Written by on Dec 2, 2010. Posted in Production News

Garmin wages war on location around Johannesburg

Mobile navigation device manufacturer Garmin has created its own little war zone in South Africa. Its gritty new commercial - part of its Glory campaign - follows a soldier from a landing craft onto a beach as gunfire and explosions rip apart the landscape.

We then find out the soldier is actually an athlete as the spot draws a parallel between the intensity of war and physical competition.

Initial plans involved a European shoot but then budget constraints and more localised scouting found some great locations around Johannesburg. A bass fishing dam in Bronkhorstspruit was used for the beach landing scene, while the running and cycling took place at the Venterpos Gold Mine. This area has been abandoned for 20 years and so a team of 15 people spent a week clearing the undergrowth.

Nicci Cox, of Egg Films, said: “The dam was our biggest dress - we had to clear a large area of grass and reeds in the water, bring in truckloads of sand to make the beach and had set builders build a single functional boat for us that was duplicated in post. The set builders also built the giant crosses that are on the beach. On the mine location we broke down the already broken down buildings and scenic-painted the walls to make them appear burnt and cleared bush.”

Dressing took between two and three days for each location and props were sourced from several different periods of military history between World War II and the Vietnam War.

This was to make sure the setting was generic rather than being identified as a specific point in history.

Francois Boshoff, Creative Director at Volcano, said: “36 hours of filming, three challenging locations (including old mine areas in Westonarnia, Venterspost and the Bronkhorstspruit Dam), temperamental weather, over 200 crew, bomb blasts and a lengthy prop list - the Garmin Fitness TV commercial is truly one of the most challenging sets I have been part of, but one of the most rewarding.”

Aside from the pyrotechnical display the spot grabs the attention as it focuses on the single soldier’s viewpoint, which was filmed with the camera attached to the actor’s body. For shots that took in the soldier’s point-of-view the Director of Photography wore a special camera rig on his head. Ten separate cameras were tested in pre-production and whittled down to three.

Cox said: “When we used the body mount we had three cameras running - a Silicone 2K, a Canon 5D and a Sony pencil cam. The set-ups were huge and the rig was difficult to carry so if we captured a great take on three cameras, we did not have to repeat it. Most of the ad was a one-take wonder!”

This shooting style meant the crew couldn’t watch video playback mid-take. With three cameras running at once and covering 360 degrees around the actor, it wasn’t possible to run off cables and feed playback somewhere that wouldn’t be seen on camera. Instead the crew had to huddle round the rig to watch the footage on each camera’s individual screen between takes.

So what’s the secret of running a production like this successfully? Cox concluded: “Have a strong, dedicated team behind you. Watch out for snakes!”

Client: Garmin
Agency: Volcano Advertising, South Africa
Creative Director: Francois Boshoff
Agency Producer: Michelle Lyne
Production Company: Egg Films
Producers: Nicci Cox, Colin Howard
Location Scout/Unit Manager: Bobby May
Director of Photography: Werner Maritz
Director: Slim


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  • Francois Barge


    Francois Barge (Paris)