The challenge in creating advertising for training shoes is the duality inherent in their design. While a vast amount of work goes into creating shoes that will aid athletic performance, in reality most sports shoes are nothing more than a fashion accessory, which will do little more than tread the tarmac of the local high street.
So, when it came to marketing Reebok's high-profile new Wrapshear shoe - a running shoe with an inflatable insert that recalls one of Reebok's most famous brands, the Reebok Pump - advertising agency mcgarrybowen needed to promote the shoe both as a piece of performance footwear and as an item of urban chic, while also doing justice to a well-loved brand.
To fulfil the brief, mcgarrybowen enlisted the collective talents of Motion Theory, an LA-based production house, who would work on both the broadcast and print campaign in tandem. The brief from mcgarrybowen was simple, yet enigmatic: "to create a city that springs from a shoe, creates an obstacle course for an athlete, and then returns to the shoe," according to Motion Theory's art director Mark Kudsi.
Before launching into costly location shooting, Motion Theory created an extensive previsual to plan how each element of live action and CG would work in the final advert. Motion Theory also began shooting backplates and reference visuals that would help to blend the greenscreen and location footage.
With the planning in place, Motion Theory began the shoot for broadcast, which was split into two days - one day at a studio location with greenscreen backdrops, and one on location in and around Los Angeles.
"We really tried to focus on the elements that make it a metaphor - the city becomes a character that presents our hero with increasingly difficult obstacles," says Kudsi.
While it would have been possible to create the whole advert in CG, Kudsi says using location footage enabled the production to "capture the realism that CG can't fully mimic just yet".
More complex stunts and manoeuvres, which would have been impossible to capture on location, were shot in a greenscreen studio environment. An obstacle course was created within the confines of the studio for the actor to negotiate, including a variety of climbs and jumps over obstacles that would later be substituted with CG. Because of the studio's limited space, a treadmill was used to enable the actor to run continuously.
Much of the post-production work relied on the work of the CG team, who used Maya for most of the 3D environments and objects. Recreating the shoe itself in CG was a high priority. To satisfy Reebok, the model needed to be flawless, and to ensure that this was the case the shoe was recreated exactly by dissecting a real shoe.
"We had to tear the shoe completely apart and rebuild all the layers in CG from the sole up to make it breathe and move correctly," Kudsi explains.
After Effects and Shake were then used to combine the CG and live action. The final composite needed a look and feel that would fit the aesthetic of the broader 'I am what I am' Reebok campaign, a look that Kudsi describes as "raw, urban, and primal". To do this, the colour was heavily graded and the contrast pushed until it "blurred the line between what's real and what's not". Additional dust, scratches and distressing were applied in post-production to create a suitably worn look.
Going to print
Motion Theory also had the challenge of creating the print campaign, which needed to be consistent with the broadcast advert. For this the team spent a further day in the studio, shooting the actor against the greenscreen to capture footage that was composited with CG elements in Photoshop and elements created in Illustrator. This was one of the biggest challenges of the whole brief for Motion Theory, as Kudsi explains: "We had to simultaneously execute both mediums at the same time in a very compressed schedule, and keep a consistent look throughout the campaign."
INFO For more information on Motion Theory and to see examples of its work, visit www.motiontheory.com