On the morning of Sunday the 14th of August I flew from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, to work on a TVC for Malaysia’s Celcom, a telecommunications company. They were looking to create an exciting, visually interesting Commercial for their Xpax brand, which is geared towards young users between the age of 18-25 years old.
The TVC required shooting for 3D integration however the time frame for this job was extremely tight. With careful consideration with production house Carrot Films, I took the decision to develop all the 3D animation sequences early and have them ready before we had even shot a frame of the live action. Local post house Pixel Post KL was tasked to come up with 3D, “chewing gum style”, “Speech bubbles”, that when popped would rain gifts/prizes to their owners! That meant pre conceiving how we were going to shoot the commercial to a much higher degree of accuracy! The style of all of the previous Xpax TVC’s is MTV inspired – Music video techniques, fast cutting and moving scenes with young people, using the product in energetic ways! The colour grading on all the previous Commercials were heavily rinsed with their corporate colours of Purple & Orange.
Day one was “hit the ground running”! An early wakeup and we were off to look at various “House” locations around Kuala Lumpur! We ended up seeing four or so locations before heading back to the production office to review Casting, brief a Storyboard Artist and meet Carrot Films Producers Jefferi Tik and Lani Layali.
Day 3 was a continuation of Day one, with more location surveys. Luckily the days efforts revealed an amazing house with a very minimalistic feel and plenty of space to work in. Returning back to the office, we continued Casting, Wardrobe and Propping for the rest of the day.
On the morning of the 17th of August, I took some time to go see the Batu Caves and Temples just 30 minutes outside of KL. That was an amazing experience. I was the first person there, other then Tamil practitioners at the Temple. Before the lights were even switched on I had climbed the 1000 odd steps to the top, entered the Caves and explored the Temples inside the Caves themselves. Only Monkeys, Doves and Bats accompanied me for about an hour! Quite magical and special I think?! I spent some time taking HDR images of the subterranean world lit only by an ocular in the roof of the Cave! I witnessed a private religious event as three women rolled themselves along the floor and then had water poured on their heads. I’m not sure of it’s significance but it was quite amazing to witness!
I also drove out to see the Electronic Shops out at Jalan Pasar and several ITC Malls. In the afternoon, I returned to the Production office to go over more Casting and Set design. The Agency arrived later for an official Preproduction meeting. It was great to finally meet them.
Day4 – August 18 was D-Day for much of the preproduction work with a Client Presentation scheduled for later in the afternoon. However there was not much I could do at that point. So I decided to go with Moga, the driver, back to Jalan Pasar to explore more of that street with electronic component shops on it. We had missed a huge section of it on our original visit. Despite the electronics scene being relegated to “extreme hobbyists” there definitely is a presence of “Hackers”, “Makers” and even Professional Engineering in the air. That afternoon we presented what we had to the Client at Celcom’s head Office in KL. The meeting went very well although a murmur of change was brewing!
Day5 started with some challenges! The Client made some changes which slightly changed everything! I was handed the news and went straight away into battle station mode. In all fairness the Agency and Production House were incredibly supportive and explained that “this is how it is” with a big smile on their faces! New Cast was called for, we scrapped locations within the house, set dressings and started looking for city skyline views of KL. Although much of the original script had changed, in many ways it hadn’t! I realised this as I was working through my shot list. Much of our preproduction was still relevant. However, the Casting was a battle. Out of four original cast requirements, we had reduced it to just one! The Client approved a young Girl by the name of Chrissy but she was based in Bangkok Thailand and had to be flown in!
Day6 – Saturday the 20th – I awoke very early and was picked up from my hotel in Mid Valley and driven to Set. We began production that day with Chrissy, who had arrived at 2AM the same day, from Bangkok. After meeting her & the Crew, Arn (my 1st AD) and I reworked our plans to accommodate the new situation. I was hugely relieved to discover that Chrissy was not only vivacious and gorgeous but very accomplished as an actress. I had no problems chatting with her and trying out different performance ideas on camera! She was incredibly energetic given her very early morning arrival into Malaysia! Eric Yeong, my Cinematographer, helped out here by lighting her beautifully and playing the role of the calm observer! The shoot went very smoothly, helped by a fantastic team from DraftFCB Malaysia, the Carrot Films Crew and importantly, the team from Pixel Post who had sent their effects supervisor along for the day.
Day7 – Sunday 21st – Again waking at 4AM, I was picked up from the hotel and driven into the centre of KL. There we transported ourselves to a helipad on the 29th floor of a city building. From this vantage point, we filmed time lapse and realtime footage of the sun dawning across Kuala Lumpur. For that we had no less then two Canon 5Dmk2′s, the ARRI Alexa from the previous day and my DOP Eric brought his brand new RED EPIC M along for its first official engagement! It was kind of crazy but we shot the “crap” out of it! Sadly none of that footage made it into the final TVC although it looked amazing! The RED Epic is so small and the low light performance is clearly a major selling point!
Day8 – Monday 22nd – At 10am, I was whisked to go see Pixel Post – the post production company handling the Offline/Online as well as the 3D requirements. Having slept for most of the previous day, after our vigorous shoot on the Helipad, I was pretty rested and keen to see the rough cut. Editor Billy, had created several versions and I was pleasantly surprised that it all worked and fitted into a 30sec TVC nicely. We spent a few hours working on it together before I had to go to the Grade! That’s right, a final grade before we had even finished the offline! The timing of this TVC was so short that I had to travel to APV (Asia Pacific Video lab) in KL to setup the look of the TVC. We were never going to be able to come back with finished pictures because we were grading the data files shot from ARRI’s Alexa and RED’s Epic directly in Lustre. The Colourist did a very nice job! After the grade, it was back to Pixel Post for more Offline before our Agency presentation at 8PM! We had a few discussions about which version to present but finally at 9PM we presented our offline’s to the Client. We were still shifting the edit during that session to fix timings with the music, find best performance etc it was so organic! We arrived at an approved offline at around 11PM that evening! I think the Creatives Richard, Brian and Dave from DraftFCB and importantly TV Producer Brandon Chai helped enormously in getting the TVC across the line successfully.
Day 9 – Tuesday 23rd – Pixel Post continued on with the task of finishing the TVC. I took a trip into the centre of KL and walked around the Petaling Street Market. Later I filmed some Time Lapse footage of the Petronas Towers transitioning from day into night before getting an early nights sleep!
Day10 – Wednesday 24th – Popping my head into Pixel Post at 2PM there was still quite a lot to be done. The grade was done, including all the new shots we added during the Client Presentation! that looked very nice. Much of the 3D was in various state of rending but I could tell it was coming together. Despite the incredible speed of the job, changes in concept and quest to stay flexible, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I should take a moment to thank the team at Pixel Post for their enormous effort. Producer Kenny looked after the project so well but their were quite a few involved from their office.
Day11- 25th of August - 12pm I again popped into Pixel Post. Thankfully a lot of work had taken place overnight. The TVC was really starting to feel finished which was amazing. The team had worked very hard to clean up the images shot on the ARRI Alexa as well as render finals for the 3D “Speech Bubbles”. Online editor, Kitson, rushed through all the composting tasks with flare. The Agency arrived at 7PM while we were still finishing the TVC. By 10PM it was all done and the job was complete! I need to thank so many as usual but especially this time! We had so little time and this TVC was effectively produced in 4 days which is incredible! Incredible because it has interactive 3D, great production design by Leslie, fantastically coordinated by Connie and Arn my 1st AD and supported by a two excellent Production Producers. It made use of new technology like the RED EPIC M and Arri Alexa! The entire production team worked very hard but made it seem easy and pleasant – so thank you for your effort guys, much appreciated – Especially since the entire process happened during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan!
Day13 – Malaka – got up early and drove with my driver Moga to Malaka, about 2 hours out of KL. Staying overnight, I enjoyed seeing the sights, photographing old Portuguese Forts, churches, the local food and generally touring around Melaka. A huge thank you to Moga for making that trip so easy!
On my second day in Malacca I ran into a group of young guys playing around with their cameras. They were part of a photographic club, experimenting and learning about photography with a model. I asked if I could join in and for about an hour I had a bit of fun using my strobe gear. The model was really excellent and generously gave me a few poses.
At 4PM the next day, it was time to head back to KL. After a meal at the Petronas Towers, I quickly packed up my stuff for an early morning flight to Singapore the next morning. Touching down in Singapore, I caught up with Damien Yang from Blackmagic Design and Leollyne Teng from Shooting Gallery Asia about various up coming projects. I also managed to catchup briefly with good friend Bruce Watt for a quick social get together. After visiting a few Time Lapse locations, ITC malls I headed out for the airport again. Making a comfy nest in my airplane chair, I fell into a deep sleep and relaxed for the first time in ages!
On the 1st of September I landed in my home town of Melbourne.
The TVC can be viewed by clicking the below image: