Nike - Giannis Antetokounmpo Graffiti

Shot exclusively with S Y R P

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Client : NIKE

Artist :

Same Chris

To celebrate in the most awe inspiring way the great achievement of the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who became the first Greek player to take part in the NBA All Star Game. His rapid evolution into an international basketball star and his amazing personality called for an activation that would reflect both the magnitude of his talent and the pride of all Greek people for his success story. Sepolia, the neighbourhood where Giannis grew up and played basketball as a young boy, became the epicentre and the specific court was covered with an epic graffiti designed by the artist Same84. The graffiti showcased Giannis in a classic ready-to-dunk move in his Milwaukee Bucks outfit. The project execution took 3 days and was carefully designed so as the court could be fully functional after the graffiti would be completed. The whole process was time-lapsed. The final design was celebrated with 3 hero shots  from above that were distributed to the social media, achieving major reach through publics and becoming a trending topic within only a few hours.

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At that moment I was up in the mountains abroad shooting some footage for my project after Greek Skies II had been cancelled (due to personal decision and postponed for 2019). I took the first plane and landed to Athens Greece.
Imagine me with 6 month beard, no haircut whatsoever and only winter clothes 🙂 

A proper Yeti!
Imagine me with 6 month beard, no haircut whatsoever and only winter clothes 🙂 A proper Yeti!

With me i had 3 bags of my equipment and all my Syrp Gear except the Slingshot missing from the total. (What is in my bag)

Syrp has been my sponsor for Greek Skies II which as mentioned above has been postponed to 2019 and I must say a company that anyone would love to work with.

Not just for the equipment but also for the understanding and the human part that characterises all their team, especially when it comes to obstacles and problems. I got to give it to them, they are more than just a sponsor and helpful.

I hope Greek Skies II in 2019 will compensate for all the lost time and obstacles of 2018.

2017 NBA All-Star game

Giannis Antetokounmpo opens up on his rise to superstardom, making his first NBA All-Star appearance on 19th Feb 2017 that would be lining up alongside LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler!

NIKE is calling Yard for an “URGENT PROJECT”

They decided to surprise Giannis with a short timelapse video painting the court that Giannis used to play and learned basketball in Athens with a huge graffiti of himself.

The Video would play on the NBA Premiere 2017 ... you can imagine the stress when the company that was hired for the project told me "We have 3 days, can you make it happen?”

My reply was very quick “For Giannis h*ll yeah I can”.
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Who is Giannis

Here you can check Giannis' history as NIKE states Came Out of Nowhere 🙂
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BTS

So here I am in Athens in the basketball court that Giannis grew up, a company between me and Nike and a premiere in the next 5 days across the Globe taking place, and not just a premiere, the NBA ALL STAR premiere!

The time lapses had to be short intense and I had to cover 3 corners on the ground and 3 on top from different buildings (5-6th + floor buildings) as the graffiti artist would go from place to place.
Late that night we all met and co ordinated of how much time we need each and everyone of us and in the end to make this all align and be on time when every step of the graffiti would take flesh and bones.

Me? One person 3 cameras, 4 Magic Carpets, 4 Genie Mini, 2 Genies, 2 L brackets for 3 axis, 6 tripods. That's all but one man to handle all of it. The toughest part? I had no assistant as it was all last minute and had to empty cards, run up and down to each and every building and camera, backup the cards and on my lunch break edit, render LRTimelapse, Lightroom and more… Yes you read it correctly… Mission impossible? Perhaps..

Day 1

In the morning I started setting up my ground setups for panning action. The usual KIT that kinda helped me a lot was:
1) A Genie mini on a Genie with a ballhead and a D810 with 70-200 f/2.8 on a Magic Carpet in the corner of the basketball court
2)Same setup on the other side with a D7200 16-35 f/4.0
3)On the roof across the street above the basketball court a D7200 static
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Day 2

Is the day that I realise HOW MUCH i needed a slingshot! So my setup was not enough as I wanted to have a pass over the whole basketball court and couldn’t do it. I made so many calls and in the whole Athens photo shops there was not even one slingshot available! So I had to improvise.

I decided to go crazy, borrow one of the cranes available in the court and some plastic cable ties (40cm) to be able and stabilise my tripod on top of the basketball backboard and setup on it the following setups

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1)A Genie Mini with a ballhead and a D810 with 24-70 f/2.8 on an L bracket by Syrp that would simply tilt up and down.
2)Same setup on the other side with a D7200 16-35 f/4.0 but for panning left to right
3)On the roof across the street above the basketball court a D7200 static with 2 Genie Mini and L bracket for 3-axis to try the crazy shot of shooting across the court the Acropolis and on the way down and left to the centre of the court the moment that the graffiti artist would sign with spray the end of the masterpiece. That would happen the next afternoon to night (golden hour). I will elaborate more on this scene later on.

Day 3

The setups are more focused on getting footage around the court and 2 cameras on top of the roof of a building across the basketball court. Here are the setups for the whole day. Important is that this is the day I would shoot the 3axis (Acropollis - Signature of the graffiti in the centre of the court) :

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1)On the roof across the street above the basketball court a D810 with 2 Genie Mini and L bracket for 3-axis.
2) A Genie mini on a Genie with a ballhead and a D810 with 16-35 f/4.0 & 24-70 f/2.8 on a Magic Carpet in each side of the basketball court on two tripods trying to mimic pass over (slingshot)
3)Same setup on the other side with a D7200 16-35 f/4.0
4) On the roof across the street above the basketball court a D7200 static with a 200-500mm f/5.6 for the Acropolis shot.
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Now let's get technical and in between I will try to give you any advice possible that I learnt the hard way from my mistakes in order to be helpful for you in any of your future projects. At the same time I will be reviewing the gear trying to be as less technical as possible for people who either have some experience with time-lapse gear or for those ones who are thinking on getting their hands on some new gear.

Ever since 2017 got my hands on Syrp products it was love at first sight. Easy, lightweight and more important a very cool app that would allow me to be far away and shoot safely without risking shaking and more. While shooting Greek Skies II, I realised the privilege of shooting remotely but at the same time I realised what was needed to make it more awesome.

For this project I will mention all the advantages and disadvantages in and out of it as a project. The setup of a simple Genie & Genie Mini on a Magic Carpet couldn’t be much easier. Took me less than 4 minutes to have it up and running. (watch my short video below).

What helped me a lot is the practise at home. You must always, always, always do a test before you leave home, office, hotel, any trip. Make sure your equipment works and connects between them and your mobile, tablet or laptop, even a very tiny screw or some tape or a second rope. Trust me when I say that such a small thing as a small screw or an adaptor of a wire can mess the whole thing up and end up not getting the scene. You don’t need any surprises while on the set or out on the mountains in the cold and away from support. You simply don’t wanna ruin everything.

Take this from my experience when being on a mountain remote so far away from civilisation and my plate of my Magic Carpet was denying to collaborate and was stacking. Disassembling it in the cold and trying to assemble it, googling with limited signal how to’s, etc… I simply lost good scenes, money, trip, not to mention that I had to wait for the next month to be able to shoot the milky way again! Why? Cause I simply didn’t check it before I left home.

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Of course emailing Syrp (which was more than helpful) sending me out a new replacement, DID save the next month but the logistics were really off the roof to attempt it again. So don't forget to test the equipment, check everything always twice before anything and if possible days before your planned shooting.

Having a company who provides the best support is the most important thing even from the product itself. And being loyal to the product is always compensating as the relationship becomes strong and is built on trust. Don't be a train jumper cause that will simply never stop and will kill your creativity.

So back to the Nike project.

Setting up the 2 axis couldn’t be much easier as mentioned above. The trick was to be able to calculate the time the graffiti artist and his assistant needed to travel from one point to the other while taking into account the light around me. It was cold, sunny with clouds and that would affect my exposure a lot.

At the same time (and that is something I didn’t know until that moment) I had to have all the time in the frame the artists who, guess what, they don’t follow a certain way of painting the floor. They can either draw the main lines, or fill color around them to be ready for the main fill or make corrections based on a projector that projects the diagram of the graffiti! Yeap… you will see in some of my footage that I will post below, me missing some shots due to this misalignment.

The segment video on the right is a 1800 frames sequence that makes a 58 second time-lapse. I had to be co ordinating with the artist constantly and see if the paint was wet or dry and the layers would be in his sequence matching my panning. That was due to the fact that the sun (and shadows as you can see in the video) was constantly changing due to cloud cover. Do not forget it was still winter time.

The application of Syrp is an easy 1-2-3 step way that can either make your life easy or sometimes hard to near impossible while I was shooting this project. I was facing the issue (that was just later resolved with the 2.8.0 firmware update) where the Genie was dropping off in Pan Track or 3Axis operation and I couldn’t believe my luck. That was happening with only one of my kits and that was the good news. The bad news was that I had to reset both genie minies of the one kit and my app. Since I had to kill my app on the same device I was using for another shot I was losing track of that one as well. It was not suggested that by anyone but since I had already discovered that if I leave alone a KIT shooting and go far away (losing connection) and coming back again after some time, my iPhone would still connect and see the exact status of the kit shooting, then why not.

That was awesome ! Well yes, but since the bug on the one kit was making me kill the app, somehow it wouldn’t connect to the other kit and check the status 🙁 What though made it work again, was if i would switch off everything and reconnect, camera also, genie, genie mini and iPhone. Miracles do happen. To make the story short, the hard time the one kit gave me, cost me valuable time from the whole workflow but what could I do. Thank God the v2.8 came out really soon and everything was resolved after that.

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Something I had never tried before though was the setup on top of the basketball backboard. What I did was simple. I used the L plate of the 3axis kit with the one genie mini. I simply mounted it on my tripod and on the left side of the L bracket I used a genie mini for tilting one of my cameras that would follow the shadow and the graffiti artist from the far away post to the ground straight below it. I had to somehow cheat a bit the settings as the genie was understanding that the whole thing was not levelled and was already tilting and initially there was no way to avoid the application from stoping you and telling you that you cannot tilt more down you are in red area. So what I did was that I didn't mount the L bracket on the 3 spots aligned and voila! That was one of the moments that I couldn't wait for a future update in software that would allow me to be able and set it up even while tilting.

The genie mini although in tilting load is at 3kg cantered, I found it doing extremely well as it was not cantered but already the tripod was tilting straight ahead and the total weight of the kit camera plus lens was at 2,7kgrs. Really really astonished how it handled the scene!

What though really was awesome was the battery on them I went straight ahead two days or around 34 hours shooting time lapses non stop before charging them! I couldn’t believe it.

I remember having a battery problem back while shooting Greek Skies II where the genie minis would start themselves (probably the button was being pushed by accident in the bags with the rest of the equipment) and when I was arriving at location the batteries were draining out so fast that had to use some battery packs even while shooting. I remember myself emailing the Syrp team and complaining a lot about this and also having bought plastic boxes to keep them from being turned on accidentally. Guess what was the problem… of course the fact that they were working in the cold of around -14C and of course the battery was draining so fast. If not this then I don’t know what, since in this project the same genie mini’s went on for 34 hours straight!

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Lets move to the magic scene of the 3 axis Acropolis to the centre of the basketball court!

That was the moment that I wished I had the key frames and ramping that we have now in the new Syrp app! Why? It is very simple. As you can see on the video below (initial test during day) the Acropolis was at the horizon at around 40 degrees to the west (as I was seeing the basketball court below me from the top of the roof of that building) and the court was straight ahead of me 10 floors down. The setup was easy. I can point to the Acropolis, calculate the time I had arranged with the graffiti artist (that he would be finishing the graffiti at the dead centre of the basketball court) and the camera would have panned tilted at that time there! Correct?

Therefore I had to improvise shoot with telephoto lens the Acropolis and then blend in (in post edit) a zoom out pan and tilt the scenes as necessary to make it look nice. The ramping though was a fact that either I would have used qDslr dashboard, or timelapse+ which effective immediately wouldn’t allow me to control my Mini Genies or use exposure smoothing within Nikon’s menu.

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Not really! As good as DoP you might be and as good (see video below) you have imagined and planned your scenes, you have also limitations that put to a stop everything.

You see the route that my Syrp Kit would follow is linear and that route would spend a lot of time shooting (towards the centre of the court) on an ugly building in front of me. Had I have the keyframes of the new app or Genie 2, I would simply shoot the amazing Acropolis being lightened up during sunset and (ramping).

I would make certain keyframes 1 and 2 (see video) while tilting down to follow a very nice and beautiful street taking in the car lights leaving nice trails and then pan it to the left (keyframe 3 and 4 see video below) to see the centre of the basketball court. That would have been an ideal scene. (see images)

In the end the media company that hired me decided to cut off this scene (as was mission impossible in edit) and shorten it a bit. To be honest a year after, looking back, after a long period of 3 surgeries and 12 months off the game, I really hope to get my hands soon on the new Syrp Genie 2 and see what I can do with it in Greek Skies II. It would be amazing as half of the material is already shot with Genie I and half would be with Genie II. That would be a very interesting turn and mission impossible-scenes will be a breeze.

The next day found me being almost running up and down to co ordinate everything and with many unpredicted incidents and trying not to drop the ball. From communications with the company reps down on the court while being up on the top floor of the building, with delays on supplies (paint), with the lights of Acropolis for that and only day being delayed and so on. Regardless what the footage had already exceeded for these 3 days the size of 1,2TB and the rendering and exporting 8K 3 axis time-lapse the size of 90GB! Of course to my surprise Nike is Nike, companies are companies and the end result of the video had to be shortened even more to match the NBA Premiere air time that was allocated for it and so the 3axis scene wasn’t in it. Instead there was a drone scene which was equally astonishing.

Uncut scenes

Thoughts

In general after this marathon project and with so intense deadlines here are my thoughts :

 

  1. Always have reliable equipment
  2. Never forget to double check your equipment before every trip
  3. Make sure you always have spare parts NO MATTER WHAT
  4. Be ready for the unthinkable
  5. Plan before hand every scene and run it as many times as possible in your mind and paper
  6. Have PLAN B for any case scenario. Take my example. I didn’t have a slingshot and had to improvise. Do I wish I had it? Yes. Did I have it? No. 
  7. Ensure that if everything goes wrong, it will be you who has to save the day. Acropolis scene taught me a valuable lesson. The day we wanted most the lights didn’t come up.
  8. Have extra batteries at your disposal. Do NOT take as granted that you will have access to a power bank or source. Things break down and equipment can go wrong the very last moment. Do not lose that shot.
  9. Learn from your mistakes. I learned from mine with the -14C and my batteries draining and more.
  10. Don’t blame the equipment. It is a  machine after all. Be prepared and make things work even when they tend not to want to work.
  11. Have faith. Regardless your ups and downs even if that is surgeries, injuries, bad luck whatever the reason, in the end what matters most is be healthy and rise up again. It doesn’t matter how many times you fell down but how many you rose up.

 

A few words on Syrp Genie,Mini,Carpet.

 

I believe, today that I am writing this, and having seen Genie II, Genie I and Genie mini are still an amazing motion control kit to have regardless what.

The fact that I can break it in 3 and have 3 cameras at the same time on each of them time lapsing or video is astonishing. Imagine this, you have on the Genie a camera tracking on the magic carpet, a second camera on the genie mini panning and a third one vertical. You are getting 3 scenes out of 1 KIT! How amazing is this? 

 

Asking myself if I would love to have the Genie II? Big yes duh! But would I give up my old KIT ? NO WAY! Genie II has amazing capabilities that I envy and I wish I had during this project, starting from the keyframes to ramping etc. No question asked hands down is far better. But in the end of the day the old KIT is a MUST-HAVE in my bag. Not just for the reasons above that I mentioned but also for the size, battery life and everything. Even when I am not on work, I still have it in the car with a camera and a 16-35mm lens just in any case.

 

It can be useful from documentaries, to sports, to landscape, to astrophotography, nightscape, seascape and more the list can go on and on…In my upcoming film I will have the opportunity to show you how I used it during 2017 and how I improvised on getting some scenes. Sometimes I had to put a genie mini on the tripod itself and mount a wire on the bullhead over it to pull my camera. Unorthodox ? Yes 100%. Did it work? You will be the judge of that soon.

 

I also know that the guys in Syrp are working hard to make the new featured of the app (keyframes) available for the old KIT as well. Once they succeed there will be no need for upgrade. Of course that’s what always is my main argument, when you have faith to the product and the people behind it, eventually it will come through no matter what.

 

Keep shooting, even when periods are rough (as was for me 2018) and keep storing your footage in 3 separate disks. One day (like this) you will be able to show your work and publish it and be proud of it.

 

The Film The final product for NIKE