Lights. Camera. Action: Making a commercial with all CII equipment

A Hollywood set, big studio lights, a fancy chair with your name on it and maybe a couple of gofers are all things you associate with making a commercial. When I decided to make a commercial for Doritos’ annual Crash the Super Bowl contest, my graduate school budget did not afford me the opportunity to acquire any of those things. Actually I did have one gofer that worked for free but I digress. The fact is, I didn’t need any of those things. All I needed was a solid planning process and a trip to the equipment room at the CII.


The planning process is the most important part because of the limited time you have to checkout equipment. My process is as follows:

1. Write a script. This can be a simple script in Microsoft Word or in fancier software like Celtx (free) or Final Draft ($$$).

2. Plan your shots. This will help with time management down the line. This will help you to plot out what locations you will need and how long you will potentially be in each location. There is a version of Celtx ($$$) that was created specifically for pre-production.

3. Reserve equipment. Based on the script I wrote and the shots I needed, I reserved:

a. Sony 4k Camera
b. Monfronto 4k Tripod
c. Basic Lighting Kit
d. Zoom H4N Audio Recorder (back up audio)

4. Schedule the shoot. Based on the availability of the equipment, schedule the production so that you have enough time with the equipment.


Once you begin the production process, it should essentially be smooth sailing because you have everything planned out. You should also build in a cushion to your production schedule to allow for mistakes or moments of inspiration that may take your shoot in a different direction. Also allow about 1 hour (or more depending on the complexity of your shoot) for set up and take down.


Pre-production and production are the easy part. Believe me. The real magic happens during post production. This is where you edit your video and put it all together. Imagine (this really happened) you are looking through your footage and either scenes are missing or you realize that your actors are looking at the camera IN EVERY SHOT. This is where you take about 30 minutes to scream and run around in circles. After 30 minutes has passed, you sit down at your work station and figure out how to still make your project work using only what you already have. I used the following software to make the magic happen:

a. Adobe Premiere Pro (video editing)
b. Adobe Audition (audio editing)
c. Adobe After Effects (special effects)
d. Adobe Photoshop (graphics)
e. Adobe Illustrator (vector graphics)

Using these pieces of software, I was able to mask the production mistakes. Both of the commercials actually ended up much better than we originally intended.

Final Product:

Video 1: Jo Jo’s Big Mistake

Video 2: That was today?

You may not have to use everything I did for your project. You may use way more than I did or you may only need a basic camera. Just know that it is possible and that the staff at the CII are here to help you every step of the way. Shoot us an email to get started.

Posted in At The CII
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