Close-Up: Live issue - Semtex, teamwork and 70,000 litres of paint

Mark Benson braved heavy downpours to witness director Jonathan Glazer keep a clear head to film Sony's latest ad 'paint'.

I have attended many shoots, but never one quite like Sony's "paint". It had a crew of more than 200; 622 bottle bombs; 455 mortars; 1,700 detonators; 65 camera positions and about 70,000 litres of paint in every single colour of the rainbow.

The location looked like a cross between a construction site and a music festival. I'd never seen so many people covering so many different aspects to a production assembled in this way.

Arriving on set and seeing so many people, so many explosives, and so much paint made it clear this was a remarkable challenge being undertaken by the director Jonathan Glazer and the Fallon creatives, Richard Flintham and Juan Cabral. The scale of the production, overseen by the Academy Films production team, was huge, and yet nobody appeared fazed.

The preparation beforehand was comprehensive. Weeks before the shoot, a "pre-visualisation" of the film was created by Glazer, working with a firework display designer, the ad's musical director, Peter Raeburn, and its editor, Paul Watts.

Glazer's vision was epic, and this early collaboration meant that the fireworks could be physically positioned, timed and choreographed on location by Chris Oddy and his special effects team from Asylum. This also helped Glazer to identify the 65 camera positions around the housing estate, including precise positions on the tower block.

But we could only prepare so much using the computer simulation. The stakes could not have been higher: with that much explosive involved, there was only ever going to be one take for each shot.

This meant lighting conditions were critical. The weather on location was terrible, and sometimes the sufficient break in the clouds we needed was only a matter of seconds. There were no second chances. Watching Glazer make the call to "detonate and shoot" was a study of incredibly clear thinking. The "reverse demolition" shot, seen in the middle of the film, was greeted with a cheer from the crew and the crowd - a special moment.

MPC's role in post involved removing all traces of the shoot (the cranes, barrels, rigs and tarpaulins,) and, where Glazer felt appropriate, enhancing the live action paint explosions with computer animation.

The atmosphere on the shoot was oddly calm given the scope of what was being done. It was evident that under Glazer's and Simon Cooper's direction and production, everybody was clear about their roles and focused on delivering. The sense of teamwork was obvious throughout, and quite unique.

- Mark Benson is the managing director of The Moving Picture Company.


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