Utoka Goes to Bat for Live-Action/CG Spot
March 7, 2018

Utoka Goes to Bat for Live-Action/CG Spot

UTÖKA, an end-to-end creative company, blended live-action footage with seamless, photoreal CGI and motion graphics for a multi-platform spot showcasing the cutting-edge technology behind Mizuno Maxcor, Mizuno's high-performance baseball bat.

Mizuno, a high-end global sporting goods company, called on the Atlanta-based studio to create a stylish spot that showcased the features and technology behind the new aluminum Maxcor bat. UTÖKA’s full range of live-action production, CGI, motion graphic and editorial service were tapped to create a video geared to high school, college and traveling baseball players who want to take their game to the next level. 

Director, editor and photographer Ken Soons, along with Ed Dye, UTÖKA's CCO, took Mizuno’s internal creative down to its core idea to truly highlight the bat. The original concept was to be shot on location at a baseball stadium, but the creative team and the client agreed that the scale would distract from Mizuno's technology-driven message and not be practical given their budget and deadline.

UTÖKA's team presented a creative alternative. They honed down the message to its key points and developed a visual story with a minimalistic approach and intensity that focuses the viewers on the forward-thinking engineering and features designed to up their game. The team collaborated with John Petri, creative director of Mizuno USA, and Manny Marquez, art director for Baseball/Softball and Volleyball at Mizuno to refine the concept. 

The scenario called for live footage of a batter going through his paces, as well as imagery of the interior of the product, revealing the components of the unique engineering and the innovative technology behind its enhanced features. 

Soons, also an accomplished veteran editor, brought the insights of an editor's eye to the project. The complement of skill sets enabled him to go into the production knowing exactly what shots he needed, maximizing the efficiency of the shoot, and saving time on the post end as well.  

“My background in post is always helpful on shoots,” says Soons. “It enables me to know precisely what I’ll need to put the final video together. It also allows me to collaborate closely with our CGI and effects team and maintain a seamless workflow.”  

The video was shot in UTÖKA's in-house studio in one day on an ARRI Alexa mini camera with Cooke S4 Prime lenses. The entire set was painted black to create the look of a nighttime game. Soons worked with director of photography Jeff Dillon to create the dramatic feel of the dark background that draws the eye to the product. 

Mizuno's engineers provided UTÖKA's team with a Maxcor bat, split in half, exposing its high-tech infrastructure. The team photographed the features from all angles ensuring the accuracy of the CGI. Carvallo created photoreal replications that seamlessly matched the video and photography, using Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D. Soons then edited, and color graded the footage using a mix of equipment, including Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and DaVinci Resolve. 

The spot opens with a baseball player in full gear, exiting the bullpen, selecting a Maxcor bat and heading onto the field. Standing over the plate, he gets into batting stance and takes a warm-up swing. A succession of design elements and statistical data builds the technology-driven feel of the video.

Tight shots of the batter's face beaded with sweat convey his intensity and photoreal CGI reveals the interior of the bat's pioneering engineering. At the same time, callouts identify key features of the bat, such as “dynamic damper reduces vibration,” “two-piece construction composite handle, reduces weight and vibration,” “hot metal with Coretech,” “VP sleeve creates backspin for increased distance.”

The exterior of the CGI bat rotates to highlight the “63% larger sweet spot.” The camera pulls back creating a smooth transition between the CGI world and the shot footage just as the bat makes contact with the ball and it takes flight. The spot closes with the tag phrase, “Details Matter,” followed by the Mizuno logo and website address.

“Seeing the project through from start to finish really helped on the back-end workflow,” adds Soons. 

“Knowing the exact lighting set up we would be using in the studio on set, which allowed us to mimic that look in post for seamless matching of the real and CGI elements.”

UTÖKA handled the job from concept through delivery, completing every element of the project in-house except for audio. The creative agency teamed up with Circus Act’s Nikos Mavrommatis, who created the sound design and mixed the audio.

"This was a challenging project that tapped the full scope our services,” adds Michael Zarrillo, CEO. “UTÖKA’s ability to come up with strategic and creative solutions to deliver on our clients’ needs, even when budgets are tight, and expectations and asks are high, is what makes this team amazing."

The Mizuno spot is slated to run on social media, the company's website and integrated into a marketing campaign.