Above is a classic commercial for the Macintosh computer produced by Apple in 1984. It dramatically portrays the domaince of pc and presumably windows based computers as equivalent to a dystopic society of surveillance and control. The obvious reference is to George Orwell’s book, “1984,” originally published in 1949. In this work and in this commercial, a future society dominates individual creativity and expression.

I’m not sure why the protagonist that comes into to disrupt this oppresive society is dressed in such sports wear but it, along with her gender, does highlight her individuality. Since this early commercial, Apple has used a variety of approaches and images to position itself as the ideal tool for creatives and non-conformists. The success of this approach as lead to Apple, and it’s imagery, being in a dominant position in a number of markets, from mobile computing to the traditional desktop.

The second commercial is from Motorola and premiered during the 2011 Super Bowl for the National Football League in the U.S. It’s imaginary of a conformist society obviously borrows from the earlier Apple commerical and other traditions of dystopic science fiction. The twist is that the conformist consumer in this version is an Apple customer. The characteristic white earpods and clothing point to Apple’s design and advertising campaigns. Motorola’s protagonist is a young professional who literally goes against the grain by using his Motorola tablet to communicate with a coworker. This is a less violent and dramatic move than the sledgehammer against the screen of the earlier Apple commercial. Nonetheless, the implication is the same; you can be creative, different with this product against the mass of society. This is the computer as a means of communication and expression not as tool for office work.

If we apply Rombes 10/40/70 approach to film analysis, or more specifically Dan North’s random variation approach, to this commercial we are able to think about this clip even more technically and specifically. Below are the random frames choosen using North’s technique.


In this first frame from the 32 second mark, the tablet is being used to photograph a bouquet of flowers. The saturation of the tablet screen is greater than the actual flowers, making the screen flowers appear more vibrant and real than in reality. The protagonist then uses this screen version of the flowers to create a short animation of the gift exchange he has planned. Here, the representational character of the computer screen is not something that must be torn down or destroyed, as in the earlier Apple ad; instead the world becomes more real, more life-like once it is transfered to the screen.


In this second frame, the object, or should I say subject, of our protagonist’s affection is seen. She has the same white hoodie, earpods, and blank expression as the rest of the depicted society. This look reminds me of a friend remarking on the zombie like expression of people back when ipods and mp3 players were first introduced. There is a kind of exhaustion that comes with having so much content. Compositionally speaking, it is worth noting that she is positioned comfortably within the rule of thirds, with the negative space on the right balancing her weight in the frame. Her eye level is also exactly at the top third of the frame.

And lastly, we can see this frame of our protagonist follows the same compositional logic as above. In this case he is offset to the right and has more head room. In terms of lighting, there is a general diffuse lighting, such that there is an even lighting on his face with not light or dark side. The narrow depth of field also focuses attention on his expectant expression. This tighter framing differs from the wide shots and large depth of field that characterized the first images in the commercial. Here he is granted subjectivity. Even though we do not see the world through his or her point of view. The camera brings us close enough to their expressions so that we can relate to their emotions.

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