Editing Commercials: Einar

For Class #15

 Instructor: Norman Hollyn T.A.: Beth Moody
 Office: 310-821-2792 Phone: 323-472-1164

 E-Mail: nhollyn [at] cinema.usc.edu

E-Mail: elizabethmoody [at] gmail.com

"Fish", "Ladybug" and "Butterfly": Editing Commercials

A Santa Monica based editor discusses how a visually structured series of commercials without CGI or adequate storyboards. Editing commercials is not as rigid as it used to be.

The Challenge
How do you edit together a commercial titled "Fish" without the fish? That was one of the challenges faced by Santa Monica, Calif.-based editorial facility Harley's House, which was hired to cut three spots for San Francisco ad agency Arnold Ingalls Moranville and its client eve.com, a new Web site specializing in prestige beauty products.

The concept of the spots, said Harley's House executive producer Michael Raimondi, was to show "Women who are in a monochromatic world until there is contact with one of three animals: a fish, a butterfly and a ladybug." The concept was that the women became as colorful as the creatures they encountered.

Harley's House editor Einar was the off-line editor on the three pieces: the completed "Fish" and "Butterfly" as well as the nearly completed "Ladybug." The project would later on-line at Santa Monica-based commercial effects house Planet Blue, which also did the CGI work.

The most salient challenge of the spots was "working within a world that didn't fully exist," said Einar, who put together the rough cuts for each commercial while the CGI creatures were created at Planet Blue. "It was a huge challenge to go all out in terms of creativity and not be inhibited by what wasn't there."

The Strategy
"To be honest with you, the first thing I did when I started the edit was to take the storyboards and throw them in the trash," Einar said, noting that the purpose of the boards was to convey the desired atmosphere to the director. Once the project was in post, he said, "we were free to do whatever we wanted with the material. Director Paula Walker did a great job shooting, and everyone was excited about how the talent looked." Einar's snazzy cutting made it appear that the models were reacting to things that weren't really there," Raimondi said. The editor's tool of choice: an Avid 9000 running Media Composer 7.2. The footage was digitized from DigiBeta at AVR 6s.

While Einar did his rough cuts, Planet Blue was still modeling and texturing the fish, the butterfly, and the ladybug, whose movement within the frame had yet to be finalized. "Initially, all we really had were the actors and background plates, so it was hard for me to get any type of a flow going," he said.

Starting on the first spot, Einar contacted Planet Blue and asked for "30 frames of a fish, any fish." He used that material to preliminarily map out the movements of the fish to match the reactions of the models. Einar said, "I took those frames and duplicated them, flopped them and layered them into many different shapes and sizes, just to get a feel for what they should be doing."

The Production
After finishing a rough cut of each piece, Einar and Raimondi would meet with the CGI artists at Planet Blue to discuss the movements of each critter. "We figured out where the fish or ladybugs should start, how many there would be, where they would move, how they would transition into the next shot and so forth," Einar said.

A lot of the CGI action was open to the editors' imaginations on "Fish" and "Butterfly." "Fish" was shot without the model reacting to anything at all. For "Ladybug," the movement was carefully choreographed in advance. "In 'Butterfly,' she's definitely looking at things," Raimondi said. "When the butterfly is going to be on her shoulder, there is a definite focal point for the model on the set."

"Butterfly" turned out to be the most challenging spot of the three. "We had to go all-out," Einar said. "There wasn't much action for the character. She only had to walk from A to B. It wasn't easy to cut that piece."

At one point, Walker wanted to make the model partially transparent to make her blend in with the background. To make this happen, some of the takes were shot with motion control to allow a separation of the model from the background, but the concept didn't make it into the final piece.

"We tried to make it look like she was not fully there. We played with that a little bit, but ultimately ended up going in a different direction," Einar said.

To add some depth to the movement of the CGI butterflies, inferno* artist Scott Bogunis made a matte of the objects in the plate, the woman for example, to place the butterflies at different depths within the frame, so they could pass behind the models and other things in the background.

As far as Avid's effects capabilities go, Einar used several speed changes and resizes, and was impressed with the luminance key and color correction capabilities. The luminance key was used to key in the CGI in the off-line cuts.

"Avid is doing a very good job of giving rough cuts that are acceptable when you're keying and doing color correction, whereas previously Avid keys were not very clean," Raimondi said.

The color correction came to their rescue when some members from the client, eve.com, were watching an off-line cut and were concerned with the quality of the off-line image, perhaps not understanding that it would be improved later in the finishing process. "We were working with one-lights (prints) and the client came in and had some concerns; I made some adjustments right there on the fly and they were pretty happy with them," Einar said.

The project was ultimately on-lined using Planet Blue's inferno*. Was there ever a consideration to finish the project on the Avid 9000? Einar said, "With a high-end project like this, we would never consider staying at AVR 77."

Beyond that, "All the CGI needed to be done in a D1 atmosphere -- to do that, and then bring it back to AVR 77 is kind of silly," Raimondi said. "We get projects that we finish on 77, but not on high-end work like this. Occasionally we'll do so many 3D motion effects in the Avid that it would be prohibitive to re-create those outside an Avid environment. So we'll cut it at 6s and the batch re-digitize at 77. All our Avids here have D1 boards, so if we go from DigiBeta through the D1 board at 77, it looks pretty good."

Einar said, "The great thing about this job is that the agency was so open to exploring different avenues with this piece. We needed (that freedom) to make things look natural while keeping them in a surreal world." The 30-second spots are scheduled to air regionally in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Reprinted from Editor's Net. Copyright © 2000, Editors Net

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Last Modified - September 30, 2008