The game of Baseball has an inherent complexity that can be described as an art form. Strokes of dexterity, imagination, and technique come together as a beautiful exhibit on the American sport canvas, resulting in a yearly master piece during the Fall, where the Playoffs show their boldest colors.
This metaphor was the engine for my idea for the MLB Network Post-Season Opener. A teaser designed to go on-air right before each of the playoff games on the MLB Network. The purpose of these openers was to engage the audience into the anticipation and excitement of the playoff games, to anchor them to the event through relatable content.
This creative process lead to the conceptualization of “Fall Colors”. A piece where we combined art and baseball in the form of graffiti. The street art approach was chosen to bring a fresh, youthful, tone to the piece. Driven by a dub-step original music score, and a fast editorial cut, complemented with surrealistic animations.
The idea called for five of the best portrait graffiti artists from New York City, an empty warehouse, and seven simultaneous cameras capturing the action. The coordination of the multiple elements on set was paramount, so pre- production was an intense and meticulous process.
Based on a rough preliminary script, I story-boarded the entire piece trying to establish the exact angles needed to tell the story. The piece started with a single graffiti artist getting ready to paint in a dramatic way, under an ominous music, and then, the moment that he pressed the spray valve, the music exploded into a modern beat. The action turned into a series of time lapses, of all artists painting on the warehouse walls, graffiti portraits of the main baseball players and logos of the teams involved in this years baseball playoffs.
I sat with Bill Winters, one of my all time favorite Directors of Photography, and we drafted a detailed schedule in order to capture all the artists, all the graffiti, all the different angles, and contextual footage needed for the final edit. With the shoot schedule and the storyboards, we needed to be finished within the 7 hours we had booked at the scouted warehouse.
The day of the shoot, the production team we put together at Good Kicks, did a pre-light of all the spaces, and during this time we shot empty plates of the clean walls that would later be used in post to clean up the visual effects. The street artists then started sketching the walls early in the morning, as the seven cameras where being setup for the time lapses and main scenes.
The day went on smooth, and all of the artists did the portraits in the time given (4 hours!). It was a day that required utmost discipline, and everyone on the team stepped up to the plate (see what I did here you baseball fans!). This was one of the most complex sets I’ve ever directed, with so many pieces in a puzzle happening at the same time.
In post, the edit portion was done by Bill Joel at MLB Networks, and later I took in into the Flame to do all the VFX comps and the finishing of the spot. To get everything done in time, I divided the spot into different tasks and distributed them to different animators. David Klinkowize worked the end 3D logo animation, my partners in Chile did the cel animation for the walls, while I worked on the overall Creative Direction and the finishing.
The music was composed by my talented friend Ulysses Millan (Hey! Studios) who was able to brilliantly create the intriguing initial mood of the piece, that later burst into a techno dub-step beat that fattened towards the end, in a maniac climax of color and sound.
The color grading was geared to the cinematic moody feel, creating expectation. The second half of the spot was pushed into the brighter pop tonalities, linking the images to the emotion of the music, and exposing a modern and youthful feel to the piece.
Thank you to MLB Network, Rob McGlarry and Chris Pfeiffer for trusting my work once again, and giving me the creative space to develop fun ideas for the network. Also a huge shoutout to Raphael Zurbarán, Jeff Enriquez, Eric Martínez, Vincent Ballentine, Mr Mustart, and Fumero for making it all happen with their incredible talent.
Here is the final On-Air opening tease… cheers!