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Taking Verizon into the Wild

Monday January 7th, 2013

by Honore Brown

Utah-based photographer Mike Tittel is no stranger to shooting in rugged, remote locations. He’s also extremely comfortable creating highly-produced and directed photography. This fall, wearing both of these hats simultaneously, Mike took on a major one-day advertising shoot for Verizon, put together by the folks at McCann Erickson Salt Lake City.

McCann knew exactly what they were after, and hungry for fresh talent, they found Mike’s work through a Google search for advertising photographers in Utah. It was clear that he would be an excellent fit for the job. After McCann reached out to Mike, he put together an estimate and had Wonderful Machine review it. Once approved, he moved on to production.

Mike on set.

The shoot, as envisioned, was multidimensional—it involved photographing a woman and child by a campfire at a wilderness location, a man at a desk, along with extensive post-production. McCann had very specific production requirements, hiring Mike to shoot both a national print ad, as well as all of the elements for a digital banner ad. Given the nature of the print side, each element would be shot separately on location, the ring CG would be managed by McCann’s CGI/3D artist, and the final layout would be handled by Ian Goode of the Seattle-based retouching house, Gigantic Squid.

The concept for the shoot was clear, but finding the right location would be Mike’s first order of business. The shoot needed to take place in the greater Salt Lake City area, with easy access for RV’s and production vehicles. Having extensive local knowledge of Utah’s Wasatch Front, Mike immediately came up with several possible locations. After some scouting, Mike found the perfect spot: Jordon Pines Campground, nestled in the Wasatch Mountains’ Big Cottonwood Canyon, about thirty minutes outside Salt Lake City. The location was a great fit, already closed for the season, and offering a huge meadow with plenty of room to set up the shot, as well as an editing bay.

The crew was assembled: producer Samantha Mitchell at ESEM Productions and her assistant, Mike’s right hand man, Gage, and two other assistants, hair and make-up artist Paula J. Dahlberg, and prop and wardrobe stylist Suzy Eaton and her team. Retoucher, Ian Goode was also flown in from Seattle so he could build comps in real time while Mike shot each individual element for the ad.

It was going to be one very long day! In the end, there were more than twenty people on set for the shoot. They began in the wee hours of the morning. As they were setting up a huge bull moose walked through the set—a big surprise for the folks who were a little less seasoned in the ways of the great outdoors.

Behind the scenes.

When all was said and done, it seemed clear that the shoot was a big success. Each element for the final ad was shot separately: background, tent, and the people by the fire, the fire, and the man at the desk. The campfire, and the lighting required to emulate its glow, was of particular importance. Mike had this to say about shooting the campfire: “A critical element of the final ad was the campfire but our location wouldn’t allow us to build a real one. It forced me to get creative and build a home-made light modifier to recreate the glow on our subjects/scene so all that was left up to the retoucher was to add the flames in post.”

The mobile editing bay.

Gigantic Squid handled all of the compositing. In addition to the assets from the shoot, they also incorporated background plates of the trees shot before the leaves had dropped that Mike had photographed while he was scouting. The 3D/CGI artist at McCann added a final element, the ring of devices around the man at the desk, in post.

You can see the finished image here:

View more of Mike’s work at miketittel.com.

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