Joshua Frankel

NFL "Timeline"
Directed by Peter Berg
Produced by Pony Show
VFX by The Mill

Previsualization Supervisor / Shoot Supervisor for The Mill

I worked closely with director Peter Berg, leading a team of four artists to create the previs for this spot, which aired during Super Bowl XLVI.

The NFL and the folks at Grey wanted to feature a key player for each decade while also hilighting various rules and equipment changes that have made the game safer and faster. The field would be treated as a timeline: so the 1920s take place around the 20 yard line, the 1930s at the the 30, etc. I began by designing a kickoff return play that would feature the right player at the right point on the field performing an action that would show off the rule or equipment change being hilighted at that moment.

Peter wanted to frame the action using long lenses to create the sensation of watching the action from the stands. By connecting the camera positions to the way in which we watch as fans, the game would feel real and not staged for camera. I sketched out camera moves for our kickoff return following this philosophy, edited them together and worked with Peter to refine it all to match his vision.

On set Peter's crew shot the action on four cameras. One camera would match the previs and the others would find their own interesting angles on the action. The DP and camera operators were incredible. The performances that Peter pulled from the players were compelling and realistic.

With ten eras and twenty teams featurd in the spot, the previs was also a crucial tool for the crew to keep track of which uniforms, props and set dressings were in camera at any given moment. Several of the transitions were created by matching actions and/or framings between eras, so this became especially important. The teams, years and key players being featured were burned into the previs by our team for reference.

All of the details in the spot are historically accurate: the numbers on the jerseys match specific players, the stadiums are correct for their period, etc. A website to accompany the commercial was created by Grey and The Mill flesh out all of these details. It's pretty cool.

This video shows the first step in our process: designing the action on the field.
Once the play was set, we began creating camera angles.