Remote Films brings Puma’s Speed Cat trainers to life for Grand Prix-style race.

Have you ever wondered what happens to your trainers once you’ve kicked them off at night? A new commercial for sport company Puma International’s Speed Cat racing shoes depicts them coming to life as self-propelling shoe-cars, and competing in a fast and furious Grand Prix.

The ad opens with a man walking into his flat, and kicking off his Puma Speed Cat trainers before going upstairs. One of the trainers comes to life, and joins the back of a Formula One-like racing grid full of other colourful Speed Cat trainers. A race begins with the shoes tearing around a bedroom, hallway, and kitchen before a Ferrari-red coloured shoe gets bumped off course into a litter tray, much to the annoyance of the owner’s cat.

Conceived by design agency GBH, the commercial is designed to promote Puma’s Formula One-approved range of Speed Cat racing shoes, as worn by the drivers themselves, and highlight the company’s long association with the motor sport. Charged with bringing trainers to life as racing cars that hurtle around their owner’s flat, was director Russell Stopford and his special-effects artist brother Jonny of Remote Films.

“We thought about CGI for about half a minute before deciding that there was no way we were going to get the look-&-feel that would match Puma’s brand,” says Russell Stopford. “After another day or so deliberating on the merits of shooting using motion control or blue-screen studios, we decided on a location shoot using a specially trained crew of about 20, a cast of an actor and a cat, and bespoke grip equipment.”

Remote Films spent about three weeks in pre-production planning how to animate the shoes and handle the post-production. One of the biggest challenges the team faced was how to make the trainers move realistically, in a car-like way. In order to film as as close to the floor as possible, a custom-made grip device was called for. Developed by Berkley Cole and referred to by the team as the ‘shoe-cam’, it consisted of a piece of wood with four wheels attached, which allowed the camera to hover just above the floor and glide across it. Using the shoe-cam meant Stopford could shoot as if from inside the driver’s helmet, achieving some crucial in shoe-car shots.

To steer the shoe-cars through the flat called for a team of agile shoe-wranglers – four men balancing on scaffolding with hinged poles attached to the trainers. The poles, scaffolding and puppeteers were removed from the final cut using Media 100’s 844/X during the post production. 844/X was also used to composite multiple layers for several shots from the commercial. For these shots Stopford created a detailed list of the various elements that needed to be filmed and during the shoot, meticulously worked his way through the list, editing and roughly compositing the shots together in 844/X as he went along. This meant that by the end of the shoot he had a complete rough-cut of the commercial.

“For such a layers-intensive project, in which literally every shot was a composite of at least three different layers, 844/X from Media 100 was indispensable,” says Jonny Stopford. “Using 844/X, we were able to see all of these layers and edit the shots together in real-time before committing to the compositing. Without 844/X, this process would have taken at least a week.”

To optimize image quality when compositing the various layers, Russell Stopford decided shoot on HD. “We wanted higher resolution source images than SD for some of the composites. We also wanted to have the option of going back to re-conform a HD master,” he says.