For a striking new Scion campaign San Francisco-based companies Spy Post and Umlaut brought hundreds of digital stills to life using innovative post-production techniques. Created by ad agency ATTIK and directed by Simon Needham, the company’s Co-Founder and Group Creative Director, the four :30 “Street Art Films” highlight the Scion xA, xB and tC models in vibrant and visually arresting ways.
The four spots were created mainly from a series of digital stills of the Scion vehicles in various locations taken by photographer Kevin Necessary under Needham’s direction. In post, the stills were treated to create a dimensional effect reminiscent of a stereogram — essentially making the 2D images appear 3D. The resulting footage looks like live-action when in actuality it is a combination of numerous digital stills and live-action shots that have been composited together, separated into layers, and then treated with a 3D move.
“With this set of spots, we wanted to continue to differentiate Scion from other automotive brands by using an innovative production approach,” Needham said. “Each features a stop-motion look that was enhanced through post to creatively alter visual perspectives… and each represents a great team effort all the way through.”
Editor Nathan Petty of Umlaut had the arduous task of reviewing and sifting through the 3,000 digital stills shot by Necessary. With Assistant Editor Christian Kinnard, the two discussed how to handle and organize the sheer volume of stills for maximum efficiency. By bringing the photos into After Effects, they were able create a timeline sequence, which was then exported out of After Effects and laid to tape in Final Cut.
“After Effects allows us to swap out images easily,” explained Petty. “By using this system, we had a universal timecode that we could reference and translate from After Effects to Final Cut and then once on tape, to the Avid or Flame. ATTIK had some of the original stills retouched by a traditional photography studio and we were able to swap them into our After Effects timelines and sequences. These image sequences were then given to Spy Post for the online.”
In terms of the creative direction, Simon Needham wanted the visuals to be driven by the music, which was composed by Face the Music. Petty and Needham went through the stills to determine which set-ups worked best and to choreograph the images so they matched and hit certain moments in the music.
Petty worked with the director to create rough mattes of the stereogram moves in the Avid, which included taking different elements (locations, set-ups, foreground objects) and marrying them together. This enabled the team to experiment with the separate layers, and establish the desired looks and treatments.
“Simon [Needham] and [Design Director] Stan Zienka are very collaborative,” remarked Petty. “They don’t limit themselves to one script or concept and prefer to explore all possibilities. It was such a unique experience to work that way and I think it’s cool that the client allowed them that kind of creative freedom.”
The stills were treated in two ways. In one, the camera was set up on a rig attached to the car. The Scion car was moving, always in focus, but the backgrounds were changing. By putting still frames one after another, they were able to create a hyper-real type of movement. The second technique involved taking a still and creating separate layers such as a blank background plate and then one with the car and then another with a foreground object.
Spy Post Designer/Lead Compositor Alaina Goetz was responsible for matte painting and cutting out the layers, and moving them at different velocities. Goetz also added lens flares and lighting effects to accentuate the hyper-real feel. These made the spots appear to be shot on normal film upon first look.
“The goal was to make the footage look realistic,” explained Goetz. “We didn’t want the elements to seem too intentional or placed. By creating separate planes, I was able to manipulate them and create subtle movements in 3D space for a stereogram effect. The lens flares and streaming light effects also helped to sell the motion in the final film.”
Goetz utilized 10 – 12 digital stills to create one shot, and spent considerable time hand-painting elements and creating mattes. The challenge was getting the perspective right and adding enough movement to make it look natural. “Simon [Needham] and Stan [Zienka] were very hands on. Once we had the initial motion down, then we would go in and fine-tune the look and make sure the elements all worked together.”
The footage then went to Spy Post Colorist Chris Martin who worked closely with Needham and Zienka to develop different color palettes for each Scion model, which had specific colors for the daytime footage and were all shown in silver for nighttime. Martin juxtaposed the red xA against a cool teal environment to give it a dynamic graphical feel. For the deep purple/blue xB, the team decided to play up the ambers in the surrounding environment lending a warmer feel. The blue tC was given a de-saturated steely environment with subdued shadows and mid-tones to create a more slick feel. Martin played up the cool and steely colors of the nighttime footage to maintain a sexy, urban street mood.
“From a creative level, we approached the visuals as though they were shot on film,” concluded Martin. “Alaina [Goetz] did a great job of making the images breathe and come to life. It didn’t feel like I was coloring still images since it flowed so well. Creatively, ATTIK is always great to work with. Simon [Needham] is very attuned to color and likes to play around. We were able to push it to the next level.”
Spot Titles/Airdates: “Street Art Films” – 4/17/06
Ad Agency: ATTIK/San Francisco, CA
Group Creative Director: Simon Needham
Design Director: Stan Zienka
Agency Producer: Jay Cortez
Scion National Marketing Communications Manager: Deborah Senior
Scion Advertising/Media Manager: Andrea Lim
Production Company: ATTIK/San Francisco, CA
Director: Simon Needham
Line Producer: Jay Cortez
Photography Company: Necessary Productions
Still Photographer: Kevin Necessary
Where Shot: On location in and around Los Angeles, CA
Editorial Company: Umlaut/San Francisco, CA
Editor: Nathan Petty
Assistant Editor: Christian Kinnard
Executive Producer: Gina LoCurcio
VFX Company: Spy Post/San Francisco, CA
Designer/Lead Compositor: Alaina Goetz
Producer: Lori Joseph
Executive Producer: Anastacia Maggioncalda
3D Studio: Palma VFX/San Francisco, CA
Technical Director: Manny Rojas
Producer: Fred Sautai
Postproduction Company: Spy Post/San Francisco, CA
Colorist: Chris Martin
Online Editor: Alaina Goetz
Music & Sound Design Company: Face the Music
Composer: Ed Ma
Sound Designer: Michael Schmidt
Executive Producer: Adam Joseph
Audio Post Company: N/A
About Spy Post
Spy Post is located at 577 2nd Street, Suite 103, San Francisco, CA 94107
T: 415.621.7791. F: 415.621.7792
Umlaut: 123 Townsend Street, Suite 100, San Francisco, CA 94107
T: 415.777.0123. F: 415.777.4123