Our team at DMAK Productions believe that there’s always room for something original. When Collins Aerospace called us with a video idea they had to market their new military radios, we knew we could bring our expertise to make something for them that will stand out in the crowd. We hashed out the scope of the project with the key stakeholders and began the planning process to shoot an ambitious commercial utilizing real soldiers and military equipment.
The first thought the team had was to use their military connections to film on an actual military base in southern Arizona. This idea was eventually squashed when the logistics were too tough to balance with actual military operations happening on the base so we had to look for other options. We held a location scout to look for potential places where we could pass an Arizona desert scene to look like a Middle East war zone and we came upon South Mountain in southern Phoenix.
It was the perfect spot to film with a barren desert and mountain backdrop, but there was a big problem with the fact that it was a popular hiking area. We couldn’t have military equipment there without the proper permits so we reached out to the Phoenix film office and acquired the paperwork and personel necessary to get the job done.
Next up was getting a military Hummer and setting the scene to seem like a real base camp. We searched around and found nothing locally so we had to turn to a specialized California rental company to ship in an armored M1114 Humvee with a turret outpost. Our art director was now tasked with bringing enough decor and flair to bring it all together, and he did not disappoint. With many phone calls and purchases later, we got our hands on a fake M-2 turret gun, some real M-16s, camo netting, pyrotechnics and a whole trailer full of other tricks and trinkets. With live fire arms it was a necessity to have members of the police department on set for safety as well as park rangers to keep the general public out of harms way.
The shoot was now officially scheduled, the crew in place, and permits and insurance secured. Now all of the planning was nearing completion with the story board agreed upon and the shooting schedule verified with all the necessary parties. The first day of filming was met with much anticipation. It was actually surprisingly cold when we arrived in the early morning before the sunrise at South Mountain. A lot was hinging on the Hummer arriving on time and luckily the 18 wheeler with the vehicle in tow made it without a problem. I thought they would actually drive the vehicle on the i-10 freeway to get it to the location but on second thought I’m glad they didn’t.
The crew got acquainted, and we started unloading in our canyon location as the makeup artist Dori was doing her thing “dirtying up” the talent to make them look war ready. We lucked out by having two real soldiers that were representing the company to volunteer as talent. Not only did they have knowledge of the hero product, but they also had an extensive feel for what soldiers would actually do in the field. Their input helped us stage the shots and pick the most realistic locations where things would occur.
Day one began with our military clients actually installing the radio inside of the humvee which took up a decent clip of time in the morning. Sam Woosley our photographer captured time lapses of the process and I grabbed some establishing drone shots of the rising sun against the mountain backdrop. By the afternoon we were chasing the setting sun and we had to rush to get our interview setup done in time before it disappeared behind the canyon walls.
Our lighting department lead by Tim Knight did an amazing job shaping natural light to get the most out of each setup. The art department lead by Ted Sorensen brought the grittiness to every setup, including a “Dust Gun” element to amp up the atmosphere which especially came in handy when we “hollywooded” some driving shots in a stationary position. The flares and explosives to emulate IEDs came in handy on day 2 when we did some running battle scenarios. Jakob Owens, the DP of the shoot, got some incredibly cinematic footage utilizing the RED Helium Camera and his signature hand held shooting style.
The shoot was a lot of fun and we headed into post production with more than enough footage to produce the two videos we were contracted make. The 8k footage from the RED camera was definitely data heavy it but plays back surprisingly smooth on our edit systems and allowed us to punch in on a lot of shots to get more detail of the radio units. We coordinated closely with Collin’s design team to make sure that we followed their branding closely with the large amount of text that needed to displayed throughout both videos. Sound design was a crucial element of the final product as well where we had to balance voice over, music, and a bed of realistic war time sound effects and radio chatter.
All in all it was a long project but everyone was happy with the final videos. Our extensive preparation and talented team came together to make something original that they can use for years to come to market their radios. We are looking forward to many more Collins Aerospace projects in the future, and if you have any questions about our production process please feel free to contact us today!