The world of concert production and banking rarely intersect, yet they do in the current U.S. Bank commercial Corporate Payment Service: Concert. The commercial, produced by One at Optimus of Chicago under the auspices of executive producer Lisa Masseur, and director, Michael Chaves turned to Strictly FX of Chicago, IL to help create their vision of a production manager type walking through a live concert rehearsal.  One at Optimus was led to Strictly FX by Chaves, who knew that Strictly FX did the effects for the Super Bowl Halftime with Beyoncé. As for the U.S. Bank project, Masseur admits that their creative vision needed some focus. “At the beginning of the project, we honestly didn’t know the difference between pyro and fireworks.  We knew we wanted a number of various effects, but we needed Strictly FX to walk us through the options,” she explains.

Mark Grega, Partner and SFX Designer at Strictly FX was the person to guide the team through the plethora of effects available for the commercial. “They had a story board  that outlined the actors lines that they were going to say and an idea that something would happen at specific points, but they weren’t quite sure what, so  we sent them the renders and then out of that they Chinese menu-ed the visual with the script,” Grega explains.

Doing live effects for a commercial production is actually quite atypical. According to Masseur, “In general most people don’t do effects live, they do visual effects.  But for this, our director wanted it live and real, and Strictly FX helped us achieve that goal.” 

From a visual standpoint, the commercial has three separate acts: the opening, which includes silver gerbs and white comets with tails on the center truss ring upstage, 12 positions of white 35’ mines with tails on the floor, and flames- specifically four MKII Venoms (a proprietary Strictly FX product) and two Five Fingers of Death (aka ‘Five FoD’), that shoot flames from a midstage position. “We ended up shooting the opening look several times, which was part of the original plan,” Grega reports.

The middle section, features variegated comet plates and variegated mine plates, which are, according to Grega, “Streaking color then just gobs of color.” The middle portion of the commercial also shows a technician working on a piece of gear downstage; that’s Strictly FX’s Duane Nowak. “Ever since his appearance on camera, Duane has been demanding his own trailer on site,” Grega notes with a chuckle. Also on the project from the firm were Joey Fico, Grant Sellers and Tony Alaimo.  The commercial production staff includes Director of Production Craig Leffel , Line Producer Marsie Wallach, Set Designer/Art Director Joe Bristol and Director of Photography Mauro Fiore.

The finale takes place in two parts: the first part includes gerbs downstage and then mine and comet hits upstage. Then it moves to the last shots of the production, a 25’ silver pyro waterfall that serves as a backdrop for the US Bank logo. “Smoke was a concern- we staged  the effects and shot them out of order so most of the  smoke was at the end of the shoot,” Grega explains.

At the venue, production went exactly as expected. “It couldn’t have been smoother- the guys at Strictly FX walked us through all of the effects, and we knew exactly what to expect. In fact there was a shorter turnaround times for the setup of the specific effects than what we projected.  Overall, it was a great experience, and we’d love to work with Strictly FX again the future,” concludes Masseur. 

The U.S. Bank Corporate Payment Service: Concert commercial premiered during the Kentucky Derby; the campaign in ongoing. The commercial can be found online by searching ‘US Bank Concert’ on YouTube.