A still image from the new Toledo Walleye entrance video.
The streets of Toledo might be covered with snow and ice these days, but that was not the case in August when a local ad agency turned downtown into a virtual ice rink for the Walleye’s new intro video.
Every home game at the Huntington Center kicks off with the action-filled video aimed at pumping up the crowd before player introductions. The video features high-tech computer-generated imagery (CGI) with Walleye players skating through ice-filled streets and city landmarks.
The mind behind the up-tempo video is a Toledo-based design firm called Madhouse Creative.
Rob Seiffert, the partner/creative director with Madhouse Creative, spearheaded the effort to make a video that evokes emotion.
“We were not used to the amount of logistics that went into it,” Seiffert said. “It was a little more ambitious. We spent at least a month-and-a-half on it.”
The video relies heavily on CGI to convincingly change a warm and sunny scene into winter.
“It worked out shooting when it was nice out and we made it look cold,” Seiffert said. “We needed to use CGI elements. We added snow falling and snow elements. If you didn't know it was shot in the summer, hopefully, we made it look believable.”
The video has been well received by the team’s fans, according to Andi Roman, the Walleye’s communications and media director.
“It’s fun to watch and listen to the fans when the video plays [before games],” Roman said. “As the story progresses they start cheering — especially when one of the Walleye check the guy into the wall or the opposing player hangs from the bridge and then the roar when the puck shatters the ice.”
The video opens with Walleye executive vice president and general manager Neil Neukam speaking on his cell phone.
“There’s a cold front moving in. Ice the streets. We’re taking on the whole league,” Neukam tells the caller.
An open fire hydrant is then shown covering a downtown street with water. Players from various Toledo opponents then step off a bus to face a waiting Walleye line.
After a puck falls from out of the sky, the teams then begin playing hockey on the streets, through alleys, and parking structures.
A Walleye player then checks an opponent off the top of a parking garage and onto a parked car in the street below. The video quickly cuts to former longtime local TV news anchor Chrys Peterson, who says, “Pucks are flying all across Toledo.”
Seiffert said part of the premise was based on a TV commercial made for Coors Light beer that featured a train turning a hot summer day into a cold night out on the town.
Seiffert said the video was shot over two days.
“We opted for summer because it’s harder to shoot in winter,” he said. “In the winter, batteries die and people are uncomfortable.”
The video also features a group of walleye fish breaking the ice on a frozen Maumee River as they swim toward the downtown skyline. The fish then leap through the iced-over streets.
The video ends with a Walleye player taking a slapshot with the puck flying at the camera with a walleye leaping in front of it as a goal horn sounds.
The shoot was a two-day production on the street with an extra day to film the stunts. About 30 people were involved, including extras.
The video does not feature any actual Walleye players. Seiffert said his group reached out to the local in-line, street hockey community.
“We got a great response from players in Toledo and Bowling Green,” he said. “They played in-line and club hockey. They all brought their own pads and equipment.”
Opposing ECHL teams offered up their gear and sweaters, including rival Kalamazoo.
The crew used drones to shoot some of the scenes. Some city streets also were blocked off during filming.
“The City of Toledo was great to work with,” Seiffert said. “We shot it on a Sunday and they dropped off some barricades. We did some stuff on the bridges and some on the East Side.”
Pre-production included story boarding the entire video and test shots. But most of the time was spent in post-production, according to Seiffert.
He said turning the in-line skates into hockey skates was particularly time-consuming.
“Sometimes there were 16 boots in one shot. It could take two hours of work for every second of footage,” Seiffert said. “In the final stretch of post production, it’s putting a million pieces together.”
He said a team of four worked around the clock the final week leading up to the season and pulled “an all nighter” to deliver the file at 10 a.m. the day of the opener.
Seiffert’s company, which is located on Jackson Street in downtown, was founded in 2004. The group has produced work for the Mud Hens and Walleye, including the intro video the hockey team used for its first seven seasons.
Roman said the Walleye are “more than pleased” with the end result.
“There are so many special moments in the video,” Roman said. “The video was shot during two hot days in August, knowing the finished product would look like a wintery December day. When you watch the video, you don’t realize the many levels of special effects that went into making the piece. That’s really cool.”