New York’s Times Square is the hyper kinetic backdrop for Grammy Award winning rapper Ludacris and the high-energy opening for CBS Sports’ “Road to the Final Four Sponsored by Pontiac.” The piece opens the Network’s coverage of the NCAA Basketball Championship, better known as “March Madness.” The work, which combines live-action and computer graphics, is the collaboration between Northern Lights, Mr. Wonderful and CBS Sports.
Creative Director Doug Towey and Producer of Graphics Tracy Morris presented the challenge. Towey, who directed the piece, remarked, “Nobody is hipper than Ludacris. And because he is a real basketball fan, he speaks directly to the excitement of the tournament. We needed to create a piece that said that and more.”
For Beirne Lowry, Creative Director of Mr. Wonderful, striking a balance between CBS Sports’ presentation of the NCAA tournament, the Pontiac sponsorship and Ludacris’ performance was a challenge. This was especially demanding because the project went from concept to completion in less than a week.
“Ludacris was great to work with,” says Lowry. “He rewrote the lyrics to his Grammy-winning song, ‘Money Maker,’ to make it relevant to ‘March Madness’ and the Final Four in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. [Mr. Wonderful Assistant Producer] Laurie Duke and I were on-set to consult. We worked with Doug to get shots of Ludacris and the stage from angles that would help us accomplish the visual effects we dreamed up.”
Northern Lights Editor Scott Rankin found this project particularly interesting because of the teamwork required between CBS Sports, Mr. Wonderful and Northern Lights.
“I had to edit with motion graphics in mind,” explains Rankin. “I was much more involved than usual. I used rough keys and mattes, and basic graphic effects to give the clients a rough representation of what the finished spot would look like. The level of interaction with CBS Sports and Mr. Wonderful added to the excitement of an edit that I found fun and rewarding as a sports fan and because it presented new challenges.”
Standing five stories above Times Square, out in the open with freezing cold temperatures and 30-mph winds, the crew and Ludacris braved the challenges. Set-up for the shoot included a stage constructed with automated lights, a full jib and green screen so that Mr. Wonderful could composite Ludacris into the footage.
Additional game footage, animations and the Georgia Dome itself were projected onto scenes of the surrounding buildings and the crystal clear sky. CBS animations were also tracked to replace existing signage. (Mr. Wonderful also handled the 2006 show open, which featured the band P.O.D.)
The opening will continue to air over the next few weeks and during the final tournament broadcast.
Client: CBS Sports
Project Title: “The Road to the Final Four Powered by Pontiac”
Airdate: March 11, 2007
Production Company: CBS Sports
Director: Doug Towey
Producer of Graphics: Tracy Morris
Editorial Company: Northern Lights
Editor: Scott Rankin
VFX Company: Mr. Wonderful
Creative Director: Beirne Lowry
Executive Producer: Damien Henderson
Smoke/Flame Artist: Cecil Hooker
Assistant Producer: Laurie Duke
Mr. Wonderful & Northern Lights
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Mr. Wonderful T: 212.457.6700
Northern Lights T: 212.274.1199