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August 2014
Issue: November 1, 2006

COMMERCIAL CREATIVES: A RADICAL 'ONE' LINER

By: Ken McGorry
NEW YORK — One, the charitable organization committed to a global end to hunger and the AIDS pandemic (visit www.one.org), fostered a major campaign this election season aimed at getting out the vote. A focal point of this effort was a deceptively simple :30 depicting a line of folks waiting to cast their votes on Election Day in a nondescript hall.

At first you hardly notice that some of these voters rank among the biggest movie, sports and music stars in the world.

And there’s the point: everybody has the right and the need to vote, from blue-collar workers to clergymen to bankable stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts, and voting is not a chore a star can leave to an assistant. The spot was produced by @Radical Media, here in New York, and directed by Andrew Zuckerman.

So, you’d imagine, why not line up some celebrities and some “real people” and shoot it and be done with it? Not so easy. For one thing, the celebrities were all over the map. For another, the celebs’ schedules would not allow enough time to set up greenscreen. Instead Zuckerman and his crew, featuring DPs Hernan Otaño, Russell Carpenter and Axel Baumann, had to quickly capture their celebrated subjects on a plain, light-gray background and hope for the best in post. And the best, Zuckerman feels, is what they got at Smoke and Mirrors, here.

“Jamie Barrett [of Goodby Silverstein], who had written the spot, had specifically come up with the idea that it’s one shot,” says Zuckerman. (There was no agency of record; Zuckerman and Radical Media worked directly with the client.)

To do this the Radical crew’s itinerary included New York, LA, Boston, a return to LA, then Orange County, Washington DC, and Virginia. All on a PSA budget.
But how do you shoot such a spot? Smoke and Mirrors (www.smoke-mirrors. com) informed Zuckerman of a rig from LA’s Image G that they’d used for this type of shot. “We got the rig. What I loved about Smoke and Mirrors was how they came up with this solution for me, directed me toward the people that had the rig and made me feel secure and confident that it was going to work.”

ONE LONG PAN

“What I loved about the commercial was the idea that we’re all one,” Zuckerman says, and that meant that the stars, who also include Matt Damon, Alfre Woodard, Don Cheadle and Patriots QB Tom Brady, got the same amount of airtime in the :30 pan — two or three seconds — that the unknown “voters” enjoyed.

“We had the problem of a number of locations and a very short amount of time for each celebrity,” Zuckerman says. “We chose the Panasonic VariCam mainly because the white balance and [additional] information was kept on a card. I was fortunate to have the one package of equipment that didn’t change anywhere — the VariCam and the rig we took everywhere with us.” Zuckerman credits his “low number of high-end people” for making the shoots possible. “It was a huge accomplishment that Michael [Hilliard, a Radical producer] and the producers were able to set up the same situation in a variety of places and weather conditions.”

POST AT SMOKE AND MIRRORS

“We finished shooting on [October] eighth and had a finished spot on the thirteenth,” Hilliard says of Smoke and Mirrors’ effort. “That includes the offline and all of the HD online. It was fast.” (The spot was cut by Avid editor Trish Fuller of The Whitehouse.)
Sean Broughton and company “wanted to figure out the easiest, most foolproof way” to get through the One campaign, Zuckerman says, adding, “I just felt so safe.”

“It was great that Sean [Broughton] had an understanding of the production process,” Hilliard says. Even though he lives in a post world he was able to come up with good solutions and be there on set for you.”

At each location, the camera consistently moved only 10 feet. “The aim was to let the director direct,” Broughton says. “We love problem solving and this was going to several different locations where you’d have maybe 10 minutes and definitely no time to light greenscreen. We recommended that we use an [Image G] rig — a repeatable dolly — and we actually programmed the move in New York on the first day’s shoot and marked off the background [wall], which was a white top/gray bottom. We shot Panasonic VariCam at 24fps so it could be used in a variety of different countries.” VariCam also obviated film developing and telecine.

The lighting looks and feels seamless and institutionally flat. Since the crew shot the talent against a backdrop that was similar to the digital background Smoke and Mirrors created, Broughton, using the latest Autodesk Flame software, could use “all the real shadows, with the real lighting. You could capture those subtleties as opposed to just generating shadows.” He also performed color grading in Flame.

Speaking of the VariCam footage, Broughton says, “Because of the homework that had been done beforehand, everything that turned out was absolutely perfect. There were no fixes to do.” Broughton was also able to “split people up” in a given shot so a preferred Matt Damon shot could be composited with a different performance by the non-celebrity standing next to him.

And it all works. As Zuckerman says, “They delivered a perfect product — they just did a fantastic job.”