This was one of the most challenging, interesting and unusual projects I’ve worked on
which I line produced on behalf of Hush Studios. Under Armour, in a race to expand its brand globally engaged Hush Studios to create a dramatic and engaging audience experience in concert with Under Armour’s launch into the China market. The brief eventually emerged into an ambitious plan to open its first-ever Under Armour Experience, a blend of retail store and promotional venue, in Shanghai. The centerpiece of the venue is a 270-degree screen and an intense sound system featuring the final video that I was hired to line produce. So, while the video above might appear to be at first glance to be a wide-screen anamorphic format, in reality it’s a flat, “stitched” representation of a multi-camera, on-site projection. The pictures below illustrate to a degree the perspective of how the film appears to a viewer in person and if you imagine yourself at center, indicates its immersive approach.
The task was to find a 360 degree camera solution that would work within the overall project budget, which encompassed everything from the live action shoot to construction of the theater itself. After evaluating various options we decided to go with a Go-Pro rig developed by Michael Kinter at 360 Heroes. While we had some reservations about relying on GoPros, we developed an editorial strategy that would mix GoPro footage where its strengths could be leveraged (outdoor settings, action footage) with Alexa footage, a camera we knew could deliver high-quality imaging in lower-light and varying exposure situations.
One interesting challenge was figuring out how to monitor the footage on-set, as it would be impossible to use typical VTR solutions on a 360 rig. After some experimentation we developed a two-pronged solution: VFX Supervisor Eric Alba MacGyver’d an Ipad set up in which each Go Pro transmitted wirelessly to a corresponding Ipad (creating a rough approximation of the ultimate theater projection) so that the footage could be viewed live as it came out of the cameras. Then, once the footage had been captured, Michael Kintner used a proprietary software system to “stitch” the footage from the cameras together in a rough, low res proxy that indicated how the footage would ultimately look once it had been stitched together through a more high-quality render.
Here is an example of a take as we watched it on set during the running scene:
The distorted nature of the perspective indicates the work that would be necessary later in post to convert the multi-camera imagery into a seamless projection. While we used this set-up during our primary, three-day shoot in Baltimore, we didn’t have that luxury while shooting in London. As UnderArmour has forged a marketing relationship with the Tottenham Spurs, CEO Kevin Plank wanted to try to incorporate some footage from the Spurs into the ultimate video. The hitch was that this decision came three days before their final game of the year, so I had 72 hours to track down an Alexa camera crew in London and then fly with director Danny Garcia and 360 camera op Craig Adkins to London to use a camera system Danny and I had never used before, without any monitoring, and, due to tight restrictions on when we would be allowed to be on the field, we would get exactly one take to pull off the shot. Below is a photo of Craig and Danny rehearsing with our “minder” from the Spurs a couple of hours before the game.
Working live and without a tightrope in front of a stadium of thirty-thousand, it was a nail-biting moment that I’m happy to say succeeded.
Following the London shoot we thankfully had more time to plan the primary shoot, and intense three-day series of location hopping with rigging crews and multiple cameras. We worked with a great Baltimore crew assembled by PM Steve Blair and led by our DP Kevin Fletcher who put in careful prep leading to great work on the shoot days. Subsequently we went back to Baltimore for an additional day of greenscreen stage shooting with Michael Phelps (leading to a final note of excitement where we were informed the day before the shoot that he had broken his foot! Thankfully this turned out to be an exaggeration).
Once all the footage was in the can the project moved into a complex post-production schedule, a sense of which can be provided by Eric Alba’s schematic below of the workflow needed to ensure that the footage projected from multiple projectors aligned properly to create the desired effect within the physical theater.
Ultimately the project launched to client satisfaction and public relations acclaim (and hopefully increased sales for UA in China). Below is a case study that Under Armour put together which shares some moments from the shoots as well as the final installation.
|Line Producer||Barry Gilbert|
|Agency + Production Company||Hush Studios|
|Executive Producer||David Schwarz|
|Creative Director||Jodi Terwilleger|
|Director of Photography||Kevin Fletcher|
|Additional Photography||Adam Newport-Berra|
|Post Producer||Eric Alba|
|Lead Compositor||Tim Haldeen|