A Campaign for Alzheimer’s Research

4 years ago this December my late mother had a stroke that affected her ability to read. She tried to describe what was going on, but couldn’t put into words how her brain was failing to process the words on the page. She used the phrase “jumbled” on more than one occasion but always said it was more than that. I could never fully wrap my head around what she was going through no matter how hard I tried. All of this leads me to the ad campaign shown below.

This is such a simple concept and executed so well. Produced by BBDO in Düsseldorf, Germany this campaign for Alzheimer’s research visualizes the confusion and fading memories Alzheimer’s patients experience in a way that the average person can instantly understand. Using the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle reinforces how the memory slowly fades away piece by piece and how finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is truly solving a giant puzzle.

Great imagery, combined with simple and direct copy nail it. The only thing missing is a statement on how the viewer can help the Alzheimer’s Research Initiative.

Agency: BBDO, Düsseldorf, Germany
Chief Creative Officer: Wolfgang Schneide
Creative Managing Director: Kristoffer Heilemann
Executive Creative Directors: Daniel Haschtmann, Tobias Feige
Creative Directors: Sebastian Steller, Jacobo Concejo
Art Directors: Martino Monti, Dejan Handjiski
Jigsaw Idea: Alma Haser
Copywriter: Sebastian Steller
Post-Production Company: Stefan Kranefeld Imaging
Photographer: Stefan Kranefeld

Deep Fake This – Fashion

The whole “Deep Fake” thing is something I have been interested in for some time. Each year it gets better and better, and as AI / Machine learning and technology advances being able to discern what is real, and what isn’t is getting harder. Where will this be in 10 years is hard to say, but the implications are pretty obvious. What does a person do when they can no longer tell if a video of someone is the real thing or not?

OK, enough of what could lead down a long and disheartening rabbit hole of despair about the future and how technology wreaks havoc on humanity.

To showcase the 2022 Spring Balenciaga fashion collection, creative director Marcus Dryden and the talented crew at MDC combined AI/machine learning, a real-time game engine, and hands-on VFX work to create a deepfake of American artist Eliza Douglas wrapped in every look from Balenciaga’s Spring ’22 collection. There is some live-action footage blended with CG and some solid post-work. They don’t say what the game engine is that they used, but I bet it was probably something like “Unreal”, or “Unity”. Below the video is a statement from Dryden breaking down the production.

“In Pre-production, we were able to plan the whole show. We used a games engine to previsualize which looks could be body doubles vs. which one needed to be the real Eliza. Also, the pre-viz defined the scale of the set for the art department and allowed production to choose the best lens, angles, and positions needed to run the multiple cameras in sync whilst on location.

During the shoot, MPC on-set supervisors Carsten Keller and Damien Canameras captured photogrammetry of Eliza’s face and oversaw a variety of in-situ plates to extract her face and transpose it onto the body doubles shot on the catwalk.

We also used a CG scan of Eliza’s head and an on-set photo reference to build a proxy Eliza head to help visualize the face replacements. This allowed our compositing team to study and analyze each shot, each face to define the best process to achieve the highest-quality clone.

The team then applied the best technique to create the face replacements: Planar tracking, roto animation, Keen Tools (a 3D tracking and modeling tool inside Nuke), and Machine Learning (AI/deep fake).

Once we began attaching Eliza’s faces, we matched light, textures, and motion artifacts using compositing. Using the references and the scan of the head, we made sure each clone’s face was as pixel-accurate to Eliza’s face as possible while still retaining the nuance of the specific Balenciaga design aesthetic.

The final film shows all the clones with Eliza’s photogrammetry-captured and CG-scanned face as they march down a minimalist runway to a sci-fi-inspired soundtrack composed by BFRND, which includes an AI voice narrating the lyrics of La Vie En Rose.”

Zendesk Helpers

I always love it when a company decides to use a different marketing approach to subtly promote who they are. I recently discovered that CRM software manufacturer Zendesk has started producing a series of documentary shorts that have nothing to do with Zendesk. I came across the videos on Vimeo while actually looking for something related to their product and then discovered the link to Zendesk Helpers a microsite which has the purpose of being helpful and encouraging, and a little bit of software promotion.

One of the things that I love about the site and the videos, is the high quality production value that is presented. Especially the videos. These are not shoot it on your iPhone and edit in iMovie (although I have seen some videos done that way that look really amazing). All of these have a fairly large production crew and it shows.

Beyond the production however, is the quality of the content itself. Each video left me feeling good about humanity, something we all need these days. As of February there were a total of 5 video stories available on the microsite. I’m hoping they are in the process of producing even more, because these are great.

We set out to look for helpfulness in the world and were amazed at the stories we found. Because being helpful might sound simple, but it’s actually badass.

Zen Desk Helpers

Everyday Experiments – In Full Bloom

The first cellphone camera I ever used was in an imported unlocked Nokia so-called “smartphone”. It was an expensive flip phone with a screen that rotated 180 degrees. It had some form of limited office functionality, texting, and a 0.3-megapixel camera that shot postage stamp-sized images and no video. I thought it was the greatest phone ever, and the ability to take somewhat decent photos with my phone was a game-changer. Then in 2007 and the world changed.

When the iPhone went on sale in June of 2007, it was light years ahead of the competition. It had a whopping 2 megapixel camera and 320×480 pixel resolution screen. The day it went on sale I was 4th in line at the ATT store to make sure I got one before they sold out. At the time, I had no idea how much this single piece of technology would change the way people create with images, video and audio.

Fast forward 15 years and the impact has been very obvious. So much so that Apple has built an entire marketing platform around “Shot on iPhone” that focuses exclusively on the creative aspect of the handset. One of the best examples being a series of videos by Donghoon J. and James T, called “Everyday Experiments that show people how to create some pretty amazing videos with their iPhones and things they have at home. Something that would have been impossible to do with my Nokia in 2005, or even using a “Flip Video” camera that was hugely popular at the same time.

Everyday Experiments as well as the rest of “Shot on iPhone” show just how far we have come in a very short period of time. If you are into using your phone for creative endeavors I encourage you to take a look at the “Everyday Experiments” content. It’s well-produced and they have a section of behind-the-scenes videos that show how these two actually make the videos Apple commissions from them.