Wednesday, February 13, 2008

TV uses bars & tone to make sure all its content matches

My parents have a color bars rug. Maybe that's where I got the inspiration.

That's an interstitial spot I made for the Independent Film Channel.

They asked me to make a spot that dealt with the same issues as a web series contest they were holding on their website. I could use any footage I wanted but I had to get it done fairly quickly so that and a limited budget ruled out doing a film shoot. I brainstormed a bunch of ideas that dealt with the internet or TV. Most of them had something to do with the strengths of the internet but characterized by language that I thought was too obtuse. Or too random.

So this spot was an attempt to be really direct. I thought about what I prized about the internet but didn't want to make it about why the internet was BETTER than TV. There are too many things like that out in the world. Instead, I just tried to outline the strengths of the internet without denigrating TV.

In the shower one morning, I thought of the color bars approach. Color bars are a great signifier of television that to my mind have not been overused in any shorts I've seen. Plus, I saw really clearly how color bars could be used to great effect on a tight budget. Once you start playing with them in an edit, you can get all Mondrian on their crisp, colorful edges. Originally, I thought the spot would be all color bars but the script got crazier and invited the use of more footage from all over.

In my travels to find readily available images that would work in the spot, I stumbled across a great resource for videomakers. Public domain. There is a lot of stuff - stills and footage - on the internet that is public domain. I found some great old movies that had no copyright which allowed me to download a few shots from them and install them into the spot.

I think a music video made from Max Fleisher Superman cartoons (which are in the public domain) would be the bees knees. I imagine you can't use Superman's likeness because that's separately copyrighted. But there's still lots of villainous scientists, killer robots and smoothly animated Lois Lane legs. Whatever the case, public domain was an exciting element to explore.

In the end, I really liked how the spot came out. It doesn't feel like a promo - my usual paid-for-hire format - and it employs a kind of DIY editing aesthetic. Apart from the motion graphics - supplied by Yoram Benz - it was more about brainstorming and then locating available images that suited the script. I worked with great editors who were very patient and into experimenting and some after effects work too.

Lastly, the music. At the outset, I realized that this needed a track of music that didn't just supply momentum and fill in gaps. I wanted something that took the standard tone and turned it into a melody. That was the only direction I gave Alexander Strung who created something very simple and emotional in my opinion. His band - The Chief Smiles - also did the music that is in my Subway Floor video.

Red Bull made me change some of the language (everytime you hear the word "web", I think it should be "internet") but otherwise IFC and them really let me alone. I also like that I got to stick it to Ted Stevens a little. Have you heard his whole speech attacking net neutrality? It is mind-meltingly ignorant.

"The internet is not a big truck! It's a series of tubes!"


Here are the full credits on the spot:

Editors: Karyn Bianco, Eyal Dimant, April Hartstein, David Kuther, Joe Pisch
Music by Alexander Strung
Graphics by Yoram Benz
Voice by Peter McHugh
Video Footage by Ian Savage
Still of Al Gore by Robert Scoble
Still of Oliver the Cat by Kristen Holt Browning and Sam Browning


Blogger gkny said...

That's awesome! Nice job!

8:38 AM  

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