On the 13th of May, I flew to the Gold Coast Queensland to start production of a Commercial for The Natural Confectionary Company via Production Company Chocolate Studios in Melbourne. While still overseas, I was contacted by EP Dave Ellis, about possibly directing a TV Commercial for them and, in only a few weeks, we developed a really nice treatment.
This job reconnected me with quite a few different people in Melbourne, including former Micronite Producer Barry Cail, who came onboard as a freelance Producer for this TVC. After having worked overseas for an extended period it was refreshing to be able to work locally again. Unfortunately we weren’t shooting in Melbourne but rather sunny Queensland, on the Gold Coast! When I say unfortunately I mean that in the nicest possible way, as I haven’t shot in my own home town for such a long time. Coincidentally, I used to live on the Gold Coast. I had worked at the Warner Movie World Studios for several years on such shows as “Mission Impossible” (the TV series), “Time Trax1&2″, and several “Movie of the week” projects. But that’s digressing!
Australian productions differ substantially from my OS work, in that they are always bound up in some sort of “Australianism” or colloquial detail that makes either the idea or the execution difficult for my overseas clients to understand. Typically a good understanding of both our slang and football is a prerequisite for good comprehension of the message to occur (generalisation but you get the idea). Mostly, I am in the belief that Australian advertising is meant for Australians only and is largely inaccessible to overseas markets which is a shame. I think even in Australia, many of the commercials are not aimed at new immigrants, tourists, business travellers or people who do not care for football, popular culture and trends. That’s a big sector of the community that is left out from targeted advertising. This commercial however was different. That’s why this project was fun to work on. Yes it does still involve some background history if you truly want to fully understand the TVC, however you could completely miss that and still enjoy the Ad!
Through advertising agency, The Ross Partnership in Melbourne, the Commercial was designed to be a parody of the “Action” style of TVC’s made in the early 1980′s, featuring legendary Australian Sportsmen and Woman. It was written by Meg Sorenson for TNCC in an ongoing campaign.I think the TVC is accessible to anyone because it pokes fun at a style that is ubiquitous across the planet in one form or another!
OK enough of the “thoughts behind the Ad”. This TVC was fun to make – pure and simple! We had a glorious sunny day to film the TVC on and a brilliant athlete to feature. Emma Snowsill is a remarkable person, with an amazing focus on her career. You can read more about her here to find out about her amazing achievements. I have never seen a person swim as fast as she could – Quite incredible! Emma is an Olympian gold medalist triathlete (Beijing 2008)! So I had my work cutout keeping up with her all day! The schedule was reasonably gruelling also with a huge list of shots to get in one day. This included shots of her swimming, running and cycling. We filmed the TVC at a popular Gold Coast beach at Currumbin heads. I’ve actually shot there on several occasions and it probably was used in many of those early “Action” sports TVC’s I spoke of earlier, which made it even more perfect! When I was asked by the production staff at Chocolate as to which crew I wanted for this job, I immediately wanted to regroup my usual crew from Queensland. Sadly my frequency is way down these days but mostly they are still all around. I had last worked with the majority of them on “Drop the Bomb” with Hammish & Andy (for a Carlton Draught stunt) which was only a year before I guess. Our Sound Recordist was Craig Walmsley, Camera Assistant was again David Cordell and Keygrip was Leigh Tait. Additionally we had Gaffer Glen Jones and his 2nd join us also. From Melbourne, EP Dave Ellis & Sara De Maria, Makeup Artist Selena Pertzel and Data Wrangler Kevin Wetdewich also joined the production. There were a few others and I’m sorry I haven’t mentioned your names here. Needless to say, it wasn’t a huge crew but a very effective one!
The commercial was shot using both the RED One camera and a combination of Canon DSLR (5DMK2) and GoPro HD cameras. This was really what I would call the secret recipe for this TVC as using traditional film camera gear would have been far too cumbersome and to heavy to deal with for these kinds of activities. In fact, even the RED was too big really. Leigh built a fantastic rig to dolly the RED camera easily across sand dunes as well as providing a nifty trailer (for a Quad bike) for the RED to film low angle, running shots. Mostly though, we used the 5DMK2 for some of the more spectacular shots, such as a really low angle shot of Emma swimming over the camera. That was actually filmed from the bottom of the ocean (about 20 feet down) looking straight up at the sun as Emma powered through the waves. I had Leigh (a licensed PADI diver) shoot that shot for me while I had Dave Cordell film from the beach using the RED camera, a 25-250mm Angenaux zoom lens with a doubler! My game plan for the day revolved around the quick change over from one camera system to the next. So all the land based shots that required sound or were relatively simple to get with our rigs were shot on the RED camera. The rest were shot either on the 5D or Go Pro cameras! This included most of the swimming shots and several of the biking angles.
We did run out of light eventually. During the filming of the bike sequences the light did become a problem. That scene was again largely filmed on the RED One and a few shots from the GoPro camera. There is a low angle shot looking past Emma’s handlebar that was only possible to film using the GoPro as well as a shot of her head as she looks up while riding! Given the limited time we had, I honestly don’t know how else I would have filmed those shots?! After an incredibly successful fun day, we said goodbye to the crew and headed back to Melbourne the next day.
Post production took place at Chocolate Studios in Melbourne. It’s a very beautifully appointed Post Production centre with all the latest gear, including it’s own audio facility. On the 16th of May, we recorded a guide voice over track and then began sifting through a sizeable amount of rushes with my Offline/Online editor Marty. We actually decided that we would take the offline offshore so to speak and for a few days we cut the commercial on a private yacht in Williamstown Melbourne. This would have to be one of the more exotic locations I’ve conducted Post Production but was a lot of fun! The only thing we had to get used to was the unexpected wave action of passing boats in the harbour, which rocked us back and forth, but luckily I’m OK with boats! Any case, I tweeted about my experience and and got quite a strong reaction from many on Twitter! We actually did some pretty amazing work on that boat, despite all the distractions. For those that want to know about the tech side of things, we used Final Cut Pro on a laptop, some raid drives and made use of the onboard HDTV LCD screen!
The final leg of the TNCC journey involved audio Post Production with Paul McCosh at Chocolate, who created a fantastic track out of bits and pieces while the colour grading took place at By Deluxe Melbourne, with colourist Stanley Lopuszanski. We graded all formats from a single file in Scratch, giving each scene a distinctive look. Mostly again the “Looks” were heavily inspired by some of “those” TVC’s from the 80′s & 90′s and Stanley did a fantastic job recreating that experience. While I had the chance, I put the 5DMK2 material against the RED One footage and was amazed how good the 5D looked. It’s not the RED is bad, it’s just if you shoot carefully, using a narrow depth of field, the 5D is an amazing camera. However, Stanley was quick to point out it’s limitation with respect to dynamic range. The 5D does suffer from jagged edges on high contrast lines & detail. Still, it looks great in our TVC and most of the shots wouldn’t have been possible with any other camera system, without more money, time and effort! The Online was a relatively straight forward affair back in Chocolate Studios in Avid DS.
In closing, I have to say this was one of the most fun jobs I’ve shot in recent years. It was a pleasure to work on because the Agency was great, the Client was incredible and the Cast and Crew were absolutely amazing. Add sunshine and surf and you have yourself the perfect mix for a great job!