Honda: Proud From Every Angle
Culum talks through the technical process of creating the sound design for the latest Honda Civic campaign. Making the films larger than life, whilst staying grounded in reality.
It's all about perspective.
In audio design there is usually a balance that needs to be found, a bargain that needs to be struck. In Honda and W&K's "Civic 2021" campaign, it was between realism and the suspension of disbelief. We needed the car to sound real, each shift of perspective (and gear) to feel believable, whilst feeling fun, and larger than life.
At the core of the spot was the car itself, and to sell the constant changes of focus we needed a ton of coverage. So our first task was to record lots of it! 3 hours of it to be precise, mic'd up from 6 different angles at Honda HQ in Bracknell. Shout out to Kaspar and Adam Hare who were the boots on the ground for that one. Back in the studio this gave us so many options. Once we had a pass that worked with the moves of the car, it was a case of swapping the mic as we pan over the car. The effect was almost instantly gratifying, giving the spot a grounding in the real world. With that and a few carefully picked revs for some of the more sporty shots and plenty of tire tread FX for those close ups of the wheels, the car sprang to life.
The second facet was movement. The camera moves are huge and weighty and I was ready to break out the cinematic whoosh pack I reach for so regularly. However speaking to the creative team in early consultations, the brief was that we wanted to feel, not hear the camera moves, not an easy task where the moves are so dramatic. For this I used a bull roarer, an old instrument that is essentially a ruler on the end of a string. You spin the string around your head and the ruler spins in sympathy, giving a fluttery effect as it passes the mic each time.
Using the warp function in Pro Tools to snap each firing of each of those flutters to be in time with the track at either demisemiquavers or hemidemisemiquavers... I know... slightly tedious, but it allowed the whoosh track to blend in with the music to the extent they registered as musical accents and drum fills. This in turn gave us the option to turn them up without the fear of them overpowering the music whilst still giving buckets of weight to the camera moves.
The third and final trick we used was panning, filtering, and volume automation. As we zoom around the car we used judicious panning to place the engine or wheel arch at its correct perspective but as I went through the project the moves weren't feeling as big as I'd have liked. So I panned elements of the music as well. Mainly things that would stick out like cymbals, hats and percussion. It was a subtle effect but gave it that last extra push that it needed to make the perspectives feel macro. As for the moves themselves, I dipped the filter and volume on every one on both the FX and music track during the move, then put the filter and volume back to full range to give the soundscape some snap as it lands in position.
Panning and manipulating the music as well as the FX gelled them together and gave the spot a playful 4th wall breaking quality; as though the music, effects, mix, and picture are all working together to drag the camera around to the star of the show, which in turn revels in the spotlight.
Sound design and mix: Culum Simpson // Audio Producer: Laura-Leigh Smith // Creative Agency: Wieden and Kennedy London // Agency Producer: Michelle Brough // Agency ECDs: Tony Davidson + Iain Tait // Agency Creatives: Katia Schutz + Stefan Foster // Creative Directors: Joe de Souza + Juan Sevilla // Music Composer / Music House: Jordan Crisp - Mr Pape // Production Company: Time Based Arts // Director: Michael Skrgatic + James Allen // Production Company Producer: Jon Adams // Editor: Time Based Arts