Grand Bahama Island. After the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, the Bahamas saw a dramatic decrease in tourism traffic. Grand Bahama Island took the aggressive step to change their tourism and hospitality philosophy and facilitate putting their entire industry through a specialized training course to help be Grand Ambassadors of the island. The resulting pride in who they are and what they do immediately showed a difference in the satisfaction of tourists. For IDEAS, it was the first international client and would prove to be a stepping stone for us outside the United States.

2009: Teacher Studio and FLETC 2009 brought the development of one of the biggest IDEAS-owned products, Teacher Studio (www.TeacherStudio.com). Teacher Studio is a worldwide professional learning community where teachers can see, hear, and collaborate with exemplary educators. Created by Kelly Pounds and Caroline Masse, Teacher Studio is built on the premise that teaching is too important to do alone. But in the education world these days, a lot of teachers are left on an island by themselves to figure out what’s good, what’s bad, what they should use, and what they shouldn’t. When this happens educators have difficulties developing, and their work and eventually their enjoyment suffer. More teachers leave the industry because they feel this way than for any other reason. Teacher Studio provides content from professional educators, including videos of teachers in action, online mentoring from model teachers, instructional strategies and lesson plans, classroom management techniques, and technology How-Tos. In 2010, Teacher Studio won the William C. Schwartz Industry Innovation Award.

2009 also saw a return to a high-profile government project. We were tasked by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) to help them change the way that FLETC trains federal law enforcement officers. This was precipitated by substantive changes in the world of crime as well as in the diverse audiences that FLETC serves. Basically, our law enforcement deals with threats today that were not even on the radar as little as 5 years ago. Therefore, how they think of threats and how they deal with them through the use of technology plays an important role today in having information available quickly and efficiently and becomes a key resource needs to be different. Helping them understand how to deal with this migration and how to keep up with the constantly changing world was a tremendous experience for us.

2010: Walter Reed Army Medical CenterDisney Dream / Chala 2010 saw a project that merged the markets of government/military and healthcare. And while we have worked on a number of high profile and important projects, few have been this fulfilling. The year started with a phone call from a very dear friend to our team (another relationship-based booking). Long story short, the following week we were on a plane to Washington, D.C. to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Our task eventually became how to ensure that everyone there, warrior patients, their families, and the staff, had the best possible experience considering why they are there. Over the next 9 months we would meet people and hear stories that would, literally, make grown men and women cry. Every project we take on has importance to us but this one clearly had a different meaning. To understand who is and has been through Walter Reed and to understand what those people mean to our country, you couldn’t help but want to do your best every minute you were working on the project. In the end, we met wonderful and dedicated people, built great relationships, and the work that we did was very well received. We look forward to more collaboration in the future with the people involved in military medicine.

Another great project of 2010 was a project that brought us full circle, working for Disney Cruise Line. Back in 1998 when I first interviewed with IDEAS (at that time Disney IDEAS), I remember very little of the blur that was my interview. But the one thing I do remember was walking down the hall at our old facility and hearing Disney Cruise Line music from one of the edit suites. At that time the company was working on media for the launch of the Disney Magic and Disney Dream in 1998. Fast forward 12 years and we were again fortunate to be chosen to work on a variety of media elements for the new Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Dream. For me and our Supervising Producer, Mary Anne Metaxas, it was like being home. My reason stated above but for Mary Anne it was because she was involved in a large percentage of the media that originated on the ships back in 1998. Having the opportunity to do the same for the Disney Dream was truly, well, a dream for her.

And finally, we continued our march in to international areas with a project on the west coast of Mexico. Our task with Chala was to help them define what a next-generation sustainable resort community should be at their site in Mexico. Of course every new residential and resort community says they want to be environmentally responsible but this community will be taking it to the next level and we were happy to be part of the initial design phase.

2011: Adventure To Fitness Later this month will be the 2 year anniversary from when we first met our clients from Adventure To Fitness. Their original owner read an article about us moving from our previous location to Downtown Orlando and what caught his eye was that the article was printed in the paper on his birthday. At the time they were looking for a company that could help them take their elementary school fundraiser that encompassed 60 minutes of original programming per school year and turn it in to 15-20 episodes, 30 minutes in length, per school year. It took us about 9 months to get season 1 off the ground and there were definitely bumps in the road during season 1, but the results were noticed immediately and the kids LOVED each and every adventure. Eighteen episodes, 10 months, a team of more than 20 people putting in more than 35,000 hours later, season 1 was in the books. After a hiatus of less than 2 months, the next season was signed in June, 2011 and we’re back at it for season 2. For those that aren’t familiar, Adventure To Fitness is a groundbreaking initiative to introduce health and physical activity into children’s lives. Every episode challenges kids to a 30-minute workout while also learning about geography, science, social studies, language arts, and health. The exciting live action and animated video, combined with guides for teachers and parents, make the program ideal for teaching health and wellness to children. The program is designed to meet state and national standards, in collaboration with teachers, parents, and school officials. At present, the program is in use by approximately 2,000 schools in eleven states and will be launched nationally in the upcoming academic year. The secret to why Adventure To Fitness has captured the imagination of children all over the country is simple: it places kids in a fun, immersive, and highly-educational environment that engages them on both a physical and mental level. We co-author, shoot, produce, and execute all elements of post production of the series.

So there you have it. 10 years of IDEAS, 10 years of memorable projects from our first day back in 2001 all the way through today. A lot has happened in the last 10 years, in the world and in our little world. There have been ups and down for everyone and we are no exception. But there have been far more highs than lows and we expect the next 10 years of our existence to have even more highs than lows. To all of our clients, listed in this blog and otherwise, thank you for having faith in us and allowing us to be a part of your organization. To our team along the way, thank you for everything you have done to make ALL of our projects memorable. And to those that aren’t clients, what are you waiting for, you want to be part of our next 10 years, don’t you?

July 5, 2011|Archive|

About the Author: John Lux

As COO of IDEAS, John manages the day-to-day operations of the company. He is a category expert in studio production and is responsible for bringing advanced digital media technology to IDEAS.

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