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Old December 20th, 2012, 11:08 AM   #1
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American TV Ad Production

Hello,

I'm based in the UK, and have been asked to produce a TV advert for air in USA. I shoot on a Canon 5D MKIII.

I've never produced a TV ad before, let alone for air in the USA so I'm really looking for any information that you can throw at me...

I'm aware that I'll have to shoot in NTSC at 30fps, but what other things do I need to consider when shooting for TV broadcast? Are there any audio guidelines that I should stick to?

Should I deliver the final piece in any particular format? I normally shoot in 1080p and export my final pieces using H.264, though I have read that TV broadcasters accept adverts in MPG format - is there truth in that?

The 5D MKIII is pretty good as far as visual noise is concerned, but is there a noise-limit that I'll need to adhere to in order for the advert to be suitable for broadcast?

Any absolute musts or absolute no-nos?

I'm pretty concerned about this project as I know the client is going to come to me one day in January and say "You have 5 days to give us an advert... GO!" So I'd really appreciate any tips you can give me... even links to resources, web or otherwise, that I can use to do some swatting up. I'm sure there are hundreds of questions that I should be asking that I'm not even aware of.

I hope I can keep coming back to this thread and posting more questions/letting you know how I'm getting on. Hopefully it could serve as a valuable resource for others, too!

Many thanks,
Jonnie.
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Old December 20th, 2012, 01:02 PM   #2
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Assuming you're not sure which network the ad is going to run on (they may have their own requirements), I've never had any issues sending broadcast files as H.264's (30mb/s). Your mileage may vary, though, and I've never had to deal with any major networks - just little guys.

Here in the US I see a lot of very poorly produced ads. I think the bar will be kind of low - outside primetime on NBC.
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Old December 21st, 2012, 03:33 AM   #3
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Thanks for the tips.

I think I'm going to end up editing together stock footage that I can purchase online - at least I have that option as a safety net. I'd much rather film and edit all my own content but with the timescales in mind I don't think it's going to be feasible/the results may be rushed and unsatisfactory.

I was investigating networks that the ad could be aired on and noted the following:

NBC
ABC
Fox
MNT
PBS
CBS
Univision/Telefutura

I'm sure it's by no means a definitive list though. From what I understand, all of the above networks broadcast across the US in its entirety. Are there any other networks that I could be considering? Perhaps California specific?

I looked up Californian TV stations and from what I've seen they all seem to be members of one of the above families.

Thanks,
Jonnie.
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Old December 21st, 2012, 11:30 AM   #4
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Re: American TV Ad Production

If delivering HD content I would recommend 1920x1080 60i Rec.709 with 4x3 safe titles. A high quality H.264 codec should be fine. Audio should likely be uncompressed 48k Stereo mastered with a reference level of -18dBFS and be within ITU-R BS1770 specs. But as always consult the broadcaster for their delivery specs.

Good Luck!

Dave
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 02:35 PM   #5
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Thanks for the replies. Hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year.

I'm looking into having a voice over recorded to be played over the top of stock footage.

I want to do a split screen effect with a clip on each side of the screen. If I set up a 1920x1080 project in Premiere Pro, am I right in thinking that there's no point in buying the 1920x1080 stock footage if I'm just going to scale it down to go side-by-side for split screen?

Also, I notice some stock sites offer the same footage in various different frame rates. RevoStock offers an option to have the footage transcoded into whatever frame rate you like.

Will I be looking for 30fps for US television? Will the footage have any visible imperfections (jumpiness etc.) from being converted from its original frame rate?

Thanks again,
Jonnie.
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Old January 6th, 2013, 03:17 PM   #6
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Are your clients the organization or producer of the product that is being advertised or are they the ad agency that is putting together the ad campaign? Most, if not all, advertising placements at the network and major market broadcaster levels in the US are arranged by ad agencies, virtually never directly by advertisers themselves or by video production companies hired by the advertiser. In fact, if you're NOT an ad agency it's highly unlikely they will even talk to you about airtime. The agency coordinating the advertising and making the air-time buys will have precise delivery requirements for you to work to - assuming they don't insist on using their own creative staff or a production company of their choosing to do the work instead of you - so your first task is going to be establishing communication with them.

NTSC is 29.97FPS, not 30. And timing requirements are very precise, they must be spot-on to the exact frame.

Be sure any stock footage / still image licenses you purchase specifically allow for its use for advertising purposes in North America
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Old January 6th, 2013, 04:20 PM   #7
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
NTSC is 29.97FPS, not 30. And timing requirements are very precise
People say 30i or 60i but what they mean is 30000/1001 which is approximately 29.97 but not exactly that either. However, all editing software knows that 29.97 really means 300000/1001 and adjusts things accordingly so there is no need to enter fractions or repeating decimals into the menus. There is some interesting broadcast related information at

Broadcasting Forum
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Old January 6th, 2013, 05:56 PM   #8
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Are you serious ?

Producing Ad' s for TV in this country is hard enough never mind in a different country!

The compliance regulations are substantial enough and I suggest you you contact the UK compliance companies such as Clearcast to get an indication of what is involved before you even think about starting on any production.

For a start the 5D is not a broadcast standard camera and if you propose to use stock footage you need to check the rights issues in their terms and conditions!

Your voice over will also need to be contractually cleared for world wide use and any music need to have the same rights clearance.

Captions and all the on screen timings will also need to be compiant to the broadcaster or agency spec and if this is going to major networks in the USA you will probably have to provide compliance insurances in addition to delivery!

Also what is the budget as by the time you have done several re- edits due to rejection for all sorts of compliance reasons you may end up losing money on the job!

I have been in broadcast for over 33 years and was persuaded to do an 20 sec advert last year for local ITV and never never again as it was the biggest pain in the backside I have ever experienced so it is best left to the experts who know how to pull the compliance strings!

Sorry to be negatiive but if you have no experience in this field then I think you will get seriously burned and it will cost you a lot in time and money!

Unless the budget is tens of thousands you will be wasting your time and it may put you off ever doing any video work again but I suspect your budget will be minimal and you may even never get paid if it doesn't get on air!
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Last edited by Gary Nattrass; January 7th, 2013 at 03:15 AM.
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Old January 6th, 2013, 06:35 PM   #9
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Quote:
Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
If delivering HD content I would recommend 1920x1080 60i Rec.709 with 4x3 safe titles. A high quality H.264 codec should be fine. Audio should likely be uncompressed 48k Stereo mastered with a reference level of -18dBFS and be within ITU-R BS1770 specs. But as always consult the broadcaster for their delivery specs.

Good Luck!

Dave
Sorry ment -20dBFS
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Old January 7th, 2013, 04:13 AM   #10
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
Are your clients the organization or producer of the product that is being advertised or are they the ad agency that is putting together the ad campaign? Most, if not all, advertising placements at the network and major market broadcaster levels in the US are arranged by ad agencies, virtually never directly by advertisers themselves or by video production companies hired by the advertiser. In fact, if you're NOT an ad agency it's highly unlikely they will even talk to you about airtime. The agency coordinating the advertising and making the air-time buys will have precise delivery requirements for you to work to - assuming they don't insist on using their own creative staff or a production company of their choosing to do the work instead of you - so your first task is going to be establishing communication with them.

NTSC is 29.97FPS, not 30. And timing requirements are very precise, they must be spot-on to the exact frame.

Be sure any stock footage / still image licenses you purchase specifically allow for its use for advertising purposes in North America
Hi Steve,

I work as part of an agency with numerous sister agencies that cover different areas.

The advert is for an American college who is the client of one of our sister agencies. This sister agency is handling all the ad campaigns - creative concepts etc. They came to me to have the creative concept turned into a TV advert. So I don't actually deal with the organisation/producer of the product being advertised but with the ad agency.

I've been looking at stock footage websites and it looks like I'll be okay to go ahead and use footage from RevoStock, iStockPhoto and Pond5. I've contacted several to be absolutely certain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Olson View Post
People say 30i or 60i but what they mean is 30000/1001 which is approximately 29.97 but not exactly that either. However, all editing software knows that 29.97 really means 300000/1001 and adjusts things accordingly so there is no need to enter fractions or repeating decimals into the menus. There is some interesting broadcast related information at

Broadcasting Forum
Thanks for the info. I found a thread last night that cleared some info about frame rates up for me:

23.976 or 24 fps??

I'm going to try and find stock footage in 29.976 or 23.976 and add a pull-down to get it to 29.976. I'll work in a sequence/composition with settings of 29.976 as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Nattrass View Post
Are you serious ?

Producing Ad' s for TV in this country is hard enough never mind in a different country!

The compliance regulations are substantial enough and I suggest you you contact the UK compliance companies such as Clearcast to get an indication of what is involved before you even think about starting on any production.

For a start the 5D is not a broadcast standard camera and if you propose to use stock footage you need to check the rights issues in their terms and conditions!

Your voice over will also need to be contractually cleared for world wide use and any music need to have the same rights clearance.

Captions and all the on screen timings will also need to be compiant to the broadcaster or agency spec and if this is going to major networks in the USA you will probably have to provide compliance insurances in addition to delivery!

Also what is the budget as by the time you have done several re- edits due to rejection for all sorts of compliance reasons you may end up losing money on the job!

I have been in broadcast for over 33 years and was persuaded to do an 20 sec advert last year for local ITV and never never again as it was the biggest pain in the backside I have ever experienced so it is best left to the experts who know how to pull the compliance strings!

Sorry to be negatiive but if you have no experience in this field then I think you will get seriously burned and it will cost you a lot in time and money!

Unless the budget is tens of thousands you will be wasting your time and it may put you off ever doing any video work again but I suspect your budget will be minimal and you may even never get paid if it doesn't get on air!
Unfortunately, I am serious... it's proving to be a bit of a nightmare.

Thanks for the heads up on Clearcast. I'll drop them a line and hopefully they can give me some advice - I'll try and find an American company of the same nature. Does anyone know any off-hand?

Something I've never understood - what exactly is "broadcast standard"? What makes the 1080p footage from a broadcast camera different to that of a DSLR?

I've been in touch with recording studios and actors agencies regarding the voice over and I should be all good on that front. Actors/studios charge a "usage" fee to allow me to use the audio for my intended purpose.

I think I've established good contacts at PBS, Fox, Azteca, NBC and ABC. I hadn't heard of all this compliance jargon before so when I spoke to them previously I simply asked for as much info on advert specifications as possible which didn't get me very far. I'll get back in touch and see if they can give me specific information about the requirements of captions and on-screen timings. Is there anything else in particular that I should ask about? I'm not sure what you mean by compliance insurances?




Thanks again everyone, really appreciate the tips and advice.
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Old January 7th, 2013, 05:55 AM   #11
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Well good luck but my personal experiences of doing commercials has left me unwilling to repeat the trauma and re-editing that was required, the ad was dropped in the end as the goalposts moved just as we completed it but I did get paid and it worked out at about 5 an hour!

In europe a broadcast camera and codec is defined by the BBC and EBU as having the correct picture quality and recording format that will enable transmission across post and more importantly sat and cable networks, it is not just about thinking you are shooting 1080p and all will be OK as the DSLR may only be resolving about 700 lines and have serious artifact's and codec faults that will all fall apart once bounced of a sat feed or put thru serious post grading. Are you also aware of broadcast safe levels and line up's as if you get them wrong your material will be rejected straight away! You also need to provide masters with mute audio top and tail that comply with the delivery and compliance checking agencies such as for each broadcaster. Clearcast do ITV and other's here in the UK but there are several agencies where you can upload for delivery of an AD in the UK.

A DSLR is not a broadcast quality camera and may look great on You Tube and Vimeo etc but can have serious flaws once used in part of the broadcast chain. Most DSLR's have major issues as they have not been designed as video camera's and you may end up getting your finished product rejected even if you are using stock footage as that too may look fine on your computer but not be acceptable for broadcast use.

The BBC list of acceptable camera's for their HD shooting is here: http://www.televisual.com/news-detai...s_nid-565.html

and EBU details here: http://tech.ebu.ch/camtest

You have been warned and make sure the clock is correct too as you can get rejected for that as a starter and if you haven't read the BBC tests on DSLR's you can find some of them here: http://thebrownings.name/WHP034/
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Old January 7th, 2013, 08:10 AM   #12
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Thanks Gary, you've given me a lot more to think about to try and ensure this goes smoothly....... You've been a great help!

I've emailed the FCC (American equivalent of EBU) so hopefully they'll feed me some valuable info on specifics so I can make sure my ad isn't rejected.

I checked that link you posted about BBC DSLR tests but they've only done the 5D MKI, so there are probably some huge differences between that and the MKIII that I'm using. I'll have to look into that further - perhaps the FCC can point me in the right direction with regards to that and stock footage.

I've just discovered broadcast safe levels. I have a file submission spec sheet for dgit.com who distribute TV spots to various US broadcasters. Hopefully this tutorial will keep me right:

Working with Broadcast Safe Colors : Adobe After Effects Tutorial

I've read that an adjustment layer in After Effects with the Broadcast Colors effect applied as well as adjusting levels to a white output of 235 and the black output to 16 should do the trick.

It seems the clock will be determined by whoever the final spot ends up going to - ClearCast might ask for a different format of clock from dgit.com.

One thing I'm still to get my head around is how I can have broadcast-safe audio. My spec sheet from dgit.com tells me to have average audio levels between -16dBFS and -20dBFS. High peaks should be between -10dBFS and -12dBFS with a maximum of three peaks per second.

I'm not really sure what that means or how I can control it in After Effects/Premiere Pro.

The spec sheet also says the file needs to be 4:2:2 with a GOP structure not defined. I'm unsure of what 4:2:2 and GOP mean or how to alter them in Premiere/After Effects.

Thanks again...!
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Old January 7th, 2013, 10:01 AM   #13
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Well 4.2.2 is the colour space and I would be very surprised if a DSLR shoots in 4.2.2 and most HD camera's are 4.2.0 GOP is down to the codec and once again this is relevant to shooting spec as well as just delivery spec as it can affect things a great deal.

As for audio levels there are now laws in the USA that you have to stick to regarding maximum perceived loudness and your ad will need to be dubbed to comply with those as well as broadcast audio levels.

BTW the line up levels for audio are different for the USA to europe as they tend to use -20dbfs as their line up with a max of -12dbfs, europe is -18dbfs with a max of -10dbfs.

The colour bars before the clock will also be different for the USA so best to get a delivery spec from the network.

I would be surprised if the FCC handle all the compliance as their equivalent here is OFCOM and they just handle broadcast licencing and contentious programming issues rather than tech specs and delivery for commercials, Clearcast do that here as well as other agencies and that includes script submissions and captions sizes and styles etc!
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Old January 7th, 2013, 02:28 PM   #14
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Re: American TV Ad Production

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonnie Lewis View Post
I work as part of an agency with numerous sister agencies that cover different areas.

The advert is for an American college who is the client of one of our sister agencies. This sister agency is handling all the ad campaigns - creative concepts etc. They came to me to have the creative concept turned into a TV advert. So I don't actually deal with the organisation/producer of the product being advertised but with the ad agency.
One approach may be to produce the video, then turn it over to a third party to make sure it meets EXACTLY the criteria needed by the end user. It's conceivable that may differ from broadcaster to broadcaster. Please don't take this the wrong way, but hearing you say "I'm unsure of what 4:2:2 and GOP mean....." makes me think you shouldn't be trying to do this all yourself. We all have to start and learn somewhere, but it shouldn't be on an important job unless you are very sure of what you're doing.
Quote:
Something I've never understood - what exactly is "broadcast standard"? What makes the 1080p footage from a broadcast camera different to that of a DSLR?
There is no precise meaning, and it would be foolish for anybody to attempt such. The closest you'll get is from the EBU: EBU Technology & Innovation - News - Are your cameras tiered enough for HD? which gives very good recommendations tiered for different types of work. (R118 is the one of most relevance for you.) So "broadcast standard" for drama doesn't mean the same as broadcast standard for news, and different organisations set the bar differently. Note that any minimum standard isn't governed by codec or camera alone - rather a combination of many factors.

As for "What makes the 1080p footage from a broadcast camera different to that of a DSLR?", then take at look at an answer I wrote a few days ago to a similar question - Would you sell a XH-A1 to buy a panasonic lumix DH3? - especially the third paragraph.

In the context of what you are interested in, then "broadcast standard" is more about how well it will stand up to the broadcast chain, than the look of the original picture. You may have two sets of images which may look similar in quality straight from their cameras, but by the time they get to the end viewers set, one may still look fairly good, the other will show severe degradation. Artifacts unseen on the original can disturb processing on the transmission path. That's why shooting something and saying "looks good enough to me" isn't enough in the broadcast world.

Best analogy I've heard compares it to food poisoning!! :-) You may have two meals which look, taste and smell the same - but only one may send you to hospital for a nasty few days! Just looking/tasting/smelling food won't neccessarily tell you if it's safe to eat. Think of video aliases like salmonella bugs!

And that's why broadcasters tend to be picky. Why they would prefer not to be given material shot on such as DSLRs. It may be OK, but........
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Old January 7th, 2013, 04:23 PM   #15
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Re: American TV Ad Production

But to add to what David says producing a commercial is far more involved than just putting some shots and a voice over together for another company to finish there may be several re edits after submission and it all starts with script approval that may then have to totally change once the ad is submitted!

All of this costs time and money and from personal experience there are reasons why specialist companies that offer the full services required from start to finish, they also charge a good whack of money for good reasons as all the re edits and client to delivery approval has to be taken into commercial consideration!

I was asked to do a simple 20 sec ad for a payday loan company and I shot it on my HPX371 using AVC intra 100 10 bit 4.2.2 1920x1080 25np codec! There were only six shots storyboarded with a v/o and captions!

Fortunately the dubbed and LEQ checked audio bed stayed the same but if I had to re jig that it would have taken even longer and I am a fast editor but vetting decisions made took forever as no one would comit to things being submitted on line for viewing!

easy on the face of it and as I directed it too it only took two hours to shoot, then the problems started as it took a day to make the edit and captions and words as scripted fit the 19 secs as you have to leave 12 frames mute top and tail, the client just said slap any music on and use the same font as the provided graphics but then it was all wrong and four edits and another day later the client was happy!

it was then submitted to clearcast but they then rejected the captions even though they had been scripted and cleared, they also rejected the clock as it was not to their liking so a further two edits and another day later it was dropped as the payday loan industry is now being investigated!

I got paid as said but for all the time and effort that went in it just was not viable so when I was asked to do another I declined! I suppose itwould be Ok to shoot commercials but leave the chaos of compliance and assembly to the experts who can pull the right strings!

worst thing was that we shot it all in HD but then clearcast asked for it to be delivered in pro res 4.2.2 HQ SD and when i queried this no one could tell me why so be wary that the so called delivery specs may not be logical to what you end up having to produce!
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Last edited by Gary Nattrass; January 8th, 2013 at 03:02 AM.
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