It's New to Us by Jean Stratton

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VIDEO VISIONS: "I do a real mix with the videos – special events, corporate, documentary, and photo-montage," says award-winning videographer Seth Mellman, executive producer/director of SMP Video. "I try to take projects I am well-quipped to do and that I am interested in. It is basically a wide range."

Award-Winning SMP Video Company Offers Variety of Video Production

It's time-consuming work. Typically, for a piece aired for two minutes on TV, videographer Seth Mellman spends 12 to 15 hours editing, cutting, and refining the project.

At the highest level, the result can be extraordinarily creative, imaginative, and compelling.

An award-winner, Seth Mellman, executive producer/director of SMP Video, loves his work. "I focus on trying to do an individual piece – it's not cookie-cutter work. We have established a reputation for capturing on video the true spirit and essence of the person, company, or event being taped," he explains.

Mr. Mellman founded SMP Video in Princeton in 2001, after a long career as a free-lance video producer and an associate director/stage manager for network television in Los Angeles and New York. This followed his earlier career in music – playing drums with a rock band.

Network TV

As a member of the Director's Guild of America, he has continued his work in network TV on such shows as "Good Morning America", "Hollywood Squares", and "MTV Music Awards", among many others. He has worked with such headliners as Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, and Whoopie Goldberg.

Married to Mara Isaacs, producing director at McCarter Theatre Center, Mr. Mellman moved here in 1999, after deciding to concentrate his career in the east, and in particular, Princeton and central New Jersey.

"My free-lance schedule in Los Angeles had allowed me to make frequent trips to visit my wife in Princeton, while she established herself at McCarter," explains Mr. Mellman. "This sparked our soon-to-be love affair with the Princeton community."

His earlier experience as a free-lance video producer stimulated his interest for more work in this field, and he realized it would become his focus.

Also, he points out, "Right around 2000, as the technology began to change, cameras, editing equipment, and audio became less expensive and more accessible. Basically, it was really the digital technology that made this happen."

His first project in 2001, "Find My Way Home" follows the work of Mercer County's family/housing assistance organization, HomeFront and some of the individuals it supports. The 5-minute film chronicles the plight of the homeless through intense, emotional interviews.

Grand Prize

Mr. Mellman was off to a good start indeed. In a national contest, sponsored by Videomaker Magazine and electronics giant Panasonic, he was awarded the Grand Prize for short subjects. According to Videomaker: "Our Grand Prize-winning video can be summed up in one word: compelling."

Expanding his field of operations, Mr. Mellman now produces programs for corporate training and promotion, TV commercials, documentaries, and special family and business events. Area clients include McCarter Theatre Center, Girl Scouts of Delaware-Raritan, Inc., and Urbahn Architectural Associates, Inc.

Mr. Mellman points out that whatever the project, he is very focused on the individual story to be told.

"What separates our work from other production companies is our 'up-close' documentary shooting style, combined with the time we invest in editing," he explains. "All of our pieces, whether it's a young couple's wedding or a story about the homeless, are edited with the intent of telling the complete story in a well-paced and timely manner.

"Because we are good story-tellers, if it's a documentary style, for example, we can piece it together into a good story. Through editing, you can make a lot of magic. Also, because of my background, including as a musician, we bring some different skills.

"Our pieces are musical," he continues. "The flow of the video has more of a rhythmic sense. There's a feel, a flow. Choosing the right music throughout the project is so important. One of the most overlooked things in videography is music."

Mr. Mellman is especially interested in the creative aspects of whatever project he takes on, noting, "I do enjoy work that can be a bit more creative. With commercials, you can really be creative. We did a commercial spot for QualCare, Inc. which was a great creative challenge."

An upcoming piece for McCarter Theatre Center's 75th anniversary is another project that has stimulated his interest.

"This will play on April 16 at McCarter, and we have interviewed chief figures in McCarter's history, including the artistic directors, choreographers, actors, architects, set designers, etc."

Mr. Mellman also has regular assignments from the Girl Scouts of Delaware-Raritan, and is busy with weddings and numerous other family events.

Family History

"The fun thing about weddings and other important family events is that you really get involved with the people, and I do enjoy happy customers! Seeing clients completely satisfied is always my goal.

"Also," he reports, "when you are doing family events, you are creating memories; it's family history; it's unique. It's like looking at photos, but better."

Not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera, he adds, and Mr. Mellman does his best to help shy subjects relax. "If they are not used to being on TV, we try to get them to feel at ease. Actually it helps to be a diplomat. The challenge is getting them to trust you."

He puts all his skills as a TV director/stage manager to good use here, he adds. Having worked with such a variety of subjects, from stars to kids and animals, he is able to establish the appropriate atmosphere.

"I also taught elementary school early in my career," he says, with a smile. "You learn to deal with different people doing that. And I taught videography at PDS last year, which I enjoyed."

Mr. Mellman is pleased that SMP Video's client base continues to expand, and he looks forward to seeing it grow even more.

"There are lots of companies in Princeton, as well as Princeton University, and many other schools and institutions. We do full DVD production now, and I hope that if you need video production in the Princeton or Trenton area, SMP Video will be the first name that pops into your head.

"You will find that we can give you the quality one expects from New York or Los Angeles productions and at a price suitable for Princeton."

SMP Video can be reached at (609) 279-0172. Website:

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