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Plato Lives It Up with Sony Walkman and Ring of Fire

The vfx artists at Ring of Fire recently demonstrated their digital talent on a three-spot campaign for Sony Walkman Personal Audio Products via Young & Rubicam/New York. The spots feature Sony's popular mascot Plato - a gangly, blue-furred extraterrestrial who seems to know how to have a good time. ATHENS BEACH, MORNING AFTER and MUSIC LIBRARY required Ring of Fire to make the actions of Plato appear seamless.

Shot by director Jeff Preiss of Epoch Films, Ring of Fire's set supervisor/lead artist Paul Geiger completed on-set supervision for the Sony Walkman campaign. Because Plato is a real puppet shot practically, Ring of Fire collaborated closely with Preiss and Jim Henson's Creature Shop on the shooting technique. They provided necessary digital sky replacements, rig and wire removal, clean up and monitor screen replacements.

In ATHENS BEACH, a wary sheriff collects fliers for a late-night beach party posted on a sign that warns of no music between 10:00 pm and sunrise. He follows a crowd of young partygoers who make their way down to the beach. Some teens are downloading a five-hour X-ecutioners party mix from their laptops to mini discs. The hour approaches 10 and Plato walks through the excited throng and onto the lifeguard tower. He raises his finger, signaling the kids to insert the mini discs into their identical Sony Mini Disc Walkman recorders. The sheriff looks around in surprise as the youth dance silently on the beach. One of the teens places headphones on the officer, who gets a taste of the Sony aural experience powered by Atrac Digital Sound.

MORNING AFTER captures the morning after the Athens Beach party and opens on a beautiful woman who is sleeping on the sand. There is movement in the sand next to her and Plato emerges clad in a plaid button-up shirt. He looks around in confusion and takes a Sony Cyber-shot digital camera out of his pocket to reveal documentation of last night's escapades with the woman. He sees a car and makes a beeline for it only to realize that he is chained to the woman. She wakes up and asks in French, "Where do you think you're going?"

MUSIC LIBRARY shows an attractive woman at Plato's house who is impressed by his extensive record collection. She tries unsuccessfully to gain his attention, but he is busy downloading music on his computer. Finally the woman stands to leave and says, "I'm gonna go" as she puts on her jacket. Plato walks over and hands her a burned CD and Sony CD Walkman player, which plays 490 songs on one CD. The spot concludes with her jacket being thrown onto a chair -- she apparently has decided to stay.

According to Ring of Fire's Geiger, the main challenge during production was to quickly get all the necessary plates to remove the puppeteers who handled Plato and keep the production moving forward. For "Athens Beach," all of the footage was shot "day for night" and Ring of Fire spent a lot of time with the agency creatives and Preiss, art directing and finessing the nighttime look, as well as compositing sky replacements for almost every shot. We played with different levels of darkness to create the best possible nighttime look for ATHENS BEACH. We wanted to make it look believable, like we had shot it well after sundown, but we also had to maintain clarity. If we had actually shot at night, we wouldn't have been able to see the sky at all."

Other credits for Ring of Fire (www.ringoffire.com) include exec producer John Myers, creative director Jerry Spivack, producer Kim Evans, inferno artists Danny Yoon, John Ciampa, Todd Hemsley, Sean McLean, Clyde Beamer, henry artists Geiger, Brian Shneider, Tina Eastlake and graphics artist Wayland Vita.

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