MPC Creative created a pair of visually stunning spots for the Grammy Awards, one starring Bon Iver and another featuring singer-songwriter Adele.
Press Release from MPC Creative:
MPC Creative created a pair of visually stunning spots for the Grammy Awards, one starring Bon Iver and another featuring singer-songwriter Adele. Directors Ryan Knowles and Dan Marsh, Executive Producer Paul Abatemarco, and MPC Head of Production Jenny Bright worked closely with TBWA\Chiat\Day on the campaign, helping to develop the look and feel of the broader, four-spot campaign and handling the two spots' full production effort from concept to completion. This was a comprehensive effort that included everything from practical photography to 2D and 3D animation to compositing. Chiat approached MPC Creative with an opportunity to work with top artists that represented the Grammy brand, and by September the team was already hard at work on the efforts.
Bon Iver opens on a bucolic winter landscape of trees surrounding a small pond as the beats of Bon Iver's "Holocene" quiver over the scene. As the vocals enter the song, elements of the snowy landscape begin to hauntingly fall into the air, their movement motivated by the song's rhythms. The camera reveals that the scene is actually a finely detailed miniature world, an imagined finite landscape floating in the atmosphere of musically driven winds carrying away the particle elements as though they were flocking birds. The elements coalesce first into the three-dimensional outline of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and then into the Grammy's slogan: "WE ARE MUSIC."
Knowles and Marsh worked with production designer Gideon Webster to construct an intricate 40-inch set on a rotating platform using a creative combination of twigs, cotton, flour, and other train-set-like elements. MPC Creative storyboarded the spot ahead of time to determine exactly what Gideon would have to build.
As Webster designed the miniature set, the studio worked on previz to determine how to shoot the miniature in the appropriate scale, which lenses to use, and the distance and timing of the shoot. Following the shoot, MPC's Mark Gethin and Derek Hanson graded the practical portion of the spot, while CG artists developed the particles in relation to the music. A post grade was done on the spot's completion to ensure the CG and practical photography were balanced.
Chiat, who had worked with the creative problem solvers at MPC before, gave the studio free reign for this spot, directing them only to try and create a visualization of the music. To match motion to music, MPC Creative studied flocking birds and starling formations, among other movements. Several versions of Justin Vernon's reveal were considered before settling on the final, matching still photos for lighting and modeling reference to create a three-dimensional Vernon. By animating that to match his live performances, they were able to get the kind of movement and angle they required of the artist for the big reveal.
Adele opens on a worm's-eye view of oversized CG raindrops careening toward earth to the beats of Adele's Rolling in the Deep. Timed to the beat of the drum, the droplets burst into flames upon impact, releasing fiery embers into the air that merge to form the singer's silhouette. As a live-action Adele materializes through the inferno, the embers rise high above the stage and coalesce into the "WE ARE MUSIC" Grammy slogan.
The creative process in Adele was complicated by the fact that the MPC Creative team didn't know who they were building the spot around until the Grammys announced their nominations on Nov. 30, and didn't have certainty on the track until well after that.
Once Chiat confirmed Adele as the performer, MPC Creative pounced, creating an editorial structure to guide the entire process, which was essentially creating shooting boards, a novel approach to a CG spot. Simultaneously, they worked with designers to develop the spot's look: the color palette, the look of the smoke and embers, the movement of light.
Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.