Campaign Craft: Craft Secrets - Smirnoff’s latest ad mixes its methods for stunning scenes

Mairi Clark discovers how a spaceship, a jeep and a boat were put into the film.

Mairi Clark discovers how a spaceship, a jeep and a boat were put

into the film.

Smirnoff’s latest film, ’smarienberg’, is by far the most ambitious of

Lowe Howard-Spink’s commercials for its client.

The fast-moving film, directed by Michel Gondry through Partizan

Midi-Minuit, tails a man and a woman from their meeting in a bar, to

their capture by gangsters, to a spaceship chase and near-death on a


As in the other spots, each time the scene is viewed through the

Smirnoff bottle, the image is distorted, but in this film it’s the

location that changes in the glass. People climb out of a window and up

through the floor of a boat.

Most of the props, such as the glass-topped tables in the bar scene,

were not actually filmed, but were achieved by a technique called CTI,

which generates computerised images. CTI, which was used in

post-production by the French film company, BUF, enables a director to

insert moving objects into a scene and to morph images from inanimate to

animate. The outline of the Smirnoff bottle and label, for example, were

not on the set when the scenes were filmed, but were added in at

post-production. Two cameras, rigged at different angles to the set,

made the scenes appear as if they were shot almost upside down.

In one shot, the man and woman clamber out of a window several floors up

and, as they climb out, the scene passes behind the bottle, then changes

seamlessly to show the couple climbing up through the floor of a


When CTI wasn’t used, traditional directing skills came into play. A set

was built in the studio and wires and props were used when needed.

There’s a scene where the man is struggling in mid-air as a spaceship’s

ray tries to beam him on board. To film this action, the actor was

attached to wires and then lifted up. The spaceship was added later.

For the jeep episode, the casing of the jeep was placed on a gimboard to

make it look like it was moving and the two characters acted out the

scene as if they were actually being shot at by the spaceship. The

spaceship was shot against background footage of mountains and that film

was played simultaneously with the jeep shot. The beams from the

spaceship were added by CTI.

The illusion of depth when the couple climb out of the window of the

flat was created by using a mirror on the floor and projecting images of

Chinatown against the other wall. This was filmed in the studio, and the

next scene of the pair coming up through the floor was shot by the

cameras on the other side of the window.

The ad, which was created by Derek Apps and Mitch Levy, was in

post-production for three months, and the team spent three weeks filming

scenes both in the studio and on location.