Training with Professional Athletes
Coyote Post Grades 'Nike Unlimited' Spots with DaVinci Resolve Studio
Most professional athletes have made the long and often arduous journey from the local to the national to the international levels. And whether it's an individual athlete or a team of athletes, along the way many have had the support of their families, friends and coaches, who know their struggles, triumphs and stories the best. While these stories aren't always the most glamourous, they are full of hard work and determination and can serve as inspiration.
"It's important to know who these athletes are on an individual level and recognize and appreciate the sacrifices they have made in order to represent their countries on the world stage," said colorist Robert Crosby of Coyote Post.
Crosby, along with colorist Robert Curreri, colorist Loren White and colorist Arnold Ramm, used Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve Studio at Coyote Post to grade 10 main long form spots with dozens of ancillary deliverables for broadcast, web and social media for the "Nike Unlimited" campaign featuring professional athletes across a variety of sports. Telling the athletes' stories and sharing their journeys in these spots will hopefully, in turn, inspire others to start journeys of their own.
Getting to Know Mo
One such story is from British distance runner and seven-time gold medalist Mo Farah who spends part of his training in Ethiopia at high elevations, approximately 10,000 ft. above sea level, running 120 miles each week.
"For this spot, we wanted to show who Mo is. He can be away from his family for months at a time while training in Ethiopia, but it's all to achieve his goals and make his family and country proud. He is one of the best in his craft and sport, and we wanted the spot to showcase that," said Crosby.
Crosby also wanted to transport viewers, so they could see Mo's environment and where he trains, not only on the track, but also in the fields, hills, bustling streets and backroads of Ethiopia.
"At first, I colored the whole video with a milky look, but the director decided to go with a more naturalistic look. Instead of starting over, I was able to add another node in DaVinci Resolve Studio and apply it to all the shots, which saved a huge amount of time," explained Crosby. "I had already gone through and matched the whole video, bringing down shadows where necessary and finessing details. And thanks to DaVinci Resolve Studio, this massive change throughout the entire video was super quick. I just copied and pasted the last node and pinned it to every shot."
Shot in mostly natural light, Crosby used DaVinci Resolve Studio's qualifiers to match the footage. "Resolve has one of the best color qualifiers I have seen," he said. "I used the qualifiers mainly on the track that Mo is running on in the video. Sometimes the track was brighter red than other times, so I made it more consistent. Same with some shots of the trees and bushes."
He continued, "We went naturalistic for this because we really wanted to highlight the environment. Mo's blue shirt is the main color I popped, but not too much, like you would normally see in a commercial highlighting a shoe or piece of clothing. We wanted to let the environment speak for itself to really transport the viewer to Ethiopia with Mo. We also didn't want to push saturation because we wanted to keep a personal and intimate feeling. We're not selling or emphasizing a product here; we just want to be there with Mo as he trains."
Flying High with Simone Biles
With three back-to-back world championship titles, Simone Biles is at the top of her sport. Simone's spot showcases her preparing and fine-tuning her routines ahead of the Games, and as Curreri explained, "It's a montage piece that we kept very documentary-looking. It was shot with available light, which was mixed depending on which corner of the gym she was in and included daylight, fluorescent lights, incandescent lighting and more.
"DaVinci Resolve Studio helped me isolate the mixed lighting to make it more consistent and uniform, as well as to create a more pleasing aesthetic. I used the software's qualifier to isolate where the walls and surrounding environment were picking up green or magenta, and I swung that back toward its natural color to get it more consistent," he added.
Once the lighting was balanced, Curreri kept the overall look organic, clean and natural, not only to maintain the documentary-style look, but also to let the emotion come through.
"Since there wasn't a huge need for creativity color-wise on this spot, DaVinci Resolve Studio helped more technically," concluded Curreri. "Sometimes the color can distract from the story if it's too stylized, so we wanted to steer clear of that and let the emotions of the spot come through."
Collaboration is Key
Having worked on most of the spots, Coyote Post's White explained the collaborative process with the client. "We tried a few different things, including a teal and orange cinematic look, but ultimately the agency felt it was too close to the other Nike spots running at the time. They wanted something that felt separate from that and more real, which made sense with the documentary feel of the majority of the spots," he said. "I pushed some blue into the blacks and warmed up the highlights a bit, which gave a look, but still felt very natural. I also used DaVinci Resolve Studio's Power Windows and mattes subtly to bring out the characters."
White added, "I love Resolve's tracker and the log grading. I'll often jump between primary and log grading to hit specific areas quickly rather than keying. The tracker has continued to improve and having point tracking is huge. We used the improved de-noise tools quite a bit in some of the darker footage. Due to the nature of shooting run and gun, having lots of stuff shot at different times of day cut into the same sequence required a lot of practical color grading just getting things to match. Once that was done we dug into the look more when needed."
Grading Fast Action
Coyote Post's Ramm was also tasked with keeping the look in line with the documentary style for some spots, while for others, a more specific look was needed.
"I worked on spots for Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, tennis player Serena Williams and gymnast Gabby Douglas, as well as the athletes' website loop video," explained Ramm. "There were general looks, as well as specific looks, depending on the project. For Shelly-Ann's profile, we went toward a documentary feel, taking advantage of practical and natural light throughout the footage."
He continued, "For Gabby's profile, we wanted to isolate the athlete from the background as she was working out, warming up and performing on the balance beam. Our goal was to de-emphasize backgrounds, placing them further in the distance, while emphasizing the boldness of the image of Gabby in the foreground. For Serena's profile, we went for a glossy magazine-like image, but balanced with the power of her motion; strong contrast and rich color.
"For Gabby, I used DaVinci Resolve Studio's Power Windows, color picking most objects in the piece. For Serena, I built the image with luma controls for a crisp black and white 'base look' with layers of color gloss on top of that," added Ramm. "The Gabby and Serena spots were a bit of a challenge with our need to separate foreground and background; the fast action and/or complex nature of the moves of the athletes posed that challenge. I used Resolve's tracking, Power Windows and color isolation on several layers to help with this and achieve the final look."
Ramm summarized the decisions made in color by noting that the grading direction augments and affects the mood of the footage, and the mood of these profiles helps support the athletes' stories.
"For these spots, we auto tracked multiple Power Windows around specific objects to emphasize or de-emphasize them, depending on the look we were going for," concluded Ramm. "Resolve is easy to use, so lists and menus don't get in the way of translating the creative direction desired by the client to the image seen by the viewer. I look at my colorist roll as that of creative collaborator and translator."
About Coyote Post
Coyote Post is a Los Angeles based creative post house that specializes in editorial, color correction, VFX and motion graphics.