Telling their stories: Video production firm portrays humanity behind brands

Seth Schaeffer, owner and president of Hoptocopter Films, displays some of the sophisticated equipment he uses to shoot videos. He’s surrounded by the members of his team, from left, Brian Watson, Jess Rigg and Will Campbell. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Seth Schaeffer, owner and president of Hoptocopter Films, displays some of the sophisticated equipment he uses to shoot videos. He’s surrounded by the members of his team, from left, Brian Watson, Jess Rigg and Will Campbell. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Seth Schaeffer loves nothing more than telling stories in the videos his company creates. Whether they’re explaining what a business does or pitching its products or services, the videos also convey what Schaeffer describes as the humanity behind the brands.

A two-minute promotional piece for a company that sells equipment and services to the natural gas industry depicts not only manufacturing processes, but also employee testimonials about a corporate culture that emphasizes respect and knowledge. A 30-second commercial for a bridal boutique advertises not only wedding gowns, but also the realization of wedding dreams.

“We like to say our stuff looks different,” says Schaeffer, the owner and president of Hoptocopter Films.

It’s a difference Schaeffer expects to set the Grand Junction company apart at a time when the Internet and social media have substantially bolstered demand for video content, but technological advances have made it possible for anyone with a cell phone to shoot that video.

Schaeffer welcomes increased competition in further differentiating the production of well-planned and executed videos that are ultimately more effective. “I see it as a good thing for us long-term.”

Schaeffer also welcomes the recent additions of three members to his team: Jess Rigg, vice president of operations; Will Campbell, creative producer; and Brian Watson, communications director.

Watson says the four bring an entrepreneurial bent along with their friendships to the operation. “This team really gets along.”

A musician, Schaeffer launched what was initially a recording studio in 2005, but switched to video production within two years. He says he soon fell in love with the challenges and rewards video production offers. “I love the art of it, the storytelling, all the different emotions you can work with.”

Since then, Hoptocopter has built a local, regional and national clientele. The firm has completed work for such Grand Valley companies as Annelise Bridal, Pollux Clothing and Spoons Bistro & Bakery. The business also has made short films and videos for EMIT Technologies, IronCross Automotive and Red Bull.

Schaeffer recently traveled to Tennessee to assist with the production of videos for country singer Martina McBride and the alternative rock band Needtobreathe.

Schaeffer divides businesses into two main categories: support services for video productions others oversee and  productions Hoptocopter handles from concept to completion. The proportion of overall business from any one category varies from month to month, he says.

Hoptocopter provides support services in handling such specialty shots as time lapse images, Schaeffer says. “It’s fun. We’re brought in as the experts.”

When handling video productions from concept to completion, the firm goes through a lengthy process with a client that starts with setting goals for a production, determining what the production will be used for and the potential audiences, Schaeffer says.

While some productions might be used for television commercials, other productions could be used for website content and social media. Potential audiences include customers, he adds, but also employees and investors.

Watson says Hoptocopter works with clients to help them realize the most value from their investment in using productions for multiple purposes. “If we’re efficient, we can create a lot more value for the customer.”

Schaeffer says one option is for Hoptocopter to help clients produce videos on a monthly basis, providing an ongoing source of new content for the web.

Through discussions with clients, ideas for videos evolve into a treatment and then a script and storyboard detailing the production, Schaeffer says. Then it’s a matter of finding the right locations and actors and scheduling a shoot.

A rough cut of the production is refined with the addition of music, coloring, graphics and special effects, he says.

Campbell says post-production techniques are important because they affect the end result and, consequently, the message. Colors and their intensities, for example, can set the mood of a piece, he says.

Schaeffer says he strives throughout the process to create videos that are aesthetically pleasing and engage viewers, but also portray what makes his clients special. “How do we tell a good story? What is the motivating factor behind what a business is doing?”

Watson says the approach usually works better than a direct advertising pitch. “It’s a lot more effective, a lot more powerful.”

Schaeffer says the approach helps to not only differentiate clients from their competitors, but also Hoptocopter from its competitors.

While technological advances have make video production less expensive and the industry more competitive, companies that “push to do a better job” still will succeed, he says.

Rigg says Hoptocopter has only begun establishing relationships and, in turn, increasing sales. “We’re still doing a lot of foundation building.”

Given the growing demand for video content on websites and social media, Schaeffer says he has high hopes for the venture.

There’s also the potential for licensing content, such as stock video footage, and developing educational productions.

At the same time, Schaeffer hopes to apply the techniques he’s developed for national productions on more local productions that draw attention to the Grand Valley.

But in the end, Schaeffer loves nothing more than telling stories.

For more information about Hoptocopter Films, visit the website located at www.hoptocopter.com.