Little Speaker, Big Power
We’ve been known to frequent Venice Beach with our (now vintage) Toshiba RT-9990S Ghetto Blaster we got for our 7th birthday. It still rocks the same Run D.M.C. cassette that’s been in it for the past 30-something years. Music is a big part of our lives, a big part of the nostalgia that drives us to make things move. And we think that sentiment is shared by just about everyone – except for accountants. Accountants don’t listen to music. They just listen to the sounds of people weeping set to the sultry tones of Enya.
Enter Ultimate Ears, the most un-accountant company dedicated to bringing the music we all love to life. Their speakers are small in size, but big on sound. That feeling is what we captured for a series of spots launching their new portable bluetooth speakers, the UE Boom 2. We filled a subway station with animated graffiti set to the beat of the track coming from the portable speaker.
Bringing Music to Life.
It was a lofty idea: We wanted to use a subway car as a visual zoetrope, where every car is a separate frame of animation. To accomplish it, we partnered with the street art group Bicicleta Semfreio to get their spin on a colorful, graphic interpretation of the tracks tied to a specific quality of the speaker: Sound, Durability, and Water Resistance. With those themes in mind, we split the concepts of the artwork into separate spots, each featuring different speaker colors (of which, there’s a ton).
Armed with dynamic, layered pieces of artwork, we leveraged every facet of our animation arsenal to bring it to life. Animating for a zoetrope type effect is an interesting thing - the motion needs to be over exaggerated in order to be recognized. All of the smaller nuances get lost in the “flicker” between frames. 3d elements blended with 2d Cel elements comped together into a lively loop where every element is hitting to a specific beat, or instrumentation within the track.
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Wait, There Are Subways in LA?
Apparently? We were just as shocked. At least one of them that was big enough for us to slam a crew into and fabricate a bench for our dancers to interact with. We shut down the Wilshire/Vermont station for two nights, completely owning the station from 12am to 5am. We also owned a subway train for a few of those hours to get the controlled passes we needed to pull off the effect. So yes, we directed a subway car. It was as close as we’ve gotten to directing the prequel to Speed that we’ve been scripting in our off time since Keanu sparked our imaginations in 1994.
The crew we brought in to dance (literally) all night were troopers. They were a pleasure to work with, and made the nights so much easier. To this day we have no idea how they managed to keep their energy up across two days of night shooting.
The hero spot was a traditional 16×9 media buy. Its narrative centered around a group of friends passing time as they wait for their train to arrive. Two heroes pulled away from the group and became the drivers of the animated effect across the speeding subway train behind them. The animations were influenced by their moves, tying their movement to the fantastic artwork being brought to life by the power of the Boom 2.
Along with that hero spot were two 9×16 spots for Snapchat. We knew going into the job that social was on the table, and shot for it. Because of the extreme crop, and the nature of the forced perspective technique we were using, there was little room for dancer, speaker, and animated artwork. We shot elements for it, but ultimately landed on two 15-second spots that feature the speaker front and center up against a landscape of artwork dedicated to it.
The campaign was a bold, colorful interpretation of music brought to life within the world of our cast. It’s the perfect metaphor for what music can offer: bringing color into the fluorescent-lit subway waiting room that is our lives.