In order to emphasise the ‘dramatic taste sensation’ of its new Flavour Shots products, herb and spice brand Schwartz exploded sacks of condiments in time to a delicate piece of music composed especially for the ad by MJ Cole. We talk to the key creatives behind the ad about how it was done.

In order to emphasise the ‘dramatic taste sensation’ of its new Flavour Shots products, herb and spice brand Schwartz exploded sacks of condiments in time to a delicate piece of music composed especially for the ad by MJ Cole. We talk to the key creatives behind the ad about how it was done.

The brief

Andy Lockley, creative director, Grey London
“A Flavour Shot is a small pot of concentrated herbs and spices locked in oil. Our client wanted to communicate that despite its size, it packs a massive amount of flavour. They acknowledged that many ads in their sector tend to take place in or around a kitchen, often with mum preparing the meal and families enjoying the end product. They were keen to do something disruptive but it was still quite a challenge for them to leave behind what was a tried and tested formula. Several rounds of research convinced them that our proposal would work against their criteria.”

Chris Cairns, director, Partizan
“The brief from the agency was to ‘create an audiovisual representation of taste’. I love making things where the visuals match the sound really tightly and this commercial was an opportunity to build both from scratch. I wanted to write a piece of music which had a real build to it, and use a progression of musical techniques which would allow the visuals to develop before having a real crescendo. Something that feels like our experience of tasting spicy food. Normally I like to represent sound visually so it was an interesting challenge to think about how you represent taste audiovisually.”

The music

Chris Cairns, director, Partizan
“I met Matt [MJ Cole] through cycling a few years ago and I’d been really keen to work with him. I briefed him on what I was after and he did some longer rambles on the piano. I told him the bits I thought would work well for what I had in mind visually and we went back and forth until we were both happy. He was a pleasure to work with and brought loads to the project. My approach was to write a sparse, restrained piano piece and to have each piano note trigger an individual spice explosion. Matt wrote the music with the visuals it would create in mind, then we pre-visualised the whole sequence in 3D. This allowed us to efficiently explore camera lenses, angles and moves and to create materials that conveyed exactly what was required to all departments. Both Matt and I thought that something delicate and restrained – contrasting with the violent visuals – would be more powerful than a more literal, bombastic soundtrack.”

The testing

Paul Mann, senior supervisor, Machine Shop Special Effects:
“All of the ingredients were tested with our lead technician, Sean, keeping precise records of everything during a week of intense testing and we found that many things influenced their performance. Variations of weight, density, freshness and size were the most obvious things that differentiated one spice from another. How we packed the sacks, where the pyrotechnic was placed within the sack, its attitude to the sack contents (place the charge horizontal or vertical?), the sack volume and exactly which charge to use all changed the way that the column was formed. We had to vary each one of these factors to create an overall style which suited Chris’s vision. We used several different types of pyrotechnic in the eruptions. In total we supplied over 250 charges. We also had to build a firing box and write the computer code capable of giving us the precision that the shoot would demand. Another interesting challenge was finding a way to lift the spices without the force of the explosions damaging them. That is one secret that we will keep though!”

The shoot

Andy Lockley, creative director, Grey London
“It was a fairly high pressure shoot because we only had one go at getting it right – once the explosions happened, the set was destroyed, so there was no room for technical error. In real time, everything was over in the blink of an eye and it was only when we watched it back at 1,000 frames per second that we could be sure everything was in sync. Thankfully, it went precisely as choreographed!”

Paul Mann, senior supervisor, Machine Shop Special Effects
“We have created effects that required precise timing but never on this scale, where so many variables had to come together in one take with no proper rehearsal as the first time that we had everything set up was in the studio with the cameras pointing at the rigs. It was the first time that we had needed to match each note of music, taking into account that we were filming at 40 times normal speed and using a camera that could travel at six metres per second. The fact that this would always be a one take wonder struck home as the small hours of the night approached and other supporting shots had taken up most of the day. So the big finale was being done when everyone was tired after 17 hours on set. Fortunately, the producer, Malachy, appreciated what we were trying to achieve and Chris remained upbeat and positive throughout the shoot. Watching the playback with the music overlaid a few minutes after the event with all the dust still in the air made me happy that we had done it for Chris, but also very proud of our crew and the way they had pulled this together.

grey.co.uk, partizan.com, machineshop.co.uk

Agency: Grey London
CCO: Nils Leonard
Creative director: Andy Lockley
Creatives: Pauline Ashford, Mike Kennedy
Prod company: Partizan
Director: Chris Cairns
Music: MJ Cole/Soho Sound
Effects: Machine Shop
Effects senior supervisor: Paul Mann
Post: MPC
Editors: Trim
Sound design: String and Tins

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