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Cera-Jane Catton

Cera-Jane Catton
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Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.

Stuck in your head

Net#work BBDO and Gentlemen Films created a TVC for Virgin Money Insurance (VMI) with a mini musical that pokes fun at the serious side of making a claim.

VMI entered the SA market in October 2016 and the tune of its commercial is easy to get stuck in your head. The TVC was created as a musical with lyrics that satirically play around with the challenges the insured face each day in South Africa. A number of scenes and characters illustrate how insurance companies appear to see their customers from the perspective of the competition.

The TVC was shot in and around the city of Johannesburg from 13 to 15 August 2016. It was filmed using the Arri Amira Premium camera. Executive producer at Gentlemen Films, Vanessa La Trobe says the Arri Amira is beautiful.  The musical feel was created using various lighting.

The musical track was composed and recorded specifically for the TVC. “Our lead cast members were then brought into the studio to record their singing lines. The leads and the rest of the cast then rehearsed the dancing and singing sequences to the recorded track,” explains La Trobe. They shot to playback and no live sound was recorded on set.

In the opening scene there is a car accident on a busy corner and the driver sings: “What a lovely day for you to hit my car; this is going to cost me quite a lot; even though it’s not my fault; Oh, I love insurance.” The TVC continues through myriad examples with this song and dance and chorus amusingly portrayed with awkward scenes of disappointing scenarios people have experienced when making claims. In one scene there is a family dancing in a house that’s been flooded and the father sings: “I love that my insurance won’t help me tonight; we found a hidden clause; give a round of applause; we love insurance.”

The irony is not lost in this refreshing musical and one can only hope that this leads to insurers seeing clients in a different light. The TVC has lines in each scene highlighting an aspect of the insurance industry that people do not relish or require. All the while sung anxiously by people in everyday situations, only marginally exaggerated by a flame on the head of a woman because her hair is on fire.

The offline edit was done by LEFT Post and the grade by Upstairs Ludus Post. Nic Apostoli performed a remote grade from their grading suite in Cape Town to their grading suite in Johannesburg with a live feed between them.

Nicholas Young, senior online artist at Upstairs Ludus was the lead online operator on this commercial with Gavin Hong and Schalk van Der Merwe as second and third online artists. “It was an online-heavy project and we needed all hands on deck to make this beautiful and to meet the deadline,” says executive producer at Upstairs Ludus, Joe Erasmus.

“The VMI commercial was such a fun concept with some great compositing and effects work thrown in, which is always so good to work on,” says Young. “Creating the environments was an enjoyable challenge. We did some enhancement to really create the world. All the skies were re-generated and replaced to create a storybook look with the clouds. This look was further enhanced with perfectly manicured topiary which isn’t easy to find and shoot; but really added to the humour and feel of the whole commercial,” explains Young.

“The animation done by Rob van den Bragt in the fire scene and the opening scene really adds another great layer.  It was such a great team to work with across the board and in the end we put out a fun and unique product,” says Young.

Close attention to detail is paid throughout this canny TVC. Whether VMI actually changes the game in the insurance industry is not in the hands of the experts who finely crafted its commercial.

Key companies and crew:

  • Director: Greg Rom
  • Executive Creative Director: Brad Reilly
  • Art Director: Heidi Kasselman
  • Senior Copywriter: Shane Durrant
  • Executive Producer: Vanessa La Trobe
  • Line Producer: Stuart Pittorino
  • DOP: Willie Nel
  • Off-line Editor: Evy Katz at Left Post
  • Animation: Chocolate Tribe
  • Online: Upstairs Ludus Post
  • Choreographer: Debbie Rakusin
  • Music Director: Marc Algranti
  • Sound Engineer: Louis Enslin

VR documentary blazes a trail

While VR is gradually taking off, the team at Deep VR have promptly produced the first documentary in virtual reality. Exodus: The Great Wildebeest Migration was an unsuccessfully subsidised plot in August 2016 but in October, after its obstacle rich conception, Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol asked to premiere an early edition. It received rave reviews, and the documentary will now become a series: the Exodus series. Deep VR will produce a further five short immersive documentaries each with a different animal.

I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s go back to the making of Exodus, the first one about Wildebeest, pronounced in whichever accent you carry. Screen Africa caught up with Ulrico Grech-Cumbo: producer, co-director and DOP on Exodus, and CEO of Deep VR. “We tried to find funding for the project from various places. I flew to National Geographic twice to discuss the project with them. The crowdfunding was always going to be the cherry-on-top part of the funding strategy. In the end, nobody was willing to fund the project upfront because nobody had ever filmed a truly immersive narrated wildlife documentary in VR,” he explains.

They had a six week crowdfunding campaign with a flexible target of $25 000 and they raised seven per cent of that goal with $1 861, which paid for international and local flights for one crew member. “We decided in the end to self-fund the entire trip, because in VR if you’re going to do it at all, you’d better do it now,” says Ulrico. “We wanted to beat bigger, better-funded companies to the punch, and being agile and ambitious and well-schooled in VR allowed us to do that.”

The lack of funding or backup did not deter the team from the dream of immersing the viewer in the wild and forever changing the way wildlife documentaries are experienced. “Wildlife documentaries separate the viewer from the subject matter. VR, our speciality, would allow a never-seen-before perspective,” explains Ulrico. “So we chose the most epic wildlife phenomenon to immerse people in: the great wildebeest migration in East Africa. The idea was to create a 10-minute short-form documentary detailing the struggle, danger, and eventual triumph of these massive herds as they chase the rains.”

Filming took place over 11 days in August 2016. The final documentary came out of post in December 2016 and as of going to print, Deep VR is still finalising distribution. They simultaneously produced a behind-the-scenes documentary which details the novice unique journey, and the entertaining struggles and gratifying victories.

The short was filmed using custom GoPro-based rigs. Lacking most of the necessary equipment, the Deep VR team built a lot of it from scratch. “The primary reason is that we wanted to use sensor-extenders to keep the recorders safe while the lenses were the only part exposed in the event of a trampling. This would let us safeguard our footage. The cameras were modified to replace almost all plastic parts with custom aluminium to withstand the heat; we used special lenses from Japan that allowed us to dramatically reduce our nodal distances between different lenses on the rigs. We had a custom micro-processor board allowing us to trigger cameras using RF signal. And we had a custom gen-locking kit which allowed us to synchronise multiple cameras at once,” explains Ulrico, adding: “We used god’s lighting kit, the sun and only the sun.”

They used a Tetramic spatial microphone to capture 360 degree audio. “This allows us to spatially map audio in the final VR experience so that it’s recreated exactly the way you’d hear it in the wild,” Ulrico explains. They used a DJI Matrice 600 as a primary drone and a DJI Phantom 3 as a back-up. Despite this their primary drone malfunctioned a number of times and they lost it before they could use it. “We also crashed our second drone due to battery issues,” he adds.

They faced battery charging issues throughout the trip, relying solely on solar and generator power. The only time they had full batteries was on arrival. “We had to build our own VR cameras for the shoot to ensure they’d withstand trampling, heat and dust,” says Ulrico. “As the shoot progressed, there was a massive attrition rate of gear. We were field-testing at the same time as we were having to capture the project, which means we were constantly in trouble-shooting mode and never left it.”

The documentary was filmed in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It was no easy road for these pioneering filmmakers. They needed permission from the local authorities to run around the Maasai Mara. “The park does have a well-developed commercial filming policy but our challenge was that we needed to rig cameras, essentially walking around the Big Five plains and hippo-infested rivers every single day,” says Ulrico. They needed to do this in a park that does not allow walking safaris. They were badly hit by the doccie maker’s greatest challenger – unpredictable nature and wildlife. “The nature of filming in VR meant the cameras would need to be autonomous, i.e. free-standing. The animals were super sensitive to human presence so we had to predict where they’d go, in order to try rig cameras. We had completed 70 per cent of our shoot without really capturing anything of value. It put immense pressure on the team,” says Ulrico. Along with that pressure, everyone on the team was hit with a virus that had them bed-ridden for ten per cent of the shoot. When fit and out in the field they were in one of the most sought after game viewing territories and therefore “A huge amount of tourists watching the migration constantly interfered with our logistics and clean wildlife-only shot goals,” he adds.

The piece was edited using Photoshop for rotomasking, After Effects, Premiere, Autopano Kolor and Giga, Nuke, and DaVinci Resolve for grading. The small team that pulled off a great feat included Telmo dos Reis as co-director, editor and DOP; Jared Reid as wildlife specialist and DOP; Josh Miller as drone pilot and DOP; and Amy Montalvo as behind-the-scenes videographer.

Ulrico concludes: “Deep VR is putting a stake in the ground with the vision of being the world’s best VR wildlife documentary production company.”

FILM DIRECTOR SPEAK: Guru Kali

Executive creative director at Agni Media Concepts and company director at Media Monk, Guru Kali is an award-winning director with more than 15 years’ experience. He works across the board from ads to doccies to features. In his own words: “There should be purpose in every film, character, script, scene, and frame – the same way that there should be purpose in every day, hour, minute, and second of one’s life.”

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOU AS A DIRECTOR?

Entertainment is a family industry, starting with my grandfather, mother, aunt, cousin… the list goes on.

DESCRIBE THE MOMENT WHEN YOU DECIDED YOU WANTED TO BECOME A DIRECTOR?

Was it a decision?!

It has been more of a serendipitous series of events that led me here. I love crafting and telling stories… this is just the medium of expression.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

Life seems a bit clichéd, so I’m going to say YouTube.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS?

There are several people I would consider as mentors for various aspects of life, but from a work and industry perspective, I got to work closely with Danie Ferreira when I first started my career and that’s where I learnt the ropes, and if I don’t mention my mum I’ll get in trouble… so… my mum.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL CAREER MILESTONES?

I’ve picked up a few awards along the way, but the 12 months leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup was epic.

WHICH PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN?

TTL is still our bread and butter, and we’re also busy with a full-length documentary, feature film, and transmedia platform.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FUNNIEST MOMENT ON SET?

Take six of a scene that required a slap with an actor that insisted on real contact. We had it in the bag on the second take.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE-LINER FROM MOVIE?

“I have nipples Greg, could you milk me?” Meet the Fockers (I know, not very sophisticated).

WHAT SONGS MAKE UP YOUR MOST RECENT MUSIC PLAYLIST?

Audiobooks and 80s hits.

IF YOU COULD PRODUCE AN AFRICAN VERSION OF A HOLLYWOOD CLASSIC, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Gladiator with Zulu warriors could be quite cool… is that a classic though?

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM SHOOT LOCATION? AND WHY?

Aurora Borealis… the nature, magic, timing, and romance would all be quite amazing.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT BUSY DIRECTING HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DOWN TIME?

Meditation, friends, and family.

WHO IN THE INDUSTRY WOULD YOU REALLY LIKE TO WORK WITH?

The Rock. He looks like a riot on set.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FILMMAKER SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Unlimited budget – it’s definitely a superpower. Or the ability to control the weather – that would come in really handy on location.

Africa made magical by a drone

In three minutes and 51 seconds you are transported to another world in Rhino Africa’s latest promo video. Made up of spectacular drone footage, which inimitably traverses the heights of Africa, poetically piecing together its gems as if floating on a cloud, flying through a painting, that’s the feeling you are left with after watching this Rhino Africa vid.

Along with the awe-inspiring scenery, you see elephants, leopards, lions and more wildlife than you can count, from a perspective that shows you their magnitude in their pristine settings.

The montage was three years in the making, with the team painstakingly gathering the drone footage, which whisks the viewer across the continent in less than four minutes. The stunning footage and the soundtrack portray Africa as the magnificent continent it is.

The Rhino Africa team were tasked to “Capture Africa’s beautiful and iconic landscapes and animals with a drone and in so doing take viewers where they’ve never been before and will want to go,” explains Ryan Rapaport, creative director of Rhino Africa and director of this short.

“Rhino Africa, Africa’s leading safari company, has spent the past three years exploring Africa to capture breathtaking drone footage of the continent’s most beautiful places. Visiting iconic places such as Victoria Falls, Sossusvlei, the Okavango Delta, the Garden Route and Cape Town, the video team at Rhino Africa has managed to take viewers on an unprecedented journey through Africa from the sky,” Rapaport adds.

This is where the video takes you, the locations and the companies involved:

Madikwe Game Reserve – South Africa; Vumbra North – Botswana; Jao Camp – Okavango; Delta – Botswana; Zarafa Camp – Botswana; Mombo Camp – Okavango Delta – Botswana; DumaTau – Okavango Delta – Botswana; Blouberg Beach – Cape Town; Gorah Elephant Camp – Addo National Park – South Africa; Jacks Camp – Makgadikgadi Pans in the Kalahari Desert – Botswana; The Marine – Hermanus – South Africa; Clifton Beach – Cape Town – South Africa; Dune 45 – Sossusvlei – Namibia; Knysna Lagoon – Garden Route – South Africa;Robberg Nature Reserve – Plettenburg Bay – South Africa; Knysna Forest – South Africa;Royal Chundu – Victoria Falls – Zambia; Machaba – Okavango Delta – Botswana; Table Mountain – Cape Town – South Africa; Tsitsikamma – Garden Route – South Africa; Kwandwe Game Reserve – Eastern Cape – South Africa; Kwandwe Game Reserve – Garden Route – South Africa; Knysna Heads – Garden Route – South Africa; Delaire – Franschhoek – South Africa. Aiming for dramatic aerial shots, Rapaport says, “The result is an awe-inspiring bird’s-eye view of the immense wetlands, plains, forests, deserts, mountains and wildlife of Africa.” He explains that the drone footage was filmed using the DJI Inspire 1 and the DJI Phantom 2 and 4 with nothing but natural light.

The team of four included director, photographer, cinematographer and certified drone pilot. Rapaport says they have been dabbling in drones for years and DJI are the best in the world. “It’s the best bang for your buck, and gives near movie-like quality.” He further explains that flying in tiny planes across southern Africa meant they need to keep equipment tight. The DJI Phantom comes with its own camera, and for the DJI Inspire they used a Micro X5 camera for its flexibility.

It was then edited and strung together like a poem using Premiere Pro and After Effects. The song was sourced from Audio Network. The crew from Rhino Africa began filming in November 2014 and the video was released on 18 October 2016.

The Rhino Africa team say they would not call the film a commercial. “It’s made from our passion and love for Africa and we want to share it with the world,” explains Rapaport. He says that “Whether you can afford a safari or not, we want to share the beauty of Africa with the world.”

Going underground to capture the surface

A commercial about tyres wouldn’t appear to be the most stimulating brief but Bridgestone’s latest TVC, Passion, is quite compelling. The voice-over hits you with this line: “It’s not something we think about very often… the ways in which each one of us makes contact with the earth… but it’s something Bridgestone has obsessed about for many years… your connection to this planet is your journey… and that’s our passion.” All the while we see your connection from underground.

The SA companies teaming up to bring Passion to life was the agency, The DWF Collective with production company Hammersmith and Elephant, the post production house Maker Moving Pictures and Ammotech, the animation and motion capture studio.

“We decided to go underground to get a perspective not often thought about; how we all make contact with the earth’s surface on a day to day basis,” explains Byron Grant, executive producer at Hammersmith and Elephant. “Something which is surely critical to a tyre’s functionality, safety and comfort.”Production of the shoot was done at Hammersmith and Elephant in Johannesburg, motion capture was done at Foghound Studios in Midrand and post was done at Maker Moving Pictures in Durban.

“The look and feel was in many ways determined by the reality of what the world would look like through a piece of glass,” Grant describes. “Colour is simplified and it’s mainly a world or profiles and shapes. Of course there is a suspended reality yet the result is quite plausible. There is an incredible amount of detail above the glass which lends credibility to each scene.” He adds that “The sound design separates each environment and adds a layer of authenticity to each scenario.”

Louis Enslin, owner, composer and engineer at Produce Sound says this TVC was quite an interesting one, “As we had to create a soundscape of the world from below, but not end up with a dark feel.”

He explains, “So we basically created each scene as you would hear it from above ground. We did a lot of foleys as we wanted to push the realness of the scenes. We then did another layer of sound with all the close-up sound as heard from below, mainly footsteps and ground-impact sound effects. Then we experimented with various techniques, and amounts of filtering to get the balance between all the elements in terms of how muffled the sound should be, and constantly cross referencing it on TV speakers, as this is where it has to be most effective.”

The sound ties together this commercial that was created sans cameras. “There were no cameras used. We used a motion capture system to capture performances, which was then transplanted onto CGI human assets,” explains Grant. “The whole setup, people, dogs, environments props etc are all CGI.”

The motion capture of the performances was done in one day and post-production took three weeks. The footage was then edited using 3D studio Max, Maya, Nuke and Adobe Studio. “The ads concept and treatment from director Brett Wild landed on production’s desk as pretty much a single thought,” says Grant. Working out how to realise the concept was where the fun really began. “We contemplated building a glass stage and shooting for real but the glass needed to be clear to key, and blurry for effect at the same time. The exec and the director conjured a ridiculous process involving wireframes and people in spandex suits with motion capture nodes, the post guru said yes we can, and the rest is history. Kudos to Mike Muller, agency ECD and client Jan Maritz who sat unflinching as we told them that plans had changed and that their ad would star wireframe puppets with bad haircuts.”

One ad can make a profound impact

The Like Change viral commercial for Afrika Tikkun has changed 180 lives to date. Afrika Tikkun is a non-profit funding underprivileged children, their tagline: “Developing young people from cradle to career.” They needed to create an intensely emotive commercial to pull on viewers’ heart strings creating awareness, finding benefactors and garnering Facebook likes. Flash Forward Productions created just that. A poignant piece that won’t just have you reaching for the tissues, it will have you taking action, simply because a like can make a change.

“Through the Like Change social movement, their aim was to alleviate poverty in South Africa by getting as many children as possible through the cradle to career model,” explains director and producer Ryan Peimer of Flash Forward Productions. “For the first time, social media, the media and the country at large came together to bring the much-needed change in the lives of many in South Africa. For every 200 likes achieved from watching the commercial, one life changed.” How a life changed in this case actually means that a child was fully funded through schooling, healthcare and social services from preschool to employment.

Flash Forward Productions were approached by Popimedia, a social media ad agency, to create the commercial from inception to completion. “The brief was quite vague – to create something emotive and touching that will inspire viewers to click like,” says Peimer.

“Something emotive” was taken to the next level of heart wrenching. The commercial follows a young underprivileged boy, an orphan who lives in a township and looks at life from the outside. A voiceover expresses what is important in life while we see this boy contrasted against the harsh reality of all he lacks. “We wanted to end it all off with a powerful emotive finish where the young boy is in his ragged, torn clothes sitting in the township with a graduation hat on,” says Peimer of the tear jerker ending. “In fact, this end shot was so powerful that it’s on several billboards across the country,” he adds.

Peimer scouted Johannesburg to find a series of suitable locations, “to get our message across within different innovative and contrasting environments, from a school, to a township, to a high-end restaurant, park and university,” he explains.

“We wanted to go for a grey, de-saturated, milky type look and feel in order to assist with the contrast in the beautiful optimistic voiceover,” he describes. Peimer explains that a lot of the commercial was shot in slow motion at 60pfs and 120fps. “Using an array of slow motion tracking shots, clearly plotted focus pulls, some cinéma vérité and handheld for the more grungy scenes, juxtaposed with a deeply heart-felt voiceover, I wanted to create a beautiful mix of visual artistry that would hit the hearts of the viewers,” says Peimer.

Peimer opted to use the Sony F55, of which he says he is a big fan, claiming, “I feel it gives the Arris and Reds a go. I love the soft filmic look that F55 gives and of course its ability to shoot 120fps.” He adds that because it was mostly an outdoor shoot he used 12 X 12 scrims to bounce and diffuse natural light and with that he had four straight and four curved tracks and dolly for grips. It was shot over one and a half days and released on SABC.

“Two of the biggest challenges were time and a very tight budget,” says Peimer. “It’s always a stretch to deliver a high-quality product on a shoe-string budget but I wasn’t prepared to comprise on the production value of this piece as I was in love with our script. Hence, we pulled favours, begged and borrowed, and worked closely with Popimedia to see how they could assist us in keeping the costs down.” He further adds that “being on set directing this was such an amazing experience. It was very close to my heart and I was determined to execute a powerful final piece. With TV commercials you’re always selling something or punting a brand. But with our Like Change commercial, for the first time ever I was honoured enough to be selling change; selling individual transformation and selling the futures of our disadvantaged South African children. And for that, I’m so grateful that this project came to me.”

Key crew:

  • Producer: Ryan Peimer
  • Production Co-ordinator: Athini Maseti
  • Scriptwriters: Ryan Peimer and Daniel Peimer
  • Director: Ryan Peimer
  • Cinematographer: Daniel Peimer
  • Focus Puller / DIT: Willem Engelbrecht
  • Gaffer: William Masuku
  • Key Grip: William Mnisi
  • Offline Edit: Daniel Peimer
  • Online Edit:Ryan Peimer
  • Colourist: Yoav Dagan
  • Sound Design and Final Mix: Dean Konidaris

Greeting the competition

Motorola is back in the TVC game with its first commercial since 2011 and they are bringing back Hello Moto. The South African take on the TVC is a visually arresting, culturally diverse and uplifting rendering of how people say hello. This is in striking contrast to its American counterpart, which knocks competitors’ devices in a way that only US commercials can.

The US version, similarly created through the international agency Ogilvy & Mather, plays off the lack of enthusiasm and innovation in the mobile phone market where the SA one greets viewers with a refreshing take on the slogan. ‘How do you say hello?’ simply and rhythmically explores how diverse cultures around the world say hello and greet one other.

OgilvyOne Dubai brought in 7Films Johannesburg to create the South African TVC. It was shot in both countries in September 2016. In South Africa 7Films shot 80 per cent in Cape Town between 5 and 7 September at the Pan Africa Market, Yours Truly Café, Hill Crest Quarry, Clara Anna Fontein Nature Reserve and at the Gardens Skate Park. The remaining 20 per cent was shot in Dubai between 15 and 17 September at the business district and old town. The TVC was release on 1 October.

7Films director SJ Myeza-Mhlambi says “The most challenging part of the prep was trying to represent 14 different characters and locations around the world. On a production front shooting 11 different locations in two days was an absolute push. We managed to get seven locations done in one day.” Throughout the shoot he says they were chasing the sun to get the perfect light. “This challenged us on a physical, emotional and mental level. We literally had to run from location to location,” he says. For lighting the scenes they used small HMIs for speed and ease of set up, explains SJ. “We also used Kino Flo’s for their soft quality. However, in most cases we made use of natural light as the natural light of each location suited the narrative.”

SJ says that the look and feel they were going for was that of a rich grade that complimented the characters and their environments. “The piece was very much character orientated so we wanted to bring out the beauty, emotion and humanity in them,” SJ explains. “The environments had to be graded slightly different so that their diversity could be accentuated. We really wanted to go with a cinematic look with a unique identity that is reminiscent of travel, adventure and landscape cinematography. Imagine Red Bull meets National Geographic. It is current, dynamic but at the same rich and natural.”

Filming was done using an Arri Alexa mini, because according to SJ it had the right lightweight design with high quality imagery. Post production was done by Upstairs LUDUS where Mark Ash did the offline edit on AVID and Nicholas Young completed the online. Michele Wilson did the grade using DaVinci Resolve. Sean Williams at Sterling Sound did the sound design.

“This project was done 100 per cent remote from our Johannesburg studio with agency, client and director in different cities around the world,” explains Joe Erasmus, head of post at LUDUS. “Managing the post process was tricky but despite the time zone difference, Amanda Newall and Logan Allanson (from OgilvyOne) were fully committed to executing a world class piece of work in the most efficient way possible whilst meeting a tight deadline.” Erasmus adds that “Mark Ash raved about how great it was working with such a professional and dedicated team. SJ too credits the team, “I was blessed with an amazing team which is 7Films, the agency OgilvyOne and the client at Lenovo were awesome to work with and I am proud to call them my friends.”

SJ who won a Gold Loerie in 2016 for directing Chasing the Dragon has certainly proved his weight with this international commercial. “This was nerve wrecking for me, the amount of detail, preparation that went into this commercial was something that really challenged me,” describes SJ. “This was a very important piece for Moto as it was part of their re-launch campaign. I appreciate that Logan Allison, the creative director, trusted me as a director. He really supported me and believed in me, which was probably one of the most rewarding parts of this shoot.”

SJ goes on to say that “The agency was very professional and had huge expectations. This opened my eyes to the expectation of this high pressure industry. Despite the tight deadlines and pressure the client, agency and production crew worked together efficiently and effectively. I will never forget the Eloquent Elephant which was our second home in Dubai, where long lasting bonds were formed with the team in Dubai. I will hold this dearly in my heart.”

Despite the heat in Dubai being a grueling challenge for the SA teams there, they pulled off a successful shoot. “Dubai was a whole new ball park for me. The heat alone was something out of this world. Having to work in a different country for the first time was a new challenge for me. Inside I felt like a puppy getting released into the wild but I had to behave like a wise elephant leading the team from the front. I had to learn and adapt in a short space of time,” says SJ. “This was probably the hardest thing that I had to do but the most rewarding too. Overcoming these challenges reminded me why I am a filmmaker. The F1 like pressure of directing this commercial forced me into a hypnotic sense of focus and satisfaction. This job made me grow tenfold as a director and for that I am grateful.”

Gratitude and greetings abound from the team of this TVC that depicts a global hi, and it too encourages viewers to show Moto how they say hello. Hello Moto have an interactive commercial as well as website and social media pages.

Key crew:

  • Executive Producer: Lourens van Rensburg
  • Director: SJ  Myeza-Mhlambi
  • Producer: Nina van Rensburg
  • Production manager: Meagan Taylor
  • Production Coordinator: Jamie Moncrieff
  • 1st Ad: Shane Knock
  • DOP: Kabeer Shaik
  • Focus Puller: Luke van Rensburg
  • Editor: Mark Ash
  • Grade: Michelle Wilson
  • Post Producer: Joe Erasmus

Nat Geo increases investment in Africa

The president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, Gary Knell, was in South Africa recently (in November 2016) to talk about Nat Geo and its continual investment in Africa. For the past 128 years, Nat Geo has been one of the world’s largest science, research and education platforms; documenting the world through television programmes and its magazine.

Since 1888 Nat Geo has funded myriad missions in uncovering and understanding our planet better. “This work is now more important than ever,” says Knell, adding that Nat Geo will increase their grants in Africa. “Tapping into the deep knowledge and curiosity of the African people and creating an ethos of conservation and spreading this across the region,” he says. “There is no place like this continent and this is a place where Nat Geo hopes to create thoughtful analysis and provide a long term contextual view that we can all face,” says Knell.

Knell, who first came to South Africa 22 years ago, and has visited many times since, says he loves the country and the creativity the people here possess. “I wanted to walk you through where National Geographic is today, and maybe inspire you to think in new and different ways,” says Knell.

Nat Geo was founded on the belief that science and exploration can change the world. Overpopulation is causing massive strain today and by 2050 it is expected to exceed nine billion, where Knell says 1.2 billion of that will come from Africa alone.

The society’s role is to assist in funding scientific answers to the threats facing the planet and the people living on it. An NGO, Nat Geo has been one of the leading sponsors of expeditions including famous finds like that of Machu Picchu, the work and welfare done by Jane Goodall, and the discovery by Professor Lee Berger of Homo naledi. Berger, of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University, was awarded the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year award for his discovery in South Africa.

“We have been able to invest in people like Jane. In taking risks, and investing in people like that, we really have changed the world,” says Knell.

Nat Geo is committed to exploring and protecting our planet, while funding hundreds of research and conservation efforts and “pushing the boundaries of exploration to further understanding of the planet and generate solutions for all.”

To do this, Nat Geo will continue to invest in people and document these journeys. “We’re redefining how explorers are documented,” he adds.

In Africa Nat Geo has awarded more than 2 300 grants totalling $42 million for field work on the continent, and Knell says that they will continue increasing that amount, investing in more people.

Africa projects include the Big Cats Initiative, and the more recent Savage Kingdom, the Okavango Delta project to save Africa’s largest wetland, and Pristine Seas, focusing on saving the planet’s oceans.

“We are working throughout Africa. We want to increase our work in Africa. We want to increase our grant making in Africa,” adds Knell. “This investment architecture at the National Geographic Society is exactly what we trying to do, to create an ethic of conversation, and be able to spread this across the region.”

Through storytelling throughout the Nat Geo platforms they reach millions of people across the globe. Knell gleams that the society’s social media pages are so successful that they may one day surpass the Kardashians. At least Nat Geo carries a message of hope for the planet.

Given the urgency of the climate challenges and population growth and natural species dwindling, this investment in Africa and the world over should be copied and constitute a following that leads to more investment and more life changing journeys.

Man to Mars

Within 20 years, man will be living on Mars. This is the bold conclusion given by Dr Adriana Marais in Johannesburg at the November launch of the National Geographic series, Mars.

Before the premiere screening of the first episode of Mars, Marais, a theoretical physicist currently doing research in the area of quantum biology, explained her mission to get there. She’s made it onto a shortlist of 100 people vying for a front row seat on the Mars One expedition.

The Mars One organisation proposes to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2026, aiming to send four at a time. Of the 100 candidates seven are from Africa. Marais not only explained the process and the purpose of the project but she brought it to life with her pioneering spirit and passionate excitement for the possibilities that she is a part of. She opened the audience’s eyes to the new era of innovation and space travel we are entering, and enlightened them to feel as excited for the mission and her willingness to give up her life on earth to pave the way for the future of humanity.

“Billions of years of evolution of life on Earth have culminated in the possibility of us calling another planet home for the very first time,” says Marais. She set the tone for the series that is partly factual and partly speculative, as we are taken into a world of the unknown and given a taste of what is in development and almost possible, while also being shown what is imminent and unfolding before our eyes.

The series premiered on Nat Geo in 171 countries and 45 languages during November 2016. The Mars production team took every effort to base the scripted narrative on accurate science. The series writing team worked with an extensive group of experts, both in the public and private sectors, to understand how the science could serve the story. The series also forms a collection of interviews with the top scientific minds currently working to overcome the many obstacles that stand in the way of an eventual inaugural launch, including exclusive interviews with Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX mission control as they successfully landed their Falcon 9 reusable rocket on a drone ship off the East Coast of the US in April 2016.

“The future of humanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along one of two directions: either we’re going to become a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilisation, or we’re going to be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event. In order for me to be excited and inspired about the future, it’s got to be the first option,” says Musk in the series.

The six part series brings this exciting phase of human exploration home, despite it taking us to Mars. “Showing that life is sustainable on Mars, or furthermore finding evidence of life on Mars, would be one of the most important possible discoveries for humanity. A giant leap in terms of understanding who we are, where we come from and what the future may hold, the Mars One Project, one of the most ambitious ever proposed, makes this dream realisable,” concludes Marais.

Is satellite the solution for the expanding VOD demand?

In the past five years mobile internet subscribers have tripled to 300 million, according to statistics reflected in the mobile economy report there will be an additional 250 million by 2020. This has fueled the wireless technology explosion and the ongoing migration to digital has vastly expanded communications and information. Consumers across Africa now have 494 million smartphone connections, set to increase to 720 million by 2020.

The continent is not at a level where VOD content can be enjoyed by a mass audience. For this reason Eutelsat Communications has developed its SmartBeam technology to deliver video content to mobile devices via satellite, addressing challenges that include user frustration with buffering and disconnection as terrestrial mobile networks become saturated.

The technology will enable consumers to receive video services in public venues by downloading an app on their mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets using Android or iOS. Users will pick up the channels via a local Wi-Fi network connected to a compact box that receives the content direct from a satellite.

Eutelsat provides capacity on 38 satellites to clients that include broadcasters and broadcasting associations , pay-TV operators, video, data and internet service providers, enterprises and government agencies. Eutelsat’s satellites provide global coverage of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, enabling video, data, broadband and government communications to be established irrespective of a user’s location.

Attending Africom 2016 in Cape Town, Jacques Dutronc, chief development and innovation officer at Eutelsat explains the technology and how satellite can feed a growing appetite for video on demand in Africa.

“SmartBEAM is a new IP-based video solution. It offers content providers a satellite-based solution for multiscreen video delivery to connected devices, including tablets and smartphones. It works with any WiFi-enabled device, supporting instant channel change, DRM security, and low latency.”

Dutronc explains that SmartBEAM emerged from viewer expectation to have access to content on mobile devices when outside of the home. “In addition to enabling broadcasters to extend their relationship to their audience, SmartBeam is also an efficient last-mile delivery system for OTT services,” he adds.

The technology has been positively received as it is in effect a game changer for extending access to video content on mobile devices beyond terrestrial networks. “It has a competitive edge for mass market delivery of OTT services. Tricolor TV, one of our key customers in Russia, is already deploying the service and we are analysing other markets, including emerging markets as a route to offering simple access to video content on mobile devices,” he says.

 “SmartBeam is designed to enable broadcasters and pay-TV operators to leverage the ubiquitous coverage of satellites to broadcast video content in IP format, creating a network that is completely dedicated to IP-native terminals,” Dutronc explains. He says the goal is to be an integral part of the digitisation process sweeping across the African continent. “Through our experience in other regions that have completed analogue switch-off and achieved 100 per cent digital coverage, we know satellites have the core assets of reach and network availability. We can deploy digital infrastructure faster than any other technology and we can provide blanket reach of a region thereby limiting massive public investment in terrestrial towers to cover the last mile.”

He further says that “Scaling up to HD and Ultra HD are other key pillars of our video strategy in all markets for the coming years. In other areas of activity, connectivity requirements continue to grow. We believe there is a key long-term role for satellites in the connectivity business, both fixed and mobile (maritime, in-flight).”

According to the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, “Broadband is not just a consequence of economic growth, it is also a cause.” This was discussed at the unveiling of Konnect Africa at Africom, a new identity for Eutelsat’s satellite broadband venture. “Our Konnect Africa broadband venture will start providing services in Sub-Saharan Africa from spring 2017, marking another milestone for inclusive digital services in Africa,” adds Dutronc.

The Konnect Africa five year development plan is built on two phases. Firstly the start of Konnect Africa operations over key regions as soon as Q2 in 2017, and then a dedicated HTS satellite, to be launched in 2019. After five years Konnect Africa is considering the upcoming VHTS technology to further increase the performance and economics of satellite broadband.

This venture is set up to galvanise the market for satellite broadband services in Sub-Saharan Africa. With a team located in key African markets and in Europe, Konnect Africa aims to become one of the leading suppliers of new-generation services, working closely with African partners to promote high-quality broadband at affordable prices for homes and businesses, and contributing to reducing the digital divide on the continent.

Konnect Africa’s portfolio of services will be adjusted to the profiles and needs of its partners, to match their position in the value chain: data, mobile or VSAT operators, ISPs and pay-TV platforms that can bundle TV with Internet services. Konnect Africa will offer a complete range of services, from bandwidth supply to end-to-end solutions.

There is a clear need for broadband across Sub-Saharan Africa, where 341 million people live beyond a 50km range of fibre. This is greater than the population of the United States and therefore a mix of technologies is therefore required, including fibre, 3G/4G and satellite solutions.

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