Doug Liman is spotlighting common tech issues in a spot for Verizon’s 5G network that claims to leave these problems behind and be “built” for gamers.
Dubbed The Reset, the spot emphasizes what happens when lagging, ghosting, glitches and texture stretching — issues that most video game players are well acquainted with — are transposed into the real world. Things don’t look quite right.
The spot visualizes a child floating in the air next to her bicycle, a cat appearing stuck in a telegraph pole, a bus driver’s facial features displaying incorrectly, a car flying through the air instead of driving on the road, a person riding an invisible elevator.
For Liman, making this commercial was a chance to dive into something fresh. “I like learning about worlds, the way an expert knows the world,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s one of my favorite things about the movie business,” adds the Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity director. “I get to parachute in, and for the time I’m doing that project, I get to become an expert in that field.”
In the case of his collaboration with Verizon and Independent Media, it was an opportunity to be in the world of “really expert gamers and the problems they face.” The director, who is currently preparing to shoot a Tom Cruise movie that will be partly shot in space, explains that he has “always been interested In tech” and is “acutely aware of lag and bandwidth limitations” due to his prior familiarity with the gaming space (“I game” he tells THR, though mostly for work), and the work he does with his production company, 30 Ninjas, which makes technology-driven storytelling. Among the projects from 30 Ninjas is Invisible, which holds a Guinness World Record for the first scripted dramatic series in virtual reality.
Through making the Verizon spot, Liman says he “learned a lot more about glitching and lag and the various artifacts that can interfere [with] gameplay.” He goes on to say that everything in the commercial comes from a real glitch he has seen or found through research. “We didn’t just start making things up out of thin air,” says the director. “There was no shortage of outrageous glitches that happened and have happened in computer games.”
He points out that everything on this commercial was computer driven — from the camera to the lights. The spot was photographed by Hoyte Van Hoytema, the Academy Award-nominated cinematographer of Dunkirk, as well as the DP behind Tenet, Interstellar and Ad Astra. “He is a cinematographer who embraces technology like none other,” says Liman. “His whole apparatus is so computerized, it’s almost like you’re in a computer game when he’s just lighting your set.”
Liman says that they used a Spidercam — a cable-suspended camera system commonly utilized for sporting events — which he had always wanted to try. “When you watch a football game today, it’s almost hard to differentiate between an NFL football game and playing football on a PlayStation,” he says. “Some of it is using the tricks of computer games, and some of it is using the technology from sporting events, so the chance to use the Spidercam was really exciting, super challenging.”
Of the visual effects in the spot, Liman says they were “something I’d never done in a movie before.” He adds, “That’s why I love commercials, because in some ways they’re as intense as making a movie; shorter, but you really get inside another world.”
Editor Saar Klein, who cut Liman’s The Bourne Identity and Jumper, edited the Verizon spot. “Editing visual effects is challenging because you’re editing before something exists — most of the time you are,” says Liman, calling Klein a “maestro.”
Of the cutting room process, Liman says, “You’re sort of shooting the spot all over again in post. But I love it. It just means that it’s creative all the way through.”
View The Reset below.