Bodies (and Objects) in Motion Require Special Handling

Directors and EPs agree that creating or scoring for action and sports content has unique demands.

It’s clear that what constitutes action and sports content has been re-defined in this new age of social media and video sharing.

Whether you’re talking about traditional action or sports ads that incorporate game footage from baseball, basketball, tennis or soccer (football to the rest of the world), or if what you’re watching is more amateur or extreme – anything from skateboarding films to wing suits comes to mind – there’s a new set of rules that dictate what it has to look like and sound like. It’s got to reek of realism and be rooted in pop culture, our experts say, in order to stand even the slightest chance of breaking through.

Bicoastal content production company HABANA, led by President and Founder Steven J. Levy, has created everything from show opens to live events to Super Bowl parties to branded content, programs and spots for a range of brands, ad agencies and media companies.

Passing the Authenticity Test

When it comes to action, authenticity is critical. In today’s online society of fans and trolls, no one can afford to put out content that looks faked or staged, or they’ll get called on it – and quick.

Making sure action and sports content passes the sniff test means knowing where and how it’s going to be seen.

“The single focus I have for making sure our work is recognized is to truly understand where each client will distribute the content that they’ve entrusted us to produce, and to completely understand the content channel landscape,” explains HABANA Avenue’s Steven J. Levy. “As content producers, we can no longer just go shoot a storyboard! We need to understand how and why individual broadcast and social channels are successful.”

Their approach at HABANA is to request a detailed brief on every project they handle, Levy adds, “and if one doesn’t exist we’ll create it for ourselves. It deeply informs every creative inquiry along the journey.”

Zooming In on the Action

Perhaps nowhere has the revolution in camera technology had a bigger impact than in sports and action content. Producers and directors can now get shots that were unthinkable just a few years ago. For everyone – even those selecting the score or soundtrack – the impact has been huge.

HABANA’s Levy points out that his company was one of the first in the country to be FAA-approved for UAV or drone camera platforms.

“Our teams have shot everything from Dodge performance brands to NBC’s Sunday Night Football,” he says. “And while there are still some stigmas attached to exactly which model camera you’re using, our approach is to match the best available technology to achieve the desired outcome. The capability of this gear is advancing at an exponential rate. We embrace it, as long as the technology helps us to tell a better story.”

Epic Heroes, Epic Sounds

Years ago it was the introduction of the X Games on ESPN that shifted the creation of action and sports content into an ‘extreme’ mode. One trend driving the category seems to be the continued linking of music with teams, broadcasts, brands and events.

“Adweek claimed recently that there’s been no better time for the fusion of music and sports than now,” says Levy. “At HABANA, we’ve been impressed by the network musical directors and creative directors we work with, who’ve seen the passionate sweet spots where music and sport unite and are capitalizing on it. These are mostly unheralded matchmakers who are equally passionate about their craft, and it shows in the kind of content you’re seeing.”

Adweek’s report called out four recent music and sports related projects as evidence of this trend, and two of them – Fall Out Boy’s tie in with ESPN’s college football coverage and the involvement of supergroup U2 on the network’s FIFA World Cup coverage – were produced byHABANA.  (Check out the entire report here.)

Media Channels Shift Gears

As you might expect, the surge in sports and action content has kept many of the companies that specialize in it busy, as all of our sponsors report.  But there’s more than just the greater volume of work driving this; fundamental shifts in how sports programming and ads are consumed is impacting the trend as well.

“Traditionally, sports media has always been a stable growth business,” says Levy. “The past year has seen a lot of shifting. Larger distributors of content are being forced to deal with the revenue loss of cable TV’s cord-cutters, and the move from subscription-based cable packages to on-demand personal and mobile viewing is exposing a slow adoption by decision-makers in the sports tech space.”

Where this is going is almost anyone’s guess, but Levy says the trick for companies like his is to keep their focus on quality. “There will be a lot of knee-jerk reactions to try and keep-up, but the bright lights of the genre will always illuminate the deeply passionate stories of ‘rags to riches’ and ‘David versus Goliath’ that only sports can deliver every day of the year.”

-Written By Anthony Vagnoni for SourceEcreative