Commercial Project Spotlight: Award-Winning Spots for Sanctuary Asia at Oklahoma City Zoo

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create an award-winning commercial? The commercials we filmed for the Oklahoma City Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia exhibit took home five Addy awards, and we’re extremely proud of the recognition.

Here’s a closer look at that project, including some of the challenges we faced and how we overcame them to create two 30-second commercials.

The project

In 2018, the Oklahoma City Zoo completed a $22 million expansion project to create the new Sanctuary Asia exhibit area. The area houses rhinos, Asian elephants, red pandas, Komodo dragons, and other animals native to Asia, while also including special event space, a splash pad, and daily food service.

To promote the new expansion, the Zoo contracted with Jordan Advertising to create two television commercials, who then awarded the production to Resolute.

The challenge

We had tons of planning to do regarding filming schedules, lighting, crew, and all the other details that go into any sort of film project. We had several meetings with the team at Jordan about the creative vision for the project, then we scouted the zoo twice, including a technical scout, to make sure everything was ready to go.

There’s an old joke in film about never working with children and animals, and in this spot, we were combining both. Much of the project was to be filmed outside, which introduced the additional variables of lighting and weather. That’s a lot of unpredictability to deal with in one shoot! Animals and kids often tend to do their own thing, and the weather can get challenging as well.

We wanted to showcase this multimillion-dollar exhibit in the best possible light. When the forecast called for an overcast and gray day in the middle of the three-day shoot, we made the call to bump it an entire day. While rescheduling requires even more logistics for crew, actors, and animals, it was the right call to ensure we filmed on a beautiful sunny day instead of a dreary gray one.

The solution

We worked closely with the zookeepers to make sure that we could catch the animals at the best time and not interfere too much with their regular routines. To get good footage, we had to time the filming around the animals’ feedings and make sure we caught them during a time when they were active.

We filmed most of the animals from outside their enclosures for the safety of the animals, our crew, and our equipment. The one exception was the red pandas, where we were able to film from inside their enclosure. The lighting was a challenge, as we had to film with both shade and sunlight, which made it hard to get the look right. In addition, we could only have one person with the camera in the enclosure with the keeper. We did manage to get a great shot, but it took about an hour of coaxing the pandas with treats to get the exact expression and position we were looking for.

Before we took drone footage of the elephants, the keepers had to go out and pick up all the sticks and stones lying around the enclosure. If they didn’t, there was a risk that the elephants would actually throw them at the drone!

The technical details

We used the Red EPIC-W camera for all of our filming. It was perfect, as it allowed us to shoot at 6K resolution and 60 frames per second. The fast speed (called overcranking) means you’re basically filming in slow motion.

Because we needed drone footage, we brought in Keaton Nye as a first assistant camera and drone pilot. He used his Inspire 2 and the super-35 sized sensor of the X7 camera/gimbal combination to capture some of the most stunning shots of the project, including an epic sunrise over the lake.

The editing process took place in DaVinci Resolve 15, which made it easy to send to our colorist since that is his tool of choice as well. The sound design tools are also excellent, and we used them to create the award-winning soundtrack.

The result

The Oklahoma City Zoo absolutely loved how these two commercials turned out, and the Addy judges did as well, as evidenced by the awards.

Sage commercial:

  • Gold Addy for Video/Sound Design
  • Bronze Addy for Cinematography

Adventurer commercial:

  • Silver Addy for Video Editing
  • Bronze Addy for Cinematography
  • Bronze Addy for Video/Sound Design

These spots for the zoo took a lot of coordination and effort, but it was a fun project and outstanding work by all involved. With proper planning, expert crew, and top-tier equipment, it’s possible to turn out a fantastic TV spot no matter what challenges you face.

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