Twist in the tale

With its 'hands' online film and TV idents, Honda wanted to capture a spirit of innovation. By Georgia Challis and Sam Bloch.

Honda: shot from the perspective of an engineer, the 3D CG models in the film were made as lifelike as possible, with – for the car – full suspension and exhaust smoke effects, as well as detailed interior and opening doors
Honda: shot from the perspective of an engineer, the 3D CG models in the film were made as lifelike as possible, with – for the car – full suspension and exhaust smoke effects, as well as detailed interior and opening doors

The project started out as a brief for a new set of Honda sponsorship idents for Channel 4 documentaries, but it became so much more.

Honda is more than a car company. It is an engineering company with a pretty unique way of looking at things.

We wanted to show people that Honda does so much more than cars, showcase its spirit of innovation and demonstrate some of the restless inquisitiveness that has led to these innovations.

Our idea needed to link to the documentary property. This is where curiosity came in. We needed an idea that linked the curiosity of documentary-makers and viewers with that of the Honda engineers who have spurred the company’s innovation over the past 65 years.

The idea

We started by trawling through the rich history of Honda, trying to unearth something new. We found many stories of innovation. Where one finished, another started. It was apparent that they all started with the curiosity of somebody at Honda.

This insight led us to the creative idea based on the hands of a Honda engineer taking us on a twisting journey of innovation from one acclaimed Honda product to another.

It also gave us an interesting approach to making the TV idents. By creating one long piece of film showing a continuous journey, we could chop it up any way we liked and use the ident slots to just dip in and out of the action.

Every detail in the film has a deeper story behind it. For instance, the fish in the boat is a nod towards the fish-shaped Honda engine designed to be kind to marine life. The number plate is the unique plate of the NSX given to the late Ayrton Senna, who helped design the car.

We wanted to produce a film that was highly technical but felt as "real life" as possible. We wanted to keep the setting clean as we didn’t want anything to distract from the products or the hands’ performance. It was also really important for the person behind the hands to feel real, which is why there are subtle head movements, focus changes and the engineer’s internal monologue.

The directors Smith & Foulkes at Nexus then became involved. They say: "After storyboarding and 2D drawn animatics, we decided that really the only way of working out the timings and choreography was by getting our hands dirty. So, along with Dave Walker, our 3D lead, we shot a very rough animatic using polystyrene blocks, Blu-Tack and folded paper.

"The film is all about the curiosity and invention of the engineer, so we didn’t want it to look like a chor­eographed magic show. That is why we shot it from the point of view of ‘the innovator’.

"Our hand model had to act as though he were creating the vehicle for the first time, even though each movement of his hands was meticulously planned.

Honda Hands -927

"These models were then tracked and replaced in post-production with highly detailed 3D CG models. We wanted the models to look and behave exactly like their real-scale counterparts, so we gave them full suspension, exhaust smoke effects and even modelled the interiors."

Mike Merron, the CG supervisor at Analog, was involved in ensuring that the props were accurate – even having opening doors, rotating components and pipes to funnel water.

The sound design involved sourcing and recording a host of Honda engines and sounds. The CGI nature of the film’s environment dictated that we were sound-designing from the ground up – every single sound needed to be created and crafted. The sound design and mix of this film is completely focused on the
detail and intricacy of our engineer.

The results

Together with Honda UK and Starcom, we decided to approach the launch in three stages.

The idents acted as teasers, released first on Channel 4.

To test people’s curiosity, we launched the two-minute film online a week later, without any media support. It reached 2.5 million views in only two days. To date, it has reached more than four million.

For the last phase, we have invested in some media spend through YouTube, Twitter and search. And as a reward for people’s curiosity, we have secured a two-minute TV spot on Channel 4 on Sunday 4 August during a new drama, Southcliffe. This will link back to the online film, where people can watch it again or check out the interactive version on the website at

Georgia Challis is a senior planner and Sam Bloch is an account manager at Wieden & Kennedy London