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Key West Time | Producers Craig Hollenback and Gail Hollenback

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Gail and Craig Hollenback are a hurricane force to be reckoned with in regards to television production in the tropical Key West & Florida Keys. Their thirst for new challenges, creative excellence and the use of the latest video technology give them the capacity to create the diverse and interrelated ventures with which they have built.

Originally, the pair met as students at New York City’s Parson School of Design and migrated their successful Connecticut corporate video production business in 1997 to The Florida Keys, a series of diverse island towns on an archipelago chain 130 miles long with the world famous resort Key West at the southernmost end. Geographically, their office is only 90 miles from Cuba!

The Hollenbacks have always speculated that internet TV viewing is the wave of the future. Industry reports support their beliefs with latest surveys reflecting that weekly viewing of programs on the internet is quickly catching up to the time spent by adults viewing traditional broadcast TV. December 2010 reports from Forrester Research confirm that consumer TV consumption remains about 13 hours weekly, but that overall internet use has also risen to 13 hours weekly.

In 2007, the couple launched the company, “Conch Republic Media Group” the name inspired by the tongue in cheek phrase “Conch Republic” given to The Florida Keys that are noted for the shell by the same name. The organization features a network of about a dozen broadband television websites committed to promoting tourism and quality business in the Florida Keys and Key West.

CRMG initially launched, as its’ flagship video website featuring full screen, SD quality 4:3 flash travel video programs. Within weeks of its launch, already had 1760 individual pages of media-driven programming showcasing business, attractions and events in Key West and the upper Keys. The company produces all of the HD video content internally, both editorial and sponsored programs featured on its’ websites.

CRMG subsequently launched (in the 16:9 wide screen format), (internet radio) and a series of other “Conch Republic” branded video driven websites. Conch Republic Fishing, Conch Republic Dining, Conch Republic Kids, Conch Republic Accommodations, among others.

The company also creates custom, video driven, Word Press websites for select clients, many who are from the recording industry. Recently the Conch Republic Media Group completed a media rich web site for Jimmy Buffett’s lead guitarist, Peter Mayer that is scheduled for launch 1st quarter 2011.

In 3rd quarter 2010, the Hollenbacks joined forces with popular Trop Rock musician Howard Livingston, internationally known for his musical performances that are the soundtrack to the Florida Keys tropical lifestyle.

The network television show “Key West Time, starring Howard Livingston” was born, a (lifestyle-cross over) program that carefully combines the beauty of The Florida Keys with the adventure of fishing, diving, boating, cultural history, culinary arts, entertainment and island living segments.

Howard is the on-camera host and he and his MM24 band close every show with a live, musical performance featuring one of his original songs.

“Key West Time” debuted nationally in November 2010 on Direct TV throughout North America and has expanded to include the network Untamed Sports TV, a premier channel for outdoor programming via Comcast cable and Capital Broadcasting. Coming next year, it is expected that Cox Cable in Las Vegas and Miami will pick up the program raising the total number of households reached to 60 million 3 times weekly.

The television show “Key West Time, starring Howard Livingston” has already increased tourism in The Florida Keys which is the primary industry for the local economy. Howard Livingston’s exuberance for Keys island living coupled with the show’s fast paced, positively charged content accurately portrays Key West and The Florida Keys as a world class travel destination.

The Keys community has positively supported its’ new TV series. The Key West Chamber of Commerce recently awarded “Key West Time” the prestigious “Piece of the Rock” award “in recognition of their significant contribution to the Key West community” and the Tourist Development Council along with numerous newspapers have run stories about it. The State of Florida’s Film Commission included a piece about the show on the governor’s web site along with links to view episodes on As of January 1, 2011, “Key West Time” episodes have been downloaded over 50,000 times.

Craig Hollenback has always been on the forefront of implementing new video technology and was one of the original beta testers for Commodore Amiga computers and NewTek’s video toaster back in 1990 followed by the ImMix VideoCube from Scitex in 1995, which was the first non-linear broadcast-quality editing platform to have real time effects. Today, he takes advantage of the latest products offered by Sony, Canon, Apple and others to create the best equipment lineup for the company’s independent budgets.

The humid, subtropical climate of the Florida Keys can be rough on traditional video and computer equipment. For primary shooting Hollenback uses 2, Sony XDCAM EX1 cameras. This unit is a powerful HD hand-held camcorder with feature sets that include three ½ inch CMOS sensors, 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 HD recording capability plus flash memory recording. When equipped with two 16-GB SxS Memory cards, the camcorder records up to 140 minutes of HD footage. Craig finds that the Sony XDCAM EX CineAlta series, with its striking HD picture quality, extra mobility, great operation efficiency and system flexibility is a power full HD solution for producing a quality product to major distribution platforms like DirecTV and others.

For fill shots, the company uses 2 Canon EOS T2i EF-S. This SDLR camera was chosen because of its’ cost/performance ratio and offers an improved EOS movie mode that allows for full manual exposure, expanded record at 1920 x 1080 (HD). They are able to use their existing interchangeable Canon DSLR lenses (10-22mm f/3.5-4.5, 50mm f/1.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 IS). Exceptionally shallow depth of field shots are easily obtained with this camera/lens combos. The picture quality is identical to the more expensive Canon models 60D and 7D but at a fraction of the price. The T2i has slightly less still photography features than the 60D and 7D but that doesn’t inhibit its’ primary use by CRMG for HD video. The camera has proved to be reliable (except for occasional overheating in the direct tropical sun) and is also inexpensive to insure.

Then there is the matter about what to do for the underwater acquisition, wet shots and risky environments where potential damage to expensive equipment is possible. The relatively low cost Canon Vixia HF S100 flash memory camcorder was chosen because of its’ small size, multiple shutter speeds, various frame rates and manual iris settings, giving more control over depth of field (important in underwater shoots) than you generally see in other prosumer models. Mounted in an affordable ikelite #6095 underwater housing, the HFS100 has produced some amazing underwater footage in the clear tropical waters of The Florida Keys. Most recently the camera and housing combo performed flawlessly 55 feet down while recording Howard Livingston diving for treasure with Mel Fisher’s grandson on the legendary Keys wreck of the Atocha.

The HD raw footage from all three cameras is then edited on 2, 8 core Mac Pros running Final Cut Pro and mastered to Beta SP via a Black Magic Deck Link Studio card for delivery to the R&R network in SD on DirecTV and on portable hard drives in HD to Untamed Sports. Even though the Conch Republic Media Group’s studio is located in historic, downtown Key West it is none the less high tech in every respect.

For web delivery, each newly, completed program is converted to an flv file using Sorenson Squeeze for web delivery on and . Past episodes are archived on the sites and viewers routinely watch past episodes multiple times! The programs are encoded at a bit rate of 1200 Kbps at 640 x360 using the On2 VP6 Pro Codec for video and audio at 64 Kbps using Fraunhofer MP3 Codec. At this data rate the programs easily download in real time over most DSL internet connections and play and display clearly in full screen even on 46” diagonal monitors!

“Key West Time” along with the many other video segments available on Conch Republic Group’s web sites have become invaluable marketing tools for marketing savvy Florida Keys businesses who rely on attracting visitors from throughout the world.

Craig and Gail Hollenback and Conch Republic Media Group have proven that a quality network product can be produced and distributed on a realistic budget by incorporating ingenuity and the latest technologies. That philosophy plus personal stamina and determination have made their internet-based digital media company a success.

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