Production company Tandem Inc. recently tapped Chicago-based The Colonie for a range of editing, visual FX and design services for a comedic live-action/CGI spot for GrubHub. The :30 commercial, entitled “Winner Picks Lunch,” pits two co-workers against each other in fast-paced game of ping pong with high stakes – the winner gets to decide what they will order for lunch. The male co-worker suggests a different type of food with each lob, only to have his suggestions shot down by his colleague as she returns the ball. As his fierce opponent is about to deliver the winning slam shot she takes out her cell phone and orders her signature sandwich with a single click on the GrubHub app.
Tandem’s Tyler Jay directed, and the company’s creative team wrote and produced the spot. They began by collaborating with The Colonie creative editor Brian Sepanik shortly after the commercial was written. Tyler states, “It’s a very simple story but it had a lot of moving parts to align correctly to execute seamlessly,” said Tyler.
“Tyler came to us with a great concept and from the beginning we were on the same page about the kind of look, quirky humorous feel and quick pacing that would bring home its message in an engaging and entertaining way,” said Sepanik. “Tyler and I have worked together on a number of spots over the years, so we understand each other’s sensibilities. We’ve developed a kind of creative shorthand that enables us to complete projects quickly and efficiently, which leaves us time to focus on the little details that raise the creative bar.”
After Tyler spoke to The Colonie’s team about the concept, visual FX artist Tom Dernulc started testing various options and devising the best approach to the shoot, so that the live-action footage would blend seamlessly with the CGI elements. At his suggestion, Tyler used a metronome during the shoot to guide the rhythm of the game. Dernulc was also present on set to make sure the VFX would go off without a hitch.
“Being on set during the production was invaluable,” said Dernulc. “I was able to work closely with Tandem’s team and make sure all of the plates and reference frames I needed were captured so that the CGI ping pong ball looked as realistic as possible.”
After The Colonie received the footage, its team began prepping the job. Most of the commercial was shot at 120 fps on the ARRI Amira to provide plenty of flexibility in case shots needed to be slowed down, which required a bit of extra prep time.
The main challenge the editor faced was timing the movement of the fast-paced ping-pong paddles so that they hit the ball just right. In a few areas, when the pace of paddle didn’t exactly line up, Sepanik came up with some innovative tricks to cover the timing issues, taking a few liberties with the action and letting sound design carry some of the game. One of Dernulc’s timing tricks was removing the woman’s arm in one shot so that the pattern of paddle hits was perfect.
“The banter between the two main characters brought the real humor to spot, and Tyler had written an abundance of great, off-beat food suggestions and quips for the characters,” said Sepanik. “I wanted to include as much of this copy as possible, so I compressed the footage between the dialogue to create more time, which also made their verbal play really snappy.”
Sepanik spent three days on rough cuts and then Tyler worked remotely, reviewing the spot and providing feedback. The next day Rich McClellan, GrubHub’s group creative director, came to The Colonie to view the edits. A few more hours were spent on revisions and then the spot was sent up the chain at GrubHub. The client made a few minor adjustments, Dernulc did the finishing and Jennifer Moody, The Colonie’s senior motion graphic artist, animated the end tag before delivering the final spot.