The making of Shell Oil ad “20 Below”

This is a breakdown of an ad campaign for Shell Oil “20 Below” The creative brief was simple. Show a rancher/worker in mid winter snowstorm repairing fencing along a snow-covered road. He is relying on his diesel-powered Ford pickup and of course Shell lubricants to get to the remote location. An approved  sketch was supplied by the art director. Since this was approved by the client we are allowed only slight leeway in terms of composition, look and feel. The image also had to work in both horizontal and vertical formats. Wardrobe, truck, talent and location had to be pre approved. Snow covered roads, trees, almost blizzard conditions, and deep focus were also specified. This was one of 12 ads we  produced over a period of 6 days.

We tech scouted the day before and decided on camera angles and time of day for the image. We had approximately 4 hours to complete the shoot as we were scheduled to shoot another ad in deep forest later that day. The morning of the shoot we had another snowstorm which made for a rather harrowing journey up the icy, winding roads up the mountain with our caravan of production vehicles. The location was perfect but could always be improved upon. I had already decided to shoot in layers (all of the 12  ads and most of my work is handled this way) as it provided the art director tremendous flexibility in his layouts with regard to the multiple formats needed. Locking our angle I started with background plates of trees,  truck propped and in position, fence posts, talent , and foreground elements, plates for blowing snow, barbed wire etc. Working this way solved multiple problems. This  allowed us to concentrate on every element, and also move theses elements later in post to best suit our ad layout for the multiple formats. It also solves the deep focus/depth of field issue automatically since the focus is shifted from background to foreground element as required. The post was a breeze. Lo res layered comps were supplied to the art director so he could tweak the composition with respect to changing copy, headlines and the horizontal and vertical formats. His edits were handed back to me to produce the final comps. From image processing to final edits and color grading I spent about one day in post. The art director wanted more blowing snow in the final ad which was simple since we had shot multiple plates of blowing snow against a black background. Check out the video for a quick look.

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