The brief return of Paul Arden

The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions festival had an unusual presenter this year… Paul Arden. The legendary creative, who died in 2008, appeared as a spookily realistic 3D hologram. CR finds out how it was done…

The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions festival had an unusual presenter this year… Paul Arden. The legendary creative, who died in 2008, appeared as a spookily realistic 3D hologram. CR finds out how it was done…

 

While in previous years the Saatchi & Saatchi showcase has had dramatic, gala openings, this year’s one started off deceptively simple. Richard Myers took to the stage to introduce the event, noting that it was 20 years since the first S&S Directors’ Showcase took place, and that it had been Arden that had presented it back in 1990. As can be seen in the film above, Myers then welcomed Arden to join him on stage.

The Arden hologram was created by Square Zero production company in London, who conjured him up via a “combination of footage, a specially shot body double, a specially recorded voice double, facial motion capture with additional lip-synch and also CGI modelling on some of the features,” according to director Najma Bhatti.

 

“We felt it was important to use at least some footage, so that it really was Paul Arden and not a body double or a complete CGI model,” Bhatti continues. “The upper part of the face is from real footage which underwent quite a number of processes before we could use it in the final piece. It was taken from an interview where the camera moved around quite fast and Paul moved backwards and forwards whilst speaking, so all the footage had to be stabillised considerably. Also, as there was so little material, we had to keep re-using it in order to create the duration we needed for his speech.”

Instead of using real recordings of Arden’s voice in the piece, Square Zero used them simply as reference material for a voice artist. “We studied Paul’s interviews at length in order to direct the voice artist to emulate his voice as closely as possible and also add in all the signature pauses and hesitations that were characteristic of his speech,” explains Bhatti. “The voice casting was quite tough and we tried out Steven Berkoff and Paul’s son Christian before going with Peter Temple, who did an amazing job.” Despite all the high-tech wizardry involved in the creating the hologram, Square Zero used an old-fashioned technique, Pepper’s Ghost, to project the Arden hologram into the theatre.

After opening the event, the Arden hologram returned at the close to sign off, before disappearing in a puff of smoke and dropping the microphone. The whole effect was quite uncanny, with the audience not really sure whether to cheer or sit in reverential silence. The Arden family gave their permission at the start of the process, but were then largely uninvolved in the making of the hologram. Bhatti understandably therefore describes the first showing to the family as “unnerving”. However, their reaction was positive. “After we had finished the piece, Toni, Paul’s wife asked to see it in our demo space before it went out in Cannes,” she explains. “So we conducted a rather nerveracking viewing with Toni, their son, grandchildren and two of Paul’s best friends. We were told by his family that ‘Paul would have loved it’, which was really the biggest compliment of all.”

 

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