EPO? No way. Methadone? Oh, hardly. Fuel-injected iPod? Yeh, right.
BikeBiz.com can reveal that Lance Armstrong uses a body double.
Go to the TV. Squint at the Tour de France coverage. Can you see the joins where digital boffins weld video-grabs of Lance's helmeted-head to the body double's torso?
Stop right there. Before David Walsh wets himself, BikeBiz.com has a confession. Lance does use a body double, but it's not for the Grand Boucle or any other races for that matter. It was for the Nike 'Magnet' ad, first aired in May and still on general release in US cinemas, inspiring cyclists to 'just do it' at docu-movies such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and blockbusters such as Spiderman2.
In May, BikeBiz.com called this ad 'the best TV bike ad ever'. See it again and again here: http://www.nike.com/.../main.html
Lance is shown besting dolphins, buffaloes, freight trains, Hell's Angels, geese, bats and bike couriers. But he wasn't at any of the jaw-dropping locations. It's not him on the cliff-top at Bodega Bay, California. He didn't race the cyclists in downtown San Francisco. All his shots were done in a film studio in Austin, Texas. He was filmed against a green-screen and then composited into the ad using the same software that found Nemo.
The 90-second ad was directed by award-winning music video and commercial director Jake Scott for Wieden+Kennedy, Nike's Portland-based ad agency.
The clever visual effects - digital animation known as CGI - were created by A52 of West Hollywood, California. Even the opening scenes crashing waves were enhanced by A52's CGI team. For tech-buffs, they used 3Dequalizer by Science-D-Visions to track the live-action footage, then created the CG water in the finished scene using Side Effects Softwares Houdini. The dolphins - like the other animals in the ad - were created using Houdini and Deep Paint 3D, rendered with Pixars Renderman (think ToyStory) and composited in Silicon Grail Chalice.
But who provided the haunting vocals? It was Kathleen Fisher of Fisher The Band. The piece is not available commercially although iTunes users can download earlier tracks from the band at http://www.apple.com/itunes/
The Magnet ad may not feature Lance Armstrong in every single shot but it has inspired countless folks to 'just do it'. Ride their bikes, that is.
Peter, a 21-year old student and contributor to the bulletin board on Fisher the Band's website, is a typical fan of the ad. He wrote:
"The visuals and music meld seamlessly together and just have an energy about them that never stops forging forward. The whole ad made me want to drag my bike out of the garage and ride into the wind!"
On his Silicon Valley blog-site, Robert Daeley, a SoCal writer and programmer, said, "Sitting here in near-tears about a stupid advert. Can't wait to get on my bike later."
Stunning. Go on, watch it again: http://www.nike.com/.../main.html
All graphics by A52.