Go Behind The Scenes – 2019 Superhero Ad
Welcome to the exclusive Behind The Scenes area for the 2019 Superhero Lawyer Super Bowl Commercial with Darryl Isaacs, celebrating Super Bowl LIII. Be sure to watch this edition of The Hammer vs. Big Insurance! You’ll find aliens, robots and a few surprises along the way.
Click here to watch the Behind the Scenes video on our YouTube Channel!
See What They Are Saying About The Hammer’s Superhero Ad
Click Here to check out the latest coverage on what’s happening with the 2019 Darryl Isaacs Super Bowl Commercial.
WLKY Interview – The Hammer’s Superhero Ad
Q & A With Director and Producer Catherine Shreves, President of Image Video Solutions
Image Video Solutions was the Creative Agency & Production Company that produced this Super Bowl LIII Superhero Commercial, starring Kentucky’s own Darryl Isaacs – The Hammer.
A Third Big Super Bowl Commercial: How Did It All Begin?
In 2017, we produced Darryl’s first Super Bowl commercial that had a zombie, “Walking Dead” type of theme. The commercial was a huge hit, so when 2018 rolled around, Darryl decided we should take it up a few (hundred!) notches and go even bigger, with a Medieval “Game of Thrones” type of theme. Mission Accomplished! We got over 5 million views on YouTube, a ton of buzz and press about this very over-the-top commercial that featured flying dragons, fireballs morphing into fiery hammers, hoards of evil insurance zombies, a ton of visual and special effects, and a cast and crew of about 125!
Fast forward to 2019. There was a lot of discussion over the year about what we should do for Super Bowl 2019, including should we even do a spot this year at all. I mean, how could we possibly top last year’s spot, right? If we were going to move forward with doing a commercial, everyone had ideas about what Darryl should do this year. Darryl’s clients, employees, friends, family, neighbors, and those he would run into around Kentucky– Everyone, I mean everyone, had an opinion! After listening to all of the feedback, the first thing that was decided was we had to do another Super Bowl commercial. The public demanded it!
We listened, we digested all the great opinions about what the theme should be this year, and then we acted! The one thing most people agreed on was they thought Super Bowl 2019 should have some type of Superhero theme. So then the debate began: WHICH Superhero? There are so many great ones! And of course any Superhero we chose, we wanted to make it “our own” character, only loosely based on everyone’s favorites that we see on the big screen.
So after dozens of creative meetings with some of the most creative minds in the industry, we had an idea: Why choose just ONE Superhero? Why not do a “through the ages” type of commercial that featured Darryl as several DIFFERENT Superheroes, from the Medieval era, all the way to the present, and even our concept of what futuristic villains and heroes could look like. And so it was decided: Darryl Isaacs, The Hammer: A Timeless SuperHero on an eternal quest to make the Big Insurance Companies Pay Up!
Then the fun really began. How in the world were we going to make this happen?!
Pre-Production Begins – How Long Was the Shoot?
There were about 8 total shoot days, BUT, the pre-production process started about 6 months before and continued until the first day of the shoot!
What was Involved with the Pre-Production Process?
A lot! Pre-production includes everything from coming up with the creative ideas, to scripting, storyboarding, scheduling, casting, hiring crew, measuring the talent and creating the costumes, selecting locations, and since this commercial was going to be so visual effects heavy, our 3D modelers, riggers and animators had to get going on their end months before the shoot, given how long some of these characters take to create, rig and animate. The pre-pro process is extremely important, because if everything isn’t planned properly, the shoot isn’t likely to go very well. Fortunately we had an amazing team involved in pre-pro, and we were ready to go once cameras started rolling in November of 2018.
On Location: Where did you shoot the commercial?
We didn’t have to deal with snow, ice, and freezing cold temps this year like we did last year, but the location of this year’s shoot did present quite a few challenges. We utilized a massive sound stage and 50 foot long green screen because we had so many complex backgrounds and visual effects involved in this commercial.
Shooting on a green screen allows us to put anything we want on the floor or the background, however it’s extremely time-consuming to do this in post, especially when there is a lot of camera movement. That’s why when you see our green screen, you’ll notice hundreds of “tracking markers” from the floor, to 15 feet up and 50 feet across which had to be meticulously measured and put in place by our VFX team days before the shoot.
If tracking markers aren’t put up correctly, it can have serious consequences when the animators and editors go to put our 3D animated models and actors into the various backgrounds we create. Also during the week-long shoot, before and after every shot our VFX producers had to record all camera measurements and angles that are then used by the animators and editors during the post-production process.
During the week-long shoot, another challenge was switching out the various sets each day, without having a lot of time to do it. For example, one day we had a medieval type background with hay, mud, rocks, and several massive 5 foot handcrafted rocks. The next day the set had to include more modern day props, like light posts, mailboxes, street signs, and a construction site.
Was Darryl Isaacs, The Hammer, really flying?
Yes! Thanks to one of the best stunt teams in the industry, Darryl was actually flying. Now when you see Darryl flying in the commercial, thanks to our incredible VFX team, he will look like he is flying at supersonic speed. But in person he wasn’t traveling quite that fast! ☺ The landings coming from the “flight” on to the sound stage floor were the most challenging, since most of us aren’t used to taking flight and doing smooth landings on a daily basis. But Darryl definitely nailed it!
What went into doing all of those stunts on set?
A lot of prep, and a lot of safety considerations. While our evil alien is a professional stunt actor, Darryl Isaacs is not. So our stunt coordinators had to make sure Darryl was properly trained and prepared before he was hoisted into the air on the stunt wires. Our evil insurance alien had to fly on a system designed by our stunt rigger, which flew him into the air and crashed him through a massive billboard. This was done using a custom climbing sutra jerk vest, a little bit of tech-12 line and some pulley systems, and a stunt team that always puts safety first while making the actor comfortable and making him look his best.
Our stunt team of 6 very strong, experienced members spent weeks in prep. The prep consisted of them rigging the system through the truss in the ceiling at the studio and fine tuning it to keep Daryl on specific marks.
Was everything we see in the commercial 3D or created in post-production?
Fortunately no! We had an amazing art department that spent months creating some of the incredible sets and props you see in the commercial. In some cases there were real props and sets created. Some of these included Darryl’s huge Hammer, the massive rocks Darryl stands on (which took weeks to build), the flooring, the signage, and of course, the 2 horses were very real (And a little messy at times but worth it!).
All those different costumes – Where did they come from?
One of the most important crew members for this year’s commercial was definitely our wardrobe designer and her incredible team who also, by the way, did all of the costumes for last year’s Medieval Super Bowl Commercial. She has about 30 years of experience in film and television, and she and her team knew this was going to be quite the task to take on given how many separate wardrobes Darryl needed, along with all of the costumes needed for our villains, actors, and extras.
Many of the costumes had to be hand-stitched, so Jillian and her team had their work cut out for them. Months before the shoot, the wardrobe department came and met with the Directors and Producers to go over storyboards, and discuss the vision we all had for what these costumes should look like.
How long does the editing process take?
Some of the post work started months BEFORE the shoot—the creation of the evil robots and a few of the other very elaborate and complicated backgrounds. The actual “edit” of the commercial started right after the shoot was over, and continued until the the deadline which was Friday before the Super Bowl!
Where did the talent get cast from?
We casted all of our talent ourselves here at Image Video Solutions and had most of the principal actors come to our office to audition in person. We work with a number of great local and national agencies who submitted some incredible talent. In the end, our cast was incredible, and we are so grateful for everyone who participated this year!
Another huge shout out goes to an international organization, the Society of Creative Anachronism, that fortunately has a local chapter in New Orleans. Members travel around the world to participate in medieval festivals and events, and many of them have their own authentic medieval costumes, props, and even priceless armor and medieval weapons. We hired some of them to participate in our 2018 Super Bowl commercial, so when we decided that we would be doing part of the commercial with a medieval theme, we knew who to call! Their medieval costumes, weapons and props they brought on set really added to the authentic look of the medieval scenes.
Tool of the Trade: What equipment did you use to shoot the ad?
Like last year, we shot this year’s commercial using only RED cameras, our hands down favorite! We used 4 different cameras this year, which was essential especially during the stunt scene shots, and Camera A was our beloved 5K RED Scarlet-W. We also used a RED Epic and 2 other Scarlets, which created some absolutely stunning images.
Of course the camera was just the beginning. We utilized some pretty amazing glass, a 32 foot jib with one of the best operators in the country, and a lot of great camera accessories from sliders to dollies. Our G&E team made sure every shot was lit to perfection, and there were a lot of different and often challenging lighting setups over the week that had to be perfect to ensure that our animators and editors had each shot lit properly for the environment they needed to be placed in.
And when it comes to post, although we have 5 state-of-the-art edit stations, for some of the heavy animations (see Evil Robots!) we could never have shots rendered in time were it not for our render farm in France. So while our animators are primarily working on this commercial in Los Angeles, Connecticut and New Orleans, France is usually the 2nd to last stop for a lot of our shots, with the final destination being our server in New Orleans.
How long did the makeup transformation take for the Evil Insurance Alien?
Our special effects makeup team led by Jonny Bullard is the best in the business. Our Alien took about 3 hours to transform from human to the very terrifying villain you will see on your screen during the commercial. The process involves a lot of hand sculpting of the prosthetics, hand painting the mask, and then applying it with various adhesives and heat guns. Our Alien, who is also a veteran stuntman, was quite the trooper, given that the prosthetics he had to wear all day weren’t the most comfortable, especially while he was being hurled through a billboard on stunt wires over and over!
3D Darryl or the real thing?
In most scenes, you’re seeing “the real Darryl Isaacs,” but in one or two of the VFX shots, we actually created a 3D model of Darryl, recreating every detail of his skin, facial features, and various costumes you see him wearing in the commercial. A lot of people can’t tell which shots are Darryl, and which ones are 3D Darryl, so we’ll let the viewers guess!
Tell us about the Cast and Crew
It took a massive team to pull off a project of this size. Image Video Solutions is a small, boutique creative agency and production company, and while we have done virtually every type of local, regional and national campaign, this was by far the largest project we’ve taken on—even bigger than last year’s Super Bowl commercial– given the amount of on-set special effects, visual effects in post-production, and the overall size of the cast and crew.
We had an incredible cast this year that included child actors, famous wrestlers, as well as dozens of extras who went above and beyond!
Darryl loved getting to know his stunt team, and at the end of the day they were the guys who showed him the ropes (literally) when it came to techniques for flying on wires. They were the guys who made sure every stunt performed was not only visually stunning, but most importantly, that it was safe.
On the crew side, it took a very well-oiled machine to pull off this year’s shoot and edit, including the 2 Directors, a Director of Photography, Camera Operators, Jib Operator, Producers, Costume designers, Art Department, Stunt Team, Visual Effects team, Special Effects Team, Special Effects Makeup Artists, Beauty Makeup Artists, Production Assistants, Lighting and Grip team, Horse Wranglers, the Catering and Craft Services Department that kept us all well fed during the week—We are so grateful for our entire crew!
Other Fun Facts About The 2019 Super Bowl Commercial
- The whole Production team had cameos scheduled, although many ended up on the cutting room floor. There is a hilarious deleted scene in which our On-Set Medic dashes in and scoops one of our co-directors from a giant Evil Robot foot!
- The very same On-Set Medic also appears as a cheering villager in the Medieval Scene. We were lucky to have such a versatile team!
- While we didn’t end up using all of our shots, we storyboarded over 100 shots! Storyboarding is a crucial part of the process as it allows us to get a visual representation of what the commercial will look like before we actually shoot.
- In addition to storyboards, we also created 3D representations of the more complicated VFX shots before we shoot. This allows us to show the cast and crew where the robots will be in the final shot, giving them a crucial frame of reference.
Don’t forget to visit the official 2019 Superhero Lawyer Super Bowl Commercial Page!
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