If you’ve seen any news channels – you know it’s the most exciting time for us Halloween Lovers – Home Depot just announced its new 2023 Halloween collection! With the success of their Animatronics, skeletons and outdoor inflatables, and with the home depot having a viral product on their hands with their 12ft. Skelly – many people patiently awaited their newest Halloween Collection to be announced. But behind the curtain, we discover the conjurers responsible for bringing Home Depot’s ghoulish dreams to life, captivating audiences with their stunning photography and immersive video productions.
Those people are the team at Pirrello Digital Imaging.
Pirrello Digital Imaging, is a full-service creative agency that specializes in photography and video located in Chicago, LA, and Miami.
“We are a team of dedicated professionals who can help companies achieve any creative project from full set building, styling, set design, creative direction, photography, 360 spins, CGI, video production and more” – President Ray Pirrello said.
Pirrello has been responsible for photographing and more recently, creating full video productions for the Home Depot for the last 5 seasons. This year, however, presented a whole new challenge from previous seasons. In 2023, their team was responsible for building 5 sets from scratch, utilizing a whopping 40,000 sq ft of studio space just for this one project. Which raised the question:
How do we shoot photos and videos for products that are almost 15 feet tall and how do we build these gargantuan sets that look otherworldly but also realistic?
We interviewed some of the employees at Pirrello who were responsible for pulling off an almost half-a-year endeavor with over 400 new halloween products for The Home Depot.
(Interview Conducted by the teams Social Media Manager – Ayden Reda)
Dave Swanson (Video Director) : I would say one of the biggest challenges is always trying to outdo the previous year. So, this year we had very, very large trees, the trees are much more ornate, and handmade by our art department so they have much like finer detail, and so we also handle the VFX for the project, and so that just creates a little bit of a challenge. But ultimately, like you know, we worked out ways to kind of put them in the right parts of the set, and worked with Asenia and Carolyn, our art department, to kind of make sure they were never interfering or overlapping where the product was. And so I think in the end, it all worked out really well.
Carolyn Krizak (Senior Set Designer): There were challenges this year because we were designing a swamp set for the very first time, which was going to include water. So not only was it going to have to be a big set with lots of vegetation, but also with real water.
Aseniya Queen (Set Designer): Definitely making over 30 trees.
Interviewer: Wow! You made over 30 trees? Handmade?
Since they are handmade, we had to also make a tool so we can carve them. It was the first time for everybody to do such a big project and it was a big learning curve of what is gonna work, what is not working, what looks better and then when we saw it on video it was another moment of adjusting everything and to make a mental note for next year! We start the process in January and didn’t finish until March – it took weeks to build these trees. It’s like full-on creative sculpture. There are no restrictions, there are no guidelines, there is nothing. When I see the videos now and the final product, it’s just… It’s so worth it. Seeing Edna.
Interviewer: Who is Edna?
Asenya Q: The big tree, 36 long branches. She’s just spectacular. Beautiful tree.
She took probably the most work because I wanted to make the bark as realistic as possible. She’s blue. I know how it sounds, but when you see it on video, blue works just perfectly. Versus if we are trying to make it brown or “realistic” And even in the close-ups that Lisa (PDI Staff Photographer) did, they’re so beautiful. It works so well with the spooky feeling that we want to enhance through the whole video.
(This is Edna.)
Aseniya Q: I’m surprised it went as smoothly as it did. (laughs) I thought that pretty much everybody that ‘s on set would fall in the water especially when they put the fog. It’s only a few inches tall but I thought more were going to be stepping in it. But the biggest surprise is when the Home Depot team came to see the set. Oh yeah. They were absolutely speechless. Oh my gosh. Like they were blown away. Like their vision? We can make it possible. I love those little moments.
Dave Swanson: When Aseniya and Carolyn walked me over to the cemetery set for the first time and I saw the size of the tree that they built I was in awe.
Chris Manahan (DP) : I’ll probably stick with Dave. Just the amount, the sheer amount of art department work that went into it ahead of time. I mean there were 50 trees or something that could always be just moved in and out. They were fully modular and can be taken apart and moved.
Aseniya Q: “oh it’s definitely like a Hollywood production…”
Carolyn K: Yes! Halloween is always different because it’s much more of a theatrical production, right? So when we shoot other sets or design other sets, it’s mostly walls and floor, sometimes a ceiling, and furniture. But with Halloween, no furniture or very little furniture, and it’s more an external feel for one, so external buildings and then lots and lots of vegetation. So that includes a lot of moss, a lot of vines, a lot of leaves, a lot of trees that we manufactured as well.
Dave S: The scale of the set. From a PDI standpoint, I want to say it’s probably like six to eight times larger, especially from the swamp perspective. So it’s just a vast, massive set. So filling in that space, building the action into the right spots in the space to make it look full, and then adding the VFX to really add more depth to it, that’s definitely something that’s different from other PDI projects. But this one was just expansive, especially related to the swamp, a very, very big set. It’s huge. Our production is a month. People make movies in that amount of time. It’s a lot of work.
Chris M. Yeah, it’s just the time. It’s like a huge amount of time. Basically, I’m still working on it with the sizzles. Yeah, so it’s just it’s never Never ending. Halloween is a quarter of our life every year.
Ryan Camden ( Senior Video Producer): I mean, it’s really cool here at Pirrello for Halloween. We get to bring in a lot of talented people to help us execute the vision. And so for me, it’s always like getting a chance to work with people that are so smart, so creative, and have so much experience. Like, one of the biggest challenges I see that we have with our Halloween campaign is like, how do we top it? Right? That’s always one of the biggest, like, how do we do it better? So it’s like taking that stuff that you learned from past years, but also like other people’s experience that can say, yep, we can do this in the studio, and here’s how.
Don Crossman (Senior Photographer) The swamp set. That’s the one I spent most of my time on. The clients loved it so much they wanted to see more of the water we had pooled around the set. So that was a challenge to show more of the water and show the products at the same time in a good angle. But I believe we accomplished it. The clients were happy.
Aseniya Q.So hard. I love Edna. I love Edna so much because she’s so modular. From each branch being able to be disassembled and used in different positions or lowered and made higher. I think she’s just incredible. We love Edna.
Dave S: It’s probably the swamp. Like, the shack was cool. They had like a chimney stack built into it to send real smoke out. Like, it was just, you know, like taken to another level. We talked about it being huge, but I think there’s like a level of detail. The water on set, having the dock and the shack itself, you know, it was just fun.
Chris M: It was the cemetery. There’s just something classically spooky about the cemetery, the old house and this year they had made the hanging tree, Edna.
Ryan C: It’s the swamp. Yeah, just the textures of the swamp set is unlike anything I think that we’ve done before at Pirrello. I mean the level of detail that went into just putting on the roof, and how we were distressing and weathering the roof. The dock, no one part of the dock was the same as another one. So like the attention to detail that went into the swamp is like a new level of work for us, which is really cool to see.
Ryan C: That the scenic art. It took months. The trees in the swamp set, the modular branches in the cemetery set, they took months. They were all handcrafted out of various mixed materials. But that’s not something we just purchased off a website. Those were all handmade and designed. I can’t ever throw those away because it took too much time.
Don C: Well, it is a challenging job. It takes a lot of hours to get one image, sometimes eight to ten hours just to take one photograph, but it’s also highly rewarding when that final image is all done and the clients are happy, we’re happy that we got such a beautiful shot out, and it’s just it’s just a lot of fun.
Asenya Q: How much work it is. Yeah, it took six to seven weeks. We were working on the trees and some of my days were like from 7 in the morning till around 7 p.m. – Just on trees. I’d come in on Saturdays, Sundays, it was a massive project.
Chris M: I think the amount of just details that goes into every little thing, there’s nothing that’s left there by chance. Everything is predetermined and discussed and fought over whether it stays or goes. So I think the amount of detail that goes into it shouldn’t be overlooked. Even though It might only end up on frame for a few seconds.
David S: I think it’s like we discussed a little bit all of the lead time and preparation, what it takes as a team as a whole to pull it together. I think that’s something that people don’t understand. They are just meant to see it and have fun with the videos. But it obviously is like a labor of love, to be able to build a world at that scale, to show off the products, I think that’s something that not everybody knows.
Carolyn K: I think people think that my job is easy and it’s not. And I am able to do it because I’ve done it for a long time and had lots of practice and made lots of mistakes. There’s a lot of math involved and just kind of knowing shapes and sizes, which I know sounds sort of elementary, but that’s so important.
Int: Do you use the Pythagorean theorem?
Carolyn K: (laughs) Pythagorean theorem? always.
Well there you have it!
As the Halloween season descends upon us, the enchanting creations of Home Depot’s Halloween collection come to life, thanks to the visionary talents at Pirrello Digital Imaging. Nestled in the heart of Chicago, this full-service creative agency is no stranger to the art of capturing magic on camera.
For the past five seasons, they have been behind Home Depot’s mesmerizing visuals, skillfully photographing and producing captivating videos for their Halloween offerings. This year’s challenge was unlike any other, with 40,000 square feet of studio space dedicated to building five larger-than-life sets that would astound even the most seasoned Halloween aficionados. From crafting exquisitely detailed trees to designing a swamp with real water, Pirrello’s team embraced the challenge with unparalleled passion and innovation. Their commitment to perfection and their ability to breathe life into each product through spellbinding visuals set them apart as the true magicians behind the scenes.
As you immerse yourself in the hauntingly beautiful Home Depot Halloween experience, remember that it is Pirrello Digital Imaging’s artistic prowess that weaves the tapestry of dreams and nightmares, making this spooky season truly unforgettable.
To explore more of the Pirrello team’s enthralling work, follow them on Instagram @pirrellodigitalimaging or visit their website pirrello.com.