Brand New School Creates Afterlife For Old Technology

Brand New School recently completed work on an emotional and cinematic-feeling spot for iconic technology company HP. Directed by Brand New School Creative for ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners , “E-Donor” wordlessly transforms the sad image of cast-off laptop into a magical child’s tricycle – a symbolic testament to the power of recycling old technology.

Jonathan Notaro, Brand New School Founder and Director of the spot comments, “On one level this spot was fun because of the tonal contrast; our challenge was to move the viewer from a dark and ominous mood to one that ultimately becomes filled with warmth and light. But most importantly, I like the abstraction and subtlety in the execution, the restraint we practiced and the abstract narrative. We didn’t feel like people had to see how everything comes together; instead we used the sequence of close-ups and cutaways to merely imply the story.”

Opening in the grim shadows of a cluttered, dusty garage, “E-Donor” reveals a once-virile but now discarded HP laptop perched precariously atop a pile of garbage. As another bag is roughly added to the pile, the defunct computer crashes to the concrete floor, and splinters into its component parts. What appears to be an electronic mess, however, is about to be transformed into a nostalgic scene of rebirth and childhood energy.

To the strains of an upbeat ballad created by the up and coming band Wye Oak, the laptop further separates itself into pieces before systematically contorting its keyboard, screen, screws, and other parts into the tricycle, complete with blue ribbons streaming from its handlebar grips. Text on the screen announces “an afterlife for your old technology” as the garage doors open in a blaze of vibrant green and golden light. Further text urges viewers to help their old computers “evolve by becoming an E-Donor,” and the tricycle races into the neighborhood with unfettered abandon.

“The script for this spot was very intimate and narrative-driven, even though there was no voiceover,” explains Vadim Turchin, Brand New School’s CG Supervisor on the commercial. “Our creative team responded to the challenge of telling an emotional story with no organic beasts involved, that is to say, humans. The idea of transforming a cold, technological item like a computer into a tricycle, the quintessential innocent machine, evoked all kinds of positive, youthful emotions. Marcelo Durst was the perfect Director of Photography for a job like this one, and the lighting created in the garage is just unbelievably great.”

For all its grim implications, the scenes in the garage are beautiful in their realism, evoking a dusty sense of isolation even as rays of sunlight filter through the windows and illuminate the scene. Amidst the all-too-familiar clutter, viewers sense the transformation to come. The scene is so realistic, in fact, that the number and complexity of visual effects is surprising:

“From the beginning, Jonathan wanted as much as possible of the spot to be shot practically,” says Danny Rosenbloom, Executive Producer at Brand New School NY. “We were ready to add effects wherever they were required. At one point we realized that we couldn’t shoot the bell on the tricycle quite the way we wanted, so we created a CG element. As we continued, we realized that some elements would need to be replaced with CG animation to get the full effect Jonathan was after. In some places, we needed to expand on the live action content of the shot in order to round out the story.”

“We focused on small moments in the transformation,” continues Turchin. “In the opening shot when the laptop crashes down, for example, the live action was shot with a beautiful intimacy, but needed some extra elements for continuity. There are pieces rolling away from the broken laptop that are all CG. Similarly, the seat, handlebars, etc, are all CG. Matching those elements to shots with such an intimate depth of field was challenging in its detail and precision, but we pulled it off.”

Most of the commercial’s action is caught in camera, or with a few CG elements. Brand New School worked to ensure the animation wasn’t overwhelmed by the charm of the story, and the ratio of film to animation allowed the creative team to concentrate on a believable integration.

Jonathan concludes, “In the end I think this spot is cleverly controlled and more cinematic in comparison to other ‘animated’ spots. The location was as close to my childhood garage as I could remember, filmed down the street from where I grew up with those golden suburban memories – tear.”

“This was a terrific team,” concludes Rosenbloom. “The clients were incredibly responsive and positive, and the spirit of our creative team made it easy to make adjustments to requests, and make this a truly great spot.
Not only was the agency great to work with, but the creative partnership was completely trusting and open. Every conversation ended with the spot being better than it was before. This is the only spot I’ve worked on where I don’t have to look back and say ‘I wish.’ Everything and everybody exceeded expectations.”

With offices in New York and Los Angeles, Brand New School is a bicoastal directing collective working in all fields of commercial art. Ever evolving, the studio continues to cultivate a sense of wonder and exploration. For its artists and clients alike, BNS represents an opportunity to play at work, to conduct experiments in image-making, and to feed the inspiration that drives the industry.

Production Company: Brand New School
Director/CD: Johnathan Notaro
Executive Producer: Danny Rosenbloom
Cinematographer: Marcelo Durst
VFX Supervisor: Eric Pascarelli
Storyboard Artist: William Rosado, Brian Wilcox
Line Producer: David Wolfson
Production Supervisor: Jane Van Dyke
CG Supervisor: Vadim Turchin
3D Lead: Mike Marsek
3D Lighting: Iggy Ayestaran, Aditi Kapoor
3D Animation: Mike Garcia, Matt Guzzardo
3D Modeling: Adam Rosenzweig
3D Tracking: Han Ho, John Kalaigian
Flame Artist: Mark French
Compositor: Marion Ennis, Scott Winston
Editor: Erik Barnes
Senior Producer: Devin Brook
Telecine: Company 3 LA
Artist: Stefan Sonnenfeld
Sound Design: Color NY
Composer/Designer: Josh Abbey

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