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Motion Theory Creates Spot for NYC

Los Angeles-based studio Motion Theory just unveiled the new commercial THIS IS NYC, produced for New York City's first-ever global marketing campaign, spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The broadcast spot (cut in both :60 and :30 versions) serves as the centerpiece of the international tourism outreach, designed to share the experience of the city and to help attract 50 million visitors by 2015. Motion Theory directors Mathew Cullen and Jesus de Francisco helmed the commercial, which features the city's world-famous landmarks brought to life with Motion Theory's vfx brand of realism.

The $30 million campaign's message, "This is New York City," is grounded in the central truth that the city offers visitors a range and diversity of experiences unmatched by any other destination in the world.

The marketing campaign was created by NYC & Co. with their advertising agency of record, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York (BBH). The campaign's centerpiece is an eye-catching and innovative television spot that uses live action and animation to bring to life iconic images from the five boroughs, including Yankee Stadium, Times Square, Coney Island, the Staten Island Ferry and the Unisphere. The spot features a contemporary version of the classic "Take the A Train," a song that celebrates Harlem and the subway line that takes you there, remixed by Mint Royale, written by Billy Strayhorn and performed by Ella Fitzgerald. The spot will air on television in Spain, Ireland, France and the U.K., and domestically will air across the country as part of the city's unique partnership with The History Channel and other cable partners. The ad will also air on other channels in two regional markets, Boston and Philadelphia.

"The main challenge in this spot was in finding just the right way to reflect the spirit of so many great New York City icons, while at the same time creating a sense of visual continuity," Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Losq told VFXWORLD. "With such a wide variety of effects and animation, including 2D Flash animation, 3D stylized animation and a couple of photoreal elements, as well as animation generated through processing, we had to pay close attention to the commercial as a whole and make sure that it still felt like one spot and not a bunch of different spots taped together.

"This was the largest challenge, but we felt it was necessary to get this working due to the diversity of the city. On the other hand, the city's status as one of the great melting pots of the world gave us the latitude to utilize a healthy mix of artistic and animation styles. In order to achieve this, we used a wide variety of programs, taking the best tools from all packages and then creating some new tools of our own. We used Flash, After Effects, code that we wrote in-house specifically for this project, Maya, ZBrush, Nuke, Flint and Flame. We had a couple of shots where we used Maya to generate photoreal elements, but for the most part we were using it to create much more illustrative elements, which is something that our team greatly enjoyed. We really were inspired by THE NEW YORKER magazine and tried to create a spot that would show the unseen essence of the city in animated form.

"Our process starts with the idea that great effects follow great ideas. We're very aware [of] the increasing technology and firepower in the visual effects community, and that the tools have become far more widespread and accessible. On the one hand, that means that, if you can imagine it, then it's possible to re-create it. But, on the other hand, that also means that there are probably less and less things that have not yet been done. We embrace that, and take as much time as we can in the process to develop as many ideas as possible before even doing any of the visual effects. We really try to make sure that what we want to do is connected to the core idea, and worthwhile to the audience and to our client. The viewer's experience of the story is probably the most central of those three. We want to create an aesthetic experience, an emotion, a journey -- something that makes up for the fact that we've just stolen 30 seconds from the lives of millions of people."

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