Nike Presto's "Angry Chicken," cut by my colleague Rick Russell and directed by Traktor, is clearly one of the better commercials of the year - and its editing plays a solid part in achieving that. The spot opens with a traditional extreme wide shot, titled "The angry chicken" in two languages, making the viewer feel he's about to watch a European short film. This formally sets up the tone of the whole spot.
We then quickly explode into action. But unlike normal action editing, they're not trying to enhance the stunts with the use of closeups. All of the stunts are shown in wides and with only one shot, if editing is used it's only to keep the story moving. Choosing to stay in wides shows off the fact that the stunts are real, not filmic cheats and also keeps us in the docu/short film style, counter balanced with fast, sharp editing to keep the pace and excitement up.
Stripping down the use of closeups to the bare essentials of storytelling allows the editor to give a lot of power and weight to the chosen moments when CUs are used. The audience immediately computes the closeup framing as important information. Rick used CUs in the opening to introduce our two heroes, the chicken and the guy, and one at the end of the spot for the product, allowing the Prestos to be the third star of the film. It would have been very easy to have diluted this idea down by cutting to Nike closeups throughout the spot, making the shoes part of the action and not the idea. An easy mistake made by many clients.
The other defining charm of the spot is the use of two languages in the voiceover. This could have been very confusing and complicated, but it is dealt with here with such clarity that it adds much of the flavor and humor. Because the voice was written after the picture was cut, it allowed the copy to be edited sparingly and placed for the best timings. The result would have been very different if the VO had been prewritten; it would have dictated the pace of the edit, as is so often the case. With everybody maintaining simplicity throughout the editing process - no overcutting, avoiding big chase music - the spot rings true to its original concept. Not an easy feat. Congrats to all involved. How I would have enjoyed that high when you all slapped each other on the back.