A movie action resource for filmmakers.
In honor of today’s Super Bowl and Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl Facebook $1Million contest winner last year, “Sling Baby,” I thought I’d start off with a description of the behind the scenes rigging for the spot, which can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/34549557.
For any of you who have worked with babies, they don’t act, they only react. So if a baby looks happy it means he is actually happy. And if an unhappy baby appears in a video, all the moms in the world are going to wonder what you did to that baby. So, of utmost importance to the success of the commercial and the hopes of winning the hearts of America and the USA Today Ad Meter folks, the baby had to be happy. Now most stunt harnesses are not comfy and a not-comfy baby is an unhappy baby. The harness we used actually came with the jumper and I modified it with 1/8″ tech-12 line to suspend the baby and allow for puppeteering and a layer of firm foam to pad the baby.
One of the safety concerns was to support the baby at all times because chaos reigns on a set and it was not wise to trust the granny actor who was learning to pilot an electric wheelchair backwards with a baby on her arm. The solution was to have a dedicated person on the end of a line that ran through pulleys rigged to the rafters above the baby. If anything happened, that person would prevent the baby from falling. These lines, of course, require removal by the visual effects person using a process called rotoscoping.
The blue strap that “attached” the baby to the springs actually went through pulleys to an equalizer (floating pulley) and a five pound weight, so that an even tension was always on each strap to create the illusion of the stretch that would slingshot the baby toward the bully. I’ll post a sketch of the rigging tomorrow.
All the baby action involving the granny was shot real time, but the flying of the baby was shot against greenscreen the following day. All of the flying movement of the baby was created either by the camera moving on a dolly, by puppeteers manipulating the orientation of the baby, or in post manipulating the baby through the plate shots by traveling the baby image through the frame, right to left for example, and gradually increasing the size to give the illusion of the baby approaching the camera.
The shot of the granny releasing the baby required two shots; the granny holding a pose without the baby and opening her arm fast, and the baby being puppeteered from vertical to horizontal. I don’t remember if the thumb grabbing the Doritos bag was manipulated in post, but the final shot of the baby raising the chip actually happened, followed by cheers from the crew.
It was a challenging shoot because the child labor laws only gave us two hour windows with the baby twice a day. Both parents and the studio teacher were behind camera with toys to draw the attention of the baby and give him actions to mimic.
Hope you liked the spot. If you have any questions, ask them in a comment and I’ll respond.