The Art of Chaos: Making Jordan’s CP3.V Experience (Fast Company)

By KC Ifeanyi
January 10th, 2012

With the launch of the CP3.V, Los Angeles Clipper Chris Paul’s newest shoe, the Nike Jordan Brand was looking to move away from traditional advertising, opting for a more engaging, athlete-appropriate experience. What they got, courtesy Wieden + Kennedy New York, was a surreal and stylized interpretation of the chaos Paul wreaks on the court.

“Chris is known for his quickness and speed, so we wanted to give the audience a way to view the game from every angle,” says Brandon Mugar, W+K creative director on the “Quick Controls Chaos”experience. “On any given day there are so many things you miss that he does, so this slows it down. We thought it’d be great for people to dissect his game.” W+K NY didn’t want to capture your standard exhibition game. Instead, with help from production company Prettybird and the post-production team at Identity FX, the shop created an Flash-based site that gives viewers video-game like control over live action spanning an 180 degree arc. Visitors to the site can follow the game, zooming in, changing angles and uncovering additional content, enabled by over 100 streaming videos seamlessly swapping in and out.

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“We wanted to use Chris’ quickness as an impetus to [relate] a chain reaction of the events on the court and extend that to off-the-court situations as well,” says Andy Ferguson, creative director at W+K NY.

The on-court action was captured in a three-day shoot, before which the crew constructed a green-screen set with rigs outfitted with 18, count ‘em, 18, EPIC RED cameras, which, as W+K senior interactive producer Brandon Kaplan notes, was the only camera for a job of this magnitude. “Being able to go in and rotoscope and composite the scenes together, we needed the extra resolution [EPIC RED provides],” he says. Dan Blaney, broadcast producer at W+K, goes so far as to say this shoot has “taken the interactive/online experience beyond what has been done with RED cameras before.” The production team incorporated two nine-camera arrays of EPICs with a single camera overlap in a 180-degree arc that allows for “a completely seamless and immersive experience.”

So exactly how much footage is captured from 18 cameras shooting for three days at 48 frames per second? Apparently, three to four times that of the length of a feature film. On the flip side, there was hardly any editing involved–the production team had to work with scenes from start to finish, even if some background action wasn’t quite on point. “It was a very different process having to live with your final scene at the moment on the shoot as opposed to having a bunch of different takes and finding it in the edit,” says Ferguson. “The challenge for us then became, ‘How do you hide moments that are less than glorious that are there for the viewer to see?’“

Because all the scenes had to be shot separately, a heavy amount of composting fell to Infinity FX–with composites consisting of more than a dozen layers captured at 18 angles. Given the sheer volume of post-production involved, it’s fair to say the Infinity FX team was more than relieved that not all of W+K’s chaotic ideas became a reality.

“At one point we had the idea of the balloons being all over the place and it sort of became impractical to think about where they would all be. You see a little bit going on but not to the degree we wanted,” says Ferguson. “We talked about a flock of doves being released behind it too–that didn’t make the cut.”

When it came to putting the site together, the question of whether to build it in Flash or HTML5 was a non-issue. “HTML5 and streaming video are not friends yet,” says W+K technology director Husani Oakley. “We wanted the experience to be used by a majority of people, and Flash has that high integration rate.”

Kaplan also mentions that the streaming aspect of the shoot attributes to the campaign truly being the first of its kind.

“Each camera is actually a streaming video and as the user moves around, we’re switching those streams in real-time,” he says. “Switching streams in a very seamless way hasn’t really been done before at the scale of which we accomplished it.”

With “Quick Controls Chaos,” W+K et al. were looking to create an experience that transcends basketball. “We tried to put in a ton of Easter eggs and a lot of little things that we knew weren’t going to be seen by a ton of people, but the people who see them will really appreciate it,” says Ferguson. “I think that to do right by the idea you have to give it your best effort.”

Husani Oakley