Zoic Studios Works with Tiger Woods, Wieden+Kennedy to Create Moving “Earl and Tiger” Spot

See the “Earl and Tiger” spot on Nike Golf’s official YouTube channel, or on the Zoic Studios site.

There is no need at this late date for a simple VFX blog to recount the recent events in the professional and private lives of golfer Tiger Woods. But as Woods attempts to resume his career, both as an athlete and as a corporate spokesperson, he and sponsor Nike, along with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, production company Pretty Bird and Zoic Studios, have created a moving, personal and risky 30-second commercial spot. Zoic has worked with Wieden+Kennedy on several spots of late, particularly the ESPN NASCAR campaign out of New York, and Coke NASCAR and now Nike out of Portland.

The spot was unveiled April 7th, and discussion of the commercial has spread across the Internet and the media, as fans and pundits argue over how the spot will affect the career of the most famous golfer in history. Entitled “Earl and Tiger,” the spot features a close-up of Woods standing on a golf course, listening to words spoken by his late father Earl Woods, who passed away in 2006. The spot was shot on black & white film with a gritty realism, complete with dust, grain, developer streaks and an authentic roll-out at the end.

Zoic Studios’ creative director Les Ekker discusses Zoic’s involvement in the creation of the spot. “We were approached on a Tuesday for a bid,” Ekker says, “and I ended up flying out to Orlando that afternoon (in record time!).

“On Wednesday we spent the whole day rehearsing, because we would only have Tiger for one hour on Friday morning. The shot would be done with both a steadicam and a technocrane.” Max Malkin (Nailed) directed the spot, and acted as director of photography as well.

“On Friday, Tiger came in from 8-9 am. We used black & white stock, and switched at the last minute to one with a slower film speed and finer grain structure. It was important to the director that the spot convey authenticity and honesty, and visual effects were added in post to restore and enhance these qualities. In fact, the shot of Tiger that was eventually chosen for the final spot (in record time!) was the final roll-out take that didn’t even have the complete camera move that was rehearsed. But the director, Nike and Tiger himself loved it and felt this take best complemented the sincerity of the message.

“Tiger was shot against a white screen with tracking markers, to make things cleaner for roto. But the screen couldn’t completely cover the background because of the angle of the sun. We did a super-fast turnaround on the roto, and extracted a 3D track of the selected take (in record time!).

“We created a multi-plane background matte painting, inspired by the sliver of actual background glimpsed in the selected take. After the background design was approved (in record time!), we rendered the multi-plane to the camera. The matte painting included some subtle animation, like twinkling reflections on the water.

“The original negative had a lot of dirt and streaks in the white areas from the developer bath, and we reproduced these in the composite and matched the original grain quality. Then we added some sun glare over Tiger and degraded the image slightly, all of which were added to match the authenticity of the original film. This was done to support the goal of the spot, to create a sense of ‘powerful humble sincerity.’

“In the end, we turned around the spot in three days – the take was chosen on a Thursday, and we delivered the final spot the next Monday morning (in record time!).

“We worked very closely with the creative director, Hal Curtis, to ensure all of his detailed visual goals were achieved. Wieden+Kennedy, Joint Editorial and Zoic worked in tight coordination with a uniformly focused sense of purpose, and that made the job a real pleasure, despite having to do it ‘in record time!’”

The freelance VFX producer who was brought on to run the project, Karin Joy, has extensive feature film experience, most recently on The Forbidden Kingdom and Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Les worked with Joy at Boss Films in the late 1980s, and says it was fun to be reunited with her on this project.

Zoic Studios worked with the advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy and Joint Editorial, and Ekker, along with Zoic commercial executive producer Erik Press, say that both firms were utterly professional, and dedicated to producing an important, meaningful and controversial spot that is of great importance to both Nike and to Tiger Woods.

More info: See the “Earl and Tiger” spot.

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