Posts Tagged ‘Commercials’


Super Bowl Ads 2010 – 8. February, 2010

On the whole this lot of Super Bowl commercials were okay. Some of my favorites were…

This one made me laugh a few times but my buddy Dan roared when the two fun boys slaped each other.

Man, this must be the year of the furry, rodent like animal stealing the spotlight.

I love that this commercials cost nothing yet still managed to evoke emotions.

I got a chuckle out of the vampire joke.

Loved the song placed to the visuals but I played this PS3 demo and it’s just too gruesome for me.

And of course, in space, no one can hear you scream. Yeah, that one joke elicited the biggest laugh from me.

BTW, it was great to hear songs by Grizzly Bear and The Arcade Fire (did you know they donated all their profits from the NFL spots to Haiti relief?) but why are ad executives still using that Blur song? It’s what, fifteen years old?  And what’s with repurposing all those YouTube videos?  Here’s hoping the creators are getting a fat paycheck from this.

And with that I think I’m getting sick so I’m out and apologies in advance if I’m not blogging regularly this week.

Posted in Off-Topic

My Summer 2009 – 31. August, 2009

As the summer of 2009 draws to a close, allow me a few minutes to look back at what I did for my summer vacation.

Vacation? Bull! I worked my ass off this summer (and I managed to have some fun, too). What did I do this summer?

  1. I wrote my first TV spec for the now canceled TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.
  2. I found an editor for my feature.
  3. I shot a live-action/stop-motion spec for Amazon.
  4. I went to my first Comic-Con.
  5. I went to my first Tiki Oasis.
  6. I shot the first material for my multi-medium project.
  7. I directed scenes for an actor’s reel.
  8. I saw The Kills, Neko Case, Death Cab for Cutie and Andrew Bird in concert.

I’d say that’s a pretty damn productive summer.

Practice Make Green Screen Perfection – 5. August, 2009

To further expound upon the making of my Amazon spec commercial, there was one green screen shot. I approached it with a firm hand and an empty mind. That is to say I’ve never pulled a green screen before.

Now, I have shot them in the pat. One of my earliest jobs was capturing some green screen material for the band Train (I can never listen to that song ever again) for when they appeared on The Tonight Show with Leno. My collaborators were both guys I went to school with. One now directs webisodes for Disney. The other directed MONSTER HOUSE.

Regardless, I jumped into my green screen head first. First I set a pretty specific garbage matte and then I used After Effects and Keylight to pull the green. It worked pretty well except some of the green elements in front of the screen weren’t the exact same color of green (the shooter in me knew better but the producer in me knew we didn’t have time to fix this). These elements didn’t pull like I’d hoped. There were two paths here. One, add another instance of Keylight to try and pull the second type of green or two, adjust the garbage matte so it’s more of a roto. I tried option one and everything went nuts so I hit “undo” and went with option two. Very tedious but it got the job done.

If only I had a way to practice pulling green, garbage matting and rotoscoping but I don’t shoot much of that kind of material. Wait, you can. A few days after I wrapped I found this site. They have tons of green screen examples with all the elements necessary for a fully realized comp. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at this or if you have a comp in your future or if you just want to know the kind of Hell I went through, download any of these and see what it’s like.

Posted in Post-Production

Amazon Spec: Debrief – 3. August, 2009

So while I wait for August 24th to roll around (that’s when Amazon announces the 5 finalist for the audience award and the jury prize winner), here is my promised debrief. Warning, it is very tech heavy.

First, my 30-second spec combined live action and stop-motion animation. I’ve done one other film like this (check out CONVERSING). For that short, I shot both the live action and stop-motion animation with a Panasonic DVX100; I used iStopMotion to record the stop-motion animation to my laptop. The digital video was shot 30p and the animation 15 fps. I used a Sennheiser ME66 and ProTools 6.4 to record the voice talent. I edited the film with Final Cut Pro and mixed in ProTools. I was going to use the same setup for this project but I really wanted a higher resolution final so I thought I’d put the final cut through Instant HD and viola, I’m done.

Just one problem: the test I put through Instant HD didn’t look as good as I hoped. I don’t blame the plugin, I just didn’t know how to punch up the optimum settings for export. Plus I was haunted by this post.

I also had access to both a Sony A1U HDV camcorder and a Nikon D100 plus I was looking for a good excuse to learn After Effects so why not take the plunge with this project? Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So, first I recorded my four actors (big thanks to Curtiss, Dan, Karina & Michael for lending their talent) using the above mentioned setup. I quickly cut and mixed the dialog so I could sync it up to my “proof of concept” cut. I then shot the live action (an extra thanks to Dan) as 59.94 HDV with the Sony “fake” Cineframe 30 mode turned on. After shooting I immediatly transcoded all the footage to ProRes for the rest of post. All of that went according to plan. The animation, not so much.

I thought about shooting RAW files with the D100 but I’d heard from my photographer friends that it’s a whole other beast so I chose large RGB TIFF files (3000 x 2000) instead. Unfortunately, the camera came with one 512MB CompactFlash (CF) card. That card coulldn’t hold more than 17 shots so if I had any animation longer than 1s4f (1 second, 4 frames), I’d have to download the card, wipe it clean and pray I hadn’t bumped the camera in the process. Um, no thanks. I looked in the manual and it said the camera could handle the “promised” 1GB card but nothing bigger. Guess what? Today it’s hard to find a CF card smaller than 4GB. Thank the lord the 4GB card worked. Unfortuantely, that was just the start of my troubles.

After shooting my first stop-motion shot I immediately ran head first into another problem. Although I put the camera in full manual, including the iris, the camera still adjusted the f-stop by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop according to the built in spot meter. That meant that the brightness of some frames in a single shot would be different than the others. I’d have to correct brightness frame by frame. Tedious? Yes. Doable? Yes. But that wasn’t the biggest pain in my neck.

No, it was the camera and the CF card that almost killed me. The camera could shoot 6 shots before it needed time to write the images from the internal memory buffer to the CF card. It could take 2-5 minutes to write one image to the CF. But the bigger problem was downloading from the camera into iPhoto. This took around 20 minutes per download and once took almost an hour. This forced my one-day shoot to take twice as long. Ugh.

Once in iPhoto, I renamed and exported the TIFF files to an external drive. It was then time for some After Effects magic. I was glad AFX allowed me to import a folder of still images as a contiguous video clip. Once in a timeline, I corrected the gamma to fix for the iris adjustment. Damn, that took a long time and boy did I grind my teeth. After that I created JPEG proxy files for the TIFF clips (a very good idea that saved me a ton of time). I then created another AFX project where I would lay in the animated clips end to end to get a sense of editing and pace. And, as I had 3000×2000 images but knew my final output would be a 1920×1080 HD Quicktime, I decided to create camera moves in post. Oh boy, the results looked so good I couldn’t have been happier.

Also, at this point, I could fix any image problems while still in the highest possible resolution; the Clone tool became one of my most trusted tools and Keylight is awesome for green-screen work. Once that was done, I took each shot and output it as a 1920×1080 ProRes Quciktime so that I could combine my live action and stop motion in a single AFX comp where I could color correct with Colorista which is a GPU based plugin; As you’d know from a previous post, the TIFF files were too big for this.

Once I laid out all the clips, it was time to apply Colorista. I took the Stu Maschwitz method and used Adjustment Layers instead of loading effects onto the master clip. This came in handy when I wanted to swap out clips (which happened more than a few times). Each clip had one color correction layer and all the live action clips had a secondary correction layer so I could bring my actor’s eyes up out of the darkness. Lastly, I applied a final “looks” layer over the whole project.

On the sound side, I tried Soundtrack Pro but grew frustrated so quickly I fell back to ProTools for the sound edit, design and mix. I did have to add a bit of music and I used GarageBand to create the cues and then exported them to ProTools.

Lastly, FYI, it took 14 minutes to render out a 30-second clip in After Effects but I’m incredibly happy with the results.

Here’s hoping you get to see the fruit of my labors as a finalist.

Amazon Spec: Uploaded – 31. July, 2009

Apologies for the blogging blackout but I’ve been furiously working on my Amazon spec and I can now declare it uploaded. My entry is in. It’s done. It’s out of my hands.

Here’s where I would give my debriefing but I’ve only slept 9-12 hours in the last 3 days so I’m not exactly coherent; I promise to blog about the production experience tomorrow.

Right now I just want to go home, shower, crank some Appetite for Destruction, drink heroic amounts of vodka and flirt with reckless abandon.

Hey, you, with the really big…eyes… how you doin’?

Amazon Spec: Shoot Day – 22. July, 2009

Today is my shoot day. That splash of panic has washed over me. Now I’m but resolve and a few random to-do’s (I sure hope Rite Aid sells a 1GB CF card).

24 shots in one day, most of them involving stop-motion animation. This will be a long day.

Wish me luck.

Tomorrow: on my way to Comic-Con

21 July 2009 Update – 21. July, 2009

A quick what-I’ve-been-up-to-and-will-be-up-to:

  • Mailed off my TSCC spec to the Warner Bros Writers Workshop.
  • Recorded character voices for my Amazon spec. Thanks to Curtiss, Dan, Karina & Michael.
  • Gathering supplies for stop motion/live action shoot. Still need 1GB CF card, Nikon DSLR battery, HDV tape, wire (is that crafts store or hardware store?) and sleep.
  • Still need to plan my Comic-Con. Marcos, Tina, David G., expect an email from me. Anyone else want to offer advice or let me know what I should check out?
  • Beat the heat. So hot in my room yesterday that I lost a couple pounds and my hand started trembling.
  • And so ends today’s update. FYI, I’ll try to blog more consistently from Comic-Con. Over and out.

    Amazon Spec: First Call For Help – 17. July, 2009

    Yesterday I pulled out the old Oxygen 8, hooked it up to GarageBand and pounded out a tune, more of a beat, actually. I also shot some photographic research and doodled a few storyboards (first graders can draw better than me but my boards get the job done). Later today I gotta take care of a legality but then it’s dressing the set and a mock runthrough.

    This idea is coming together.

    Holy, I think I’m doing this.

    So this is where I come to you, the reader. There are two things I’m gonna need.

    1. I need voice talent, especially folk that can do a few voices, the kind you might hear in a cartoon.
    2. I need someone to help me animate. I’m shooting stop-motion animation. I’d say the key qualities I’m looking for are attention to detail and patience.

    And for an example of my only serious attempt at stop-motion animation, here ya go.


    Amazon Spec: Researching Reference – 15. July, 2009

    Today was all about (re)writing the script and developing the concept. I think I have it locked so it’s on to research and storyboards.

    Oh, but there’s one big element, something I’m gonna need help with, something I can’t do on my own, and this is the bit of reference I can share without giving away too much.


    Amazon Commercial Contest – 14. July, 2009

    Pardon me for a second…


    …okay, where was I? Oh, right, everyone’s favorite web retailer, you know, these guys:


    They’re holding a create-your-own-commercial contest and the deadline was just extended to July 31.

    And I happen to have an idea that I’m excited about and I’m gonna hate myself if I don’t give it a shot even though that only gives me 17 days and I’m out of town for 4 of those days and if that weren’t hard enough most of my idea involves animation and…


    I want to do this. First things first, I need to pound out a script and storyboards tonight.

    BTW, expect a call from me in the near future begging for your help.