MOJAVE, Calif. - With 10 state-of-the-art A330 Airbus airplanes joining Delta’s fleet over the next two years, the airline saw an opportunity to tell a story of an innovative aircraft.
And how Delta Marketing told that story was just as cutting edge.
Equipped with top-notch technology, the A330-300 can fly farther while consuming less fuel than its predecessors. It also features best-in-class onboard features, including flat-bed seats and premium entertainment, reflecting Delta’s efforts to provide a superior customer experience.
The advanced A330 – with the new, sleek Delta logo painted on its belly – demanded a more dynamic video than in the past. So Marketing, in combination with Atlanta-based firm Pouya Creative, embarked on a months-long plan to produce dramatic images that let viewers get up close and personal with the belly-logo livery just as the A330 takes off.
How did the team do it? Thirty-five cameras, nine months of planning and one camera-rigged Porsche driving 160 mph just 200 feet below the plane.
“What would up the ante?”
The project started with Mauricio Parise, Director – Marketing Communications, in January.
“We have great footage showcasing our new 737-900,” Parise said. “But to represent ourselves as the global airline we are, we needed to film a widebody plane like this new A330-300, which flies across the globe.”
Then Delta’s Visual Content leads Mary Welsh, Manager – Brand Strategy and Creative Services, and Chris Fisher, Specialist – Art Direction and Graphic Design, and Pouya Creative teams took it from there.The plan was to capture a dramatic shot of the belly logo just as the plane was taking off. To do that, the team would need a camera that could be attached to something moving as fast as the plane – say, a Porsche 911. The camera, wedged in the back seat, would need to be wireless and controlled remotely to ensure perfect-angle shots.
Meanwhile, a smaller Learjet and a helicopter would provide aerial shots to show other angles of the A330.
Last year, Delta used a Learjet and a helicopter to film a brand new Boeing 737, but filming in this manner – not only from aircraft but a sports car – took the project to the next level.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What would up the ante?’ this time,” said Pouya Dianat, Project Director and Director of Pouya Creative. “Delta loyalists crave unique perspectives, and we wanted to live up to that.”
Over the next several months, the team recruited all the right people for the job, including Delta employees from Flight Operations, Technical Operations and the Operations/Customer Center, as well as videographers and a professional stunt driver.
“Safety my first concern”
What started out as an artistic idea became a matter of engineering precision and skill. Using Airbus performance software, Cory White, Delta Senior Engineer – Performance Aircraft, figured out the exact calculations to ensure the Porsche-rigged camera could film the underside of the plane clearly and safely.
“I was excited to be involved in such a unique opportunity, but safety was my first concern,” White said. “It’s a heavy burden to make sure calculations are done properly. Checking and rechecking was essential.”
“Delta loyalists crave unique perspectives, and we wanted to live up to that.”
Then, the team put White’s calculations to the test.
Weeks prior to the shoot, the film crew and Delta’s flight team performed more than a dozen practice runs in both the car and a flight simulator. Testing continued during the shoot; Captain Dan Lewis, Delta Chief Line Check Pilot for the A330, and First Officer Robin Grey conducted two trial takeoffs in the A330.
“We’ll need to validate where the plane leaves the ground and have clear range signals worked out ahead of time,” Lewis said in one of several safety meetings. “What we have to do is plan for the worst.”
“Plane in my rearview mirror”The teams met in September at the Mojave Air and Space Port, an arid location an hour-and-a-half northeast of Los Angeles. The production team had grown to more than 50 people, including pilots and co-pilots, cameramen, audio and video technicians, production crew members and security. After months of planning, everything began to come together.
The crew spent day one reviewing details of the shoot, establishing safety protocols and filming still photos of the A330, which had just landed from Atlanta that afternoon.
“We had a check list of things we needed from each part of the crew in order to be successful,” Dianat said. “It took the safety of the aerial film crews, the precision of the driver and pilots, and camera and wireless operations.”
On day two, the team reconvened at sunrise. Outside of a hangar, a helicopter circled above to capture the perfect shot of the A330 taxiing towards the rust-red Mojave Desert Mountains. The team performed its final test runs before shooting the groundbreaking scene that afternoon.
The A330 lined up on the runway behind the Porsche. Dianat gave the go-ahead, and the Porsche sped off with the A330 shortly following.
“Seeing the plane come up in my rearview mirror was unforgettable,” said Roger Richman, the professional stunt driver. “I’ve been chased by a lot of things, but never anything as large, or with first class seating! But I was amazed at the precision and consistency of these Delta pilots – I would trust my life with those guys.”
“The results are powerful. It really helps bring the brand to life in a differentiated way by showcasing a brand-new aircraft that symbolizes our global scope.”
In all, the team edited more than four hours of footage down to a 60-second spot.
Parise said the most challenging part of the project – aside from the desert heat – was pulling off a project that required coordination across many different teams – internal and external.
“The results are powerful,” Parise said. “It really helps bring the brand to life in a differentiated way by showcasing a brand-new aircraft that symbolizes our global scope.”
About the A330-300
It's a quieter, more eco-efficient widebody aircraft that operates long-haul flights. Delta took delivery of its first in May.
- Passengers: 293
- Crusing speed: 531 mph
- Range: 5343 miles
More information on the A330-300 is available at delta.com.
Note: An earlier version of this article included a different number of aircraft being delivered over a longer time-frame. Those facts are clarified in this version.