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Defying Gravity with the Nike Hyperdunk


There was supposed to be a rabbit.

He was there from the very beginning, from the initial kernel of an idea for this spot. A sprightly little polygon jackrabbit blinking into existence from some netherworld and scampering at breakneck speed around our player as he goes in for his epic lunar dunk.  We had some killer low-poly designs for the little guy, which we based loosely off the character Frith from the animated version of Richard Adams’s classic novel Watership Down. But as often happens in tight productions schedules, sometimes there have to be sacrifices, and we had to sacrifice our long-eared creation to eternal rest in the confines of our hard drives:


Let’s back up a bit. Mutt Industries, a creative agency with offices literally around the corner from Cardboard Castle, came to us with a very ambitious project: put a basketball player in Nike Lunarlon Hyperdunk shoes on the moon. We love ambition, and with a quick turnaround time (2 weeks from shoot to hand-off of the final edit) we knew this would be a serious challenge as well.

Because this spot was set on the moon (precluding us from shooting on location, as our rocket ships are all in the shop at the moment) we knew we’d have to come up with a way to place our hero in a convincing lunar environment and have his movements realistically line up with those of the scenery around him. To accomplish this feat, we decided to shoot on a blue chroma key-painted environment marked with hundreds of tracking points.

This system involved placing X’s of painter’s tape at precisely measured six-foot intervals. These points were then augmented by a pattern of crosses and rectangles to make the process of tracking our hero against the backdrop even easier.

We really couldn’t have done it without the invaluable assistance from our invaluable tracking crew.

Yeah, we went through a bit of tape.

The preferred method for distributing painter’s tape.

Five hours later.

On the day of the shoot, the set quickly became saturated with cameras, lights, props, equipment, and the sizable crew, so it was necessary to set up our tracking points the day before. Things got underway pretty quickly, with Director of Photography Kevin Fletcher taking care of business behind the lens of the incredible Red Epic while Cooper and Mutt’s Steve Luker and Adam Long put our talent, Omari, through all manner of physical abuse. Sprinting across the stage, bounding off trampolines, making slam dunks…take after take after take. All this while Omari was suffering from a bout of food poisoning. Yet he got through the 15-hour shoot without a complaint. That’s professionalism, folks.

Cooper in Video Village with the Mutt crew.

The Red Epic.

Cooper and DP Kevin Fletcher in full-on cinematic contemplation mode.

Man can fly!

Omari lying down on the job.

Steve, Omari, and Cooper demonstrate the signature “man stance.”

Finally, at 10:30 p.m., the last take was in the can and the exhausted crew stumbled home. That’s when the real work started for us.

Cardboard Castle Head of Operations Alicia Johnson pitching in with the “Tape Clean-Up” crew.

Cardboard Castle then took the reins on the monumental charge of transforming the footage of a guy running around on a stark blue sound stage into a space-traveling super-athlete making a 50-foot dunk on the moon. No easy task, but we knew the process would be fun, so we were up to the challenge. We worked nights, weekends, and any other spare hours we could scrounge up to get this spot looking as good as we could possibly make it, and we like to think the results speak for themselves.

So while our sweet geometric rabbit never made it past the conceptualization stage, we couldn’t be happier with the finished spot. A big thank you to Mutt for bringing us on to this project, and thanks to our hard-working team for putting in the extra hours to dial in every last detail in every last frame.

Great work, everyone!


Client: Nike
Director: Mutt Industries

Creative Director & VFX Supervisor: Cooper Johnson
Executive Producer: Rick Hassen
Tracking Supervisor/Animator: Michael Jones
Animator: Dylan Leeds
Animator: Blain Klitzke
Modeler/Rigger: Sean Kealey
Character Animator: Kevin Phelps
Tracking Crew: Pete Schreinet
Tracking Crew: Jim Prescott
Tracking Crew: Adam Lindsley

Line Producer: Gwyn Fletcher
Production Manager: Heather Elliott
Director of Photography: Kevin Fletcher
1st Assistant Camera: Jerry Turner
Data Manager: Sean Rawls
Gaffer: Ian Jennings
BB Electric: Matt May
Electric: Charlie Norton
Key Grip: Greg Smith
BB Grip: Don Stier
Grip: Dylan Zwicker
Art Director: Ryan Smith
Leadman: Jonny Fenix
Wardrobe Stylist: Lis Bothwell
Hair/Makeup: Maria Blandino
VTR: James Walton
Craft Service: Emily Pomar
Production Assistant: Matt Bowman

Blog written by: Adam Lindsley

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