BBH London’s latest campaign for Levis shows what can happen when life is lived unbuttoned. Directed by Fredrik Bond, the team chose Absolute to complete all 2D & 3D post production, adding stylistic touches throughout the campaign, whilst creating a powerful multi-dimensional sequence for the hero spot, Unbreakable.
Meanwhile, Wave was tasked with building a filmic aura by creating clean close-up sound from location-recorded dialogue.
Guitar sees a young musician deliberating over what to say to his girl; his mysterious Muddy Waters-like protégé advises: “somethings are better left undone”. Secret & Lies is a raunch-fest that sees two unbuttoned Levis-wearers lustily throw caution to the wind. First Time sees a sweetly innocent guy being coaxed into his first time... of tombstoning. Unbreakable shows Levis-wearing heroes getting powerfully punched by the invisible force that’s unleashed by unbuttoning.
Unbreakable was the biggest effects job, going through many different phases of evolution before reaching perfection. Originally, this spot was to contain just one actor getting thrown once, in one continuous shot, with the camera seamlessly zooming backwards and forwards. Absolute’s Phil Oldham spent a week in LA working on R&D for Unbreakable, weighing up the pros and cons of a programmed motion control move versus a suspended camera in a remote control trapeze set.
Eventually, Phil and Fredrik decided to take the motion control route as it would empower them with more control, enabling repeated identical camera moves. And just as well, because once the crew reached the set, a new creative decision was made to include multiple people for added energy.
Once the project reached the edit suite and Fredrik had selected the all-important music track, the spot was given more pace to make it edgier. Because the spot now contained more action that originally planned, it was decided to rebuild the set entirely in 3D using hi-res location stills as the basis for photogramatory CGI. This gave the team wider options for camera angles and speeds, as well as giving them latitude to add subsequent dynamic touches like shattering glass.
The main challenge here was in getting the 3D set to seamlessly match the live-action set so that the edit could cut between the two. The geometry of the street was recreated accurately from a wealth of pictures taken on set by Phil Oldham and his team. Those same pictures were also used as references for textures. The foreground had to be built from scratch because the road was covered by a dolly track.
Phil Oldham and his team set about cutting out the performers from their live action backgrounds so they could be composited into the 3D set. But because they were not shot against greenscreen, they had to be painstakingly rotascoped by hand. In total, eight minutes of footage had to be executed in this way. Once the actors had been placed into the 3D set, Fredrik and Phil played around with new camera moves, spending two weeks in Flame to-ing and fro-ing until the edit became seamless. This entailed many generations of 3D, tweaking elements like reflections, shadows and motion blur. The final scene, where the actors explode, required 40 layers of motion control compositing.
Absolute’s VFX artist, Phil Oldham, said: "Everyone involved was fully aware of the level of expectation that goes hand-in-hand with a Levis production. So we were braced for the snowballing nature of the visual effects. We set no limits and pulled out all the stops, including recreating the entire set in 3D – a task well worth its effort as it meant we could play around with cameras, and adding great touches like a flying CG newspaper and shattering glass."
Wave’s sound designer, Aaron Reynolds, said: "My brief was to keep things natural and filmic, so I wanted to get clean dialogue with an intense, close-up and breathy feel. Although no quirky sound design was involved, it proved to be a very technical job because the chosen performance takes often had poor quality audio due to unexpected environmental interruption from airplanes and things like that.
"I spent days on end cleaning up dialogue and going through the rushes to identify suitable matches when it couldn’t be cleaned enough. In the latter situation, I’d have to stretch and tweak the mismatched dialogue until it synched perfectly. In many ways, it was like building sound from scratch."