CHI & Partners’ latest spots for Samsung Smart TV are epic. Cinematic. Dramatic. Idyllic. Intrepid. Valiant. Grand. Ok, adjective overload, but there were few better ways to end last week than with the pleasure of some ‘proper’ advertising dropping into the LBB inbox. Unsurprisingly, LBB’s Addison Capper wanted to know more. CHI & Partners creatives, Alexei Berwitz and Neil Clarke, tell us about ‘King Of TV City’ and ‘Charge’ respectively, as do MPC VFX Supervisors, Franck Lambertz and Rob Walker. It’s a biggie. Enjoy.
King Of TV City:
Check back and keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feeds for the release of Charge. It won’t disappoint!
CHI & Partners Creatives Alexei Berwitz (King Of TV City) & Neil Clarke (Charge)
LBB> What was the brief from the client and what were your initial thoughts when you saw it?
AB (King)> Our brief was based around the fact that Samsung have created a smart TV that you can control through gesture and voice. We were to create an ad that communicates this in a way that challenges people’s perceptions of Samsung.
NC (Charge)> The brief was to launch the new smart recommendation feature on a Samsung Smart TV, which instantly got us thinking about the sheer volume of TV content available on Smart TVs.
LBB> The two spots both have a very different tone and feel to them - what was the reasoning for this?
AB (King)> The two ads are for developed and developing markets. Our aim was to create epic ads that genuinely surprise and entertain viewers. King of TV City pushed the boundaries of visual effects and post production techniques, while Charge aimed to create more in-camera.
NC (Charge)> Both spots had specific product features to demonstrate. 'Charge' was a demonstration for Smart recommendation and 'King of TV City' was a demonstration for motion and voice control. 'Charge' was created for a more developed market where Smart TV is already available (USA, Europe, Australia). 'King of TV City' was created for developing markets where Smart TV is new – because of this, both ads were created to have a different tone and feel about them.
LBB> It's all pretty bombastic and it was clearly a huge project - as a creative, did you have any concerns about feasibility?
AB (King)> We had a generous budget, Adam Berg and MPC's finest - so we were very confident from the outset. The biggest question mark was the scene with the wildebeest. We wanted to capture as much real in-camera footage of them as possible, but they're not trainable – getting them to stampede in the right direction was a challenge. As was the size of our green screen.
NC (Charge)> Our biggest concern was shooting the spot on a beach with such changeable weather and tides. Then there's the sheer volume of cast and crew to orchestrate. Time was also a massive factor. We had very little of it, and had to produce both ads over a Christmas period, which is always tricky. Luckily everything went according to plan.
LBB> You worked with two different directors for the campaign - why did you decide to use different people and what was it about them that made them the right people for the job?
AB (King)> We felt there was more merit in creating two big commercials that were both breathtaking but different in their own right. King of TV City is about a guy who can influence things that would normally be way beyond his control. We wanted a director who had a flair for storytelling, but also a brilliant track record with using post production and the ability to make things look beautiful. Adam Berg was right at the very top of our list.
NC (Charge)> Both films had very different objectives. One was going to be post heavy (King), and the other was going to be pretty much all shot in camera. That was a deciding factor to go with two directors.
For Charge, we had been using a lot of music promo references to sell the idea, so it was probably only natural that we were drawn towards someone like Romain Gavras. For months, we'd been admiring his M.I.A 'Bad Girls' and we thought it was worth a punt.
LBB> MPC had a lot of VFX work to do in this campaign - what was it like working with the team there and what did they bring to the final production?
AB (King)> MPC were right at the centre of the King Of TV City production from the start. Many of the key components of the film were created at MPC, but the team was also instrumental in designing all of the live action elements that help bed the CG in. We spent three days on a back lot capturing technical plates of explosions, dust, saliva and fire balls. Then after the shoot a huge team helped weave all of the pieces together seamlessly.
NC (Charge)> MPC are so efficient and always surprise you with how quickly they can get stuff done. And they always nail it first time. For a very tight production like 'Charge' we were extremely pleased to have them onboard from day one.
LBB> How long did it take to fully develop the concept and what were the key challenges you faced?
AB (King)> The idea came to us quite quickly but we experimented with lots of different types of TV and film content before arriving at the final script. Once it was bought by the client it didn't really change at all. Adam is known for changing scripts a lot at treatment stage, but in this case he wanted to keep it almost exactly as it was. As a global ad the script also needed approval from many different markets around the world. The level of destruction and 'violence' in the treatment was heavily debated, and it took a long time before we had unanimous approval.
NC (Charge)> We had 24hrs to have a crack at the brief. We presented one script and luckily it made it through research relatively unscathed. Then we had 3 months to get it on air before April. The key challenge for us was selling someone like Romain. Most clients aren't brave enough to go with a director with little commercial directing experience. Thankfully, our Samsung client liked Romain. His treatment absolutely blew us away and his vision for this film would have been very hard to reject.
LBB> Strategically, what do you feel these spots will achieve for Samsung as a brand?
AB (King)> People tend to buy Samsung products for rational reasons because they're technically brilliant and competitively priced. Our aim was to make people have a bit more of an emotional connection with the brand. If we can produce enough ads that people love – then maybe they can love the brand too.
NC (Charge)> Samsung are already a major player in the TV market. This spot will only strengthen their hold on the Smart TV category.
MPC VFX Supervisors Franck Lambertz (King Of TV City) Rob Walker (Charge)
LBB> What were your immediate thoughts when the client first approached you with this project?
FL (King)> At first it was excitement. I could tell this was going to be an epic spot with so many different VFX sequences. The Wildebeest, T-Rex, UFOs and explosions – almost every shot was enhanced or added to in some way. Then we started to get into the nitty-gritty and I realised that as well as being exciting, it was also going to be a huge challenge. Rob and Alexei were fantastic partners and were with us every step of the way.
RW (Charge)> I was very excited when I read the director’s treatment for this project – it looked epic. I'm a big fan of Romain's work. CHI are known for their innovative work and great creative ideas so this was another big draw for me.
LBB> How involved were the directors in the VFX process?
FL (King)> Adam Berg was very involved. He had a very clear view of what it should look like. It was a pleasure to see his reaction to our concept design and VFX work. We had a very similar view of how it should look all the way along.
We had a CineSync session every two days, passing from animation, compositing, and matte painting. He did the grade in our studio in Los Angeles, with the head of US colour grading, Mark Gethin.
When you work with such a talented director, of course it is very challenging but at the same time it makes our work easy. Each step of his creation was built from clever decisions.
RW (Charge)> Romain Gavras was involved from an early stage. We made a pre-viz of the beach in Maya, and this helped Romain get a feel for the lenses he might choose when framing up on over 200 cast members. He was very collaborative with us, a real pleasure to work with.
LBB> What were the in camera elements? How much of the two spots were shot in camera and how much was done in post?
FL (King)> This was dependent on the particular scene. The opening sequence with the wildebeest was an interesting one as we shot the wildebeest against a green screen in a safari park just outside of Cape Town. We tried to get as much footage as possible so we could composite it into the final sequence. We then utilized our crowd replication software to create the final spot.
The end sequence was a lot of fun to create. A great deal of the action on the ground was captured in camera. The car flipping on its side and most of the explosions were shot. These were then added to using a combination of CGI fire, and real elements shot against black. We created the air alien attack.
The bear was captured in-camera using a traditional puppet. Rigs and puppeteers were later removed. Our bear has the soul of ‘in-camera’ animation, combined with aspects of anthropomorphism using Warp and eye animation. The T-Rex is completely CG and was designed by our in-house concept artists (as was the mothership and alien UFOs).
RW (Charge)> Most of the action in this spot was captured in camera, although certain elements, such as the T-Rex were built completely in CG. There are some big crowd replication shots and some shots where vehicles and cast have been composited.
The car crash was shot in camera, but needed to be de-rigged and enhanced with smoke and vehicle damage. Our Motion Design Studio created the television interface featured in the apartment in the end shot in After Effects.
LBB> What was the time scale for post on a project of this magnitude?
FL (King)> The shoot took place over two weeks, and then the VFX was completed over an eight-week period.
RW (Charge)> The post schedule was around five weeks. Once the spot was conformed, the CG team could start setting up the dinosaur shots and we supplied the rotoscoping team with the live action plates. These shots were worked on throughout the duration of the 5 week schedule.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges with this project and how did you overcome them?
FL (King)> I think the biggest challenge was the scale of the project. It utilized all of our disciplines – concept design for the T-Rex and spacecraft, CG and 3D, matte painting, green screen. The list goes on. It required a huge amount of organization between the teams, as well utilizing our artists in New York, LA and Bangalore.
RW (Charge)> The spot was filmed over a seven-day period on Bethells Beach in New Zealand, an area known for having a very changeable climate.
Aline Sinquin, our TK artist did a great job setting a grade and balancing the footage to work with the varying levels of light. We then worked on the skies and sand in post to bring the shots together. For some setups we only had one run before the sand was totally ruined by the vehicle tracks and footprints. I returned from the shoot with many photos of clean sand!