Talk us through the creative process of cutting together a stand-out automotive commercial.
First and foremost a “stand out spot” comes from a great script. We work with a wide variety of clients on a diverse range of films – some are long-form, some experimental, some are product films, others are hybrid formats, and some are completely outside the box. Fundamentally though, we need a story that creates a visually stunning atmosphere. My personal opinion: it needs to be just a little – batshit crazy.
Once we have that foundation the initial editing process is very exploratory. We don’t always have the luxury of time but we have the luxury of experience. And we are using everything in our arsenal in the time that we have to develop the narrative and visual style to its fullest potential.
Images, music, structure, textures, hero moments, and stunning visual effects – every project, shoot and story are unique. With individuality, it is only natural to have doubt. And it is my job to be comfortable with that doubt and create and iterate and explore.
I think automotive advertising is emotional at its core – so as long as we have the ability to explore that emotion we are going to make something great.
What are some must-have elements for an attention-grabbing car ad?
I am under the assumption that we have beautiful cinematography, a killer track, mind-blowing visual effects and a great script. But I think the power of sound design is the icing on the cake.
It is a dramatic element as well as the psychological “voice” of the vehicle being advertised. We all invest in stunning visuals, and they are paramount, but the spots that instantly stand out are the ones that grab you and never let go. And they tend to do that with sound.
What’s been your favourite automotive project to work on during your time at The Mill so far?
I have had the good fortune to work on many interesting, fun, artistic projects but the one that fuels the fire, the one I want to beat – is Audi Birth.
It is crazy, beautiful, and even a little strange – but it is also hypnotizing and bursting with originality.
I am always on the hunt to find a project that compares.
What technological advancements have you seen throughout your career in relation to car ads? How have these new technologies assisted in the editorial process?
The Mill has crafted incredible technologies which have taken the world by storm. Blackbird, Cyclops and many firsts in the field of visual effects. They have transformed automotive advertising.
From my standpoint though, Editorial is not a “technology first” discipline. It is truly about the person on the box. Not the box. Editorial is about creative thinking, problem-solving, trust, experience and collaboration. There are plugins, and effects, and large format cameras now – but fundamentally editing is decision making of the most creative sort and requires very modest tech.
All that said, I recently cut an amazing (yet to be released) automotive spot using Unreal Engine for the previs portion of the edit. Collaborating with that Unreal Artist, with their hands on that technology – helped us explore a very complex story in a very short period of time. It was collaborative, with rapid iterations and very high fidelity. We dialled in a very cool and nice looking initial cut in ⅓ the time.
What inspires you creatively when editing automotive ads?
I always love cutting to music. I love that initial discovery of the heartbeat of a film. Sometimes it is very different from the original brief but when you hear it… you know – and everything falls into place.
The cut can change, the music can even fall on the cutting room floor, yet it is that preliminary inspiration that started it all.