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Mad Factory commercial


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#1 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 07:12 PM

Below is a link for a spec commercial that I directed with my friend Kelly. There is an immediate user of the commercial locally but we are ultimately looking to sell the commercial to a larger company whose product is featured at the end of the piece (the carbon driven bicycle belt drive, Gates Rubber Company).

Shot in a factory/warehouse. Built the "white room" set in an empty "artist space". Much of the setting materials and props were already on set. We folly-ed all the sound effects (feet, welding, plasma cutting, chains, footsteps, sawing, pin drop). We also commissioned a score from some local musicians who are friends and often collaborators of ours. We asked them for merely something "Danny Elfman sounding" and this is what they cooked up, amazing!

The casting was done locally, mainly with friends and friends of friends, all non-professional actors.

Camera: JVC GY-HD100 shooting 720 at 30P, with a .8x wide angle adapter. We wanted to shoot HD and this was the camera that we had access to for free. Already spending money on set, location rentals, and some design help, this was the easy solution. Ideally we would have liked an HVX200 and a Steadicam. Alas, we are just poor filmmakers.

Lighting: Clamp lights with 100 and 150 watt bulbs for "harsh" factory lighting, soft boxes for frontal key lighting, a 650L and a 300L Fresnel.

MAD FACTORY spec commercial

I'd really like some feedback on the piece. There are a few tricks going on here, some more obvious than others, kind of a film making challenge. If anyone is interested in getting in touch with the musicians collective we use for scores just send me an e-mail, I'm sure they'd be more than willing to work on some commissions.

Cheers!
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 01:34 AM

Decent concept, and decent execution given your limited means. I think you know where the technical shortcomings are, so that leaves the creative:

In a "one-er" shot like that timing is everything (the timing normally provided by editing has to happen in-camera). There's a lag in the action by the table just before entering the white room. That ends up looking like we're supposed to notice something around the table, or else a mistake. That should have been tightened up. The timing inside the white room slows down unnecessarily as well.

The "one-er" approach gets abandoned in favor of cuts inside the white room. Why? That undoes the unifying concept of the one-er...

The concept inside the white room is like a separate commercial. It's interesting enough on its own, but what does it have to do with the factory outside? I don't understand why people in lab coats are simultaneously testing new technology while slave-driving people to churn out old-fashioned chains and cogsets in the same place. I understand that it's meant as to contrast the technologies, I just don't get why it's in the same place and done as a one-er.

But I do appreciate how difficult how difficult it is to shoot something like this. With a little more lighting gear and some better timing it could have been more polished. But your limited means didn't limit your expression, in this case.
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#3 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 02:53 AM

Stylistically, i would have liked the actors to be less aware of the camera on the dolly shot... i just felt like it took me out of the world you had created a little bit. maybe you wanted to do it that way.

the foley and music definitely added to the piece...
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#4 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 01:37 PM

Michael - thanks for the comments. We had to abandon the "one-er" shot for the company who wanted to see more of the bicycle parts with the carbon drive system. Unfortunately we had to go along with it. They weren't really interested in the approach to the problem design, we were just lucky enough to have a chance to make something creatively open ended like this given the product at hand (a carbon belt drive). So we shot the cutaways just to be safe and then sure enough they wanted the other shots. You'll notice that where the camera comes to rest was originally intended to be used as the "one-er" shot (we cut back to it after the cutaways. Creatively were we bummed and if it had been up to me, not being a cyclist at all, I could have cared less about the product, it was the odd commercial, then with the quick features at the end which would be interesting and captivating to a non-consumer like myself. Those cutaways are so awful too, they were a last minute realization so we didn't really put much effort into them, should have.

And you are 100% right about being able to use what we had at our disposal. The "wobble" by the table before entering the room is a product of a re-shoot and some bad frame matching. We are calling it our "Gondry-moment" to feel better about it but really it was just the inability to do an accurate in camera frame match. The original takes of entering the room didn't please us and so two days later we went back and re shot that moment. Not having a Steadicam and external monitor meant we had some print outs of frames to which I visually matched in my head (obviously not accurate), actually starting wider, and then entering the room. We wish we could have done it on a monitor with tracing paper but alas we didn't have the budget for those tools.

Good point on the factory items. Ultimately I can see how it is confusing. I guess the idea was to show this POV (scientist in the middle) moving disapprovingly through the room seeing all those antiquated parts and ignoring them, like they just weren't good enough for what he had in mind. Then he "finds" the white room which is a complete change of pace and is happy, pleased, and a little perplexed by what he is looking at, and then hearing. The carbon drive system in actuality is silent.

Alex- thank you for looking at the piece!

Did you two notice the "white wall" section that we slid into place to create the illusion of a disappearing room? Maybe I'm just excited that we pulled that transition off!
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 05:18 PM

Did you two notice the "white wall" section that we slid into place to create the illusion of a disappearing room? Maybe I'm just excited that we pulled that transition off!


Actually I did, and it was confusing -- sorry. I understood the effects necessary to tie all the shots together into a convincing oner, but I didn't understand why the white room was mysteriously sealed off. Was it supposed to be a transition into another time and place?

Now hearing some of the hoops you had to go through to get everything to line up, it's even more impressive what you were able pull off. But I think it highlights a couple maxims about advertising:

1) Most of the time the client only cares about seeing their product, even if the shot or shots are a detriment to the message of the spot. This is a constant tug-of-war in commercials between the creatives (agencies and filmmakers) and the client.

2) The visuals are there to tell the story. If polishing a visual or effect starts to drag down the storytelling then it's not working for you -- but a visual that's too rough can distract from the storytelling as well. So either way, telling the story effectively becomes the measure of when a visual is "good enough."
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