Suns News

Nash Video Mystery Unveiled

By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: March 2, 2011

If you could go back in time and tell your favorite basketball player something, what would it be? That’s exactly what the premise of the NBA’s marketing campaign was this season.

In these highly creative series of promotional spots dubbed “encouragement videos” by NBAE, players such as Steve Nash are seen interacting with visitors from the future. It was a concept created by the NBA’s ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, and was realized through obscure footage provided by NBAE.

The idea for the spots was generated at Goodby Silverstein by the creative team of Eric Boyd and Andy Dao and actualized by Lead Creative Director Jamie Barrett. Originally, the campaign was designed to be used strictly for NBA Cares.

However, as the creative team at Goodby Silverstein further considered the potential of their idea, they decided to expand its reach beyond just NBA Cares and make it a league-wide initiative. Besides showing a young Nash, the other commercials showed youthful versions of Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul.

The video featured above dates back approximately 15 years and shows Nash as a college senior practicing in his high school’s gym. Dressed from head to toe in his Santa Clara gear, Nash is seen shooting around with a 16-year-old kid that is informing him of his future successes.

“The name ‘encouragement videos’ came about because people from the future are giving these players encouragement to keep working hard,” said Danny Meiseles, Executive Vice President and Executive Producer, Production, Programming, and Broadcasting. “They’re telling the players to keep being dedicated to the game and to keep that passion for the game alive because one day it’s going to pay off.”

The greatest dilemma was tracking down footage that was usable.

While Goodby Silverstein was able to find stock footage of Curry, the ad agency depended on widespread research from NBAE for the footage of Nash.

The clip used was one of a few that they considered. The runner-up was of Nash shooting alone on a playground.

In the Nash spot, Goodby Silverstein remained closest to the original NBA Cares-themed model, with the kid in the video referring to the two-time MVP’s influence on his life. Due to Nash being the most tenured of the players, the Goodby Silverstein creative team thought that Nash would be the best fit for that type of platform.

“Obviously, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are young so they haven’t had the chance to have the kind of impact off the court that someone like Steve has had yet,” Barrett said. “Steve was really a unique opportunity to make that point because he’s lived it and done it for years. He’s an example of someone who’s been in the league, set an example for others and he’s also been a two-time MVP; so he’s done it on the court, as well.”

Barrett went out of his way to credit the NBA for championing this campaign. The NBA mobilized NBAE in order to find buried footage, while simultaneously using their contacts with players, their families and their agents to track down other usable video clips.

Obviously, the Nash promotional clip is doctored from a piece of footage that was obtained from NBAE’s research. The original clip that NBAE found, which you can see below, is of Nash actually shooting the breeze with a coach.

“That coach gave us the opportunity to replace him with the character that is in the spot and create the sense that Steve is interacting with somebody,” Barrett said. “The more interaction within the piece of footage, the better it was for the spot. Steve’s was pretty ideal that way, right down to him knocking the ball right out of the coach’s hands.”

In order to put the kid in the place of the coach, the agency employed the use of a green screen to make the illusion possible. The kid, who was a hired actor, had to essentially re-trace the steps of the coach while incorporating the agency’s scripted lines.

If you notice in the promotional clip, there are no edits. It’s just one continuous shot.

“He does this choreographed 26-second performance where he has to hit his marks on the floor and he has to hit his marks as far as when he says certain things and when he holds the ball up,” Barrett said. “There was a guy that played the part of Steve Nash so we reenacted this entire scene and rehearsed it over again. We probably did 60 or 70 takes, which took a good four or five hours.”

In production and post-production, the key was cloning the background and inserting it in behind the kid so everything appeared seamless. Synching the audio was actually the easiest part, with the production team only using Nash’s “at the buzzer” audio from the original clip.

“I think that the Steve one was particularly good just because it was so convincing,” Barrett explained. “The ball gives you the opportunity to bring the two people together when they really aren’t.”

Barrett said that the scripting process had to be fluid because of the unique manner of the shoot. Since the kid wasn’t in the scene with Nash, he had to keep adjusting his movements and the timing of the lines to make it as natural as possible.

“It was a very conscious choice to cast a kid that’s 15 or 16 years old,” Barrett said. “That’s the age of a kid that’s really been under the influence of a Steve Nash for the last 6-8 years.”

Molding together the old footage with the new footage was done by a process called “rotoscoping.” Rotoscoping is a technique where when one digitally traces frame-by-frame over live-action film movement so that the object being traced can be extracted and used on another background.

It was the same technique used to provide the glowing effect to the lightsabers in the first three Star Wars movies. The director of the spot, Chris Sargent, has an extensive background in visual effects.

“The ball is chosen to look exactly like the ball in the footage,” Barrett said. “There’s an instant when it gets switched a couple of times in the kid’s hands, but you can’t see when we’re switching it.

“One of the places where we do it is when he slaps it. In one frame of film it’s one ball and in the next frame it’s the other ball and you just don’t perceive it.”

Although this campaign may be reintroduced for NBA Cares in the future, Goodby Silverstein has already released all of the spots they plan on doing. So if you were wondering what a current fan would say to a young Grant Hill or Vince Carter, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Or maybe someone from the future will tell you.

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