(BTS) Magic Unleashed

A short interview I gave, sharing my experience from shooting the ident video of
Level Up Pictures – Magic Unleashed. Hope you enjoy the read!

P.S. You can see the final product at the end of the post!

How did you develop the concept for the video?

Stoyan: Magic Unleashed is a branding video for Level Up Pictures. Simply we wanted to show what we are able to do in terms of storytelling, aesthetics and production value. And who doesn’t like magic?

Idun Making Magic

We’ve got a Disney screenwriter on board. And after a few concept generation meetings, he developed the ideas into a screenplay. The story is inspired by the Nordic goddess Idun, the keeper of the golden apples, which the gods had to eat to remain young and beautiful. It’s like a metaphor about how we like to do things at Level Up Pictures: carefully crafted for a wonderful final outcome.

The Golden Apple

Was it difficult to create a Harry Potter-like universe?

Stoyan: Making the piece look believable meant, we had to ensure all pieces fit together.
It was hard work, but also a lot of fun. We needed to ensure first a good location for the shooting. After scouting many options, we finally came across a beautiful stone-aged village – Hvolris, based somewhere in the forest close to Viborg (Denmark). It’s a museum that also offers accommodation.

The Magic Box

Now we had this great location. We had to create a universe of the video in it. By a rule of thump the plan was to create as much of it physically. Some might say – shoot it on green screen and fix it in post. But it is always better if it could be made in a physical setting. So we started collected all types of props and set decorations. From old shops, friends, and anywhere we can find something that might suit. Our art director hand-crafted a few of the so called “hero props“, that needed a special look. And then we also tailored a costume for the fairy. We did a casting for the role, and fortunately found a great young actress – Katrine Køhler, that was just what we imagined.

Tell us more about the technical side of it

Stoyan: We had to do some practical effects, but also to leave some work for the post-production.To make the cauldron looks like it’s boiling, we used dry ice. And we had a guy who had to sip boiling water on top of it before every shot. We rented a diffusion hazer for that foggy feel, and a flicker box to make the illusion there’s a fire burning in the room. The film was shot Canon C300, which gave us  an advantage in the mobility as the camera is very light compared to the RED models for example.

Opening Scene Before and After

The opening / money shot was quite challenging. It’s basically a shot where the fairy is walking in a beautiful magical forest towards her house at the distance. We filmed it at 4:00 am in below 15 degrees, in the middle of the winter. We couldn’t do it in a studio setup, because we wanted the light to look natural. As we didn’t have a big green sheet, we lid a big white surface, putting green filters on the LED lights we brought. We ended the shoot at 8:30 am. It was a crazy night!

Did you experience any challenges on set?

Stoyan: Hehe. It was a challenging production. First of all the location was far from our city. And we had 15 people on set. According to the original shooting schedule the production time was separated in two consecutive days. But due to technical difficulties we had to compress all in one and we shot the whole night.  So we ended up wrapping up at 8:30 am on the next day. I remember our technical head Torsten came to me stone-faced and said: “Well…that was a fair stretch”. He was right.
Another challenge was it was winter and well …we live in Denmark. So we had to literally film the whole day below 0 degrees (C).

How did the post-production go?

Stoyan: Well the post production took the most time of course. We brought in a team of seasoned professionals with backgrounds from major Hollywood productions (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, The Expendables 2. etc). And also local professionals. Mixing experience with fresh blood usually works very well and I think you can see that in the final cut.

The Magic

Our director Henrik Clausen, who is also an experienced VFX artist suggested we keep the effects as far from the computer as possible.  For this production we still had to do a lot of CGI. But I think we managed to keep it to the minimum.
To lead the viewer into the magical universe, sound also plays a key role. We brought Sean Beeson – a fantasy composer, who’s done great works for Disney and EA Sports. He joined us to create the score working from his studio in Ohio.

Our sound Composer – Sean Beeson

Since we couldn’t find any good magic sounds, we did foley sound recording. Our two local sound designers got creative and literally created the magic enhancements from scratch.So every time you see the fairy throwing something in the cauldron and you hear these enchanting sounds, it’s a chance it’s a mixture of Christian’s sipping smoothie and Kristopher’s wooshy sound from a blanket 🙂

Are you happy with the final result?

Stoyan: I think we came up with a product of a very high production value. I’m quite pleased! Despite we experimented and learned a lot. And next time we are ready to do something even better.