When it comes to a company with as global a reach as Pepsi, the possibility for commissioning brilliant creative work seems almost limitless, and this suggestion is truly put to the test at New Years. To celebrate the beginning of 2015, Pepsi brought London-based art directors and filmmakers HarrimanSteel on board to recreate the process of nuclear fission on an enormous scale.
The final result involved 2100 ping pong balls, 1,650 mousetraps, 120 metres of LED lights and one failed attempt, not to mention a truly impressive series of minute lighting and film cues and a grand total of 42 people on set hoping to make it go right. We thought this was a pretty impressive feat, so we caught up with Doug Stewart from HarrimanSteel to hear exactly what went into it.
How did your brief lead you to the idea of creating “nuclear fission?”
We wanted to use this opportunity to create a fun experiment on a massive scale. Mousetraps have been used to demonstrate the “basics” of nuclear fission by brave science teachers in schools for the best part of a century. We wanted to take this concept and blow it up big and beautiful, with thousands of mousetraps and balls (and some serious smoke and mirrors).
What was your favourite moment on set?
The best moment was the balls rocketing down the infinity mirrored tunnel, in a reaction that only lasted about three seconds in real-time. The grip was sprinting down the track, pushing the dolly as fast as he could go, in order to catch it all on camera. All the lighting sequences were programmed to such rapid and accurate changes that you didn’t have time to visually process it all until we loaded it onto the screens.
Was there any point where you were ready to give it all up? What changed your mind?
The lowest point on set was the morning of shoot day, when the lighting created a small temperature change that triggered a single mousetrap, setting off over 1500 poised mousetraps and ping pong balls before the cameras were set up. That was a pretty dramatic set-back, as it took about five hours to set them up. Tension was high. On the plus side, it showed us it was going to work.
The morning of shoot day, the lighting created a small temperature change that triggered a single mousetrap, setting off over 1500 poised mousetraps and ping pong balls before the cameras were set up. That was a pretty dramatic set-back.Doug Stewart
Would you agree that projects of this kind can only go so far, or are there limitless possibilities to what you could do?
Well we ended up cutting out the lasers so there is some extra potential there. I’d say the concept is limitless as we came up with at least ten other ever more elaborate scenarios that could all be joined together to make one mega reaction. The only thing that stopped us from doing this was time and money, and finding people crazy enough to undertake it. Creating something mesmerising from something so simple was always our aim. That’s what we love about it.
Would you undertake a project like this again?
Yes… but not for a while. We are always up for a challenge and this certainly was that!
We would personally like to thank our production designer and his team, who have the steadiest hands in London. He commented after two very fraught days that this was the most challenging shoot he has ever had the pleasure of working on.