I spent some time yesterday drilling down on the audio engineering of the new Obama ad that everyone is talking about (here, here, and here) because I was interested in the technical aspects and, frankly, have zero personal knowledge on the topic.
But I want to pull back from that discussion of the nuts and bolts to focus on a larger point about the ad that emerged in emails I exchanged with readers who are in the film biz: This ad has far and away better production values than most political ads. It really sets itself apart.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what a couple of directors I was talking to had to say about it:
I’m in the movie business, as a director and mainly an assistant director, but I’m no expert on this stuff. But this ad is way beyond anything I have seen either candidate produce. Must be all the adrenaline from this week.
One minor quibble I have generally had with political ads is they generally are not a “polished” as the product we generally get from Madison Ave. The hurried nature of political ads is part of the problem.
This “Firms” commercial seems to me to be in an altogether different league. I was struck immediately. And yes, I was impressed with the matching of the voice to the visual, but also just the visuals.
Opening shot of Obama with columns that suggest the White House? Brilliant. The Swiss flag flying when he sings the words, “America, America” and you hear it flapping in the breeze? Wow. The visual of the office for the India graphic? It immediately conjures up Indian call centers. Even bringing in the text to focus on the Bermuda visual is subtle. And very smart.
Whoever put this ad together is playing Star Trek chess. And winning.
In regard to the Obama spot, It isn’t only reverb being added. There are a lot of pedals on the organ being played at once by the creatives on the spot. They are both wetting and then drying the sound using techniques that extend way beyond more or less verb. I find the board room in the “Governor” shot very damning, as if his voice were playing by speakerphone to an empty room. There is also good use of sound effects in the traffic in China and the sad flapping of the flag in the opening second of the Swiss Account shot. Well chosen, simple, and dramatic.
And lets not leave out the poetry of the images themselves. Even the typography of the spot is handled with a kind of subtlety that demands admiration.
These are comments from folks whose work you would know. This is what the pros are saying.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.