Belk - Questions (2007) 0:30 (USA)
Agency: Belk (in-house). Katrina Streiner, vice president/creative services; Scott Galiher, concept & copy (freelance).
Production: STORY, Chicago. Russell Kozak, director (freelance); Jon Singer, producer; Mark Androw and Cliff Grant, executive producers; Mary Langenfeld, head of production; Gary Katz, director of photography.
Design: Lift, Chicago. Jason White, creative director; Todd Freese, technical director; Justin Pae, design director; Sam Gierasimczuk, 3D lead/design & concept; Charlie Peterson, 3D animator; Brad Stark, offline and lead compositor; Brad Chmielewski, motion compositor; Randy McEntee, VFX artist.
Telecine: Filmworkers Club, Chicago. Fred Keller, colorist; Mary O’Gara, executive producer.
Sound design: Secret Frequency, Chicago. Jeff Van Steen and Harry Burgan, sound designers.
How the spot came to be:
Question, conceived by Belk’s in-house creative team and independent copywriter Scott Galiher, uses a butterfly as a metaphor for the reopening of Parisian stores under the Belk brand. A woman walking toward the camera in a stylized environment sprouts a pair of colorful wings and then undergoes a series of magical wardrobe changes. The spot uses the tagline "the nature of fashion is change." The spot was directed by Russell Kozak and produced through STORY, Chicago.
The project came to Filmworkers Club through a recommendation by STORY. "From the beginning, they understood what we wanted to do, creatively and technically—and how to achieve it," said STORY producer Jonathan Singer. "The concept was to have a woman walking toward camera, but never getting closer to it, while her outfit morphs. It was a tough task but they handled it with aplomb."
Lift creative director Jason White began working out a design and executional approach as soon as he saw the boards. The environment surrounding the woman was built in CG as were the giant butterfly wings. "The wings are semi-transparent. Our idea was to use satin draperies as a backdrop and have light flashes going off as the woman moves forward," White recalled. "One advantage to doing the wings in CG was that it allowed us to control the hue and to create some wonderful effects with color." White added that making the wings look real was a challenge. He and his animation team spent hours studying slow motion film of real butterflies to get the motion right.
The live action of the woman, in all of her various wardrobes, was shot on a special effects stage by STORY’s Kozak with Filmworkers Club technical director Todd Freese on hand to gather data and provide visual effects expertise. The woman was shot on a treadmill to create the effect of walking without drawing nearer.
Arranging all of the various elements into a seamless whole was the biggest challenge. Filmworkers Club’s Fred Keller performed final color correction. His role was to smooth out lighting differences and create consistency in color to make the transitions from one set of clothes to the next easier to accomplish.
White’s team performed the intricate compositing work with AfterEffects on desktop systems. Each transition involved as many as eight layers of lighting effects and matte elements and no two transitions happen in quite the same way. "The transitions were the biggest challenge," White recalled "How do you affect seven wardrobe changes in 20 seconds and keep it interesting? We had to match frame everything and our challenge was not to do any cross dissolves. We made custom transitions for every outfit."
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