Close-Up: The story behind Sony Europe's Twilight Football

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 02 October 2009 12:00AM

Fallon staged and shot matches in the desert, up a mountain and on water for its latest Sony campaign. Nicky Barnes reports.

The brief for Sony Europe's 2009 digital imaging campaign was to celebrate and demonstrate Sony's new Exmor R CMOS sensor technology, which is especially effective in low-light conditions.

Sony wanted to develop a campaign that its local markets, sister companies and sponsorship partners could all get involved with (including Sony Music, Sony PlayStation, Fifa and Uefa) but used predominantly targeted PR and online channels.

Out of this came Twilight Football. Seven games played in seven beautiful locations around the world at twilight, the most beautiful time of day. The event took place over 24 hours, chasing twilight across different time zones with teams of amateur and professional photographers and film-makers capturing the action.

The challenge in producing this event was unlike anything else we had faced before. First, this idea spanned the globe. Second, consumers were actively driving, participating in and capturing the events themselves. Finally, the number of different companies involved in this project was on a scale far greater than any previous Sony campaign we had worked on.

To kick things off, we worked with Smart Fusion (an events company) to find seven extraordinary football locations around the world, each one spectacular, unique and distinctive, to create a palette of fantastic photographic landscapes.

Once the locations were select-ed, we needed to design pitches. The brief was straightforward: let each pitch sit seamlessly in its landscape.

This wasn't especially difficult given that most of the locations, such as ice-capped mountains in Zermatt, Switzerland or the Pinnacles Desert near Perth in Western Australia, were naturally spacious.

However, despite having to actually build a pitch that floated in the mouth of the Grand Canal in front of St Mark's Square for the Venice shoot, it was Tintagel in Cornwall that proved the trickiest.

This was due to the fact that the grassy knoll chosen was massively misshapen for a football pitch and that, more worryingly, one side of the area was just a sheer drop into the sea. This was made even scarier by the driving rain and fog on the day. Suffice to say, there was a significant loss of balls at that location - but, luckily, no players.

Obviously, as would be expected, with seven shoots taking place, there were seven times more things to go wrong. And they did, with the weather playing a major part, as well as local wildlife.

The pitch at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina was designed to be constructed with half of it stretching into the falls - however, when water levels rose to such a dangerous degree, the location had to be abandoned completely.

The production team relocated to a local indigenous community where, upon the promise of free footballs, the local chief agreed to host the match.

At the Aquila game reserve in South Africa, the local crew were trapped in their trucks for an hour on construction day, trying to avoid three feisty rhinos that took exception to the pitch being built within their usual watering hole.

Sandstorms and kangaroos hindered the crew in the Pinnacles Desert; while, in the mountains, where the pitch was located on a glacier, the team discovered two of the players suffered from vertigo and had never been in a cable car or a ski lift before, let alone played football on a peak 3,200 metres above sea level.

In addition to the lead creative team, Ben Beazley and Kyla Elliott, Fallon provided a creative and a producer in each location to manage the creative vision - with Juan Cabral taking charge in Argentina.

Once event day came, the professional documentary and photography crews were in place to capture them all and we commissioned John Hardwick at Helen Langridge Associates to lead a team of cameramen in each location.

On the day of the shoot itself, the ever-changing conditions led to interesting developments and some stunning shots.

In Zermatt, there was so much sunshine that the snow began to melt; while, at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the heavens opened and torrential rain turned the pitch into a Glastonbury-like quagmire.

Meanwhile, at the Aquila game reserve in South Africa, the animals were involved again when two elephants had to be coaxed away from the pitch by rangers.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this global production challenge was the sharing of obstacles and triumphs between teams all around the world in one 24-hour period.

The baton was passed from producer to producer and cameraman to cameraman as we chased twilight from time zone to time zone. Each producer would announce kick-off to the rest of the global team and signal when their production was almost complete.

As thousands of stunning images were taken, one described the experience as "deliciously difficult".

- Nicky Barnes is the head of film production at Fallon.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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