XYZ hits the road for Dodge ad

The Australian studio, BBDO New York and Charlex created a distinctive look mixing three animation styles and live action, for US car company Dodge.

Directed by Australian outfit XYZ Studios, the new spot for the US car Dodge Journey Crossover ignores the conventions of car advertising.

Rather than offering a dealer-style commercial stressing the car’s features, it adopts a brand-oriented approach, using a variety of animation techniques to highlight the main selling points.

Taking their cue from the car’s name, the XYZ team formed a narrative that follows a group of friends on a journey. This allowed for all the facts and figures to be covered visually, in a more appealing way than the monotonous voiceover listing the car’s features that appears in many dealer ads.

For example, rather than the standard car-commercial shot of a car driving past a petrol station to illustrate better fuel consumption, the ad used a shot that pulls out to a satellite shot where the Dodge Journey can be seen in the wilderness.

“We wanted to show the car’s features but give them to the audience on a personal level that paints the bigger picture of what these features allow them to do – go on a great trip with their mates,” says Tim Kentley, director at XYZ Studios.

The commercial employs four different styles: hand-drawn illustration, a photo-real CG car, full-CG characters and live-action interior shots.

“At XYZ, our mantra is that if the idea is original, then the depiction of that idea should be too,” says Kentley.

“In this spot, the tag line for the campaign is, ‘If you can dream it, do it’. That puts the visuals on an emotional level. Shooting a literal scene with literal talent limits the audience’s imagination, as they react directly to the talent and feel like they’re being targeted.

“So we chose highly stylized characters and illustrated environments as this allows the audience to let their dreams do the work.”

However, the Dodge car itself was kept looking photo-real. “By having an illustrated world reflected in the paintwork of a photo-real car, we have a wonderful crossover moment where the two worlds mingle,” says Kentley.

A tight production schedule meant that XYZ had to quickly decide on the techniques they’d use, as well as the commercial’s look and feel.

“Translating a 2D illustration into a 3D space is a tricky assignment, particularly when the camera is moving around the characters in that space,” explains Kentley.

“We did a quick R&D of projecting the 2D illustrations on a simplified 3D face, but when the camera went from a profile shot to a front shot, the technique broke down and created ugly angles.”

The solution was to model the characters in 3D, which were created initially by XYZ’s Jaime Fernandez. The production was then taken up by New York studio Charlex who took the illustrations and models, refined them, created the animation and completed the post-production.

“Staying true to the original sketch design of the characters is always a challenge in CG,” says Stephen K. Mann, lead character TD at Charlex. “In this case, they had to look exactly like what was sketched, so a lot of work had to go into the actual look of the 3D to match the illustrations.”

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