Close-up: live issue - BBC Digital

New TV ads for BBC Digital extend successful face-off idea, Rebecca Beer writes.

The BBC achieved sales of more than 500,000 Freeview boxes following its original "changing face of TV" campaign. Now it's developing the idea in a second campaign, unveiled last week.

DFGW thought up the creative theme for the campaigns to launch the BBC's digital channel portfolio, available through Sky, cable and without a subscription through Freeview.

The new spots feature the celebrities Richard Blackwood, Jerry Hall, Ricky Tomlinson, Gary Lineker, Nick Hancock and John Simpson, who all take part in some facial peeling and morphing.

This relatively new technique has only been seen a few times before, in movies. The BBC was the first to use it in an ad. The first run of ads was completed in six weeks, with production through BBC Broadcast and post-production through Clear.

"It does have an impact," Andy Duncan, the director of marketing and communications at the BBC, says. "We wanted to get across the fact that there were lots of different channels and discovered that this was a very effective device to show the multitude of offerings and the multiple use of this technique in one 60-second spot had never been done before."

A team of 14 spent four weeks in post-production for the first project, but the process for the latest phase of ads was longer and less frantic.

The ad's director, Tim Pope, and its producer Steve Garrad, from Clear, led a team of seven Inferno, Flame and Smoke operators, who created the 2D special effects, as well as four 3D animators. They produced three 60-second spots, each with a 45-second cut down, all using face-off effects, plus a further eight, shorter spots to support the main drive.

The peel-off masks were created using "cyber-scanning", in which a laser takes a 360-degree scan of the head, creating a digital image of the head.

The masks are made from the scan and finished with wigs.

In this latest phase of ads only the heads were morphed, instead of whole bodies. This complicated things to some extent, however, since it meant the team had to fit the heads on to different bodies.

Specific clothing was chosen to aid the transition, eliminating tricky necklines. The first ad, "grannies", shot using a hand-held camera for a home-video effect, was shot twice as fast as normal, enabling it to be slowed down and manipulated more accurately.

On the 11-day shoot, the granny with the changing face acted out the whole scene, including all the arm and head movements required to fit in with the morphing, before filming with the masks.

On a second plate, the celebrities and the granny were filmed against a green screen, peeling off masks of their own faces. The post-production team then put the plates together, matching up facial and body points.

The first spot has three face changes. In the second of the three spots, "family", which debuts in May, there will be around six face peels.

With the free-to-air television platform having performed well since November, the number of Freeview homes is now 1.4 million, according to Barb figures. The new phase of this campaign aims to build on those figures and encourage as many people as possible to make the change.