A chat with Lauren Fisher, director of the Atlanta Hawks’ pre-game intro (VIDEO)


Nov 1, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; T.I. takes part in the pre game introductions prior to the game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks have debuted a new floor projection system for the 2014-15 season.

Picture for a moment a really bad PowerPoint presentation. Lights turned down, author droning on and one — an uncharismatic guy literally reading the words of his horrid slideshow. Picture also an audience lulled into a stupor, half falling asleep at the hands of a sandman.

I was in exactly this predicament last week. It was terrible in every way. I wanted to tear off my shirt and bang my head into the desk by the time it was over.

And that got me thinking. If a presentation involves: a projector, content, sound, images, and themes, then why can’t it be more like … the Atlanta Hawks’ pre-game intro? The team debuted a 3D floor projection system in Philips Arena that is visually stunning, and the pre-game display for this season makes the most of the high-tech capabilities of the projection system.

Curious about how such a show was put together, I spoke to Lauren Fisher, the director of the pre-game video intro that the Hawks are using this year. Here is what she had to say about the making of the pre-game video.

You were the director for the Hawks’ pre-game introduction that uses the floor projection system, is that correct?  For what other teams have you made multimedia presentations?

Yes, I served as the art director for the pre-game intro.  This is my second year working with the Hawks on behalf of the Los Angeles based production company, The Famous Group.  The Famous Group has had a long standing relationship with the Hawks.  I personally have art directed projects for the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams and Super Bowl XLVIII.

How many people worked on the floor projection show?

It takes a LOT of people! We start by coming up with the look and the overall story and we have a designer make storyboards for the Hawks to approve the idea and look before we shoot. Then there’s the production crew (about 10 people including Director of Photography) who helped to light and shoot the green screen footage of the players in addition to scenics and fan footage around Atlanta.

For post-production back at The Famous Group in Los Angeles (after the shoot), we had a line producer, an editor and 4 animators (including myself), some specializing in 3D and others in visual effects and design.  We also worked closely with Quince, the company who created the projection system, to make sure our creative would work well projected onto the court.

Did the Hawks make any requests or specifications for what they wanted to have in the images projected on the floor? For example, did they ask for specific players or concepts to be included?

The Hawks are a great partner in that they are creative and they know what they want, but they also trusted us to come up with fun and fresh ideas.  This year was not an exception, but their biggest request was that we make sure that we have a lot of “Woah!” moments to emphasize the amazing court projection technology.

My challenge as the art director was to give the audience those “Woah!” moments while also incorporating the players, the fans and the city in a cohesive way, marrying the medium and the message.  As far as specific players, the Hawks run a very well organized shoot day for gathering their creative materials for the year and we had access to all of the players on the team during that day.  That is always great because each player has their own personality on camera and you really get a lot of variety by getting everyone in the mix.

It was also super exciting for us to get Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap together on set at one time for their “huddle” scene since its usually impossible to get that many players in one place at once with their schedules.

Is there a difference in your crew’s approach to creating a multimedia presentation for a floor compared to what you might do for television or a jumbotron?

There were a lot of differences for the court projection, some technical and some creative.  On the technical side, the image size you need to project is quite large, so regular HD footage doesn’t necessarily look great projected “full frame” on the court.  The footage we captured was very high resolution (5K) to accommodate this.

We also knew that there were certain parts of the court that were painted dark (for the Hawks it’s the red paint areas), and dark areas don’t take projection very well. Creatively that meant using those painted elements as part of the creative.  You’ll notice we use the center logo and the painted keys as anchors in many parts.

The most fun difference though was using the 3D perspective tricks on the large court surface to make things look like they were falling below.  This was something I had never gotten to do before and I had a great time coming up with ideas for it, including having it feel like the players were below the court surface.

Do you have any other quirky anecdotes about the making of this show?

Adreian Payne definitely made me laugh. He was the last player we got after two days of shooting.  When he first came on set I wasn’t sure if he was comfortable, as we were doing the close-ups first and those can be awkward for anyone. Then we moved the camera back to get shots of him shooting on our hoop we had on set. Adreian came out when I called action with these insane MONSTER dunks. Then he did something that no other player did, which was ask to see playback of EVERY take of each dunk he did.  It was awesome!  Especially because we were shooting everything in slow motion, each take looked epic.

Overall the Hawks are just a dream client to work with. The players are down to earth and very easy to talk to and all of the staff are very cool and want their fans to have an awesome experience.  I definitely count myself as a Hawks fan now!

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