Passion projects are a hot potato to handle, and often result in an emotional and logistical rollercoaster with a backstory that even Chris Nolan would think is a bit too difficult to wrap your noggin around. This project rather perfectly epitomises this, so we’ll start with a nice and neat TLDR:
The offer of testing a set of new lenses from Orion snowballed into turbulent 18-month adventure resulting in us hiring an ice-rink, building an entirely custom camera sled, wrapping the entire front of a gym in 216 diffusion in the middle of the night, and filling a dance studio with more haze than a Jefferson Airplane concert.
The brief we gave ourselves was to shoot a 90-second spec campaign film-come-sports-commercial that we could imagine being picked up and used by some of our favourite sports brands.
We’re keen followers of Ads of the World and Vimeo Staff Picks so we often share cinematic sports commercials with each other. Slightly fatigued with the cliché of boxers, runners, attack ropes and cyclists, we thought to ourselves “Who do we know who does something a bit different?” Turns out we had a connection with a successful synchronised ice skater called Sofie.
We had a series of calls and conversations with Sofie, which helped us build a picture of her life. What became immediately intriguing was the dichotomy between Sofie’s glamorous appearance and performance on the ice, and the gruelling regime and routine that she lives by in order to compete at such a high level. The merging of strength and femininity was something more nuanced than we’d seen portrayed in other ads, and so this formed the backbone of our story.
When it came to pulling off the shoot, we got in touch with some of our favourite go-to freelancers and small businesses, who really came through for us, providing enthusiasm and problem-solving skills in spades. Matt Dunford of SR Productions stepped up to the plate once more, and Isaac Powell even sacrificed his skis when putting together our custom-built camera sled.
As we mentioned, we got hold of a set of Orion (Atlas anamorphic) lenses, but when it came to putting the rest of the kit together (including a fully specced Sony Venice), the lads at Video Europe Bristol had our backs as always.
Due to the small bit of budget (that we’d managed to pry from Gruff’s hands) and Sofie’s demanding schedule, we needed to pack all of our shooting into a highly compressed window. We actually shot 6 scenes in two days. Huge props to Dave’s Gym, who kindly let us rock up at 9pm and start pumping M18’s through their windows.
Once we got the film into post, we edited the offline using ProRes proxies transcoded from the Venice X-OCN ST RAW files, which allowed us to work through several versions of the edit swiftly.
Top tip: look out for colour space options when transcoding Sony Venice RAW files. We had to create our own custom anamorphic presets.
With sound design from the awesome Phil Brookes and a voiceover from our good friend Helen Randall, what was once a twinkle in our collective eye became a finished project, ready to go.
The film was successful in the synchronised ice-skating scene, featuring in online magazines around the world. It quickly became the most successful and viewed post that Sofie’s ice-skating team had ever uploaded to Instagram, hoovering up over 4000 likes.