GENESIS: The great thing about camera ads is they can prove their own claims—if you use the actual camera you're selling to produce the creative. For example, to show off a still camera, you can photograph the print ads with it. Same with a video camera—make a film with it, and the footage will be its own best indicator of the device's quality. To launch its D4 professional-grade DSLR, Nikon asked photographer Corey Rich to use the camera to shoot video and stills—all of his own choosing. "They said, 'It's a blank canvas, and it's up to you to fill it,'" Rich recalls. In the end, working with agency K+L in Tokyo, he filmed three of the world's top adventure athletes in their element, from Moab to Mexico, for a gorgeous mini-documentary that asks what drives these fringe sports devotees— and lets the camera do its thing.
COPYWRITING: Rich got three of his favorite athletes on board: kayaker Dane Jackson, mountain biker Rebecca Rusch and rock climber Alex Honnold. There were no storyboards or sketches. The crew simply arrived at each location and improvised. To create the narrative, Rich asked each athlete 20 identical questions. "The idea is, there will be some similarities in their responses," Rich says. "So, in postproduction, you can group thought processes together and move the narrative forward."
ART DIRECTION: The film has three different looks based on each location: Jackson was filmed in Mexico; Rusch in Moab, Utah; and Honnold at Joshua Tree National Park in California. Rich shot most of the action sequences early and late in the day, when the light best captured the beauty of the landscapes, and shot the interviews in the middle of the day, when the light was harshest. "Adventure sports are all about engaging with what Mother Nature has to offer," says Rich. So, too, is the making of an adventure-sports ad.
FILMING: The crew spent one day scouting and two days shooting at each location in November. Rich used all kinds of gear to get unique angles. "That's really the goal—to see your subject in a new way and share new and interesting imagery," he says. The biggest investment was a radio-controlled octocopter (an eight-bladed helicopter), which was used at all three shoots—although the pilot did manage to crash it in Mexico, with one of only 10 prototypes of the D4 then in existence mounted on it. Rich recalls: "He lost control and had to decide, 'Do I crash it in the river and ruin the camera, or make a quick turn and ditch it in the jungle?' " In the end, he crashed it in the jungle, the camera survived, and the copter was repaired and able to fly again.
TALENT: The athletes aren't just posing in the film. Jackson's plunge down a 60-foot waterfall was one of the biggest drops of his life. And Honnold, a free solo climber (he doesn't use a rope), made news with his ascent of Joshua Tree's Equinox rock, classified as a difficult 5.12c in rock-climbing terminology. "It's not every day that a guy goes out and climbs a 5.12c, where death is an option if he happened to fall up high," says Rich. "There was tremendous pressure that we had to nail it."
SOUND: Rich initially had a lot of natural sound in the mix, but muted it to focus on what the athletes were saying. He used three music tracks: "Smolder" by Count de Money, "Futures Now" by Oliver Renoir and "Stay Crunchy" by Ronald Jenkees. He found the first two in a database and licensed the last one.
MEDIA: Vimeo, YouTube and on Nikon's website.
Agency: K+L, Tokyo
Director: Corey Rich
Editor: Dane Henry
Talent: Dane Jackson, Rebecca Rusch, Alex Honnold
See the full credits at the end of the video.