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Fri 5 Feb 2010 04:00 AM

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The patriots

A six-minute film designed to fan the flames of patriotism and stir a feeling of oneness among the Emirati people was released on TV on the UAE National Day. Vijaya Cherian goes behind the scenes of the making of the film.

The patriots
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The patriots
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The patriots
Frames from the film show cultural elements that bind the Emirati people together.
The patriots
Director Bruno de Champris with a crew member.
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A six-minute film designed to fan the flames of patriotism and stir a feeling of oneness among the Emirati people was released on TV on the UAE National Day. Vijaya Cherian goes behind the scenes of the making of the film.

Dubai-based production house E-motion was recently tasked with creating a special video for the UAE's national day celebrations. The film, which was created in High Definition (HD) for Watani, a Dubai-government entity dedicated to developing and strengthening the national identity of the Emirati people, brought several tools to the UAE for the first time for this shoot.

"We have developed several campaigns for Watani in the past but this one was focused on the concept of being united," says Amaury Simon, general manager and executive producer at E-motion.

Although made for a Dubai entity, the video, which can be viewed on www.emotion.ae, deliberately carries no images of well-known landmarks in the emirate seeking instead to find common elements of interest between the Emirati people such as pearl diving, palm trees, horse riding and falconry.

The video begins with two children climbing up a mountainous terrain to reflect their mirrors on the hills on the other side. The result is stunning. The movie gradually gains pace as the film takes us through instances of pearl diving, planting a palm tree, a unique image of a falcon flying straight at the viewer, men going fishing, people riding horses and camels, or men driving four-wheelers.

Gradually, the entire nation comes together and looks at the mountain as the word "Mutaheda" (united) is revealed through a satellite, the country's first entry into space and a moment of pride for the nation.

"Dubai Sat-1 gives a new dimension to the UAE as it is the country's first attempt at having a presence in space. After showing so many different sources - the palm trees, the mirrors, the fog of the planes, the swirl of the desert, the people and so on that visually move towards the final vision, we needed a stylish approach to tie it up at the end.

The satellite is a matter of pride for the country and revealing the word through it showed how the Emiratis have been united over the ages - whether through their heritage or through new developments," adds Simon.

The footage also showcases an amazing aerobatic display with jets flying in sync in the sky and leaving a trail of smoke behind them. Although easily mistaken for real footage, E-motion proudly claims that the whole sequence was created in 3D.

"The jets were produced in 3D but this was a huge task as it involved the work of fourteen artists over a period of 45 days," explains Simon.

Shot in Dubai, Sharjah and the Hatta mountains, the film takes us through the different landscapes in the UAE.

It was not, however, without its challenges, according to Bruno de Champris, director of the film.

Champris comments that a film of this scale that had hugely ambitious production plans and had to be shot in less than 45 days brought with it a number of technical issues.

Meticulous storyboarding and adherence to it to the last detail helped ensure that the deadlines were met, claims Champris.

For the French director, who has worked in the field for more than 20 years, this production offered the opportunity to look at traditional elements from a different angle, he says.

Music composition

JBM was asked to produce a musical score combining culture and patriotism with the UAE National Anthem for this TVC.  After internal meetings discussing various concepts, JBM approached two regional composers' who they felt they could work in collaboration to create a cultural soundtrack.

"We approached Ibrahim Juma, a UAE national who has previously worked with JBM in bringing a strong cultural approach to the music that we wanted create for the National Day TVC," commented Julien Monie, JBM audio producer. Along with Ibrahim Juma, Vladimir Persan composed a cinematic film score with patriotism, blending contemporary fusion, classical and Arabic music.

One of the unique features of this piece of music is the use of the UAE national anthem which recurs throughout the TVC but in a soft and subtle way.

He takes the instance of the falcon flying towards the viewer as an example.

"The falcon is a big symbol in this part of the world and has been filmed endless number of times but almost always, from the same angle. We wanted to shoot the falcon flying as straight as possible towards the camera where we could meet it in the eye. So I put the falconer just outside the camera and the prey behind the camera. I wanted the falcon to fly very low so we could not just see the blue sky but also feel the power of the desert.

This is why we put the camera very low and used a long lens and shot at 120 frames per second. We had to find a fine balance between the blur of its wings and the speed and aperture of the camera to ensure that we got a stunning result and in the final footage, it's very rewarding to see the falcon gliding and looking straight into the camera. This is the kind of dimension and detail I wanted for this movie," explains Champris.

From this wide shot, the movie then moves to a close up of a camel's hoof and gives the viewer a visual jolt.

"It's interesting to shoot different angles, close-ups, wide shots and create effects that bring the theme closer to you," Champris explains.

This film also required a lot of effort from the post production team. Here, the team had to add several elements to each part of the footage that could not be shot either for budget reasons, for lack of time or because they could be created better at the table.

A big chunk of the post work included 3D integration. A good example was the plantation shot. This sequence begins with real footage of palm trees and then moves to 3D shoots.

Post production head Vincent Tricot explains that this sequence required a lot of 3D, tracking, composition, mapping and matte painting to create the desired effect.

In addition, the team used several software applications such as 3ds Max, Z Brush, After Effects and Nuke to work on this project.

"We also used Match mover, which is a very difficult software for tracking," Tricot says.

"We had a full foreground of real palm trees and the rest of the trees all the way into the horizon was created in post," says Champris.

"More importantly, we had to get really precise shots to ensure synchronisation in post. We started with vertical shooting at the beginning which was real footage of the palm tree and as we tilted up to get a wider shot, we had to make the transition from the real footage to full 3D.

Therefore, you see a mix of different techniques for just one single shot including real footage, 3D, tracking, matte painting and there are several examples of this in the movie. Bear in mind that this was not a 30-second TVC; the film is almost six minutes long," he adds.

To ensure that time was well utilised, footage was sent to Tricot's office in France through the internet as they were being shot. More than 12 artists who brought different post production skills to the table worked on this project from Tricot's office.

On an average, each shoot had about 50 crew members and approximately150 artists on location. In Safa Park, however, where the palm plantation scene was shot, two sets were erected simultaneously.

"As we had only a month-and-a-half to produce the whole video, we could only shoot one day at each location. We had about seven days of shooting in all and this was the only way to do this effectively," explains producer Simon.

Key elements of the shoot

Format image shooting:

4K by Red One

2K with Varicam (aerial shooting). We used this camera because the Tylermount was not adapted for a RedONe

2K with Varicam for the multipass shooting (used in post-production to duplicate cars in the landscape and people in Safa Park)

2K with Canon EOS 5D on the coolcam (
www.coolcam.fr

) We used this very light crane because we had to shoot in the mountain in a very tight location.

2K with minicamera on the 4WD cars

2K for with Z1 for underwater shooting

Format final post-production: 2K

Post-production technicals:

Mix vidéo / 2D / 3D / FX and matte painting

Software for 3D:

Lightwave

3DS Max Autodesk

Houdini

Zbrusch

Software for Tracking 2D/3D:

Boujou

Match Mover

Software for compositing 2D / FX:

After Effects

Nuke

Particle Illusion

Adobe CS4

Software for matte painting:

Adobe CS4

Corel Painter

Rendering:

Render Farm about 170 processors

Work on PC 3D and Apple Mac Pro Bi-quad Core.

Colour Grading:

Boggle Telecine tape to tape

Audio 5.1:

Mix with our audio partner JBM studios.

An interesting part of this shoot was that E-motion collaborated with many companies in Dubai for different elements including rentals, crew, post production, music composition and more. While most of the equipment and crew were sourced from ProAction, FilmQuip, Media Crew, In House, Atlas Television and HMC Tradin', JBM Studios undertook the music composition and Optix Digital did the colour grading.

The team shot with a couple of different cameras including the Red One and the Panasonic Varicam.

"We knew we wanted to shoot in HD but we also wanted to be able to send our footage each day to France. In addition, we wanted to shoot everything in 4K. As we also had to show a mix of real shooting and images created in post, we also needed a camera that could produce the desired results. The RED fit the profile well," explains Champris.

Champris explains how the RED helped make the scene of the pearl diver emerging from the water beautiful.

"I wanted to get slow motions and work different kinds of speeds and the RED camera offered this capability. For instance, when the diver comes out of the water, the idea was to spew the water on his face. If we shot that in 25 frames per second, you would not have got the effect we got with shooting it at 120 frames," explains Champris.

For the aerial shoots, however, the team employed the Varicam as the RED could not be operated remotely. A significant feature of this shoot was the use of a CoolCam for the first time in the UAE. Incidentally, the team also used a consumer camera to shoot portions of the opening sequence to ensure they got the real thing.

"I wanted an exciting beginning," explains Champris. "This was the opening of the movie and this was the moment when the people would be drawn toward the movie or they wouldn't. During our recce, we found a spot that was beautiful but it was in the mountains and it was dangerous to have two small children climbing it. We needed to address that.

"The second challenge was to get the crew up there. We could have faked this sequence by filming the children on a little rock but I have been shooting for more than 20 years so it was a bit difficult for me to do something like that and feel satisfied," he explains.

20 crew members needed to be up on the mountains for the shoot. Carrying a steadicam or a Technocrane, a RED and related equipment was not feasible. The team needed to come up with a much lighter option that could shoot HD.

"We decided to use the Canon EOS 500D that is essentially a still camera but can also shoot movies in HD," says Champris.

"But we could not use a Steadicam with this. Instead, we brought in Christophe Brunet, a well known CoolCam operator from France, to operate this. The CoolCam is a very light camera crane system; we mounted the Canon on it. Since the camera is really light, it could be positioned inside the slope and directly from up the slope. The main feature of this crane is that it is very light so the operator can clip it to his body and control it remotely," he adds.

Rather than going with tried and tested solutions, the team was willing to try technologies that would enable them to meet the challenges they faced.

The result is a stunning six-minute long film with an equally superb musical score that is bound to stir the patriotism of the Emirati people.

Other companies involved:

Equipment

ProAction

FilmQuip

Media Crew

In House

Atlas Television

HMC Tradin'

Visual Effects

Graphisweet

Colour grading

Optix Digital

Visual Effects Supervisor

Vincent Tricot

Sound Design and mixing

JBM Studios

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