Nike: “Unlimited You”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Wieden+Kennedy (Portland)
DIRECTOR: The Daniels

Nike commercials tend to look and feel the same. And understandably, that comes with the territory, when you’re one of the world’s most recognizable brands. So when the “Unlimited You” campaign came along, it was an unexpected and creatively inspiring breath of fresh air.

This series of ads, represented by the anthem spot featured above, directly attempts to subvert the expected Nike style, taking an over-the-top mash-up approach to athletic inspiration, pushing the limits of one’s ability to absurd levels of achievement. It gives a whole new meaning to the tag “Just Do It.”

There was a huge team for this, and all the compers got a segment or two to work on, as well as the additional shots for the shorter breakout vignettes. I touched some of the earlier living room shots with the kid making baskets in front of his synced-up flatscreen. But my main contribution was the crash test sequence with Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, and the tennis-baseball training with Serena Williams and Giancarlo Stanton.

The crash test sequence was entirely assembled in 2D with multiple plates and elements. Matte paintings extended the limited set environment. Additional glass, smoke, and debris were added to augment the impact. And extensive retiming and animated repo’s were needed to make the players “impossible” actions convincing. For the cutdowns, each featured a different timing, so all of the work had to be repeated for a 15 and 10 second version.

The Serena / Giancarlo training session required an animated ball, damage to the court, and extensive retiming for the players’ swings. Additional work was done to clean-up and flush out the tennis court environment. And there was a fair amount of beauty work and sweat removal for each. The cutdowns added a handful of shots.

Nike: “KD”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor

This Nike spot for Kevin Durant’s 2013 branded athletic shoe is more of a mograph advert than anything else, relying on stylized motion, integrated graphics, and abstracted backgrounds. But the one aspect I was immediately drawn to was the shoe being filmed practically.

The shoe itself is positioned on a turntable, shot at high speed from multiple angles and using choreographed camera moves. Much of it was storyboarded. But room was left for improvisation, both on set and in post. And that’s the part that appealed to me most.

Editorial took the tempo to a certain degree, leaving the Flame to finesse the kinetic flow of the edit. Once that was in place, the CG team could start on the abstracted bending basketball court background, animated to reflect the versatility of the shoe’s enhancing performance.

Compositing required rig removal, roto, and the integration of CG backgrounds. Occasionally, on a selected take, the shoe went out of frame, necessitating a 2D rebuild of the missing parts.

2D text layers were tracked to the shoe’s movement.