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30 Seconds or Less

One significant element to consider when shooting a commercial is how long the spot is going to be. Longer productions require more filming and a greater amount of editing, so it would stand to reason that they would be trickier to produce, right? Not necessarily. We have found that it can be quite difficult to communicate an idea in 15-30 seconds. When you think about taking a complex message and stripping it down to the bare bones in order to fit time constraints, you can understand how greater thought and effort might be required to create a comprehensible and entertaining message.

If that’s still not making sense, let me use an analogy to elucidate. Think about a sonnet, which is generally fourteen lines, and condensing it’s message to a haiku, which is just three lines.

This is an example of an Italian Sonnet:
Within the warmth of home, I sit amazed
at the gentle fall of snow through window pane.
Cup of tea in hand, my layered thoughts unchain,
and tumble from the tip of tongue unfazed
to land upon a pristine page appraised,
aided by the silent fall through snowy pane.
Oh, the soft white wintry glow ‘pon the lane
leaves a graceful drape, Lord be praised.
Within the warmth of home, I muse on themes
of days to come and those gone bye and so,
I thank the Lord for all of nature’s schemes,
for the gift of time, for peace, and for the snow.
Oh, make the blanket deep, I wish to dream,
may all my days and ‘morrows have this glow.

I took it upon myself to convert this sonnet to a Haiku. Be mindful that I am not a poet, so my rendition is passable at best. Yet it took me near ten minutes to come up with these three simple lines – seventeen words – to sum up the essence of the sonnet:

Snow falls against window pane
In the warmth I muse nature’s wonders
Thanking God for ‘morrow’s glow

Now just imagine trying to turn an ESSAY into a haiku. That’s what it’s like when you have an extremely dense topic that needs to be simplified for production. To put it in different terms, think about how movie trailer producers have to capture the major themes of a feature length film in a very short amount of time. Usually, there’s one or more versions of the  trailer that are anywhere from one to three minutes that play in theaters, but there’s also an even more abridged version of that made for television. For example, take the various trailers for Wes Anderson’s 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel. The first is the official trailer which runs 2:26 minutes. The second is the television spot which is only 31 seconds.

Think about the creative decisions that had to be made in order to convey essentially the same message in a quarter of the amount of time. What did they include from the original trailer and what did they leave out? Were these wise cuts or could they have been better? If you’ve seen the film, how was the trailer as a whole? Did it adequately sum up the film? Did it entice you to go see it if you hadn’t already?

These are just a few of the many questions a producer has to consider when making creative choices about what to include and what to leave out in a short TV spot.

Alyssa Rudisill

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Tackling Analogies Through The Art of Animation

In some of our past blogs, we’ve tried to highlight the benefits of using animation to deliver complex messages. You may think that what you’re advertising is too mature to be presented in an animated format, but you’d be surprised at just how potent a well-created animation can be. Matthew Johstone, writer and illustrator, recently joined forces with the World Health Organization to create a powerful video about depression, proving that animation is influential at any age, whether you’re five or fifty.

The video ‘I Had a Black Dog, His Name Was Depression,” explores the debilitating nature of depression and ways of overcoming the condition that plagues millions of people globally. The story is delivered in a metaphorical context, personifying depression by representing the condition as a black dog, rather than alluding to a theoretical concept. The video really succeeds in bringing their message to life by using the dog figure to communicate the effects of depression. Trust me when I say this is no Clifford they’re presenting; it’s an ominous, dominant, pervasive figure that the subject can’t escape. He ‘chews up’ the man’s memory and prevents his concentration, ‘sniffs out’ his confidence and ‘chases it away.’

It’s difficult for a person who isn’t afflicted by depression to imagine what living with the disorder must be like. It’s not something you can feel for yourself or come to grasp fully unless it’s happening to you. In creating this anthropomorphic figure of depression, the black dog, the creators are able to illustrate visibly the essence of depression, rather than presenting a vague idea for viewers to grapple with. Animation is the perfect way to bring figurative messages to life. Imagine telling the story of the black dog in live action – viewers would see a forlorn dog and recall Sarah McLauchlan’s haunting SPCA commercials, rather than interpreting the analogy as it’s meant to be understood. Instead, Johnstone and WHO created a video that allows viewers to deepen their understading of a complicated issue by giving them something to visualize.

Blueforest Studios is experienced in creating animated videos to explain complex issues in a simple way. We’ve made videos for Tar Heel Tax ReformEvolvemint and Men’s Ministry. With each we have strived to use animation to tell a story and engage the target audience. Do you have a subject matter that might not be easily tackled using live action? Contact us today to learn more about our animation process!