Please update your Flash Player to view content.

BlogTwitterFaceBook

Hot Spots: Cutting Commercials

Five editors talk about their craft and some of the hottest commercials on TV

By Christine Bunish

Five editors talk about their craft and some of the hottest commercials on TV

Santa Claus hitches Qualcom’s Snap the dragon to his sleigh for a turbo-charged ride, the Aflac duck finally gets motivated in his physical therapy, homeowners act on the “Let’s Do This” home improvement message from The Home Depot, a young woman learns the secret to escaping the zombie horde (Hint: It pays to steal a truck with a Sears DieHard battery.) and stylists from The Voice show how to get the look by shopping at Kohl’s in this gallery of commercial editors’ Hot Spots.

Cut+Run, New York

Jon Grover, editor/owner

www.cutandrun.com

[Clockwise, from Top Left] Santa hitches Snap to his sleigh for some turbo power in this Qualcom spot cut by Jon Grover. Snap may be small, but he’s packed with power as shown in the spot cut by Jon Grover for Qualcom. Rejected reindeer look on as Santa hitches Snap to his sleigh in the Qualcom holiday spot edited by Jon Grover. Santa hangs on as Snap takes him for a wild ride in the Qualcom spot cut by Jon Grover.
[Clockwise, from Top Left]
Santa hitches Snap to his sleigh for some turbo power in this Qualcom spot cut by Jon Grover.
Snap may be small, but he’s packed with power as shown in the spot cut by Jon Grover for Qualcom.
Rejected reindeer look on as Santa hitches Snap to his sleigh in the Qualcom holiday spot edited by Jon Grover.
Santa hangs on as Snap takes him for a wild ride in the Qualcom spot cut by Jon Grover.

The storyline: Santa Claus gets turbocharged when he abandons his reindeer and harnesses up small but powerful (and very cute) Snap the dragon and zooms off his North Pole landing strip. A boy and his father spot a glow in the night sky – the child says it’s Santa, but dad says it’s a meteor until Snapdragon-powered St. Nick swoops over the roof.

Why the spot’s on my reel: “It’s funny and current and a little unexpected – a fresh take on Santa.”

   Cut+Run editor Jon Grover cutting Qualcom’s “Fast Santa” on location in British Columbia.
  Cut+Run editor Jon Grover cutting Qualcom’s “Fast Santa
on location in British Columbia.

The biggest creative challenge: “Imagining the [animated] Snap character and the interaction between Snap, Santa and the reindeer, because I was cutting together something that didn’t exist. I was on set with my Avid taking the live feed from the camera and cutting with a lot of pre-vis elements. The spot evolved as we went along with reactions and shot order. Santa and his sleigh were shot on greenscreen; the kid and his dad in front of a real house on location, and the real reindeer in situ.”

The biggest technical challenge: “Finding a table and chair on set. I spent two weeks on set trying to find something other than a park bench to sit on – at 6’4” that wasn’t very comfortable. We were working with Framestore, and they’re so good at what they do: They solved any problems that came up and made everything easy – it was a pleasure and delight working with them. A couple of days after the shoot, I had a lot to cut.”

Input from other creatives: “I had worked with the creatives at Ogilvy and the directors before, so we were all on the same page with what we thought should happen, what Snap’s role would be. It was a lot of fun and very useful being on set and hearing ideas exchanged so I could act on them straightaway. Collaboration goes a long way when everyone’s there [on set] on the day. Framestore gave us a lot of wireframe Snaps and real models that we photographed and used on set in a sort of stop-motion approach. That gave us a rough idea of where he’d be and his eyeline.”

Why the spot works: “It has an endearing, fun dragon in a unexpected and fresh storyline.”

(CREDITS)

Advertiser: Qualcom, Snapdragon

Spot Title: “Fast Santa”

Ad agency: Ogilvy & Mather/LA

Production company: Framestore/NYC

Directors: Murray Butler, David Mellor

DP: Jordan Valenti

Colorists: Steffan Perry, Raul Ortego, Murray Butler, Framestore/NYC

VFX: Shayne Ryan (animation lead), Martin Aufinger (FX lead), Framestore/NYC

Sound mixer: Mike Franklin, Beacon Street Studios/Venice, CA

Sound designers: Mike Franklin, Beacon Street Studios; Bill Chesley, Henryboy/NYC

Music: Jon Whitehouse, Kinsey Whitehouse/London

Acquisition formats/cameras: RED EPIC

Editing system: Avid Media Composer

Beyond broadcast: Web spots and 4K cinema display


Cutting Room, New York City

Chuck Willis, partner/editor

www.cuttingroom.tv

[Clockwise, from Top Left] A motivating physical therapist helps get the Alfac duck back in shape in this spot cut by Chuck Willis. A real duck paddles in a tank in Aflac’s ”Physical Therapy” spot edited by Chuck Willis. The Aflac duck isn’t making much progress with his “Physical Therapy” in this spot edited by Chuck Willis. A Rocky-inspired score and a great physical therapist motivate the Aflac duck in this spot cut by Chuck Willis.
[Clockwise, from Top Left]
A motivating physical therapist helps get the Alfac duck back in shape in this spot cut by Chuck Willis.
A real duck paddles in a tank in Aflac’s ”Physical Therapy” spot edited by Chuck Willis.
The Aflac duck isn’t making much progress with his “Physical Therapy” in this spot edited by Chuck Willis.
A Rocky-inspired score and a great physical therapist motivate the Aflac duck in this spot cut by Chuck Willis.

The storyline: The celebrated Aflac duck isn’t making much progress with his post-op physical therapy until an inspirational therapist and an iconic music track motivate his triumphant, Rocky-like comeback.

Why the spot’s on my reel: “Birds are difficult to make human – they’re not even like dogs where you get the humanity of their faces,” says Chuck Willis, who has cut Aflac spots featuring the charming animatronic duck over the last two years. “This particular duck was in very unexpected, very human and comical situations. I had to make him come to life and be interesting and funny.”

The biggest creative challenge: “It’s always a challenge to find the human moments, not the gimmicks or cartoon moments, but the unexpected moments: a sigh, the duck’s head going down, a blink. I tried to find moments when the duck was connecting with the therapist. Sometimes that was even harder with the real duck paddling in the tank, since he wasn’t being controlled.”

Cutting Room editor Chuck Willis gave the famed Aflac duck “Physical Therapy.”  
Cutting Room editor Chuck Willis gave
the famed Aflac duck “Physical Therapy.”
  

The biggest technical challenge: “When you work with an object that’s being manipulated you have to think past the manipulation shot on greenscreen. You have to go beyond what’s already been done and flip him, speed him up like we did with the jump rope or slow him down.”

Input from other creatives: “I try to fully realize the cut before the agency creatives walk in the door – I do rig removal, add sound effects and music. It becomes collaborative from that point moving forward, and the agency creatives are always great. The Aflac duck is their baby, and they’re always there during the shoot. I cut the spot to Rocky’s ‘Gonna Fly Now,’ which was perfect, especially with the fly lyric for the duck. But it was prohibitively expensive to license, so I went with the next best choice, ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ which carries the same type of Rocky theme with it.”

Why the spot works: “You have the given of the duck in every Aflac spot, so the story becomes more about the other players – the physical therapist, the speech therapist in another spot – and how they react to what the duck gives them. They’re not simply conveyors of the Aflac message, but are dealing with the duck, its problems and issues. So the spots become more human, comical and very entertaining – and if you can entertain the audience you win.”

(CREDITS)

Advertiser: Aflac

Spot title: “Physical Therapy”

Ad agency: Publicis Kaplan Thaler/NY

Production company: Harvest Films, LA

Director: Baker Smith

DP: Curtis Wehr

Colorist: Tim Masick, Company 3/NY

Flame and Smoke artists: Keith Sullivan, Paul Downes, Jamin Clutcher, The Mill/NY

VFX: Legacy Effects/San Fernando, CA

Sound mixer: Tommy Jacarone, Sound Lounge/NY

Music: Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”

Acquisition formats/cameras: ARRI ALEXA

Editing system: Avid Media Composer

Beyond broadcast: Web spots


Treehouse, Dallas

Peter Tarter, partner/editor

www.treehouseedit.com

[Clockwise from Top Left] Curbside appeal in The Home Depot’s “Let’s Do This” campaign edited by Peter Tarter. Peter Tarter cut The Home Depot’s “Let’s Do This” campaign. Peter Tarter helped this young family get the carpeting they need in a new Home Depot campaign. A metaphor for softness. This shot of a woman falling into a pile of feathers, was integrated by Peter Tarter into The Home Depot campaign.
[Clockwise from Top Left]
Curbside appeal in The Home Depot’s “Let’s Do This” campaign edited by Peter Tarter.
Peter Tarter cut The Home Depot’s “Let’s Do This” campaign.
Peter Tarter helped this young family get the carpeting they need in a new Home Depot campaign.
A metaphor for softness. This shot of a woman falling into a pile of feathers, was integrated by Peter Tarter into The Home Depot campaign.

The storyline: Homeowners tackle home improvement projects, from boosting curb appeal and installing insulation to adding new carpet and flooring, while visual metaphors illustrate ‘do this, don’t do that’ concepts: Vintage welcome-home footage, racehorses roaring out of the gate, cartoon money and soft snow and bunny fur lend positive reinforcement, while a dog chasing his tail is an image – and feeling – to be avoided.

Why the spots are on my reel: “They’re such a departure from The Home Depot’s previous campaign in terms of the ‘do this, don’t do that’ metaphors integrated with the new footage captured by the director. Those emotional metaphors appeal to the person who doesn’t usually go to Home Depot. They give a real human dimension to the fix-your-faucet dilemma.”

Treehouse editor Peter Tarter cut The Home Depot’s “Let’s Do This” campaign.  
Treehouse editor Peter Tarter cut
The Home Depot’s “Let’s Do This”
campaign.
 

The biggest creative challenge: “The biggest issue was getting people to sign off on the metaphors. Metaphors tend to be culturally and racially bound; your perception may not be the perception of others. So that was a hurdle. Also, getting metaphors that viewers could acknowledge and comprehend in a quarter of a second was a challenge – sometimes we used three in a row to portray one thought. We must have made 40 different tries at a single metaphor before we picked the one you see. But once we found it, we nailed it.”

The biggest technical challenge: “Usually stock footage is vintage and not the same size as newly shot material. We’d blow up a stock shot and it would get all pixilated, so we had to go find another one. It was all hands on deck to find the right shot that would also hold its resolution.”

Input from other creatives: “The Richards Group head creatives, Bill Milkreit and Todd Tucker, were in here every second for the month it took to cut the six spots. All the stock libraries we used were tremendous; my assistants and executive producer Jeremy Besser were also pulling stock footage.”

Why the spots work: “They work because they’re quick paced and have a human element. There’s not a lot of camera movement because they’re cut so fast. But the stories are nice and short, and precise with one home project per spot so the viewer can see it come to fruition. We also went with more saturated color for a sexier feel.”

(CREDITS)

Advertiser: The Home Depot

Ad agency: The Richards Group/Dallas

Campaign: “Let’s Do This”

Production company: Paydirt Pictures/Santa Monica, CA

Director/DP: Iain Mackenzie

Colorist: Matt McClain, Filmworkers/Dallas

Online/VFX: Bryan Bayley, Treehouse/Dallas

Sound mixer: Greg Carlson, 3008/Dallas

Music: Rory Doggett, Stimmung/LA

Acquisition formats/cameras: ARRI ALEXA

Editing system: Avid Media Composer

Beyond broadcast: Web spots


Whitehouse Post, Chicago

Matthew Wood, partner/editor

www.whitehousepost.com

[Clockwise, from Top Left] A zombie horde pursues a young couple in “The Getaway” cut by Matthew Wood for Sears DieHard. A young woman is in danger of falling prey to a zombie horde in “The Getaway” edited by Matthew Wood for Sears DieHard. Will her “Getaway” truck start and  save her from the zombie horde?  Editor Matthew Wood who cut this Sears DieHard battery spot knows.    
[Clockwise, from Top Left]
A zombie horde pursues a young couple in “The Getaway” cut by Matthew Wood
for Sears DieHard.

A young woman is in danger of falling prey to a zombie horde in “The Getaway”
edited by Matthew Wood for Sears DieHard.

Will her “Getaway” truck start and save her from the zombie horde?
Editor Matthew Wood who cut this Sears DieHard battery spot knows.
 

The storyline: A young man and woman run through an industrial area pursued by a horde of fast-moving zombies. They come to a bolted chain-link fence; the man scales it, but zombies grab the woman’s foot and the cowardly man abandons her to her fate. But wait! The horde topples the fence and the woman gets away. The man beats her to a car, which fails to start and he becomes zombie dinner. The woman hops in a truck equipped with a Sears DieHard battery and makes her getaway. “Life Demands DieHard,” reads the tag line.

Why the spot’s on my reel: “I do a lot of comedy, and there aren’t too many action commercials on my reel. So it’s exciting to tell a story with a lot of energy. There was a lot of story and drama to create in 60 seconds, and the camera’s coverage and great movement helped me show off.”

The biggest creative challenge: “The whole tone of it: setting up the drama of the chase and trying to create a ton of frightening situations. The way the spot was conceived and shot helped – it could have come off with a kind of cheesy vibe, but they kept the drama going and added a bit of a tongue-in-cheek ending. I’ve always preferred late reveals to early ones: They make the audience work harder – it’s more satisfying the longer you can delay the reveal. My goal for most spots is to put the viewer in the position of catching up with what’s going on.”

The biggest technical challenge: “Keeping up the suspense of the story and making the production look bigger than it was in reality. But I had a lot of good sequences to work with and some VFX enhancements by The Mill.”

Input from other creatives: “It was great working with director Tom Routson, who had a strong vision of the spot. In fact, everyone was creatively on the same page; everyone was focused on the same goal, which is nice. I did a lot of sound design myself, and once Tom and the agency saw my cut, they were very happy with what I’d done.”

Why the spot works: “It works because we managed to get the tone right. Making the zombies move fast created a more exciting and dramatic piece, and the way the guy gets his comeuppance is tonally right. The way the product is placed is not gratuitous: It feels exactly right. Why did the woman get away? Because of the DieHard battery. It’s really smart advertising!”

(CREDITS)

Advertiser: Sears’ DieHard Battery

  The editor you want – along with Sears DieHard batteries – in the zombie apocalypse: Matthew Wood of Whitehouse Post. Photo by Jen Shelley
  The editor you want – along with Sears
DieHard batteries – in the zombie
apocalypse: Matthew Wood of
Whitehouse Post.

Photo by Jen Shelley

Ad agency: Y&R Midwest/Chicago

Spot title: “The Getaway”

Production company: Tool of North America/Santa Monica, CA

Director: Tom Routson

DP: Michael Bonvillain

Assistant editor: Lars Makie, Whitehouse Post/Chicago

Colorist: Stephen P. Arkle (“Sparkle”), Technicolor/LA

Online editor/VFX: Randy McEntee, The Mill/Chicago

Sound mixer: Dave Gerbosi, Another Country/Chicago

Music: Beta Petrol/New York City

Acquisition format/cameras: ARRI ALEXA

Editing system: Avid Media Composer

Beyond broadcast: Web spots


Union Editorial, Los Angeles

Jay Friedkin, partner/editor

www.unioneditorial.com

[Clockwise from Top Left] Dressing like a pop star is no stretch for Kohl’s customers in this campaign cut by Jay Friedkin. Jay Friedkin cut the punk-look spot for the Kohl’s campaign tied to The Voice. Add a little R&B bling to your look in this Kohl’s spot edited by Jay Friedkin.  
[Clockwise from Top Left]
Dressing like a pop star is no stretch for Kohl’s customers in this campaign cut
by Jay Friedkin.

Jay Friedkin cut the punk-look spot for the Kohl’s campaign tied to The Voice.
Add a little R&B bling to your look in this Kohl’s spot edited by Jay Friedkin.
  

The storyline: In an NBC/Kohl’s tie in, during The Voice telecast each week, the show’s two stylists discuss how to style clothing from the retailer, which represents different musical genres, for show alumni and models.

Why the spots are on my reel: “I think they are fun pieces. Also they are editor pieces, which are discovered in the cutting room,” says Friedkin who cut the R&B, punk and pop spots and produced the rest of the spots edited by colleagues Einar, Daniel Luna and Sam Bauer.

The biggest creative challenge: “Cutting eight different unscripted, documentary-style long-form pieces with eight complementary :30s from a single two-day shoot on only two sets. They had to tell interesting stories but still be effective marketing pieces.”

The biggest technical challenge: “Working with the multiple formats shot on set. Some was shot as fashion photography; some was shot with an intervalometer for a steppy, pseudo-timelapse feel. But dealing with all kinds of formats is de rigueur these days.”

Input from other creatives: “Lauren Greenfield is so smart and a multiple threat: She is a brilliant documentary director and a great stills photographer. On set she has a way of setting up the situation for the talent and then drawing them out with just the right questions. Shooting so much material so quickly, she had to sense when she had just enough and then move on to shoot the next genre. Plus, she had to direct and shoot the fashion stills for each genre.  In constructing the spots, she had great ideas and yet was really interested in what the editor had to say. Each of us editors had to find graphically and editorially the distinct elements that would bring out the flavor of each musical genre represented. For graphics, Mannix and Carolyn [here at Union] were really enthusiastic finding different visual styles to treat our stills. And musically Mophonics gave us a rich, wide ranging, diverse pool of music from their library to help us represent each style.”

Why the spots work: “Although they were all shot at the same time, on the same set, each piece has a different flavor. The long-form pieces are good stories that each have their own charm, move along nicely yet hit all of the distinct points that need to be made. The :30s create enough interest to drive the audience to the NBC website to view the long-form story pieces which, in turn, drive them to the Kohl’s website to shop for the styles and pieces featured in the videos. It was interesting to see the progression of an integrated campaign across platforms and how each piece was created specifically for its platform.”

  Jay Friedkin of Union Editorial cut the stylish Kohl’s campaign with The Voice tie-in.
  Jay Friedkin of Union Editorial cut the
stylish Kohl’s campaign with The Voice tie-in.

(CREDITS)

Advertiser: Kohl’s, direct

Campaign title: “Styling Sessions by Kohl’s”

Production company: Chelsea Pictures/LA

Director: Lauren Greenfield

DP: Shana Hagan

Editors: Jay Friedkin, Einar, Daniel Luna, Sam Bauer, Union Editorial/LA

Editorial producer: Jay Friedkin, Union Editorial/LA

Colorist/online: Carolyn Woods, Union Editorial/LA

Graphics: Mannix Rickenbacher, Union Editorial/LA

Sound mixer: Milos Zivkovic, Union Editorial/LA

Music: Mophonics/Venice, CA

Acquisition formats/cameras: Three Canon C300 PL cameras

Editing system: Avid Media Composer

Beyond broadcast: Complementary two-minute pieces designed for the web