Bicoastal creative production company Stardust Studios recently produced a set of wondrous new brand ads for the New York Stock Exchange via Minneapolis-based advertising agency Fallon. The campaign's three animated spots, consisting of a :60 entitled "Portal Universe" and two :30s entitled "Brand Products" and "Brand Listings," debuted on Sept. 17 during ESPN's broadcast of Monday Night Football (MNF), and will continue to air during MNF and other high-profile broadcasts into November.
"We've done a lot of work with Fallon before, including last year's New York Stock Exchange listing spots," said Stardust's founder and creative director Jake Banks. "This year, to take the campaign in a new direction, Mike Gibbs and his team wanted to create an epic, three-dimensional, metaphorical world for all these different offerings from the New York Stock Exchange, like futures, bonds, equities and options. They wanted this really interesting take on the content... not straight 3D, not ultra- realistic... a little bit of stylization and lots of visual surprises."
"Because Stardust had already done extensive work for NYSE listings commercials, their familiarity with the brand's vision really gave us a jump start on this project," said Gibbs, Fallon's group creative director. "Credit goes to the client as well for understanding the need to stand out visually, especially in the insanely cluttered financial category."
Banks also explained that everyone in Stardust's Santa Monica and New York studios contributed during the project's early phases, before he and senior art director Kinda Akash combined their efforts with other members of Stardust's staff to see the campaign through.
To lock-down the specifics of the visual storytelling, creatives from Stardust and Fallon collaborated extensively. "The worlds created were clearly very abstracted," Akash explained, "so we had to make sure they were also conceptually strong - so that knowing nothing about Options, or everything about them, you would understand the metaphor of the never-ending drawers exchanging calendars. We worked very closely with Fallon's team to really tie the graphics and story together, maintaining the feel of an epic journey throughout."
The first step of Stardust's production workflow was to make a pre-vis of the entire spot, laying down basic placement of objects in scenes and exploring camera moves. Next, animators and modelers mapped out each world with low-resolution basic models, and completed models were swapped-in as animation progressed. "Compositing was our final step, and we spent a lot of time affecting the straight CG, giving it a more dreamlike appearance," Akash added. Given the complexity of the scenes, Akash also explained that a team was put in charge of monitoring the renders. The team used Photoshop and Cinema4D for design work, Maya for pre-vis, animation, lighting and rigging, and After Effects for final compositing.
"The biggest challenge on this project was the length of the animation itself," Akash continued. "At the end of the design phase, we had seven worlds that spanned from an outer space scene and an underwater world to scenes high above the clouds... all to be addressed in 60 seconds. The whole project became a short film of sorts; we were always going back to the story, trying to strategize against time. In the end, very few things were sacrificed, and we're all stoked with the final result."
Along with Mike Gibbs, the agency's creative team consisted of art director Daniel Burke, copywriter Paula Biondich, head of broadcast Vic Palumbo, producer Amanda Revere, account supervisor Mark Belot and account director Drew Hack. Stardust's credits include executive producer Mike Eastwood, producers Lindsay Yacura and Amber Ventris, designers 3D artists Joseph Andrade, Brian Broussard, Kyle Cassidy, Chris Eckardt, Forbes Hill, Hai Ho, Robin Roepstorff and Sam Sparks, and online editor Michael Merkwan. Campaign music was courtesy of Elias Arts, with POP Sound mixing "Portal Universe" and Modern Music handling the final mix for the two :30 spots. The featured voiceover artist is Henry Strozier.
Fallon Worldwide, one of the world's most critically acclaimed, creatively driven branding companies, manages the consumer voice of some of the world's leading brands, including Sony, Nestle Purina, TIME Magazine, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Asda, National and Alamo Rent-A-Car, and Orange. Fallon Worldwide is a global network of Publicis Groupe, based in Paris, and 500 employees worldwide. The company has offices in Minneapolis, London, Singapore, São Paulo and Tokyo. Additional information can be found at www.fallon.com.
Stardust is an award-winning creative production company, specializing in motion design, animation, visual effects and live- action production. Led by founder and executive creative director Jake Banks, Stardust's Santa Monica and New York offices continually redefine creativity for commercial, on-air, music video and in-store presentations. Their recent work - including projects for the world's top ad agencies, brands and recording artists - has earned numerous awards and worldwide editorial exposure. For more information, please visit www.stardust.tv.