Stylewar _ Smuggler

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Following in the deep creative tracks , so to speak, of Traktor, Sweden's Stylewar, a directing team of seven men, is the latest inductee into the bicoastal Smuggler stable of helmers. Although Stylewar appoints a team leader on each project, the group, unsurprisingly, feels their best work comes through collaboration. With a batch of six visually sophisticated Ikea spots, through Crispin Porter + Bogusky, to Stylewar's credit, stateside agencies likely will be learning to appreciate decisions by committee.

"You can go blind when you are deep into doing complicated special effects and animation," says Stylewar director Filip Engstr"m, "and working together can help you choose the right visual. If someone on the team doesn't know which shot took more time or money to do, they may choose the effect that uses the fish line over the 3-D animation, simply because it is better."

Four Stylewar directors studied graphic design at Stockholm's Forsbergs School of Design in the 1990s, while the others bring 3-D animation and/or film backgrounds. With the group's understandable tendency toward graphic design, agencies may be hearing more design-oriented, rather than special effects, solutions when working with Stylewar. However, the timing for such a change may be just right, the Stylewarriors believe. "It seems that people aren't so impressed anymore by special effects," says Stylewar's Oskar Holmedal. "You can see spaceships crash into mountains and nothing impresses you about it. We're not extremely interested in special effects; we're more interested in using them as a tool to tell a story."

One standout Ikea spot, "Pony," features different living room packages at various price points, all visualized for the viewer. Furniture grows out of the floor and walls as an unsuspecting family gathers around the television. The visuals, all done in 3-D, convincingly look like contraptions on the set. The sound, the design, the interaction of the live-action characters, all contribute to this very realistic effect. From this, it comes as little surprise that Stylewar does its work almost entirely in-house. In a market dominated by boutiques, this will undoubtedly be an adjustment for U.S. agencies.

"We got the feeling that Americans were amazed at how involved we were in everything," says Engstr"m, "but I think that is the North European way. We have opinions on telecine and audio and how effects should be done, and we don't want to leave it until it is done. But I definitely got the feeling that it is normally not like that in the United States."

"We're used to doing everything, which is very common in the world we come from," adds Holmedal. "Americans are used to controlling more things, but I think we've managed quite fine so far. With Ikea, we were very lucky to have such a good client come to us with such great ideas." We can't wait to see what they do with a non-Swedish client.

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