Psyop: Fage “Plain”

With the lead-up to F5 taking up so much of our time at Motionographer, we were admittedly led astray and almost (keyword: almost) let a piece of stellar quality slip between the cracks. But as they say, better late than never.

Last month, Psyop released a piece unique to its typically CG pipeline and something that —on YouTube alone— has already garnered over 5 million views. In Plain, for Greek dairy company, Fage, Psyop was forced to rethink it’s pipeline when they discovered they would only be allotted two short weeks of post-production time. By approaching most of the shots in-camera and integrating CG only when absolutely necessary, the team of artists rose to the challenge and created a piece that is not only hauntingly beautiful, but a testament to their ingenuity.

In an exclusive Q&A with additional behind-the-scenes artwork, we caught up with Psyop to find out exactly how they did it. Check it out here.

Psyop: Fage “Plain”


[qt: 848 480]

What was CG and what was live action?

Early in the project, we learned we only had two weeks for post production. This time frame made it unrealistic to create full CG shots, so it became important for us to shoot 45 seconds of imagery that would require as little clean up as possible.

Shooting mostly locked plates was an alternative approach for us: after all, we’re known mostly for being a post house, and on typical shoots, we’d be creating elements that we could composite with. In this case, we were reliant on a strong shoot that would give us beautiful pieces of film. As a result, nearly every shot in this spot was filmed, with the exception of a purple drip that occur at the end, and two macro shots of the flower detail in the middle.

Probably the most exciting comment for us to hear is “What part of this is CG and what is real?”. It’s a really exciting place to be in when you can combine techniques so much that the medium becomes obscured.

Please talk about the visual effects supervision on the shoot for CG integration.

Once we had decided that most of this project would have to be achieved in camera, we knew a lot of experimentation would be involved. Shooting liquids and melting wax was unpredictable, and we weren’t sure which technique would help us pull off the look we wanted.

For two days we shot at Reel FX in Los Angeles, acquiring as many cool looking shots in camera.
Reel FX built rigs that could move liquid, airguns to blast liquid, formulas that would believably move and look like yogurt and honey, objects emerging from liquids, cast and melt wax objects, poured liquid over objects, shot a women dressed as a Greek statue and one swimming in a water tank, poured a milk substance over a live cow’s head, and rigged a fiber glass cow that would hydraulically lift from a big vat of a yogurt substance. Since we were slated to deliver a 45 and four 15’s, this was a lot of plates to cover over a two day shoot.

Another question was who we would hire to film these experiments. There were DP’s that could shoot liquid and products, but FAGE, as we had envisioned it, was cinematic. We needed someone who would take risks, be crazy.

Miraculously, the amazing Christopher Doyle, a cinematographer famous for his stunning work on “In the Mood for Love” and “Hero”, became available. Although Chris wasn’t your typical liquid DP, he was the most exciting for generating beautiful imagery. Unlike DP’s who shoot liquids, Doyle wasn’t afraid of shooting blacks in yogurt, and we felt having a scale of light to dark would lead us to a compelling yogurt ad.

Since the shoot went well, our post workload lessened significantly, and the CG plates went from 6 to 3. This was excellent as we had 2 total weeks left for post.

Can you share process on development and maybe show some design work?

The poem “Plain”, written for the spot, was abstract and metaphorical and we wanted to keep the integrity of the tone by being more suggestive. Some of the initial references we pulled were Greek sculpture. Much of our design work was rooted in finding artists who created suggestive imagery such as Georgie O’Keeffe, who’s work is intimate and intriguing.

As mentioned earlier, having a scale of light to dark would play a major role in our design efforts. The winning frame was actually that of a melancholic bull, high contrast and with light spilling over his horns, made up of or dripping with milk. That this was the image everyone was on board with was a good sign this spot could be interesting.

Who’s idea / writing? agency or Psyop? Was there a creative middle ground if any?

FAGE Greek yogurt brand wanted to expand their advertising into the US market and awarded the account to Mullen Boston to handle their US advertising. In tern, Mullen devised an open creative brief that included a Suesssian-style poem about a figurative character called “Plain”. This creative brief was unusually open for a yogurt commercial, which we embraced.

Instead of being literal with the character “Plain”, we were encouraged to be non-linear, metaphorical. They wanted “visual poetry”: beautiful and sensory moments threaded together by a new language. It was a very collaborative effort. Mullen would describe their intents for the metaphors, and we would create visuals to achieve the story without being blatant and boring.

Do you think this will do for the future of yogurt? jk…but maybe talk about how this is different than a lot of ads we see on TV.

We hope so. Unlike most product ads, this commercial didn’t rely on “traditional” marketing strategies to sell a product… just beauty. This was largely due to the willingness of the FAGE Client, specifically, a Greek owner we called “Mr. Filippo”. If only there were more Mr. Filippo’s. Upon delivering the spot, the only comment Mr. Filippo had was “I don’t know what you want me to say, it’s beautiful, let’s get it on air”. Their profits are so high, they’re actually having problems keeping FAGE on the shelves. (No thanks to us really- that shit is just delicious).

What we really appreciate now is how the public is embracing this kind of spot. We salute FAGE and Mullen for taking a risk and creating something a little different than the mainstream ad. People don’t want to see women dancing around and being happy to eat yogurt to know it’s delicious. People are smarter than this. They just want to see a great looking ad.

Client: FAGE
Spot Title: Plain

Agency: Mullen, Boston
Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker
Creative Director/Copywriter: Brian Tierney
Director of Design/Art Director: Kevin Grady
Executive Director of Integrated Production: Liza Near
Producer: Mary Donington
Group Account Director: Brett Eaton

Production Company: Psyop / Smuggler
Director: Psyop
Psyop Creative Director: Eben Mears
Psyop Creative Director: Lauren Indovina
Executive Producer: Lucia Grillo
Line Producer: Karen O’Brien
Post Producer: Carol Collins
Director of Photography: Christopher Doyle
Production Designer: Richard Bridgland
VFX Supervisor: Vico Sharabani
3D Lead: Pakorn Bupphavesa
3D Team: Chris Bach
3D Team: Dave Barosin
3D Team: Eban Byrne
3D Team: Miguel Salek
3D Team: Alek Vacura
Flame Artist: Anu Nagaraj
Composite: Elad Offer
Composite: Kirk Balden
Composite: Mark French
Composite: Tim Farrell
Composite: Jeen Lee
Editorial: Psyop
Editor: Vico Sharabani
Editor: El Ohayan

Music & Sound Design: Pivot Audio
Composer: Guy Amitai

Audio Post: Audio Engine
Sound Design/Mixer: Rob DiFondi