The advertising campaign for the Red Bull Music Academy World Tour is such a product of creative collaboration that its co-founder Many Ameri thinks it should be considered an extension of the Academy's philosophy. "It's a stand-alone art piece," he says, of the 3-minute music video created by Mother, N.Y. and Passion Pictures that stitches together a mind-boggling array of creative techniques, both traditional and cutting-edge.
The music video, made up of eight short films, each representative of one city the Tour stops in, uses starkly different techniques to differentiate between the cities, from real 3D modeling, to computer graphics, animation, old-school compositing and so on. The project, which took about eight weeks to complete, brought in creative teams from Mother, N.Y. and Passion Pictures.
It is the first time the Red Bull Music Academy is testing adland's waters. The Academy, which launched in 1998, annually brings together musicians, vocalists, producers and DJs from all corners of the globe for a workshop in a city of its choosing, to be tutored and mentored by the greats. This year, the Academy embarked on its first World Tour, stopping in different cities for workshops steeped in local music styles.
For the RBMA, the sort of collaboration required of the campaign is exactly the sort of thing the Academy does on a regular basis. The music that runs throughout the video is by Sammy Bananas, a Brooklyn mixer who is an alumnus of the Academy. "We wanted advertising on an equal level visually to our philosophy," says Ameri. "They've put the same detail into visuals as we do in music programming."
And that brief was clear to both Mother, N.Y. and Passion, right from the outset. "They're not typical clients," says Thomas Punch, a creative at Mother that led the project. "They want communications done in the same way their events are done."
Like Nine Jobs
The teams at Mother and Passion both wanted to differentiate between each city as much as possible. The crew at Passion was divided into eight different teams, each in charge of a city, to retain the different sensibilities. That was part of the challenge, especially for Passion's producer Belinda Blacklock. "There were so any techniques that it was like managing nine jobs," she said. "But at the same time, people that generally would never work together, like traditional illustrators and CG people, were thrown together. It created a nice bond."
Each city's visuals mix the abstract and the illustrative. The video opens with Paris and represents Afrobeat. While the fleeting shot of the Eiffel Tower in the background is obvious, the tactile surfaces of the Aruba drum and the Nigerian instruments add an extra experiential layer.
Paris, Berlin and New York were all created using real models, with animation only being used for moving parts, like people walking around.
The sequence for Detroit matches the city's ancestry to its technique. "We wanted to juxtapose Man and Machine, make it greasy," says Punch. There is a heavier dose of computer graphics for this sequence, with the audio track adding ambient sounds of assembly lines and machines. "The best thing to do here was to cheat the eye with CG, it fit in nicely," says Passion Pictures' director Pete Candeland. "When you move onto something like Rome, you want a different excuse." Rome's theme was great and classic films. To contrast it with Detroit, which was just preceding it, the team used the opposite of CG: two-dimensional, flat, compositing.
For Toronto, the reference was classic album covers, and so the team at Passion used an overexposed, eighties-style video capture. "We were looking for lots of ways to tie technique into story," Candeland adds.
A Mix of the Arbitrary and Research
Although Punch admits that sometimes what a city would represent was a bit of "creatively arbitrary decision," most of the references and themes for the city were backed by research from both Mother and Red Bull that synthesized local music styles and aesthetics. "The concepts are abstract but they have put together a representation that works," says Ameri.
Looking back, Punch says one of the things he might have done differently was not to let the audio score inform the animation to the degree it has. The sequence of the audio cut, with ambient sounds included, dictated the flow of the city sequence. Although he would have wanted animation to drive the process, he said the way it worked out is fitting, in a way. "After all, we made the decision to let the music drive it because it's the heart of the project," he says. "It was for the right reasons."
For Passion Pictures, working on the World Tour is an important milestone. "This proves that as a studio, we can handle the bigger projects, especially in New York, where we are still growing," says Rich Rama, EP, who joined the studio from Psyop only a few months ago. "We have an all-star team."