The Long Run1 Jul, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response
There was a time when only George Lucas could afford to merge animation and live action in a way that made the audience say, "Wow!" Movies like the original Star Wars, for example, stood out through the innovative ways (for the time) in which characters like Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker interacted with inanimate objects on the screen.
A look at how technology is affecting how infomercials are produced
Thanks to advances in technology, those same tactics are now being used in many aspects of video production, including infomercials. "The confluence of animation and live action has definitely changed the way we do long-form," says Ron Lynch, chief creative director at Cesari Direct in Seattle. A widget that doesn't even exist yet, for example, can be brought to life with animation, thus allowing producers to conceptualize shows long before product manufacturing even takes place.
"We can take CAD drawings and transform them into 3-dimensional animations, add the necessary artifacts and a host and create an infomercial at a relatively low cost," explains Lynch, whose firm has been using such strategies for the past two years. He says the merger of animation and live action gives the perception of a "much higher value" product for the consumer, and also gives the show a more "hi-tech" feel, without the increased production cost. "You can make something very small look very big."
Tech Takes Center Stage
By tapping technology in both the pre- and post-production phases, infomercial producers are able to take their shows to a new level without the need for multimillion-dollar budgets. At Concepts TV Productions Inc., in Boonton, N.J., James Nolan, vice president and senior editor, says each member of the production/post-production team uses Final Cut, thus allowing for a seamless workflow.
Edit suite CPUs and memory storage allow long-form producers to handle more complicated editing and graphic designing tasks in a shorter timeframe.
"Producers can dedicate plenty of time to reviewing footage and sending clips to the approval team — clients, creative director, influential client's daughter, etc.," says Nolan. "Helpful suggestions and creative direction can flow back and forth. The online suites can focus on artistry and fluid storytelling, and spend less time bogged down on finding the right shots."
The team also uses QuickTime's Web delivery systems to enable constant review of ongoing edits. With many companies cutting back on travel in today's tough economy, such technological innovations go beyond convenience and wind up saving the campaign both money and time. Recently, a Concepts TV client slated to fly to New Jersey from Asia for the editing process was able to use the online tool to "review and comment without having to make the trip," says Nolan.
Often the time that's saved by using technology — particularly in the post-production phase — translates into a better finished product. According to Tim Hawthorne, chairman/executive creative director at Fairfield, Iowa-based Hawthorne Direct (and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board), editors and graphic artists can now spend more time working on the "look" and "feel" of the show, and much less time fussing with the systems and programs.
New technology, used to make this depiction of the Work Shop Bench Grinder, allows more time for editors and graphic artists to work on the look and feel of a show and less time fussing with systems and programs.