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Wednesday, 18 June 2014 17:00

Directing Motion for Nike

Written by  Thea Green
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In a recent commercial spot for Nike, Director Vincent Laforet brought to life the intensity of athletes training in a way that’s never been seen before.

In an interview with fellow photographer Kenneth Jarecke, Laforet chatted about his process behind the lens that captured the performance of some of the world’s fastest athletes including Kobe Bryant, Richard Sherman, Ashton Eaton, Allyson Felix and Mo Farah all wearing and promoting Nike’s Flyknit shoes. The idea for the spot was to shoot the athletes at 500 framers per second then create a slow motion effect in post. 

Laforet, who hails from a background of twenty years shooting stills, elaborated on his transition from photography into movement. “It’s a very careful, fine balance when you move into motion, because you grow up as a still photographer in this world where the only thing important to you, besides obviously as a journalist telling a story, is to focus on the visual,” Laforet stated. “The reality is that film or motion is about sequencing a series of shots together that flow visually to help serve the story. It’s a very big lesson. I’ve always thought that if you have nothing but perfect shots you’re almost impeding yourself as a filmmaker.”

Nike-Flyknit-4 SMIn order to achieve the most dramatic effects that emphasized muscle movements in the athletes while shooting at 500 frames per second was a challenging process. “We do what we call ramping (to change the slow motion affect),” he said. “The computer effectively ramps certain sections. As a director you really can’t rely on that. Beyond moving the camera, there were three huge technical challenges on this job.” To Laforet, those challenges were moving the camera fast enough to match the pace of the athletes, shooting at about twenty times the rate of normal time, and making the athletes look like they’re moving at five hundred frames.

The timing and chemistry on set had to be just right to surmount such complex shots, and in order to push the limits, the very best in the field were hired. “You’ve got eight or nine people who all have to work in unison at F2.8 on a 300 with no autofocus and nail every single aspect of their respective jobs,” he said. “If one person fails, the others try to make up for it. As you can imagine, the train can quickly derail. That’s why you hire the best people in Hollywood. Literally the best techno crane operator. The best operators on the head. The best AC’s, focus pullers, the best AD’s, to make this happen because Richard Sherman is your X-factor. He’s not an actor who does this for a living. He’s the factor you can’t control as a director, so you try to get him to concentrate on a certain speed and target, and timing.” 

Cinematographer Pete Konczal convinced Laforet to light the basketball court where Kobe shoots by putting a light in every vomitorium and a huge soft box above that could be lowered or raised by the catwalk. Although it took a day to pre-light and pushed the budget, it was something that Laforet pushed for because he knew it would make all the difference in the visuals. “In the end, it’s those lights that make you appreciate the size of the stadium and his movement,” he said. “That’s the biggest victory of all when you’re able to pull that off.”

In a shoot of extremes, Laforet was sometimes forced to balance his original idea by what they were actually able to capture in the moment. “The secret is to know how far you can push without breaking anyone or anything. When you’re able to pull that off, it feels really special, something the entire team appreciates. It’s something that you’ll remember (for the) longterm.”

For the full interview Click Here

Click on the video below to check out Laforet's Nike Spot. 


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