Behind the Scenes on our 2022 FBS commercial
Slate and Mortar are proud of our West Midlands heritage and as local lads, Stuart and Jon (co-founders of Slate and Mortar), trained and earnt their Producer/Director stripes at a video production company that was based out of Birmingham City centre, and have always considered Brum to be their central hub or ‘home base’. As a West Midlands video production company, and with a client base across the UK, we tend to travel all over the country, so we find it’s most cost-effective to have a film crew or production team that is based out of Birmingham or the Midlands area, as it’s an easy, central hub to travel from.
In recent years, it’s been really interesting and encouraging to see the growth and development of new production talent from the West Midlands, and we’re now having the opportunity to work with more and more young, emerging, exciting creatives. I’m not saying the talent hasn’t always been there, it has, but in my experience, it just seems that there’s more of it around now.
We recently produced an advert for FBS where this was really evident. FBS is an international trading broker, with a presence in over 150 countries and over 23 million traders. Back in 2021 we were commissioned to produce their online video campaign and were delighted to be invited to pitch for their 2022 campaign, based on the concept of ‘Make your own way’. Similar to the 2021 campaign, FBS were very keen to tie the world of online trading in with the world of football (FBS are the primary sponsors of Leicester City Football Club), which, on the surface, are quite different subjects entirely. Our concept was to bring the two together by highlighting the shared traits and characteristics that a football player and a trader share, so determination, strength, willpower, the list goes on. The concept would show athletes and traders displaying these attributes, tied together by a voice-over that would emphasise and endorse these key messages.
As with most adverts, turnaround times tend to be fairly short, and in this case, we would be filming during ‘players access day’, just three weeks since the commission of the project. This meant that if we wanted to film in a block (a significantly more cost-effective approach), all filming would have to be ready to go at the same time. Pre-production went into overdrive, with scripting, storyboarding, talent sourcing, film crew booking, camera and lighting equipment booking and location recces all taking place almost concurrently.
Due to it being the middle of the football season, and with a World Cup on the very near horizon, the contributing player’s physical activity had to be somewhat limited, so it was decided early on that we would try and bring energy and pace to the player’s sequences through our approach to the filming style. We wanted to mix up a hand-held approach with dynamic, dolly-type shots, and were quickly enamoured with the RC Tracking Buggy, which provides a low-angle steady shot, but allows you to get very close into the action. Using an Arri Alexi Mini (shot at 24 fps), with some lovely Kowa anamorphic lenses for the handheld, and a RED Raptor for the RC Tracking Buggy (shot between 120/180 fps), we were able to create a lovely mix of real-time and speed-ramped footage.
The video production crew that pulled this project together had a definite ‘Brummie’ twang, with the producer, director, director of photography, focus puller, 2nd AD, scriptwriter, graphics compositors, makeup artist, stills photographer, and storyboard artist, all hailing from the West Midlands. The filming days were really enjoyable with a lovely crew and atmosphere, but the weather was without a doubt, the most challenging we’ve ever faced for a production. Alternating between sunshine, heavy rain, and lightning, it didn’t seem to want to follow any of the MET office’s predictions, meaning that our video production crew had to be very reactive and flexible in its approach. Although very challenging, we were able to work around it, and it only eventually had a direct impact on two sequences, which if we are honest, worked out better than our original plans.
On our first day, we had scheduled the player sequences to be shot outdoors, on the LCFC training grounds, but it became very evident early on that this was not feasible. With heavy 6 am rain storms, and Producer/Director nightmares about a player slipping and injuring themselves three days before a fixture, we decided to move the production inside to our contingency location. In the grand scheme of things, the texture and backdrop of the new location added significantly to a lot of the shots, so this perhaps turned out for the best. The second weather challenge was for the sequence in which our trader is hanging up washing. Again we set up a full lighting rig, only to find thunder and lightning rolling in over the horizon, meaning that although it looked very sunny on screen, we were all absolutely drenched.
The rest of the shoot went very well, with no major challenges across our locations (even our baby actor behaved), and we managed to get the production completed, on schedule and with all storyboarded sequences completed. With a delivery date of mid-October, the post-production was a little calmer, with the video drafts and amendment duties all being picked up by our in-house video editing team at Slate and Mortar, and then compositing (where green screens are replaced with the app screens) being completed by a local motion graphics house, again Birmingham based. We had to go a little further afield for the colour grade and sound dub, but with a 75% Birmingham-based video production team, we think it shines a real light on the local talent available in the West Midlands.
If you would like to discuss this or your own project or idea further, we’d love to hear from you – email@example.com
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