Interview: Page (1) of 1 - 01/24/07

Wedding Photographer Crashes Super Bowl with Sony HDR-FX1 camcorder

Photog's Chip Lovers Dream among five finalists for Doritos Super Bowl spot

By John Virata

For the first time in history, viewers had the chance to vote online to determine what Doritos commercial will appear during the 2007 Super Bowl. Sponsored by Frito Lay, the Crash the Super Bowl challenge invited fans of the chips to create their own 30-second commercial showcasing the popular snack food. Of more than 1000 entries to the contest, five were chosen. A Chip Lovers Dream, shot with a Sony HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder, is unique in that the creator of the commercial, Jared Cicon is a wedding photographer with no professional video or film training. Cicon purchased the HDR-FX1 in May 2006. DMN senior editor John Virata asks Cicon how he got into the challenge, how he likes working with the HDR-FX1, and what the future plans may be if his commercial airs during the Super Bowl.

DMN: It sounds like you purchased the Sony HDR-FX1 on a whim. What made you go with this particular camera?
Jared Cicon: I have used Sony equipment for many years, (pure consumer video cameras, VHS players, DVD players etc.) and have never been disappointed with performance. When it came time to buy a 'Better' video camera, I was already used to the way Sony R&D thinks and where they put things (buttons and controls), so it was easy for me.

DMN: When you found out Chip Lover's Dream was a finalist, what was your initial response?
Jared Cicon: There 'is' a God.

Computer illiterate three years ago, Jared Cicon shot his spots with the Sony HDR-FX1 he bought last year and edited his first commercial using Final Cut Pro, a commercial that is one of the top five in the 2007 Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Challenge.

DMN: How many folks worked with you on the commercials?
Jared Cicon: Aside from my three boys ages 13, 11, and 9. I would have one other person with me on my shooting days or editing days. All have been students of mine. I teach Wedding photography. One student might help me carry a 70 lb. dummy to the top of a cliff. Another might consult with me when I edit, you know, a younger person helping to tweak things and keep them fresh and hip. I would use different people for this purpose. Some projects like Dr. Cheezil, The Bag, I'll Be Back, were solo efforts from start to finish. Though occasionally I will have someone sitting beside me or just behind me during editing, ALL final editing decisions are my own. But I am not above listening to my brother in law, my 13 year old son, or a photography student or two to get input.

DMN: Anyone with film school experience or is it all you?
Jared Cicon: All me. No one with film school experience.

DMN:You used Final Cut on a dual core iMac. Why did you go with Final Cut, and do you use the Mac in your career as a wedding photographer?
Jared Cicon: Before I purchased anything, I asked around and the overwhelming consensus was that Macs rule for video creation. The same answer was regularly given to me when I asked about an editing program. Final Cut was given rave reviews. I still shoot film for my weddings. I do not use a computer for my photography business other than to print up a price list or make a copy of a contract.

Cicon starred in, wrote, directed, shot, and produced his nine spots for the Doritos Challenge.

DMN: Where did you shoot the rock climbing scene?
Jared Cicon: I started in Joshua Tree National Monument in Southern California, but was kicked out for shooting without a permit. (even though we hardly looked professional). There was no one in that section of the park that morning, except for me and a helper and the two Rangers. I guess it was a slow rogue jackrabbit day. We ended up having to leave and shoot in some nice mans backyard. At first he was suspicious when he saw a mini me G.I. Joe doll dressed up EXACTLY like myself, perched on my dashboard, but in short order invited us to use his land and even let us park in his driveway.

DMN: What do you like about the Sony HDR-FX1
Jared Cicon: Again, many of the controls and buttons make sense to me. This goes back to the first video camera I owned, (Sony TR-101) that I purchased in 1991. I bought another Sony video camera after that and also had many years of enjoyment with it, still have it; my kids use it now to make their own movies. The most important 'tool' that the HDR-FX1 gives me is the flip screen. Without it, many of my projects would be impossible. (One man crew) I love the neutral density filters, (quick and easy). It has nice stereo mics that I use to record background audio to dub in later. I love the professional 1/3rd stop increments in shutters and apertures (like most still cameras). It is very efficient. One two hour battery seems to last three hours or more. To be honest, like Final Cut, I have probably only tapped into 5-10% of the cameras capability.

DMN: How did it perform for the nine commercials that you shot for the contest?
Jared Cicon: Very well considering the abuse I put it through. I was regularly chipping off Dorito Cheese residue encrusted on most of the buttons.

DMN: You shot nine commercials in nine weeks. How long were the editing sessions on average for each of the commercials?
Jared Cicon:  Different lengths of time for different spots. I actually shot 10 spots but withdrew a submission (stop action), because it wasn't up to personal snuff. I wanted to submit the max of 10 if it was possible and fell a little short. The Bag for instance is ALL editing. It is a single frame of video utilized for the entire 30 second spot. Some commercials were more shooting intensive than editing. I didnt (but probably should have) keep a log to determine the ratio of shooting/ editing, but I don't think I would have gleaned any consistent numbers. I think those dynamics change with every project that someone does.

DMN: Approximately how many hours of footage did you shoot in total?
Jared Cicon: I am going to guess now, because it is hard to answer this question. i.e.: There are times you accidentally leave the record button 'On'. Or sometimes when you review, you forget to turn off the tape when it is playing and it rolls for ten minutes. Even though I may have gone through two 63 minute tapes for a shoot, did I use them ALL? No. I will guess that my ration is about 50 to one. Meaning I have about 50 minutes of footage for every one minute I use. Mostly because I am a detail freak. I will 'take' a scene 20 times to get it 'right'. Then there are also 'bits' (taped whole scenes) that don't see the light of day because they didn't work with the concept. Now that I have qualified my answer, I would guess about 7-8 63minute tapes.

DMN: I've seen all nine of your commercials. All are funny. One though featured a Doritos Semi truck. Was that Photoshop or did you actually find a Doritos Semi truck on the freeway?
Jared Cicon: Thank you for your praise. You are obviously an excellent judge of comedic genius. Actually, we were going up Kellogg Hill in San Dimas Ca. on the day of the shoot, going to a construction site (of course we didn't KNOW we were going to a construction site) and I noticed I was coming up on a Doritos Semi. I was driving at the time, and pointed it out to my student/assistant. It was kind of funny because I purposely leaned my finger over to get it in the frame of the camera, and he didn't get that it was intentional at first. We actually had to pass it several times before he got the shot I wanted, but it was quite serendipitous. The driver of the Semi thought we were nuts.

DMN: What do you think the response will be from the ad agencies regarding this type creative thinking?
Jared Cicon: First and foremost I want to give kudos to Doritos for recognizing an emerging trend and for doing it in a way that benefits everyone involved. I am grateful to them for the stage that I now have. Rudy Wilson from Frito Lay specifically, and the rest of his team. They will be the brand team recognized for blowing the lid off the best suppressed secret in recent advertising history. It will depend on how much one has invested in the 'Old School' ways of doing things. Some individuals in the Ivory Towers of Madison Avenue will scoff and dismiss. Some will just wonder, wait and do nothing. Some will embrace. The latter will be the survivors. I foresee a time, sooner than later, when the Advertising pie is no longer split by 50 large advertising firms, but instead by 5,000 or so smaller and equally effective firms. Red tape and Fat will be trimmed by larger agencies or they will simply not be able to compete. There are a lot of peripheral requirements of running a brand campaign beyond the 30 second spot (print ads, key chains, banners and happy meals), But one of the biggest hurdles for the small guy was being able to produce that high quality TV ad. . . . three years ago I was computer illiterate. I only picked up a camera 'seriously' in April/May of last year. Technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper. 'A Chip Lovers Dream' cost me $150 to make (minus opportunity costs and equipment depreciation). Today I have a chance at being a Superbowl Commercial Producer. If anyone in the Advertising business can't see 'the writing on the email' then it will be to their detriment.

DMN: Final question. Are you going to quit your day job?
Jared Cicon: My wife tells me I haven't worked in 17 years, so I don't know if that is a pertinent question. You know as a wedding photographer, you only really 'punch the clock' ONE day a week. Everything else (putting albums together, pulling negatives etc.) is done around 1.) taking the kids to boy scouts; 2.) Teaching photography on Thursday nights; and 3) Fulfilling church callings, etc. but I think I understand your question. If I gain some substantial financial advantage as a result of this Doritos contest or anything that evolves from it, I don't see things changing much. I like to be behind the camera. I like to write the scripts. I like to do the Story boards. I control the editing. I won't change any of those things. Should I gain regular Directing/Producing employment my first act will be to purchase about $20,000 of LIGHTING equipment. My current inventory of lighting equipment is served as a limitation on the kind of things I can film. The size of my sets are subject to the $900 of lighting I currently own. As a Wedding photographer I understand the importance of light and exposure. It has probably been an advantage of mine over say the pure 'viral' videos that existed among the 1,000+ submissions in the Doritos Gallery. I will definitely buy more lighting as soon as I can afford to. Also, if you noticed my shooting technique, I rarely take the camera off the tripod. I set up the still frame, and let the acting/content speak for itself. As I become more confident and maybe afford a Steadi-cam, I think I will include more camera motion in my filming. In the meantime, it isn't broken so I don't foresee any immediate repair.

To view the five finalists, visit

John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]

Related Keywords:Sony HDRFX-1 HDV camcorder , video editing, commercial production, Doritos Crash the Super Bowl, Jared Cicon

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