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HomeCraftsCameraAlma Mater Works with Team Detroit on Ford F-150 Campaign 

Alma Mater Works with Team Detroit on Ford F-150 Campaign 


LR-Ford_PR_Still_2 smallAlma Mater produced a series of commercials for Ford, via ad agency Team Detroit. The ads, directed by Brian Mah, co-founder of Alma Mater, showcase the 2015 Ford F-150’s features. Alma Mater worked closely with Team Detroit to conceptualize an approach that diverged from the graphic-focused nature of previous campaigns by bringing the truck into its real-world, utility-focused environments. In doing so, they chose to ground the campaign in gritty live-action versus any CG executions. Staying on brand, they used the same voiceover, recognizable from the previous campaign.

Each spot showcases the truck’s aluminum alloy body, fuel efficiency and hauling and towing capabilities, among other features. Alma Mater visualized this by using a motion controlled, match-cut technique that depicts the F-150 driving through various live-action environments, from farms to construction sites, and across a wide variety of terrain.

“The great thing about using match-cuts for the campaign is that it allowed us to use the truck and the people who use it to connect completely varied locations and industries,” explained Mah. “With this approach, we can fluidly follow the path of the F-150 through a wide breadth of weather and geographical contexts.”

Working directly with Team Detroit and senior VP and group creative director, Brad Hensen, Alma Mater began developing campaign concepts during the summer months. By fall, this concept had become the frontrunner.

“Brian and his team were incredibly collaborative throughout the entire process,” said Hensen. “He and Alma Mater were completely new to me, so I didn’t know what to expect. I loved that no matter how many curveballs we threw or how many U-turns we made, he never got rattled. In production, Brian and his executive producer, Kathy Kelehan, were amazing partners.”

LR-Ford_PR_Still_9 smallTo express the scope of the F-150’s settings, Alma Mater knew that it needed to cover a large quantity of shots for each spot in the campaign. From farms to a forest, shipyard, rock quarry and energy plant, Alma Mater traveled across Southern California to shoot the various landscapes. To operate as effectively as possible during the seven-day shoot, Alma Mater beefed up its crew to two full camera units working simultaneously, enabling them to cover the extensive list of truck and talent-driven shots within each locale.

Director of photography Jordan Valenti shot on a 6K RED Epic Dragon during the packed production schedule. To create the match-cutting effect, Alma Mater used a combination of motion control and safari arm rigs, which they attached directly to the body of the F-150, allowing the team to register and repeat camera moves within each environment.

“Each day was a race to beat the sunset,” said Mah. “We planned a very aggressive shoot schedule that needed to cover a wide amount of shots on the shortest days of the year. Jordan was amazing at achieving an incredible aesthetic for the shots in a fast and efficient manner.”

Although nearly 95% of the special effects used in the spot were shot practically, there were some elements that needed to be accentuated in post. Matte paintings, photoreal 3D elements, location extensions and subtle atmospheric elements were added to the shots to accentuate the compositional connections between scenes even further. For these effects, Alma Mater worked in Maya, After Effects, Nuke, Flame, Fume FX, PF Track, Photoshop and Illustrator.

“We wanted to incorporate strategic elements within the scenes that would align with the subsequent shot,” said James Anderson, VFX supervisor and co-founder of Alma Mater, who oversaw postproduction. “A telephone pole along a desert road in one scene transitions to a tree trunk in a forest-lined mountain road. A stack of hay bales in a farm shot becomes a stack of cinder blocks on a construction site. These are the kind of creative details we enjoy sinking our teeth into.”

The tight postproduction schedule was demanding. Creative director/art director, Beth Hambly, and creative director and writer, Dan Weber, worked directly with Alma Mater in the studio to finalize the project.

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