A 12-camera HD shoot took place during the Aerosmith's concert at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

HABANA Avenue put the pedal to the metal recently when it help create Aerosmith’s rocking NASCAR season opening musical performance that begins every race broadcast on ESPN. 

A Harmonious Return

The opening sequence finds the classic rock outfit performing its anthem of the ’70s, "Back in the Saddle," and not only marks the iconic band's return to the limelight, but also of the return of a new season of NASCAR on ESPN that racing fans have eagerly been waiting for during the off period.

“We did a location scout of Aerosmith’s Nashville concert last October and had an opportunity to pitch creative ideas to the band and its management,” said HABANA President and Founder, Steven J. Levy.

He went on to explain that, “Aerosmith are huge NASCAR fans, and they added their input on how to tailor their show to the specific needs of NASCAR and ESPN. We were interested in shooting a big green screen behind them and the MGM Grand Arena was one of just two indoor venues that met our size requirements.”

"It was HABANA’s intention to stage an unobtrusive shoot during the gig, but Aerosmith was so excited that they wanted to embellish the show with cars and other NASCAR elements,” Levy reported. “The band, their crew and staff — they were all really into it.”

HABANA brought in a giant green screen for the sound check during which NASCAR-specific footage cut for the song was projected behind the band. Images included cars from Richard Petty Racing branded with Aerosmith’s and ESPN’s logos. The green screen was quickly dismantled and the band’s huge custom LED screen was installed in time for the show. Live IMAG and video elements on the LEDs were captured during Aerosmith’s performance.

What Went Into The Shoot

An HD broadcast truck from Cox Media working in conjunction with Nocturne Productions, along with Aerosmith’s own broadcast-equipment provider, collaborated on the production which featured a dozen Sony broadcast HD cameras shooting in 720p. Cameras were Steadicam-operated, handheld, pedestal-mounted and robotic.

Female Racettes, waving checkered flags, took center stage at the start of the opener. They choreographed a flag reveal of Steven Tyler who cried, “I’m back!” and launch into the lyrics of the slammin’ "Back in the Saddle." Feeds from remote cameras and POV cameras were adjusted to work with the shoot and mixed with new feeds especially for the opener.

One of the production’s most innovative elements was actually suggested by Aerosmith. HABANA was tasked with turning a real NASCAR vehicle into a lighting instrument replacing its headlights with powerful spotlights illuminating the band.

“We had to figure out how to gut the vehicle, make it light enough to hoist in the air and fly on the edge of the stage, and rebuild it as an effects element,” Levy explained.

Aerosmith performed two run-throughs of the song back-to-back during the concert with the audience becoming a dynamic part of the opener as well. “Everyone was so excited about doing this,” said Levy. “The MGM Grand Arena was great to work with — they let us get in, get out, and do anything we needed. Aerosmith, their management, and Nocturne were terrific throughout.”

Personnel That Made It Happen

At ESPN, Valerie Fischler who acted as the senior creative producer, Rich Feinberg NASCAR senior coordinating producer, and Neil Goldberg NASCAR coordinating producer all put in work to make this shoot happen. At HABANA Avenue, Steven J. Levy, who served as creative producer for the project, was also supported by his West Coast team which included producer John Mullins and production manager Philip Ruddy.

HABANA is a full-service TV, film, live event and concert-experience production company and an original content creator. The company has offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami’s South Beach and Tampa. It maintains a boutique post-production facility in Tampa and has post-production partnerships with the full-service Mad Toy Box Post in Charlotte, North Carolina and Vidiots in New York City.

Check out some photos from the shoot and the final product below!

Steven Tyler & Steven J. Levy

Steven Tyler & Steven J. Levy

Source: David Steinberg, Millimeter Digital Content Producer The Briefing Room