X MARKS THE SPOT

By Published on .

Creating a bold TV spot that stands out is never easy, but having the right ingredients helps. Forty-year-old Richard Roy, visual effects director at Division X, Farmington Hills, Mich., a satellite of post house Grace & Wild that specializes in special effects production and supervision, likes using cooking analogies to explain his methods. "Sometimes you have to let the ideas simmer longer or change an ingredient," he explains. "I believe a project always tells you how it wants to be done if you pay close attention. If you have to force it, that's probably not how it should be handled."

One tasty stew cooked up in part by Division X, and one of its first major projects, is a campaign for Campbell Ewald's client Farmers Insurance. It involved the destruction and re-genesis of the client logo via fire, shattering glass and the crunching metal of a car crash to demonstrate how Farmers "Gets you back where you belong." Each 15-second spot opens on the client logo on a muted yellow background, where it is destroyed, then magically restored to its original condition. Achieving the desired effects required several days of testing. Says Roy, "Every material we worked with presented its own challenges. For example, when we first started working with metal, we got dents that were too uniform. So we tried braces and scoring the metal. I finally ended up attacking it with a rubber mallet and that's the footage we used."

Stephan Pytel, the Campbell Ewald associate creative director on the project, found working with Division X to be a buttoned-up experience. "[Roy] worked with us the entire time -- he was a great translator. When we asked for something, but didn't quite know how to put it, he would turn around and explain everything in a way that showed us he knew exactly what we wanted. Shooting three complicated spots simultaneously can get hectic, but they delivered."

Similar experiences at Division X have brought Doner senior producer George Keri back several times. "You really can't compare the work of X to any other house," he says. "Whenever I need cel animation, puppetry, cartoons, special effects or miniatures, I come to X. They love what they do and it shows."

Unlike many divisions of larger studios, X doesn't use Grace & Wild's reel for its pitches. Standing in is the first X production, a b&w experimental film entitled Surrender. It explores sign language as a visual art. The 3-minute piece serves as the company's promotional vehicle and features the Wild Swan Theatre, an interpretive sign language theatrical group out of Ann Arbor, Mich. Surrender doesn't demonstrate technical capabilities per se. According to Roy, it doesn't say what Division X can do for your TV spots, but what agencies and advertisers can do for your TV spots.

"The answer, of course, is anything you want," says Roy. "With any effects storyboards we see, there are dozens of ways to get the job done. Sometimes electronic tools are the way to go; sometimes we reach back into the annals of early filmmaking. Our ultimate goal is to create the most unique visual experience in commercial television by partnering the creative team with the production team. Every production is a learning experience for us as well as the agency team. Some days I'm Professor X and others I'm Student X. We create an environment of openness and originality for our clients that allows everyone a chance to learn and work at their optimum level of creativity."

Working with X to create a great spot is like making cookies -- sometimes they're oatmeal cookies, sometimes they're chocolate-chip-banana crunch with butterscotch frosting. Whatever they are, the results are usually finger-licking

In this article:
Most Popular