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Lights! Camera! Retake! (check out this cool video)
Telegraph ^

Posted on 04/30/2003 10:07:40 AM PDT by Sir Gawain

Lights! Camera! Retake!
(Filed: 13/04/2003)

The Honda Accord campaign launched last week looks certain to become an advertising legend. Quentin Letts goes behind the scenes

Six hundred and six takes it took, and if they had been forced to do a 607th it is probable, if not downright certain, that one of the film crew would have snapped and gone mad.

On the first 605 occasions something small, usually infuriatingly minute, went just slightly awry and the whole delicate arrangement was wrecked. A drop too much oil there, or here maybe one ball-bearing too many giving a fraction too much impetus to the movement. Whirr, creak, crash, the entire, card-house of consequences was a write-off and they had to start again.

Honda's latest television advertisement, a two-minute film called "Cog", is like a fine-lubricated line of dominoes. It begins with a transmission bearing which rolls into a synchro hub which in turn rolls into a gear wheel cog and plummets off a table on to a camshaft and pulley wheel. All the parts are from the new Honda Accord - £16,495 to you, guv'nor, or £6 million if you want to pay for the advertising campaign. And what an amazing ad campaign it is, too.

Back on Cog, things are still moving, in a what-happened-next manner redolent of "there was an old woman who swallowed a fly". With a ting and a ding of metal on metal, a thud of contact and the occasional thwock, plop and extended scraping sound, the viewer watches as individual, stripped-down parts of car roll into one another and set off more reactions.

Three valve stems roll down a sloped bonnet. An exhaust box is pushed with just enough energy into a rear suspension link which nudges a transmission selector arm which releases the brake pedal loaded with a small rubber brake grommit. Catapult! Boing! On goes the beautiful dance, everything intricately balanced and poised. Nothing must be even a sixteenth of an inch off course or the momentum will be lost.

At one point three tyres, amazingly, roll uphill. They do so because inside they have been weighted with bolts and screws which have been positioned with fingertip care so that the slightest kiss of kinetic energy pushes them over, onward and, yes, upward. During the pre-shoot set-ups, film assistants had to tiptoe round the set so as not to disturb the feather-sensitive superstructure of the arranged metalwork. The slightest tremor of an ill-judged hand could have undone hours of work.

Utter silence, a check that the lighting is just right, and "action!". Scores of grown men hold their breath as the cameras roll. An oil can is tipped and glugs just enough of its contents on to a shelf that has been weighted with a Honda flywheel. Some valve springs roll into the oil and are slowed to a pace perfect to make them drop into a cylinder head assembly.

If all these technical names are confusing, that is partly the point. The advertisement was designed to show motorists all the fiddly little bits of engineering that go into the modern Honda. The result, in this film at least, is something approaching mechanical perfection and a bewitching aesthetic. As car adverts go, it certainly beats the "Nicole! Papa!" school of commercial.

If nothing else, Cog is a welcome departure from the generality of car advertisements that feature winding-road landcapes, empty highways and clear blue skies. The absence of people from the commercial at least saved Honda having to make any regional alterations.

It will be able to be shown everywhere from Japan to South America, Finland to the Maldives, without any more alteration than perhaps a change of the closing voiceover, currently delivered by laid-back Garrison Keillor, the American author, who announces: "Isn't it nice when things just work?"

Cog looks certain to become an advertising legend and part of its allure is the seemingly effortless way the relay of parts slide and touch and roll with such apparent ease. The reality of the film's production was slightly different. It was, by most measures of human patience, a nightmare.

Filming was done over four near-sleepless days in a Paris studio, after one month of script approval, two months of concept drawings and a further four months of development and testing. One of the more surprising things about the ad is that it was not a cheat. Although it would have been much easier to fiddle the chain of events by using computer graphics, the seesaw and shunt of events really did happen, and in one, clean take.

The bigshots at Honda's world headquarters in Japan, when shown Cog for the first time, replied that yes, it was very clever, and how impressive trick photography was these days. When told that it was all real, they were astonished.

One of the more striking moments in the film is when a lone windscreen wiper blade helicopters through the air, suspended from a line of metal twine. "That was the first and last time it worked properly," recalls Tony Davidson, of the London-based advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy. "I wanted it to look like ballet."

After that, a few yards and several ingenious connections down the assembly line, another pair of windscreen wiper blades is squirted by an activated washer jet. Because Honda wipers have automatic sensors that can detect water, they start a crablike crawl across the floor. It is as though they have come to life.

As take 300 led to 400 which led to 500, a certain madness settled on the crew. Rob Steiner, the agency producer, started talking about "our friends, the parts", but in the slightly menacing tone of a primary school teacher discussing her charges at the end of a trying day. Some workers on the film went whole days without sleep and had to be asked to stay away from the more delicate parts of the assembly. Others started to have bad dreams about throttle activator shafts and bonnet release cables.

When things were going wrong - a tyre that kept trundling off to the left, or a rocker shaft that kept toppling over like a tipsy cyclist - the production lads on the shoot would start grumbling that "the parts are being very moody today".

Commercial makers are often accustomed to working with human prima donnas but no Hollywood starlet, no footballing prodigy or showbiz celeb, was ever as troublesome and unpredictable as the con rods and pulley wheels and solenoids that Davidson, Steiner and Co had to work with.

Towards the end of the production, Olivier Coulhon, the first assistant director, had spent so many hours in the darkened studio that his skin had turned a luminous green and his eyes had sunk deep into his Gallic cheeks.

Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, the commercial's director, kept puffing out his cheeks and whinneying, a note of deranged despair twitching at the corners of his mouth. Asked how long he had been working on the commercial, he gave a high-pitched giggle and replied: "Five years? Or is it eight?" It felt that long.

Two hand-made pre-production Accords - there were only six in existence in the entire world - were needed for the exercise, one of them being ripped apart and cannibalised to the considerable distress of Honda engineers. By the end of the months-long production, the film had used so many spare parts that two articulated lorries were required to take them away.

The idea for the advert derived partly from the old children's game Mouse Trap, and from the wacky engineering of Caractacus Potts's breakfast-making machine in the Sixties film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The corporate suits at Honda liked the idea immediately, despite the high costs of production and the fact that it was more than twice as long, and therefore twice as pricey, as normal car ads.

The two-minute version of the ad ran for the first time last Sunday during the Brazilian Grand Prix, and brought pubgoers across the nation to a wide-eyed speechlessness after the Manchester United v Real Madrid game on Tuesday night.

"It was a painstaking process, a tough experience," says Honda's communications manager Matt Coombe, recalling the making of Cog. Some of the original ideas, such as one stunt involving an airbag, had to be dropped owing to a shortage of new Accord parts or simply because they were too hard to set up. And on some takes the process would go perfectly until agonisingly close to the end.

"It was like watching a brilliant footballer weaving his way the whole way through a defending team's players, and then shooting wide right at the end," says Tony Davidson. The crew resorted to placing bets on which part of the sequence would go wrong. Invariably it was the windscreen wipers.

When the final, 606th take eventually succeeded, there was a stunned silence around the Paris studio. Then, like shipwrecked mariners finally realising that their ordeal was at an end, the team broke into a careworn chorus of increasingly defiant cheers and hurrahs.

Champagne bottles popped. The cylinder liner had brushed its nose affectionately against the rocker shaft and the gear wheel cog for the last time. The interior grab handles and the suspension spring coils had done their bit. A classic was complete. Cog was in the can.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: cog; mdm
Video: http://onlinetonight.net/cog/
1 posted on 04/30/2003 10:07:40 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
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To: Billthedrill; Cyber Liberty; dead; Victoria Delsoul; Fiddlstix; Focault's Pendulum; glock rocks; ...
-
2 posted on 04/30/2003 10:08:03 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
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To: Sir Gawain
That is cool, thanks for posting it.
3 posted on 04/30/2003 10:12:31 AM PDT by Egregious Philbin
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To: Sir Gawain
COOL!
4 posted on 04/30/2003 10:13:28 AM PDT by ctlpdad
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To: Sir Gawain
That video is KEWL....
5 posted on 04/30/2003 10:13:38 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty ( 2003, Ravin' Lunatic since 4/98)
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To: Sir Gawain
When's this thing playing here in the states? Nice job.
6 posted on 04/30/2003 10:16:14 AM PDT by Texas2step
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To: Sir Gawain
Amazing. I could just imagine all the cussing during 607 takes.
7 posted on 04/30/2003 10:16:52 AM PDT by stanz
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To: Sir Gawain
I hope the guy that came up with this commercial gets an award... then fired. What was he thinking?! Brilliant film though.
8 posted on 04/30/2003 10:18:35 AM PDT by discostu (A cow don't make ham)
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To: Sir Gawain
Hated it.
9 posted on 04/30/2003 10:19:48 AM PDT by Huck
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To: Sir Gawain
Someone else (you?) posted that ad link before. It IS cool!!
10 posted on 04/30/2003 10:20:03 AM PDT by martin_fierro (Mr. Avuncular)
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To: Sir Gawain
Prelude, Civic, Accord, Odessy and Acura MDX. In that order. Guess when I was single, when I got married, when I had kids and when I became very successful in my business?

Ya fill 'em with gas, ya change the oil, ya start 'em up and drive em. Never a problem. None.
11 posted on 04/30/2003 10:20:05 AM PDT by King David
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To: Sir Gawain
Oddly, there is an email urban legend going around that this took just one take.
12 posted on 04/30/2003 10:22:52 AM PDT by AppyPappy (If You're Not A Part Of The Solution, There's Good Money To Be Made In Prolonging The Problem.)
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To: Sir Gawain
That's one wild commercial.
13 posted on 04/30/2003 10:23:20 AM PDT by DeuceTraveler
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To: Sir Gawain
bump
14 posted on 04/30/2003 10:23:46 AM PDT by bmwcyle (Semper Gumby - Always flexible)
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To: Sir Gawain
Dang firewall...have to wait to get home. BTT until then...
15 posted on 04/30/2003 10:27:08 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: bmwcyle
bumpity-bump
16 posted on 04/30/2003 10:27:12 AM PDT by ActionNewsBill (Police state? What police state?)
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To: AppyPappy
"Oddly, there is an email urban legend going around that this took just one take."

It's all one shot—there's no edits. It's an amazing feat and a really cool commercial, no doubt about it. However, it could have been done entirely with high-end computer animation, for about a tenth the price, and on a TV screen literally no one would have been able to tell the difference. So it's basically just performance art: It isn't cool because of how it looks, but because someone was stupid wacky enough to do it.

17 posted on 04/30/2003 10:29:50 AM PDT by Fabozz (Democracy. Whiskey. And sexy!)
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To: Fabozz
With 600 takes, I imagine it wouldn't be hard to do it in one shot.
18 posted on 04/30/2003 10:31:47 AM PDT by AppyPappy (If You're Not A Part Of The Solution, There's Good Money To Be Made In Prolonging The Problem.)
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To: Sir Gawain
Filming was done over four near-sleepless days in a Paris studio,
Sorry. Not gonna watch it. Boycott, ya know.






But don't those walking windshield wipers look cool?
19 posted on 04/30/2003 10:38:20 AM PDT by drjimmy
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To: Sir Gawain
. . . intense
20 posted on 04/30/2003 10:43:49 AM PDT by w_over_w (Taking calcium without phosphorous is preposterous.)
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To: Sir Gawain
bump for later viewing.
21 posted on 04/30/2003 11:11:58 AM PDT by egarvue (Martin Sheen is not my president...)
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To: Sir Gawain
I think this commercial is probably computer animation, or at least certain parts of it are. It's hard to tell for sure without seeing the full-bandwidth version on an actual TV (video compression tends to make everything look computer animated).

(steely)

22 posted on 04/30/2003 11:14:13 AM PDT by Steely Tom (I love Free Republic!)
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To: Steely Tom
According to the article, it's all real.
23 posted on 04/30/2003 11:16:56 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
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To: Sir Gawain
I did that when i was 10......... no biggie
24 posted on 04/30/2003 11:40:18 AM PDT by Texaggie79 (YATTA!)
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To: Sir Gawain
I watched that video over and over when it was emailed to me about 2 weeks ago. There is no way it is real. It is impossible. And here is why. Take a look at the portion where the four tires hit eachother sending the next one up an incline. When the 3rd tire hits the forth and final tire it reverses course and starts going DOWN the ramp. After is has clearly started to roll DOWN the ramp it comes to a stop and reverses course and starts going UP the ramp. That is impossible. Also, at the very end you will notice that the Honda goes from a steady roll to an immediate stop as if someone jammed on the brakes. This is probably caused by a stop in the tape after the banner drops.
25 posted on 04/30/2003 11:49:31 AM PDT by Phantom Lord (Distributor of Pain, Your Loss Becomes My Gain)
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To: Sir Gawain
What a wonderful, terrible idea! Whoever thought this up definitely has a screw loose.
26 posted on 04/30/2003 11:51:58 AM PDT by small_l_libertarian
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To: Phantom Lord
At one point three tyres, amazingly, roll uphill. They do so because inside they have been weighted with bolts and screws which have been positioned with fingertip care so that the slightest kiss of kinetic energy pushes them over, onward and, yes, upward.

Perhaps the weights in the tires made them roll back upward.

27 posted on 04/30/2003 11:55:56 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
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To: Phantom Lord
From reading a previous article: there are weights in the tires....when you watch them with that knowledge, their movement makes sense.
28 posted on 04/30/2003 11:56:57 AM PDT by Psycho_Bunny
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To: Sir Gawain
I find it hard to beleive that's all real and if it is that's completely nuts. Why not just use CGI?
29 posted on 04/30/2003 12:08:41 PM PDT by The FRugitive
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To: Sir Gawain
I posted a link to this in the middle of a thread several days ago. This is so amazing. I'm still in awe of the patience, perseverence and skill this took. I've been in broadcast video for 18 years, so that's saying something, I think.
30 posted on 04/30/2003 12:12:56 PM PDT by savedbygrace
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To: Texas2step
When's this thing playing here in the states? Nice job.

It's about 90 seconds too long to be a US TV commercial.

31 posted on 04/30/2003 12:14:54 PM PDT by Cagey
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To: The FRugitive
I find it hard to beleive that's all real and if it is that's completely nuts. Why not just use CGI?

Ever see those series of cascading dominoes? Now, imagine watching the same thing made my a computer instead of a person's hand.

32 posted on 04/30/2003 12:16:48 PM PDT by Cagey
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To: Phantom Lord
At one point three tyres, amazingly, roll uphill. They do so because inside they have been weighted with bolts and screws which have been positioned with fingertip care so that the slightest kiss of kinetic energy pushes them over, onward and, yes, upward.
33 posted on 04/30/2003 12:19:14 PM PDT by Texaggie79 (YATTA!)
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To: The FRugitive
CGI is like mashed potatoes from a box. No matter how hard you try, it just ain't the same. Same here I guess.
34 posted on 04/30/2003 12:25:38 PM PDT by baseballfanjm (The Red Sox= 2003 World Champs, Pedro and Nomar= World Series MVPs, Me= forever hopeful)
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To: Phantom Lord
Take a look at the portion where the four tires hit eachother sending the next one up an incline. When the 3rd tire hits the forth and final tire it reverses course and starts going DOWN the ramp. After is has clearly started to roll DOWN the ramp it comes to a stop and reverses course and starts going UP the ramp. That is impossible.

No it's not. The article clearly says that there are weights inside the tires to make them roll uphill. The tire you describe rolls uphill because of its off-center weight, then bounces backwards slightly because it rebounds off the tire it just bumped, and then the off-center weight again overcomes the backwards roll and makes it roll forwards/uphill again.

Also, at the very end you will notice that the Honda goes from a steady roll to an immediate stop as if someone jammed on the brakes. This is probably caused by a stop in the tape after the banner drops.

And while the sequence is clearly freeze-framed at the very end, but that doesn't violate the "it's real, and it's all one shot" claim.

35 posted on 04/30/2003 12:26:13 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: baseballfanjm
Anyway, that'd have been an interesting Super Bowl commercial.
36 posted on 04/30/2003 12:27:00 PM PDT by baseballfanjm (The Red Sox= 2003 World Champs, Pedro and Nomar= World Series MVPs, Me= forever hopeful)
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To: Sir Gawain
Well, I'll not dispute it; I've no proof for my position. My doubts stem mainly from the movement of the camera, in particular as it glides over the dashboard just before the speakers start thumping. To my eye, the look of the lighting at that point just looked too perfect, too shadow-free.

The other thing is this: haven't there been advertising campaigns in which a certain amount of "trickery" and hypesmanship was used?

Granted, it's hard to see a class company like Honda signing on to anything like that.

Apple, maybe.

(steely)

37 posted on 04/30/2003 1:21:13 PM PDT by Steely Tom (I'm already gone.)
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To: nutmeg
bump for later
38 posted on 05/06/2003 10:45:32 PM PDT by nutmeg (USA: Land of the Free - Thanks to the Brave)
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