the blog

Maintaining Messaging Amid Social Distancing

Rohit Bhargava presenting Mega Trends content for Forbes online magazine.

You enter our large studio. No handshakes, fist bumps, or elbow nudges required. The place seems empty but it is, in fact, a fully functioning production studio. Everything is ready to go. If you want, you can hang your wardrobe in our make-up/dressing room. In isolation, check your hair or make-up. You’re an adult, go ahead, help yourself to coffee, water, or a snack. In the studio, you stand on your mark and address the camera. With the use of a boom mic, we don’t even need to place a microphone on you, and with our long lenses, we don’t need to come within 12 feet of your person. You may speak from the heart or read precise messaging off of our teleprompter. Finished, you leave. Limited social contact with our crew of one, two, or maybe three individuals. Social distancing maintained throughout, yet you walk away with a professional digital product.

For Rohit Bhargava, author of a decade of the Non-Obvious Trends books, we did just that.  We shot a 20-minute presentation destined for Forbes Magazine and seven individual book trailers for his Non-Obvious Guides series. Over the course of about three hours in studio, we gave Rohit several different looks and quickly turned around his products.

One of the looks showcasing a daylight option in our Herndon, VA production studio.
Another look we created for Rohit using existing set pieces and props.
And yet another look using our flexible and extensive space.

Let us help maintain your messaging during this crazy, unusual time. Self-isolate in our studio in front of the camera. Or, actually self-isolate and let us help you present your messaging through motion graphic animations, still photos, stock footage, and text. Our editors have all moved their editing systems into home offices, so work can continue.  Just because the world is shutting down doesn’t mean your messaging needs to stop.  We’re here to help.  

Photography Studio – Open for Business

Portrait and fashion photographer, Ellen Huber (@ellenhuberphoto), has been booking time in Rock Creek’s Herndon, VA video and photography studio, taking advantage of our full body cyc. Tapped by T.H.E Artist Agency (@theartistagency), Ellen shot model Tyra Jackson (@tyrafaithh), capturing several different looks. Makeup was provided by Caroline Rosenberg (@rougenberg).

Here’s what Ellen has to say about our production studio: “The space is fantastic, there’s so much room to work with and the cyc is huge!  What really stands out is all the support you have – the makeup and green rooms, the kitchen, and all the props, like the different chairs and stools you have to play with.  For me, what makes this studio full-service is everything else you offer, all the lighting and grip equipment, the stands, apple boxes, sandbags, everything I need … I love shooting at Rock Creek!”  

We invite other photographers to discover our flexible daylight studio, too.  The infinity cyc wall is 24’ and 16’ deep and we have an assortment of backgrounds and seamless colors available. In addition, we have plenty of space to construct a variety of sets – check out our website at to see more or give us a call to schedule a visit.

Ellen Huber photographs Model Tyra Jackson in Rock Creek Production's Herndon, VA, Studio
Ellen Huber pairs her Nikon D3 with a wide-angle lens, triggers her strobe and…
Ellen Huber Photography Rock Creek Productions/Studios full body cycling
The results are stunning.
Ellen Huber Photography Rock Creek Productions Herndon VA Photography Studio
Ellen at work in Rock Creek’s spacious Herndon, VA production studio.
Ellen Huber Photography Caroline Rougenberg Make-up Tyra Jackson model Rock Creek Productions/Studio
Ellen Huber and make-up artist Caroline Rosenberg discuss a look as Tyra Jackson strikes a pose.
Ellen Huber Photography Trya Jackson model Rock Creek Productions./Studios
Ellen Huber employs her portrait dish…
Ellen Huber Photography, Tyra Jackson model, Caroline Rougenberg make-up, Rock Creek Productions/Studios
… to capture a detailed portrait of model Tyra Jackson

Give us a call at 703.481.6590 or drop us a line at to schedule a visit or to book some time.


Institute of Education Sciences Studio Shoot

Rock Creek, under contract to General Dynamics Information Technology, recently wrapped on a four-day shoot for the Institute of Education Sciences, an organization that evaluates, reviews, and scores grant applications for researchers studying issues related to education for the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research.  As part of this production effort, we spent one-day on location at GDIT where we approximated IES office spaces.

We also shot for three days in Rock Creek’s Hendon, VA production studio, where we created…

Scientific Grant Applicant

a home office, where a scientific researcher (played by Mike Pu) applied for a grant and followed his application through the process…,

an academic office where a scientific peer reviewer (played by Andrea Ventura) assessed and critiqued a proposal, and…

a large peer review panel meeting space…

IES Review Panel

where a panel of a dozen (real) peer reviewers discussed and scored the grant application. 

By all accounts, a successful, multi-camera shoot that once again highlights the versatility of our flexible production space. 

Goodbyes Are Never Easy

Air Force DOD
Aimie Burns was christened our Captain Director for this Marine Firefighting Project.

It is with both heavy hearts and excited anticipation that we announce the departure of our friend, colleague, and Rock Creek family member, Aimie Burns, as she embarks on the next adventure of her career. Aimie is moving on from Rock Creek at the end of this week as she has accepted an exciting new position as a Producer/Editor with Discovery Education’s Corporate Education Partnerships Video Hub.

During her time with Rock Creek, just a few of Aimie’s highlights include filming on the nuclear submarine USS Boise and the USS San Jacinto, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, experiencing the everyday workings of the TSA, filming car-chase scenes with the Border Patrol, spending weeks filming training with Air Force firefighters (and then donning bunker gear afterwards), filming on the Waccamaw River from kayaks, photographing infants for the USDA, and of course her many years of award-winning work with the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County

All bunkered out!

Of course, we would be remiss not to mention Aimie’s Emmy nomination for her documentary, Peace Through Education: Stealing the Light, about Mohammad Khan Kharoti and his mission to build a school for boys and girls in his war-torn home village of Shin Kalay, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

We know that Aimie is at just the beginning of a long, exciting career and will go on to do great things! We at Rock Creek are proud to have played a part in her growth as a producer, filmmaker, editor, and overall wonderful person – and we’re appreciative of her significant part in the growth and success of Rock Creek over the past dozen years. We’ll miss you, Aimie and wish you the best of luck on your new adventures! Don’t forget the little people!

Rock Creek Production Company Video Team
The Rock Creek Family

The Power of Pre-comps in After Effects

Real talk about post production — a lot, A LOT, of thorough planning and organization goes into even the simplest of animations. One way to make an animators’ life more enjoyable and organized (in After Effects) is by pre-composing layers. As an editor/motion graphics editor, I can proudly say that I use pre-comps in every single AE project I work on. Pre-composing is immensely useful for managing and organizing complex compositions. Essentially, you gain more power over those layers — and who doesn’t like that?

In After Effects pre-composing is: “the process of packaging a series of layers into a new composition”. It’s essentially the same as grouping layers in Illustrator or Photoshop. Here’s the keyboard shortcut in AE to pre-compose: Command+Shift+C.

Here are some things you can do by pre-composing:

Pre-composing a single layer is useful for adding animation, effects, transform properties, or masks to that layer and that will then be applied to all of the layers within — resulting in cleaner animation that’s a bit simpler to obtain.

Pre-composing multiple layers places them in a new composition which replaces the layers in the original composition — resulting in a more aesthetically pleasing composition that’s a little easier to manage.

Apply complex changes to an entire composition — You can create a composition that contains multiple layers, nest the composition within the overall composition, and animate and apply effects to the nested composition so that all the layers change in the same ways over the same time period.

Here’s an example of how pre-comps are essential. This is a “simple ‘ol” 17-second-long animation that I created for the EPA WARN project we produced in 2018.  

Now let’s dig in —This pedigree chart is a quick and easy representation of how in just these 17 seconds, multiple pre-comps (and pre-comps nested inside pre-comps) complete this animation.

The second pedigree chart is a slightly-more-interesting visual repetition of the complexities of this animation.

That’s just a small glimpse into the mind of a motion graphics editor.  One take away from all this post-production mumbo-jumbo: Command+Shift+C (Mac) is your friend.

Our Newest Camera – Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro

Director of Photography and Camera Operator film two-camera interview
Steve Agnew and Mike Chirieleison filming a two-camera interview at ANDE.

We are excited to announce that we have added the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro to our cinematic camera toolset. This camera continues to blow us away with its vast dynamic range and image quality. It’s already been put to the test with shoots in Colorado, Massachusetts, Indiana, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington D.C. The more we use this camera, the more we love it, and we can’t wait to use it with you on your next project!

But don’t just take our word for it, below are some links to videos featuring renowned cinematographers talking about their experiences with the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro.

Cinematographer Roy Wagner recently filmed his feature Stand! Using the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro. Wagner is also known for TV shows and films such as; A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, House, Quantum Leap, and Elementary.

South African documentary filmmaker, Garth de Bruno Austin describes his experience using the link of Blackmagic cameras during the production of his recent documentary film, Disunity.

On The Road Again…

We’ve had a busy start to 2019, despite the government shutdown.  Luckily, our Department of Defense clients are fully funded and our commercial clients have kept us hopping.  In addition to local shoots at the Supreme Court, Quantico, and in our Herndon, VA production studio, we had productive trips to Longmont, CO and the Boston area where we had a two-fer:

Two cameras with Dana Dolly and Teleprompter

Interviewing Dr. Selden, the inventor of ANDE’s rapid DNA identification system.

As part of our well received series of Small Business Innovation Research “Success Stories” we visited ANDE, a company that makes a portable, ruggedized, and rapid DNA identification system where we interviewed the inventor, Dr. Richard Selden and shot loads of broll in their facilities and labs.

Two camera interview

Interviewing US Air Force personnel about their work in rapid acquisitions, responding to some of our nation’s most urgent threats.

And the second part of our Boston excursion was devoted to our DoD contract to produce a series of videos on the Urgent Acquisition process.  We spent a couple of days at Hanscom Air Force Base interviewing subject matter experts and gathering valuable broll.

NCC Director Jeffrey Rosen speaking about the First Amendment.

Producing a video on Religion and the First Amendment with NCC Director Jeffrey Rosen.

Following Boston, we took a quick trip to Philadelphia to shoot another in our series of First Amendment videos geared towards high school students for the National Constitution Center.

We’re thankful to have had such a busy start to the year and look forward to what the rest of 2019 has in store. We won’t be slowing down in February as we head out to Indiana, then Alabama, the Pentagon, and back into our studio again for several weeks of filming!

2018 Year-in-Review

Rock Creek Production Company Video Team
The Rock Creek Family

We thought we’d take a few minutes and look back at what a fun, interesting, challenging year 2018 was. Think of this as our annual Christmas letter but without any mention of the kids.  

The year started with the opening of our new production studio in Herndon, Virginia. Bigger, better, faster, brighter, quieter and right across the street from the soon-to-be Herndon Metro. We’re excited about the possibilities the space has to offer for our projects and our clients. We’ve been super excited to welcome back our pal Writer/Director Martin Spitznagel and his creative approaches to courses for the Defense Acquisition University.

January also launched the start of an exciting project for NASA, featuring the space agency’s approach to encouraging small businesses to bring their tech innovations to NASA for funding. We seem to have become experts in telling the stories of small business innovations. Other 2018 projects include stories about EksoBionics – a California-based company using external skeletons to aid industrial workers doing repetitive tasks, but also helping stroke and spinal accident victims learn to walk again. Our other small business innovation project was a profile of the outdoor company MSR who are working to create the world’s best portable water purification systems.

Speaking of water, 2018 saw more great projects with the EPA’s Water Security Division. This year’s shows included a promotional video to encourage small water utilities to join their state’s Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks; a short documentary highlighting the Los Angeles Water Authority’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change; and an educational video about the hazards of cyanotoxins to drinking water supplies. 

Springtime in Poland – both Steve and Tim took trips to Poland with Defense Logistics Agency Producer Nutan Chada to document preparations for joint military exercises in Poland and the Baltic States. As an encore Tim, traveled with DLA to Trondheim, Norway in October to film the US Marine Corps’ participation in a NATO exercise. 

But let’s circle back to summer fun. We made a lovely little video for Camp Ton-A-Wandah that got more than 20,000 views in less than forty-eight hours – definitely the most since the video of Tim base jumping from the Washington Monument. 

Summer also saw the start of long-term studio support and editing for Amazon Web Services. In July we were super excited to welcome Braun Film and Video as cohabitants in our studio space and office warren. 

So, Ben Franklin once said, “An investment in education pays the best interest,” and we’ve been working hard in class. We’ve been busy creating stories for the Virginia Tech Adaptive Brain and Behavior Destination Area; Carnegie Mellon University and The National Science Foundation’s programs for policy makers; working with the Hatcher Group and the National Assessment Governing Board to create a series of short videos on the importance of national educational assessments; and CINA – George Mason University’s DHS Center of Excellence; but the A+ experience was definitely filming Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan for the series of videos we’re producing for the National Constitution Center on the First Amendment.

And then…winter came. For three brutally cold days in December, we provided production support and crew for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on a story they were creating about undocumented workers in the Christmas tree industry. We also followed Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an inspiring young hip-hop star and environmental activist as he prepared for and participated in Senator Bernie Sanders’ Solving Our Climate Crisis National Town Hall.

Whew! Thanks for taking a minute to look back with us. 2018 was a great year and we’re really stoked about the challenges and opportunities headed our way in 2019. Get in on the fun. Bring us your next challenging, inspiring project and we’ll be happy to put our productions skills to work for you. 

Wrapping Up 2018 With A Bang with CTEC and DAU

Before enjoying a restful holiday season, Rock Creek recently wrapped up our 2018 with a fun and exciting three-day production at our studio in Herndon.

Our client, CTEC, required five different sets; a cubicle-filled office environment, a break room, a small conference room, a small private office, and a reception area for one of their online video training programs for federal government employees. When we moved in at the beginning of 2018, this is the exact type of project we envisioned our new studio being the perfect environment for. With its over 5,000 sq. ft. of space, we’re able to build and host multiple sets at once.

Director of Photography with camera on jib for federal government training video

Director of photography with camera on a jib for federal government employee training video

Last year proved to be a very busy year for Rock Creek and CTEC. We helped produce several video training series for the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), including one requiring a bit of special effects work where our main character traveled 10 years into the past to pay himself a visit on his first day on the job.

Special effects example for federal government employee training video

Rock Creek always enjoys the new and interesting challenges that our clients provide, and we encourage everyone to think creatively when approaching us with an idea for a script or seeking our creative input.

We look forward to seeing what other types of sets and environments our clients need for their productions in 2019!

Sound Recordist with boom microphone and camera on dana dolly slider for federal government training video


We’re excited to see our most recent video for the EPA is now online. Working with the Horsley Witten Group, Rock Creek created this short educational video to help EPA promote Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks. WARNs are mutual aid and resource sharing agreements that help utilities respond in emergencies or help with routine maintenance. Shot on location at several water treatment plants in Asheville, NC, we used a light-hearted but factual approach to dispelling some of the myths around WARN membership. Check out the video below and let us know what you think.