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Horribly shot commercials & infomercials


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#1 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 06:50 AM

Does anybody else become physically angered by some of the commercials on TV that you KNOW you probably could have shot way better?

I've been seeing a lot of commercials lately where the skintones are ridiculously warm, the lighting is flat, the frame rate/shutter/video codec is shifty, blah blah blah

I mostly just hate thinking that some hack was paid for this while I'm at home watching the Down Jones drop, ha ha

The ones that get me the most are the BrandPower ads:

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#2 Walter Graff

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:54 AM

Guilty...

I used to shoot many of the direct marketing spots for Idea Village and Telebrands that make up the bulk of the 2 minute direct marketing spots (DRTV) you see on TV. I haven't shot one since the Micro Touch on 2003, but can tell you that many times what I shot didn't end up looking like what I thought it would, or should. Some of my spots still run.

I do know that the guy who replaced me shooting was far less skilled than I was in my opinion but then again it doesn't matter. The company that I worked for that does most of these spots is called http://www.bluemoonstudios.tv/. See the spots on their website and you'll see all the DRTV spots you're used to seeing. The problem isn't always the shooting based on my experience but mostly the editing side. Colors way off, over saturated, they use horrible 24p effects in post soemtimes, and in general don't seem to have great editing abilities or quality control. It's like everything is mastered to a VHS tape.

DRTV is a low budget, one-themed form of TV where many of the people who work producing these spots, have little bacground in general advertizing but who found a niche and continue making the DRTV you see on TV.

In case you were wondering, here is how it works. Companies like Telebrands make millions on usually 3 or 4 products each year. But for that it takes about 13 to 14 products that are tested in test markets first. Of those 14 products, most fail. Three are hits. And one is a home run. Micro Touch which I did the production for was a super home run selling a million plus units a month at it's peak. The companies that produce these spots usually will forgo big budgets up front in order to get a piece of the back end of sales. I would get paid $1000 a day (alone) supplying all equipment. The shooting is usually done in a small insert stage or on location (usually the producers house or friend of his home). It's really squeezing gold from a stone in how it's done and the sales results when its a hit.
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#3 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 09:21 AM

I don't think it is a good idea to get too upset about the mediocre quality of a Nasal Strips spot but if you are after this kind of work maybe you should spend more energy selling yourself to those clients.
Personally I get more bent out of shape by feature films with monster budgets that are far, far away from being justified by what I see on the screen not only in terms of cinematography but also in terms of story, acting and art direction.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 12:37 PM

I spent two years shooting infomercials off and on, and when I started, I assumed that what the producers and clients wanted was a high-end commercial look on a low-budget. Then I found out that what they really wanted was for their cheap infomercial to look like everyone else's cheap infomercials! I constantly got questioned if I didn't light things as flat and harsh as possible -- it got very depressing. That, and trying to do nice tabletop product photography of such cheaply-made pieces of crap.

I'd say though that half those infomercials look bad because they were posted badly.
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#5 Walter Graff

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 12:52 PM

I spent two years shooting infomercials off and on, and when I started, I assumed that what the producers and clients wanted was a high-end commercial look on a low-budget. Then I found out that what they really wanted was for their cheap infomercial to look like everyone else's cheap infomercials! I constantly got questioned if I didn't light things as flat and harsh as possible -- it got very depressing. That, and trying to do nice tabletop product photography of such cheaply-made pieces of crap.

I'd say though that half those infomercials look bad because they were posted badly.



David, you really hit the nail on the head. These people all work off everyone's previous success. In other words, whatever formula they used, we want to use. Its the reason why all these things look a like. I tried to offer changes and to make things look different. I'd say better. I was fired. But I can say that for many organizations I worked for. Status quo rules.

I helped create NBA Entertaiment. We had built a facility in Secaucus NJ and I was lighting all the shows and commercials for the studio we built out there. Then one month I was noticing that nothing was being done to keep the creativity going. Everything was about the easy way out. So I went to then head Gregg Winik and said "Hey what's going on?" He said they were working on some new things and just wait. I did. A Month went by and I saw no change. Things got worse. I went into then head Don Sperlings office and said "Hey, what's going on?" He said, don't worry things will get better, we are doing some things right now. Thanks for saying something. When another month went by and things got worse I once again asked what was going on. I was told to mind my business. That was the end of my run at NBAE. I went on to help create NHL Productions. We started shooting high speed 16mm highlights of games and started working on a new show and spots for the NHL. Same people who left the NBA started this. I urged them not to make this place like NBAE. No luck, down to the arrangement of the desks in the office. So disorganized that once while in LA to direct a commercial with Matthew Perry, I had to run to the ATM while setting up because the guy delivering our crane said the NHL hadn't paid. I gave him $1000 cash so he'd release the crane.

Humans are creatures of habit. We know this from studying how peoples brains function under different stresses. It's also a problem for creativity. It's where we get the saying corporate and creativity don't mix.
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#6 Taggart A Lee

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 01:43 PM

A bit like the few times I operated on reality shows. As opposed to finding and getting a decent composition it ws more like "Tag 'em and bag 'em". Apologies (and condolences) to anyone who is currently doing same, just not my thing.
Hack mentality doesn't even begin to describe the productions...but then again what am I saying? Look at the product!
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#7 Matthew Buick

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 04:14 PM

The Brand Power adverts here in the UK don't have such red flesh tones, but they're not great.

Bid/Price-Drop TV, Ideal World, and those ghastly Cillit Bang adverts really do get my hackles up. I'm fairly certain I could do a better job.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 04:46 PM

Sounds like I should be thankful to not be working on spots like these, ha ha

But at this point, I'm really just happy to take anything that's paying :)

I remember my friend Satsuki (who is on this forum often) shot a commercial which I helped him on, and I think they had concerns with some of the footage looking too dark. I guess they are mostly just after a flat look with good exposure, and that's all that matters in most cases.

"It's where we get the saying corporate and creativity don't mix." I also like the saying "Production is the enemy!"

I don't mind that there are a lot of poorly produced big budget feature films out there. In that case, I'm just glad so many crew brothers & sisters have jobs :)

Edited by Jonathan Bowerbank, 04 January 2009 - 04:47 PM.

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#9 Michael K Bergstrom

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:10 PM

No one actually knows who shoots these in town, no one will come forward to claim them as their own. Pretty bad.

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#10 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:45 PM

I have proof that you can shoot a good image and that people doing post can make it looks like dog crap. I shoot commercials for 3 local car dealers (Toyota, Lexus, & Ford) in true 24P 720P HD. While doesn't look like national footage, it looks 500 times better than "local" car ads. I try to make sure I have good backgrounds, nice soft light on the talent, shallow depth of field when I can, and jib/dolly when I can. However, the ad agency that does the post just butchers it! It looks like any other local car ad:( Plus, they don't telecine the 24P so FCP just does it's bad telecine and it looks horribly jittery when it hits broadcast...sigh.......at least it pays really well for just a few hours of shooting!

Of course, cable companies charge like $300 to make an ad (when you buy enough airtime)...so why should anyone expect it to be very good?

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#11 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:47 PM

No one actually knows who shoots these in town, no one will come forward to claim them as their own. Pretty bad.


But at least these are funny! Most ads like this are just annoying bad.

Matthew
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#12 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 08:31 PM

I remember my friend Satsuki (who is on this forum often) shot a commercial which I helped him on, and I think they had concerns with some of the footage looking too dark. I guess they are mostly just after a flat look with good exposure, and that's all that matters in most cases.

Hey Jon,

I found the ad at vimeo: http://www.veoh.com/...p;viewType=user

I have to say, shooting this ad was a pretty frustrating experience. Totally disorganized production, bad communication, etc. I got yelled at for, among other things: not providing the hero vehicle (when I wasn't told it was the hero vehicle, I just assumed it was supposed to be in the background), lighting "too dark" (for which I came in to do a free color correction on the footage), screwing up the sound (it was fine, editor's machine just didn't have enough RAM to play back at full speed). Plus we got low balled on our rates, working on a 1/2 day rate. I made sure the crew got overtime after 6 though.

Anyway, looks like the prod company got someone else to shoot their new spots. I'm not too upset about that. ;)
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 09:32 PM

Ha ha! Yeah, I forgot to tell you I actually found it a few days ago as well after just doing a random search. That hero vehicle thing doesn't sound right...more of a Production issue than camera & lighting dept. issue. But yeah, the rate wasn't bad for a half day, I recall.

The edit is horrendous, but at least the color grade isn't way off. Although it looks like they may have pumped up the saturation on you in places.

Those commercials I shot with the Academy kids came out pretty good, but perhaps that's because they were advertising students at an art school, so there's probably a difference between them and the finance people others seem to deal with in shooting commercials. I think a download link went around to the crew, did you get it?
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#14 David Cronin

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:45 AM

it got very depressing. That, and trying to do nice tabletop product photography of such cheaply-made pieces of crap.

this is so funny. :lol:
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#15 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:47 AM

... at least the color grade isn't way off. Although it looks like they may have pumped up the saturation on you in places.

No, I did that, trying to please them. The wanted it to pop more, so I cranked the saturation as well as raising mids and crushing blacks. I'd have preferred not to because we were already using 1/2 CTO on all the key lights and cranking the saturation just made the skin tones too red. But I guess it satisfied them, so who am I to complain...

... the rate wasn't bad for a half day, I recall.

Yeah, well a few days after we wrapped, I ended up gripping on an infomercial with the prod company's first DP (we discovered this at lunch - I dunno whether he shot their latest spots or not but we've worked together a bunch since). Turns out he and his crew were making $500/10 each. Puts things in perspective. :-/

I think a download link went around to the crew, did you get it?

No, I just got an offer for a DVD copy. But if there's a download link, please share it, I'd love to check it out.
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#16 David Cronin

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:30 AM

The worst commercial I have seen on television advertises the SLEEP NUMBER select comfort bed.

The talent talks about the bed and appears to be completely out of focus. It's a shame because in terms of other commercial, this one has quite a bit of production value. I can't imagine someone photographing someone with them being so soft on purpose, even if it is for a bed.

Does anyone know what happened to this commercial? The story behind it? Or have an opinion?
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#17 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 04:56 AM

... the ad agency that does the post just butchers it! It looks like any other local car ad:( Plus, they don't telecine the 24P so FCP just does it's bad telecine and it looks horribly jittery when it hits broadcast...

:lol: As Jon and I were setting up the camera for that lame ad I posted, I turned to him and asked, "what do you think, should we shoot 24P or 24PA (on the DVX)?" To which Jon and our sound man, Ben, both replied in unison, "24P! You know they'll screw up 24PA!" Truer words were never spoken.
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 05:43 AM

should we shoot 24P or 24PA

Next time tell them you're shooting it on 24POS since you think that works best for their product.
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#19 Matthew Buick

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 04:50 PM

The worst TV advert I've ever seen was from a company in the North of England called Safestyle Windows and Doors. Dreadful! Absolutely dreadful! Not just the cinematography (if it's worthy of that term) but everything!

I'll see if I can dig it up from Youtube.
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#20 Matthew Buick

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 04:56 PM

Here's the Christmas one. There are others, but I could only find this one on Youtube. It's probably not the worst one though.,
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