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Capturing Patrick Mahomes’ Intensity for a Fitness Tech Ad



Human performance brand Whoop partnered up with Los Angeles-based Stept Studios to produce an intense and star-studded spot, to showcase their new wearable technology and digital fitness coach - Whoop 4.0

Capturing Patrick Mahomes’ Intensity for a Fitness Tech Ad

Stept’s Pat Hall directed a full-throttle campaign with dynamic, athletic shots and still photography that embodies the training and recovery of the athletes starring in the films.

Cutting between action shots of sportspeople, such as NFL Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and graphics from Stept’s motion design team - you can almost taste the sweat and feel the chill of the ice bath from home. 

LBB’s Ben Conway spoke to Stept’s director Pat Hall and their head of creative Adam Rachlitz to discuss representing authenticity, when a director decides to edit themself and shooting with high-profile athletes. 

LBB> For this campaign, you worked directly with Whoop - so could you tell us about the foundations of this project?

Adam> We received an RFP from Whoop roughly six months earlier to pitch for a 360-degree product launch of the new Whoop 4.0 - including everything from a major campaign with literally hundreds of deliverables, to photos, and lastly a live keynote presentation of the new products and technology. 

While the vastness of the task was daunting, the brief was fairly simple – communicate what Whoop does and how it’s different as more competitors enter the space. Their previous campaigns were beautiful but didn’t do much heavy lifting when it came to educating consumers about Whoop’s functionality. We needed to make it crystal clear that Whoop is the absolute best in the wearable fitness space.


LBB> You wanted this to be an ‘authentic campaign’, why was this the direction you chose? How did you try to communicate this authenticity in the spots?

Adam> Whoop 4.0 is a holistic device - it captures your sleep, strain, and recovery data so that you can make informed training decisions and get stronger faster. We needed to show how Whoop can inform each stage of the fitness lifecycle (sleep, strain, and recovery), to let you know when to go hard, but also when to recover. The authenticity angle is easy - work with real athletes who know and love the product. 

We came to this approach through a super tight collaboration with Whoop and their creatives. It was one of the best creative partnerships we’ve ever had. We had countless working sessions to get to the right ideas and continually worked together to refine every element. By the end of the process, we very much felt like one big team.

LBB> How much of the creative direction was influenced by the athletes you had to work with? Did they inspire any creative sparks in terms of shot choices or pacing for example?

Adam> Whoop is designed by athletes for athletes, and the campaign itself reflected this too. Athletes sleep, strain, and recover over and over. We wanted to take the viewer on the journey of this process and show the dedication these athletes have.

LBB> The slow-mo of Patrick Mahomes at the beginning of the Whoop 4.0 video is very arresting and sets the tone for the spot. Was this an idea that came quickly to you? How was this shot created?

Pat> The idea for that shot was probably one of the first ideas that came to mind when I started working on the project. I knew we needed to capture the attention of our viewers immediately. Mahomes working out in the rain is obviously captivating on its own, but by capturing it in super slow motion we get a real sense of the moment-to-moment intensity and dedication he is bringing to his practice. 


LBB> Let’s get technical, what was the process like shooting the Whoop 4.0 spot?

Pat> We used an assortment of camera techniques for this project. A favourite of mine was putting a two-and-a-half-foot-long probe lens on a Steadicam, which gave us some really interesting footage. We captured the dramatic slow-motion opening shot of Mahomes on battle ropes at around 500fps on a Phantom camera. We were lucky because it had rained the night before, so water droplets sprang off of the ropes when we were filming, which gave that shot more atmosphere. 

Throughout the film, there are several moments of the athletes where our camera goes from a wide shot of them and then lands on a closeup of their Whoop band. This was very difficult and time-consuming to shoot because we needed to move the camera fast, land our mark, and get the Whoop band in focus. But we actually came up with a nice solution which was to film these scenes in reverse. It was much more efficient to start our camera on our macro closeup of the band and pull back the Steadicam as fast as we could. When we did this, we ended up with a perfectly composed and in-focus product shot that we could reverse into really nicely. 

Another favourite was the ice bath scene, for which we created a small camera build and placed it inside of a glass fish tank. Using sandbags as weights and cushions, we lowered the camera into the water so the perspective of our lens was half in the water and halfway out. This was a great solution because it gave us some intriguing visuals and allowed our team to work fast because we didn’t have to use a large waterproof camera build. 


LBB> The advert is very intense but also has an intimate feel at times with the athletes training and recovering, how did you create these feelings? How did CGI play a part in this process?

Pat> I think often an action can overwhelm a frame where you almost lose focus of the subject. Our goal was to capture not only the action of our athletes but also connect viewers to them experiencing their workout while wearing the Whoop band. For the majority of moments featuring the Whoop band as our focus, we shot on wide-angle lenses and pushed our camera really close to the product with diopters. This allowed us to be close to our product in action, without cutting off the actual action taking place. 

We also used this technique in our CG approach. I think this creates a more intimate feel for our viewer, while also giving us a wider view of what’s happening on screen. 


LBB> Why was a VFX-heavy approach a good fit for this campaign, and what were some challenges posed by this?

Pat> When showcasing innovative technology, you want the presentation of the product to be flawless, to move from micro to macro very quickly, to show features clearly, and with seamless action. A VFX approach - headed by our own Ruel Smith - gave us a level of control where we knew we could affect every nuance of the piece. 

LBB> Both of the Whoop 4.0 films share an energetic and dynamic editing style, what was the direction chosen by the editor?

Pat> On projects that I feel really close to, I like to edit them myself. This was one of those projects. The direction for the edit was to not only have our viewers see what was happening but also feel what was happening. So, I used a fast-paced editing style to find a delicate balance of keeping viewers moving and involved in the fast action happening in the film, while also allowing them to digest all the information about the new Whoop 4.0 product features we were conveying on screen. 

LBB> What were the trickiest components of the production and how did you overcome them?

Pat> It’s always a challenge to have a campaign feel connected while on an extended schedule with multiple shoot days across the country. This was a fast-moving project and there were a lot of teams involved - our creative team, production team, and Whoop’s team, celebrity talent and so on - so it was important to make sure everyone was in sync with one another. We were blessed to be working with such a collaborative partner. They trusted us, and that allowed for quick decision-making on the fly, which resulted in a better outcome in the end.


LBB> Are there any techniques that you used on these films that you’re excited to develop or use again in future projects?

Pat> One of the things I loved most about this project was that we started by shooting all of our live-action, and then afterwards we used CG transitions to connect the movement throughout the whole. There are a few moments where we used the camera movement of certain shots to dictate the CG camera movement.

Live-action and CG are two completely different worlds, which have a very different look and feel, but I wanted to connect them visually through camera movement. I think this was a super-effective technique, kind of like an elegant match cut.


LBB> What are some key things to consider when creating a campaign with athletes?

Adam> When shooting with big athletes, you are usually working with insanely tight shooting windows, so you have to come prepared, rehearsed and ready to go. Oftentimes you are working around their training. 

For Mahomes, we had to fit our shoot into an existing workout routine he had planned. This required us to be flexible enough to capture real, authentic emotions in the moment, while maintaining a sense of elevated cinematography.

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Stept Studios, Thu, 30 Sep 2021 15:29:00 GMT