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  • Brady Gilliam

Chronic Wasting Disease: A Visionaery And Michigan State University Video Production Case Study Pt.3

Updated: Apr 10

Diving Into The World Of PSAs: Our Next Chapter With MSU On Chronic Wasting Disease

Riding the wave of our initial triumphs (dive into Part 1 and Part 2 if you've missed them), Michigan State University (MSU) was poised to sail into uncharted waters with us—this time, to unveil a Public Service Announcement (PSA) spotlighting Chronic Wasting Disease.

With our spirits high and a shared commitment to making a difference, Visionaery Productions eagerly embraced this new venture. The mission was clear: to weave a PSA that not only educates but also resonates, shedding light on a shadowy adversary.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a silent marauder in the wild, casts a shadow over deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. This affliction shares its roots with the notorious band of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), akin to the dreaded BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease) among cattle and scrapie among sheep.

Marked by the relentless deterioration of neural pathways, CWD manifests in a grim parade of symptoms: erratic behavior, dwindling frames, the failure of bodily functions, culminating in the inevitable demise of infected animals.

At the heart of this devastation lies an insidious agent—misfolded prions, twisting the fabric of life into a tapestry of despair. Once prion diseases have infected an environment, they can be especially tricky to eradicate. This PSA would help to educate Michigan hunters about proper procedures when handling potentially infected deer.

Project Challenge

While the PSA would educate the general population about Chronic Wasting Disease and its impact on Michigan's hunting industry, it also needed to effectively communicate the use and importance of public funds in combating this disease. It had to serve as a multi-pronged message, targeting different audiences with varied levels of knowledge about the subject matter.

The added complexity of appealing to legislators and regulators to underscore the necessity for increased funding added another layer of complexity to this project. This would require meticulous planning, strategic storytelling, and a sensitive approach to demonstrate the scale and importance of the research efforts and the critical need for continued support.

Project Solution

Our blueprint for this initiative unfurled in a triple-threaded strategy. First, a voice-over would weave through the narrative of Chronic Wasting Disease, shedding light on its origins and profound repercussions on Michigan's hunting economy. Following this, a dialogue with a landowner would paint a vivid picture of CWD's imprint on the state's natural tapestry. The final stroke would be an exchange with a local hunter, illustrating the adjustments necessitated by the presence of CWD.

These narratives promised to infuse the PSA with authentic voices, bridging the gap between data and the daily experiences of Michigan’s people. Armed with a holistic strategy, the quest for fitting voices commenced. Meanwhile, scriptwriter Chris Birkmeier, in tandem with the MSU ensemble, was tasked with distilling this intricate issue into a narrative both engaging and enlightening.

Video Production Process


As Chris delved into the script's intricacies, Katie from MSU played a pivotal role in gathering our key voices. Leveraging her vast connections within the hunting and conservation realms, we pinpointed a landowner and a hunter, both driven by a desire to spotlight the challenges posed by CWD.

Behind the Scenes

Securing individuals ready to share their journey with CWD on film was no small feat, given the disease's complexity and contentious nature. Yet, we found two remarkable voices, willing to not only discuss their experiences but also to host our interviews on their properties, enriching our narrative with genuine settings and supplemental B-roll footage.

Scouting these locations, we captured a multitude of images, weighing the impact of environmental sounds and the interplay of light to select the ideal scenes for our narrative. These explorations were crucial in crafting a PSA that would visually and auditorily resonate with viewers.

Having mapped out our shooting locales, we briefed the crew on the schedule, dividing our efforts across two main days, each dedicated to capturing the essence of our story against a thoughtfully chosen backdrop. In collaboration with MSU, we also planned to capture the communal spirit of the hunting season at a Buck Pole event, adding a layer of authenticity with footage of hunters and their quarry.

Faced with the challenge of depicting deer in their natural setting, we opted for select stock footage to stay within budget constraints while maintaining the narrative's integrity.

With the shoot dates on the horizon, a comprehensive schedule was laid out and communicated to all involved, ensuring we were equipped and prepared for what lay ahead. This meticulous preparation set the stage for production to begin, marking the next phase in our journey to bring this critical message to light.

Interested in working with Visionaery on your next project? Talk to a video expert today!

Production Day 1

As we stepped into the production phase, our first principal photography day was a pole barn on the landowner's estate, greeted by the dawn's soft glow. This serene morning light provided the perfect ambiance for capturing evocative B-roll footage alongside the landowner.

Behind The Scenes

Camera & Lighting Setup

Inside the barn, we embraced the day's first rays to configure our dual-camera setup, pairing the Canon C300 MK III with the Canon C70, both armed with DZO Pictor Cine Zoom lenses. This setup, focusing on the barn's aesthetic qualities, allowed us to simultaneously capture wide and close-up views, enhancing the visual depth with strategic placements and the subtle inclusion of a window to add intrigue to our frames.

Zac Clark, our adept grip/gaffer, meticulously installed Titan Tube lights to simulate the barn's natural lighting, complemented by an Aputure 600D's soft illumination through silk diffusion for a gentle, natural look on our interviewee. A carefully positioned Lite-Mat 4 served as both a hair and a backdrop light, enveloping our subject in a visually rich setting.

Audio Considerations

With Sasa Slogar, our sound engineer, coordinating closely with our talent, we navigated the complexities of capturing clear audio amidst the challenges posed by a generator's hum and the whims of the wind. Despite these hurdles, our commitment to quality remained unwavering.

The Interview

The interview unfolded with remarkable depth, offering insights into Chronic Wasting Disease's impact, enriched by the personal narratives of those at the frontline. Spanning just over an hour, it allowed us to delve thoroughly into the subject without straying from our timeline. With the day's filming concluded and our equipment packed, we reflected on the successes and learnings, ready to apply them to the upcoming shoot day, with all footage securely backed up in anticipation of the next steps.

Video Stills

Production Day 2

On the second day, as dawn painted the sky, we set our sights on the hunter's homestead, planning to kick off with an interview framed by the home's inviting porch and the eye-catching red barns beyond.

This picturesque setting, however, introduced the challenge of filming outdoors, where shifting sunlight and gusts of wind threatened the quality of our audiovisual capture. Yet, armed with lessons from the previous day, we were ready to meet these challenges.

Behind The Scenes

Camera & Lighting Insights

Maintaining our camera duo, the Canon C300 Mk III and Canon C70, we aimed to encapsulate the scene's essence from wide and close perspectives. The day's soft, overcast light was a boon, allowing us to softly illuminate our subject against the vibrant backdrop, using an Aputure 600D for nuanced lighting that added depth without overshadowing our subject.

Audio Precision

Echoing the first day’s audio strategy, Sasa adeptly rigged the hunter with a lavalier mic, safeguarded against the wind’s caprice with a boom mic stationed close by. This meticulous setup ensured clarity, capturing the interviewee’s insights amidst the outdoor setting's unpredictability.

The Heart of the Interview

The day’s discourse with the hunter unfolded more swiftly than anticipated, revealing the broad impacts of CWD through her articulate reflections. This conversation highlighted CWD's ripple effects on community and economy alike, grounding the issue in personal reality.

Capturing the Essence

Opting for a different rhythm, we chased the day's end for our B-roll capture, exploiting the even light to film the estate’s expanse. Among the most striking scenes were the forest’s historical tree stands, offering a unique viewpoint that enriched our story.

As twilight signaled the day's close, we concluded our filming, marking another successful chapter in our journey, rich with visuals and narratives poised to bring the reality of Chronic Wasting Disease closer to home.

Video Stills

Production Days 3 - 4

To enrich our narrative, we ventured into the sprawling woods owned by Katie and her husband, Darrell, an experienced hunter. Here, the golden hues of sunset and the sweeping aerial views captured by our drone brought the deer's natural abode to life, offering a grand canvas of the wilderness.

In our quest for authentic deer footage, we embraced the community spirit at a local Buck Pole event, a unique gathering where hunters showcase their harvest. This not only provided us with a rare glimpse into the camaraderie among hunters but also allowed us to film deer and hunters in a shared frame.

The serendipity of snowfall during the event added a layer of authenticity, mirroring the rugged conditions hunters face, and imbuing our footage with a sense of the raw beauty and resilience that defines the hunting experience.

Video Stills


With our footage secured and backed up, we transitioned into the post-production stage, aiming to condense our extensive captures into a concise piece under five minutes that would resonate with MSU's audience.

With the interviews structured and the Voice-Over script in hand, we sought the expertise of Nicholas Aggeler, a Voice-Over Artist recommended by our audio engineer, known for his commanding presence that aligns well with the hunter demographic of Michigan. His contribution was pivotal in weaving together the narrative threads of our project.

Confronted with the necessity of using stock footage for deer scenes, we worked closely with MSU to pinpoint clips that seamlessly fit our narrative. This step was followed by meticulous editing, color enhancement, and the infusion of sound and graphic elements, bringing our vision closer to completion.

Upon finalizing these elements, we presented our crafted piece to MSU, awaiting their insights and any adjustments needed to fully achieve our shared vision for the PSA.

Final Deliverables

Following MSU's insightful feedback, we fine-tuned our project to align perfectly with their vision. Entrusting Sasa, our skilled audio engineer, with the final audio polish, he meticulously crafted variations optimized for web streaming, television, and the immersive 5.1 Dolby Surround sound experience.

With the audio refined, we then prepared the video in a suite of formats, each tailored for its respective medium of distribution. These final pieces were delivered into MSU's hands, equipping them with a versatile PSA toolset designed to propel their mission forward with maximum impact..

Impact and Conclusion

Crafting the Public Service Announcement for Michigan State University was an enriching venture, merging our creative talents to spotlight Chronic Wasting Disease. Throughout this endeavor, we navigated a series of hurdles—from orchestrating interviews in the great outdoors to weaving factual depth with heartfelt stories. Each challenge was met with innovative thinking, pushing us to refine and elevate our work.

This project wasn't just about crafting a compelling PSA; it was a journey of growth and learning for our team, enhancing our collective expertise. We are proud to contribute to the dialogue on Chronic Wasting Disease, hopeful that our collaborative effort with MSU will foster a deeper understanding and spur ongoing research and support for this vital cause.

Partner with Visionaery Productions For Your Next Public Service Announcement

Visionaery Productions, nestled in the vibrant heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan, stands ready to elevate your video production ambitions, including crafting impactful Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that resonate deeply with audiences. Our adept team is primed to produce engaging, high-quality videos tailored to captivate your audience and amplify your message through strategic video marketing.

Catering to a diverse range of budgets and project sizes, we excel in delivering commercial, corporate, drone, and PSA video services, partnering with dynamic brands to transform their vision into compelling narratives.

Embark on your video marketing journey with Visionaery Productions, and let us bring your next PSA or project vision to life. Reach out today for a discovery call, and let us propel your vision beyond the ordinary.



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