Post & Effects

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In a refreshing departure from the slamdunk extravaganza usually associated with basketball spots, this latest Nike Asia commercial, from Wieden + Kennedy/Tokyo and Venice, Calif.-based Motion Theory, takes hoops beyond muscle and sweat, as design-enhanced live-action players get their game on in a funkadelic world inspired by a New York-based Korean graphic artist known as Rostarr. The offense outmaneuvers its menacing rivals in a mesmerizing, seamless play; the ball leaves dazzling colorburst trails in its wake as it glides effortlessly between the team's jocks and drops gracefully into the basket, highlighting the concept of teamwork, which spawned the idea of "flow" in the first place. "In a typical U.S. basketball spot, there's usually a massive dunk and it's all about individual play," explains Motion Theory director Grady Hall. "Over discussions with the agency, we talked about Asian players not typically being 6-5 and able to dunk, and the game being based on teamwork and passing. We moved away from individual highlights - capturing team spirit was really important."

Although the MT crew had already proved their game blending design and live action with John Jay's team at W+K/Tokyo on spots for Nike Presto, in which spraycan Picassos make a palette of urban sprawl, this latest, at least technically, "was a completely different animal," explains executive producer Javier Jimenez. "With Presto, we put a graphic world on top of a spot. In this case, we had live action within a graphic world." That required a lot of work before the actual shoot, says Hall. "We knew we were going to shoot this all on greenscreen and we had to find the places where the flow could come to life." In order to come up with a seamless team-minded play that both looked like authentic, great basketball and befit Rostarr-izing, they reviewed John Wooden and Princeton Offense videos, rehashed great moments of Bruins and Lakers history, and shot preview footage of players in casting. The final choreography was then completely previsualized in 3-D. "It would have been impossible to pick out shots from a regular game and have a cohesive play," Hall explains. "Everything is a set piece. Moreover, we knew that if the live action itself didn't capture the spirit of teamwork , great passing and authentic basketball, there's nothing our design could have done to save it."

MT directors Hall and Matthew Cullen and RSA director/DP John Schwartzmann then shot a group of local sharpshooters on Universal Studios' biggest stage, which, says Jimenez, was transformed into "an entirely green world," comprised of a 50x200-foot greenscreen, a green full-size pro court and basket - even a green ball. This was preparation, of course, for the design treatment, which required massive layering in After Effects and Maya. "When you have a couple of elements you're gong to treat differently in the same frame - like offense, defense and ball - you need to be able to separate out all three layers. Our 3-D animators and designers had to go in and clean everything up, build everything from scratch," explains Hall. As for bringing to motion Rostarr, known primarily for his 2-D work, "we spoke to him about the ways he visualized his design coming into motion and what that third dimension would be," Hall notes. "But that was mostly a jumping-off point for our 3-D designers. We have some guys here who have serious mental problems, and they just went nuts."

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