The Studio C3 team, left to right, Jen Merrigan, Alison Smith, Kaleb Kohart and Javier Ventura, creates Internet advertising for small companies.
The Studio C3 team, left to right, Jen Merrigan, Alison Smith, Kaleb Kohart and Javier Ventura, creates Internet advertising for small companies.

Studio C3

Owner: Kaleb Kohart

Employees: 3

Location: 332 W. Bijou St., Suite 106


Kaleb Kohart describes himself as the man behind the curtain.

That curtain is his video production business, Studio C3, where he creates commercials for small businesses — animated ads for out-of-state banks, videos for nonprofits and slick branding presentations for international corporations.

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Right now, he just finished shooting a reality TV series featuring local bail bondsman Bobby Brown, who has gained notoriety as a sidekick to Dog the Bounty Hunter. Kohart is hoping cable network A&E will pick up the series.

But even before Bobby Brown or Dog the Bounty Hunter, Kohart found success by serving small businesses that wanted to tap in to worldwide marketing through the Internet.

YouTube, Yahoo and Hulu are making it easy for small businesses to get their video message to the masses. Video is driving search-engine optimization, which gets the views small businesses want, Kohart said.

“Video has turned into an essential business expense,” said Kohart, who said his business grew 25 percent between 2011 and 2012.

In December, 182 million people in the U.S. watched 11.3 billion online video ads, according to comScore, a digital analytics company. Every minute roughly 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube, Kohart said. That means businesses already are jockeying to get their message viewed on the Internet as part of their overall marketing strategy. But, flip video cameras just won’t do, he said.

“You’ve got to find a way to cut through that clutter,” Kohart said.

Visualizing a dream

Kohart grew up in western Kansas and wanted to be a disc jockey. After college, he went to work at a television station and fell in love with what he called “little 30-second movies” — commercials.

Over the years he has won more than a dozen Telly Awards for his commercials and his client list has grown to include FedEx and Citigroup.

Kohart was working in Kansas in 2002 when he got a call from a buddy in Colorado Springs, who asked whether Kohart wanted to come out and work with him.

“It was a no-brainer,” Kohart said. “I was out here in two weeks.”

Then, in summer 2004, he broke out on his own.

“I got tired of working for people who weren’t doing cool things,” he said. “They weren’t embracing the new movement toward small creative shops and boutiques — their main goal was sales.”

His dream was to create a production studio that went beyond making a commercial and handing it over to the customer. His idea was to help the client figure out how to define the business problem and then solve it.

“The video has to have a purpose, it has to motivate and it has to entertain,” he said.

For seven years, he freelanced under the name of Studio C3 but always had in mind that he would turn his one-man show into a full company. In 2012, he landed a big client, RC Pilot Magazine, which required two hours of video in each online monthly issue.

He hired three people — Alison Smith, a video editor with experience in documentaries; Javier Ventura, an expert in motion graphics; and Jen Merrigan, an advertising and marketing exec.

“I saw us growing into a creative company that is more of a partner,” Kohart said.

Studio C3 has three full editing systems and uses the latest versions of Adobe Creative, Final Cut Pro and Cinema 4D software. Kohart has four digital video cameras and a variety of lighting equipment. The team also partners with other video companies, rental shops and studios.

“We travel really light,” Kohart said.

Video explosion

About 10 years ago, boutique video production shops started popping up all over the country, mainly because cameras and video-editing equipment became smaller and less expensive, Kohart said.

Before that time, it could cost $250,000 to start a production company. Then, Apple came out with Final Cut — a $1,000 editing system, Kohart said. And suddenly entrepreneurs could afford to start their own video production businesses, he said. The new shops caused a seismic shift in the video industry.

Businesses no longer had to pay $50,000 to buy video production services from national advertising agencies, Kohart said. And they didn’t have to wait two months for a product. His studio can shoot a national television commercial in a half day, using three cameras instead of one. Studio C3 offers video production that typically ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.

“It was the idea that you don’t have to be in L.A. or Chicago,” he said. “We didn’t have to work by established rules.”

In recent years, online advertising has exploded, with video at the heart of the fireworks. With smart phones and tablets there are more venues for businesses to get video messages to viewers. Video production is expected to grow 14 percent during the next five years, outpacing all other industries, said Jen Merrigan, Studio C3 account services manager.

If video production was the first thing cut from marketing budgets in years past, it now is among the first to be added, she said. Her job is to help businesses get the most out of their video, beyond just showing it at the annual board meeting she said. Videos can be used on the Internet, on social media sites, be embedded in email, used with apps and linked to other videos, she said.

“At the end of the production of the video, you are only halfway there,” she said. “Video is changing so much you have to think about how it rolls out.”

In 2012, U.S. businesses increased their online advertising spending by 27 percent, Merrigan said. Studio C3 revenue is projected to grow 15 percent this year over last year and the company is working on about 20 videos a month.

“We’re booked two months out,” Kohart said.

Now, about 80 percent of Studio C3’s business is outside of Colorado. The team also is working with an app developer on training videos.

But, Kohart expects to pick up more local accounts as small businesses become more comfortable with online commercial advertising. He expects small businesses will grow weary of trying to make their own Internet video ads when they don’t see a return, he said.

“If you have a spot done for free, you are putting a lot of risk into that,” Kohart said. “It has to be quality video that tells a story; that is more likely to make a connection.”

His plan for the coming year is to partner with local advertising agencies, which had been accustomed to either designing print ads or television ads.

“Anyone can have national quality work on a regional or local budget,” Kohart said. “That is where we specialize.”