Getting to recreate my life as a 10 year old boy in 1993 was a thrill! Like the game, this ad was a throwback to the simpler time of game ads. Logic doesn't matter and playing around with the fantastic pixel art was great fun. Also, finally getting to order a set of armor over the internet was also a landmark achievement for me.
Well, this one has a bit of story. We had written up the script, gotten it approved and we were all set up to shoot. One problem, the actor didn't show. This was the first time I had this happen so I stepped in where I could, in front of the camera. Jeremy Parker, my partner in shoots, was able to handle the video requirements and I had to bring the actor side of me out.
We got real zany for this video. We wanted to personify all the vehicles in the game, finding the right actors was tough but making them dance against the green screen was a glorious moment for me.
Bloody Harry is now out on the app store. This video was A LOT of sound work. We wanted to make the destruction of vegetables as gruesome as we could. No problem there, we love to mutilate our veggies.
Valdez is known for their fishing. If you drive there you can not only catch a prize winning halibut, you can make new memories with the people you love. That's what I tried to show in this new TV spot.
I know a lot of people are going to ask me how I accomplished the switching clothes bit without having him jump around the frame.
Well, we marked his spot under his each foot, which is why those feet never leave the ground. Then I told him to memorize each pose at the end of a take. He's very aware of his body (which is a big deal for a job like this) and was really good at slipping back into the memorized pose. I would double check by playing back the previous take in the camera just to be sure.
The hardest part of this ad were those logos. It wasn't that the animation was hard, just that I had to re-animate each logo independently. It's time consuming and very tedious. However, it's those little animations that make a big difference and when I played it back I was very happy with the results.
I wanted the animation to have some character, and I think it worked.
'Stache for men, the bristly supplement...for love.
BEHIND THE 'STACHE: FOR THE LADIES
So this is a short sketch that I had been wanting to do for awhile. I had written down the idea on my notepad about six months ago. It took me a LONG time to get a handle on the script for it. It started at a large scale production and I was too busy to get to it, so I cut it down to the essentials and this is what came out.
Sometimes the simple projects are nice to have, so you can try some new things without it being a burden.
I had told Alex (stache man) about it almost a month and a half before we shot the video. He started growing his facial hair immediately. So he had to go around with a semi goatee for awhile, apparently he hated it, but took one for the team.
The shoot itself was pretty simple. Unlike most of my sketches I decided to shoot it out of sequence. Moving the tripod and lights in between every take would have taken a ton of time. So I set up the tripod and zoomed in and out to achieve different shots. Occasionally I would move the camera even closer, like the "for luck" line.
We spend a long time getting Alex's lines and we even shot some alternate lines for a few of the jokes. Once I felt like we had everything we needed for him, then I moved everything around for Daniel's lines, which were far easier.
So ones we finished all the lines I had to get all the cutaways of the box and a couple of wide shots that I could edit in later.
When it came to the edit I dropped all the shots on the timeline and picked the takes I liked the best. When I had all those, then I had to determine a speed and flow to the dialog. Which is one of the fun parts. After that I fine tune it with shots overlapping and adding in the cutaways. One day I'll have to do a post just on the editing process, it's pretty in depth.
I had a particularly hard time finding a good music balance for this, but after some library searching I found this crazy European sounding track and I had to stick with it.
Once the editing and music were in and set I had to come up with titles. You could probably guess I had fun with this. Titles are a great way to add in extra gags for people who watch it more than once. So if you missed them the first time through, watch it again and read what I wrote. I don't want to spoil it here.
The box itself was done in Lighwave, I textured a cube and animated it coming across the screen to hide the fade transition a bit.
Once the edit was done it was time to render out and upload to Youtube! There you have it a 'Stache commercial!
I just finished up this spot for Florcraft. It hasn't even hit the airwaves yet but I wanted to share. It's a fairly straightforward spot, talking about the new Healthier Living Installations they do.
Initially we were thinking about tagging a nationally produced spot with new footage, but I really wanted to shoot a whole new ad for it. When you tag footage that isn't shot the same way, you can really tell. Lighting, frame size, and sound quality all shift suddenly. I think it throws off the viewers and so I avoid it as much as possible. I really want people to be taken for an enjoyable thirty second ride, so I try to create ads that feel smooth, no bumps allowed.
When I came to the decision that we were going to shoot a whole new ad I was freed up to write a spot from scratch, and this is what I came up with. I wanted something familiar to pull in viewers at the beginning so I started with the tissues. Almost everyone knows what it's like to battle allergies.
I also tried as much as possible to keep the mood of the ad light and fun. When you draw people in, you have to try and keep them interested, even if it's only for thirty seconds. That's why I wrote the "sneeze free experience" line. It's just something small, that gives the audience something to smirk at. The same goes for the closing line, "clearing the air".
As far as visuals go, I knew I wanted to make the store look as good as possible, so I went in a few days ahead so I could see the space and figure out what options I had. This really helps the overall look and feel. If I know where outlets (for lights) and talent marks (places where the people stand) are, then I can go back to the script and visualize in my head how things will look.
When it came to the third shot, I knew I was going to recreate this poster they had in After Effects.
My first thought was to just shoot the poster and pan down along it, but I thought it wasn't interesting enough. So I took the photo you see above and made an animation that brought more attention to it. Then I placed subtle sound effects for each title that pops up to make them more noticeable.
Speaking of which, I did more sound editing than I usually do for this one. The second shot, where she throws the tissues over her head, I placed a swishing sound effect on her motion to make it more pronounced. Also, if you listen to the original shot you can hear the box of tissues hitting the display and the floor, which broke the illusion and took me out of the ad. So I decided to cut out that bit of sound so it wouldn't be distracting.
I usually color correct my ads, but in this one I was so happy with the image straight out of the camera that I decided to leave it as is. Thank you Canon for making such a great camera! (60D, for those of you who want to know)
I really enjoyed doing the whole break down of the Prospector ad so I thought I would do the same thing on a simpler project. Today, we'll look at a 15 second Pike's ad.
This production is quite a bit simpler so I won't be going into as much detail here. Pike's told me that we needed to shoot a new TV ad. Now, they do 15 second ads. One with food and the chef, another with drinks and the bartender. These ads run in "bookend" spots, where you have a spot in the front of the break and at the end of a break. So you can get the channel surfers pretty easily.
So as Jeff, the chef, cooked up the dishes I decided to break out the gear and set up. I knew he wasn't going to move around and I had to nail the lighting on him only once, then we could shoot without having to adjust. I took a picture of the lighting setup here. You can click the picture for a larger size.
I'm using the same 500w tota Lowel kit that I used on the Prospector ad. I put one light behind him to created a hair light that would define the edge of his face, and another one with an umbrella pointing right at him. With only two lights, I don't have many options. Because the restaurant in a lot darker than the Prospector you'll see a difference in how it looks. I think I prefer this look, but I can't shut off all the lights in a department store to get the same effect. It's bad when all the customers run into each other. That setup gave us this look, which I really liked. Click for full resolution.
The chair closest to the camera in the shot above is where I sat for the entire ad. I only used a 17-50 2.8 Tamron lens on my Canon 60D, so I was able to zoom in and out depending on the shot I wanted. I also would lean in to get really close on his face.
We shot all the dialog multiple times, from wide and close. That way I could put cuts wherever I wanted in post, if he nailed the delivery right (and he usually does, he's very good) I didn't have to worry about continuity.
Once we had the lines shot, we moved along to the food shots. I know you only see one shot with a pan, but I have about seven variations of that on my hard drive. Close, far, quick pan, slow pan, etc. I always try to think about how my shots are going to edit together while I'm shooting. I also try to leave a little room to experiment, but still have a "safe" take if it doesn't work out. Just another thing to file in the back of your brain when you shoot.
When I got back to the office I dumped all the footage from the cards onto the hard drive. Then I dumped the audio from the recorder to the hard drive as well. I put both of them into separate folders so that I can keep all the files straight.
Now, because I shoot my audio separate from my video, I have to sync it in post. Luckily both the camera and the recorder number the files and I can pull them into the edit sequentially. I pull the footage first, then I pull the audio in below the video on a separate track.
Here's a snapshot of the timeline so you can see how that looks. Click on the picture to see the larger size.
You can see the actual edit of the ad first. I always cut clips out of the footage and paste them at the beginning of the timeline, where I assemble the ad itself.
You can also see that there are extra tracks above and below the footage. The one below is for the music, and the two above are for the extra shot of the food and the logo that appears throughout the commercial.
Here is a closer shot of that section. Click to see it bigger.
Hopefully you get the idea of how I structure these things. I should note that I did have to cut a line, he was initially going to open the ad with his name, it ran too long so I had to cut it out. As it stands, it barely fit into 15 seconds, which is pretty normal.
After that I did some color correction. The Canon tends to be a really high contrast and I actually lose some detail, but I can bring it back by adjusting the settings. Here's the difference from the raw video, to the color corrected version.
I added a little bit of a pink hue to the footage and dialed down the contrast so the black weren't quite as strong. Also, I tried to get rid of the yellow color I was getting off of the ambient light.
All in all, I was happy with the way this one turned out. It's simple but effective.
If anyone has questions regarding this ad, or any of my work really you can leave a comment or email me via the form on my contact page. I'll likely turn the answers into posts themselves so I can really go into detail.
I thought it might be fun to get really nitty gritty and break down how I shot one of my ads. This is an exhaustive look at producing a thirty second commercial. It's a long post and a lot of it is kind of dry, but there are some fun facts in the pictures if you just want to see those. We're going to take a look at the Prospector Christmas ad. This ad is one of two, but the only thing that changed were the brands in the middle, it's the same process for both. Here is the ad:
I think I've mentioned this before but massive sales are hard to do creatively. When you need to mention that only a few select brands are on sale you almost HAVE to make it a list. So I decided to actually make a list. The script itself is pretty typical adspeak, except for the "really long" joke, so I'm not really going to go into the writing process.
My first task was to create a list prop. I really wanted it to look like a scroll so that it could roll out in the wide shot. After browsing Michael's, the local craft store, for a half hour I had the materials I needed. A long sheet of drawing paper and a large wooden dowel rod. I went home, cut the rod into foot long sections and taped one end of the drawing paper to one of the rods. Then I started rolling....and I kept rolling....and rolling....I didn't realize I had bought fifty feet of paper until I looked at the packaging again. So after rolling the entire thing onto one rod, I had to do half as much with the other rod so it was split evenly. That was pretty much it, scroll was made.
The morning of the shoot I knew pretty much where I wanted to shoot. The Prospector is no stranger to me, I've been shooting their ads for almost two years now. Once you get to know a location you don't change it up that often. Usually the Prospector requires a bunch of setups all over the store and we end up lugging the gear up and down the stairs to different deparments. Not this time, it was all going to be done in one spot, which gave me some extra time to tweak the lights.
The light kit I had was nothing special. A two light 500 watt tota kit from Lowell. It's not super powerful because you cannot control your lights other than with an umbrella, which softens the light and looks great on faces. So I put one light behind her right shoulder and pointed it in her direction, which creates a nice hair light. I did not use anything to control it, it's straight from the bulb. So the shadows are harsh, but that works for me in these situations because I want the light to define an edge. The other light had an umbrella and it is JUST off the edge of the camera with an umbrella pointed at her face.
Now, I like the soft lights to be angled so it creates some shadow on the nose and opposite side of the face. Contrast is what will define a subject, and you only get that by figuring out how to use shadows effectively. I also never point a light at my subject from the position of the camera. It looks too much like using a flash, which people are used to seeing. You want to create a look that people don't see very often so it remains interesting.
I set up my tripod almost directly in front of her and used the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens almost exclusively. My tripod had a homemade slider on the top of it that allowed me to slide the camera roughly three feet across. When I slide the camera, you will notice I'm also panning to keep her in the same place, that's how I create that motion you see in the ad, where the background looks like it is rotating around her. It's subtle but looks great. When you move the camera sometimes a little bit will go a LONG way.
I shot all of her lines from a close angle and then again from farther away, that ways I could put cuts where I wanted in post. Especially since I wasn't sure how the list was going to work. In fact, if you watch carefully you'll see the list come up in one hand, drop down, and in the next shot, come up in the other hand. That was not intentional. We had switched hands mid way through, but I forgot to get the lines again. In editing this was the best way to deal with the teleporting list.
Then came the wide shot (switched to tamron 17-50mm 2.8 here) where she drops the list. I had her say her entire line again, even though I knew I'd only use the second bit. That way her performance carried through. When you start someone off in mid sentence for a take, it just doesn't come out right. So I try to get a few of them saying the whole thing, that way they can transition correctly. The list drop, by the way, took more than a few takes. We probably had three good ones at the end, but it was hard to predict where that roll was going to go. So we just had to try until we got it.
After we got those first few lines, I brought the camera in close again to get the end tag. I kept sliding and panning to keep the motion consistent, but even in the finished ad you can see that I adjusted the last shot a bit while recording. It's okay to do that to a point, sometimes it can be too much. As a cameraman you want to be as invisible as possible. If people realize that there is someone behind the camera manipulating it, it can take them out of the illusion. After I got the last line I got her voice over for the middle section, but I'll get to that later.
Once we were done in this location I only had one more down the walkway a little, in front of the Christmas tree. My cohort had already gathered the people for the middle section of the ad and had them select some clothes that would work for the brands we were highlighting. We had them stand in front of the tree modeling the clothes. This was funny. The people in the ad are staff that work at the Prospector, they aren't experienced models. I knew what I wanted, but didn't quite know how to communicated it. So I showed them. It helps to break up the embarrassment if you're willing to look a little goofy yourself. I went and stood in their position, and gave them a quick crash course in looking cool. I think they pulled it off better than I did. We just had them take turns going back and forth, until we got the shots that we needed. Some of those you don't see in this version, we split up the shots for a second cut. So there are four more shots you aren't seeing in this version.
Again, half of this ad is voice over and I knew that going in. So I didn't have to shoot the middle sections with the main talent. I only needed her dialog. I ditched the camera and tried to think of a good place to record using the same microphone. All my audio is ported into a Tascam DR-1 that I have attached to my hip, so it's totally wireless and separate from the footage. I have to sync everything in post. I turned around and took a look at the store trying to find a place that wasn't too noisy and wouldn't echo. I was in a store full of coats, it wasn't that hard. Soft surfaces soak up audio, hard surfaces reflect it. We walked into the middle section of a few coats and had her run through ALL of the lines. I like to get the ones I shot, just in case there is a problem with the audio. That way I have backup. We recorded it three or four times and we were done.
Naturally, I had to edit all of this stuff together. I edit in Sony Vegas which is fine for putting shots together, but when you get into complicated CG (computer generated) graphics you have to use something more powerful. This is where Adobe After Effects comes in. I put all the shots together and used numbered place holders to mark where I wanted the animations to be, just slides of a number telling me when to start an end the transition from one brand to another. I rendered the ad out and brought it into After Effects where I started the time consuming process of creating the list itself. This was not easy, but it was fun.
Take a look above, you can see how it all fit together. I animated the camera to crawl down the list section by section. The shots of the models (where the black boxes are) were already put together and I reused the same footage for each brand, but we were farther along in time and onto another shot for each brand. I know it might sound complicated, and it is (I'm not even going into the animation bits), but I hope this helps give you and idea. Once I had everything set up in After effects I rendered it out and brought it back into Sony Vegas where I placed it where it needed to go. Then I added the logo and it was set to go!
Now, one thing to remember. Only about 50% of my projects are approved on the first run. This one went through a change or two as well. The approval process is important, because I always want the client to be happy with the final product. In this case, they were but I did have to move a logo here or change a section there. It's usually minor changes because of the planning we do ahead of time.
I know this is exhaustive and way more than most people will want to read, but I hope it shows just how much work and thought goes into one thirty second commercial. I'll probably go into more detail on different aspects of commercials as I make more, so keep watching my blog.