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Water Safety: not for wimps

Water Safety: not for wimps

From the Lifesaving Society in Quebec comes this truly bizarre water safety PSA:

According to the news release:

The audience for the spot is a very specific demographic. Once a year, there is a travelling road show in Quebec for hunters and fishermen. The star of the evening is Normand Byrnes who speaks and shows films of himself fishing and hunting. Audiences generally have some time to relax over a beer before the show begins. Byrnes is something of a folk hero for them and he is usually greeted with great enthusiasm when he takes the stage. “This is a different kind of crowd,” explained Comeau. “Whenever an animal is killed in one the films the audiences cheer.”

Given the high incidence of drowning in Quebec, and Canada in general, water safety is a very real issue. Consequently there is always a PSA at some point in the evening. “Needless to say, this is the kind of audience that is pretty unimpressed by safety messages,” laughed Comeau.

The solution is a mock-serious announcer in fisherman’s gear who speaks with exaggerated clarity directly into the camera about water safety, periodically smashing his left hand with a hammer, to prove the point that safety is not just for wimps. “We had a lot of fun developing the script, but the concept posed a technical challenge. It was crucial that the spot look completely natural, or it simply would not have the right effect. We knew that using a fake hand or a rubber hammer would just look silly or campy. We knew we would have to solve this with CG.”

I wanted a more objective opinion, so I asked Vincent LeBlanc — Acart’s francophone Copywriter — to give me some perspective. He said, “A lot of ‘gutsy’ ads like the one you sent me are popping out here and there around Québec. I find it’s really well done, it keeps the viewers attention all the way through. The language is absolutely appropriate for the target audience and you can’t help but wonder where he is heading with all that finger hammering. (Although ‘moumoune’ might offend some people.) But all in all, the message is clear and the ad is compelling.”

Vincent pointed me to a similar approach, of playing up homegrown stereotypes for laughs, for Beauport gym . So I guess it’s a uniquely French Canadian thing.

Full press release text below.

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New Société de Sauvetage Spot a Hit with Audiences
February 18, 2011—
DMN Newswire—2011-2-18—Boogie Studio’s work on a recent public service announcement for the Société de Sauvetage water safety organization is on a road-trip through Quebec where it is enjoying an enthusiastic reception from audiences around the province. Working with director Yan Giroux and writer Philippe Comeau, creative director at LG2, Boogie provided stunning visual effects allowing for a two-minute single-take spot in which the actor appears to smash his hand with a hammer while delivering an earnest safety message. The result is a brilliantly understated implementation of CG, which is both shockingly real and implausibly comical.

“This was one of the most unusual briefs I have ever received,” said Philippe Comeau, who conceived and wrote the piece. “The problem with safety messages is that some people think that safety is for wusses, especially the hardcore outdoor types we were trying to reach with this ad. Our challenge was to overcome that issue and get the message across.”

The audience for the spot is a very specific demographic. Once a year, there is a travelling road show in Quebec for hunters and fishermen. The star of the evening is Normand Byrnes who speaks and shows films of himself fishing and hunting. Audiences generally have some time to relax over a beer before the show begins. Byrnes is something of a folk hero for them and he is usually greeted with great enthusiasm when he takes the stage. “This is a different kind of crowd,” explained Comeau. “Whenever an animal is killed in one the films the audiences cheer.”

Given the high incidence of drowning in Quebec, and Canada in general, water safety is a very real issue. Consequently there is always a PSA at some point in the evening. “Needless to say, this is the kind of audience that is pretty unimpressed by safety messages,” laughed Comeau.

The solution is a mock-serious announcer in fisherman’s gear who speaks with exaggerated clarity directly into the camera about water safety, periodically smashing his left hand with a hammer, to prove the point that safety is not just for wimps. “We had a lot of fun developing the script, but the concept posed a technical challenge. It was crucial that the spot look completely natural, or it simply would not have the right effect. We knew that using a fake hand or a rubber hammer would just look silly or campy. We knew we would have to solve this with CG.”

To enhance the realism of the piece, the spot is shot in a single take and the actor paces the monologue so that the audience has to brace for each impact of the hammer. The character pauses after each blow to regain his composure, but never acknowledges the pain. Meanwhile, his hand gradually, but subtly, swells and turns red. The effect was achieved with 120 seconds of frame-by-frame rotoscoping. The result is like a perfect magic trick: seamless. The audience knows it can’t be real, but they cannot see what the trick is.

“Originally this was planned to be a one-minute spot,” said Sebastien Dostie, visual effects supervisor at Boogie Studio, “but it was working so well we decided to extend it to 120 seconds. We used two takes to create the final piece. In the main take we focused on the actor and allowed him to perfect his delivery and pacing. The second one we used was the ‘left arm take,’ which shows the hand receiving the hammer blows.”

The facility used Autodesk Smoke to create a morphing cage around the left arm and then track it to the actor’s body in the main take. After Effects and NUKE were used in tandem for the morphing. Smoke was then used for the final compositing. “Smoke was our workhorse on this project,” explained Dostie. “We had to track 3,600 frames. The result looks simple, as it is supposed to, but it took painstaking work, including painting in gaps on individual frames.”

“We had a very positive experience with Boogie Studio on this project,” said director Yan Giroux.
“They worked with us from pre-production through delivery and were always there when we needed a solution to a problem, or just good advice. They have assembled an excellent team and their years of experience in audio means they understand client relations and the advertising world.”

Recently Comeau had the opportunity to attend an evening with Norman Byrnes. “Byrnes was really impressed with the piece, and I finally had a chance to see the reaction of the crowd firsthand. They loved it! I shot a video of them watching the spot on my iPhone. The response of the audience was very gratifying.”

LG2 is an award-winning Quebec advertising agency –  one of the top ten agencies in Canada. Société de Sauvetage is a non-profit organization promoting water safety in the province of Quebec.

The Société de Sauvetage spot was one of the first for Boogie Studio’s new visual effects division which opened last fall under the guidance of industry veterans Sébastien Dostie, Éric Gervais-Després, Philippe Désiront and Eddy Chan. From its roots as an audio mixing house serving the commercial industry, Boogie Studio has grown to offer pre-vizualization, stereoscopic production, online editing, visual effects and motion graphics for commercial, broadcast and film clients.

Advertiser:
Société de Sauvetage
Agency:
LG2
Additional credits:
Produced by Boogie Studio
Source:
http://www.broadcastnewsroom.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=1364969

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more