How 'd They Do That Spot?

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A female athlete muscles her way through a cityscape, managing to dodge an air conditioning unit that plummets from the sky, make a mean volleyball dig and wallop a heavy bag within the :30 framework of an eye-opener for Nike and Lady Footlocker, out of Wieden + Kennedy/New York. This could be the setup for any pedestrian sports spot, save for the intriguing environs of disappearing buildings and popup trees, rendered in '70s-inspired graphics that shift madly around her, along with product credits that make the spot seem like the open to a Charlie's Angels-era action show.

Produced in a tight week-and-a-half turnaround, this visual funkfest of 2-D, 3-D, and live-action elements manipulated in Flame, After Effects and Cinema 4D, is the work of Logan - the duo of director/designers Alexei Tylevich (see Creativity May 2000) and Ben Conrad, who operate out of their hybrid production/design shop of the same name in L.A.

After the actress performed her stunts against a greenscreen, Logan composited her moves with backplates crafted from stills of various scenes from the L.A. metropolis, and pieces the pair created in 3-D. The latter includes a beauty shot of a sky-framed Lady Footlocker store the woman zips in and out of; an element that ironically, was tough to scare up in sunny SoCal. "We weren't able to find a good location, because a lot of the Lady Footlocker stores in California are located in malls," Tylevich recalls.

Other crucial bits, like the nosediving AC, were the product of deft camera manipulation. "It was actually on a rotating turntable, and we dollied into it, which gives the illusion that it was falling," Conrad explains. And when it busts open as it hits the pavement? "We overcranked the film and shot it off a ladder. We didn't have many opportunities to get that right, so we struck it and unscrewed pieces beforehand so it would break nicely." As for the actress, she wasn't really playing dodgeball with the unit. "We matched the AC angle and shot her reaction in the same angle," Conrad notes. Another stunning work of DP and postproduction fakery is one crucial product shot, in which the camera starts out with a wide shot of the leaping woman, quickly zooming and swerving to capture her Nike-clad foot with such detail that you can practically make out the pores on her leg. The "single" shot was faked in two passes. "We got a wide shot of her jumping in profile, and then we shot her foot separately on a rotator, so we could get that 45-degree rotation shot; then we stitched it all together digitally," says Tylevich.

Binding the elements in each scene and sequence was only the half of it. Tylevich explains that the traditional film processing procedure was flip-flopped. All the live action went straight to telecine before it reached the editing room, enabling the team to tweak and match the color of all the spot's elements to create its stylized, saturated look. The process also allowed Logan to work with live footage as raw material from the get-go, facilitating the seamless scene transitions and quirky camera moves. The smooth segues complicated the editing, which in this case was carried ad hoc throughout the entire post process. "There's more than one clip to each shot," Tylevich points out. "We needed to think about how everything was going to come together in the final piece, and it would really be hard to imagine that on the Avid with just dissolves and fades."

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