4.5 Million Views – With 10 Days from Concept to Delivery
NiBK produces brake systems engineered in Japan and distributed around the world. They partnered with Khabib Nourmagomedov, the legendary unbeaten MMA fighter, for a promo video only days before the long-anticipated UFC fight between him and Conor McGregor.
The resulting co-production between DFAD, DF Pictures and Prodigium Pictures yielded a video that garnered 4.5 Million aggregate views and 520,000 likes from viewers around the world within only 2 weeks of its release.
Category: Promo Client: NiBK Brake Systems Country: USA Runtime: 2:23 minutes Date: 2018
The much-anticipated MMA fight between Khabib Nourmagomedov and Conor McGregor in October 2018 was two weeks away when we got the call. NiBK had just gotten the green light for a last-minute, pre-fight promo video featuring Khabib – but here lay the challenges: NiBK was overseas, and Khabib couldn’t leave his training facilities in San Jose for more than a few hours at a time.
Faced with an extremely tight timeline and being located overseas from Khabib, NiBK turned to California-based DFAD, DF Pictures and Prodigium to solve the challenge. Our long-running working relationship with DF Pictures’ producer Dmitrii Miachin allowed for that kind of co-production under pressure.
Given the time zone difference and having only 14 days from conception to delivery, we had a big task ahead of us.
We assigned storytelling to American writers Ace Salvador (Prodigium) and Aaron Pollack (DF Pictures) to build an impressionistic concept with input from director Maxim. The piece had to be authentic to Khabib; a man who had wrestled a wild bear at age 9. We decided to capture that kind of raw energy in the California Redwoods; they reminded us of Khabib’s formative years training in the rugged mountains of Dagestan. The final script was full of intense training sequences featuring Khabib, while intercutting with a race car negotiating tight mountain roads.
Pre-Production and Pivoting
Live-synced documents were an integral part of fast-tracking collaborative scripts halfway across the globe. Our long-running network in the San Francisco Bay Area came in handy for speed – crew and gear was secured within 48 hours.
The last day before production, bad news arrived: Reebok had just released a new commercial, featuring Khabib, working out and running in nature and a gym – very similar to what we had planned.
We had to pivot the creative; It couldn’t be the same concept as Reebok – even if we had the idea independently. The writers revised the script by shifting the focus, on Khabib, from physical power to spiritual power.
Our existing experience in automotive shoots allowed us to plan everything within a 2-day schedule. Given Khabib’s tight availability, we wrapped him within 9 hours. We explicitly decided against using cranes or dollies, opting for mobile, light-weight, high-tech equipment instead – which made the late change in creative possible without a major disruption on production logistics. Shooting on Russian Lomo Anamorphic lenses in 6K REDRAW was a nice touch to remind us of Khabib’s Russian heritage, captured with an American sensor.
We knew that DFAD’s strength – audio – could only really count if we were fast enough in editorial to give them at least 2 days to do post sound and mix.
Based on previously recorded sounds from set, DFAD had started to set up projects with a predetermined BPM (beats-per-minute) in order for the composer to write music while the editing was still in progress. Due to the tight turnaround, transcoding the footage was not an option; our state of the art editorial systems were strong enough though to handle editing 6K anamorphic raw footage in real-time.
35 hours of editing later – with sessions lasting until 3am on a weekend – picture was locked at Prodigium. DFAD went on to do an incredible job – they scored original music and got some world-class sound personnel on board on a tight timeframe, under the leadership of Dmitrii Miachin. This is one of the qualities of a true co-production: It’s not just partnering up, its working as one cohesive unit, a team where each compliments each others’ skillset and expertise. The mutual inspiration and seamless collaboration simply elevated both of our working styles to a new level.
Listen here to the OST of “Unbroken”:
Color grading was done in-house at Prodigium (take a look at our coloring portfolio if you are looking for a colorist), simultaneously to music and audio post at DFAD. Due to various on-set constraints, we decided that our precision driving footage needed to be sped up in post production. Cranking up footage usually feels choppy and artificial.
We invested a good deal of R&D at Prodigium and came up with an in-house solution that allowed us to speed ramp, adjust motion blur and camera shake, all independently – with far more organic results than we had ever achieved before. We now offer cinematic, motion-blur-supportive speed ramping as part of our services.
Hacking YouTube’s Compression, Going Stereo on Instagram, Release and Virality
Our primary destinations of delivery were YouTube and Instagram. DFAD’s team warned us that the compression algorithms of YouTube and Instagram would have a detrimental effect on audio quality. After some comparative analysis by means spectrogram, it was clear: The audio compression cut at least 20% on the top and bottom of all frequencies; on a cinematic soundscape, this really gutted emotional impact. The audio needed to hold up to the test.
We experimented feverishly, trying to circumvent the YouTube compression and needing to deal with Instagram’s automatic conversion to Mono-track audio – which would have eradicated the beautiful stereo mix. With DFAD, we found a secret sauce solution – which enabled us to keep low frequencies from getting eliminated on YouTube as well as deliver a stereo output in the highest quality possible on Instagram.
The aggregate performance of our campaign yielded 4.5M views, half a million likes and 5k comments.
The resulting quality increase paid off for our client’s ROI – a lot of people saw and heard the promo campaign. Within a single day, the video had 1 million views on Instagram (outperforming the growth rate of the Reebok ad), and after 2 weeks of publication, the aggregate stats came in:
4.5 Million views on Instagram and YouTube combined; 520,000 aggregate likes and 5,500 aggregate comments in the first few days. About 70% of the views and 90% of the comments were due to organic sharing and discovery.
Shout-out to our production partners at DFAD and DF Pictures who made this co-production a breeze! Reach out to our teams for future projects – and we’ll produce something incredible and fresh.