Happy New Year! This is a post I actually started back in December, but the time just got away from me and I never had a chance to complete and post it.
I was talking with Greg (Dole, our Associate Producer) about some of the lengths we used to go to to create special effects waaaay back in the days before digital, and how it was actually loads of fun to experiment. One time, I needed to create an "old film" look, so I bought some blank 8mm film, exposed it, put it on the ground and walked on it to scratch it up, had the blank film developed, ran it through a projector onto a white screen, shot the white screen with a video camera, and then keyed the resulting scratchy mess over my clean video and - voila! - dirty, old-looking film effect. Cost: $40 and roughly two days' time.
Now, there's a filter for Final Cut Pro that you can download in under a minute for less than a hundred bucks. Sometimes, I kind of miss the whole Rube Goldberg thing... it's important to exercise your creativity.
I've found a few commercials that I think are extra-cool precisely because all of the effects are done (allegedly, but I believe it) without digital trickery.
The first is this advert for Guinness. I don't think it was shot in a continuous take (in fact, I'm sure it wasn't), but supposedly this domino effect was achieved using the actual items you see, and without any additional fakery. The villagers you see in this spot are all actual residents of this remote town in Argentina. The shot with the car falling over was done in a single take. I also found this additional info:
Domino effect was developed by Weijers Domino Productions, Woerden, The Netherlands. Setting the dominoes on the table from the start of the advert took a team of three experts two days, but took just 14 seconds to topple. Toppling items included: 6,000 dominoes, 10,000 books, 400 tires, 75 mirrors, 50 fridges, 45 wardrobes, 6 cars.*
This same director (his name is Nicolai Fuglsig), also directed this commercial for Sony Bravia. It probably could have been done with CGI, but instead they actually released 250,000 superballs onto this hilly street in San Francisco. Relieved not to have been on that clean-up crew.
The Sony campaign also used a traditional approach for two other commercials: Paint and Play-Doh. I highly recommend checking out the site, which includes details of how the ads were done.