As I promised in my last article, this week I intend to tell you about the actual filming and editing of the KaChing commercial.
The shoot itself was spread out over two days. The first day we would do the shots with the farmer in his field and on the second day we’d pick up the shots with the agents. The first day we started filming around 6:00 in the evening. We had originally planned to get started earlier, but a late afternoon thunderstorm prevented that from happening. In fact, after driving out to the field and seeing the torrential rain flooding the rows of corn, I was surprised that the clouds broke and we actually got to shoot at all. We started filming late because we were trying to avoid direct sunlight and shadows that would betray the idea of the farmer being in his field at night. So the fact that we did have some cloud cover was a good thing from that standpoint, as it made the light diffused and flat – exactly what you want if you’re trying to make a nighttime shot out of footage filmed in the daytime. You may be wondering why we didn’t just film at night to begin with, and the answer is simple. Adding a few filters and making some color corrections to daytime footage yields a crisper, cleaner result than shooting at night with very little light. There are some cameras that do a good job filming at night, but for our purposes this was the better solution.
All in all, the first night of shooting went really well. Tim, our farmer, turned out to be a pretty good actor and we had a lot of fun trying different shots and even reenacting some of the scenes from the movie Signs. As the lighting continued to change with the setting sun, I kept shooting the same scenes again and again, trying to make sure we had consistent lighting throughout all of the shots. This would make my work in post-production a lot easier.
The second day of shooting started around 10:00 AM and the weather was absolutely perfect. Under normal circumstances, shooting outside under a cloudless blue sky is not ideal, but it gave the shots the look I was looking for in this case. I started the day filming Dan and his speaking role because I knew that it would be the hardest to get right. In fact, aside from that the only other thing I needed to film were a few shots of my other agents for cutaways. Like Tim the night before, Dan was more than ready for the challenge of acting and played the role of agent exceptionally well. He knocked his lines out and I went about filming the other guys in their investigative roles. I wasn’t sure how I was going to use these shots, so I tried to cover as many angles as possible.
The only issue we had that day was a water pump that provided a constant buzz in the background of the audio track. To alleviate that I actually had Dan and Joey re-record their lines back in our studio. Luckily the lines were pretty short, so getting the timing right and syncing it to their lip movement wasn’t too difficult.
As far as the editing process is concerned, I basically took my initial script and used it as a base from which to build out the rest of the spot. I knew what dialogue I needed, but I didn’t lock myself into only using the shots that I’d envisioned before the shoot. For example, the opening shot of the commercial where Joey says, “What was it that you saw?” was something he improvised on the spot. It wasn’t until I got into the editing process that I found that shot and decided to add it to the front of the spot. I tried a few different arrangements of the dialogue before I settled on the final outcome. Then I just looked for shots to help tell my story, which proved to be even more challenging than I’d anticipated. It turns out that trying to tell the story of a farmer making contact with alien life and then the ensuing investigation is rather difficult to accomplish in a mere thirty seconds. But after a lot of tweaks and trimming frames, I finally had my final edit – except for the crop circle.
I’m sure a lot of you were wondering how that came to be and I can only tell you that it was through the magic of our graphic designer and his wizardry with Adobe After Effects. The image was a stock photo of another crop circle that he manipulated to show the dollar sign, and then added the effect of it being filmed from a helicopter. Suffice it to say, it was not an easy task, but he pulled it off superbly.
The last elements that were missing from the commercial were sound effects and color correction, both of which played a crucial role in adding drama to it. The sound effects really brought the piece to life. Most of them were part of a library that we own, but I did have to record some movement through the corn stalks. To do that I used a few leaves from a stalk of corn and recorded the sound of them rubbing against my clothes and being brushed aside. I layered these sounds to give Tim’s otherwise silent walk through the corn a realistic feel.
And as for the color correction process, I won’t go into too much detail, because it was a lot of layering of filters and adjusting sliders. To achieve the day to night conversion, I basically de-saturated the image and added a blue tint. There are a lot of tutorials and examples for doing this online, just search for “day to night conversion.” For the day shots, I really wanted to intensify the sun-washed look and make it look hot and desert-like to some degree. Again, this was a combination of things, but mostly adjusting the white-balance of the shot and boosting the highlights.
Looking back at this, I’m really pleased with the end result and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire production process. As with all projects, there were things I could have done better and hopefully I’ll learn from those and keep them in mind as I proceed with future projects.
If you have any specific questions about this project, I’d love to hear them. Just leave them in the comments section below.