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Old August 24th, 2008, 06:11 PM   #1
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Help with Television Commercial

For the last few years I've mostly been doing short films and corporate/church videos. I have been hired to do a couple of 30 second tv spots and I have some questions.

1. Should I shoot in HD, SD, 16:9, 4:3? I have to deliver the final product on BetaSP.

2. The post house I am dealing with has asked for uncompressed Quicktime files. I'm using Vegas 7/8 - if shooting in HD should I render using an HD timeline? Or should I render using an SD timeline?

3. Any advice on ensuring my blacks/whites/colors and audio are broadcast-safe?

Any help/details on the workflow would be greatly appreciated!
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Old August 24th, 2008, 10:57 PM   #2
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Hi Tim,

I recommend shooting HD 16:9, as you then capture footage at its highest resolution, and do the down conversion to SD at the end of the editing process. Apple's Prores codec is great but I suspect you can't use it in Vegas (I'm Final Cut)?? Ingest your footage at the highest possible quality settings. Not much help, I know. good luck with it.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 09:54 AM   #3
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Thanks. Anyone else?
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Old August 25th, 2008, 12:17 PM   #4
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Hi Tim -

Here is some quick info... of course I am coming from the UK so take from this what you can.

The station will have their own set of Technical Specifications for commercials, contact them to email you an information sheet. However you may find that a little daunting depending on your understanding of these things. If you have never done this before, you would be best contacting the sales agent involved at the station and explain that this is your first commercial and that any help he/she can give would be greatly appreciated.

1: Generally speaking, commercials are delivered on Beta SP or Digital Betacam

2: Aspect ratio is not an issue in the UK but it must be clearly stated on the VT Clock - do be careful with broadcast safe viewing lines which you should be able to view in your viewer timeline window, you would not want any important graphics getting "cut off" on some TV sets.

2: From HD files, our post production facility prefers 10bit uncompressed QT files for transfer to Digital Betacam - this retains the most detail.

3: The station sales agent should issue you with a Clock Number

4: Generally you need to have Black / Bars & Tone and a VT Clock at the start that will have required information fields - you also need to carry the advert on for a further ten seconds at the end for overrun, the production house should be able to help you with all this stuff.

5: WARNING! But before you go ahead with your final master you may need to run it by the station legal department. We email small QT files to get clearance for all adverts. Once again the sales agent at the station will give you details or any specific requirements. Legal clearance is not just to do with copyright matters concerning footage and soundtracks used, but what is actually being said or claimed or whatever.

6: In regard to Broadcast Colour Safe - do you have a colour safe filter that will take care of things for you? FCP does - as long as you keep away from really punchy colours, deep blacks and brilliant whites you'll be okay. In regard to audio, as long as it's clean and clear, just don't clip it. Again the production house will run a check on it.

7: If you have a chat with your production house they should help you with this, particularly if you could become a regular customer for them.

Hope this is of some help, and all the best with your commercials.

Kind regards, Stu
www.studioscotland.com
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Old August 25th, 2008, 07:40 PM   #5
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Just a quick question, how exactly do you put footage on Beta SP? Is it possible to just send them the file of the spot over their server? I'm also about ready to jump into shooting commercials and I'm completely LOST. There's no information out there on the subject...
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Old August 26th, 2008, 03:41 AM   #6
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Hi Douglas

Q: how exactly do you put footage on Beta SP?

A: You would require a Betacam Deck and a suitable graphics card, but I would advise you to source a local production house that will do transfers (tape dumps) for you, and one you can develop a relationship with. You can take along digital files or a hard drive and they will do the rest, once again, explain to them that you are new to this and you should find most people helpful.

Q: Is it possible to just send them the file of the spot over their server?

A: Some stations may allow that, but those we deal with stipulate tape, once again - contacting the station for technical specs will outline the requirements.

Q: I'm also about ready to jump into shooting commercials and I'm completely LOST. There's no information out there on the subject...

A: Of course, I can only give you general information based on the country I work in, so until someone in your own area chips in, here is how it usually goes. Also, I am not sure what you mean by "jumping into shooting commercials". Do you have a client that would like to advertise on tv and is happy to let you work on this?

1: Many stations do their own in-house radio / tv commercials and so you can find yourself a bit at odds with that, as effectively you are competing for part of their revenue.

2: The client (the company selling something) is usually contacted by radio or tv advertising sales, and the client may or may not use their in-house production services - but you can be sure that the client will be looking for a "good" deal.

3: Of course stations can, and do use outside production houses, but you need to have developed some kind of relationship with them - of course I am keeping my answers very general here because there are a number of variables.

4: Once you have a commission by a client, you will then be able to ask the station who will be airing the commercial for information, and as mentioned previously, if you find yourself a local production house they will also help steer you in the right direction.

5: As with most things, don't bite off more than you can chew when your just starting out.

6: Sorry I can't be more helpful as your situation will probably be a little different from ours.


All the best...

Regards, Stu
www.studioscotland.com
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Old August 26th, 2008, 07:51 AM   #7
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Stewart - thanks for the detailed info!

The guy I talked to at the production house suggested I render my QT file in 4:3 letterboxed to be safe. I'm using Vegas and my source files are HDV. I realize the footage will end up in SD when it gets to BetaSP. But instead of downconverting during render I would like to maintain the HD resolution but create the 4:3 letterbox ratio. Then let the downconvert happen when dumping to BetaSP. I don't know - I just feel like I will end up with a better image that way. If I am wrong somebody tell me. Otherwise, if anyone has rendered HD to 4:3 letterboxed can you chime in?
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Old August 26th, 2008, 08:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Joseph View Post
There's no information out there on the subject...
That's because it's really a combination of talking to the post house and the broadcaster, to find out what is required for delivery. And then executing those requirements very carefully. As in all commercial shooting, knowing what needs to be delivered in advance of picking up your camera can save you a ton of headaches later. Obtain the specs and follow them carefully. Ask questions, don't guess.

If you are delivering to multiple environments, follow the most conservative specs, because the stations with looser specs will be fine with you being conservative, but it won't flow the other way...the conservative broadcaster won't air something that doesn't conform to their more stringent specs.

Broadcast safe filters are to bail you out of tough shooting environments. Protecting your whites is best done while shooting, not in post, by setting your zebra stripes conservatively, below the top end of their IRE requirements (typically 100, but check your broadcast specs for this information) and sticking with them.

These days, aspect ratio is kind of all over the map. You will see both letterboxed 16:9 and 4:3 productions running side-by-side in a commercial run. So it kind of comes down to your personal taste and how you decide to shoot it, I think. If you maintain 16:9, keep in mind that you will lose 30% of your data to letterboxing, so think of it a little bit like shooting for the web (by no means a perfect analogy, but I hope it conveys the idea...).

What looks large and dramatic on your monitor will look smaller and less dramatic in the final output. Landscapes, for instance, won't translate or look as good as they do on your monitor, something that is dramatic can get washed out by the combination of shrunken data and broadcast compression. So, if you go that route, frame images larger than you think.

Also, I had this happen on one of my broadcasts, and I have seen it happening on others -- I went to the cheap post-house in town (because the good post house was on vacation, it just so happened...), and our letterboxed BetaSP transfer had a juddering artifact across the top line of the letterbox. Which about gave me fits when I watched it. I don't know what the cause of this is, but the cheap post house did a straight miniDV tape to BetaSP transfer and the good post-house takes it from a hard drive, puts it on a server and transfers it (they prefer either ProRes or uncompressed QT files, both seem to work equally well), and it always looks clean. They monitor it for quality and double-check our audio levels for us, and the few extra dollars we pay them is well worth it.

The morals: don't cheap out on transfers, get on the schedule right away when you know your delivery deadline, and ask questions to get the clarifications you need.

Tim, I don't know if you've shot this yet, but rather than letterboxing at all, I think the best way to maintain the advantages of HDV, in terms of color space and resolution, is not to letterbox at all but to do a center cut on a 16:9 image--the challenge being that you have to tape up your viewfinder and frame it properly at the shooting stage....
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Old August 26th, 2008, 05:22 PM   #9
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It was a really late, and I was dead tired when I said, "I'm also about ready to jump into shooting commercials." Hence the reason I was so vague. Blah. But yeah, I have a few friends who own businesses, and after seeing some of my work, they inquired whether I'd shoot a commercial for them.

Thanks so much Meryem and Stewart for your responses! It is a huge headache and very daunting learning all this. I did talk to my local broadcast station about a year ago (they're horrible 3rd smallest in the nation), and I also talked to Time Warner, and it was utterly confusing. I talked to probably a total of eight people between the two of them, and neither of which could really give me clear cut answers to my questions. Mainly, because there's nobody shooting commercials where I live other than the local broadcast station. Every commercial I seen done by them makes me want to grab the nearest pencil and gab it into my eyes repeatably. Not really, but sort of. I'm gonna try to arrange something with my local bc station and tw again his thursday and get to the bottom of it. After I have talk to them, I'll probably be back to talk to you guys again. Thanks again! Peace.
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Old August 29th, 2008, 12:53 AM   #10
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Thanks for the info fellas!
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Old August 30th, 2008, 09:32 AM   #11
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wow, there's a lot of helpful info in here. I've always wanted to do a commercial one day. Thanks for laying down some of the technical details.
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