Going for gold

How AKA Media produced the new promo sequences for Dubai Sports Channel
2015, Advertisement, AKA Media, Branding, Dubai, Dubai Media, Dubai Sports Channel, Music, New, TV commercial, Analysis, Content production
The client requested that iconic scenes from Dubai be used in the background. AKA Media found some interesting ways to achieve this.
The client requested that iconic scenes from Dubai be used in the background. AKA Media found some interesting ways to achieve this.

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AKA Media pulled out all the stops to produce a new promotional sequence for Dubai Sports Channel for Dubai Media Incorporated

With memorable images including a track cyclist racing alongside Dubai Metro, a bullet being discharged from a rifle, and a yacht being buffeted in stormy seas with the Burj Al Arab in the background, Dubai Sports Channel’s new branding sequence is slick production.

Perhaps more impressive still is the fact that the entire sequence, from concept to completion, was produced in Dubai for Dubai Media Incorporated by AKA Media, a boutique production house based in Dubai Studio City.

For AKA Media, which was established by Yasser Obeid, managing and creative director about four years ago, the project was one of the most ambitious it had taken on to, date involving tight filming schedules and some heavyweight CGI and post production work.

AKA Media took on the job in mid-2014 and developed an initial set of story boards featuring seven sports; golf, cycling, swimming, yachting, shooting, tennis and speed boating. In the finished project, each of these sports has its own 20-second sequence, and each sport is also included in a single 20-second promo combining all of the activities.

“The sequences are for the bumpers that go in between shows or between commercial breaks,” Obeid says. “It’s their [Dubai Sports Channel] look for the next few years."

“With this particular job we were responsible from A-Z so we did the production, and the post from scratch,” Obeid explains.

After agreeing the story boards with DMI, AKA Media organised the cast and crew for the main shoots. The filming of the main action sequences involved actors was carried out in relatively short time of four days. On the fifth day, Obeid’s team went around Dubai and took still shots of the locations that they planned to use as backdrops.

A team of five people from AKA Media, including Obeid, worked on the production. Obeid supervised the creative aspects of while Carla Sawan, post production manager, looked after the production side.

The initial filming involved a cast of about 35 people, who were hired using casting agencies. “We shot in stages, we did the sports first and then we did the public shots around Dubai,” Obeid says.

Much of the footage shot in chroma which allowed AKA Media to add backdrops featuring various well-known locations in Dubai, as requested by DMI.

AKA Media shot the sequences using a RED 6K camera. Obeid says that while the final films were broadcast in HD some scenes were shot in 6K to give a crisper image. “Once you compress an image from 6K to 2K you have a lot more information to play with,” he adds.

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The special effects team used an additional RED Dragon camera to capture additional content such as splashes, dust and smoke.

For this project DMI also decided to hire AKA Media to do all of the post-production work in house. “Usually they [clients] shoot and send footage to Paris for postproduction. This was one of the rare occasions when they actually did it here.”

So once the filming was completed and the footage approved by the client, AKA Media began work on the CGI components of the films. “Basically we had to build the shots from scratch, replace the whole background with palm trees, the sea, Dubai Metro, depending on the sequence,” Obeid says.

One of the most challenging sequences featured five Emirati men on a yacht being buffeted in rough sea. While the actors were filmed in a boat attached to a trailer during the four-day shoot, most of the effects were added during the postproduction stage. “Water simulation is probably one of the most challenging things to do realistically,” Obeid says.

To produce this sequence, AKA Media used Houdini software to create the water. The actors were filmed in the boat, which was actually attached to a trailer. However, part of the boat, including the sale and the hull was also created using CGI. Other effects were heightened using somewhat low-tech innovations, including a man with a bucket of water who sprayed the actors during the shoot.

Part of the brief that DMI gave to AKA Media was to include a landmark shot of Dubai in each scene, and so Obeid and his team devised imaginative ways of incorporating Dubai backdrops into the sequences. Highlights include a track cyclist racing Dubai metro, a swimmer diving into a pool with Dubai Marina in the background.

The postproduction side of the project was done using Adobe After Effects for colour grading, Final Cut Pro for editing. Houdini was used for some of the effects, including water, while Fusion and Nuke was used for the composite, and PF Track for the tracking.

Obeid admits that the post production aspects of the project were challenging, but also rewarding. “We practically lived in the office for a good four months and just had a few days off here are there but it was definitely worth it and the hard work paid off. This was such as challenge and we really had to put all of our technical and creative skills to the test.

The postproduction side of the project is something that Obeid is proud of, not least because a significant amount of postproduction work emanating from the Middle East, particularly CGI, is outsourced to companies in Europe.

“For me as an artist it was frustrating, the general feeling that the industry here in the local market couldn’t cope with heavy post,” Obeid says.

However, for AKA Media, this trend also represented an opportunity. “We are trying to break that trend and I have hand-picked the people that work here from all over and tried to build a team that’s truly international and can easily compete with people in Europe.”

Speaking about the industry generally, Obeid says that the market for commercial film production is “very volatile” and extremely competitive, particularly with competition from abroad added into the equation. However, despite this he is optimistic about the situation, especially for companies that are focused on providing a quality service.

“In general if you provide a quality product you will have people coming back to you over and over so generally the clients we have we’ve had them for years and it keeps growing,” he says.

Kit list
- Camera: RED Dragon(6K)
- Post production software: After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Houdini, Fusion and Nuke for the composite. PF Track for the tracking.

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