A while back, I got called in to my good clients at DirecTV (now AT&T) to work on a spot for their Adworks campaign- a commercial about commercials! How funny! But really, it makes sense to make sure your advertising dollars aren’t going to waste, right? That’s why you hire ‘Ol Maxy, right? and then you use Adworks to make sure the Ads go in front of your target audience! Otherwise, well… see below!
Our Hero “Ad Man” runs from setting to setting, doing his best to sell product to the most unmatched of buyers- with very predictable results. But the laughs are an easy sell! Lol!
Here’s the boards! I hope you enjoy them, this is some of my finest work!
Here’s the final spot!!
Yup, no matter how hard you try, Gladys at the nursing home isn’t going to buy your reduced price Lamborghini. You just have to face facts!
This project was a little more extensive than most and we had time to board out some “B-Roll” if you will, with options for other shots to help sell up the humor a bit. It was all optional and really, at the end of the day, humor depends on the performance of the actors and more, so you do a lot of alternative takes to see what works best. But I did my part and boarded it out my best, to give it a fair shot at success. So, next up you’ll see some boards that are disjointed in continuity but will hopefully spur a neuron or two and make you chuckle. Enjoy!
Woohoo! Here’s another fun project from earlier this year that I’m very proud to show- fun video game racing action! The “Asphalt” Series is well known in gaming circles as a premium racing product and I was very excited to be involved with my clients at PSYOP for their pitch and production of this great spot.
Conceptually, it’s very simple: Showcase the main themes of the game series: Racing, Mayhem, and Variety. Variety of cars, and variety environments. Hate to say it, but this was kind of an easy one for me… A commercial like this has no room for subtlety, so it’s just a matter of attempting to give equal weight to the important elements (variety of cars and environments) and balance that with a ramping of the action to an ultimate climax, all within 30 seconds!! EXTREME!!!
This project had two parts- the pitch and the production. For the pitch (in which we try to “win” the job), we kind of had a looser goal- wow the client with, well, creative compositions to showcase the action and variety. Promise them the moon and see if we can deliver. There were all kinds of different ideas being tossed about- mostly the idea was to bring a realistic visualization of the gameplay to the screen. Also on the job were some very talented 3d and concept artists, and we all pitched in to contributed pieces of the final puzzle. The pitch was won on the merits of this collaboration- some of which I’ll share with you below (they didn’t make the final cut, but helped advance the job along, and look cool, besides!).
It was a great team effort, and we won the job. Now comes the hard part- execution. They had me back to refine some concepts and nail transitions into something that hit all the marks. You ready for the boards? Here you go!
And here’s the final spot!
What a wild ride! Soo….. Sometimes I have a massive amount of input on a job, and I feel like I get to pick all the shots, and control the pacing, and the visual storytelling (remember, for many jobs, and certainly in this case, I’m not even given a script or shotlist). BUT in this case, much of the concepting was done by talented 2d and 3d artists working concurrently- and so about the only idea I want to point out that I specifically contributed was the opening transition where the camera appears to be POV from the view of the bumper, but pulls out to be the POV looking into the reflection of the bumper. As far as I know, I “invented” that, at least in this kind of car/racing/bumper context. The thing about that kind of camera move is, it’s something you can only pull off in CG, so you’d never see that in classic cinema- since you’d have to magically “erase” the reflection of the cameraman. So, there you go, I did something cool. But even so, just as much if not more credit goes to the director and the CG artists for actually pulling it off and making it look amazing- you never know with uncharted territory, but that’s life… TO THE XTREME!!!!
Here’s a quick sweet little project I boarded a while back – one of those synergistic multi-product subtle mega-mercials masquerading as a network PSA – tips for a fun “date night!”
Here, a couple starts out there morning routine as usual- but then in a moment of whimsy, it strikes them to spice things up a bit and go on an impromptu date night! All with the help the Hallmark Channel’s suggestion of a “Date Night” jar of fun date activities, and of course, great products from Proctor and Gamble, like Crest toothpaste and Pantene hair spray.
They dress their best, pick from the date night jar, and the winner is: ‘Rent a Convertible and Buzz up the Coast for some Seafood!’ Sounds like fun! Here’s the boards:
What I like most about these boards is the great way I pulled off a natural depiction of the “everyday couple.” The first couple frames of the pair brushing their teeth, being casual/typical/routine, and then simultaneously coming to the same notion- “are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Blowdrying their hair, picking out clothes, checking their makeup- it’s really important to be able to convincingly draw the normal, everyday stuff, and making it appealing, and I was lucky to have this practice.
I don’t know if they ever did make this commercial, so I don’t have the final vid to show you either way, but no biggie, it’s all about the boards anyway! See you next time!
Here’s a very fun spot I did a while back for Red Bull/Audi; a little cross promotional effort to reinforce mutual branding and associations. Basically, it’s a mini-documentary of an extreme sports spectacle: a never-before-seen coordinated group of stunts with multiple flight technologies being expertly demonstrated, and beautifully shot.
This kind of event is more “captured” than executed according to shot list, so there’s some amount of looseness between what’s intended and final outcome- but I was able to help out by drawing up some nice presentation-style frames to help sell through the concept- and these shots were detailed very specifically by the director, who included great references for the planes, vehicles and locations. That helps a lot in making the boards come through as intended and being the most helpful in terms of advancing the production. I like that storyboards can be useful in a production like this, even though it’s also a known thing that on the day of the actual shoot, they’ll have to just roll with however things come out. If you ask me, that’s the REAL stunt! Ha! Here’s the boards:
How many storyboard frames do you need for a 30 second commercial? It’s an interesting question. Sometimes you just need a handful of “pitch boards”, to sell the idea along, so maybe 5-8 frames in that case. Sometimes you are drawing “shoot boards” which are critically important to be as clear and explanatory as possible, so as best to inform the production staff exactly what they are trying to capture on the shoot day. In those cases, anything from 16 to 30 frames is normal. That’s a lot of range. I typically work off a storyboard template I designed that has 24 frames on it. That’s about 21 shots to spell out the entire commercial, plus 3 frames as optional shots to try and get on the day of the shoot. There are so many contingencies in filming, which is why storyboarding is so important- it helps ground the process amidst the chaos of an actual shoot.
To explain a little further- commercials, especially 30 second commercials, are generally shot in one day. At first, it sounds like plenty of time to film 30 seconds, but it’s actually a mad race against the clock. I often hear about shoots that start at 6 am and then run straight through to 4 am the next morning- nearly 24 hours. I guess that’s a “day.” Probably greatest contributing factor to the time it takes to make this stuff work is the lighting. Every single shot needs perfect lighting to get captured on film camera as intended, and these lights are heavy and complicated and temperamental. A director friend explained that every time the camera moves, it takes an hour to re-light the scene; so you can extrapolate from there to understand why even a very “simple” commercial can take so long to shoot.
Over time I’ve learned that there are two roles in production that are essentially contingent on the availability of the shoot boards, and thus, these are the people that I typically look out for and try to coordinate delivery with- the Assistant Director and the Line Producer. I never fail to be impressed with the character of these individuals. They have similar roles, in so far as what they are responsible for: with the help of the storyboards as a guide as to what the final product should be, their job (among other duties) is to coordinate the production staff and organize logistical solutions custom to the likely challenges on the day of the shoot. It is an incredibly complicated task- planning and re-planning against known and unknown information- and then retooling as new information comes in. To give a few examples of typical curveballs and contingencies- Sunrise and sunset times shift every day; Child Actors must have guardian supervision and technically can’t “miss school” or they are considered truant, so a tutor must be present and additional complicated labor laws apply; many shoot locations have limited accessibility and parking; considerations of flight paths of planes and helicopters overhead; mandatory breaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner- these are typically baked into a union contract along with many many other services; the list goes on and on, each contingency narrowing the available windows to do the most important thing- shoot the darn commercial!
Sometimes what is planned for is not guarantee-able; and thus backups are additionally planned for, and then swapped out at the last minute, and then swapped right back. With so many known unknowns, the storyboard can represent an anchor of stability to rally around. So I know that my role of storyboard artist is an important one, and when I’m asked to draw additional frames that may or may not have a final role in the end product, I always do my best to comply, because it may be that on the day of the shoot, the particular angle I’ve drawn for a hero shot might just not be available, and so a backup option is needed.
All of this explanation to help explain the context of a very difficult day of storyboarding. And so here we go; I’ll recount the day fully to paint a nice clear picture. I was due at 9 AM to be onsite for my good clients at Slim to draw shoot boards for their Nissan Rogue commercial. I had left about fifteen minutes late (my bad) and the Los Angeles traffic gods where further amusing themselves at my expense- so I was about 40 minutes late to meet my clients at their office – a terrible way to start out, but I’ve done a lot of work with these clients and we all knew I could make up the time. Still, we had to hit the road running, no time to waste- the directors and producers needed to leave at 2pm to go on a tech scout (where they examine the likely shoot locations to evaluate and make final decision on how to structure the shoot schedule).
As per usual, I had no real previous knowledge of job/concept before arriving- I used to think that was a bad thing, and that I would do better if I could anticipate the night before what I would be drawing the next day, but after a while I realized it was much better to just come in like a blank slate with no preconceived notions about how things might be. It’s gonna be a hard day, no matter what, and knowing more about the project can’t help- only making sure I have all my equipment seems to matter. After swiftly setting up, I was given the script and told the concept- its a 30-second Nissan Rogue commercial, and I’m drawing shoot boards. They are shooting this weekend and the boards are due at end of day. I quickly read through the script.
The commercial narrative opens at night with mysterious POV footage of a light cast in front of camera at passing trees, houses, streets, neighborhoods- searching for something, and finally finding a garage door that opens in front of us- these shots are intercut with a young boy playing with his toy spaceship at his house, we can see on his face that his imagination is taking him to other worlds. Our two threads tie together as the POV light (now revealed to be the exciting 2016 Nissan Rogue) and the boy enter the family garage from opposite sides and meet head on- an exhilarating introduction with a sci-fi slant. The boy is in awe- his father has brought home an awesome new futuristic car- and shortly they easily pack their camping gear into it (with all that extra cargo space!) and head off on a road trip into the night, the theme of traveling through space still palpable. The commercial culminates as the car pulls up to a campsite (Mt. Hollywood in this case) and the new car is ogled and awed at by the boy’s amazed friends, already at the site. “It’s a rogue.” A great concept and I appreciate these kinds of commercials that get across a kind of concept without explaining it with words- it’s really all visual storytelling.
I was very relieved to find the director had prepared a shotlist for us- a very intelligent, well thought out, descriptive explanation of each shot, one by one, and as I read through it, I could see the shots clearly, and the concept came through, and it was great. I love shotlists because the director has already taken the time to think critically about the work they intend to produce. And I also get a very clear picture of the amount of frames needed, and thus I can plan my day very efficiently. But there’s a catch- there are 43 shots on this list. About twice what would be typical. The reasons were twofold: there were a lot of unknowns associated with the shoot day, and thus the director needed a lot of options to pad out how the story might be told in the same way, but with alternate angles; and the story narrative was visually driven (as is usually the case in these “international” commercials that have to appeal to audiences that speak different languages) which also typically necessitates more frames than a typical “walk and talk” commercial, for instance. So, I had about 3 hours to rough out 40+ frames, and that’s very tight, but doable- the shot list was clear and I at least didn’t have to distract myself with typical stuff like ideation, fixing story problems, muddy concepting, or ambiguous intent. Just draw my butt off- and luckily I’m quite excellent at that. Around 1230 the lunch order came in- it can be somewhat expected to be provided lunch in these scenarios, especially if everyone else is ordering- it just gets expensed I guess, and who doesn’t like a free lunch. But whereas I might have indulged in a nice juicy pastrami sandwich on another occasion, today I knew I needed to steer clear of the dreaded “food coma” which typically accompanies a rich meal, so I opted for the lentil salad, which was light and filling. I only took a few bites, knowing that with the clock still ticking, the better use of my time was to finish out the rough frames and then I could finish the meal while the directors reviewed the drawings and came back with their notes.
So I did so, and they did so, and as expected, the boards looked exactly as intended, with a few minor changes. And a few more optional frames to tag at the end- since they wanted a few key frames to include an option for a younger brother character alongside the principal actor, in case the client insisted. Oh, and get a few shots of the Bose audio system and logo in there too, since that’s a premium feature on the car that the client wants featured. That brought the total to 50 frames. And I have until 6pm to turn in all the finals. No problem, I guess. Actually, the directors were very pleased to have at least a comprehensive rough draft all ready to go, which is great to bring on a tech scout- so they had those roughs printed up and they hit the road, leaving me to finish up by myself, which was kind of a relief- just had to get a finishing pass on 50 frames in four hours. No big deal. Yeesh. Thankfully, after 10 years at this job, I know every trick in the book in terms of being efficient with my drawing style and getting the maximum drawing quality out of a specific limited availability of time. So I just did my thing, and got it done. By the way, I don’t trace my cars to save time- because in my experience, it takes far longer to find the exact reference to trace, and it feels like cheating anyway if I do.
Here’s the boards:
And here’s the final commercial:
I thought it turned out well, but obviously, they didn’t use all the shots I drew. I looks like they didn’t even use half of them, actually, and I noticed some that I didn’t draw at all- it’s common to find a new, previously unforeseen approach on the day of shooting. The feel is a little different than I had thought was originally intended. I think they were going more sci-tech and aggressive, which works, but I also think the lighting in some of the shots was a little garish- not sure ultimately why that would be (many times, it’s a client request to crank up the appearance of the hero product), but if I ran the zoo, I’d opt for something a little softer and dreamlike.
They swapped out the retro spaceship design that they originally wanted (I also felt that it reinforced the stronger sense of imagination and freedom) with a realistic NASA type shuttle. I also noticed that they didn’t include the Bose product shots, or much of the front end playing-with-the-spaceship-around-the-house shots. So much is out, it makes me wonder if they have another, much longer version out there somewhere, like a 60: internet-only version. Makes sense to me. Also just goes to show that what you see on screen is just a sliver of the thought and work that went into it.
Here’s a fun commercial I did for my great clients at Bark Bark– A great opportunity for me to draw high energy classic car action!
In this spot, we see two young men tooling around in a classic Camaro- living out their personal Fast and Furious fantasies- After lots of quick action cuts and inserts, it’s time to bring the ride back and give it a shine up. They lovingly and expertly apply the Turtle Wax ICE- giving it that better-than-new shine- but just then they look up, and quickly put on their detail technician hats- the REAL owner of the car has arrived to pick it up from the detailers, and drives it away satisfied and unaware the extent the detailers have “appreciated” his business. We toyed around with a “stinger” ending wherein, right as the detailers are certain they “got away with it,” the car owner stops and returns to them an item they accidentally left behind. I liked that idea- more humorous- and develops the character of the owner a bit, since he plays it cool and doesn’t react negatively- but looks like it got cut out of the official version, and we thus we end on a fist bump, which I also drew an option for.
Here’s the boards:
I only had one day to draw this spot so I made sure to stay on target with my turnaround time using the great program Sketchup to download a free 3d model of the hero car and used that to reference the specific angles that were called for. It’s a great shortcut when accuracy and time really matter (and they always do!). You can’t always just rely on google images to provide the reference angle you need, so you gotta step it up and make your own sometimes! Also, note the little details of how the car gets “dirtier” as the drive it around in the first half of the spot.