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Phoenix Wraps Yahoo! Spots

San Francisco-based Phoenix Editorial has completed editorial and effects on the first two spots in a new campaign promoting Yahoo!'s revamped search engine. Each spot is linked by the idea that the new search application is so habit-forming, people literally carry it with them wherever they go. Five-foot long Yahoo! search bars, with flashing cursors and personalized queries, play a prominent role in the spots. The 30-second spot SUBWAY and the 60-second ANTHEM were completed by Black Rocket, San Francisco, with Smuggler's David Frankham directing. This project further underscores the strong rapport between Black Rocket and Phoenix Editorial, which have worked together on multiple campaigns for Yahoo! over the past seven years.

In SUBWAY, the scene opens in a crowded train, filled with commuters toting planks that illuminate their random thoughts of the moment, like "resume tips" and "crab cake recipes." Amid the hustle and bustle, a commuter dashes from the escalator, and stops the closing doors with a search bar reading: "NYC subway schedules." With a classical music score as backdrop, the parade of passengers, with their eerily lit search bars, looks like urban performance art.

ANTHEM opens on two metro commuters taking the down escalator while carrying bars reading, "personals" and "cell phone rates." The scene then cuts to a man halting the train's sliding doors with a bar reading, "NYC subway schedules." The campy soundtrack segues into a series of humorous scenes, including one in which a frustrated golfer breaks his club over his knee next to a bar reading, "anger management." Other scenes show a classroom of third graders eagerly raising their hands, bars reading "DNA" and "human genome project" on their desks, and a terrier running to its master with a bar in its muzzle reading, "dog grooming." The spot concludes with the closing end tag, "The new Yahoo! search. Faster. Easier. Bingo."

To make the search bars come alive, visual effects supervisor Matt Silverman and the Phoenix effects team rotoscoped and motion-tracked the physical props in each scene to isolate them, so that blinking cursors could be inserted, and typed on search queries could be changed as needed. "We had to replace about 80% of the type, so what looks like fairly simple effects work was actually very complicated," explained Silverman. There were approximately 8-15 shots tracked per spot; Silverman used a combination of discreet Flint, Pinnacle Commotion and Adobe After Effects to complete the effects.

Commenting on a growing trend in commercials, Phoenix editor Bob Frisk noted: "Comedy spots are no longer jammed with cut after cut, concept after concept instead, there is more time taken to tell a story, and smaller ideas are expanded upon so that one thought or one idea is thoroughly executed. It's a return to simplicity, and it really comes through in this campaign. It was imperative to slow down the pace so that there is time to read the text typed onto the search bars, as that is instrumental to the success of these spots."

Other Phoenix contributors include producer Jonathan Hinman, executive producer Lisa Hinman, off line editor Bob Frisk, on line editor John Crossly and assistant editor Manya Mendyuk. Silverman and Crossly also served as artist/compositors.

Phoenix Editorial has been a mainstay in the San Francisco creative post-production community since 1991. With a roster of award-winning editors and effects artists, Phoenix works with top Bay Area advertising agencies Black Rocket, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Publicis & Hal Riney and Venables, Bell & Partners, among others. In June 2002, Phoenix Editorial launched Phoenix Effects & Design with such clients as Yahoo!, Motown and AT&T. For more information call (415) 394-7777 or go to