Behind the design: capturing the raw beauty of sport on film.

We take a behind-the-scenes look at our live-action shoot for a series of title sequences as part of our rebrand of streaming service, Viaplay for the Nordic Entertainment Group. Our very own Francisco De Sousa, who directed the shoot with brilliant athletes and crew tells us about the ambition, preparation and highlights.

What’s the concept behind the shoot?
The concept revolves around the psychology and momentum that athletes experience before the competition. It’s the calm before the storm. The ritual, where they close their eyes, take a deep breath and we enter their psyche, visualising every aspect of the sport.

Why did you decide to shoot in black and white?
The idea behind making a high contrast black and white shoot was to intensify the psychological aspect of the story. To make it evocative and focus on the rawness and intensity of the performance of the athletes, complemented by the sleek graphics and motion elements created for the brand.

We collaborated with DOP Richard Bell ACS to achieve this look and feel, using his specialist toolkit to render these results.

How did you prepare for the shoot?
We covered eight disciplines, so we started by defining the art direction and the cinematographic approach so that we could then determine the most impactful moments within each sport. We defined them as Walk-in, Visualising, The Charge, Immersive, The Hero Shot and the Packshot.

Understanding how the live-action elements would interact with the programming footage, how they would differentiate themselves from a stream of content and how they would provide the brand a distinct identity was essential, so preparation was meticulous and detailed from the start. Hence, we created different animatic models to achieve the correct balance of mixed media and graphical elements.

It was three weeks of pre-production where even the smallest detail was revised and refined to reflect each sport in the most genuine, honest and impressive light possible.

What were the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge was the very pragmatic need regarding the type of assets the Viaplay team wanted to create: multiple show-titles, for any type of content, single or multi-sport, easy to create and easy to update.

Thanks to the close relationship and collaboration with the creative team at Viaplay, we were able to accomplish both goals. We achieved unique, beautiful and impactful work that functions with the versatility they needed.

The second challenge was the rapid development for this part of the rebrand. Six weeks, from the moment we began to the end of production. A two-day shoot for over 80 shots. Three weeks of post-production including editing, compositing, flame and motion graphics, to deliver a content library of 80 shots plus 3 show titles ready to go on air the next day.

Did you use any special technology or techniques?
We shot with a mix of Phantom Flex and Blackmagic cameras to make sure we could work really fast on set whilst still achieving those high-speed hero moments in all their glory. We also worked with a set of dynamic lights and lighting effects that required the use of advanced lighting controller modules to pre-set every look and lighting style, ready to use within minutes.

There’s a strong graphic sensibility to the shots, can you tell us a bit more about that?
The storyboarding and animatics process was extensive and necessary; it allowed us to think and design each frame, making it work well before we arrived on set. This meant that on set, we knew exactly what we needed, why and how, and knew that it would work. It gave us the freedom to create a good story, which was key, and also to make each shot a striking capture that would work in unison with the other shots as well as, individually, would still create emotional impact the audience.

Tell us a little about the post-production.
The postproduction was thrilling, to say the least. We had to work rapidly and with a precise framework to deliver the show-titles, cutdowns and suite of 80 post-produced, ready-to-go shots on time for the first race of the F1 season. To achieve this, we designed a workflow that ran in parallel between a multidisciplinary team of editors, designers, motion designers and colour-graders. It was a team-sport in itself!

What was the highlight?
It was definitely a highlight to share two days of an action-packed shoot with such remarkable clients, crew and talent. Both filmmakers and athletes understood that every second counted and approached it in such a relaxed, fun and collaborative way. Every single person was 100% dedicated to making this work and look great, which helped make the process much smoother and enjoyable from beginning to end.

Check out the full project case study here.