1 May 2024

Michael’s passion project

We follow Director Michael Fitzpatrick as he creates a sporty ‘spec ad’ with help from the Atomos Shogun Ultra.

By Atomos

Being a freelance creative often involves taking a gamble, pitching your ideas without any financial guarantees. Such is the case with a ‘spec ad’ – short for speculative advertisement – which serves to showcase the creator’s artistic and technical ability with the hope of eventual employment in mind.

Wanting to add more sport to his portfolio, videographer and editor Michael Fitzpatrick shot a spec ad for Nike, using the tagline ‘you’re making a show of yourself’ – putting a positive spin on the Irish idiom. He gathered a cast of Irish athletes – including Cillín Greene, Daniel Flanagan, Aiesha Wong and Ella Thompson – who each excel in sprinting, CrossFit, dance and boxing, respectively.

Boxer Ella Thompson features alongside other athletes in the spec ad

First things first

Fitzpatrick first asked his friend to create a previs in a Nike-inspired style before reaching out to any talent. This previs, communicating the overall vision via stock footage, akin to a lookbook or storyboard, provided a solid foundation for the project.

Fitzpatrick then shared this with the athletes, giving them a taste of how the final video might turn out. “I saw this as a good opportunity to assemble a crew and have fun while making something creative,” relays Fitzpatrick, summarising the laid-back nature of a spec ad. “It’s low pressure. Ultimately, there’s no budget riding on the success of the project, and it can be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow.”

“It’s an opportunity to have fun making something creative.”

DOP Callum Murphy and Director Michael Fitzpatrick
Behind the scenes with Shogun Ultra

Getting the gear

The absence of a budget typically means a lack of funding. “Generally, you have to pay for everything yourself if you want to take this path,” admits Fitzpatrick, acknowledging the common yet unfortunate barrier to entry. Atomos stepped in to sponsor the ad, lending two Shogun Ultra monitors to the cause. Paired with a Sony FX6, the monitors served Fitzpatrick and his DOP Callum Murphy in a variety of ways. “You can plug an SSD into them and record directly onto the monitors, giving you access to file formats and codecs you wouldn’t otherwise be able to play with,” shares Fitzpatrick, such as ProRes RAW or Avid DNxHD. Murphy ultimately settled on Apple ProRes 422 for this project.

“The FX6 doesn’t record RAW internally,” describes Murphy. “But it does output RAW,” he points out. By using the Atomos Shogun Ultra, “we have a lot more to play with in terms of dynamic range, as well as being able to push the colours further,” adds Fitzpatrick. As for optics, he and Murphy ‘wanted to give this piece a vintage, dreamlike look’, leading them to a range of Helios lenses. “They allowed us to achieve this filmic look with these beautiful lens flares that sell the effect and bring a feeling of triumph,” Fitzpatrick states.

Mission completed

The whole project took six months from beginning to end. With the help of Murphy and producer Oisín Daly, he shot in four locations over three days with a cast of about 20, all unpaid. To show thanks, Fitzpatrick shared footage and behind the-scenes content with the athletes.

Reflecting on his first spec ad, he notes “it was the story I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it,” he enthuses. “I’m really happy with the footage. Regardless of whether Nike picks up the project, we’d call that a success.”

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