- Help build and shape the Coachella Valley Firebirds brand through custom-built videos and animations for the newly-built Acrisure Arena.
- Design and build out a complete graphics and animations package that included logo animations, player headshots, lower thirds, interstitials, games, fan engagement elements, static templates and more.
- Travel on-site to capture footage for and create an engaging, narrative-driven open video to pump up the crowd before home games.
- Work closely with the Firebirds team to help develop in-arena content that helped create a cohesive look and feel that aligned with the new franchise’s overall brand vision.
- Concept, storyboard and create several in-arena graphics and animations for all boards inside Acrisure Arena including:
- Templates used for player headshots and team matchups
- A still graphics package to be used in-game for stats, information, etc.
- Pre-game, in-game and post-game graphics such as interstitials, noise graphics, 3D logo bails, games (puck shuffle, Fuego’s Valley Rally), etc.
- Concept, script, shoot, edit and deliver a :60-:75 open video in time for their first home game on the opening night of the new arena, which would run for the entire regular season.
To understand the team’s vision and their initial needs for the project, a discovery call was scheduled. During this call, the Firebirds provided insights into their overall brand vision for their inaugural season and how they wanted to approach the creation of various in-arena elements to align with it. We came up with a list of video and ribbon board elements that needed to be made to start building out their show and overall fan-experience, including the open video that would run before each game.
As with other new franchises, footage and other assets were limited. So, our team started with a more narrative visual approach. In preparation for the project, extensive research was conducted to gain an understanding of the Coachella Valley, including its landmarks, natural features, etc. Since the Coachella Valley is comprised of nine different cities, it was essential to identify elements that all local fans could recognize and identify with.
Thought-starters and brainstorming sessions were conducted internally to generate specific ideas and concepts for the project. One important decision made during this process was to keep the depiction of the “firebird” in the open video ambiguous, focusing instead on the environment and people throughout the Valley who would be witnessing the arrival of the legendary bird. This approach aimed to ignite viewers' imagination and curiosity.
Coordination and Storyboarding
Since the content we were making was going to be a big part of introducing the new Firebirds brand, the coordination and storyboarding phase involved close collaboration with their team. With only a small amount of references available in the early stages of the franchise, the brand guide and identity provided by Firebirds were instrumental in ensuring that the look of all the new graphics remained consistent with the team's branding.
For the intro video, style framing and concept mockups played a crucial role in establishing the initial visual direction and getting buy-in from key stakeholders before any filming took place. We knew the video would have a voiceover to help drive the story, so the script was drafted during this time. An accompanying shot list was also created to help bring the concept to life and help prepare for the upcoming video shoots.
A list of necessary graphics package items and animations were selected for creation, including headshot templates, matchup templates, full-screen graphics, lower thirds, half slabs, tombstones and more. All of these ribbon board elements were created in a static format first for easier edits and approvals before moving into the animation phase. Extensive research was conducted to compare the Firebirds' brand with that of other hockey teams, ensuring the elements were modern and on-trend, while still standing out from what other teams were doing, making their experience unique in the AHL.
The video shoots involved our four-person team traveling across the country to the Coachella Valley to capture specific footage for the project. The crew consisted of three Creative Team members and an Account Manager, and included nine cases of gear, highlighted by our RED V-Raptor XL camera, capable of shooting in full 8K resolution, ensuring high-quality cinematic visuals.
The main shoots took place over three days in the Coachella Valley, with specific schedules and locations carefully planned out so we could capture time-specific shots like a sunrise timelapse. Since there was significant work still to be done back at the arena the majority of these shoots were done without client oversight, so we provided reference content as we filmed to keep everyone informed.
In certain instances the crew had to travel lightly to capture shots of the desert landscape, carrying only the necessary equipment as they hiked to specific landmarks or locations.
To film player footage, the team utilized a conference room since the arena was under construction, and creatively simulated a more appropriate hockey environment. For both safety and protocol reasons, large TV screens were brought in and used in the dark, windowless room to simulate fire elements around the player. It was crucial to avoid showcasing specific players to account for any potential roster turnover that might occur throughout the season due to call-ups, trades, injuries, etc.
Another challenge was the consideration of the new Acrisure Arena’s main board dimensions. The board was not fully completed at the time of shooting, but we knew it was much wider and narrow than a traditional 16x9 format. This made it important to frame shots that would fit within these specifications from the start, so we weren’t forced to make complicated adjustments later in the process.
Back in Ohio, a few supplemental shots were captured in our studio space. Our team needed to get creative and make “cave paintings” for some close up shots inside the Coachella Valley desert. Chalk pastels were used to draw on large, fake fiberglass rocks to create realistic-looking cave paintings of hockey and the Firebirds logo. Our team mimicked flickering flame lighting in the scene to add to the overall believability.
After returning with all the footage, the video creation phase began. The editing process involved sorting through the footage and solidifying the general story narrative. The team had captured a few impromptu shots, such as a shot of bighorn sheep (native and unique to the area) on some rocks, that were worked into the script and added to the final versions of the video. Graphics and effects work were done primarily in Adobe After Effects to enhance certain shots and seamlessly blend the reality with fantasy.
Since there was no actual bird seen, the shadow played a large part in the video. It was a challenge to create a believable giant bird in the various shots. Through careful compositing and effects work, including the manipulation of footage featuring a real bird, the team successfully created a convincing shadow of the firebird throughout the piece.
Collaboration with the Firebirds team gave us access to some highlights from previous games, including away games and games played at their temporary home for the start of the season, in Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena. This provided the opportunity to include real player highlights in the video, enhancing the drama and excitement.
The graphics package had approximately 70 deliverables that needed to be animated and, in some cases, templatized before handing over to the Firebirds. We made sure the templates were easy to use and could accommodate any images, names or other text changes that might be needed throughout the season. Everything was built with expressions, layer controllers, and other effects to allow easy customization while maintaining the consistency.
Many of the elements had sponsor logos that needed to be incorporated as well. We worked with the Firebirds team to ensure that all sponsorship requirements were fulfilled, while staying on-brand for both the team and the organizations.
Once main board items were complete, all the content was adapted to fit the necessary ribbon board dimensions. Our team utilized their expertise in optimizing content for different aspect ratios to ensure the graphics felt cohesive across all the different board sizes throughout the arena.
The Coachella Valley Firebirds inaugural season was a huge success. Not only did they make the Calder Cup Finals, but they also received praise and recognition for the overall quality of their show and video board production. We were brought back in to help with new intro videos during the playoffs, creating new content for each round that kept the fans hyped.
Our team was proud to help introduce the Firebirds and establish them as a unique and iconic hockey team in a non-traditional market. The opportunity to be a part of bringing a fun and captivating in-game experience to a new fan base is one of the most exciting things in sports!