Entitled "Metamorphosis," the spot follows a family on a classic road trip spanning 50 years. It begins with a shot of a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad cruising down a desert highway with suitcases on top and a family of four inside. The well-known Motel 6 music arrives with Tom Bodett's one-of-a-kind voice: "Over the past 50 years, the way America travels has changed," he says, as the station wagon transforms into a ‘64 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. Inside the car, visual changes to costume, hair, makeup and even the warmth of the imaging depict the 1970s, as Bodett speaks. "But through all that time and all those many changes, there's been the same place to find a comfortable night's rest." While Bodett relates his thoughtful message, K&C's storytelling fuses spot-on directing, casting, art direction, editing, animation and visual effects artistry to bring family, gadgets and vehicles up-to-date, as the destination is reached. "Motel 6," Bodett ends: "Fifty years, and the light's still on."
"To quickly transition through five decades in just 30 seconds required a deft blend of VFX, slick edits, and camera trickery," said K&C director and partner Rick Gledhill. "From CG to CG car changes to hidden wipes and quick camera moves, we called upon a variety of old and new school techniques. The goal being that the focus of the audience's enjoyment is on the fact that the world is changing, not the actual changes themselves.
"Crafting the precise period feel was not only reliant on what we see within the world, but the lens through which we see it," Gledhill continued. "So we designed a slightly different film look for each decade. Color, grain, and lighting subtly change to help the audience quickly access which time period they are in."
"When Peter Everitt and I came up with the idea, we didn't think it would ever happen," said Chris Smith, brand creative group head/writer at The Richards Group. "It was so much more ambitious than anything we'd ever tried for the brand, but that's exactly what the client wanted for their 50th, so they took a risk. It all had to come off with the campaign's long-established simplicity and approachability, with a subtle sense of humor that was surprising but not broad or slapstick. And K&C got that from the very beginning."
Led by Gledhill, the crew shot out in the desert using the RED EPIC on a process trailer, camera car and a Technocrane to achieve all the external car shots. Day two was for green screen interior shots and the Motel 6 resolve shot. "The interior shots of mom and dad transforming from the 60s to 70s involved shooting everything separately so we could time everyone's performance down to a split second," Gledhill explained. "The camera was locked off as we shot the son and daughter individually in both wardrobes, then we shot mom in both wardrobes, then dad and finally the moving background plates were shot as well as an interior exposure. In total, 11 plates were captured just for those two shots, and that's before they were tracked and recreated in 3D so we could transition the inside of the cars, add hair growing on dad's face and extend his collars."
Although all the cars were photographed, 3D versions were also painstakingly recreated in Maya, inside and out, to give the filmmakers complete control over transitioning them through the decades. "One of K&C's biggest strengths as a soup to nuts studio is that our directors know going into and during the shoot what exactly, to the minute detail, is needed for our CG, animation, and VFX teams," said K&C executive producer Jerry Torgerson. "This was critical to allow us to move quickly through a huge shot list like we had on our two day shoot."
"When it came to compositing the CG cars, we wanted things like the lighting, texturing, and colors to perfectly match the original cinematography," said K&C's art director Jon Lorenz. "We made the decision to render the 3D from Maya V-ray, and generated some stunning results for our compositors to work with in After Effects.
The father's facial hair was another of many post-production challenges. Since the actor's head is turning while his mustache and sideburns grow out, K&C's artists had to track his movement using a combination of PF Track and a few hand keys in Maya. Styling the digital facial hair involved inventive use of Maya fur. "The hair was lit with a basic setup of five lights and rendered with Mental Ray," said K&C's Andrew Cook.
"Every so often a job like this comes through our doors, and there is a definite air of excitement in the studio," added Gledhill. "This project is a truly original concept, great creative, and such an iconic brand."
"The Richards Group obviously had a lot of choices when it came to creating this iconic spot," said Torgerson. "King and Country is very proud to have been chosen to take it on and bring it to life. A spot like this was a perfect fit for our studio, with production, direction, editorial and VFX all under one roof."\
"It's a rare treat to see something come out exactly as you pictured it in your mind," Smith concluded. "It's even rarer to see it come out far better."
Branding Agency: The Richards Group
Brand Creative Group Head/Writer: Chris Smith
Brand Creative/Art Director: Peter Everitt
Producer: Sheri Cartwright
Production Company: King and Country
Director: Rick Gledhill
Executive Producer: Jerry Torgerson
Line Producer: Gary Kout
Post Producer: Paul Winze
Director of Photography: Jordan Valenti
Editor: Andrew Maggio
Art Director: Jon Lorenz
VFX Supervisor: Bryant Reif
Designers: Rick Gledhill, Mike Goubeaux, Gabriella Russo, Pietro Desopo, Tom Kenney, Greg Mitchell, Dan Hamilton
Previsualization: Billy Maloney, Hugo Codinach, Jon Lorenz, Mike Johnson, Bryant Reif
3D Artists: Kyung Park, Mike Johnson, Andrew Cook, Billy Maloney, Andrew Parris, Chris Kelley, Greg Mitchell, Adam Swaab, Tim Salikov
Compositing Artists: Jon Lorenz, Rick Gledhill, Tom Kenney, Chris Kelley, Adam Swaab