Gatorade | Dwyane Wade: “3 is the Magic Number”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill

Gatorade celebrates Dwyane Wade’s career with this found footage tribute spot, featuring music by John Legend. Inspiration is drawn from School House Rock, for those old enough to remember. Lots of clean-up and creative problem solving, thanks to legal.


Super Bowl 2019 | NFL: “The 100 Year Game”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: 72andSunny
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg

How many NFL stars can fit into one two minute commercial? Apparently, all of them. At least, it seemed that way at the time. Short turnaround spot with lots of random nit picky clean up notes. A few hair and head transplants to mask the stunt doubles. And lots of carpet grooming. What else would you expect from a Super Bowl spot?

Full Credits

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.

Beats: “Firestarter”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Hustle L.A.
DIRECTOR: Adam Hashemi

Barring a few crazy in-suite incidents, involving some over-the-top conflicts amongst creatives, this Beats spot was incredibly fun to work on. Scored to the Prodigy’s breakbeat techno anthem “Firestarter,” the premise imagines a football (soccer, for the U.S.) game set in the tunnels of the London Underground.

A few shots were actually taken on location. But for the most part, the action occurs on a 15-20 foot section of tunnel, constructed against greenscreen. Fairly straightforward, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, the majority of the footage was captured on grainy black and white film, to lend a gritty authenticity to the game play, which it does. But it also rendered the greenscreen useless. And mucked up the LED tracking markers needed to get a decent camera track.

So aside from the look dev, which actually proved to be quite creative, the biggest challenges centered on roto and tracking. The enjoyable bits came from assembling the tunnel with geo and projectors, all built entirely in Flame. Alignments were tricky, as was getting the lighting to integrate. But thanks to the limitations imposed by the black and white film, comps actually tended to move quickly, with less rather more integration issues to worry about. That proved to be a relief, because there were quite a few shots.

The look was intentionally stylized, so there was a bit of experimental give and take in its creation. Some challenges arose, when players or the ball needed to be repositioned among all the dynamic camera moves and player activity. The interspersed color shots of players also required tunnel extensions, lighting effects and transitions, and in the case of the endcards, CG crowds and stadium additions.

I worked on look dev, and handled roughly a third of the tunnel shots, as well as one of the crowd/stadium shots.

Nike Basketball: “Bring Your Game”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Wieden+Kennedy (Portland)
DIRECTOR: Rick Famuyiwa

Nike loves their long-form commercials, which tend to play like short-films. I’m never quite sure how to classify them, because they’re a little of both.

Anyway, Nike’s “Bring Your Game” is an all-star celebration of basketball’s greatest players, as four kids travel across the country in search of their favorite player. This lends itself to all manner of self-mockery and humorous parody, as each player exaggerates their quirks and perceived eccentricities.

At five minutes in length, there’s quite a few shots that required various forms of clean-up and augmentation, all invisible to the average person, exempting perhaps, the holographic Anthony Davis.

There’s too many shots to list individually. But a few stand-outs come to mind. I tackled the KD dunk sequence, with removal of windows, furniture and wall fixtures, as well as a poster image replacement that the kid with glasses receives. Both the front image and the back color needed to be swapped, proving for some tricky tracking and re-integration.

There were a few day time shots that needed to be switched to night, due to continuity issues. The most challenging was the sequence with the kids boarding a bus on a busy afternoon street. Everything needed to be roto’d and color corrected, and in some instances, replaced.

And then there were a number of LeBron James courtside shots that required crowd greeking. In other words, if it wasn’t LeBron or the kids, then none of the audience could be recognizable. This was handled through face replacements, focal tricks, or median blurring, depending on what worked best for the shot.

I also managed the conform, which was a bit more challenging than usual, due to its length, and the constantly revolving editorial revisions.

Full Credits

Gatorade: “Moving the Game Forward”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
DIRECTOR: Max Malkin

Gatorade moves the game forward with this athletic showcase from all sports disciplines.

Although mostly invisible, this spot had a tremendous amount of work done on it, from CG stadiums and crowds, matte paintings of various worldwide locations, the addition of trophies, some of which weren’t allowed to be photographed, literal ring bling, and all around uniform clean-up. I don’t think there was a shot that wasn’t touched and retouched.

I contributed numerous odds and ends to this spot. But my two largest sequences were Lionel Massi and Elena Delle Donne.

The former required an entire rebuild of the shot, due to client dissatisfaction with the plate’s original photography, which was shot on greenscreen. This included a CG crowd and stadium, more photographers, camera flashes, confetti, the alteration of security uniforms, and a cleaner, shinier trophy.

The latter needed crowd replication, stolen from alternate takes, and multiple handheld face posters of Delle Donne to replace the practical ones shot on the day. Both tasks were tricky, thanks to the dynamic photography, the barrage of camera flashes, and the frantically waving posters, which all needed to be hand tracked.

I also did some crowd replacements for the football shot in the rain, as well as enhanced the ring bling, and tidied up the end shot uniforms.

Verizon: “Mr. Amazing”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mission
AGENCY: McGarry Bowen
DIRECTOR: Samuel Bayer

One of the earlier stadium/crowd replacement projects I worked on, all done in Flame with 2D elements, crowd plates, and general all-around creative thinking. These days, this type of project is a fairly standard CG task, with Massive or Golaem doing the heavy lifting. Being in smaller shop, with a handful of experienced Flame artists, the spot was regulated as a 2D comp challenge.

I worked on a couple of wide running shots, as well as those approaching camera. Since the conceit was a dream sequence, the stadium reality was slightly heightened, with atmosphere and stylized lighting. A lot of hand tracking and multiplane layers, with matte painted bleachers and scoreboards, and clever glows and lighting effects to illuminate the field.

Nike: “TW14” feat. Tiger Woods

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mission
AGENCY: Wieden+Kennedy
DIRECTOR: Brad Parker

Another early spot I worked on at the Mission. This Nike advert features Tiger Woods in a subversion of golf decorum, with rowdy crowds, and boxing and baseball intrusions. It’s built out of original and found footage, much from the PGA, and some additional plates of crowds, refs, a catcher, and a few other sports references.

I worked on bits and pieces of clean-up and compositing, tidying up foreground edges and replicating crowds throughout. My main contribution is to the catcher/umpire shot, which required a fair amount of work, due to the focal issues.

It’s a weird spot with a weird look. But in hindsight, I kind of like the quirkiness.

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.

Nike | NFL: “Vikings”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor

These all-CG Nike NFL promo spots signal the introduction of Nike-sponsored new uniforms for the given teams. Above is the Vikings spot. But I also worked on spots for the Dolphins and Jaguars.

These promos were tricky due to the compressed schedule (a perpetually common trend), and a need to split work between Flame and Nuke. This meant all the base comps were done in Nuke, with Flame being used to soften the CG curse that comes with short schedules and little time for revision.

All of my work was done on top of the base Nuke comps, which typically got things within 85-90% of the way there. Flame was used for enhancing CG integration through a variety of techniques, from introducing lens distortion and stylized DOF to re-lighting and re-grading elements to shape the focus and depth of given shots.

In addition, flares, glows, and vignettes were judiciously added to increase the impact of each spot.