-- Award-winning Los Angeles visual effects company A52 (
) today detailed its contributions to a new broadcast spot for the Honda Civic conceived by advertising agency RPA (
) and directed by Ace Norton of Partizan (
). The election-themed :30 spot entitled "Freedom" debuted across the U.S. on Nov. 7, the date of the country's midterm elections, and will continue to air on spot TV, cable networks including MTV, Fox and Comedy Central, and during national sports broadcasts for the NFL and NBA, among others.
Featuring a fast-paced blending of stop-motion, live-action, visual effects and animation techniques edited together by Rock Paper Scissors' Brad Waskewich, the storyline features a young man driving his Honda Civic to his local voting place. Early on, the man multiplies into seven distinct versions of himself, each with a Civic of a different color. With each man casting his vote for the Civic, the voiceover confides: "Freedom is choice. The Honda Civic. Reverse your thinking."
RPA's project copywriter Camille Sze said, "It was a risky premise, as car spots can over-promise with their messages. Honda and RPA wanted to break down the pattern of over-commanding messages: ‘Do this, do that. This is right and this is wrong.' Instead, ‘Freedom' is about small things, and it is about a looser spirit. Our goal is to celebrate the idea of open-endedness. Using stop motion, CGI, live-action and hand painting, A52 was charged with sewing together a platform of free association and the freedom of technique. Great and small, the important thing is about exploring different ways of thinking, to look at the million and one choices that are available in life."
A52's project team was led by VFX supervisor Kirk Balden, who provided extensive notes on the project's workflow, from start to finish. "We were brought in by RPA's Gary Paticoff right at the beginning, and we hit it off quickly with Ace Norton and Partizan's producer Charles Spano," Balden began. "Together, we worked out how things would be shot, how the stop-motion would be best executed and integrated with the live-action, and when we would need to use things like motion control."
Balden continued, "Once we got to the set, we essentially tried to stay out of Ace's way as much as possible, since he really knew what he wanted and how he wanted it to look. With the goal of helping the director find the easiest, most efficient way to execute setups, I was able to let him know, for example, that we could just tint the car color in flame, rather than shooting different versions... and that when the motion control rig was busy on another setup, we would be able to effectively re-light and stabilize the hero product shot at the end, if necessary.
"By the time we got back to the bay and started putting the whole thing together, very few decisions were left to be made. Brad had cut a very tight, energetic spot, the stop-motion rolled in without any problems, and every decision we made on the set turned out to be the right one."
Asked about the biggest VFX challenge, Balden pointed to the scene where the camera zooms in on a stop-motion image of the earth. "We've done those 'powers of ten' zoom ins and outs before," he explained, "but this one had to transition cleanly from an earth made of cake icing, to a series of maps and satellite photos, to a diorama of DC... all in about a second and a half. Luckily, Ace was able to explain clearly how he wanted the thing to feel, and then it was just a matter of getting all of those disparate elements to move together and fade on and off at the right time. I often think that good work requires a certain amount of pain and torment to execute, but this was an entirely pain-free experience, and the end result looks great."
Along with Camille Sze, RPA's creative team also included creative directors David Smith and Joe Baratelli, art director Nathan Crow, and senior V.P. and executive producer Gary Paticoff. For Partizan, the production team also included executive producer Ian Bearce and director of photography John Zilles. A52's team also included executive producer Mark Tobin and producers Heather Richardson and Mark Kurtz. Telecine was handled by Stefan Sonnenfeld at Company 3, and for Rock Paper Scissors, credits also include executive producers Linda Carlson and Dave Sellars, producer Yole Barrera, and assistant editor Biff Butler.
"Freedom" uses the music track "Huddle Formation" from The Go! Team. The spot's sound design was courtesy of 740 Sound Design, and the final mix was engineered by Nathan Dubin of Margarita Mix de Santa Monica.
Established in 1997 as a home for the very latest high-end photo-real visual effects technologies and the industry's most innovative and talented graphic design artists, West Hollywood visual effects and design company A52 creates award-winning imagery for the world's most visually ambitious commercial and television projects. The company's work has earned AICP Show recognition for nine consecutive years along with recent "Outstanding Commercial" Emmy, Andy, BDA, Belding, Clio, British Design and Art Direction, International Monitor, International Automotive Advertising, London International Advertising, One Show and PROMAX awards. For more information, please call Mark Tobin at 310.385.0851 or visit
RPA, headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., is the largest independent advertising agency based on the West Coast, with more than $1 billion in billings. RPA builds momentum for brands by offering its clients truly integrated campaigns that resonate throughout its disciplines, which include traditional advertising, interactive, and direct and event marketing. RPA also serves as a media planning and buying agency for clients such as MGM and Zatarain's. For more information, visit