Double Espresso Shots With Bolt

Thu, Jun 08, 2017

Starbucks commercial filmed with Teradek Bolt

Starbucks is widely known for offering generous perks to all of its employees - even baristas. But since 2014, Starbucks went a step further by starting a college reimbursement plan, giving all part- and full-time employees access to free higher education with Arizona State University (ASU).

The Starbucks program, College Achievement Plan, reimburses any and all employees working 20+ hours a week who enroll. The program collaborates with ASU by offering online courses in over 60 majors that employees can take to work towards their undergraduate degrees.

Because of how generous and widely available this employment benefit is, Starbucks wanted to create a promotional video to show all current and future employees how successful and accessible the program has become since they started it 3 years ago.

“It’s meant to be a commercial about the people rather than the company,” explained Mike Reyes, Camera Operator for the project. “They wanted the video to feel very personal to the people, but still be visually interesting and cinematic. That’s how we ended up deciding to go with a testimonial, documentary-style video.”

Personal Space

Because Starbucks wanted the video to be as real as possible, they found several employees in different locations who were currently enrolled in the program and taking courses. While having genuine employees speak candidly can make the commercial feel personal, this presented a bit of a challenge.

“We couldn’t exactly build a set and have a typical commercial shoot, because the mission was to film inside these employees’ homes,” explained Reyes. “We needed to keep our footprint as low as possible in these non-actors’ spaces.”

Starbucks College Achievement Plan commercial with Teradek
Many shots were filmed inside the employees’ homes.

All 4 employees that were to be in the video lived far apart from one another, which meant Reyes and his crew needed to travel from Los Angeles to Orange County to San Diego and then to Phoenix. They also had a full production crew as well as executive clients from Starbucks who wanted to oversee the shoot. This meant that they needed a way to allow several people to monitor the shot while also changing as little as possible in the homes.

To overcome these hurdles, Reyes turned to the Teradek Bolt 3000, a wireless video device that uses RF to transport visually lossless video with zero delay from transmitter to receiver. Here’s how they used the Bolt for their production.

1 Shot of Coffee

Creating a commercial for such a world-renowned brand meant using the best camera equipment out there. When they arrived at the homes of the featured employees, Reyes employed an ARRI Alexa Mini cinema camera along with Panavision Primo Prime lenses to capture footage. He then connected a Teradek Bolt 3000 Tx to the camera, which could send feeds to up to 4 receivers at up to 3000 ft. away.

1st AC Jeremy Asuncion prepping camera rig.

In order to maintain a low footprint inside the homes, the production team decided that, instead of setting up a video village for monitoring, they would have a mini version of a video village in the van outside and have the Starbucks clients watch from there. Placing a Bolt Rx antenna array on the van, the executive clients inside were able to monitor the shot while being completely out of the way of production, giving them more space to work with inside the homes.

In addition, Reyes and the crew inside needed to monitor the shots as well. To do this, the Director and 1st AC both attached a Bolt Rx to their handheld TVLogic 7” monitors, which received the feed sent by the camera. 

The Results

For a production where multiple crewmembers needed to monitor the shot, being wireless was key to maintaining a low footprint in each employee’s home and getting the best footage possible for Starbucks. With a wireless connection, the team didn’t need to move furniture and other belongings to set up a video village inside the homes, potentially cramming already limited spaces. Also, having wireless meant one less thing to worry about when shooting, giving Reyes the freedom to move around as he pleased without needing to consider cable length and safety. 

Sending a reliable stream with zero delay to the van had other benefits as well.

“At one point, we were in an apartment with many layers of walls between us,” Reyes described. “We weren’t sure if the receiver was going to pick up the signal through all this, but the moment the we turned it on, it worked perfectly! With this, we were able to take the clients out of the equation and focus on other things like filming.”

Thanks to wireless video with the Bolt, Reyes and his crew were able to produce a beautiful, warm cinematic commercial without needing to inconveniently set up traditional production equipment in their talents’ personal spaces.