Firstborn's Virtual Fulcrum for Puma

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Like the light-filled spot that preceded it, the new website for the Puma Lift ultra-lightweight shoe is a feat of production wizardry. From Droga5 and digital partner Firstborn, the site is an amalgam of 3D modeling, video and Flash. As the site loads, feather icons float down to a white ground and turn into yellow molten orbs of lightweight foam on impact. The orbs then melt together to form the shoe sole, which Firstborn created from a CAD file the shoe company provided. With motion graphics, the 3D modeled upper and laces then come together to create the full shoe that ultimately lands on one end of a fulcrum. The fulcrum is the site's centerpiece on which users can weigh the super-light shoe against everyday objects. A guy and girl flank the teeter totter—Firstborn executive director Dan LaCivita tells us that the fulcrum actually doesn't exist in real life, it was constructed in 3D—and users can click on their pockets to weigh the contents against the shoe. The process reveals that the shoe is indeed a little heavier than a handful of condoms, but much, much lighter than a flute.

Below, LaCivita walks us through the creative and technical processes.

How did the idea come about?

Droga knew they wanted to use video and we wanted to show off the shoe in a very human way. Let's show the shoes on the actors' feet, almost like how you'd show your friend your shoes. That was the core idea on how to display the shoes. Then, the coolest thing about the shoe is its lightness, so Droga came up with the idea to weigh it against different objects to show how light it is. And that opened a whole new door on what you can weigh the shoes against, everything from sea urchins and condoms to a stripping girl, which is pretty cool for a major brand. It was a truly collaborative effort. Droga didn't look to us as a digital production company. They hired us because they thought that we could really take their great idea and make it better.

Why did you use 3D?

It was born out of the intro sequence, the Terminator effect, when the pellets gel together. That process would be almost impossible to shoot in video. To create something that looked real, we decided to do the whole thing in 3D. the great thing about 3D is once you model the shoe and texture and light it, you can have the shoe at any different angle, any different size, all you need to do is go back into 3D, change the angle and render it out. It's a really powerful tool. We got a CAD file from Puma of the base of the shoe, though we ended up modeling a lot of it from scratch.

It was definitely a production challenge. What do we do in 3D? How should we shoot the different video? Is it going to be shot on green screen or on white? How are we going to create this fulcrum?

A video shot...
A video shot...

...versus a 3D image.
...versus a 3D image.
When is video used in the site?

Video makes up almost every section of the site. From the weighing sequences to the close-ups of the shoe itself, video was one of the projects biggest challenges. Very early on, we suggested we take a cinematic approach to the video. Let's use hard cuts almost like you're watching a movie, using cuts, different angles and different types of shots, because the TV spots were visual and we wanted to replicate that in a different way for the online experience. Droga was really into this idea as well so we began our storyboarding process. We thought that using a variety of shots and angles as well as using hard cuts to transition from scene to scene, would give a cinematic feel to things and not just feel like web video. There are moments where the guy and girl, who were mostly shot on green screen and dropped into the fulcrum scene, react to one another, as they would in real life, so we wanted to capture those moments since they gave an element of humanity and humor to things. By using hard cuts, we can capture reactions from the guy and girl. For example, when the girl smacks the ping pong paddle on her hand in a seductive manner, the guy reacts.
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