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Post and VFX Houses Team for CrowdStrike Super Bowl Spot

For the second consecutive year, CrowdStrike is airing a spot during the Super Bowl. This year’s ad features CrowdStrike’s AI-powered cybersecurity heroine Charlotte as she tackles modern cyber adversaries and stops breaches. The Future brings a stylized spin to a classic Western tale to show how CrowdStrike is securing the future of the digital frontier. The ad will broadcast during the two-minute warning in the first half of the game.

Last year’s ad looked back at how the company would have stopped history’s most infamous breach: The battle of Troy. This year’s commercial is set in a futuristic Wild West and tells the story of good versus evil as four notorious nation-state and e-Crime cyber adversaries ride into town looking to cause turmoil and disruption. Armed with the power of the AI-native CrowdStrike Falcon XDR platform, Charlotte rapidly detects the threats and stops them.

The 30-second commercial, shot on the Sony Venice camera, was helmed by director Tarsem Singh of RadicalMedia and produced by CrowdStrike’s newly formed internal creative agency, Redbird, in collaboration with Howdy Sound, Lime Santa Monica, Nice Shoes, RadicalMedia, Union Editorial and Zoic Studios.

“It was great to be reunited with the amazing CrowdStrike team. They come to the table knowing what they want, while giving me room to experiment,” says editor John Bradley of Union Austin, who also cut last year’s Troy. “The offline rough-cut portion of any VFX-driven project requires you to use your imagination, and this was a much more effects-heavy spot than Troy. Every shot had several layers of VFX work to be done.” Bradley cut The Future on Adobe Premiere.

For its part, Zoic used a broad spectrum of software and tools but mainly relied on SideFX Houdini, Autodesk Maya and Foundry Nuke to achieve the majority of the VFX lift.

“We used the practical foreground set buildings and built a full-CG world/environment around them,” says Zoic EP Sabrina Harrison-Gazdik. “Set pieces were enhanced and modified as needed to tie them into the environment. The extensive environment build is implemented into all exterior shots in the spot(s).” The interior saloon shots also required VFX work across the scenes — concepting, building and animating tabletop game holographics, the holographic treatment for the piano player and dancers, the sheriff’s robot arm, the robot bartender — and each shot included one or more VFX elements.

Nothing was captured on a volume or green. Everything was shot on-location. “VFX worked off hero takes and/or clean plates where able to integrate CG into practical locations,” explains Harrison-Gazdik.

“Originally, we were going to grade without the alpha channel mattes for every shot, but as we were grading, there was one particular shot where it was difficult to grade the adversaries and the footage separately,” recalls colorist Gene Curley of Nice Shoes. Curley worked on a FilmLight Baselight and had alpha channel mattes for some shots. “Zoic was able to quickly render these mattes during the color session, and it made the shot much easier to grade.”

When it came to sound design, “The call was for futuristic sci-fi characters in an Old West environment,” says Dusty Albertz of Howdy Sound. “I think we succeeded in crafting a soundscape that is both believable and fun.”

Mixer Zac Fisher of Lime adds, “It was important to find the right blend between the nostalgic undertones of the old-timey sound bed and the futuristic elements of the sound design. CrowdStrike’s collaboration with exceptional composers and sound designers made for an ideal mixing experience. I wanted to make sure I focused on enhancing the comedic elements to capture the audience’s attention. In a spontaneous moment during the final stages of the mix, there was a suggestion to include a whip crack to finish the spot. Everyone in the room ended up loving it, and personally, it was my favorite touch of the project.”

Union Austin EP Vicki Russell says this was one of the smoothest processes she’s ever experienced, “especially in the realm of VFX-heavy Super Bowl spots, where there might be added pressure. It’s been a sheer joy, with all the partners working so well together. CrowdStrike/Redbird consistently provided great feedback and maintained a very inclusive, appreciative vibe.”

You can watch The Future, which features an original score by Douglas Fischer, on YouTube before it airs.

Read full postPerspective article here