Close-Up: How to make a big-screen blockbuster

Neil Dawson reports from the set of Tribal DDB Amsterdam's digital spot for the new Philips TV.

The real challenge for us on the creative brief for "Cinema 21:9. Carousel" was that a "real cinema experience" has already been claimed by so many television manufacturers so many times in the past - so we had to make sure it was truly original.

There have also been some great executions on that proposition over the years. One of my favourites was made here at DDB for Sony. It was the "armchair" ad in 1995, which featuring the man falling to earth in his armchair, dramatising how engrossed you will be in the content. So it was a well-trodden path with a pretty high bar.

Philips came to our aid with a world first. It's amazing to think that no-one, until now, has made a television to the same proportion as a cinema screen. So, we had something new and different to say but needed a way of really dramatising the difference that 21:9 (the aspect ratio of the TV screen - most are 16:9) makes. We've produced double-gatefold press executions to graphically show the difference between 16:9 and 21:9, but it was digitally that this was always going to come to life. We needed a way for people to interact with it.

Perhaps it's because Robert Altman's The Player is one of my favourite films that I loved Tribal DDB's idea of a long, slow track so much. It provided the foundation for a simple, epic idea.

"We had to appeal to film lovers. Real movie fans who would see the value of a Cinema 21:9 TV," Chris Baylis, the executive creative director at Tribal DDB Amsterdam, says. "By researching movie folklore, we discovered that the long tracking shot is highly revered, and the big idea fell out of that. We thought a stunning tracking shot would provide the perfect framework for our behind-the-scenes cutaways; glimpses of the film-making in process that we could tie back to the key product features."

With a tracking shot in mind, we put the brief out to several production houses. After much deliberation, we went forward with Adam Berg and we put our heads together to make the frozen-time technique work for our idea. With cinema in mind, we came up with the "heist" treatment later named "carousel".

It was on the set we realised what we'd unleashed. The amount of work that went into a purely digital shoot was astounding. People hanging on wires everywhere, cars suspended on cranes while a state-of-the-art motion rig glided through it all capturing the frozen actors standing still for minutes at a time. The Tribal DDB team were on set advising and art directing and making sure the main film did everything we wanted it to. But we also had to make sure our behind-the-scenes films were created with the seamless transitions that digital audiences have come to expect.

Alongside a staggering amount of post-production, the next challenge was to turn this film into a website. Tribal DDB Amsterdam decamped to Stink Digital for a few days. We knew we wanted the film to be interactive and something the audience could take hold of and play with, and we knew the site had to show and not tell - the film may have got people to the site, but now they had to understand the product. To keep the audience engaged, we considered every detail - Tribal DDB even designed the loader to work as a cinematic title sequence.

The biggest challenge was the size of the Flash video and its loading time. We didn't want to compromise the video quality and realised that the loading time of the video wasn't actually important; the only thing that mattered was the perceived loading time. So we created a couple of places before the film started where we could engage the user while preloading the main video in the background.

While users are selecting their broadband speed, we are loading the title sequence - the viewer never knows they are watching a loader. The broadband selector was designed to look like an MPAA certification page, and the titles were obviously cinematic. What this means in practice is that the audience get to watch a big movie online, at almost any broadband speed, without loading time.

- Neil Dawson is DDB's global creative director for Philips.