4000 hours of images to produce the 90 ’’ of the new Nike ad

To produce the newest ad for the “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign that the North American sports brand Nike launched in the wake of the Covid-19, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement, 4,000 hours of sports images were viewed.

Thousands of plans, observed in detail so that once united – or, if we prefer separated – on the same plane, the audiences awakened the powerful emotion that has led people all over the world to share this video.

The video – the third of the 360 campaign – with a voiceover by the captain of the American women’s soccer team Megan Rapinoe shows 24 sports, and 53 athletes, including the narrator herself, alongside Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick , Lebron James, Kylian Mbappé, and Cristiano Ronaldo, among others.

The impressive editing work serves the strong motivational message. Closed gyms, suspended competitions and empty stadiums contrast with personal environments demonstrating that an athlete does not stop. The action takes place through a sequence of split screens featuring 36 pairs of athletes whose movement is intertwined. The result illustrates how much there is in common among athletes regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation.

It’s been around for some decades but lately seems to have become a trend on video editing. «Split screen» is basically an editing technique that works around a more or less visible division of the shown image. Traditionally the image is divided in two but can be in multiple screens. The idea is to juggle different points of views, actions and rhythms adding depth to the visual narrative and even story telling. Since the late sixties we’ve seen it in films, music videos, games and advertising. Now visual creators are recycling the technique using it to convey messages that have as corner stone the idea of «connection». Depending on the main goal the borderlines may assume a quite graphic outlook or the image may intend to be oddly different.

«Simmetry», a short documentary essay made by New Yorker filmmakers collective Everynone turned out to be a major social video hit. The 3 minutes video is a combination of different intentions on the use of split screen and reflects upon the question: Is the world full of symmetries and therefore ordered by pairs or do we live in a lopsided universe? The limits on the use of «split screen» are graphically defined and quite explicit. Although images succeed in opposite relations there are two screens all through the video.

Another good example of a short movie using this technique that also became viral it’s in fact called «Split Screen: a Love Story». It soon turned out to be exactly that in the eyes of the critics and public. The 2 minutes video first won everybody’s heart first in Edinburgh International Film Festival and later on web. In this case the boundaries between images are not clear and the split screen becomes notorious by the explicit difference between them although they show the same kind of situations. The end result at times creates an impression of strangeness. 

Let’s turn back in time: split screen editing technique had its influential arena in 1964 New York World’s Fair, USA, where the designers Ray and Charles Eames first presented a 17-screen film they created for IBM’s “Think” Pavilion. The success of the pavilion further influenced the 1967 Universal Exhibition, Montreal, Canada, where multi-screen highlights included «In the Labyrinth», the 79 minutes movie of the National Film Board Pavilion hailed by «Time» magazine as a «stunning visual display», turned to be a milestone in the creation of the technique.

Since then many filmmakers used this effect to juxtapose emotions, spacial and time lapses or in a more common use to present a phone conversation. Brian De Palma (1940), American cineaste, has incorporated split screens in many of his films and the effect became synonymous of his unique filmmaking style: 1973’s «Sisters», 1981’s «Blow Out» and 1998’s «Snake Eyes». 

Also in television you can see examples of the use of split screen especially since digital video technology has made dividing the screen a much easier to accomplish effect. Newscasts often show two reporters in a split screen frame.  The CNN news station uses this effect as one of its main editorial features. At the level of fiction, examples also follow. For instance, the Fox TV series «24» used split screen as a fundamental feature of its structure. Events are simultaneously depicted enhancing the show’s real time element by the same time it reunites the multiple story lines.