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Old March 12th, 2009, 08:48 PM   #1
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Shooting Commercials

Hello all. I am soon graduating school (in about two weeks) and I'm thinking about just working freelance for awhile or maybe permanently. Anyways one of the things I'd like to offer if possible is commercials. Some of the local commercials I've seen are really bad and I always think to myself "I could do better than that". My question is is there any specific requirements when shooting a commercial such as what it has to be shot on, resolution, out put to? any info would be greatly appreciated.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 09:00 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Kevin Myhre View Post
Hello all. I am soon graduating school (in about two weeks) and I'm thinking about just working freelance for awhile or maybe permanently. Anyways one of the things I'd like to offer if possible is commercials. Some of the local commercials I've seen are really bad and I always think to myself "I could do better than that". My question is is there any specific requirements when shooting a commercial such as what it has to be shot on, resolution, out put to? any info would be greatly appreciated.
The reason those commercials are so bad is they are basically shot for nothing. Seriously, pretty much nothing. Often, TV stations and cable companies will throw in the production for nothing if you buy enough airtime. Even if they do pay for production, it's done for $100-$300. While that may seem like a lot of money to you right now, it's really not enough for you to put wear and tear on your gear.

See if you can't get a job at a video production house. You will learn a ton more because you will, hopefully, be working with pros and on bigger projects. Let's say that by working out a production house straight out of college, in the less than one year I was there I got to shoot for Entertainment Tonight (with Jessica Simpson, Johnny Knoxville, and Sean William Scott), The Biggest Loser, a TV spot with Dolly Parton, and plenty of corporate videos. I also got to stick labels on video dubs...but hey I was there for less than a year.

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Old March 12th, 2009, 09:02 PM   #3
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My question is is there any specific requirements when shooting a commercial such as what it has to be shot on, resolution, out put to? any info would be greatly appreciated.
The answers to your question are dependent upon the clients preferred format, budget, where the commercial will air and the broadcasters preferred format(s). Each commercial will most likely have a different set of variables so there is no one answer.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 09:13 PM   #4
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Thanks for your fast replies. I should have been a little more specific and stated commercials for broadcast. Internets not a problem I've already done those. I guess you're probably right about it being dependent on the client and where it will be aired. I guess my best bet is to actually call the stations around here to see what format the require.
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Old March 13th, 2009, 05:47 AM   #5
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Kevin, Matthew has given you some great advice, whether you take it or not is your choice.
I will be blunt though... You are not ready to freelance for a living making broadcast commercials. Your question tells me that you still have a big pocket full of learning to obtain before you are ready to compete in the freelance market against pros who know "the basics".

P.S. I sure hope you were in school to get a business degree.

Good Luck!
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Old March 13th, 2009, 08:10 AM   #6
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You are not ready to freelance for a living making broadcast commercials.
I'm not sure I'd say that quite so unequivocally. Certainly it's a logical statement, but there are some who posses native talent, ability and understanding that can transcend the traditional career path. If Kevin has the resources to pursue a freelance path, I'd recommend that he do it. Even if he crashes and burns, he'll learn more in a short period than he would in an equivalent period working for someone else. If he succeeds, he'll make money, gain clients and build a business. Easy task? No, but it's generally the folks that forge their own path that make the most headway in any business when accompanied by talent, care, long hours and hard work.

As a personal observation, one of the best decisions I ever made after 30 years of working for others was to start my own business in an area where I had probably had less than average knowledge (not media related). I was constantly scrambling to learn. I did everything I promised my clients and walked away from jobs I thought were beyond my capabilities. Within a year I went positive cash flow and was getting referrals from clients for new work. Hard work? You betcha, but it sure beat working for someone else.

My recommendation is do it. Even if you fail, you'll be setting the stage for future success.

Last edited by Tripp Woelfel; March 13th, 2009 at 08:13 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old March 13th, 2009, 08:53 AM   #7
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he'll learn more in a short period than he would in an equivalent period working for someone else.
Not sure I agree Tripp. By working (in a freelance capacity) with other industry pros as an assist or second camera operator one is exposed to a WEALTH of information that one just cannot learn in college or on one's own. The problem with being a one-man-band when first starting out is that you don't have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people who know as much or more than you do.

I'm not saying go get a day job and work for the man; I didn't. But I was smart enough to know what I didn't know, partner up with some wonderful mentors, bust my hump giving them the best quality work I could and reaping the benefits of their experience.

And I can vouch for the fact that most stations in my market will send a news shooter out to shoot your commercial for you in an hour and turn the footage over to whoever happens to be in the edit bay that day for free, if you buy the time. One of my best clients chose to pay me to shoot and edit their commercials because the quality they were receiving from the station was so awful (which is saying something because when I did my first TV commercial for them, I'd only ever done long form doc stuff. My initial foray into commercials was somewhat lackluster. I've gotten better since...)
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Old March 13th, 2009, 01:30 PM   #8
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local "commecials" are typically of such low quality that the bar is set pretty low... I cringe regularly when I see them, and some are beyond horrid. It shouldn't be THAT hard to convince an advertiser that they want better quality... I mean REALLY, do they really want their business image represented by stuff that looks like it was shot with a 20 year old handycam and edited by a monkey?

SO, at least in theory there's a market there, IF you can find clients who want to advertise (preferably one that's advertising w/ video on the web already, just re-edit and re-render existing footage!), and understand they don't want to look like "Joe's used cars"...

Theory and practice are two different things, and some people are cut out to work for themselves and create a market/service/product, others work better with others - there's no "one answer", and it will ultimately be up to the OP to find their groove.
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Old March 13th, 2009, 03:25 PM   #9
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I suspect the answer lies in if you wish do more than just make extremely low budget commercials. If you have ambition to do more you'll have to get yourself in environment that you can learn. Unfortunately most film schools don't teach at the level required and you really need to get yourself onto the learning curve with good creative people.

I suspect also where you're located may not be the best place for doing this either, which is a common problem in regional production. You really need an economy in your area that allows you to lift the production quality above the level of quick smash and grab advertisements.
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Old March 13th, 2009, 03:31 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone, The main reason I was asking was in case a client asked me to make a commercial for them. I'm not to worried about working only freelance at the moment seeing it would be more of just extra money right now seeing I haven't been doing anything but freelance for the past year plus school and an internship at FOX and we haven't had any problems financially. I may end up just contacting some of the local people around the area to see if they need any help. I think it would be good to at least get to know the other people in my area that work in this field. That was my thoughts exactly Dave that there has to be people that want something better then the crap they get for free and I just wanted to be prepared if someone asked for more then the typical web commercials I do now.
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Old March 14th, 2009, 07:54 PM   #11
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Upon rereading my above discussion, I should point out that some of the work being done by the local stations on local commercials is also quite good. There seems to be a MASSIVE gamut of quality; which ones are free and which ones are paid for, I'll leave up to you...
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Old March 14th, 2009, 09:12 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Not sure I agree Tripp. By working (in a freelance capacity) with other industry pros as an assist or second camera operator one is exposed to a WEALTH of information that one just cannot learn in college or on one's own. The problem with being a one-man-band when first starting out is that you don't have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people who know as much or more than you do.
I love a guy who's looking at the big picture. Excellent answer and a great approach. A wise and insightful answer.

I was actually looking at it from a slightly different perspective. If he was creating, not just shooting, the spot he'd get a more complete view of the process, including all the fun that goes along with working with the sometime "dreaded" client.

However, for someone relatively new to the biz, your approach is more logical.

Last edited by Tripp Woelfel; March 15th, 2009 at 09:18 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old March 14th, 2009, 09:26 PM   #13
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Thanks for taking it in the spirit I offered it Tripp.
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Old March 14th, 2009, 09:33 PM   #14
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Kevin,
Please move to South Florida and convince "Buy Owner" to hire you to make good commercials. Those spots kill me. ;-(
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Old March 14th, 2009, 10:06 PM   #15
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I'd love to move to Florida. This damn winter is killing me. Don't think I could ever convince the wife to move though LOL.
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