Join Norman Hollyn for an in-depth discussion in this video Commercial, part of Foundations of Video: The Art of Editing.
Norman: Let's take a short time and talk about short short films. Commercials, or as they're also called, spots. Everywhere you turn, someone is advertising something in a ten-second spot, a 20-second spot, or any number of other formats. We're going to talk about the shape of a 15 second spot in this movie, but everything I will talk about here applies to commercials of any length. Like anything else a commercial starts with the script which comes from a story or a logline.
The commercial we'll be looking at here is for a sports drink called H+. It has benefits for athletes who lose water as they play and exercise. These stills are from some storyboards that the filmmakers used to pitch the idea of a commercial to the H+ client. They're helpful in that process, because unlike most filmmaking projects, the clients for a spot will rarely be savvy filmmakers themselves. And they need some visual aids to get an idea about what they're paying for.
The filmmakers will also pitch some of the stylistic ideas to the client. Because this is a very short film, it needs to differentiate itself from all the other commercials out there. Having something visually stunning is often part of this pitch. Here, the filmmakers are suggesting that there will be flashy, superimposed letters and numbers which are going to come out of the video of the athlete's training or performing. As another part of that process, the filmmakers will come up with a script, and that is pitched to the client too.
The script goes through in a linear way, just why you, the viewer, need a sports drink. Then it proceeds to say why H-Plus is better than water, and other drinks. It ends with a tag line that they hope the viewer will remember. Everything you need, nothing you don't In general, every version of their commercial will include this line. This slide is great for clients but it has a limited use for the editor. So let's move that PowerPoint slide into a more scripted format.
And then let's drop what we don't want, as we trim down the 30-second version of this commercial. Down to a 15 second version. So now it's time to figure out a log line for this commercial. We'll use the script and probably a discussion with our director to focus this to get to, You're a great athlete, so you lose minerals when you work and play hard. You need to put those minerals back into your system in a healthy way. You should buy H+ because it will do that for you.
Like all of our other log lines, it simply tells the overall story. And it gives away the ending. You should buy our product. Most commercials end that way, even if they don't say that. That is the underlying message that you want your audience to get. Take the action we want you to take. This is true whether you are advertising a political position. Or asking people to stay tuned for the next program. You want them to take the action you want them to take. And that is the ultimate end to your log line.
So let's look at the first cut of the commercial. Male: You work hard and play harder. Water can't give you back what you lose, h+ sport has what you need, natural electrolytes from plants, not chemicals, h+ sport isn't made in a lab. Everything you need, nothing you don't, h+ sport, natural rehydration. Norman: This is shaped with a clear intent to influence the audience. It opens with, shots of athletes getting ready for their big moment.
Warming up, running, setting up in the light. It also introduces some of the stylistic themes of the piece. Quick editing, overlayed text, that kind of stuff. The middle section actually shows the athletes in action. Throwing balls, running, playing, working. It's still cut fast but it's now showing some of the actual sport in the completion, right? The jumper lands in the sand, for instance. And, of course, the style is still there. Flashes, letter overlays, and more.
In the final section we slow down a bit to get a sense of the majesty of these athletes. These people are sweating and working hard. They really need h+, don't they? And of course, we need to end on the product shot. We'll spend a valuable two seconds on this shot so the audience can get a sense of just what it is that they should want to buy, this bottle of clean, healthy sports drink. So that's three sections even in a 15 second short, short piece.
It would be easy to have those sections go by unnoticed. So the job of the editor is to shape that story so we understand each section. As a result, each of the sections is divided up by a shot which has the h+ logo flashing by attractively. And even more important, the music changes and gets lower in volume, so we hear that tenth voice over say the name of the product By the time we slow down in the last section and hear the name of the product and see the flash by one more time, we know the log line of this film.
We've also been able to feel the shape of the piece. The three sections: the repetition of the product name, the flashing to the h+ each time the name is said We might, if we're an athlete, now be interested in what this product is. And all because the commercial built to this final point. You want to buy this product for all the reasons you just heard. You want to buy this product. Notice how we've been able to shape the story. Just as we have in every other form of film.
All that it requires is that we understand the story we want tell which is our logline. And how to shape our audience's involvement through lean forward moments?
Start with an overview of concepts like the rule of threes, review a sampling of footage from films past and present, and then dive into script analysis. Find out when and when not to make cuts, how to collaborate with clients and directors during recutting, and how to ground the emotional backdrop for your piece with music and sound. Norman closes with a look at adapting to different genres and filmic styles.
- Exploring the history of video editing
- Controlling what the audience sees
- Identifying the logline
- Performing script and scene analysis
- Coming up with an editing plan
- Cutting from on-camera to off-camera action
- Understanding the value of recutting
- Shaping moments with music
- Working in a specific genre
- Mixing editing styles together