Make This One a Mamba.
It’s a well known fact that Brien has an unhealthy fascination for all things Indiana Jones, except for the Crystal Skull, not sure how a person would survive a nuclear blast inside a fridge. He was well into the scene where Indiana was declaring his distaste for snakes when the call came in to build a teaser for the new Kobe X that married snakes with arrows. Based loosely on telling the story behind one of many icons developed for the Kobe X campaign, the teaser builds a visual connection between the footwear and the “Deadly Precision” it represents. Deadly snakes? We’re on board.
The catch was time. We had a small amount of it to craft an impactful story. We knew we had a layered story to tell, focusing time on snakes, the origin of the arrow, while teasing key design elements of the shoe. Most of the time, our heads jump into the potential of CG. Having that amount of control over the shots, and of the snakes, seemed the most logical step. But it quickly became out of scope for the job. So we moved on to Plan B.
The teaser became an editorial driven mood piece driven by treated stock married to CG shots of the shoe. We built a board-o-matic to start to nail down flow, and timing as a gauge to see what kind of footage we’d need to search for, and what we would create. It also served as a conceptual check on the idea of integrating the arrow slicing the shoe with the precision of a laser Dr. Evil would be proud of. In the end, the edit was simplified to a tease. We also quickly found out that getting the perfect stock shot of a real snake was as realistic as Jay focusing on cardio for a solid week. So onto Plan C.
No Time For CG? We Got it Covered.
Without the time needed to re-create a perfect CG Mamba, and without being able to find the perfect image of that elusive snake, we did what every self righteous American would have done. We called up our local animal trainer and got one of the most deadliest snakes onto a small set with us, a camera, and a piece of plexi between us. What could go wrong?
We knew we were relinquishing a certain amount of control by filming a live snake, but the trade off seemed worth it. What we would gain was some amazing footage we could use throughout the edit. We enlisted a few different snakes, not just a mamba. King snakes and cobras were brought in to see what kinds of various actions we could get. We wanted a strike, or two. But also, we wanted the texture of the snakes – the subtle movements that build to that final precise strike.
All snakes are not created equal. We found that out real quick when we threw a mamba onto a table and said “action.” Dude wanted nothing to do with us, or our commands. Turns out there’s a select breed of snake that runs, some that you really don’t want to be poking a stick at in front of the camera, and a breed that just chills in place. The mamba ran, the cobra made us run, and the king snakes? Well those things rock.
Side Note, the original intention of the spot (in case you missed it in the board-o-matic) was to embody the laser precision of Kobe X by splitting the two shoes perfectly apart with the arrow. There was a two fold reason for this: Implying the visual metaphor. and also calling attention to Nike’s new piece of technology called Splay. The arrow would precisely split the Splay in two, separating the two soles.
Another side note, Nike built a gallery of icons for the new Kobe X, everyone containing some kind of meaning to Kobe’s game, or a specific benefit tied to the shoes. Strike with Precision was the focus of this spot. If you look real carefully, all the other icons can be found in the debris falling from the two shoes in the end lock up.
While all the absurd snake wrangling was going on, our CG team was building the Kobe X from the ground up. Our early models were based on photographs before we could get our hands wrapped firmly around the prototype. Fine tuned details were then added, and the sole of the shoe took form. We used flat swatches of fabric used to create the shoe from Nike as the base of our textures. When in doubt, use the real textures of the shoe. Creating a CG shoe from nothing is a process, for sure, but the end results speak for themselves… nothing like bringing the mythical Kobe X to life.