On Air Promos


Vintage View-Master

This is by far my personal weakness...my kryptonite. But I have won awards for my graphic design. How? 'Cause I listened, watched, learned and ripped off. Seriously. I can't even draw a decent stickman storyboard...but I've tried to ensure that everyone I work with goes after graphics as hard as they do anything else.
A visual medium like graphics is extremely hard to convey to someone else verbally. The best way I've found is by reference material. And for that you'll have to find...either on the net, or down the street. Those expensive graphic books in your local art shop...get your channel to cough up for a couple. Go out and cruise your local magazine shop for art based mags and buy a few. Study movie posters for the latest blockbuster and take them apart.
Consider everything you see in print form. Advertisements, posters, point of purchase materials...anything and everything. Now consider it as one frame. A single frame that is telling you something about a product. Its a promo in one image, one frame. You'll be using 30 (or 25) of those frames every second to tell your story...so if someone got it right in one, take the time to figure out how they did that. Look at the image and ask yourself...why that image? If it's a movie poster and only features the star...then you know the movie's probably a dud. But if it's a montage, then ask yourself what it's telling you. What feeling, what information, what package are you getting here? If its working for you, then take it apart and look at it carefully. Do you want to see this film, know more about the product, go to the restaurant...does the image turn you off...what?
When you're looking at it, really look at it. Look at the font and ask yourself if the typeface helps set the feeling in your head...or if it doesn't do anything for you. Is there seperation between it and the background...why/why not? Do they use a particular colour? Why/why not? Where does it sit in the frame? Is it balanced? Does it add or detract from the message? If there's a logo, again...does it do anything for you? Is it iconic or slapped together. Does it say anything about the product by itself? Does it stand alone? All of that before you even step back and look at the image itself.
The image can be everything. If it's on a billboard, how long will people actually be looking at it. Does it stand out or just blurr into the background. Is it information overload or does it make you notice its there. A lot of thought has gone into that frame...all you have to do is take it apart and that knowledge can be yours.
This is long before we are talking about motion graphics. Before we get there, you will need to know what you are selling...what image you are conveying...what feeling you are driving for. Effects merely for the sake of effects says more about you not really having anything to sell than it does for the product you are pushing.
So...back to those single images from whatever source you've got in your hands. Even better to go back and study images that have stood the test of time. Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange...you can still see it in your head. The font's a little dated...but the image still works. Or even his Full Metal Jacket. How about M*A*S*H*...you still remember the movie poster? I do. They are now icons. But at the time, they were designed to be icons. You can design icons too.
You do not need to know Photoshop or Illustrator (but it would help). You just need to know what you want and try and get it. If you are fortunate enough to work with graphic artists at your channel, then all you need to do is be able to convey the right information in the right way. And the only way you can do this...again...is by reference material. Once you have an idea in your head of what you want, find other images that express the same thing in the same manner and style that you are looking for. It doesn't have to be all in the same image. Maybe the style is 'retro-future' and you've found some layouts from Wallpaper magazine that convey that. But you want the font to flow more...like you've found from the latest Diesel campaign...and you want bright colours like the set of PeeWee Herman's old tv series. Get all those images together...see them together...and then meld them in your head. If it works, then take it to your graphics artist and spell out what you're looking for. If you've expressed yourself well, then he should be able to give you back something better than you've asked for.
There are plenty of specialty materials out there to help you. Font books cleared for usage, picture materials...hell there's just too much to mention. Find them, buy them, use them.
Once you know what you want, once it's been created as a picture or cut-out...then you're on your way. Now its time to use it. But how? Is there motion, does it build, is it effected, is there seperate layers, are there shadows, light sources, light sweeps, highlights...all these and zillions of other questions are all answered simply by looking back with your mind's eye at what you were after in the first place. If you are going to do it all in edit...then fine, we'll talk about that on the post production page. If you're going to do it before you get there, then figure it out now.
Many of you will have the opportunity to be working with actual graphic designers, HAL operators, Smoke or Flame but the machine is only as good as what's going in. And that part is up to you. If you are working with that level of gear, you just need to be prepared. If you have nothing like that to work with, then read on.
There are now zillions of fonts out there. Chances are your channel has a Chyron or Delta system with fonts cleared for usage. Experiment with them, use different ones. Find ones that help convey your message, the mood of your promo, the feeling. Do you have to stick to the same font? Maybe not, but you'll only know by playing around with them. Other fonts are freely available off the net. Other fonts can be found in your local graphics store, mostly with clearnaces built into the purchase of the book they are published in. Other fonts are available from softwear dealers. If you can afford them, buy them.
Experiment with spacing, shadow, placement. Experiment with colour and saturation. Experiment with transperency. Experiment.
Remember how big your final product will be. If you are making a bug...look at it in bug size. See what happens to it. How much detail will you lose. Does it buzz, can you read it, should you try something else?
Everything from shows to your channel all have logos. Just because Ally McBeal only uses a typeface, that doesn't mean the show's name isn't a logo. It's become so familiar that it is a logo. Thin, yellow...a different font to most things out there. It has become an icon by itself. You, on the other hand, may be creating something that will be seen for the very first time. That doesn't mean you can't put some thought into it. Look at MTV and how they brand their shows. Everything is MTV...MTV Cribs, MTV Real World, MTV Celebrity Death Match. Even after you know the show name without MTV...look at the logos of those shows. The MTV brand is built into each of them. Each of those show logos are designed as icons. They are not slap-ons. They have been created...someone has sweated over making them. Study them and learn from their hard work. See if you can't bring the icon train of thought on board for your promo.
The old camera capture system works wonders when you have time to play around with it. If you have an A64 or something similar to capture single frames, even better. If you seriously want to learn how to animate well...read some books or look up the 'Animato' group on the web. Absolute brilliance there.
Mattes. You will need them, so make them. No matter what you are making, save everything until you are done. All the layers, all the clean versions but above all...all the mattes. You will need them. Trust me.
Figure out what you want
Find reference materials to help you convey it to others
Find ways to express your graphics as icons
Use a font style that works with your message
Use a colour scheme that enhances the mood of your message
while you are making this for yourself, never lose sight of the fact you are making this for the viewer. If he can't read it or can't understand it then you've wasted your time and his. Graphics is the big case of 'single thought, single vision, single execution'.
Do not kill yourself...this is only television