Making automotive commercials is no joke. We made an awesome one.
Coordination and Flexibility RULE
Making TVCs (Television commercials) is a huge under taking. Most every time we quote a job for a video potential clients get sticker shock. It even happened on this job. Let me explain our process, what happened and what we learned.
First, Check this out
First of all, working with the people at Sewell was super cool. Working with an organization as old and respected as the Sewell’s are in Odessa was great, not only because it comes along with a lot of prestige (because you don’t have to make the typical “car dealer” commercial) but because the standard for the end product is so high. Not to mention the ability to shoot at the locations we had was phenomenal! I mean we shot at a live oil rig. So lucked out on that one. Providence.
As with any project there is a lot of going back an forth to figure out the scope of the project and the level at which the client wants to budget the production. Coming to a price to match the vision is a big deal and one that anyone who is up and coming must have a pretty good grasp on. The last thing you want to do is pitch an idea you can’t execute. I screwed that one up. I made the mistake of realizing the total cost associated with producing a project in a place like Odessa TX. There isn’t any production equipment out there which means you need to truck everything in. Plus, since we were bringing everyone in from Dallas (5.5 hours away, 7 if you’re in the grip truck with a top speed of 45 mph), you have to figure an extra 2 days for travel… yeah. Right away, you have to cut the process trailer and the extra rigging to get the price where you want it. Plus, reducing the moving parts allows you to move more quickly which reduces the number of production days. We were able to get the vision and the budget matched up after a few iterations.
The intent of the commercial was to portray Sewell as part of the community, people who understand West Texas and to sell trucks. 3 different models from 3 different manufacturers. I think we nailed it! You can watch the full commercials Sewell TVC.
Finding to a price to match the vision is a big deal and one that anyone who is up and coming must have a pretty good grasp on.
So lets talk about flexibility. We scheduled the production around the sun being low in the sky. For automotive photography, the use of a warm side with even highlights (East or West) and the color contrast of the blue sky side (preferably South). Thanks Bill Bennett ASC for teaching me this trick. The thing you really have to keep in mind is the reflections. You don’t want to see the camera truck in the shot. Trying to keep reflections in the curves of the bumpers works well and blacking out the tail lights helps. Back to flexibility… Since we wanted to do a very dramatic sunlit look from sun set or sun rise we had 430am call times and only have about 5 hours of production with a 6 hour break in between until 5pm call in the evening. The flexibility really matters in the evening when you’re racing the sun. Its essential to have a camera that can handle the low light and not get too grainy and still have great dynamic range. Enter RED Dragon.
Racing the sun also means you need a good plan. We scheduled a day before shooting to plan the shots from the mood boards to the specific locations. We had to match the trucks with the locations on the ranch we had access to. Since Odessa is a oil town, we used the Ford F150 for the oil rig since its the bread and butter of the working middle class in oil.
As far as the rig went, we knew we needed to do some running footage but couldn’t afford a Russian Arm. So the DP on this project, Mr Lulu Lemon himself, Josh Pickering and Scotty P. planned out an incredible rig with a Steadicam. You can check out the pictures below. It worked wonderfully since we only had about 45 minutes to get all of the running footage we needed each shoot. Remember we did all the production for this in 2 days. A good crew goes a long way!
Then we have the music licensing. We had a very limited budget for post, so we decided to spend it all on the music. BOOM Sizzle nailed it. We provided an unlicensed scratch track to get the mood matched to the footage and vision and they created the track in the main piece. If you need any sort of post work, they do a fantastic job. He worked with us more than we would have been able to afford otherwise. Which further reinforces the idea that relationships are worth far more than you think.
Lessons learned: You get what you pay for! Its true.
If you’re in the West Texas region, you can see it during most televised football events.
Big thanks to:
Josh – DP
Justin – 1st AC
Scotty – Gaffer / Grip
Becca – PA
Peter and Cole – Dust busters