Cars exploded, windshields crashed, and people ran with sticks, knives and fire bottles as parents tried to secure their children. As a family of four, huddled in a corner, looked on in fear at the chaos, a bright light and wind appeared out of the darkness and magically sucked up all of the bad elements […]
Cars exploded, windshields crashed, and people ran with sticks, knives and fire bottles as parents tried to secure their children. As a family of four, huddled in a corner, looked on in fear at the chaos, a bright light and wind appeared out of the darkness and magically sucked up all
of the bad elements and transformed the nightmare to a lush green ambience, where everything was pure and clear, and where parents could send their children out to play.
Then came the tag line: Together for a safer Internet in Saudi Arabia.
Produced by Made in Saudi Films, a brand new production house in the Kingdom for the Communications and Information Technology Commission, this TVC aimed to create awareness about the dangers of exploring objectionable content on the Internet. As adult content is blocked by the Kingdoms government portal, the TVC also subtly justifies that sites are blocked to protect the Saudi family and society in general from the negative influences of the Web.
Besides the rather unique conceptual approach, this TVC merits mention for its technical elements as well as for being produced in Saudi Arabia.
Although the Saudi market makes up a huge chunk of the pan Arab advertising pie, huge amount of advertisements designed for the Kingdom are produced outside the country.
This production, however, has not just been shot in the Kingdom but employs a whole range of special effects to create a typical disaster scene filled with elements designed to strike fear in the heart of the common man.
The production house zeroed in on a backyard in an industrial city in Jeddah, where old cars and tyres were easily available to create the disaster scene, explains Joseph Moubarak, head of post production at Made in Saudi Films.
We could burn cars, wood and flammable material here without the risk of dangers and we could make the set as grungy as we wanted, he explains.
Of course, the scene called for special help from Saudi Civil Defence and rescue team in case of any emergency.
Security is crucial at such shoots and it is essential that we have adequate medical assistance if something goes wrong, explains Moubarak. We worked with an explosion specialist from National Saudi Defence. The organisation also provided the fireproofing materials; all of us worked together to establish these shots safely, adds Moubarak.
Additionally, the production house collaborated with Dames Kabalan, a talented art director from Beirut to create the special effects.
This kind of action is one of the first such full-fledged production attempts in Saudi Arabia.
It is one of our biggest productions in the Kingdom as a company, and I believe it is also the first that includes so many special effects. It was a big challenge for us to make everything work effectively and professionally, explains Moubarak.
The whole action at the disaster scene was captured with the Photron high-speed camera, which supports up to 2000 fps in HD mode.
Initially, we had plans to use the Phantom camera but eventually settled for the Photron because of its higher ISO. Along with that, we used the Master Prime lenses, explains Moubarak.
This was crucial as we were shooting at night and needed more exposure in some specific shots. The Photron was necessary to capture some of the action and the explosions so we used it as the main camera at the disaster scene while a RED One camera and two Canon 7Ds served on the side lines. We also needed to capture a lot of detail, the expressions on the faces of the family, the villains in the footage and so on, and the Photron served its purpose very well. We shot most of the footage at 1000fps, which was sufficient to get most of the action for a 45-sec TVC, he adds.
The second part of the TVC was shot in a lush green public garden. Here, the RED was used as the main camera. Post production again posed significant challenges for the team as they had to deal with a mix of different camera footages in various formats.
We had to match the shots from the different cameras in the edit in terms of colour correction, resolution and quality, explains Moubarak.
The company recently invested in a Smoke on Mac solution to ensure better finishing for its post-production services.
For this project, there was too much compositing to be done. We had shot a lot of elements on chroma to be composited such as people getting sucked up by the wind, debris, fire, and plates so as to enrich the scenes, explains Moubarak.
The move from the disaster scene to the peaceful ambience also posed complications as the team had to composite the people sucked by the added light beam, and match the CGI with the natural light to make the transition smooth enough.
Lighting was also a challenge for the DOP as we were using Tungsten lights to get rid of the flicker on the high speed shots that HMI lights causes, explains Moubarak.
Logistical challenges were aplenty as well.
Besides procuring the legal licence and permissions to create the sets and making sure security was guaranteed, lack of sufficient crew and equipment meant the team had to work with talent from outside the Kingdom.
The TVC was in the last stages of post as this feature went to press.
We have prepared the footage on RED Rush and Compressor, and started offline editing with Final Cut Pro; 3D tracking has been done with Boujou 5; online conforming, compositing and finishing was completed on our new Smoke on Mac; and Audio design has been carried out on Cubase, explains Moubarak.
The VFX editor was in Dubai two months ago to purchase Autodesk Smoke.
This tool empowers you on such projects. Once I was done with the offline edit on Final Cut Pro, I easily imported the raw Red camera footage and the image sequences of the Photron into Smoke, without any media transcoding process or duplication. As a visual effects artist, working with raw files in Smoke gives me more control in colour correction and helps me achieve greater results for the final look.
Compositing shots, adding FX, painting, retouching and so on were all achieved on the Smoke timeline, in a very efficient and fast processing manner. It is very useful having Smoke running on a Mac as I could switch between different apps while working on my project, revise the offline edit on FCP, export camera tracking information from Boujou, generate motion graphics animation with After Effects, prepare artwork with Photoshop and even check my client mails and my Facebook account, all on one workstation, adds Moubarak.
The sound track was also done at Made in Saudi Films with its in-house composer working on SFX and music design. Although the project went smoothly, perhaps the addition of one more Photron camera could have taken some of the pressure off the main camera, according to the VFX expert.
Everything was perfect but if we had two Photron cameras on set, we would have wasted less time loading the captured clips from the camera as it took us around 10 to 15 minutes to empty each clip and prepare for the next take. Having two high speed cameras could also have helped us get different angles of the same action. However, having two main units with two-high speed cameras may have also meant we would have exceeded the production budget, he adds.
45 people including in-house crew and freelancers worked on this production.
Kaswara Alkhatib, MD of Made in Saudi Films, says this project is only one of several exciting ones the production house plans to do in KSA.
While Saudi represents one of the biggest markets for advertising in the region, the production industry here is still in its infancy. I dont understand why we shoot something that is supposed to be for Saudi outside Saudi. One of the main reasons for this is the perception that production is difficult in the Kingdom. Our own experience shows that it is possible to shoot here; not just small TVCs but big ones too. It all boils down to willingness. We have taken up the challenge of growing the production industry in Saudi by offering top notch production and post production facilities and bringing in technical crew such as directors, DOPs and art directors, he explains.