A social media moment is fleeting. Content enjoys a split second of life in which to capture and engage a viewer before it is lost forever in the scroll. To create eye-catching content in an ever more competitive landscape, brands are increasingly turning to broadcast-quality content creators for stimulating content, bold enough to stop the scroll.
As the video marketing content agency of choice for household name brands including; Dolby, Axe, Leatherman, and Homedics, Detroit-based Nice Shirt Media create everything from television commercials and online webisodes to complete digital campaigns.
Chief Creative Officer, Garrett Sammons explains how Nice Shirt Media put their specialist digital content skills into creating eye-popping content for a social campaign featuring Adidas Originals’ NMD_R1 V2 sneaker. Using Litepanels Gemini 1x1 Soft RGBWW LED panels, they used the bold, saturated output to create a very specific look.
“Everything that is old is new again,” says Garrett, “now the early to mid-nineties look with bold neon colors and chunky graphics is very much in vogue. We took inspiration from classics of the time including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Space Jam, really leaning into sneaker culture of the era. A big component of successful content is understanding the audience. We then needed to find a balance between that retro feel and the really polished look expected today”.
With a very bright and vibrant colored shoe, Garrett wanted the visuals needed to match, deciding to use VFX to create a distinctive tape deck tracking effect with the shoe rotating to highlight different parts. “It would ping-pong around the screen like the old DVD logo screen saver,” says Garrett. “I wanted to create that look but we didn’t have the budget for a motion-control robotic arm which is really what you would use for this type of shoot,” he says, “so I knew the visual effects were going to be really important which is why we ended up going with the blue screen. That way we could comp the shoe out and do all of the camera twisting and turning in post as well as adding individual tape effects and chromatic aberration and delay to different layers within the composition to create the final look.”
“The RGB mode is in the Gemini 1x1 Soft lights is great,” says Garrett, “specifically for what we are doing with chromakey. I was able to dial in blue and be sure that all of the lights were blasting 100% true blue so that it was easy to key off of the sensor. We could also color-match RGB values from the colors of the sneaker to dial in very specific colors for background color gradients. The biggest problem I’ve had with RGB lights until using Gemini, is the color accuracy varies depending on the hue and color you’re dialling in. Also, the intensity of the light varies where certain colors are brighter than others, so depending on what color you dial in, you also have to adjust the intensity of the light.
One of the great things about Gemini is that the output is consistent no matter where I put my color values.” He adds, “I’ve used lights before that – depending on where you place the color - the CRI value drops incredibly and then your skin tones get all messed up and it looks terrible. For the first couple of months of using the Gemini I’d meter everything to make sure I was getting the values I needed, but after a while of seeing consistent accuracy from the Gemini lights I lean on my color meter a lot less.”
“The lightweight is incredible,” says Garrett, “we flew a Gemini overhead with a lantern on it and it was still light enough to use on a boom so I didn’t have to get a Mini Max out to do any serious grip rigging just to get the light overhead.” Adding, “Once it was up there, having the Bluetooth dongle meant I could control the light from my iPhone with the Litepanels SmartLite Director app and not have to bring it down, change settings, and send it back up, so it’s extremely versatile.” On light shaping tools, Garrett says, “With Gemini you are not limited by the accessories that you are with other panel lights. With those you are usually limited to barn doors, a softbox and maybe an egg crate.” For the Adidas shoot, in addition to the 3’ lantern with a skirt overhead, Garrett used a honeycomb and softbox on another Gemini and two more with barn doors to sculpt the light and prevent spill.
We had so many accessories we could use for the same light to get different looks out of one light, and that is different from any panel I’ve used before.”
One feature of the Gemini 1x1 Soft that came in especially useful for Garrett on this shoot was the flicker free output at any framerate, intensity or shutter angle. Perfect for slow motion shooting. “Working with LED lights in the past, you have to play this game of adjusting your shutter angle to match the flicker rate of the lights that you are using,” says Garrett, “the problem with that is you lose control. We had a couple of slow-motion shots for this piece that we filmed at 120fps to create a kaleidoscope effect with confetti.
When you are shooting that fast it’s really important to have control over your shutter angle to preserve as much detail as possible with the least motion blur. If you have to prioritise your shutter angle to the flicker to get usable footage rather than prioritising your shutter angle to the content to get the cleanest possible footage you lose control. So, having flicker free lights at any frame rate is absolutely crucial. The Gemini 1x1 delivers that stability, it’s just one of many constraints that you normally have to work around that are just automatically done for you when shooting with Gemini.”
I am by far a more effective cinematographer now, and don’t have nearly the amount of downtime between setups, Gemini has made my world so much easier to get very complex and stylised looks.