Getting the Jump on Thermal Imagery
Or as it’s known in the streets, “Predator Vision.” Ever since Dutch proclaimed, “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” thermal imagery has been an aesthetic we’ve been itching to try. Fortunately, Nike came along with the Tech Thermasphere, a light weight jacket that allows heat to rise into it’s layers, creating warmth for the athlete. The jacket includes Nike Shield Technology, which adds breathable and weather resistant properties to repel both sweat and water. It provides an articulated and weightless fit that makes every athlete fit for infinite movement – equipping one to train freely and unrestricted in any location and any climate.
Being challenged to tell a story about heat, breathability and movement meant that at long last, we could put our own spin on “Predator Vision,” only without alien dreadlocks or sadly, Carl Weathers.
The concept of using thermal imagery to tell the story of heat came very early in the process, with the idea of isolating the heat signatures of the garment using hi-def thermal cameras tethered to our primary camera. But to be honest, that felt a little bit too “Predator” (turns out there is such a thing!) and we really gravitated towards a more graphic, otherworldly and idealized heat signature. Pushing that graphic aesthetic guided our decision to apply the effect entirely in post.
Much to our excitement, Nike brought Ashton Eaton, an American decathlete and Olympic champion into the fold. It’s not every day you get to work with an Olympian, even if your time on set is limited (massive understatement). Aside from limited shooting time, these athletes are tough to schedule, and after the Valentine’s evening call that a girl can only dream of, we quickly packed our bags for West Palm Beach, FL and prepped the shoot in a matter of days. Once everyone was together, we worked with Ashton to choreograph and showcase his athletic abilities through abstract movements. Speed, power, burst and flexibility are all highlighted through a series of athletic movement that are “sport agnostic”, a call to athletes from any discipline. In the end, Ashton’s movements communicate the freedom that the Thermasphere provides, all while protecting you from the elements.
Lighting and color became important aspects of the campaign’s aesthetic. We wanted something that spoke to the hyper color of the “thermal” world in a way that felt like an inverse image. Thinking about it backwards, we started with the thermal frame, and inverted that to our sense of “reality”. This resulted in a series of high fashion, vibrant, edge-lit shots.
Real Life vs. Thermal
Editorially, we knew we needed to jump back and fourth between “real life” and “thermal” in a way that felt organic – akin to flipping a make believe “thermal” switch on the camera.
Every flip affects the aperture of the camera in a way that blows out the details before focusing in on the effect. Each shot was built under the pretense that it could flip to thermal at any time – giving us maximum flexibility in the edit room.
ONLY EDIT BETWEEN THE BRACKETS
To properly show off the technology within the jacket, our 3D team created macro shots of the 3-layer system that is used to create the warmth without weight that the Thermasphere provides.
Our CG shots were susceptible to the same thermal “switch” as our live action – meaning we built custom thermal shaders to contrast from the macro level realism of the jacket’s interior elements. With CG we also had the ability to visually add heat with a wave of distortion that sweeps up through the layers of fabric.
At the Cross Roads of Hyper and Thermal Color
The final touches added a sense of atmosphere through the largely graphic frames. Heat trails define the space around the jacket as Ashton follows through the frame. His image trails ever so slightly behind him as if he’s disrupting his heat signature as he performs. All together, the piece became a graphic rendition of thermal color in motion, telling the story of the tech benefits the Thermasphere offers, without overly calling it out with graphic overlays. And you don’t have to cover yourself in mud to hide from this thermal vision, it doesn’t bite.