We recently completed a gritty branded content video for TITLE Boxing. We are very proud of it and wanted to share.
We set out to show a great boxer at the top of his game, but not in the stereotypical fashion. We wanted to highlight the inner drive that makes people great. We believe being great is defined by what you do when no one is looking, so we decided that the boxer would train in the least expected place: a dingy basement where no one could see him. We had our visual cue, but what about the words? What would you least expect to come out of his mouth? What would tell his story? So there it was: we would combine the sophisticated 19th century Victorian poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, with the pure passion of a boxer giving it his all when no one is looking. Why? He wants to be the best athlete he can be. Not for someone else, but for himself. To be the master of his fate.
I’m sure many of you have heard the poem before – if you were lucky, you heard it said in Morgan Freeman’s incredibly soothing voice. For those not familiar with the poem, Invictus is, in short, about perseverance. No matter what is thrown at him, the protagonist continues to survive. The theme can be summed up in the final two sentences: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Fun fact: the poet wrote this in his hospital bed after surviving multiple surgeries to save his last remaining leg; the first leg was amputated due to tuberculosis complications.
We saw well over a hundred boxers for the role, but were lucky enough to have Toryan Rogers walk through our door. He blew us away. Toryan was raised in Flint, Michigan, a city known for having one of the highest murder rates in the United States. He credits boxing as keeping him out of trouble and off the streets. Boxing gave him a purpose. Toryan has competed in 60 amateur fights, won Houston’s Regional Golden Gloves and the Houston Nationals, and was trained by Heavyweight champion, Lou Savarese. He was perfect – it’s as if he were made for this role. When he said the lines, he meant it. He’d lived it. He had to persevere throughout his entire life, and truly was “the captain of his soul.”
The location was key for this project. We first considered a boxing gym, but that’s not what this character is about. So we dug deep. I got on my motorcycle and hit the streets. It was an industrial neighborhood in East Los Angeles where we found our spot. There was a food packaging and distribution facility that spoke to me, so I pulled over and walked inside. Oddly enough I was greeted by the owner. I explained what we were trying to do and he said I could look at the basement. He seemed a bit embarrassed because the entire facility had been renovated with the exception of the basement. I knew this was our place.
We shot on EPIC because it’s awesome. I love that camera; 5k at 96fps. Everything looks good in slow motion. Okay, not everything, but you get my point. We wanted to watch the sweat roll down Toryan’s face, feel each punch as it landed, and see his struggle as he pushed himself to greatness. We wanted to see it all.
Lighting was simple. I am a true believer that less is more. We used two 1200 pars and a couple of 6 bank Kinos. Hard light from the back and one 1200 into an Ultrabounce for key. Lots of negative by camera. That’s it.
There were a couple of things we kept in mind. First, I needed Toryan to slow down. His energy and enthusiasm was just too much for this character. This needed to be the athlete inside of him; the heart that drives him to be great. The other interesting thing that we worked on was his ability to act while exercising. Facial expressions and body movement are one thing when you are really working out, but a lot different when the camera is rolling.
Editing followed the game plan: the contrast between who the boxer is and what is coming out of his mouth. Pacing was instrumental; mountains and valleys, starts and stops. The rhythm of the shots carefully placed in-between the dialogue was key. Music followed suite. We used two tracks; one to create the energy, and another vocal track to support where he comes from. The final audio touch was the SFX. We layer punches and grunts, which really brought out the raw emotion.
Color correction amplified the cinematography and lighting scheme. We pushed the contrast and cooled everything off. This really added to the dark environment that we were going for and made the TITLE logo and apparel stand out.
The crescendo is when Toryan punches the bag and it ripples and shatters. This was created in After Effects using the ripple, shatter effect, and particular. Particular was a small nuance that made a huge difference by allowing us to create fine, sand-like details flowing out of the bag. It took a bit of effort to make it seem organic, but was well worth it.
The final product turned out fantastic. It’s a project that we are all truly proud of! Take a look below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!