Case Study: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

We got the chance to once again play in the established worlds built by Sony Pictures. Last time was with sharks in apartments. This time, we got to toy with the Jumanji franchise and how the lines were blurred between video games and reality in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

The adventure-comedy is a movie for the whole family — a wild success. Our challenge was to keep that profitable momentum going and to create spots that sell the Blu-ray/DVD. These spots needed to be story-driven, immersive and focused on the family movie night aspect. Today, we’ll go through our entire process from ideation to finishing. It’s time for another case study.

 

Ideation
It started off with a call from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Essentially, they knew that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (in this case study, henceforth referred to as Jumanji) was a huge hit and they wanted to capitalize on that success. Due to the unpredictability of how these movies will land with audiences, we were tasked to get them ideas with some hustle. We shopped out the project to our list of creative — each one sent in multiple ideas that would be compiled along with the ideas from our in-house team.

Our master list included nearly 50 concepts, which were gathered over the course of a week and a half. That’s the advantage of a democratized process — we get so many varied and wonderful ideas from our creatives. We never get stuck into a one-track thought or hung up on one idea. A range of voices is a blessing.

After we submitted our treatments, Sony honed in on their approach: emphasize the family appeal, irreverent comedy, and immersive storytelling. After revisions, eventually, Sean Davé’s ideas were greenlit and he would direct both spots. Davé explains, “We knew from the get-go that we wanted the spots to bring part of the ‘Jumanji world’ into reality. So each spot took some aspect from the movie—like the strengths/weaknesses, or the Jumanji jewel—and thrust them into the ‘real world.’

 

Pre-Production
The pre-production phase is all about getting your ducks in a row in order to have the smoothest shoot day possible. Sometimes you have time constraints that expedite the process, but that’s why we hire the best professionals in Nashville. Tameron Hedge, who’s worked on a number of Revolution projects over the years, came on as producer.

Next, Sean developed the storyboards and, with Ellie Sights (production manager), began the casting process. The shooting schedule was ambitious yet doable. Due to the time constraints, we would have to shoot both spots in one day — shooting one spot in the morning and the other after lunch. We’re lucky to have been here for 20 years and know all of the best places to rent gear, crew up, and location scout. They’re as talented as anyone you can find in LA or NYC.

To recap: that’s 10 setups, 5 actors, 2 locations and 1 day. Challenge accepted.

Production
In order to get everything filmed, production started at the crack of dawn. It was a gray, cold morning that filled your lungs with crisp, cold air. On set, there was hot coffee and warm breakfast sandwiches that were especially welcome. The crew showed up with all of the gear and started to load into the first location — lights, grip gear, cameras, and dolly tracks.

Sean and Chris Adams, the cinematographer, walked around and discussed the shooting schedule ahead of them while crew members buzzed around them. Sean and Chris have worked on several projects together, including Audio-Technica, the Nobody Trashes Tennessee campaign, and a couple Pentatonix music videos. They have a symbiotic working relationship that allows them to anticipate each other’s moves and aids their visual storytelling capabilities. As Chris directs the lighting and camera department, Sean works with the actors to draw the best performances.

This project was different from others because we could film both of our spots on location. We needed to find places that felt authentic and lived-in without overwhelming the spot. Our desires were met when we found two adjacent townhomes in North Nashville. Interestingly, our location was located next to a convent. On the shoot day, a few nuns on their morning and afternoon walks came by the shoot and asked what we were doing. They were intrigued and pleasant.

When asked about the production day logistics, Sean said, “On the shoot day itself, we lit and shot the daytime ‘Living Room’ spot during the first half of the day. Then, the G&E team moved over to the second house location, to start blacking out the windows and lighting for night (all while we were filming the first spot). After we broke for lunch, we went back in and shot the ‘Weakness’ spot until we wrapped, while parts of the crew tore down the first set. Everyone on our cast & crew killed it that day — it was one of the more complex shoots I’ve done, and honestly it ended being one of the smoothest, too. We even wrapped 5 minutes early!”

 

Post-Production
When you dig into the post process, you always end up with a product that is different from the one you imagine––in the best possible way. One reason why we feel that Sony Pictures continues to come back to our services is that we can accomplish any need in-house. In regards to post-production, we have it all. We executed the edit, VFX, sound design, color, and finishing all in our office with Joel Robertson (VFX), Cody Twitchell (Sound Design), Perry Trest (color and finishing) and Sean Davé overseeing it all.

Robertson worked his magic with glowing jewels, falling debris, and explosions. The technique behind the green jewel was to place a tennis ball on the coffee table in front of the family and set up a green practical light to establish the glow. Then, Robertson rendered the jewel on top of the tennis ball, as well as made it fly through the air. To emulate the actor falling through the ceiling, we shot the actor jumping up as high as he could and “crashing” back down on the couch. Robertson moved the actor up in the frame digitally to make it seem like he crashed through the ceiling — adding in CG debris for exaggerated effect. For the explosion, we just needed to film the actor dropping the Blu-ray case as if he exploded, then captured plates of the set without the actor. Then… BOOM! Exploding guy.

The two spots are robust, crisp, and packed with good comedic timing to entice consumers to check out Jumanji on Blu-ray. Cody Twitchell created precise and inventive sound design — he even replicated the sound effect of when characters from the film “die” and “respawn.” Then, both projects went to Perry Trest and his digital crayon set for the color. The idea was to make the colors natural, but to bring out the more vibrant hues to make the spots pop (like the green color at the end of the Family spot).

Results
Our collaborative effort with Sony has been another rewarding experience. Our combined capability to turn around ideas and produce quality content always impresses. It turns out that, at the time of this case study, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is Sony Pictures’ most profitable film, even beating out Spider-man. Their Blu-ray/DVD discs debuted at Number 1 for the week of March 24th. Also, it’s been reported that 58% of their total units sold is comprised of their Blu-ray/DVD discs (Variety).

We’re not claiming absolute responsibility for that success — clearly, there have been other pieces of advertising contributing to that impressive number. However, we’re proud to have been a part of that successful campaign alongside Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The two spots are phenomenal, out-of-the-box stories that showcase a great product without solely relying on edited movie footage. We need to thank the entire cast, crew, and creative team at Sony Pictures for another successful project.

We seek to create even more compelling, story-driven content for brands such as Sony Pictures. Our Spring/Summer months are looking to generate more exciting challenges in how we connect brands and audiences.

 

By Benton Olivares