How 'd They Do That Spot?

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It looks like Pee-wee decided to embark on another big adventure in "Dreams," Rubin Postaer and Associates' corporate branding cinema :65 for Honda, which has the distinction of being the first-ever IMAX commercial. Debuting last month during the world premier of Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey, at New York's American Museum of Natural History, the spot features a vibrant primary-colored cavalcade of preposterous, lopsided vehicles that putter down a desert road, accompanied by a typically whimsical Danny Elfman soundtrack. Eventually, a shot of one of the quirky autos, a red rocket on wheels, match-dissolves to an identical crayon drawing held proudly by a child, surrounded by other young artists displaying their own colorful creations.

The quirky vehicles, with their oddball whirligigs and anti-aerodynamic bodies, all originated from children's designs, of course. "Who signifies dreams more than kids with their blue sky thinking?" explains Postaer CD/CW Wendi Knox of the tie-in to the global spot's "The power of dreams" tagline. The year-in-the-making "Dreams," also set to air on TV, needed a shelf-life of about five years, which, along with the cinema soft-sell, explains the fantasy-autos route. "To show any product would be a mistake; it would be outdated after the first year," says CD/AD Mark Erwin.

The unfamiliar commercials territory of the 70mm IMAX format posed one of the creative team's biggest challenges. With the cartoon-like characteristics of the fanciful cars, the team originally figured on using plenty of CG. The agency signed on HSI's Gerard de Thame not just because "he got it," but also in the expectation that his heavy effects experience would be a necessity. In the end, research revealed that the way to go was to do everything in "analog" mode. "You're looking at everything through a magnifying glass that's eight stories high," Knox explains. So a post-heavy spot was out of the question. "We were conscious of getting everything in-camera, of getting pure, unadulterated film, because as soon as you copy IMAX film and bump it down, do alterations, and bump it back up, you're a generation away from that pure, sharp film that makes the experience so incredible in theaters," Erwin adds.

So how did they pull that off, considering that they were dealing with "high-concept" vehicles with moving parts, like a house on wheels, a flying saucer and an insect-like buggy perched on spindly daddy-long-leg stilts? With the "unbelievably talented" modelmakers at London's SFX, who constructed the multi-tasking bodies out of fiberglass and then fit them to go kart-size frames (powered by Honda engines, of course) and steered via radio control or by real-life drivers.

The shoot, in an iron ore mine outside of Seville, Spain, was rife with complications - from stormy weather to out-of-control rovers that tumbled off the road. Nailing the final edit was also arduous. "To transfer it to video and to edit on Avid is one thing," Erwin says, "but you don't really know if it's in focus until you project it on the giant screen. It took three weeks to get a print to finally screen to see that one scene was out of focus - and then you'd have to do it again and view it another three weeks later."

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