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Your Shot: Honda’s ‘Inner Beauty’


W+K London, Nexus & Time Based Arts take us on an inside-out journey

Your Shot: Honda’s ‘Inner Beauty’

Hot on the heels of the much-awarded Honda ‘Hands’ comes a new spot, ‘Inner Beauty’. Honda’s latest offering in its line of distinctive advertising is again quirky, gorgeous to look at and technically spot on. Once more the creative takes inspiration from chats with Honda engineers and it turns the mundanity of a hefty boot space into an enjoyable, zipping journey through the macrocosms of inanimate, everyday objects. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted to some of brains behind the spot, Wieden+Kennedy London’s Scott Dungate, Nexus directors Smith and Foulkes, and Time Based Arts’ Michael Skrgatic & James Allen.


Wieden+Kennedy London CD, Scott Dungate


LBB> What was the initial brief like from Honda and where did the idea for inner beauty surface from?

SD> The Tourer's utility had been so well hidden through beautiful exterior design, the lead Honda engineer on the Civic Tourer was concerned that people would think the car was more about looks than practicality. This thought led to the official brief, which was ‘there is an Estate hidden inside’.


LBB> Ignoring the 'inner beauty' of objects is also a problem in wider society, where people often take looks over personality. How did that idea influence the creative and what kind of conversations were had around it?

SD> More than just being a good-looking car, the Tourer is extremely practical inside. We wanted to do more than tell a story about boot space – even if its volume is class-leading – and find another way to frame the conversation. We began by thinking about the joy of discovering what’s under the surface of things. It's natural human curiosity to wonder what's inside things we encounter and to understand how they tick, and it’s even more rewarding when the results are surprising.


LBB> Some of the creative for 'Inner Beauty' and other previous campaigns was inspired by conversations with Honda engineers - why was it important to get their input and what did it bring to the final idea?

SD> Honda UK has a history of making captivating film journeys, such as Cog, Hands, and Grrr…, and we wanted to continue this tradition. As a brand, Honda has a rich heritage in engineering and innovation and it feels natural to start with the thinking behind the car itself.


LBB> You again teamed up with 'Hands' directors Smith and Foulkes - why do they fit your vision for Honda so well?

SD> It wasn't easy to choose a director from the treatments we received – all of them were great but in vastly different ways. Most of the debate was over whether to do everything for real or to embrace a more surreal approach. We enjoyed working with Smith and Foulkes on previous projects, but mostly we chose to work with them again because we liked their storytelling of ‘inner worlds’ mixed with the dynamism of racing across this landscape.


LBB> The spot features similar animation to 'Hands' – why was it important to keep that continuity going?

SD> The previous film 'Hands', which was also directed by Smith and Foulkes, was so well received and viewers seemed to enjoy the intricate animation. We wanted to do something equally imaginative and captivating for the Tourer.


LBB> And how challenging was it to keep the continuity, but still achieve something fresh and vibrant?

SD> We weren't strictly trying to continue the animation style of 'Hands', although the team was the same. This time around, we combined a number of techniques to achieve a surreal aesthetic (which was inspired by prog rock covers of the 90s). Using only CGI would make it look too ‘slick’, so we shot a lot of real 'slicing’ in stop motion animation, and then shot the exterior of the objects and car driving sequences in live action on location in the desert of Teruel, Spain (their local tourism line is ‘Teruel exists!’). Time Based Arts did a fantastic job of using real textures to create CGI and comping together the inner object worlds, and then stitching the various techniques together to create the final film.


LBB> What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

SD> A big challenge we faced was adding humanity to inanimate objects. We didn’t want a clinical or cold cross-sectional study of objects, we wanted the film to have warmth. Sound design played a big role in achieving this – we spent a long time playing with that at Factory.   


Nexus’ Smith & Foulkes

LBB> What was the initial brief like and what appealed to you about it?

S&F> The initial brief was intriguing - illustrate the beauty and practicality of the car by exploring the interior of unexpected objects. What appealed to us was the scope it provided… What were these objects? How immersive were their interiors? How did the choreography through them become an interesting single journey with a range of visual sensations along the way?


LBB> The idea is pretty out there - what steps did you go through to get your head around the script? How did you map out what needed to happen to bring the idea to life?

S&F> It really was a massive head scratcher, a puzzle. We did a lot of work-shopping with the Wieden+Kennedy creatives about what we travelled through, what exterior space we would place our journey and our car in and rejected a lot of options along the way. We all knew what the ultimate goal was but it was a long process of negotiating our way though all the options - all the while bearing in mind the client’s requirements to showcase the beauty and spacious interior of the car.


LBB> What was pre-production and research like for the film?

S&F> Both Nexus and Wieden+Kennedy offered up a lot of objects that could have been contenders. We physically dismantled and sliced every single object that features in the final ad - and many that didn't! Pre-production was a lot of fun in that regard as it was one big experiment in creating a huge mess in the name of research. Once we had finalised what we were travelling through, we very thoroughly pre-visualised the objects so that we could give the correct information to the model-makers. If the animatic showed 13 slices of the cake, the team would make a cake to that spec.


LBB> What inspired the actual 'inner beauty' of each object we see in the film?

S&F> We called upon a lot of influences for each interior. For example, we always viewed the interior of the accordion as something akin to the vast cavernous roofs or eaves of a cathedral. The golf ball was a huge surprise - they don’t have elastic bands inside! In reality the interiors are often beautiful concentric pastel circles with a gelatinous centre, which we evolved into being a Hubble telescope type environment. We thought that a lot of the interiors would have their beauty revealed by casting a macro eye on it.


LBB> What was captured in camera and how much was in post?

S&F> Obviously all of the Honda Tourer shots were captured live on location and as a rule of thumb anything that could be cut up and stop frame animated was. Even if we did not shoot in camera we shot textures for real to help with our CG render. We used CG to supplement the wonder of our worlds, particularly in the case of the snow globe and the golf ball inner core.


LBB> What were the biggest challenges during production and how did you overcome them?

S&F> Aside from working out the objects and the order in which to feature them – it took quite literally weeks and weeks to get them in happily sit in ascending order to the end boot shot – one of our biggest challenges was deciding if the tableau should be set in a desert, salt plains, gallery or vast hangar space. It’s such a surreal idea in itself that almost anything would go, so our choices were wide open. As it was, we chose a desert landscape in Spain. It was vast and empty in the location photos, but on arriving to shoot it had two huge Boeing 747s indefinitely parked and was a massive construction site. An editor and clean up artist’s dream.


Time Based Arts’ Michael Skrgatic & James Allen 

LBB> What was the initial brief like?

MS&JA> The brief in the first instance was to help explore and define how you could travel into and through a series of objects. Further to this, we had to establish the right amount of time spent inside each object, the time required travelling towards the object to allow for recognition and the general flow throughout. This all culminated in a sequence of shots of the car in action, inside and out. We set about making a full 3D pre-vis of the commercial to help visualise the concept as a complete film. The results were then passed back and forth through an editing process until everyone felt we had locked down the basic structure.


LBB> What were your initial thoughts when you saw it?

MS&JA> The playful and innovative output that has become synonymous with Honda sets it apart from traditional car advertising. We're very proud of the work we have done as a company and, given the culture of Honda's advertising, we felt that this particular project suited the spirit at Time Based Arts perfectly. Having said this, as is the case with any daunting and challenging project, the excitement is always contrasted with nerves that come with breaking new ground.


LBB> How much and what kind of research did you have to undertake for this project?

MS&JA> Our research mainly involved cutting objects up and learning how they functioned. This allowed us to work out how we could navigate through each item. We were cutting slices through a solid mass or flying a camera through an open cavity inside an object.


LBB> How early on were you involved in the production?

MS&JA> Nexus approached us after they had treated on and won the project. Written by the creative team at W+K, Alan and Adam (Smith and Foulkes) had developed a strong vision for the idea. We came on board at the initial build and technical problem solving stage.


LBB> And how much involvement did Smith and Foulkes and the team at Nexus have in the VFX process?

MS&JA> Alan and Adam have a strong understanding of post and the techniques that are employed in the post process. Much of this is due to the studio setup that Nexus have in-house. We've worked with the guys for a number of years and in that time have created a good working relationship. They allow us a lot of room to experiment and the shorthand that has been built up over the last ten years results in a common appreciation for each other's role in the process.


LBB> What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

MS&JA> The main challenge of the project was to accurately represent what was inside each object. For example in the case of the camera, robot, amp and accordion we had to sacrifice real objects and cut them up to look inside. We researched how they worked and gained an understanding of how you might pass through each section while maintaining a visual interest and beauty in the image. The exterior build was one part, but the interior of most of the objects tripled the amount of modelling in each case.


Other challenges included combining 3D with stop-frame imagery. The 3D was put under close scrutiny given the macro nature of the journey through each object. We closely analysed the stop-frame footage and applied the findings in the comp. The addition of shallow field depth immediately miniaturised the clean CG renders. Lens aberration, light leak, randomising the clean edges and subtle animation in the placing of the object on each frame all helped to mimic the stop-frame look.


Client: Honda Europe

Project Name: Inner Beauty

Agency: W+K LONDON

Creative Directors: Scott Dungate

Copywriter: Scott Dungate

Art Director: Scott Dungate

Producer: Michelle Brough

Account Team: Paulo Salomao/Alex Budenberg/Sophie Moss

Executive Creative Directors: Tony Davidson / Kim Papworth

Agency Executive Producer: Danielle Stewart

Production Company: Nexus

Director: Smith & Foulkes

Executive Producer: Tracey Cooper

Director of Photography: Mark Patten

Editorial Company: Trim

Editor: Paul Hardcastle

VFX Company: Time Based Arts

VFX Supervisor: Mike Skrgatic

Flame Artist: Sheldon Gardner

VFX Producer: Chris Aliano

Mike Skrgatic: Lead Flame

Sheldon Gardner: Lead Flame

James Allen:  Flame

Luke Todd:  Flame

Stephen Grasso: Flame

Matt Shires: Flare / Nuke

Toya Drechsler: Flare / Nuke

Leandro Vazquez: Nuke

Andre Dias: Nuke

Ralph Briscoe: Nuke

Ewan Callister: Nuke

Sabrina Rivolta: Nuke

Joe Prince: Design/Illustration

Mike Aveling: Smoke


James Mann

Ben Cantor

Graeme Turnbull

Chris Wood

Mike Battcock

Poul Resen Steenstrup

Toby Winder

Stuart Turnbull

Chris Aliano: Line Production (Time Based Arts)

Music+Sound Company: Factory

Sound Designer: Anthony Moore & Tom Joyce

Mix Company: Factory

Mixer: Anthony Moore & Tom Joyce

view more - Behind the Work
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Genres: Visual VFX, Animation

Categories: Cars, Automotive

Time Based Arts, Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:17:51 GMT