Director Neels Castillon of RSA Films brings a virtual reality workout into the physical world with breathtaking style in "Feel the Real," a spot backing VR fitness app Supernatural.
The commercial depicts a futuristic boxing match between a man and fast-moving orbs. These airborne opponents just keep coming as he engages in battle from a platform on the beach, shattering each sphere with well-timed hooks and jabs.
This first ad in a brand relaunch for Meta-owned Supernatural illustrates the immersive nature of a high-intensity VR workout designed to make you sweat:
Paris-based Castillon was initially skeptical about the concept of VR fitness, but he changed his mind after giving Supernatural a try via the Meta Quest headset.
"I was sweating so much. I was like, 'Wow, that's actually like a real sport, a real workout.' I really wanted to express that idea in the film. I wanted to see the real sweat. I wanted to see a transformation of the guy," Castillon says.
He collaborated with the Supernatural team, including co-founder Chris Milk, known for creating VR imagery. "It was great to work with him because he also has a great background as a director. So, we could speak the same language," Castillon says.
The brand set out "to get real light, real emotion coming from the landscape. Because when you subscribe to Supernatural, you really are immersed in the landscape."
Castillon shot in Vetrahorn, Iceland, where mountains dramatically meet black sand on the Stokksnes peninsula. "I knew that we could do something really awesome, even in October when the weather is super tricky," says Castillon, who has filmed several projects in the Nordic island nation.
A storm approached as his crew prepped for the job, cutting five days of planning to 48 hours.
Still, Castillon achieved his goal of shooting 90 percent of what we see in the spot in camera. At one point, the boxer was filmed punching a small drone fitted with a GoPro. (The drone's propellers were covered with rubber to protect the performer's hand.) “It worked out very well. I love this shot," Castillon says. "I wanted a POV shot of the target coming at him and being smashed to reinforce the immersive feeling."
VFX artisans at The Mill created the orbs in post and enhanced ice explosions and sparks that were shot on location.
The piece stars Ferdinand Fotso; he's a competitive boxer but not a professional actor. "He didn't overthink everything, and he was very natural," the filmmaker says.
Choreographer Fanny Sage handled casting for both spots. "She has a great network of dancers, artists, people she knows. When it comes to finding people that know how to move, I prefer to do the casting with a choreographer because she finds the best ones," Castillon says.
Sage stood near Fotso as he threw punches on the platform, counting beats for him. "I needed him to be on the beat," Castillon says
That was important because the action is set to rapper Doechii's "Crazy," a song that ripples with energy.
"It just makes you want to let go, makes you want to move and be free," Castillon says.