Published on Saturday, 10 September 2011
Engine fuelled the battle among mobile tablets with the latest Telstra ad for DDB Sydney promoting the Motorola Xoom on the Telstra mobile network. Creative Director Simon Robson set up production and post to achieve some interesting transitions.
|Simon said, “DDB wanted us to show the Telstra Motorola Xoom in a variety of locations, emphasising the reach of the Telstra mobile network. Instead of just cutting from one location to the next, I decided that transitioning between locations could highlight the way the Xoom allows people to connect in many locations through Telstra.”
With time of the essence to the impending launch of the campaign, Simon and designer Josh Edwards presented concepts but although the original script had cuts between locations, Simon wanted to add some dynamism to his transitions. “The main thread is that there is always a pair of hands on the tablet, shown using a different rich media application each time. I designed a storyboard where the tablet is passed from one person to the next and from scene to scene. The ad starts in a bus, moves through a bedroom to the back of a family car and finally arrives at a parkside café – all in 30 seconds, all in-camera with a one-shot feel.”
The team emphasised the scene transitions and paid close attention to detail for each environment. A teenager’s bedroom was built up, complete with bespoke music posters, plus the interior of an Australian bus. The production designers also hacked up a car and built rigs so the sections could spin together in camera, resolving to a sliding café exterior.
Engine Producer on the shoot, Amelia Peacocke said the spot was a logistical headache. “We had to make sure the transitions appeared as real as possible while not detracting from the core message behind the ad, the tablet and the Telstra mobile network.” Simon said, “We wanted to fit as many different locations into the ad as possible. There’s also a high level of continuity between scenes and transitions that engage the viewer. The passing of the tablet goes from female to male and old to young, emphasising the social aspect of this type of product.” As the café deck slides into shot in the final scene the tablet demonstrates the Google Talk application between a mum and her daughter with a typical lunchtime environment in the background.
Engine employed cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr. who spent a week with the Engine team and a full production crew, and shot the job using Engine's RED M-X camera at 4K. This gave the post team large 2K files to work on for better control over each of the scenes and also allowed an HD master for cinema use. The commercial was shot in Sydney’s Centennial Park, at Down Under Studios and in Engine’s own studio.
Simon aimed to get as much in camera as possible but still relied on major compositing work that gave each scene its flow. Lead Compositor Lee Sandiford and VFX Supervisor Scotty Wilcox lead a team of four artists ensuring that everything appeared to be in-camera. A lot of time was spent on background replacement, lighting and in camera corrections. Scotty Wilcox oversaw pre production and on set supervision to identify the necessary cleanup and replacement tasks, which were controlled and scheduled for.
Lots of work was done in particular on the bus chairs when they moved from their original position, to pivot out camera right. This engineered movement required tracking and stabilising the seats so that nothing in the frame felt jarring or distracting. The bus windows were shot green screen, but still required rotoscoping work where elements in the scene crossed each other physically. The engineering of the set combined with VFX planning allowed us to take something that was phycially possible - say, moving the bus walls out – shooting it over a certain number of stages, and build on these transitions using time warps, rotoscoping, tracking, background replacements and lighting.
The footage was all pre-determined and cut into an animatic for sign off quite a while before the shoot. This plan allowed us to map out the choreography of the hands so that we could have the different hand talent rehearse what they needed to do. The tablet itself was shot in our green screen studio with green card placed within the screen. The talent had various moves marked on the card which they followed precisely so that when we keyed the green card off and replaced it with our early edit of the content, it matched exactly. Kent Smith and the team then added interactive lighting on the hands along with reflection and grading passes on the screen.
Inside the car, the talent were secured into the dismantled car rig and were shot in camera for that entire scene. The car windscreen pivoted into place exactly as you see in the spot. This scene had quite a lot cleanup work to do with cleanup of the green screen studio and any rigging visible in camera. The different sections of the car were then separated in post so that they could be timed perfectly together - again removing any bump in camera as the pieces settled together.
Because the first three scenes were shot completely green scene and lit for opitimum post keying ability, it was up to Lee and the team to add all the interactive lighting generated from the background plates, lens flares and initial grading passes. Adjusting lighting to give the footage an in-camera look represented a large portion of the post schedule. Compositing and grading software used varied between Flame, Smoke and Lustre.
Background plates for the bus and car where shot by DOP Calvin Gardiner once we had shot the main scenes. This allowed him to match lens and camera height. The compositing team then used the plates as part of the interactive lighting setups. Attention to the exact placement of the background footage seen through the bus, bedroom and car windows all added to the feeling on connection and flow throughout the TVC. The spot began airing nationally on 31 July. See http://vimeo.com/27232635