The Huey helicopter was the workhorse of the Vietnam War. The
things these olive green behemoths witnessed can, even now, only be
guessed at. But for all the places they have been, it’s pretty safe to
assume they never before found themselves in a fog-bound southern Spain
suspending a specially converted one-ton Chevvy car 15 feet below. But
that’s understandable, because for all its distinguished service, the
Huey never had to help make a Vauxhall Astra ad before.
’There was a problem suspending the two cars from the helicopters
because they were so heavy,’ Robert Campbell, the Rainey Kelly Campbell
Roalfe creative partner who helped devise the ad, explains. ’In the end,
we constructed a metal device to stop the cars spinning round.’
The model used in the ad was the New York Taxi driver’s faithful, the
Chevrolet Caprice, which was extended and painted black. Two cars were
required, each weighing a ton. Typically in such situations they would
be suspended around 40 feet underneath the helicopter, but because they
were so heavy and the agency wanted the shot of the car to appear just
out of reach of the ground, this was reduced to 15 feet.
Even when the adjustments had been made to the carrying device for the
cars, the shoot had its difficulties. Localised fog frustrated the crew
on what turned into an eight-day location epic.
’You’d think because all we had to film was a car and a helicopter we
could easily drive to where the fog wasn’t so dense and shoot there,’
Campbell says, ’but we couldn’t go anywhere where there was the least
possibility of people. If there was a problem, the helicopters had to be
able to cut the car loose at any time.’
Spain was just the second of the three-part odyssey needed to bring the
idea for the commercial to life. Step one comprised a four-day stint at
Shepperton Studios, where the new Astra was shot from every angle. ’We
wanted to create a different visual vocabulary and get away from the
idea that only luxury cars can look beautiful,’ Campbell explains.
The month spent in post-production at the Mill, which worked to create
digital impressions of the car by working from the original design
matrix, was the final - and possibly the hardest - stage of the process.
The army of helicopters was added, while the assembled crowd’s faces and
bodies were perfectly moulded on to the car’s bodywork, an effect which
broke technological ground.