A non-political analysis of the Obama infomercial at DVinfo.net

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Old October 29th, 2008, 10:53 PM   #1
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A non-political analysis of the Obama infomercial

I just watched the 30 min infomercial from Obama. Without revealing my political leanings or asking others to comment from a poliitical point of view.... (please don't) I think it would be interesting to see the viewpoints of others on the making of a "persuasive" film. (I will not call it a documentary as the very term to me is an against that ilk or genre.)

But when you need to make or craft a piece for or against a position... what works and what doesn't? In that context - I would be interested in hearing viewpoints in a general sense.

I found the cuts and juxtapositions interesting. I also noted that the average length of each cut in the set up threads was as was previously mentioned about 4-5 seconds each.

I watched it as a citizen, a voter, but also as a filmmaker. I want the filmmaker views.

Chris Hurd: If this is just too raw or close to the surface and too potentially political I understand if you shut it down. I think that it could be a very interesting discussion if the posters conduct themselves properly.

pps. Chris Hurd you had to know this forum would be the toughest on a non-political standpoint. I am not trying to make your job harder !
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Old October 29th, 2008, 11:28 PM   #2
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Proceed with caution... if this thread suddenly disappears, it's because it went political.
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Old October 29th, 2008, 11:51 PM   #3
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AS a documentary filmmaker, but also as someone who made his living in professional radio in HOUSTON (back in the day) I gotta say, I was surprised, and impressed with the choice of having him do the voiceover of the individual's backstories. I thought at the time "Man his voice is so smooth - he could make a high -dollar living doing documentaries!" It worked well to knit his position organically with their stories. Clever use of voiceover I thought.

Pacing the stories into the seperate 'issues' was well done - made the points distinct I thought.

The opening shot of amber waves of grain was a bit cliche' for my taste, but hey - smarmy has its place.

There was a tracking shot done while he was 'in his office' as he addressed the camera - it seemed rough to me, distracting - movement for movements sake - I noticed it instead of listening. Could have been dropped and been better for it.
All in all, well crafted - but not overly 'slick'.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 12:10 AM   #4
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Yes Chris.... this IS the cutting edge of the craft... and I am glad you keep a close eye.

Richard, yours are exactly the types of comments I find instructive. I was hoping you might be one of the initial commenters.

Are the cuts important thematically? If so why do you think they made them when they did? What did you think about the cuts ending back with the main presenter speaking so often? Highly effective as a set up or???
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Old October 30th, 2008, 04:39 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
There was a tracking shot done while he was 'in his office' as he addressed the camera - it seemed rough to me, distracting - movement for movements sake - I noticed it instead of listening. Could have been dropped and been better for it.
I noticed the same shot and thought to myself that it was awfuly rough for a high budget job. The lighting in that shot was nice, but the move itself seemed sloppy. The only reason I can see them letting this go is due to his time constraints. Maybe they only had time for one or two takes and that was the better of the two. It also struck me that the move they were trying would be pretty hard to pull off. They were moving s-l-o-w and trying to track, pan, and zoom into him at a snale's pace. That's not easy.

Other than that one shot it wasn't badly done from a production standpoint, but the idea of a presidential infomercial seemed kinda funny to me. It just didn't feel right. I know these guys are trying to market themselves to the American people, but an infomercial? It did give him 30 uninterupted minutes to get his message across without rebutal from the other campaign, who knows if it'll have an impact or not.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 09:55 AM   #6
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In terms of marketing concepts - its a whole new ball game. If you think in terms of presidential cylces of four, or even eight years - thats a lifetime in technology changes and marketing techniques.

YOUTUBE and the internet VASTLY changed the whole presidential race. The pace of information exchange and creation of - well, 'message' videos, was at breakneck speed this cycle. Again, without making a judgement value on the merits of the candidtates - Dem's campaigns seemed to utilize the new technologies and internets for communications, and fundraising in a cutting-edge manner. The Rep's seemed to be stuck in an older news-cycle, mass mailing mode.

Yeah, a thirty minute 'infomercial' did seem 'weird'. But a lot of what happened this cycle was first time 'weirdness'. The entire campaign will be a HUGE thesis project for someones media paper. Look how quickly debate segments were cut-up, mashed up and reposted on the internet. "Real Time Citizen Video Journalism" - for better or worse, is a new element for campaigns to deal with.

The long, slow, rough, tracking shot - yeah, my only thought was that they had a few minutes to get it, and had to go with what they got. As a filmmaker, it caught my eye immediately, but my wife didn't notice a thing.

As to the thematic quality of the shots - Sure, they were picture postcard short-hand. "Hey, look - amber waves of grain - it's America" - you've only got a few moments to establish a motiff, so I can't begrudge them the quick 'go to' shots. (Working from memory here, but weren't most of the stories and shots from "MIDDLE AMERICA" - the real target audience for the piece?)

Look, it was no 'Triumph of the Will' - but again, working within the constraints of the campaign schedule, it looked pretty good. Effective? Time will tell.

EDIT- As a study in contrasts - one might examine the DVD mailer that the McCain Campaign sent out, the "Obama Hype" DVD - to counter this message. I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on it - but again, just as a study in the different marketing approach - how effective is it to put millions in various newspapers? Brilliant marketing, or 'old school' thinking? Will it get watched, or tossed? Better or worse to have a 'copy' of something laying around in your clients hands? How many people 'tivoed' the Obama piece? Why didn't McCain answer with his OWN propoganda push about himself, as opposed to an 'anti-Obama' message?

Like I said, this campaign will be studdied for the next ten years.

Last edited by Richard Alvarez; October 30th, 2008 at 10:25 AM.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 10:35 AM   #7
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Will time really tell? Like if Obama wins it was a good spot and if he loses it was bad?

Normally you could just check the ratings, but it aired all over the place in the same time slot, right? So that might not be so meaningful
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Old October 30th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #8
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Time will tell by emulation. Word will go around as to how effective/efficient it was. If it is percieved as having been a good idea - it will be copied. If not, it will be a one-off. Time will tell by whether or not the approach is copied by others. Same for the McCain mass-mailings.

EDIT - Having spent that kind of money, I can't IMAGINE that they wouldn't have had some sort of 'undecided controll-group' monitoring going on to judge the effectiveness of the delivery. Again, its a whole new ballgame for the campaigns and media managment. The 'reaction guage ' superimposed over the debates live is a good example - the 'snap polls' that gave unfiltered feedback before either campaign had a chance to shape the narrative - yeah, its a different media world out there.And the campaign that doesnt master the media will be at its mercy.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 11:03 AM   #9
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I didn't watch it, but I did see an interview with a political analyst* who said this was really nothing new, in fact the idea was old, the last one produced was done in B&W. The long form used to be the norm, then they found they got their message across better in short direct hits. Being different can draw attention, both positive and negative. The real question to its effectiveness will be who was watching? I suspect for the most part he was "preaching to the choir" and doubt it will be changing anyone's mind.

*unfortunately I cannot remember his name but I believe it was on CNN, but I could be wrong, I am a compulsive channel changer.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 11:08 AM   #10
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"Everything old is new again" - or "There,s nothing new except what's been forgotten" eh Bill?

No the long form isn't 'new' per-se, nor is a televised debate, or mass mailings. It's the variation on the theme that lends the new perpective.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 01:28 PM   #11
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Here are links some Eisenhower materials if you are interested:

Internet Archive: Details: [Eisenhower Campaign Spots, 1952 Presidential Campaign]

Internet Archive: Details: [Eisenhower Campaign Spots, 1956 Presidential Campaign]

a simpler time in some respects
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Old October 30th, 2008, 03:30 PM   #12
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Does anyone know what the budget for shooting and airing this infomercial was?
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Old October 30th, 2008, 08:37 PM   #13
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I thought the lighting ratio on BO's face in the first office segment was a little off (a tad too hot on one side and too dark on the other and not frontal enough -- sort of reminded me of one of those science lab moon illumination demonstrations), but overall the production value was very good. The CU of the lady's arthritic hands was effective as was the use of still photographs.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 09:49 PM   #14
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Some things that stuck out in my mind were:

ADR - Barak was ADR'd at the start of his in house set-up. Then it dropped back into Production Audio. I assume the production audio was from above.

CAM: They definitely shot HD - it seems funny that whereever they were in America, they'd get an establishing shot of the "middle class house" and then cut right into the house with Barak's VO. I second the idea of establishing the motif with the grain, ideas are generated and that was lifted from numerous Hollywood films (Gladiator comes to mind though)

EDITING: I also found the pacing to be better at the start - with the best crafted segment being the portion with the African American family who worked with the Railroad. The hands and the medications CU's worked well - the ending segment of "Future unknown" was good in the close up. They had some nice quick scenic shots that was in juxtaposition to the prevision city segment.

MSX: Wow - they were going for dramatic effect. One musical cut near the last segment struck me as jarring. Whoever produced this was going for a different musical bed under each segment - of course, starting and ending with cinematic strings was a cleaver but cliche choice.

All in all, this was cobbled together like an in-depth 60 minutes segment. The editor was proficient and seemed not to linger on anything. The transitions could have been tighter, the most jarring was cutting to "Florida Live".

Interesting choice at the end of the segment to switch from video to live content.

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Old October 30th, 2008, 10:15 PM   #15
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Stefan - reportedly the production cost (not airtime costs) was around $3M.
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