Dave Hanson

Anatomy of a Video Scene: Ditch the Pitch Trailer

By Dave Hanson on January 16, 2014

“We basically need you to find the biggest piece of crap on Craigslist,” I said, half-jokingly summarizing the assignment to Core Art Director, Angela Fioretti. With the video shoot for Steve Yastrow’s new book a mere four days away, we were in full-blown production mode. Angela, who was in charge of props and wardrobe, was looking for a rusty old bike we could rig to collapse on cue for one particular scene.

“Well, I do have one good option, but this lady on Craigslist stopped emailing me back.” Angela replied. While the scene itself would only be a couple of seconds long, it would lay the groundwork for an important reveal later in the video. Getting the perfect prop bike was critical for maximum impact. “If you think it’s the right one, then send me the ad,” I said. “Maybe I can convince her to sell it to me.”

01 DTP craigslist ad
I gotta hand it to Angela, this is a piece of crap.

I quickly uncovered the source of the problem. The poster was attempting to sell all three bikes to a single buyer. She dismissed Angela’s request because she assumed she would only buy one. Having learned that, securing the deal was relatively simple. Well, except for one minor detail.

“Okay, this is going to sound weird, but I’m going to need your boyfriend to pretend to be me this afternoon.” My bizarre request elicited immediate laughter, but Angela understood the hang-up: timing. The seller had requested a pick-up time that was impossible for anyone in the office, but luckily, the location was mere minutes away for Angela’s boyfriend, Justin. He simply needed to pose as me, purchase the bikes and deliver them to the agency. Normally, I would have simply informed the seller. But given her already skittish behavior, and the fact that we had little more than two working days left before the shoot, we had to do what we had to do.

[h4] WELCOME TO THE CORE PROP SHOP [/h4]
“This thing smells,” I said as Justin rolled our crappy new bike into the office. “It’s perfect.” With our key prop in hand, the first task was figuring out how to make it fall apart on cue. For this, I enlisted the help of Core’s VP of Creative Services, Jeff Speech. We disassembled the bike and discovered that sawing off the post inside the steering column would allow the bike to break in a way that was both funny and repeatable, allowing for multiple takes.

Apply your Milwaukee Tool® Sawzall® blade here.
Apply your Milwaukee Tool® Sawzall® blade here.

When Jeff returned with our bike rigged for collapse, it was time for the fun part: making this bike look old, ugly and junky for the camera. Jeff and Creative Director Jerry Higgins went all-out, sanding away parts of the finish and applying layers of brown paint for a rusted-out look. Meanwhile, I went to work with an X-acto® knife and duct tape, helping the team to ugly-up the material on the seat and handlebars.

Jerry and Jeff slaving away in the prop shop.
Jerry and Jeff slaving away in the prop shop.
Three shades of brown paint were layered on to simulate rust.
Three shades of brown paint were layered on to simulate rust.
So realistic, you almost need a tetanus shot.
So realistic, you almost need a tetanus shot.

[h4] THE SHOOT [/h4]
With our prop ready to go, the new challenge was figuring out how to make the bike fall apart as naturally as possible for the camera. Our original plan had our actor, Cooper, climbing onto the bike before it fell apart beneath him. As you can see, this does not look natural at all.

Choreography fail.
Choreography fail.

An adjustment had to be made. Things simply looked too forced. We found a solution by reversing the flow of the action. Cooper would now get off the bike and move to roll it up the driveway. The motion of his arms would allow the sawed off steering column to drop out effortlessly.

 

The new move.
The new move.

With all the pieces in place, we got to work on the final video. Adding in the voiceover, sound effects, music helps bring this clip to life. Senior Designer Doug Birling added additional polish by boosting contrast and applying a Wes-Anderson-inspired yellowish overtone, which brought the overall visual look in-line with the retro-inspired score we chose.

In the end, this scene was only a small piece in a much larger puzzle. But getting it right was critically important. Not only because it’s promoting a wonderful book, but also because attention to detail is such an important part of what we do.

If the bike doesn’t look right, the audience might miss the joke. If the bike falls apart awkwardly it could be distracting for the viewer. Getting the details right is essential for directing the audience’s attention where you want it.

Video can be a very important part of your marketing plan, and a great way for you to connect with and motivate your audience. This serves as a good example of all the particulars that need to come together for your video to have the impact it deserves.

Watch the final video and learn more about Steve Yastrow’s new book, Ditch the Pitch, right here:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmMAG-InYV8[/youtube]