Chicagoans’ work glows in Notre Dame’s BCS spot

Scene of students heading to the stadium

Jeremy Pinckert’s Explore Media of South Bend assembled a team with many Chicago players to produce the University of Notre Dame’s 30-second “institutional message” that airs during the college football game of the year.

The world will be watching ESPN Monday night when Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish face Alabama’s Crimson Tide in the BCS title game in Miami to decide the country’s number one college football team.

In “A Message from the Students of Notre Dame” students hold candles aloft in a massive “#1” formation in tribute to their fellow student-athletes, who achieved a number one ranking both on the field and in the classroom.

Explore Media’s challenge was the two-and-a-half day deadline the school gave them for preproduction. “Starting at noon, Tuesday, Dec. 4 we had to pull together three camera crews, 400 student extras, 800 real and effects candles, and shoot key stadium scenes by Friday,” says Pinckert.

Explore Media's Jeremy Pinckert“For that scene, we knew we’d have to shoot with low-light friendly cameras, and would likely need to add more effects lights in post,” continues multi-award winning Pinckert, who produced and directed the logistics-heavy spot, for a budget under $100,000.

Principal photography of the stadium scene was completed in one well-orchestrated day by Chicago DPs Ted Lichtenheld, Jamieson Mulholland and Mark Berry using Canon C300 cameras from Daufenbach Camera

Pinckert complimented the camera company with, “They extended extra effort during an  unusually heavy C300 rental week to make sure three camera packages with PIX 240 recorders were ready to shoot in South Bend by Friday morning.

Finishing by Color Playground and The Colonie

Two other Chicago companies were brought in to finish. Colorist Kelly Armstrong of Color Playground injected life into the C-Log shots “by separating and pulling consistently beautiful color from a challenging progression of scenes,” Pinckert says. 

Then, The Colonie’s producer Anne Siwek and Smoke-artist Tom Dernulc brightened the luminaries and painted in more students and candles in the stadium scene. 

Dernulc also composited a background plate of the stadium seats with a foreground plate of the students in the “#1” sign, which allowed Explore Media to produce a final scene wherein the candles stand out while the football stadium is still recognizable.

To bring the spot even closer to home, Notre Dame licensed a song from Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack to the movie, “Rudy.” 

The finished spot was delivered December 26 to pleased university officials.

Possessor of more than 40 industry awards (including 25 Tellys alone, 10 Addys and a national Emmy), Indiana native Pinckert started Explore Media in 2003.  The company produces commercials, sports and lifestyle docs mainly for healthcare and educational organizations.

Pinckert started his career with Indianapolis’ Pathway Productions, broadcast documentary and sports entertainment producers.