Notre Dame BCS TV Spot Produced by Explore Media
The University of Notre Dame needed an “institutional message” to air during college football’s BCS title game, but only had a short window of available pre-production and production time. They gave Explore Media a call to produce the television spot and 3 camera crews, 400 student extras, 800 real and VFX candles, and only 2.5 pre-production days later, this college television commercial was born.
“A Message from the Students of Notre Dame,” was directed by Jeremy Pinckert, a Midwest commercial executive producer for his company, Explore Media. Notre Dame cleared the concept for production on a Tuesday morning, with the need to complete pre-production and primary shooting with talent by Friday of the same week! As soon as the boards requiring an evening candle scene in Notre Dame Stadium were conceived, Explore Media knew they would need to shoot with low-light friendly cameras, and would likely need to add more VFX lights in post-production.
Chicago-based DPs Ted Lichtenheld and Jamieson Mulholland worked with Pinckert to narrow down the camera choices, finally settling on Canon’s C300 after ruling out ARRI’s Alexa camera due to the need for flexible scene setups, especially during the final Stadium Scene. The C300 can capture C-Log at 50 Mbps and is widely considered one of the best low-light cameras in the business. After defining the camera specs on Wednesday of that week, Lawrence Daufenbach and Daufenbach Camera went to great extent during an unusually heavy C300 rental week in Chicago to make sure three camera packages with Pix 240 converters were ready to shoot in South Bend by Friday morning.
The TV spot’s concept is to convey the idea that pockets of students are excitedly moving towards Notre Dame stadium. Once assembled in the tunnel at the stadium, they light candles to display a human-tribute in the stands of the stadium to their fellow student-athletes, who have achieved top rankings both on the field and in the classroom. To assemble over 400 extras for the spot’s final payoff scenes, Notre Dame sent an open call to their student body, who showed up on a Friday evening despite a forecast of cold, rainy weather.
Once in post-production, editor Michael Dicken and Jeremy Pinckert posted rough cuts in Premiere Pro. After picture was locked, they partnered with veteran Chicago colorist Kelly Armstrong from Color Playground to provide life to the C-Log shots. With shots ranging from indoor college-life shots to gray-afternoon scenes to low-lit candle shots, Armstrong was able to separate and pull consistently beautiful color from a challenging progression of scenes.
Pinckert and Dicken knew that an extra VFX touch would be needed to make the candles in the final scene pop the way their client desired, and so after color-correction they partnered with producer Anne Siwek and VFX Smoke-artist Tom Dernulc from Chicago-based post-house The Colonie. As you can see below, Dernulc was able to fix the lack of candle luminaries in the upper left side of the hash tag, while painting extra students and candles to give a more full, brighter appearance. He also composited a background plate of the stadium seats captured earlier in the final take with a foreground plate of the students forming the #1 sign, which allowed Explore Media to produce a final scene where the candles stand out, but you can still recognize the students are located in the stands of a football stadium.
Finishing a national TV commercial is never truly complete without sound design. Not surprisingly, the University of Notre Dame licensed a song from Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack to the movie, Rudy. Even without full-mix access, the folks from Earshot Audio-Post were still able to cut the 4-minute track, “Tryouts” into a :30 piece with three distinct movements, crescendoeing in a final, emotionally charged scene.
“A Message from the Students of Notre Dame”
“A Message from the Students of Notre Dame” is set to be nationally broadcast during the Notre Dame vs. Alabama BCS college football title game on January 7th tune in to ESPN. The institutional message will air during what is estimated to be the most-watched college football BCS title game in history, with over 30 million viewers expected. Click to see the web-version of the college TV spot on Notre Dame’s website, “A Message from the Students of Notre Dame.”
About Explore Media
Explore Media is a full-service digital video production company focused on “brand storytelling” for organizations. Their goal is to develop collaborative relationships and enrich their clients’ brand marketing through custom, creative video and television commercial stories. They can be found online at: www.explore-media.com.
About Jeremy Pinckert
Jeremy Pinckert is an Emmy, ADDY, and Telly-Award-winning director and executive producer with extensive experience managing television and web video projects. He has produced television content for ESPN, History Channel and Discovery Networks, as well as advertising campaigns for a variety of successful organizations. You can learn more about Jeremy Pinckert here.
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