All About The Benjamins
National Payroll Week is the high profile annual event in the payroll industry and the Amercian Payroll Association is the organization responsible for making it happen. For 2008 they put together a national media buy including visibility on the Today Show and MSNBC to recognize and raise awareness of the occasion.
The APA turned to Geomedia to help them create the :30 TV spot that would drive this national ad campaign. The project turned out to be an interesting one for us and more importantly a successful one for the APA so we wanted to share some of the backstory with you here.
The concept for the commercial originated with the internal APA creative team and featured a husband and wife driving down a road where the road signs seem to predict inevitable misfortune. Everything seems to be going wrong before their eyes as they encounter bad weather, a rough road with endless hairpin turns, and no end in sight. But wait! A text message chimes in alerting them that their paycheck had been safely deposited and the world around them suddenly transforms to a place of beauty and color.
Nice idea APA. Like the way they use the images to tell the story.
Let’s get started.
Our first challenge was to find a place close to home that was wide open because just about every shot in our storyboard involved either the interior or exterior of an always in motion picture car.
Our Picture Car
The location also had to be one that would down the road help us create the images of falling rocks, lightning strikes, and dangerous terrain that were vital to telling the story. More on that later.
To find a practical filming location, we began scouring the Hill Country West of I-35 from Austin to San Antonio. Though safety for our crew and talent is always a primary concern, we were once again quickly reminded during our location scouting of that infamous production axiom:
…that where ever man built roads, he also built power and telephone lines….
So after striking out on our first few candidates, we continued the search from just south of Austin to Wimberly, to San Marcos, to New Braunfels, before checking out Canyon Lake where we stumbled upon the perfect shooting location inside Canyon Park which is owned and managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers.
The park embraced a beautiful scene with awesome vantage point perspectives that would allow us to shoot from one hilltop to the next. Traffic control and lock-up would also give us the advantage of being able to shoot all day without too much interruption.
Finding the perfect location.
With our location approved, we filled out our own Geomedia RED ONE Camera Cinema Package by renting trusty old #11 from GEAR Rental in Austin, who also supplied specialty lenses, Grip and Lighting Package and Jib Arm. Keene Television and Film Services supplied the car rigging support for the car and lighting mounts.
With our toolbox now complete, we scheduled the shoot for one very ambitious day — filming from 8 car-mount positions, 2 crane set-ups, and several vantage-point shots captured with a Canon 400mm T4 telephoto lens. Assistant Director Tony Griffin and 2nd AD Donald Banks choreographed the ever-moving production convoy as Scott Hayes of the San Antonio Police Department lead the unit safely through the over 26 mile course.
(left) Our Crew getting “The Rig” ready (middle) “Hanging On”- Ron Meneses, Tony Griffin, and Jason Keene, (right) “Checking the Vantagepoint” – Zach Nasits- DP, with the APA Agency (Mark Coindreau-PR Manager, Erika Hurst-PR Coordinator, Ismael “Smiley” Garcia- Multimedia Manager, Bob Stover-Congress Production Manager
Jason Keene came on board as Key Grip and Gaffer Ron Meneses master-minded the rigging and lighting for the moving car shots. They were assisted by Roger Eickenroht and Eric Untersee. 1st AC Wes Turner managed the camera, and Donna Horner kept our people looking great with her talents in make-up.
Film Crew from (left to right) Wes Turner-1st AC, Tony Griffin-1st AD, (on ladder)Zach Nasits- Director/DP, Ron Meneses-Gaffer, Eric Untersee-Grip, (hidden) Jason Keene- Key Grip, Roger Eickenroht)
Creating practical effects on location or using tow rigs and process trailers with lighting effects and wind machines were outside the scope of this project. And a poorman’s process trailer wouldn’t provide belief to the viewer without an even more elaborate greenscreen and photo-real compositing solution. Plus with over 90 straight days of 100+ degree weather and with no rain or clouds on the Doppler for months we were going to rely once again on the Geomedia 3D Animation/Visual Effect department to save our bacon.
Our first visual effects task was to create our overcast skies and lightning strikes. We laid the groundwork for this stormy and “ominous look” with some in-camera setup on the Red One in conjunction with a Tiffen Cool Day for Night Filter. Sky replacement and lightning FX within the foreboding storm clouds were done in Adobe After Effects by Geomedia FX artist Martin Jaeger. Color grading to enhance the day for night effect were achieved in Apple Color.
Shot with Tiffen Cool Day for Night Filter with 3D Enhanced Skies
Next on the CGI agenda was building the fallen rock that blocks the road for our picture car. Tracking markers for the placement of the rock slide were set up on the road during principle photography. Boulders, rocks and debris were photographed and digitally composited into the final scene utilizing the tracking markers to match camera moves.
The Geomedia sound design team then scored the spot, created foley effects and tweaked the final mix down.
Here’s how the final spot turned out.
Thanks to the crew, cast and the great people at the APA for making this project such a pleasure to work on.