Finding Affinity Steel
Finally a Super Bowl Ad from Hamil Bros Studios
Normally, a Hamil Bros Studios video production takes a few weeks from concept to delivery. When it came to Affinity Steel, it took a few months. We had first been referred to Affinity Steel for television commercial production in June of 2016. It wasn’t until August of 2016 that we had our initial meeting with Brandon Adams. From that meeting, we were given a concept to turn into a script.
Affinity Going Going Gone
In our initial meeting with Brandon and his wife, at Affinity Steel down in Midland, TX, they gave us their concept of possibly capitalizing on the PokemonGO fad and incorporating that into the video production. It was a great place to start and, considering our love for parody (Jacob and I grew up on Leslie Nielsen and Mel Brooks), we ran with it. We wrote a script and, after some slight, but, brilliant revisions from Brandon, we landed on the final story and set a production date for the Affinity Steel AffinityGO television commercial.
Once a video production schedule was settled, we had to get everything prepped on our end. We had some equipment to procure and some help to gather.
It was at this time that we ordered our Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera (just look at that little guy). This gave us several shooting advantages. It gave us a great step into some fantastic slow motion shots and it’s an extremely light-weight camera that allowed us to get some really cool shots (more on those in a minute).
Our next step was bringing in some outside help to assist in the shooting of this video. This video production was bigger than we normally take on and we needed to bring in the big guns. So, we brought in our good friend, Les Gaddis (aka: Les Beaux Hollywood Jones) from Gaddis Visuals in DFW. Turns out, Les had just interviewed us for his podcast a few days before and it released a few days after the shoot (more on that here).
The level of efficiency and production value that was added to this television commercial for Affinity Steel was brought, in no small part, by Les and we’re eternally grateful for everything he brought to the table.
West Texas Talent
What’s a West Texas TV commercial without a couple of roughnecks? Well, truthfully, most of our television commercials don’t have them, but, this TV ad for Affinity Steel called for them and so we brought out the big guns. Jacob reached out to his high school friend, Preston Thetford and one other individual. The video production was to commence on Friday, October 21st and conclude on the 23rd.
With an unfortunate turn of events, our second roughneck was a no-show. Initially, this put us in a pickle, but, in a glorious move befitting a comic-book superhero, Preston came through with Brett Wiseman who, ultimately, fit the bill even better and we strongly believe that the Affinity Steel ad is that much better or it.
Because of this setback, we had to postpone the video shoot to start on the 23rd and move Friday’s schedule to the following Monday (the 24th).
Despite this turn of events, Brandon and his team were very gracious and flexible.
Assuming you watched the Affinity Steel ad above, you would know that the story was about a competition between two guys to see who could find Affinity Steel first. So, the first order of business was shooting the throw-down and the race itself. Brandon had put us on this location near Affinity Steel, and, using a significant amount of camera trickery, we were able to gather most of our race shots at one location. This saved an incredible amount of time and allowed us to get extra coverage of different types of shots that we would have been hard-pressed to gather, and gave us a wide variety of shots to choose from for the TV commercial.
The Arrival and the Real World
This part of the television ad was, by far, the most difficult part of the shoot. We had 3 lines to be delivered and we were fighting the elements and traffic. Since it was Monday and around 5 o’clock, traffic was the biggest hurdle.
We, first, set up the shot with Brandon and Joe, in front of Affinity Steel, so we could minimize the amount of time we had them on set and keeping them from doing actual work. We got their three shots finished and then I got Brandon to join me in Jacob’s truck to do some wild ADR (see video to the left for examples).
The long and the short of it: Brandon delivering his lines next to a metal building while the wind was blowing was less than ideal. The audio would have worked in a worst-case scenario, but, we didn’t want to chance it with such a high quality video production.
I think this shot was, by far, my favorite in the entire Affinity Steel ad. Due to the time constraints of a 30-second television commercial, we weren’t able to use the whole thing, but, I’m including it here (to the right) so you can all enjoy it. I think this shot took us half an hour to accomplish because of traffic… Not to mention, there was a kid [teenager] across the street who was perched up on a fence watching this shot and he unceremoniously fell off causing a raucous in the middle of a great take. Maybe it makes me a terrible person, but, it sounded hilarious. I didn’t see it, but, I would think my imagination wasn’t far off.
The other thing to really note here is that we shot this shot way after the shots with Brandon and Joe. This was a creative decision that I made to try to put these guys in a near-fantasy world. If you watch the Affinity Steel ad again notice the difference in how everything looks when it’s focused on the roughnecks and then the music stops when you hear the door creak open as Brandon and Joe enter the shot. It goes from this shot here that looks glorious and triumphant to just a regular day at Affinity Steel. It was meant to pull you out of this world these two guys have been travelling in and highlight how ridiculous the scenario really is.
Finding Affinity Steel
Once the video shoot was finished, we promptly headed back to Lubbock, TX, to start the edit. For this TV ad, the edit wasn’t particularly difficult. Ultimately, there was only one edit revision made once the first draft was sent off for notes (that’s a great low number). The real challenge came in the visual effects part. There were a lot of problems to be solved.
So, I started taking them one byte at a time (haha, pun intended) while Jacob worked on animating the Affinity Steel logo (which looks incredible, btw).
The first thing I did was create a map of the Midland/Odessa, Texas, area. I could have used a Google map, but, I petitioned for a usage license and they said it could take weeks to receive it if they would even allow it and we didn’t have that kind of time. Therefore, I hand-drew the map that you see here. Yes, it took roughly six hours of my life that I will never get back, but, in the end, I think it looked great. Not to mention, I was able to color coordinate it to match the look of the ad and the colors of Affinity Steel’s logo.
I started with the map to Affinity Steel because I knew I could kill two birds with one stone. There were two instances in the video where the map was used; first, in the AffinityGO app on the phone screen and, second, the big overlay during the race montage to Affinity Steel.
Let’s look at the second instance first 😉
From the beginning of the idea for this television ad, I had envisioned paying tribute to one of the first movies I ever remember seeing: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Having grown up with a healthy dose of Indiana Jones in my cinema diet, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to let a little bit of my history shine through.
Initially, the trek would start in Northwest Odessa and make it’s way to Southeast Midland, but, it was way too fast and I shortened it to a journey beginning near the Midland airport (you can see it to the right).
The next instance of the Affinity Steel map was inside the phone app. This was a particularly complex shot because it is actually a composite of 3 layers of footage all shot at different times. For this shot, we built a head-mount for our Micro Cinema Camera (see left) to get the most natural first-person viewer shot we could possibly get. I think it took us 5 tries to get it, but, we finally got it. The first shot (the plate) was a simple shot of me looking down and raising my head. The second shot (3rd layer) was of me holding my phone and tapping the screen. Since the shot was an exterior shot, we couldn’t get a good look from our green screen and ended up buying some poster board at Hobby Lobby and using it as our green screen background. From there, I cut a piece of the poster board off and taped it to the face of my phone to be able to underlay the app screen. I also drew some black dots on it to be able to track it.
For the second layer, which was the actual Affinity Steel app interface, I took the map and turned it 90 degrees counter-clockwise and added some touch buttons and a header at the top and motion tracked it onto the screen of the phone. There was a lot of trial and error involved in this process to get the best motion track possible and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. You can watch a quick look at the process in the video to the left.
Cleaning up the Affinity Steel parking lot
The other majorly challenging shot was the final shot with the ending title. The location of Affinity Steel wasn’t exactly an ideal video shooting location. We really only had one place we could park without a risk of our trailer being hit or being in the way during business hours. The problem, as you can see, is that it was right in the big fat middle of our shot.
“So, dummy, why didn’t you just move it for that shot?” Fair question, except, we were in a race against the clock with the sun going down and we couldn’t spare an extra half-hour to move everything. Solution? Fix it in post! Now, I know I sound like a hypocrite because, if you’ve read our Understanding Video Production blog series, you would know that I think the “fix it in post” rhetoric is bogus and a waste of time, but, this time, we didn’t have an option without spending another day that we couldn’t spend. Plus, I happened to know that I’m pretty good at this type of thing and had the confidence to try and pull it off.
So, I spent one of our post days painting all of our trailer gear and our mirror boards out from the Affinity Steel building and parking lot. You can watch the before and after below.
The next to last step here was to color grade the entire Affinity Steel video. This proved to be a moderately difficult task because the clouds were moving so much between shots that the landscape looked vastly different. I also wanted the look to feel hot and desolate. Make you wish that these poor guys had some Gatorade or Smart Water. You can see before and after screen grabs below.
Aside from Preston and Brett’s lines, none of what you hear, in this Affinity Steel television commercial, is real. Crickets, cars, body falls, footsteps, doorbells or Brandon. It’s all FAKE!!! Yep, we’re a couple of fakers. But, that’s what makes a simple video production feel like Hollywood. This came with it’s own set of challenges because of all of the slow motion, but, when it was all finished, it made us smile and hopefully, it grabbed some of your attention during the Super Bowl if you happened to see it down in Midland or Odessa.
All in all, we’re proud of this one. Affinity Steel is another notch in our belt of accomplishing the seemingly impossible and hopefully making you laugh in the process.
We hope you enjoyed the television ad and will share with your friends. And while you’re here, go ahead and check out the behind-the-scenes photos below.
Hamil Bros Studios is a high quality video production company based in Lubbock, TX. Their work spreads throughout West Texas, Eastern New Mexico, and beyond.