Setting up to create an ad for Vax Smartwash Pet-Design Carpet Cleaner, Director Rollo Hollins, Producer James McLaughlin, and DoP Tim Fok faced a challenging task.
“Our world before the product is revealed,” says Hollins, “had to set the scene for months of spills and stains but only takes up a small portion of the ad’s runtime .”
The Armoury team had their work cut out for them. They spent most of the pre-production time planning MoCo (aka Motion Control) moves to the frame. “There is a document that visually outlines every character path of every take in our set. It looks basically like the fevered scribbling of a six-year-old. it’s terrifying.”
In the world of MoCo, Hollins says a single take can last half a day. “We ended up blending the choreography of live-action takes that were shot at 25p over 10 seconds with slow shutter takes, shot at 1fps over 4 minutes, which was a head-f***, to say the least, but super fun to pull off.”
Every single frame was constructed in 3D beforehand. “We really poured over incredibly precise timing and framing so we could minimise the number of options we needed technically,” he says, adding that “this organised chaos freed up the cast to play and improvise within those set parameters, which in turn brought a sense of life and play to very defined camera moves.”
Hollins imbued the ad with his creative style by maintaining a clear sense of character and personality from the cast as the narrative’s focus. “It’s a product-heavy ad, but I wanted to keep a keen emphasis on the ways in which our cast related to the product and environment in each scene.” He says that a defined colour palette and close, wide lenses were used to elevate the experience beyond the typical product demo.
As a dad of two, Hollins reflects on whether he brought his own family life experience to the production, saying, “It feels like the other way around,” he says. “I borrowed a product from the set and used it to clean up some cat puke. It’s been a dream that cleans up nightmares.” Hollins adds that this was his third project with McCann’s creative duo Duncan Bancroft and Leon Deeming. “We share an eerily similar tone for action and comedy, and we usually live by the principle of ‘best/funniest idea wins’. So we bounced a lot of ideas off each other and prepped way more than we see on screen.”
For Producer James McLaughlin, the biggest production challenge for the Smartwash spot was its high level of complexity. “The need for motion control involving animals and children to work seamlessly in a short shooting time.” The combination of Rollo as Director and Tim Fok as DoP working in 3D space for pre-production, together with the Four Elements team in Bulgaria, “allowed us to iron out a lot of kinks and run tests on the space for blocking, lighting and motion control.”
McLaughlin offers a shout-out to the entire team. “Our fearless leader Rollo is an infinitely patient, detailed and resourceful human being/android. DoP Tim Fok put in a serious shift in the pre-prod, dealing with a complex lighting plan covering motion controlled timelapse with children and animals who needed to be coordinated through the space. Production Designer Borislava Kadiyska, and Rosen, Lyubo and Sami of the Four Elements team always went the extra mile for us. Finally, a special shout out to our 1st AD / time-lord Diko Buchukov for working his wizardry.”
You can watch the ad on Rollo’s reel.