CRAFT: CRAFT SECRETS; Hand painting gives ethereal quality to Nestle dessert ads

Touching up film that was in a camera was the hard bit, Margaret Hood writes

Touching up film that was in a camera was the hard bit, Margaret Hood


When John Bacon, the joint creative director of Foote Cone Belding,

wanted a director to shoot two 30-second films for Nestle’s Rolo and

Cremant chilled desserts, he was looking for someone who could bring a

sense of ‘other worldliness’.

His choice was Rose Hackney Barber’s Joe Roman, who is building a

reputation for his skill at ‘painting with light’.

This process can produce a unique effect of back-lighting, side-lighting

and highlighting objects with a three-dimensional, translucent effect, a

feat that cannot be achieved either on hi-tech post-production computers

or by conventional lighting techniques.

Both commercials tell surreal fairy stories, with ice kingdoms and

magical gardens. Both carry the illogical copylines, ‘melted by the

chilling sun’ and ‘chilled to melting point by Nestle’. They feature a

young model dipping into these puddings, via a series of weird and

wonderful takes, where the light dances strangely with objects and

characters, while it melts the product.

The technique 32-year-old Roman used to produce this effect is one that

was pioneered by Picasso in the 50s but has not, until now, been

perfected by motion film directors.

It involves using a light sword, which he describes as a Darth Vader-

style instrument, with which he hand-paints light effects directly on to

sections of a single film-frame while still in the camera.

The camera is stopped and opened after every frame, in a pitch-black

studio where all the crew are clothed in funereal black to avoid

exposing any other parts of the film. Each frame is then painted

selectively for ten seconds, with only one area of film emulsion being

bleached by the light sword at a time in a manner that represents stop


Thus, a live-action, slow-motion shot of a woman is combined with

lighting that highlights the back of her head, her lips and her

forehead. In addition, the shadows of the person painting the film have

been included, because they look as though they were cast by the model

or another object. This is a time-consuming business as each frame

consisted of several passes.

The result of the nine-day shoot was then fine-tuned by Tim Burke at the

Mill using Henry, 3D, and computer graphics. His contribution included

adding some objects or subjects, such as the wall or the light beams

that ‘chilled’ the desserts, compositing bodies on to heads, and

morphing, such as when a glass becomes a bowl of chocolate pudding.

The campaign was written by John Bedford and art directed by Paul

Simblett. The model making and set design was by Tim Mapston of Asylum.

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