On the 15 of October I flew to Shanghai to begin production on a new TVC for Minute Maid Juice. This time we would be working on a short 15 second script created by ECD Kelly Pon and shepherded by Agency TV producer Julienne Wu from BBH Shanghai. Having worked closely with Kelly before, I really felt comfortable in knowing what she wanted to achieve in this Chinese New Year special. Once again we would film Eason Chan in Hong Kong but this time we would employ the magic of a 3D dragon to bring to life a fantasy tale especially for Chinese New Year 2012.
Production House Producer Geok Lem, arranged for my visas into China and after several face to face meetings with the Client and Agency, we flew to Hong Kong on the 19th of October to organise the shoot. We stayed at the newly opened East hotel, which I want to point out as very special. A truly remarkable hotel for Hong Kong with lots of space and great design virtues! Enough of the free plugs and more on the production process.
Several days of preproduction followed with casting and wardrobe calls, meetings with my Art Director on the set design etc. I was reunited with most of my usual Hong Kong crew which was great. This time “Elvis” was my 1st AD While Ben Sum and his team had furniture built, dealt with several cast changes and a multitude of wardrobe options.
On Sunday the 23rd of October we began production in the studio. We shot everything we could using a double for Eason, including cutaways, reaction shots and technical stuff the 3D dragon would require to interact with. Including the cast and crew, the studio was filled with people and even though we were only producing one single 15 sec commercial, our day was completely full of activity. My Cinematographer this time round was legendary Hong Kong based DOP Oceanic. He’s a long standing professional, who is deeply respected by the local crew which definitely made my life easier. His eye for lighting was similar in style to my own which made conversation easy. Of note is that I asked him to employ smoke on set. I did this because I’m often concerned about how sharp and clear the RED’s 4K output makes things. By using smoke sparingly, we would be able to add contrast in Post Production without having such a strong harsh look.
Monday the 24th of October, we filmed an 8 hour day with our Cast and Celebrity, Eason Chan. Once again it was great to work with him. He’s a highly experienced entertainer with followers in the millions all over the world, so he’s definitely not shy! However he is gracious, patient and very supportive, especially of our younger cast members. He actively helped to make the young boy featured in the TVC, to feel relaxed and have fun!
As with many of my Commercials, the complexity of the shoot involved wrangling people’s eye lines so that Post Production could integrate a 3D character with real life. This was no easy feat! It involved a Dragon forming (made from pulp) and dancing around them. We ended up having crew members holding sticks, toy dragon’s on booms and clap queues to help the cast to look in the right direction at the right time. I did think of using a quad copter at one stage but that would have moved to slowly, been too dangerous considering our young child actor and Eason (given his celebrity status). In addition to that, we had curtains being swept by the Dragon, a Woman’s hair being blown by the dragon and lots of confetti raining down – all synchronised with the actions of the 3D character. Off course all of this had to be timed to fit into a 15 second TVC!
Tuesday 25th of October I flew to Shanghai to begin the Offline Post Production! Cutting the RED One footage at Attic Post, Terence Manuel was my editor. Fitting everything in and imagining where the Dragon would exist was our main concerns at that time. Terence did a lovely job, helping the Client to see where the Dragon would be by animating a “lens flare” around the screen to simulate the flight path of the Dragon. We got approval for the Edit on Friday the 28th of October and went straight to Final Grade at Shanghai’s PO (Post Office). Michael Jaing graded the images beautifully, including adding a lot of contrast to arrive at a strong “look”. Because we had shot with smoke, the image did not end up fiercely sharp looking, and instead had in my opinion more falloff between colours and contrasty areas. After the grade my job was done for a while! It would be a few weeks before I would fly from Melbourne to Singapore to complete the TVC at Blackmagic Design!
The Dragon design was another important element. We actively tried to create a Dragon that was constructed from as little “Pulp” as possible. Minute Maid is China’s no.1 selling orange juice and the “pulp” is a reference to the product. In previous TVC’s the pulp “comes alive” and display character, creating a kind of mischief and playfulness around Eason as he drinks. This time, in an effort to cheer up a young boy, Eason conjures a Dragon made only of “pulp elements”. The 3D team at Blackmagic Design in Singapore were responsible for bringing this to life. Kelly and I were pretty resolved in creating a “Pulp Dragon” with as little pulp as possible. We wanted to avoid a very complex 3D, which would be difficult to animate and to help make the communication clear – not look like a hornets nest of activity etc! And yet it had to easily communicate as a Dragon. BMD rose to the occasion and designed a fantastic Dragon for us. Led by Senior FX artist Ronnie Chin, a hand full of animators worked for a couple of weeks, tracking, animating and incorporating the Pulp Dragon into our live action photography.
Music was again another key ingredient. Utilising Singapore’s Song Zu Recording Studio, Composer Lindsay Jehan created an energetic and fun track, underscoring the images perfectly. Further sound design elements were added also by Sound Designer Damien Waddell.
Meanwhile back at Blackmagic Design, Damien Yang oversaw the compositing side of things. He had to correct a few eye-lines from errant cast members, retie a few things here and there but mostly the images were clean and easy to work with. Damien as usual did an amazing job of coordinating his team and managing client changes. On the 25th of November we concluded the project successfully and I flew on directly to my next assignment in Shanghai China. Once again I have so many people to thank. I should quickly say thank you to Producer Geok Lim, who did an amazing job calmly, Kelly Pon for working so collaboratively, Damien Yang for being so dam reliable and the whole Hong Kong Production team. There are so many others not singled out here, but rest assured you are not forgotten. A link to the TVC can be found below: