Your Shot: The Scoop on Sony 4K’s Strangely Stunning Frozen Bubbles
To properly showcase the amazing detail a 4K screen can offer to an audience still watching HD TVs, you’ve gotta be extra creative to get the job done. So to celebrate Sony’s ‘most beautiful picture ever’, adam&eveDDB tapped into one of the natural world’s most enjoyable phenomena – bubbles! – and took it not to just the next level, but the most tippety top of levels. ‘Ice Bubbles’ (which you can see at the bottom of the page) captures the hypnotic beauty of bubbles freezing as they hit icy temperatures – something that Wanda directors Leila and Damien de Blinkk and adam&eveDDB creative team Christopher Bowsher and Frances Leach did, amazingly, with zero CGI. They told LBB’s Addison Capper more about how they created this labour of love in Canadian mountains.
LBB> What kind of brief did Sony approach you with and what were you thinking when you first saw it?
CB&FL> Ice Bubbles was our pitch idea for the Sony Electronics business. It was a brilliantly simple, one word brief from the client: ‘DETAIL’. They wanted us to breathe emotion into the concept of detail, which can too often be a very rational subject. We pitched to them the strategic thought of seeing something for the first time, with the execution being the Ice Bubbles script. The phenomenon of ice bubbles was the perfect way to dramatize 4K detail, and articulate the feelings of joy and wonder when you see something totally new.
LBB> Leila and Damien, what was it about the script that jumped out at you as something you’d like to get involved with?
L&D> We loved the idea of a natural phenomenon that's fascinating, but not widely known. Capturing something so ephemeral, delicate and small and then building a film around it seemed like both a simple, yet complex starting point.
LBB> Was it always the idea to display your message without CGI?
CB&FL> Absolutely. The details in a Sony 4K TV are incredible and we wanted these details to showcase a true and real image, not something created in CGI.
LBB> Given that lack of CGI, did you ever worry about the feasibility of it looking so beautiful?
L&D> Yes, it was a big challenge, but also the reason why we were so into doing the film. We wanted to stay true to the original idea, freezing bubbles being something that naturally occurs at very low temperatures. So it was really important for us to be able to visually explore and show what really happens on the surface of these bubbles, rather than try to re-invent it in CGI. Capturing the freezing process of the bubbles in their different stages and stunning variety in camera was our main focus, with our amazing DOP Natasha Braier. Then researching the different techniques, lenses and lighting that would work when filmed at very low temperatures was something we had to develop from scratch, as there was no handbook to follow. We also wanted to avoid ending up looking like a scientific study of freezing bubbles. It was essential for us to create an aesthetic, a visual tonality and feel for the film that was both cinematic and poetic.
LBB> Where did the idea for frozen bubbles come from? What kind of conversations led to it?
CB&FL> We had a moment of inspiration when studying snow crystals at an early stage of the pitch. In our research, we discovered soap bubbles could also freeze at sub-zero temperatures.
It was about showing something that people have a natural affinity with, something that they think they know inside out, in a new light, like they had never seen it before. There was an inherent innocence to the idea that would fascinate our audience, making them feel young again, which is the time in your life when you see new things. The ice bubbles brilliantly dramatized amazing colour, contrast and beauty.
LBB> Were there any other natural phenomenon in the running?
CB&FL> There were plenty of ideas that never really made it much further than script form, but from a very early stage, we knew we were onto something special with Ice Bubbles.
LBB> What was the research and pre-production process like?
L&D> There was a lot of experimenting before the shoot in a freezer space. We had to establish, through intense experimentation, trial and error, formulas for different soap mixtures to be blown with specific instruments, at specific temperatures, to then produce frozen bubble formations and patterns that we could reliably reproduce again and again. It was an equally exciting and frustrating process, as even a slight change in the composition of the mixture, the liquid temperature, the air temperature or the difference in the wand instruments created dramatically different results of success or failure. But our SFX Canadian team was always ready and super enthusiastic to push things and experiment, finding ways to make a freezing pattern that we thought was just a one off wonder form again. We laughed at the end of the shoot that we should make a ‘How to Make Frozen Bubbles’ recipe book, collating all our soap mixture ingredients, temperatures and wands.
LBB> You shot in Whistler, Canada. What did that setting offer that others couldn’t? What kind of challenges did being in such challenging conditions throw up?
L&D> The forest in Whistler offered us a spectacular backdrop for our story. We really liked the idea of the epic quality of these amazingly old tall trees and the macrocosm they represented, in parallel with the microcosm of the tiny ice formations on the surface of the bubbles that we were showing in such close up detail. The challenge was that with each recce we did of the mountain, the weather conditions were so varied that it looked like an entirely different place. One day a completely snow covered landscape, with hardly any trees visible, and the next day very green visible trees with smooth crisp snow dunes. It was just luck that we got the latter on our shoot days. We could only access the location on the mountain by snowmobiles, so every single piece of equipment, every crewmember and actor had to be painstakingly brought up by a small army of snowmobile drivers, often in hazardous conditions.
CB&FL> The sub-zero temperatures were pretty interesting at times, as was lugging the entire film crew and equipment to the top of a mountain, but overall the experience was amazing. Such incredible scenery and a really amazing part of the world.
LBB> I imagine one of the challenges is advertising 4K technology on what will almost certainly be HD quality televisions. How do you manage to get around that creatively?
CB&FL> There was definitely a very real consideration from the outset that some people wouldn't be watching this ad on a 4K screen, so we needed to find a subject matter where you could really appreciate the concept of detail, without needing to see each tiny detail itself. Even though some people will not be able to watch this spot in 4K, they can still enjoy a sense of the beauty that can be experienced on 4K, through the reactions of the children seeing the ice bubbles for the first time. The ice bubbles move so gracefully and in a way that enables you to properly appreciate all the incredible detail. If we'd had hundreds of tiny objects moving at speed, the detail would have been lost.
LBB> What added challenges and possibilities does working with 4K allow?
L&D> Shooting in 4K meant that attention to detail had to be doubled in every composition and every shot. We were delighted with the visual quality of everything from the trees, texture of a woollen hat to the delicate tiny details on the surface of bubbles and the frozen air inside them coming through so beautifully.
LBB> The music fits so well – I never thought I’d be swayed to enjoy any version of ‘Diamonds’! Who did you work with on that? How did the ‘Diamonds’ cover capture the emotion of the film?
CB&FL> Sony Music Artist Josef Salat was amazing and incredibly supportive of the mood and shape we wanted to create within the spot. He worked with us to help build the track, and shape the tone and entire emotional journey that we wanted to capture with Diamonds.
LBB> And the colour grade – stunning! How closely did you all work with Jean-Clément Soret on that?
L&D> Working with Jean-Clément Soret is a real joy. Colour is something very important to us. We collaborated closely with him, trying to take things a little further and to create something subtly unexpected.
LBB> What were the trickiest components?
L&D> The trickiest components were the main components: low temperatures and achieving the very ephemeral frozen bubble. The extremely low temperatures when shooting, even with layers and layers of clothing, were very hard to endure over a long period of time. And the freezing bubbles were temperamental and unpredictable, despite all the prep and calculations. But you could hear loud cries of excitement from crew and agency whenever a beautiful bubble appeared. Even the 'dying' bubbles popping in shards or imploding were like extra terrestrial beings, with their own disappearing beauty. So perseverance and childish fascination and awe at what we were seeing and creating was our way to overcome the difficult conditions.
CB&FL> Filming in sub–25degrees was pretty tough for everyone, but we all wrapped up warm and got on with it! The outcome has definitely been worth it.
LBB> And how about the most memorable moment?
L&D> Seeing the first bubble that iced up, hovered and stayed alive long enough to capture on camera. Total joy.
CB&FL> When the bubbles froze for the first time on camera and we knew we would get the amazing shots that we hoped for. We had seen low-res tests but knowing it was going to be captured in 4K was brilliant.
Category: It, phones, Av and computers , Tv
Genre: In-camera effects