What is the AHS? ( Animation|2017)

Animation for US Census Bureau / American Housing Survey

This summer the Ascender team proudly produced an short motion graphic / animated video for the US Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Census Bureau’s ‘American Housing Survey.”

The Survey is conducted in residences across the United States to collect data on how we live, average size and characteristics of our nation’s housing supply.

The project had a immensely short turn-around but we were up to the challenge!


Our New Home

Our New Home

Ascender Communications Expands To New Office in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

We are thrilled to announce that earlier this month, Ascender relocated to historic Barrack’s Row. Yep, we are back in Capitol Hill.

That’s where our journey began in the bedroom of a 2nd floor condo on Pennsylvania Avenue SE,  just 13 years ago.  It’s been a long time coming thus far. We survived The Great Recession. The 2011 DC Earthquake. Even the rise and fall of Walter White and we are poised for even greater things to come.

Our business is a start-up again. At this pivotal juncture, our projects and core team have expanded too. While we remain excited for what the future holds, we can’t help but acknowledge the enormous amount of work it took to get here. Being is business is like walking a tight-rope over a fiery mountain range, with one side tied to heaven, and the other to the gates of hell!

Okay—it’s not THAT bad. But there have been some really scary moments. But what makes it all so worth it—and so addictive—is that there have been so many more wonderful, life-changing moments along the way. And, we have met some really great people too.

Our new facility will allows us  increased client meeting space and post-production and animation and motion-graphics capacity, with separate Avid Media Composer® and Adobe Premiere ® editing Suites.

We are humbled to remain a thriving black-owned, boutique creative agency in Washington, DC. However, with greater capacity comes an greater responsibility to our clients and ourselves. This turn is all about improving our output and producing a solid body of high-quality work, bit-by-bit, day-by-day.

That remains the key to our longevity and financial success.  You gotta LOVE and MASTER your craft. Passion alone won’t do it. Nor will fancy digs.

May we forever rise to meet every challenge, forever learning and reaching for new creative heights.


ACRIA PSA series feat. Legendary Dionne Warwick

ACRIA PSA Series featuring the legendary activist, singer-Songwriter, and Dionne Warwick

Executive Producer: Deborah Levine (ACRIA)
Senior Producer / Director: Paul Grant
Producer : Tracey A. Grant
Director of Photography: Yul Sean Simmons
Post-Production & Motion Graphics: Ascender Communications, Inc.
Client: ACRIA / Black Women’s Health Imperative


The Family Block Party | Animated TV Spot (2016)

Animated 30-second TV Spot for an annual community health fair in Denver, Colorado.


'Lift Every Voice' video raises over $1 Million in Donations

Pernessa C. Seele, Founder and CEO of  The Balm In Gilead, Inc.,  announced last month at the start of the 2015 Healthy Churches Conference that they have distributed over 75,000 copies of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing” a video that we produced and donated to them in 2009.  The Balm In Gilead, Inc., is an international nonprofit that assists faith-based organizations with addressing chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS, Cervical Cancer and even Dementia.  The Balm In Gilead  offers a free copy of the DVD for every donation above $15.00, since early 2009.

We are thrilled to have played a small part in helping them build the capacity of faith communities around the globe to address these life threatening illness.

Here’s yet another example of how successful, quality content marketing pays and makes a difference!


Animation ‘At War With Ourselves’ screened at 2015 ‘NextNow Fest’ and PGAAMCC Gallery

The animated short ‘At War With Ourselves: The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy’  written and voiced by renown poet Nikky Finney screened at 2015 ‘NextNow Fest’ at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Center and as a featured in a recent exhibition of the same title at the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center in North Brentwood, MD (PGAAMCC).

This early version of the video was co-produced with students from Cultural Keepers, PGAAMCC’s  after school arts education program at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts at Suitland High School.


'FLOW' Cardiovascular Health Campaign Launches in Denver

CBHC has done it again!

On Saturday, August 30th Colorado Black Health Collaborative launched their citywide cardiovascular health campaign at the 2015 Black Family Reunion / Health Expo event. The ‘FLOW” campaign, (FORM A LIFETIME OF OPTIMAL HEALTH) will link members of the community that are most at-risk for CV disease to care and also raise aware through a series of public health messages by Ascender. The FLOW campaign creative will feature the stories about real residents overcoming CV diseases like high blood pressure.

Stay tuned as we roll-out more creative from this exciting  project, funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control.


When you are alone

You will remember the people more than the place.

When you are alone for days or weeks at a time, you eventually become drawn to people. Talking to randos is the norm. I’ll never forget the conversation with the aquarium fisherman, forest ranger, and women at the Thai market. It’s refreshing to compare notes on life with people from vastly different backgrounds.

When you meet fellow travelers, you’ll find they are also filled with a similar sense of adventure and curiosity about the world. Five days of friendship on the road is like five months of friendship at home. It’s the experiences that bond you together, not the place. A rule I followed that worked well: be the first to initiate conversation. I met some incredible people by simply being the first to talk.

Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.

Travel can be affordable.

Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.

Take the cost of your rent or mortgage + food per month and divide it by 30. This is how much it costs per day to live at home. You will find that it’s possible to travel the world for roughly the same amount. Or, if you live in an expensive city like San Francisco, far less.

English is a universal language.

I was surprised how many people spoke English (apparently 1.8 billion people worldwide). Places where English was less prevalent, I made an effort to learn a handful of words and phrases in the local language. Even though it’s passable, I do desire to learn another language fluently. You can only take the conversation so far when all you can say is: “¿Esto contiene gluten?”

It’s possible to communicate a lot without saying a word. For instance, I left my phone at a restaurant in Chile. I pointed at the table where I was sitting, put my hand to my ear like a phone, then shrugged — 2 minutes later, my phone had been retrieved.

Trust your intuition.

I learned to trust that tiny voice in my head a bit more. When you are alone in a foreign country and your phone is dead, you are forced to trust your intuition. Is this neighborhood safe to walk around? Is this person someone I should interact with? Am I heading the right direction? Intuition is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. It’s feels like a sixth sense when you’re able to read between the lines of a situation.

The world is endless. The world’s a tiny neighborhood. My fav people are the ones who can hold two impossible ideas in their heads.


Me Myself and I

Many years ago, I worked for my parents who own a video production company. Because it is a family business, you inevitably end up wearing many hats and being the czar of many different jobs. I mainly managed projects and worked as a video editor. On production, there were times that I was called on to work as an audio tech and was made to wear headphones on long production days. In those days, having a really good set of headphones that picked up every nuance of sound was essential to making sure the client got what they needed.

First impressions.

Naturally, my first impression of these headphones is based off of the look of them. They have a classic over-the-ear style that is highlighted by a blue LED light that indicates the power for the noise canceling. The padding on the ear pieces seems adequate for extended usage periods.
They are wired headphones, but the 3.5mm stereo mini-plug cable is detachable. Something else I noticed right of the bat was the very nice carrying case that comes with them. It has a hard plastic exterior with a soft cloth interior that helps to protect the surface of the headphones from scratches. I never truly appreciated cases for headphones until I started carrying them from place-to-place. Now I can’t imagine not having a case.

A perfect fit.

Once I gave the headphones a thorough once-over exam, I tried them on. As I mentioned, they have a classic over-the-ear style and just looking at them, the padding on the ear pieces seem adequate and the peak of the headband seemed to be a bit lacking, but you don’t really know comfort unless you try on the product. So, I slipped the headphones on and found them to be exquisitely comfortable.

It’s safe to say that because of my unique professional experiences, I’ve tested out a lot of headphones.

Quality.

Now that I had the headphones on my head, I was finally ready to plug and play some music. I plugged the provided cable into the jack on the headphones and then the one on my iPhone 6. Then I called up Pandora. I tend to have a very eclectic music purview and have many stations set up for different moods. From John Williams to Fallout Boy, the sound quality of these headphones was remarkable. There is an amazing depth of sound and incredible highs and lows that make listening to music a truly breathtaking experience.

In order to test how voices sounded, and the overall art of sound mixing, I pulled up Netflix on my iPad Air 2 and watched a few minutes of a movie to hear all the nuances of the film. None of them were lost. In fact, I ended up hearing sounds that I hadn’t heard before. Echoes…birds chirping…wind blowing through trees…breathing of the characters…it was very impressive what the headphones ended up bringing out for me.

I would highly recommend these to any sound mixing specialist.


My tech travel setup

MacBook Pro

Robert Capa, a famous photojournalist once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” It’s not just about zooming in with your lens, either. It’s about getting physically closer to people and getting to know them better. It’s also about spending a little time with a stranger before taking their photo. That helps build the trust and comfort that’ll come through in your pictures. Walk up to your subject with a simple wave and a smile to help communicate that you mean no harm.

Ask permission to take a photo if they speak the same language as you. If you don’t share a language, try learning some basic phrases ahead of time, gesture at your camera and ask through expression. Of course if someone doesn’t want their picture taken, it’s imperative to respect their wishes and move on — people are always more important than photographs. National Geographic writes that “making great pictures is primarily a mental process.” What makes you want to photograph the person or place? How might you describe it to a friend, and what adjectives would you use? Are there details you can focus on that tell a story?

iPad/iPhone

Maybe it’s a dry, arid desert, captured by focusing on the patterns of cracked earth. Or a prairie that’s photographed with the horizon at the bottom of the frame, to help create a sense of the open sky and tranquility. Or maybe it’s the story of a deft artisan, fingernails covered in wet clay as she molds a pot. When you’re on the road it can be tough to eat right and make sure you get all the right nutrients. I started taking daily supplements of Multi-Vitamin, Fish Oil capsules and Vitamin D and it helps a lot. Especially the Vitamin D since I don’t get to see the sun a lot during the winter in Sweden.

Sennheiser HD-25 Headphones

It’s difficult to recreate the grandeur of a vast landscape in the confines of a picture frame. But one way to add a sense of depth to your photos is to compose them with objects in the foreground that support the scene. It can be as simple as a winding road through a national park, or some rocks to show off the local geology.

If you’re taking photos of people during normal daylight hours, a quick way to get more flattering light is to move the person out of direct sunlight. The light is much “softer” and doesn’t cast stark, unflattering shadows across their facial features. Even better, have someone stand next to an open door or window as the single source of light.