Dark matters in this dramatic Audi campaign. We created still images in a huge variety of media formats, and also animated cinemagraphs.
From the early bidding stages onwards, our London team was heavily involved in the technical realisation of both still and moving imagery. This was some of the most intense post-production work we’ve been involved with and we are all very proud of the final results with their unique mix of realism and epic style, inspired by movie posters.
The biggest challenge in these shots was that the usual process was reversed. Normally, a car is shot on a location that is as physically similar as possible to the final backplate, and the original plan was photograph the car on the site. However as the Q8 is a completely new Audi model, with only a handful of prototype cars in the world, there wasn’t one available for the shoot in Scotland. So for these images, the backplates had to come first. Ben Stockley started out by capturing cityscapes in Scotland and London which we used to make initial compositions.
With the backplates shot, post artist Pepê Alram joined the photographer and art director Raymond Chan to shoot the cars in the studio with the initial background compositions projected onto giant screens. We fine-tuned the process together through constant experimentation with everything from the size of the car to the colour palettes. We refined the look tirelessly, with on-set input from Christoph Bolten, head of Recom Farmhouse London,until we had completely realistic reflections in the sheet metal and had captured the filmic quality we were after.
In our London studio, post artists Kate Brown and Pepê Alram worked alongside Ben & Raymond to meticulously piece the puzzle together by merging studio and background shots. CGI elements replaced outdated model parts, we added a wet road, layers of rain, lens flares and other foreground elements. The reflections were eventually reduced for a more subtle and natural feel, retaining the perfect placement that we worked on so carefully.
The still images:
At all points of the process, we had considered how these images would work with their added motion elements. The final piece of work was to fine tune the looping animations and bring three atmospheric cinemagraphs to life – a rainy night, lightning flickering around a foggy bridge, and a sparkling cityscape under racing clouds.
Behind The Scenes
See how the layers build up to create the ambience of a cool and rainy city evening in our making-of here:
The campaign is currently on display on digital billboards across the UK.
We loved working with Tomek Olszowski and Bartek Hlawka on this project in set in Croatia, for Mercedes-Benz’s #MBvideocar campaign – the raw power of the car as it roars through the otherworldly setting of a remote island makes for a dynamite short film.Thanks to Tomek for this detailed look behind the scenes of an extraordinary piece of work!
The idea was simple – to create the feel of another world. No trees, no natural green landscapes…we wanted volcanic black sand or rocks, some raw, unearthly and hostile place to be a setting for an insanely extravagant car.
We found the perfect location in a high mountain pass between France and Italy, and sent our concepts to Mercedes, who loved the idea and gave us the green light to use one of their their monster-engined new models – the AMG GT S
However, by this time, our Alpine location was under several unexpected metres of snow….We needed plan B! So we fired up Google Earth and began to explore…
That’s how we found Pag and Rab – two islands in Croatia with spectacular roads to their ferry harbours. They made the perfect choice for our vision: the harbour has lots of free asphalt space, there’s sea water to keep the ground wet, and the traffic is limited because of the ferry schedule.
So I jumped on a plane from Cracow to Stuttgart, picked up the Mercedes AMG GT S model and drove it to Croatia. By the way, the car is awesome – not only a great powerful toy to play with, but also enough comfortable to travel. Very nice experience.
As the November weather was very unpredictable we were worried if we would get any sun in Croatia. The forecast looked strange – on Pag we had a window with great weather – sunny and 18°, but 20 km away on continental Croatia it was snowing and 5°C .
And actually, that was it exactly how it was! I was driving on a Croatian highway at 3 C degrees, in heavy snow, feeling pretty depressed. And right after emerging from the 6 km long Sveti Rok tunnel…the winter was gone. I had full sun and temperature jumped from 3°C to 16°C! How is that even possible? The answer is simple: very strong wind blowing from the sea – and that wind was to cause us problems.
Studio Tecza Production drove from Warsaw to Pag Island in our tech car with all the necessary equipment including cameras, tripods, rigs, lights and grip.
We had a Nikon D800 camera to shoot handheld surrounding shots, plus a PhaseOne XF 100mpx tethered to a computer station. We wanted to shot many rigshots, as I just received my custom built carbon fibre 8m long pole back in Poland. The first day, we were tech scouting the harbour on Pag, preparing the car and planning our schedule according to the sun position.
Next morning in the harbour, we started the shoot early, pumping sea water to make the ground wet. The light was so beautiful that when I saw first shots in CaptureOne I just instantly felt in love. I had wanted to keep a natural feel, and there was literally nothing I could improve. We had lights, flags and other equipment but none of it was needed in these conditions.
We had planned to set up some rigshots on the road as the sun rose higher. Unfortunately, the aforementioned strong wind complicated things. We managed to get only one proper rigshot as the wind was so variable, and when it was blowing we had to wait.
Stills Shoot 2
Next day, we started by shooting the rocky parts.
We had scouted some nice spots where the car would look unexpected and strange, but were still accessible. The wind was so strong we couldn’t even hold the lighting flags, but I was OK with that – the surroundings were beautiful and the natural shots looked still amazing.
We did some panning, and wide landscape shots with the car small in frame as well.Fortunately the wind started to weaken in the afternoon, so we had some time to mount the rig and take another shot. The raw material felt really great. I was proud of my rig gear, it was the first serious test for this equipment. I loved the images produced by the new PhaseOne model, and I wanted the colour to be still more unorthodox and unique. I knew the only guys that would understand were Recom Farmhouse!
Director of Photography Bartek Hlawka and his team had arrived on the first day of shooting stills in their oldie but goodie, Subaru Impreza GT 🙂 This car had a real mission, not only to bring the guys and equipment from Warsaw, but also to take a part of the shoot as a pursuit vehicle. We collaborated closely, discussing everything before each lap up and down the hill.
Photo production showed that the road was almost like a movie set from a zombie apocalypse movie. We saw maybe 3 cars every two hours and it became clear that it would be a lot of fun having a road for ourselves.
We started recce from a drone to get to know all the bends and their surroundings. The weather was windy, so it wasn’t an easy task. After doing almost 100km over a 5km section of the road, we knew every centimeter of it.
Finally we chose the harbour as our starting point for all the shots and also as a location for the final shot.
Our trusted Subaru was very brave on the preproduction day, but the real stuff was to come.
We planned two shooting days for images, and one for audio recording. Next day we arrived at the first location at 5 am and the view was breathtaking. We already knew that we have something special in our hands. After only a few kilometres it became clear that if we wanted to show speed on the screen the only was it to drive… fast.
We drove 700km in total on the spectacular 5km course during two days of pure pleasure! Combined with hard work and a lot of a high-speed driving, it was a filmmaker’s dream come true. The weather was capricious but it gave us an opportunity to shoot in different conditions.
Most of the shots were made on a gimbal attached to a Ditogear Vibrafreek stabilizing arm. We chose a Sony camera to have low light capabilities and combined it with vintage Japanese lenses from the 70s. It gave us a nice analogue feel with a lot of information in the image to do the grading.
After intense two days, we were ready for audio recording. Sound design was always meant to be a huge part of the finished video. We mounted microphones on the exhaust and in the interior, and recorded flybys to have as many options as possible.
With the shooting complete, we moved onto the editing, sound design and colour grading.
Bartek Hlawka edited a first cut and composer Michal “Lieke” wrote a powerful and atmospheric piece of music for it, which inspired the further editing that would tell the story in an interesting way.
Starting with abstract shots of an almost unrecognizable silhouette of the car before dawn, and gradually transitioning to a bright day, we combined all the shots from different weather conditions into a coherent sequence. Then the plan was to overwhelm the viewer with dynamic and dense editing of images and sounds to the point where we felt we had to stop and breathe a little bit…and finally reveal the car and all its magnificently curvilinear design for a few final seconds on the screen.
Lieke completed the atmospheric music and sound design, with the sound of the engine as an integral part of the story.
The colour grading by Christoph at Recom Farmhouse was the final touch, enhancing the feeling of being out of this world and bringing the shots together as a coherent whole. The challenge was to harmonise footage shot in with different lenses, lighting situations, and wildly varying weather conditions. Fine-tuned and polished with painstaking care, the united piece flows flawlessly as a story of a perfect day’s driving from dawn till dusk.”
“Grow Up” is the most extensive content creation in Mercedes-Benz’s history. Produced by Antoni, it’s a groundbreaking campaign centred around five short films. With young stars like rapper A$AP Rocky, the films tell a story that completely revolutionises the image of Mercedes-Benz, with the car becoming a natural ally for millennials in their journey to adulthood.
“Our competition isn’t ads, they’re real films, real TV shows. Stealing four minutes from the time people would be watching their favourite show on Netflix is a tall order, so we tried to be honest with ourselves with what people might actually be interested in.” – Veit Moller, Creative Director (LBB editorial interview)
For the accompanying stills, we worked closely with CD Veit Moeller and young photographer Alice Moitié – printing and re-scanning, adding grain to create a strongly analogue film look, with CGI elements helping with the practical aspects of a worldwide campaign.
The campaign’s media locations are as bold and eyecatching as the rest of the execution, with colossal end-of-wall murals featuring single shots montages from the campaign, and big bold statement cubes in high traffic areas.
The shots were also a big success across digital media, showcased on the innovative website and shared widely on social networks.
The campaign has drawn wide praise for its radical approach
“Mercedes-Benz’s Most Ambitious Marketing Project Yet Is All About What It Means to Grow Up Tackling the evolution of luxury … and, well, life” – Adweek (Ad of the Day)
“It’s hard to make a good car ad these days. Audiences are bored of the slick fare they are usually offered, and yet most clients still really, really want that shot of the beautiful new vehicle driving around the cliff edge. In this new set of films, those scenic shots are there …nestled in among a set of stories that are intriguing, and at times a little darn bleak….These new films make a welcome addition to the car-ad-as-short-film genre and sure beat the average shiny car spot.” – Creative Review
Client: Mercedes Benz
Creative Director: Veit Moeller
Photographer: Alice Moitié
Post Artists: Jonas Braukmann, Thomas Saalfrank, Julia Ackermann, Daniel Mattes, June Lee, Stephanie O’Connor / Recom Farmhouse
Art Buyers: Emanuel Mugrauer, Valerie Opitz, Marjorie Jorrot
Production: Iconoclast Germany