Silicon Valley Lessons on Story and Style 04/20/11
I’ll be honest. I’m kinda working in reverse on this one. The image came first and I’m hoping the words will follow – no pun intended.
This post was originally inspired by the form vs function debate. And there’s no better example than in the battle by two tech juggernauts: Apple and Google. The designers vs the engineers. Intuition vs logic.
But then I got a little carried away with alliteration.
Now I’m left with 4 companies that I thought at first didn’t have much in common. Sure they’re all:
2. Silicon Valley based
3. Massively influential
But when I looked beyond my obvious fascination with Dr. Seuss, I saw 4 different companies with 4 different approaches that all have the same result: Dominance. More specifically, I wondered what lessons I could draw from these massively successful companies about the craft of editing?
For video editors, the form vs function debate can be seen in the two very different approaches to storytelling. Concept vs Direct message. Subjectivity vs Objectivity. High budget agency spots vs no/low budget local TV spots.
Unfortunately, I’ve done a bunch of the latter and none of the former. And I remember being continually frustrated by my creatively conservative clients (whoops, more alliteration). It would always frustrate me that the mom and pop grocery store didn’t want to reach for the stars. They didn’t want 80 foot crane shots, Dutch angles or references to the surrealist movement.
And rightly so. They couldn’t take the risk that the concept would fall flat and the viewer would be left scratching their heads. For them, communicating a clear, direct message was safer than getting “artsy”. I grudgingly agreed but tried my best to elevate flashing text to high art.
With Twitter vs Facebook, it’s not so much about form vs function and how it relates to storytelling. It’s more about simple vs complex and how it relates to style. Twitter’s core functionality provides a limited messaging system. Facebook’s core functionality provides a comprehensive messaging system. Both approaches work because they address the full range of our communication styles. Ok, but what has this got to do with editing?
Look no further than the spots in the 2011 Super Bowl. The “Darth Vader” / Volkswagon spot was arguably one of the most effective spots that night because of its simplicity. All cuts. No dissolves. No fades. No effects. And given the subject matter, it may have even been justified to use vfx. The pint-sized Darth Jr. could have used the “forces” of Nuke and Flame to summon the car to life at the end of the spot. No need. Simple yet effective writing and editing made it a prime-time hit and a YouTube sensation at 36 million views and rising. So this would be the Twitter approach to the craft of editing.
What’s the Facebook example? Another Superbowl spot that was more stylistically complex – yet still effective was the “Epic Ride” / Kia spot. Talk about literally summoning the VFX gods; I’ve seen feature films that weren’t this – well, epic! And it’s a good thing, because the most effective way to tell this particular story is by using dizzying amounts of digital wizadry. Interestingly enough though, this spot didn’t get nearly as many views on YouTube – less than 2 million compared to Darth’s 36 million.
What does this say about viewers? Maybe, that despite Kia’s triumph of CGI, jaded audiences may still prefer Volkswagon’s much more intimate and human story. I don’t care – I loved them both.
What do you think? What can we learn about craft from other tech companies?
If you’re in Los Angeles this Wed. April 20th, you’re invited to the 2011 Postproduction Technologies Showcase at the Directors Guild of America. It’s being put on by Tim Kennelley, a good friend of mine and Pixar alum. He’s now with Moving Image Tech and their event this Wed. will be cool video and audio product demos and more importantly – free hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. It’s from 5- 8pm. Check it out if you can.