The FINA World Short Course Championships were due to be held in Abu Dhabi, and our brief was to create the launch film. Our client, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, wanted to centre the film around Abu Dhabi’s rich pearl diving heritage, as well as celebrating the new Yas Bay Arena where the competition was to be held.
Our film draws a comparison between the country’s ancestral pearl divers and the modern day swimmers that will take part in the championships, drawing on common themes of drive and determination. A pearl diver dives from his boat and swims towards the ocean floor, as our voiceover describes the generations that have done the same, and the qualities needed to seek this treasure. Opening the pearl, he sees a vision of the future: the modern skyline of Abu Dhabi and the Yas Bay Arena. As he begins his ascent to the surface, a transformation begins, culminating as he emerges into the stadium as a champion swimmer. Crowd noise erupts as he swims powerfully through the water as the film reaches its climax.
Originally we envisaged hand-drawn, watercolour animations of the pearl diving scenes and then a transition to live action as the swimmer breaks through the water, symbolising the transition from past to present. However, this proved to be too time-consuming for the tight turnaround, so we had to find a more efficient solution that still retained the integrity of the original creative.
We were shooting the live-action scenes with a swimmer in an underwater studio, and realised it would make sense to shoot the pearl diving scenes there as well. We would then convert the footage to animation in post-production, compositing the diver onto bespoke backgrounds and adding additional animated elements and textures in post.
Due to the time consuming nature of filming underwater, the shoot required many heads coming together to achieve the shot-list required. With a team of four animators on-location, footage was converted to animation and relayed live to the team on set to ensure the cinematography enabled the desired imagery.