Friday, December 2, 2011

"How'd They Do That?" Part II: Speedo Dir. by Michael Muller

Our second installment of our blog series “How’d They Do That?” features Michael Muller’s visually captivating spot for Speedo featuring the inimitable Michael Phelps. 

“I had been shooting stills for Speedo’s print campaign for 5 or 6 years,” Muller recalls, “and it’s only a natural progression that I was becoming interested in motion.” Take a look at how the finished product turned out here:

But, in order to tell the story of this spot, we must begin at the beginning. Over the years of work with Speedo, Muller had developed a great relationship with Olympic Gold-Medalist, Michael Phelps, and worked with him in the water on a regular basis.

Muller is no stranger to working in the water, and he is no stranger to innovation and invention either, which has placed him in a category all his own when it comes to underwater still photography. “I had been searching for years for a light that would perform underwater in a way that was effective and similar to the way that a photographer would use a light on land. I tried every underwater HMI, every single source light that was on the market,” but they simply did not produce the type of light that Muller knew was achievable. Muller got together with a team of engineers, and invented his own light, a patent-pending 1200 watt underwater strobe, that allowed him to capture the sorts of still images that he wanted, and set him apart, showing the world a style of underwater photography that had not been seen before.

And so, over the course of their still photography sessions, Muller and his photography assistants, dive-certified to the highest level, began, with no additional budget to speak of, to take a Canon 5D underwater with them to shoot film during their ongoing still shoots with Phelps. Muller approached friends at Greenhaus GFX, a boutique graphic, to cut the footage together and do the effects for the spec spot for his reel.

“As chance would have it, it was at about that time that Speedo, never a big television advertiser, called me asking if the spot could work for the Times Square JumboTron. Thus began Muller’s Directorial career, bringing the same sense of dynamism and kinetic energy to found in his print work to motion.

Of the experience of directing underwater, Muller says, “It’s a bit like being in space, in zero gravity. Even though I have to return to the surface to give direction, shooting underwater is ballet-like. It’s really very liberating, it’s a very organic experience. A lot of beautiful things happen underwater when you are unable to verbally communicate.”

Speedo was a finalist in the 2011 PromaxBDA Sports Media Marketing Awards, in two categories: “Best Spot” and “Best Partnership with an Athlete.” Please enjoy this brief behind the scenes film that captures the spirit of experimentation and collaboration of the spot.