Category Archives: commercials

Cabin Editing Company opens in Santa Monica focusing on editing, VFX

Cabin Editing Company has opened in Santa Monica, started by three industry veterans: managing partner Carr Schilling and award-winning editors Chan Hatcher, Graham Turner and Isaac Chen.

“We are a company of film editors with a passion for storytelling who are committed to mentoring talent and establishing lasting relationships with directors and agencies,” says Schilling, who formerly worked alongside Hatcher, Turner and Chen at NO6.

L-R: Isaac Chen, Carr Schilling, Graham Turner and Chan Hatcher.

Cabin, which also features creative director/Flame artist Verdi Sevenhuysen and editor Lucas Spaulding, will offer creative editorial, visual effects, finishing, graphics and color. The boutique’s work spans mediums across broadcast, branded content, web, film and more.

Why was now the right time to open a studio? “Everything aligned to make it possible, and at Cabin we have a collective of top creative talent where each of us bring our individual style to our projects to create great work with our clients,” says Schilling.

The boutique studio has already been busy working with agencies such as 215 McCann, BBDO, CP+B, Deutsch, GSD&M, Mekanism and Saatchi & Saatchi.

In terms of tools, Cabin uses Avid Media Composer and Autodesk Flame Premium all centralized to the Facilis TerraBlock shared storage system via Fibre.

Updating the long-running Ford F-150 campaign

Giving a decade-long very successful campaign a bit of a goose presents unique challenges, including maintaining tone and creative continuity while bringing a fresh perspective. To help with the launch of the new 2018 Ford F-150, Big Block director Paul Trillo brought all of his tools to the table, offering an innovative spin to the campaign.

Big Block worked closely with agency GTB, from development to previz, live-action, design, editorial, all the way through color and finish.

Trillo wanted to maintain the tone and voice of the original campaign while adding a distinct technical style and energy. Dynamic camera movement and quick editing helped bring new vitality to the “Built Ford Tough” concept.

Technically challenging camera moves help guide the audience through distinct moments. While previous spots relied largely on motion graphics, Trillo’s used custom camera rigs on real locations.

Typography remained a core of the spots, all underscored by an array of stop-motion, hyperlapse, dolly zooms, drone footage, camera flips, motion control and match frames.

Premiere was used for editing. CG was a combination of Maya and 3ds Max. Compositing was done in Nuke and Flame with finishing in Flame. 

Cinna 1.2

Tobin Kirk joins design/animation house Laundry as EP

Tobin Kirk has joined LA-based design and animation studio Laundry as executive producer. Kirk brings nearly 20 years of experience spanning broadcast design, main title sequences, integrated content, traditional on-air spots, branded content, digital and social. At Laundry, he will work closely with executive producer Garrett Braren on business development, as well as client and project management efforts.

Kirk was most recently managing executive producer at Troika, where he oversaw all production at the entertainment brand agency’s 25,000-square-foot facility in Hollywood, including its creative studio and live-action production subsidiary, Troika Production Group. Prior to that, he spent nearly five years as executive producer at Blind, managing projects for Xbox/Microsoft, AT&T, ancestry.com and Sealy Mattress, among others.

As a producer, Kirk’s background is highlighted by such projects as the main title sequence for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at Blur Studio, commercials for Chrysler and Gatorade at A52 and an in-flight video for Method/Virgin America at Green Dot Films. He also spent three years with Farmer Brown working for TBS, CBS, Mark Burnett Productions, Al Roker Productions, The Ant Farm, Bunim/Murray and Endemol USA.

In addition, Kirk collaborated with video artist Bill Viola for over six years, producing projects for the London National Gallery, Athens Olympics, the Getty Museum, Opera National de Paris, Guggenheim Museum, Munich’s E.ON Corporation and Anthony d’Offay Gallery.


Agent of Sleep: The making of a spec commercial

By Jennifer Walden

Names like Jason Bourne and James Bond make one think “eternal sleep,” not just merely a “restful” one. That’s what makes director/producer/writer Stephen Vitale’s spec commercial for Tempur-Pedic mattresses so compelling. Like a mad scientist crossing a shark with a sheep, Vitale combines an energetic spy/action film aesthetic with the sleepy world of mattress advertising for Agent of Sleep.

Vitale originally pitched the idea to a different mattress brand. “That brand passed, and I decided they were silly to, so I made the spot that exists on spec and chose to use Tempur-Pedic as the featured brand instead. I hear Tempur-Pedic really enjoyed the spot.”

In Agent of Sleep, two assailants fight their way up a stairwell and into a sun-dappled apartment where their altercation eventually leads into a bedroom and onto a comfy (albeit naked) mattress. One assailant applies a choke hold to the other but his grip loosens as he falls fast asleep. The other assailant lies down beside the first and promptly falls asleep too.

LA-based Vitale drew inspiration from Bourne and Bond films. He referenced fight scenes from Haywire, John Wick and Mission Impossible too. “Mostly all of them have a version of the action sequence in Agent of Sleep — a visceral, intimate fight between spies/hired guns that ends with one of them getting choked out. It was about distilling this trope, dropping a viewer right into the middle of it to grab them and immediately establishing visuals that would tap into the familiarity they have with the setup.”

Once the spy/action foundation was in place, Vitale (who is pictured shooting in our main image) added tropes from mattress ads to his concept, like choosing a warmly lit, serene apartment and ending the spot with a couple lying comfortably on a bare mattress as a narrator shares product information. “The spies are bursting into what would be the typical setting for a mattress ad and they upend all of its elements. The visuals reflect that trajectory.”

To achieve the desired cinematic look, Vitale chose the Arri Alexa Mini with Cooke anamorphic lenses, and shot in a wide aspect ratio of 2:66 — wider than the normal cinemascope. “My cinematographer David Bolen and I felt like it gave the confined sets and the close-range fist fight a bigger scope and pushed the piece further away from the look of an ad.”

They shot in a practical location and dressed it to replicate the bedrooms shown in actual Tempur-Pedic product images. As for smashing through the bedroom wall, that wasn’t part of the plan but it did add to the believability of the fight. “That was an accidental alteration to the location,” jokes Vitale.

The handheld camera movement up front adds to the energy of the fight, and Vitale framed the shots to clearly show who is throwing the punch and how hard it landed. “I tried to design longer takes and find angles that created a dance between the camera and the amazing fight work from Yoshi Sudarso and Cory DeMeyers.”

In contrast, the spot ends with steady, smooth shots that exude a calm feeling. Vitale says, “We used a jib and sticks for the end shots because I wanted it to be as tranquil and still as possible to play up the joke.”

Production sound was captured with a Røde NTG-2 boom mic onto a Zoom H5 recorder. The vocalizations from the two spies on-set, i.e. their breaths and efforts, were all used in post. Vitale, who handled the sound design and final mix, says, “I would use alt audio takes and drop in grunts and impact reactions to shots that needed a boost. The main goal was that it felt kinetic throughout and that the fight sounded really visceral. A lot of punch sounds were layered with other sound effects to avoid them feeling canned, and I also did Foley for different moments in the spot to help fill it out and give it a more natural sound.”

The Post
Vitale also handled picture editing using Apple Final Cut Pro 7, which worked out perfectly for him. Editing the spot was pretty straightforward, since he had designed a solid plan for the shoot and didn’t need to cover extra shots and setups. “I usually only shoot what I know I will use,” he says. “The one shot I didn’t use was an insert of the glass the woman drops, shattering on the floor. So structurally, it was easy to find. The rest was about keeping cuts tight, making sure the longer takes didn’t drag and the quicker cuts were still clear and exciting to watch.”

Vitale worked with colorist Bryan Smaller, who uses Blackmagic Resolve. They agreed that fully committing to the action film aesthetic, by playing with contrast levels and grain to keep the image gritty and grounded was the best way of not letting the audience in on the joke until the end. “For the stairwell and hallway, we leaned into the green and orange hues of those respective locations. The apartment has a bit of a teal hue to it and has a much more organic feel, which again was to help transition the spies and the audience into the mattress ad world, so to speak,” explains Vitale.

The icing on the cake was composer Patrick Sullivan’s action film-style score. “He did a great job of bringing the audience into the action and creating tension and excitement. We’ve been friends since elementary school and played in a band together, so we can find what’s working and what’s not pretty quickly. He’s one of my most consistent collaborators, in various aspects of post production, and he always brings something special to the project.”


Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based writer. Follow her at @audiojeney on Twitter.


Director Elle Ginter joins Sanctuary Content

Culver City-based production company Sanctuary Content has grown its roster with the addition of director Elle Ginter, who was recently selected as one of 13 directors worldwide for the DGA and AICP’s Commercial Directors Diversity Showcase.

Ginter’s first project with Sanctuary, a Father’s Day spot for Buffalo Wild Wings out of TBWA/Chiat/Day/LA, showcases her skill for capturing honest, intimate moments in its sweet simplicity as a young girl bonds with her father while watching sports. She also wrote and directed the short Why We Wake, in which she explores depression in an honest and artful way.

Ginter found her way to directing in an interesting way. After getting her degree in journalism, she moved to Boston where she began working on a whale-watching boat. A chance meeting with a casting director led to work as a PA on local feature sets. She quickly worked her way into the camera department, eventually becoming a 1st AC before finally landing back in New York City as a writer and art director on commercial shoots.

Sanctuary Content was launched by EP/founder Preston Lee a year and a half ago — they are made up of a lean and diverse roster of directors who create content across all mediums, including advertising, film, music videos and television.

After meeting Ginter, he knew she would be a nice addition to the team, “I’ve been watching Elle’s work for some time. She’s passionate, excited, hungry, and incredibly creative — and, at 29-years old, she’s just getting started.”

Ginter says she knew a traditional, larger production company wouldn’t be the right fit for her: “My career has been fairly untraditional at this point. When I talked to Preston I realized he’s a really out-of-the-box person and inspires that kind of thinking in everyone around him. Every time I talk to him I leave feeling energized.”


Behind the Title: Midnight Sherpa creative director Miguel Lee

NAME: Miguel Lee

COMPANY: Midnight Sherpa (@MidnightSherpa)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a boutique creative CG studio built on the ideal that all our work should be effectively communicative and visually engaging. We’re not shy about embracing new technology and experimentation. Our work ranges all mediums — from large-scale environmental exhibits to content for mobile.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Co-Founder and Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I see myself as a lens for our clients to view the world differently. Most people engage us when they’re looking for a new perspective on their product/brand. I tend to venture outside the realm of design to draw inspiration. Whether it’s attending lectures on gravitational waves or just getting into my car and driving to new places without a map, I incorporate my experiences and sensibilities to craft a unique vision for the client.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I believe that being well versed in the tools is a huge plus to being an effective director. In the same way that many of the greatest symphony conductors are also skilled instrumentalists, a creative director who can design, animate and experiment alongside his team will inevitably come up with more groundbreaking and nuanced ideas. I constantly try to learn new software and techniques while continually refining my design and animation skills. The trick is to not get so mired in the minutiae as to miss the bigger picture.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love presenting ideas to a client. Coming up with concepts and forming them into powerful narratives and unique experiences is the hallmark of what we do. Sharing ideas we are passionate about gets me so excited that I often can’t sleep the night before a presentation. I am also a huge fan of defining the work culture — making sure that both our artists and clients have positive experiences with us.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Not knowing the future — though it’s also kind of exciting that way.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Early in the morning, right as the sun peers over the horizon.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would teach. I’m fortunate to have taught the past 10 years at my alma mater (the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena). I find great joy in sharing knowledge with those who are eager to learn it.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
There were two constants in what I’ve always wanted for my career: to create and to make an impact. Despite always having an interest in digital art, I studied engineering and english when I was in college thinking that I could build or write to achieve that impact, respectively.

It wasn’t until I formally studied art and design that I realized the potential of reaching the masses by creating visual content. After I graduated college, I attended Art Center, where I dove into motion graphics during my first term. At that point, I put all of my focus into mastering that medium. Along with film, it remains the most powerful tool I know for visual communication and for making an impact.

Hunted

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently created some content featuring top-tier players for Riot Games’ League of Legends, a broadcast package and title sequence for the CBS’s reality drama, Hunted, as well as theatrical brand content for Dolby Cinema, which recently won a Golden Trailer Award.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I directed the main and end sequences to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim in 2013. Guillermo very graciously gave me the freedom to design and execute my vision for the titles of his film. With an elite team of animators, we completed the sequence in less than two months (which included a stereoscopic 3D delivery.)

I also single-handedly created the opening title sequence for the film, which was an exciting technical and artistic challenge. The whole project proved to be a case study on the art of developing efficiencies to get the project done within the aggressive schedule without any compromise to the vision and scope. Seeing the end result on a huge IMAX screen was glorious.

NAME THREE THINGS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
The Internet, air conditioning and Tylenol.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m an avid follower of CGP Grey, Vsauce, Numberphile and PBS Space Time on YouTube. My guilty pleasure is the NES Speedrunning community on Twitch, for the sheer ingenuity and obsession of people trying to beat 30-year-old video games in record time. Archdaily, CGTalk and 500px are constant sources for visual inspiration. Facebook has proven to be a fantastic tool for staying connected with friends and colleagues around the world.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Only when I’m engaged in a task that doesn’t require reading, writing or coming up with ideas (modelling, animating and compositing are good times for tunes.)

My current go-to’s are Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, Beethoven’s Hammerklavier, A Prairie Home Companion, and the entire soundtrack to Evita.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
My way of dealing with stress is to simply bear down and work harder — I tend to like running toward the fire, not away from it. Besides, I think I would be too fixated on the problem to enjoy any activity not related to solving it.


Catherine Finkenstaedt joins Slim as EP

Commercial and music video producer Catherine Finkenstaedt has joined Slim, a creative production company based in Venice, California. She comes to Slim from from GO Film, Wondros and, most recently, Spears and Arrows. Finkenstaedt will be working with various directors at Slim, including Karen Cunningham, ZCDC, Thomas Garber, Jason Headley, Vincent Urban, Pet & Flo, Brad Morrison, Jeff Baena and Wondo.

Finkenstaedt has executive produced campaigns for various companies, including Target, Toyota, Nike, AT&T, Comcast, Activision, Visa, Macy’s and the Tokyo Olympic Committee. She has also worked with directors Jake Scott, Sam Bayer, The Malloys, Patrick Daughters, Anton Corbijn, Chris Cunningham, Mark Romanek, David Kellogg, Matthew Rolston, McG, Antoine Fuqua, Sophie Muller and Hype Williams. Musical artists she’s collaborated with include Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Metallica, and Oasis.

Raised outside of Cambridge, England, Finkenstaedt attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusettes, where she studied theatre and film. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her pet-loving husband and her five furry children.

“I could not be happier to be joining executive producer Tom Weissferdt (who I worked with in the past) in this very important next phase of my career and in the growth of Slim,” says Finkenstaedt. “We are in a sea of change in commercial and integrated production and I am excited to help support the directors and to also help identify others whose voices are yet to be heard in traditional or integrated marketing content.”

BVE 1.17.18

Behind the Title: Flavor LA director/CD Jason Cook

Name: Jason Cook (@jcookerama)

Company: Flavor LA

Can you describe your company?
We are a narrative-driven company that uses design, animation, CG, visual effects and live action to tell stories for our clients. Flavor LA serves the West Coast territories for our parent company, Cutters Studios in Chicago.

What’s your job title?
I am both a director and creative director for this office.

What does that entail?
It really depends on the project, but I tend to wear many hats. From a creative direction perspective, I am involved with the cultivation and management of all of the creative that we do here in LA. I have a strong design background, which helps me lead our team through pitching, production and finish. We pride ourselves on highly conceptual and thoughtful storytelling in our work, so I spend a large part of my days with the headphones on writing treatments. I love when the job involves live-action opportunities. Here, I can use a completely different medium and skill set to accomplish our creative goals. My sensibility is very design-driven, so most of the stuff I shoot tends to have a CG or VFX component, which is always so exciting.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
It’s funny. As I came up as a designer, I always swore to myself I would never stop designing, and I kept that promise up until the last couple of years. I love designing, but as I get busier, my bandwidth gets smaller. I have grown into a true leadership role and have come to accept that my time is better served looking at the bigger picture instead of being consumed by the intricacies of the process. This allows me to manage projects with greater quality control and leaves my brain and creative flow available for new things as they come in. As a leader, I’ve found that giving artists space, and not micro-managing their development, brings me greater results.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Seeing a plan come together is the most gratifying part of this business. It’s exciting when we are given a brief, we pitch an idea, and we win. There’s also a moment of, “Ok how to do we pull this off?” For me, putting my head together with my team, allowing for experimentation, encouraging outside thinking and following the creative where it leads us is such a fun part of this process. When all the elements start to coalesce and you see the first dailies comped and your previs edit starts to get replaced with real shots… that’s when things get awesome.

What’s your least favorite?
I try to work very efficiently and sometimes communications break down, which can be frustrating. This is for any number of reasons, but it gets in the way of the process and that can slow momentum.

What is your favorite time of the day?
Not the morning! I’m more of a night owl. I tend to stay up a bit later and write when it’s nice and quiet.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I think my internal drive to tell stories would have translated into straight-up filmmaking. I chose a graphic design path, but I also focused my intention on motion graphics, which incorporates live action a lot of the time. I really believe that everything I’ve done up to this point has led me to where I am today.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
It seems so trite now because so many people have a similar story, but I remember watching the film title of Seven and it blew my freaking mind. I was just graduating high school at the time, and I knew right there that I wanted to do that, even though I didn’t really understand at the time what “that” was.

Arrow Electronics

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
I recently shot a few spots that I’m really happy with. Two for Arrow Electronics and a spec spot for water conservation that involves a cute CG water drop character that lightly shames people for wasting water. In April, I directed and creative directed a live, site-specific show for over 3,000 Detroit Lions fans to reveal the team’s new uniforms.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
I really love the Be Pro-H20 spec I shot. It was a complete labor of love and a self-financed production that I wrote, cast and directed. The Lions event was absolutely crazy and something I’ve never done before. Somehow I sold the Lions on creating a giant geometric lion head installation that we projection-mapped visuals onto. It was madness! I learned so much on that project and I hope to do more live events like that down the road.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
I think my phone is clearly one, followed by the Internet and cameras.

What social media channels do you follow?
I’ve been weening myself off of Facebook these days. I have a Twitter and Instagram account as well.

Do you listen to music while you work? Care to share your favorite music to work to?
It depends on the task at hand, but I have a hard time writing to music with lyrics. My go-to is the composer Cliff Martinez. Something about his scores just gets me so focused and the words spill out. If I don’t need to focus, my musical tastes span from hip-hop to house music. I’ll throw on some Motley Crüe sometimes, too.

This is a high stress job. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
It can be a very high stress job for sure, and sometimes it’s easy to take it with you when you leave the office. I try to make a conscious effort not to get pulled into the chaos of the process. Even when we are in the weeds, we have to remember it always works out in the end. To unwind, I love hanging with my wife and our two pups and watching a movie at home, going out with friends or traveling. My PS4 comes in handy sometimes too.


Arcade grows with creative editor Graham Chisholm

Edit house Arcade, with offices in New York and Santa Monica, has hired creative editor Graham Chisholm. He will be based in the LA studio, but is available to work on either coast.

Chisholm’s career began in Montreal, where he worked for three years before moving to Toronto. For over a decade, he worked with a variety of advertising agencies and brands, including Gatorade, Land Rover, Budweiser, Ford, Chevrolet and the Toronto Raptors, to name a few. He has earned several awards for his work, including multiple Cannes Lions and Best in Show at the AICE Awards. According to Arcade, Chisholm has become best known for his ability to tell compelling and persuasive stories, regardless of the brand or medium he’s working with.

“Graham’s influence and dedication on a project extend beyond the edit and into the finishing of the film,” notes Michael Lawrence, director of a Powerade spot that Chisholm edited. “In our case, he is involved in everything, a true collaborator on an intellectual level, as well as a gifted craftsman. Graham has earned my trust and heartfelt praise through our time working together and becoming friends along the way. He is a gifted storyteller and a great man.”

Chisholm is in the midst of working on a new project at Arcade for Adidas via ad agency 72andSunny. He had just completed his first Arcade project, a short film called LA2024, also via 72andSunny, promoting Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Nice Shoes Creative Studio animates limited-edition Twizzlers packages

Twizzlers and agency Anomaly recently selected 16 artists to design a fun series of limited edition packages for the classic candy. Each depicts various ways people enjoy Twizzlers. New York’s Nice Shoes Creative Studio, led by creative director Matt Greenwood, came on board to introduce these packages with an animated 15-second spot.

Three of the limited edition packages are featured in the fast-paced spot, bringing to life the scenarios of car DJing, “ugly crying” at the movies, and studying in the library, before ending on a shot that incorporates all of the 16 packages. Each pack has its own style, characters, and color scheme, unique to the original artists, and Nice Shoes was careful to work to preserve this as they crafted the spot.

“We were really inspired by the illustrations,” explains Greenwood. “We stayed close to the original style and brought them into a 3D space. There’s only a few seconds to register each package, so the challenge was to bring all the different styles and colors together within this time span. Select characters and objects carry over from one scene into the next, acting as transitional elements. The Twizzlers logo stays on-screen throughout, acting as a constant amongst the choreographed craziness.”

The Nice Shoes team used a balance of 3D and 2D animation, creating a CG pack while executing the characters on the packs with hand-drawn animation. Greenwood proposed taking advantage of the rich backgrounds that the artists had drawn, animating tiny background elements in addition to the main characters in order to “make each pack feel more alive.”

The main Twizzlers pack was modeled, lit, animated and rendered in Autodesk Maya which was composited in Adobe After Effects together with the supporting elements. These consisted of 2D hand-drawn animations created in Photoshop and 3D animated elements made with Mason Cinema 4D.

“Once we had the timing, size and placement of the main pack locked, I looked at which shapes would make sense to bring into a 3D space,” says Greenwood. “For example, the pink ribbons and cars from the ‘DJ’ illustration worked well as 3D objects, and we had time to add touches of detail within these elements.”

The characters on the packs themselves were animated with After Effects and applied as textures within the pack artwork. “The flying books and bookcases were rendered with Sketch and Toon in Cinema 4D, and I like to take advantage of that software’s dynamics simulation system when I want a natural feel to objects falling onto surfaces. The shapes in the end mnemonic are also rendered with Sketch and Toon and they provide a ‘wipe’ to get us to the end lock-up,” says Greenwood.

The final step during the production was to add a few frame-by-frame 2D animations (the splashes or car exhaust trail, for example) but Nice Shoes Creative Studio waited until everything was signed off before they added these final details.

“The nature of the illustrations allowed me to try a few different approaches and as long as everything was rendered flat or had minimal shading, I could combine different 2D and 3D techniques,” he concludes.