Audio-Technica & a Gold ADDY

Q&A WITH DIRECTOR
MATT DELISI

Last week, we received a Gold ADDY for the commercial ‘Circle of Music,’ a direct-to-client collaboration with Audio-Technica. It’s sleek, modern filmmaking style enhances the compelling visual story of how a pair of Audio-Technica headphones transcends the consumer or professional use — it’s both!

I sat down with the director and editor, Matt DeLisi, to dig into what made this spot work so well. For more Director Q&As, visit the ‘Dailies’ section and hit the ‘Director Q&A’ tab to the right of the page. 

Q: When you were presented the creative of trying to showcase the headphone’s professional and commercial use, what visual ideas came to mind to communicate the spot? What were some inspirations?
A: They wanted the passing of the headphones to be like the “passing of the torch.” The only tweak that I had to the creative was to have the headphones come forward like the DJ puts the headphones on the viewer. I wanted the spot to be full of life and color, and that’s why it has that saturated feel to it. The visuals were intended to reflect the love of music and the emotion that comes along with it. The visuals reflect the love of music, and I think that emotion came through clearly.

To get that desired “passing of the torch” transition, I incorporated motion blurs, movement, and fast pans to get seamless transitions throughout the video. Motion and the blurring of motion made it feel smooth. Plus, some VFX touches to polish it up.

 

Q: You proudly declare that you took a firm stance on using a certain type of lens, why did you feel that was the best lens choice for this spot?
A: I really pushed these lenses. They’re vintage, warm, and had the right amount of flaring when it caught the light just right. They’re not clinical in style, which I tend to stay away from, and they had this fantastic nostalgic feeling to them. The lenses played into the vibe of the almost “music video” style that I was trying to achieve. Randy and Chris [Adams], the Director of Photography, were a tad skeptical of my lens choice because it was, admittedly, a bit unorthodox, but the visuals turned out really great.

 

Q: When directing and editing, how did you make the scene transitions work? What were some visual goals that you needed to achieve?
A: I didn’t want any of the transitions to be the same. For me, they had to feel fresh. Pre-production went a long way for this spot, especially because of the transitions. The hardest part was keeping up, mentally, with what shots we did, previously. For example, panning left, and then we had to have the actor motion left to grab the headphones. So, when I was directing I had to keep in mind which motion I had done previously. I loved that transition of handing the headphones over the camera like he was putting them on you. It was a spontaneous discussion on set between me and the creative directors, and that improvised shot really captured the passing of the torch to the consumer. In post-production, we added a little more motion blur to those transitions––swish pans is what they’re called––to give the spot a bigger sense of transition and that passing effect we wanted.

 

Q: What are your beliefs when it comes to cinematic commercial content? Can brands afford to not aspire to visual excellence? Why or why not?
A: I treated the spot very similarly to what stories and visual styles that I grew up with. My process with music videos or films––I don’t want to see something that is too real. I love the unearthly, the unbelievable… Trying to make things not feel like real life. For me, it’s all about escapism. Something totally different. For this spot, I wanted it to feel like this grand gesture because it has to do with music. Music brings people together. When you hear a song, it makes you feel something, whether that’s happiness or sadness. So, the visuals had to communicate that emotion. You have to make the headphones reflect that. Chris Adams and I agreed on a cinematic style to bring out the emotion––contrasting colors, teals and oranges, which is a beautiful, cinematic color palette.

I don’t think brands can afford to achieve anything less than visual beauty. Video is so integral to our culture, and the fact that we have people managing social media accounts is a testament to how important media is. Everything from cameras to lighting is more accessible, and now you can see what directors have done, or what brands have done, on Vimeo. I think brands must have that cinematic quality. There’s a new art movement with younger generations and our culture––the Maker Community. Everyone who creates something that’s cool, they’re celebrated. So brands want and need to be a part of that.

 

Q: What does it mean for you to be a part of this Gold ADDY win? What are your hopes for the spot as it moves into the Regional ADDYs?
A: You know, it’s really nice. Artists tend to be hypercritical of their work, and I find myself in that position a lot of times with any project I do. I’m always excited about doing a project, then I get down on it. So, it’s nice to get that reminder: “your work is appreciated.”

For me, it pushes me to keep doing what I love. I feel blessed, honored, and excited for more opportunities. If it does well in the Regional, that’s awesome! If not, then that’s totally fine. It’s an honor to even be nominated.

 

Q: What projects are you looking forward to on the horizon?
A: I’m about to lock picture on a short film that I shot last October. I’ve never done narrative storytelling like this before without music or for a commercial. It’s been a huge learning curve, but everyone’s who’s worked on it is excited about how it will turn out. Looking forward to releasing it!

Recently, I’ve taken up some other skills and practices, too. I love trying to keep the creative juices fresh, and so I’ve gone some routes into VFX to hone skills and be savvy to the newest technologies. Learning new things always helps me add production value to whatever I’m working on.

View more of Matt DeLisi’s stellar work here.

 

by Benton Olivares