Precision Matters / by Marek Glaser

This past January I traveled to San Francisco to shoot stills and video for the latest GMC ad campaign that celebrates the art of precision. The campaign’s focus is centered on the brand’s uncompromising attention to detail.

The first ad roll out aligns itself with professional baseball, a sport that centers on the art of precision. Specifically, the aspect of throwing fastballs toward the plate with the sort of exactness that echoes a foundational value of the GMC brand. Enter Jeremy Affeldt, a pitcher for the World Series champions – the San Francisco Giants. He was the main subject of the shoot and the first of three broadcast commercials that recently began airing.

Jeremy Affeldt. Relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

Jeremy Affeldt. Relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

Some of the shots involved being right in the path of his 90 mph fastballs. Granted I was protected behind some boards and Plexiglass – for the most part. Although I tried my best to be ready for the loud impact of the ball hitting the safety barrier I was behind, after the first pitch I quickly realized that no amount of mental preparation could have lessened the extreme jolt of it actually happening. 

Jeremy Affeldt. Relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

Jeremy Affeldt. Relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

A critical aspect of this assignment was to shoot various background photos around AT&T Park that could work for a masthead image containing a lineup of the entire GMC line. The extremely wide aspect ratio of way these images live on the GMC.com homepage made finding suitable compositions incorporating the stadium exterior very challenging. Because the 5 vehicles would be added in later using CGI, it was really important to understand the sizes and orientations of the vehicles in the shot even though they weren't there. Careful measurements and a little imagination were needed to make it work. Normally I’d want to shoot tethered to a laptop in this situation, lining up the shot for the agency and client with mock-up overlays, but this shoot it wasn't really practical. Running around all over shooting additional stills and the video interviews made it impractical to commit to a more elaborate setup.

 Although the request was to capture the stadium exterior, after scouting the entire perimeter, it became clear that there really weren't any ideal angles that would work well for the type of shot needed. I ended up shooting something outside the stadium to have it but also made sure to get several angles inside the stadium as alternates that would definitely accommodate the vehicles. After presenting the options once we got into post production, the client agreed that the interior would work best which was great news. 

AT&T Park background plate

AT&T Park background plate

AT&T Park retouched background plate

AT&T Park retouched background plate

To go along with each potential background photo I needed to use a second camera to also capture a spherical panoramic image, often referred to as an HDR Dome. HDR is an acronym for high dynamic range, “high dynamic range” because multiple “normal dynamic range” images, taken at different exposure levels, are used to store the actual brightness of light sources in the scene into a special file format designed for this purpose. This special image is used by CGI artists to generate the reflections and lighting that will photo-realistically integrate the CG cars into the background.  

Spherical HDR Dome photograph.

Spherical HDR Dome photograph.

Final image with CGI vehicles integrated.

Final image with CGI vehicles integrated.

Masthead image usage on GMC's homepage.

Masthead image usage on GMC's homepage.

In addition to the still photography, I also needed to get a video interview with Jeremy. If he hasn't gone through tons of media training, then he’s a complete natural in front of the camera. Or both. Besides being a gifted athlete that helped his team win the 2014 World Series, he was hilariously funny, constantly cracking jokes with us on set.