Red Bull's 'Matt Jones - Frames Of Mind'
We’ve collaborated with the team at Red Bull UK many times over the years. From Imaginate back in 2012, to Dougie’s Wheelie, Wee Day Out and our latest work Frames Of Mind. Every time we work together, we both want to raise the bar in as many ways as possible - on a conceptual level, in cinematography, production and in the action too. It’s all about bringing something new to the table.
For Frames of Mind with Matt Jones, the Red Bull team approached us with the idea of using a ‘photo sequence’ style concept, which you may be used to seeing in photography. More recently some music videos have used the effect by placing a still image of a moving subject in the frame. By doing this you can create a look where the primary subject is moving toward the still frame, where they meet or ‘collect’ the still. Pretty cool! But would this be possible in a fast flowing actions sports film?
This Club Feet music video 'Everything You Wanted' was our initial reference, both for the VFX influence and effect, and also the experience of how you engage with it as a viewer.
We set to work and told Red Bull that we loved the idea, but we wanted to take the concept to the next level using moving images 'traces' rather than simple stills. In order to get a handle on what was possible we decided to organise a test shoot to test kit, camera angles and settings to see what was possible.
At this point it feels right to introduce Gav, our in-house post-production/VFX wizard! From the outset Gav was super driven to realise the potential of the project and played a major role throughout. Every conversation about the project involved myself as director, Gav from post production, Andre in cinematography and Lisa and Katie in Production Management. On a project like this the benefits of having such a tight team working so closely together are so, so big!
We wanted to work with Matt during the test but unfortunately he was injured. Thankfully we were able to call on our friend and Glasgow local Kriss Kyle to step up and help out. The guys at Vision Ramps created a few sets for Kriss to ride, and Matt came up for the day to hang out too. It was perfect to have him with us to keep him involved and to see what we were thinking!
The test was a great success and we learned a lot about what we needed to do to make this concept a reality. Gav and I travelled to Milton Keynes for the first of many trips to scout the location at Rushmere Country Park. Red Bull, Matt and Forte Trailscapes were already on site and well into the set build, so we got a good idea of what we were facing including what Matt would be riding, the backdrop and the location. Everything looked awesome!
A few VFX issues were raised including the depth of some shots given the number of trees, and also deciding Matt’s clothing and bike to ensure keying (cutting Matt’s traces out using colour rather than physically cutting round the image) would be possible. Drone flying would be challenging too due to the dense trees, and we needed a BIG drone to fly a camera capable of super slow motion.
We worked with Matt and the team on location a few times during the project, however the bulk of the work was shot during a 10 day block where we had a full the crew and all kit on site.
Our basic kit list was:
- Phantom Flex 4k
- Sony FS5 with Atomos external recorder
- Freefly Movi Pro with FS5
- Defy Dactylcam Cablecam with FS5
- Freefly Alta with FS5
- Arri Ultraprime lenses
- Mini Jib
- The biggest blue screen we could find
We planned our schedule to get the right shots when we had the right gear available. We were prepared to be flexible however as Matt was aiming to do world’s first tricks, which he may or may not land. We also needed to consider what was realistic for him to do day after day. We’ve got a lot of experience of working with athletes, so it’s something we’re used to and we like to plan for as much as possible. With that in mind we sat down with Matt and pulled together a schedule that would work for him, which would spread out the bigger tricks, and maximise the use of kit while we had it.
Gav spent weeks in the edit cave on this, and I mean weeks... Long hours fuelled by Red Bull and coffee. For each shot we’d rough out the trace effect, decide on shots and what position the trace would take in each one. When that was established, Gav would get to work. There were various techniques to be used in post-production, all continually discussed and thought about from the very start of the project.
In very simple terms, the techniques we used were:
- Rotoscoping – ‘cutting around’ Matt and his bike mid trick to insert in the same shot in real-time or even another shot.
- Keying – ‘cutting out’ Matt and his bike by colour rather than physically cropping round him.
- Luma Keying – ‘cutting out’ Matt by luminance. (luminance has a lot more information than colour).
- Motion tracking and 3D camera tracking - Each time we place a trace in the master ‘realtime’ shot, we’d have to track that trace to the right part of the shot and place it in 3D space. For example, if Matt rides toward a jump and the jump comes into frame, the trace has to be at the right point in the air for him to 'catch' it seamlessly. With that in mind we had to ensure we track the trace to the right point of the shot.
- Blue screen - For certain close up shots we could use a blue screen which made life much easier.
One of the major decisions to make was what appearance to give the traces to differentiate them from ‘real Matt.’ We felt that they needed to represent Matt’s visualisation, but without going too far with anything too crazy or computer game style. This was similar with the sound design where we felt it was important to have a subtle sound as real Matt met the trace, without going overboard! After looking at all of options we eventually settled on a simple transparent effect with slight desaturation.
Following many long days we ended up with the edit you see today. As is becoming typical, we delivered different cuts for YouTube, Red Bull homepage, social edits and festivals to try and maximise the impact and reach of the campaign. We’re only a week in, but the response seems to have been great so thanks to everyone who’s clicked to have a watch!
Do you have any other specific questions about the making of Frames Of Mind? Just hit us up in the comments and we'll do our best to answer them.
Thanks for reading,