A vicious circle: Samsung and Nathan Price's coliseum spot takes Ad Impact award for May

  • Ad Impact
  • July 7, 2014
  • Skye Wishart
A vicious circle: Samsung and Nathan Price's coliseum spot takes Ad Impact award for May

A coliseum, a thunderous crowd and charging warriors, all shot in ultra-high definition (UHD) in an Auckland Quarry. This was Samsung’s global spot for its curved UHD TV, which was shot by Kiwi Nathan Price, and it's taken out the Colmar Brunton Ad Impact award for May.

The script was created by CHI & Partners in London and the ad, which features the soundtrack from the film Zulu, explores the immersive experience of watching TV on a UHD curved screen. This shape is said to follow the curvature of the eye, and apparently the experience is enough for a nondescript man in a dressing gown, holding a mug and soggy biscuit, and his small son in a onesie, to feel as though they have been thrust into the gladiator arena themselves. 

“Ticking the box across the board, this ad entertained the viewer, communicating new information that was easy to understand, relevant and credible,” says ColmarBrunton account director, Harriet Dixon.

"It's a fantastic piece of video," says Mike Cornwell, Samsung New Zealand's marketing director. "We're really lucky, being part of a global company, to get the opportunity to get great pieces of film down the pipeline to us [Samsung also filmed an ad in New Zealand last year]. I think it comes across as a big ad with big production values. It was received really well by retailers. Harvey Norman has used a piece of it to introduce the TV in their own campaign, and we've had lots of positive comments about the ad from consumers too."

He says the campaign, which also included an in-mall coliseum, has performed really well, and according to market research agency GFK, Samsung is #1 for UHD TV market share in New Zealand. 

At a resolution of 3840 x 2160, the UHD screens have four times the pixels of full HD screens. And, not surprisingly, they've got a price tag to match. 

“Working with UHD is certainly a lot more work, as you need to create so much more detail at every level, but when you’re watching it’s pretty spectacular, you feel like you’re right there," says Price, who is currently based in Paris. "It’s one of those things where you don’t really know what you were missing, but then when you see it you don’t want to go back.”

He said coordinating the project—and a cast of 350—involved a lot of phone-calls and expert production co-ordination to make sure they all turned up on the day. The set itself was constructed in 14 days.

“The location was tough on everyone. There was a lot of wind and dust so we had to shut down filming a couple of times. But cast and crew were unflappable. When the cameras rolled, the massive crowd started chanting and it felt like you really there," he said.

Also on the highly commended list for this month was Cadbury’s ‘Dominos’ TV ad by Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney, as well as Panadol’s ‘Super-Dad’ effort. 

The inspiration behind the GSK campaign for Panadol, by ad agency Grey, comes from the fact that pain often prevents people from living their life to the fullest and interacting with the people who matter to them most. The ad featured Auckland-based actual father and son, Colin and Nico Moy, and follows them playing together and dressing up as super heroes. Actor Moy has featured in Avatar, Most Fun You Can Have Dying, Go Girls and Spartacus, but it was his son's first acting job. It makes for good, wholesome father-and-son stuff.

Q & A with Nathan Price 

How did the brief to you come about? How involved were you in translating that brief into execution?

NP: The script was developed by CHI and partners in London. The basic story is laid out but my job is to bring the text on the page to life. I think what drew the agency to my style and approach, is that I like to do as much as I can in camera. We built a giant set coliseum from scratch which was quite an undertaking.

Why New Zealand as a location for the second year in a row for Samsung?

NP: Actually the agency thought they would be shooting an existing coliseum in Spain or Tunisia but we needed a contemporary coliseum not a ruin. So for us it was about getting the right crew and craftspeople together in a solid production centre. Obviously New Zealand has a fairly fearsome reputation for this kind of work with Peter Jackson’s features and TV series such as Spartacus, Hercules etc so they didn’t take too much convincing. 

What challenges did you face trying to express/incorporate the curved screen and the resulting immersive effect into the TVC?

This TV is designed to immerse you in Hollywood’s most epic productions. Ridley Scott took six months just to build his coliseum for Gladiator. We had to create something completely original and new but of similar scale in less than four weeks. Luckily here in New Zealand we’ve got amazing crews and craftspeople with a never say die, can-do attitude but as with any large scale production there were a lot of stressful meetings, and everybody—set builders, wardrobe, locations, hair and makeup, production, weapons makers you name it—they all worked their butts off.

What difference from your perspective, does it make filming and showing a production in UHD?

NP: It’s certainly is a lot more work, as you need to create so much more detail at every level. Things you could get away with before need that extra refinement, both in the production design and in the shooting, but when you’re watching it’s pretty spectacular, you feel like you’re right there. It’s one of those things where you don’t really know what you were missing, but then when you see it you don’t want to go back.

Why in your view, is clarity of image and curvature of the screen so important in delivering something to entertain and engage viewers?

NP: I think there is something very cinematic about the curve, something that we automatically associate with going to the cinema, so in this way I think this technology will bring a special factor to the home television experience.

Where was the TVC actually shot and how long did the set build take?

NP: We found a location in a functioning quarry in Wiri, Auckland and the whole set was constructed in 14 days. Of course designing and dressing it were additional to that.

Extras numbering in the hundreds must have been a challenging task – to coordinate and inspire. What’s involved in getting so many people together on the same day, and all in togas!?

NP: A lot of phone-calls and expert production co-ordination to make sure they all turn up on the day. The location was tough on everyone.  There was a lot of wind and dust so we had to shut down filming a couple of times. But cast and crew were unflappable. When the cameras rolled, the massive crowd started chanting and it felt like you really there.

How long did the CGI component take to complete?

NP: Six weeks. The big shot was the opening wide shot, and then we added some extra people, detail and height to the set.

How do you feel as a Kiwi (of some renown) being briefed to produce a global campaign for a global brand?

NP: I wouldn’t say I’m at all known but that’s kind of what we do now, we did a number of global campaigns last year. But this was definitely a prize / high profile project. We shoot all over the world but when we’ve got something really challenging and the stars align, I love bringing these big projects back to NZ, pulling together our trusty A team and showing the world how it’s done.

What do you think you bring to the table that perhaps differs from someone from somewhere else?

NP: In this case I feel that my long working relationship with the local crew in Auckland really helped. When you work with the same crew a lot you develop a sort of short hand and many of the crew members work on most of our productions.

Anything else exciting on the horizon?

NP: Always, but as usual I’m not allowed to talk about it!

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