San Francisco agency Doremus contacted me to help create a :60 sizzle video to announce the launch a new HP Enterprise product. Different jobs present varying levels of technical, creative, and logistical challenges, and this job was a high-octane blend of all three. We had two weeks from the day the job was awarded to deliver final artwork and footage to the editor.
The creative was inspired by a music video that used thousands of still portraits to create a shape-shifting effect. Our piece would be different, however, as it was not a music video, and we needed to talk about a product. The boards we started with were very loose, and left a lot of room for interpretation. So we jumped in and started figuring stuff out. This is the part of every project that I really enjoy — working with someone to determine what it is they want to say. We needed to make something visually striking, while connecting with the IT professionals that would be using the product.
After experimenting with frame rates ranging from 6fps to 20fps (below), we determined that we needed 300 unique stills, along with a range of motion shots to build our :60. We decided to cast 50 actors to play IT professionals (which are mostly male) in a range of ages and ethnicities. For each of the 50 actors, we would capture 6 different facial expressions as stills that would be tied together to create a long, collective expression. In addition, the rapid-fire stills would punctuated by short video shots with voice.
Since the core of the project was going to be capturing a dynamic range of facial expressions that tied together visually, I opted to shoot the stills with a DSLR and Profoto strobes, then for the speaking parts, use the same camera, lens, and modifiers, but with Profoto HMI’s as our light source.
We cast and shot the job in LA. On set, raw files from the stills were cropped to 16:9 and transferred in realtime to our retoucher in San Francisco, who worked with an assistant to beautify all 300 of the stills, with each and every file worked on by hand. Sure, there are faster ways to process files, but we all agreed that this approach would bring a level of craft to the piece that would set it apart. Always the perfectionist, Rebecca had to restrain herself from doing too much work on the faces, as we were limited by time (our retouching budget allowed just 5 minutes per file) and by creating a look that we could still match in the video shots.
Over one prelight day and three shoot days in LA, we made portraits of 50 talent 6 ways, making selects as we shot, captured video of 6 selected talent, and captured stills and video of the HP printer. When we wrapped on Friday, Rebecca had retouched and delivered all 300 faces as high resolution files, which went directly to our editor in San Francisco, who hit the ground running, and worked with the CD and AD to deliver a final cut by our deadline:
Projects like this require an eagerness to dive in and solve problems on the fly. They also require a client that is willing to dive in with you. Above all, they require a great crew that is professional, enthusiastic, and fun to be with for long days in a dark cave. Huge, heartfelt thanks to the everyone that helped bring this together:
Client -- Neil Pursell & Craig Roberts / HP
Creative Director — Joe McCormack / Doremus
Art Director — Patricia Byrnes / Doremus
Art Buyer — Nancy Cardillo / Doremus
Producer — Sady Callaghan & Maddy Breed / Purple Lamb Productions
Digital Tech — Jonathan Rose
Photo Assistant — Kevin Gray
Photo Assistant — Ben Pursell
Audio Engineer — Mike Dellamonica
Retoucher — Rebecca Bausher / PixelChick Studios
Wardrobe Styling — Lizzie Curtis & Crew
Hair & Makeup Styling — Josefine Wissenberg & Crew
Editor — Connor MacDonald
Post Production — Beast