Christmas started with an empty garage John Ford - Head of Film by John Ford, Head of Film

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Commercial Video Production, Contra style!

The organisation ‘Christmas Starts with Christ‘ run an annual campaign encouraging people to take a step back from the branded lights towering over Oxford Street; to forget their Amazon delivery list and the black Friday bargains, and instead to reflect upon the biblical story that gives Christmas its famous old-english prefix – the birth of Christ.

crased crowds gather on black friday

This year the organisation decided to take on the cutesy (oh-so predictable) John Lewis penguin and Sainsbury’s saccharine trench-worn chocolate bar by creating an alternative Christmas advert. And they chose Contra to take on the challenge.

John Lewis Christmas advert 2014 featuring Monty the penguin
John Lewis Christmas advert 2014 featuring Monty the Penguin

Scripting began with the notion of family love at Christmas time. It’s an ideal that lies at the centre of the Christian nativity story and is also just as relevant in our contemporary lives. So why not get people thinking, we thought, by making a link between a young family in their 21st century living room, and the young family at the centre of the nativity story?

Garage location used on commercial film production Christmas Starts with Christ

It all started with a perfectly sized but incredibly cluttered garage… and a top notch art department! Once the space had been cleared, Christmas could begin! We sent the tape measures and paint brushes in to start planning how we might turn the space into both a cosy contemporary living room and a straw-filled stable.

empty garage used for the commercial film production Christmas Starts with Christ

In terms of representing this transformation, we knew that the strength of the visual would rely heavily on the viewer not being distracted by the people making the set changes. For this reason, a standard timelapse was quickly ruled out as an option. Instead, we decided to break the set changes up into twelve stages and use the emotimo TB3 motion control system to shoot exactly the same shot twelve times. The plan was fool-proof as long as our actors stayed in exactly the position (for eight hours) and nobody kicked the camera rig during the shoot.

We decided to shoot the scenes in reverse to allow our hair stylist to have some fun with our actor's beard
We decided to shoot the scenes in reverse to allow our hair stylist to have some fun with our actor’s beard

To ensure that the change from living room to stable looked as natural as possible, we knew that we needed an incredible amount of control in the grading process. It was decided that the best beast for the job was the Red Epic Dragon. Shooting raw and making key lighting and colour decisions in camera would permit full control over the tonal shift from warm living room to cool, moonlit stable.

Baby Jesus on set with the commercial film production Christmas Starts with Christ, shot on Red Epic Dragon

Shoot day arrived and the art department quickly got to work creating the modern day living room. Once we were happy with it, we photographed every little detail and then pulled it all out again to make way for twenty hay bales! Once the stable was ready, shooting began. Twelve shots, a lot of hard work and a lot of hungry faces later, the transformation was complete and all in the can. With a fantastic team, some extremely tight planning, and luckily no tripod-trips, we had pulled it off!

Still frame from the commercial film production Christmas Starts with Christ

The final film is a truly engaging 45 second piece. The campaign made the front page of the Daily Telegraph on launch day and received over 100,000 hits during its first week online.

 

Watch our final Commercial Video here!

 

And we wouldn’t be a true tv production company without filming ourselves filming! Watch our award winning Commerical Video Production Company at work!!

 

 

 

John Ford - Head of Film by John Ford, Head of Film
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