Tag Archives: PS260 Editorial

Using editing to influence the tone of a spot

By Maury Loeb

We all have a basic understanding about what editing consists of. In the simplest terms, editors stitch together raw footage to create a cohesive and coherent story. But one of the most vital features of a “good edit” is the establishment of tone. Tone is the aspect of a piece that describes its particular mood, character, atmosphere and flavor. Dictating the proper tone of an ad is a deceivingly sophisticated endeavor that goes beyond the simple mechanics of a few well-spliced shots. Editors need to tell a cohesive story, but we also have to tell the right story.

While some commercials can be ill-conceived and fundamentally “tone-deaf,” trying too hard to project “cool,” the best commercials make viewers feel connected to something. Wieden + Kennedy’s original Go Forth work for Levi’s is a great example. It’s a hipster anthem, but one that makes bold tonal choices in the edit to unique and memorable effect.

Another is the hilarious It’s a Tide Ad, which so precisely and successfully recreates the tonal doppelgangers of existing ads that it’s actually deceiving at first. The ability to produce a very specific, intentional flavor from disparate, raw ingredients is what elevates editing from a craft into an art. The script might be the script, and the footage might be the footage but creating the right tone for a spot not only honors the vision of the ad, but also enhances and elevates the finished piece.

This requires an editor’s technical skill of manipulating and synthesizing their raw ingredients, but more importantly, it relies on an editor’s taste, creativity and sensibility. In the commercial world, offline editors are uniquely positioned to get the first crack at establishing the tone of a spot and the opportunity to shepherd a spot through its finishing, making sure that the intended tone of the ad is realized at the end. It takes the brilliance of talented colorists, sound designers, musicians and animators to achieve a polished finished product, but a good offline editor can sketch out a comprehensive “tonal roadmap” for a spot.

Sound, picture and pace are the most fundamental determinants of tone. Editors manipulate these elements by employing an infinite arsenal of weapons in order to achieve the intended tone of a commercial.

Sound and our emotions have a primal relationship. Sound is essentially a form of “invisible touch” that is processed in the same part of our brains that processes emotion and perception, making it an ideal parameter of tone. Music is probably the most effective, immediate and raw influencer of tone. It is quite literally a construct designed to create an emotional response. Throw three different pieces of music against the same footage and you will walk away with three entirely different experiences. As far as weapons in an editor’s arsenal go, its standard issue for a reason. Would ASPCA ads be as iconic with any other track besides Sara McLachlan’s “In the Arms of the Angel” even if they were equally as cloying and maudlin?

A thousand different tracks could have complemented Sony’s famous Balls spot, but would it have had the same impact without Jose Gonzalez’s dreamy, slightly unexpected version of “Heartbeats”? Tone can be equally dictated by an editor’s approach to sound design. Google Chrome’s “Speed Tests” dynamically toggled between hyper-real and overtly stylized sounds, creating a piece that’s both observational and awe-inspiring. The result is a unique tonal voice that is utterly engaging with just the right amount of cheekiness.

Editors can inform the tone of a spot beyond the images initially captured in the camera. Manipulating the color palette of the film colors the character of a spot in profound ways. Editors can dial through a range of emotions as they dial through the color spectrum, capitalizing on a color’s ability to elicit specific emotions — from the isolation and melancholy found in blue tones and the menace and danger found in greens to the welcoming warmth of rich reds and golds. A film’s light and dark tones can telegraph an impressive amount of information to an audience as well. Consider the flat palette of Skittles commercials and the way it helps enhance their awkward, comedic tone. Or the way crunchy contrast and saturated colors can make a tabletop spot look punchy and appetizing.

Editors also set tone by the pace at which a commercial is cut, both in the tempo of the edits and the speed of the footage itself. The tonal adrenaline of Nike’s Write the Future is due in large part to its dynamic edit as it jerks the audience through kinetic bursts of flurried cuts and pregnant lulls of over-cranked shots. Likewise, Ikea’s Lamp wouldn’t feel nearly as sad if it weren’t for the deliberately paced, measured editing. Nike’s Michael Jordan ad Frozen moments played out in real time would feel like a trite highlight reel, but the deftly handled ramping between super slow motion and real time creates an epic grandeur that amplifies the message of the spot.

Double Duty
Commercials have the unique role of being little films in the greater service of advertising something while also representing a particular brand. In commercials, an editor’s sensibility is key. Is the tone of a particular spot congruous with its message? Does its tone align with the sensibility of the brand? Commercial editors have the dual duty of approaching their task as both stewards of the filmmaking process and stewards of the brand itself. Our role is crucial in making sure the end result both conveys the intended message of an ad in a way that jibes with how a brand wants to be perceived.

Editors are crucial at establishing tone in broad-strokes, but also on a granular level, understanding how a particular line is delivered or graphics are placed can have an impact on the overall tone and experience of a spot. It’s important that brands and agencies see editors as more than just craftspeople who know how to cut footage together using certain programs. Good, experienced commercial editors are tonal specialists who understand how to influence the tone of an ad and make it just feel right.

Maury Loeb is the co-founder of and editor at PS260 , a creative editorial company in New York City, Boston and Venice, California. Check out his reel here.

Behind the Title: PS260 editor Ned Borgman

This editor’s path began early. “I was the kid who would talk during the TV show and then pay attention to the commercials,” he says.

Name: Ned Borgman

Company: PS260

Can you describe your company?
PS260 is a post house built for ideas, creative solutions and going beyond the boards. We have studios in New York, Venice, California and Boston. I am based in New York.

What’s your job title?
Film editor, problem solver, cleaner of messes.

What does that entail?
My job is to make everything look great. Every project takes an entire team of super-talented people who bring their expertise to bear to tell a story. They create all of the puzzle pieces that end up in the dailies, and I put them together in such a way that they can all shine their best.

Facebook small business campaign

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I think it would be the sheer amount of stuff that can become an editor’s responsibility. So many details go into crafting a successful edit, and an editor needs to be well-versed in all of it. Color grading, visual effects, design, animation, music, sound design, the list goes on. The point isn’t to be a master of all of those things, (that’s why we work with other amazing people when it comes to finishing), but to know the needs of each of those parts and how to make sure every detail can get properly addressed.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
It’s the middle part. When we’re all in the middle of the edit, up to our necks in footage and options and ideas. Out of all of that exploration the best bits start to stand out. The sound design element from that cut and the music track from that other version and a take we tried last night. It all starts to make sense, and from there it’s about making sure the best bits can work well together.

What’s your least favorite?
Knowing there are always some great cuts that will only ever exist inside a Premiere Pro bin. Not every performance or music track or joke can make it into the final cut and out into the world and that’s ok. Maybe those cuts are airing in some other parallel universe.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Whenever the office is empty. So either early in the morning or late at night.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Probably something with photography. I’m too attached to visual storytelling, and I’m a horrible illustrator.

Why did you choose this profession? How early on did you know this would be your path? 
I’ve always been enamored with commercials. I was the kid who would talk during the TV show and then pay attention to the commercials. I remember making my first in-camera edit in third grade when I was messing around with the classroom camcorder set up on a tripod. I had recorded myself in front of the camera and then recorded a bit of the empty classroom. Playing it back, it looked like I had vanished into thin air. It blew my eight-year-old mind.

Burger King

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Let’s see, Burger King’s flame-broiled campaign with MullenLowe was great. It has a giant explosion, which is always nice. Facebook’s small business campaign with 72andSunny was a lot of fun with an amazing team of people. And some work for the Google Home Hub launch with Google Creative Labs was fun because launching stuff is exciting.

Do you put on a different hat when cutting for a specific genre? 
Not exactly. Every genre has its specific needs, but I think the fundamentals remain the same. I need to pay attention to rhythm, to performances, to music, to sound design, to VO — all of that stuff. It’s about staying in tune with how all of these ingredients interact with each other to create a reaction from the audience, no matter the reaction you’re striving for.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
I grew up obsessed with practical effects in movies, so I’d have to say Burger King “Gasoline Shuffle”. It has a massive explosion that was shot in camera and it looks incredible. I wish I was on set that day.

What do you use to edit?
Adobe Premiere Pro all the way. I like to think that one day I’ll be back on Avid Media Composer though.

What is your favorite plugin?
I don’t have one. Just give me that basic install.

Are you often asked to do more than edit? If so, what else are you asked to do?
Sure. I’ll often record the scratch VO when there’s one needed. My voice is…serviceable. What that means is that as soon as the real VO talent gets placed in the cut, everyone’s thrilled with how much better everything sounds. That’s cool by me.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My iPhone, my Shure in-ear headphones, and an extra long charging cable.

This is a high stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Change some diapers. My wife and I just had our first kid last August, and she’s incredible. A game of peek-a-boo can really change your perspective.

Edit house PS260 launches content studio, We Know the Future

Creative editorial house PS260 has launched its own creative content studio. We Know the Future offers in-house production capabilities and advertising solutions across all screens. These offerings will be available in NYC and LA.

JJ Lask, PS260’s co-founder, partner and editor, is leading the new content studio from the company’s LA office, with support from all PS260 editors and staff across both offices.

Currently, PS260’s We Know the Future partners with various creatives, from writers and directors to social media influencers, to support its content production with plans to build out the team in the next year. The first project from We Know the Future is American Counselor, which launched during the first week of July on PS260’s YouTube channel timed to the Fourth of July holiday. The link to the first episode is here, and the subsequent episodes will post each week throughout the summer.

PS260 and We Know the Future edited and produced American Counselor, respectively, and worked with the director of the 14-episode digital series, Brendan Gibbons. The series personifies both the liberal and conservative sides of the US as a husband and wife going through marriage counseling. Actors include Annie Sertich (2 Broke Girls, The Office), Ptolemy Slocum (Westworld, The Sopranos) and Marc Evans Jackson (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jumanji), who plays the American counselor.

In addition to American Counselor, Lask is working on a show directed at dads, called That Dad Show. It will appear on Facebook this fall and will be produced by the new content studio.

“The launch of PS260’s content studio is a response to a new advertising landscape,” says Lask. “PS260’s advantage is our visual storytelling talent. We are now leveraging that talent to develop, create and produce longer format episodic content combined with advertising solutions distributed across all the leading social channels.”

Behind the Title: PS260 editor Matt Posey

NAME: Matt Posey

COMPANY: PS260 (@ps260nyc)

PS260 is a boutique editorial house (with offices in Venice, California and New York City) specializing in commercials, music videos and features. We also have a motion graphics and visual effects department. We’re a small team that fosters real creativity and experimentation in the work that we do.


Editing is essentially taking video, audio and images and crafting them into the most effective telling of a story. It is an extremely collaborative process that involves many components — understanding the technology, working with directors/writers/creatives, coordinating sound and effects — but at its heart, editing is telling a compelling visual story over time.

I suppose for people who aren’t a part of the post process the most surprising thing might be how drastically a story can change in the edit. There’s that saying that a film (or short, or commercial, or whatever) is written three times: first as a script, then as it ends up being shot and finally as it’s edited. Very rarely does a final product end up as “boarded,” and I still find it amazing how such small changes can completely change the viewer’s idea of what’s happening on the screen — what if we held this shot so the character blinks weirdly one more time? Or how about we add a sound effect of his keys rustling? What if we open with the other character so now we’re in their POV for the rest of the scene?

Depeche Mode

Editors can frequently act as fixers — with the stress and unpredictability of productions, things don’t often go the way they’re planned and the editors are then tasked with making sense of a puzzle with missing pieces. I love being challenged to find some outrageous way to tell the story, and we want to tell it with the material that’s in front of us.

Sometimes these creative solutions to production problems work really well and sometimes they feel a bit lacking. It’s at these times you know these problems could have been solved if editorial was involved earlier in the process. I’ve been lucky to be involved in some projects through pre and post production and, along with minimizing prep in post and allowing for more time to be spent on creative editorial, potential issues were caught and ironed out before they became bigger concerns.

Lunchtime is always a pretty great thing. PS260 makes sure we’re all well fed.

Probably desperately trying to garner YouTube hits for my speculative fiction essay videos.

I’ve been editing since I was a kid, re-editing Star Wars audio books on cassette tape to tell new stories. Later, I began capturing analog video that I shot or recorded from the TV with a Dazzle Movie Star box and editing in Adobe Premiere 5.0 (I never thought I’d go back to Premiere almost 20 years later, but I did). I always knew I wanted to work with video and loved to experiment with new effects and ways to craft a story, so I went to art school and got a degree in video art. After that I found I needed to make rent, so getting paid to do what I love was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.

Recently, I’ve done a lot of video work for Depeche Mode. The director Tim Saccenti and I created the live visuals for their current tour, along with two performance music videos and three 360 music videos, which should be out very soon!

I’ve also just finished a wonderful feature documentary, Illustrated Man (left), about tattooed men and the history of tattooing in NYC, with director Sophy Holland. Currently, I’m working on some videos for Elizabeth Arden, starring Reese Witherspoon.

The goal of every project is the same: to make the audience feel what you want them to feel, whether it’s laughter or sadness, or that rush of adrenaline as they’re making their way home from the theater. But each project comes with its own set of limitations.

With TV spots, you’re confined to 30 or 60 seconds and you have to temper your grand ideas of how best to tell the story with the economy of time, not to mention the sometimes limiting concerns of the brand or product you’re representing. Long form and features can allow you all the time you may need, but you have to be mindful of the audience’s attention span.

The best thing you can do is continually learn, and have at-the-ready techniques to help you with a specific form or genre, like knowing when to be in a wide or a close-up shot, using the camera’s distance to create tension or reveal emotion. Or in a comedy, for example, knowing not to reveal new information right after a big joke because the audience will miss it while they’re laughing (thanks Ren & Stimpy).

My first feature, We’ve Forgotten More Than We Ever Knew, was an incredible learning experience for me. It taught me so much about how to cut dialogue, build out a scene and carry a character’s emotional arc across 90 minutes. Plus, it’s just a really cool film.

Right now I’m using Adobe Premiere CC 2017. The recent updates have finally stolen me away from Avid and Final Cut.

This is like asking someone what their favorite book or movie is, so it’ll probably change depending on the day of week. Right now I’m into using stock reverb plug-ins, or things like iZotope Vinyl to mix in sound elements in interesting ways. Tomorrow it could be star wipes.

Definitely. Because of the progression of technology, clients are expecting more and more, and the divide between offline and online is narrowing. I do a lot of the online effects in the edit, whether it’s motion graphics, correcting eye lines when the actors stray, or comping split screens.

In the features and music videos I work on, I have a lot of freedom to work on bigger CG shots and effects set pieces, which is always a lot of fun.

Of course, no one can live without their phone nowadays. It does help a lot for my job as well, allowing me to remote in to my workstation to check on a render or reference an EDL at a session.

The other two would be my corded Apple full-size keyboard and Logitech M500 mouse. They’re amazingly simple tools, but they make things so much easier.

It’s all about having a good work-life balance, which is an issue most editors have to grapple with. Fortunately, I have some amazing people in my life who make sure to occasionally pull me away from all the screens.