Toshiba eschews the 'big idea' for technology

LONDON - Grey's TV work for the company's new range of LCD RVs uses a new kind of "bullet time" technique.

Toshiba...innovative ad by Grey London
Toshiba...innovative ad by Grey London

The Matrix's iconic slow-motion fight scenes have been emulated many times since the film's release in 1999, from humorous pastiches in comedies such as Shrek, to serious action films.

Until recently, adland had steer-ed clear of the time-consuming and technically challenging "bullet time" technique, used to create these 360-degree sequences.

That was until Toshiba, after some convincing by its agency, Grey London, decided to not just use "bullet time", which shows a rotation of a still moment, but to adopt an advanced version of the process. The technique used in its new ad campaign incorporates a number of separate moving snapshots into the image rotation.

The ad, set in an empty room, features people making repeated movements. Hungry Man's Mitch Stratten, who first conceived the idea, decided to use the new technique to capture objects moving and interacting because he wanted the film to represent a machine formed from organic movements.

He pitched this idea to Grey, which instantly recognised that it would provide an appropriate platform to showcase Toshiba's new range of LCD TVs, which use upscaling technology to achieve a near-high-definition quality.

Andy Amadeo, the Grey London creative director, explains: "The problem we faced was that you couldn't really show upscaling, but we wanted to make the point that Toshiba is committed to innovation. So, we used this as an example of how film constantly redefines itself."

The creation of the ad was no mean feat. The team first constructed a circular rig, 14 metres in diameter, 1.8 metres high and weighing around half a tonne.

To this, they attached 200 Toshiba cameras, each of which had to be focused individually, taking four focus pullers three days in total.

"It was a big ask for us. First to supply 200 cameras, and second because there was a lot of nervous anticipation because we were using our own product to shoot the ad," Matt McDowell, the marketing director at Toshiba, adds.

Inside this circle, each action, from a girl twirling her skirt, to people bouncing balls, was individually filmed from every angle, creating more than 20 terabytes of video data - around eight times more data than NASA processes from all its global satellites per day.

The Mill then embarked upon four weeks of round-the-clock post-production, constructing a unique computer programme that automatically selected the correct frames from each camera to create the 360-degree shot.

The individual actions were then isolated, the rig was painted out, and they were put together to form a single flowing film depicting simultaneous interacting looping activities.

The ad has attracted 250,000 views on YouTube, as well as sparking debate among those in  the creative community, some of whom criticise the lack of a unifying "big idea" behind the campaign.

But Amadeo argues: "We're glorified door-to-door salesmen and it's really about making a point that sells a brand. Sometimes you don't need a big idea to do that."

View the ad and the "making of" video