My first job out of college was working as an editor for a local TV station. Well, technically, my first official job was a short stint working the make up counter at Walgreens, but that’s another story for another time. I didn’t work at the TV station very long either. I quickly learned that the employee-employer model wasn’t my cup of tea and struck out on my own after a few months. But the experience was enlightening. I got to see how the station made TV commercials. Granted, the spots were quite awful. Picture your typical schlock pitching used cars, law firms, and furniture stores, but they were commercials none-the-less. And I got to see first hand that making a commercial is not really that complicated. Of course, making a good commercial is extremely hard, but you gotta start somewhere.
So, in the spirit of demystification, I’d like to deconstruct my latest commercial spot for you. If you think you might have the stuff to produce commercial work but aren’t sure where to start, maybe this’ll help. Maybe not. Dammit, Jim! I’m a filmmaker not a career counselor!
Have a look:
This particular spot can be broken down into 4 main elements.
1. The Copy – the words that are being said
2. Voice Over – the recording, or performance of the copy
3. Visuals – the stuff you see
4. Music and Sound – music bed and sound effects
If you’ve seen my portfolio you might correctly assume that I’ve worked with this client quite a bit. The message and branding have already been dialed in so I’m using those guidelines when developing the spot.
Now here are my secret weapons for each of these categories.
1. The Copy. I used to write all my own copy before I realized that there are much more talented people than I who actually LIKE writing scripts. After receiving the event details from the client, I wrote up some instructions and forwarded the details to my copy writer, Kallie. She’s worked with this client before and has the quirky Rolling Hills voice dialed in. By the way, Kallie is a pen-for-hire if you’re needing some deftly crafted prose or poetry for a project. You can find her on Twitter.
2. Voice Over. Once the script was approved by the client, I emailed it to Marketing Mania (mktmania.com). I’ve had the pleasure of working with this company for a few years now. They’ve done 95% of the VO work in my portfolio. Since we’d already cast a voice over artist for this client, the turn around was right quick. In less than 24 hours I had an MP3 of the final voice over. Use them. Tell Christina I sent you.
3. Visuals. No cameras were harmed, or even used, in the making of this commercial. This is all After Effects. Some artwork was provided by the client and the rest was created in software or sourced on iStockphoto. My goal was to create an interesting layout of content that illustrates the copy while leading the viewer’s eye through the spot in an engaging way. As you might imagine, this was the most laborious, time-consuming task of the process. The final visuals were assembled and timed in Final Cut Pro.
4. Music and Sound. Right now my favorite production music sites are Pump Audio, Non Stop Music, and Dewolfe Music. You buy only the song you need and pay based on use and distribution – pretty simple. Sound effects were all sourced through Sounddogs.com. Same search and purchase model.
That’s pretty much it.
Obviously, I’m simplifying the process a bit but these are the basic components used to create this particular commercial spot. Now you know (and knowing is half the battle). Feel free to use these resources on your own projects.
One last note: some of the sound effects I needed for this spot were a little specific so we had to roll our own. Thanks for the vocal help, friends.