Charlex is well known for its superior visual effects work and imaginative concepts. You can find all of those elements on display in their entertaining new :60 spot for AT&T, Dancing Through DSL.
The spot, as simple as it may seem on the surface, was actually borne out of a detailed treatment created by Charlex Director, Ryan Dunn. The spot sets out to create a storyline that effectively reveals all the benefits of AT&T's new high-speed Internet service in a single, transformative space.
While the initial board from GSD&M laid out the storyline, Dunn was eager from the start to avoid any cliché "actor shot on white" feel to the spot. "We've all seen that spot a dozen times," he said. "Instead, I began riffling on the idea of the Internet as a theatrical space, a more tactile, less tech environment." With this in mind, Dunn shot the live-action stage work more in situation and with as little green-screen as possible. "I put in backdrops and created lighting moods for the various parts of the Internet," he added. Dunn also elected to shoot the entire spot on a Steadicam rig, "in order to connect the viewer to the human, and not to the visual effect."
The spot also benefited from extensive design work in every aspect of the job, from casting to set design, through editing and post-production. "We really tried to tell a story and focus on things that weren't necessarily all about eye candy," Dunn noted. "It was more a case of, 'who exactly is this mother? Is she quirky? Daring? What is her relationship with her daughter like?'" To emphasize these aspects, Dunn was inspired by films like Jeunet's Amelie and Tati's Playtime. Even though the AT&T spot had quite a difference in communication from those classic films, there was a spirit and whimsy about them that made sense for this fictional world of the Internet.
In addition to the photography, the piece uses many interface elements to create its fanciful world. On the shoot, Dunn would put blue cards up or tracking marks where the screens existed, so the actors had something physical to interact with. "I even cut a hole in the blue-screen so the mom could actually grab a dress out from a cubby hole," he revealed. "By blurring the line between visual effects and traditional stagecraft, I think we got a smoother connection between the live-action and the design."
"This was never going to be a simple job to finish in post," Dunn added, "but by integrating the storytelling with the VFX well before we shot anything, there was always a clear beacon on the shoreline to keep us out of dangerous waters. The end result is something we are all happy about, and it was fun to bring mood and magic to a seemingly sterile space such as the Internet."