The don of stop motion animation PES has returned for his second Honda spot, first screening during the ad break of the Rio Olympics opening ceremony (no less). His first for the company was Paper, a visually compelling journey across an art director’s desk, showing the evolution of Honda technology through hundreds of layers of sketches. This one, again with US agency RPA, is entirely different in style, using a largely untapped technique PES describes as long-exposure stop motion, combining live action and animation. It’s also different in sheer scale, featuring 30ft x 50ft letters and an 800lb bag of fish.
“The concept is all these people pull into this nebulous space in their trucks and start furiously constructing this mysterious, elaborate structure,” says PES, speaking to It’s Nice That. “We envisioned the builders as worker bees flitting around, so the film had to show that speed, and the time passing.
“The agency wanted to have a time-lapse feel, but not traditional time-lapse as it can be a bit messy, playing out in fits and stops. So it’s not time-lapse, but it draws upon the history of it using long-exposure photography in a stop motion animation. By shooting each frame over three or four seconds, we’ve created these blurred streaks. As the camera was exposing, the builders had to move through choreographed motions, so it was all planned and controlled — I wanted it to be more stylised and cleaner than normal time-lapse.
“I have a lot of experience with manipulating people in front of the camera,” he laughs, “and for me it was about how we could manipulate these techniques to create a more artfully composed version of traditional time-lapse.”
The builders congregate to create a series of structures: a garden, a playground, a decked patio, a dirt bike track and a Koi pond. As the ad rolls on, the structures build themselves, and the big reveal is that it’s actually a giant Honda logo. The majority of the sets were built in their entirety, to scale, on a huge film stage by a crew of over 100, so the whole film could be done in-camera.
“The challenge was how to bring playfulness without making it childlike, because it’s aimed at a masculine audience,” the animator explains. “So it’s about striking the right tone. It’s like a jolt of adrenaline, the pace is quick and it’s action-packed from start to finish.”