06 February 2010

Excellent Commercial!

I have huge interest in trivia and behind the scenes stuff and consequently in the directing and production aspects of movies. Here is a brilliant advert/commercial followed by an excellent review by John Moore which I found extremely interesting. Something I'd love to do, some day, is make a movie. Check out this young (under 25 I reckon) film maker's blog- Life, by John

This was a remarkable change of pace from the typical PSA. It was beautifully shot, well directed, and had a good bit of forethought in the story being told.

Things that appeal to me about it are the environment. In the home, a father evidently teaching his daughter something about vehicle safety. It's cozy, it's warm, it's a place we all want to be.

The love between the members of the family is clearly portrayed as the commercial begins, and the daughter's panic stricken face betrays so much affection for her father that you can't help but resonate with the character. This is excellent casting, and excellent direction. If one were to look back at preproduction of this ad, one would no doubt find detailed storyboards and animatics prepared well in advance.

But the brilliance is also in the simplicity of the shots. One of the reasons the elements are so bold and so plain for the viewer, so memorable in the midst of a variety of other commercials, is the economy of shots. Thomas Jefferson said, "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." The same applies to shots within a film as well.

The breakdown of the commercial:

1. 00:00 Key Turning.
2. 00:04 Foot on the gas.
3. 00:06 Family watches, entertained - trucking right.
4. 00:10 Driving happily - push in.
5. 00:14 Family laughter, mid shot - push in.
6. 00:17 A happy father, - truck right.
7. 00:20 Daughter laughing, - push in.
8. 00:22 Fearful driver, mid-shot - push in.
9. 00:28 Panicked daughter, close up - push in
10. 00:31 Yanking the wheel, close up - push in
11. 00:35 Family leaps into action - push in
12. 00:36 Daughter at his side
13. 00:43 Her Fingers interlock
14. 00:46 Wife grabs him
15. 00:48 Her Fingers interlock
16. 00:50 Impact Close-up
17. 00:50 Impact Wide
18. 00:58 Glitter Falls
19. 01:02 A Family Embrace

You might say, "That's 19 shots in an 88 second commercial. That's averaging a cut every 4.5 seconds... How is that economical?" Well, in this instance, we're going to examine the setups and angles, or shots and not the number of times a shot is edited in, or cuts. There is a lot we were able to learn in this very short period of time, and a lot of action taking place. Yet the reason we were able to remember it all so very clearly, is that we didn't cut to a new angle every time.

The setups are actually very simple throughout the short. Shots 1 and 2 are throwaway angles. That's why the content in the shot is very limited. A key turns, a foot presses the gas pedal. But even though they pass by in six seconds, we know he's starting a car. There is very little to see in the shot, other than the hand with the invisible key, and the foot on the invisible gas pedal. This way, all our attention is devoted to the actions, not the environment.

This is true with every shot in the film; the environments are simple and unassuming, familiar to the viewer, so that the characters become the focal point.

Shot 3 we move the camera past the driver, to see the family on the couch. Now we have clearly established the locations of the characters, and the mood of the family. If we were to cut to the father first, his dopey driving grin would look ridiculous. Instead, because we see the family giggling and watching with awe, when we cut to the father driving, we realize he is intentionally entertaining them. His actions no longer seem silly, but noble, in a way.

Shot 4, with the father driving, is a setup (angle, lighting, dolly track, etc) that will be reused several times, with only slight variation. The same is true of shot 5. In all, there were probably only about ten setups in the whole film, allowing a lot of time for the audience to really study out each of the environments, characters, actions, and arcs within the short.

Even in the longest shot in the short, the end embrace, the environment is very simple. There are no props, no background furniture. The wallpaper is patterned but the pattern is so out of focus, we can only really study the family. They are even lit more brightly than anything in the background. It's a perfect close.

An amateur director would probably have had an entirely new shot every 3-5 seconds, to keep it 'interesting'. Rather than focusing on characters and clearly defining their goals, he would have distracted the audience with 20 unique setups, brightly lit and filled with distracting background props. This would not only hurt the audience's understanding of the short, but it would have also been twice as time consuming to shoot.

On a shoot like this, every setup would take 45 minutes to an hour. When storyboarding even your short films, consider the cost of every shot on a professional feature film. Choose your shots very carefully, and focus on clarity of the action for the audience. Remember, we're here to serve the audience with a story; not confuse them with unnecessary information.

Keep it simple, make it bold.

~ In Christ, John.