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R!OT Produces Launch Campaign for NetZeros 3G Service

Digital Studio Oversees Project from Concept through Post to Create ?The Internet Ride of Your Life?

In a sharp departure from the model traditionally used to produce television spots, R!OT Santa Monica recently worked directly with NetZero to create a campaign launching its new HiSpeed 3G Internet service. The project involved neither an advertising agency nor a production company. Rather the commercials were conceived by NetZeros in-house creative services team and designed, produced and post produced by digital artists from R!OT.

The campaign includes two 30-second spots and a series of 10- and 15-second teasers. In the first :30, breaking this week, a man seated in front of a computer is sucked into cyberspace. He flies along through a translucent tube over a stylized city as web graphics zip by him on all sides. The voice-over describes the new 3G service, which allows NetZero dial up customers to ?surf the Web at speeds so fast, youll think its broadband. The second spot, breaking in mid August, promotes 3Gs Instant On feature.

Although NetZero uses an advertising agency to produce some of its spots, many others are created directly by its in-house team. The flexible approach allows the company to develop ads quickly and to take full advantage of the creative skills of its staff. ?Many of us have dual roles on my creative team with a vast knowledge of production and post-production which enables us to be very involved in the final outcome of our creative, said NetZero Creative Director Dee Guzzi. ?In this instance, we set out to create a campaign to launch our new product in a huge way. Its big, powerful, in your face, yet still artistically impressive.

The campaign focuses on the speed of the 3G service by featuring what Guzzi terms  ?the Internet ride of your life. Because the bulk of the spots are set in cyberspace, visual effects work was crucial and therefore it made sense to approach R!OT first, rather than a traditional production company. ?It didnt make sense to take this through the normal process of production, Guzzi explained. ?I had worked with R!OT on several previous projects, so my first thought was to talk with them.

R!OT initially produced animated storyboards of the spots and once they were approved it previsualized the two 30-second spots in 3D. As those spots required live action elements to be shot with motion control rigs, the pre-viz material allowed the team to plan camera positions and movement before arriving on the set.

?We were able to design every camera move and know that it was within the boundries of what the motion control rig could do, explained R!OTs Tim Conway, who served as Director and Visual Effects Supervisor. ?On the set, we were able to export all of the moves into the motion control rig and work with great efficiency. We shot 14 motion control moves in two 10 hour days, which is unheard of. Following the shoot, camera data was exported from the rigs for use by R!OTs 3D team.

All of the environments used in the spot are CG, including the office environment where the man appears at the beginning. For the visual effects team, the biggest creative challenge lay in determining how to represent cyberspace. ?What is cyberspace? It has been shown in commercials and movies many times before, but we wanted to do something different, recalled R!OT Lead Compositor Claus Hansen. ?We imagined it as having a city feel, but its not a city, something interesting, but not absolutely concrete.

The look that R!OTs team arrived at is a kind of stylized city environment, crisscrossed by energy tubes connecting people with information. This cyber land is appropriately cast in red, grey, black and silver, colors drawn from the NetZero logo. Animators applied considerable effort in perfecting the look of the tube, which appears to be fashioned out of a transparent material that is not glass but rather resembles surging energy.

?We pulled textures directly from the NetZero logo and built them up in many layers, explained R!OT Animator Marcus LeVere. ?Once we got the feel we wanted, we condensed all of the layers into one so that the look is seamless.

Many of the graphic elements were derived from real websites that were given dimensionality by R!OTs 3D team. The city environment was produced as a digital matte painting. All of the elements were assembled and composed in final form by R!OTs compositing crew who also applied lighting and other environmental effects.

Having a single team oversee the project from the conceptual phases through final post resulted in time and cost savings, noted Conway, but the most significant advantages were creative. ?Whenever we had an idea we were able to take it directly to our client and discuss it, he said. ?It was between NetZero and R!OT with nothing in between and it worked great. Whenever you work directly with the artists who are actually doing the work, the results are going to be better.

Guzzi agreed that working directly with R!OT proved to be the most efficient way to bring her concept to life. ?I want to do what is most cost effective, but without cutting corners, she said. ?I have never had a two day shoot go more smoothly and the results were more beautiful than I have ever imagined.

Conway hopes the success of the project will lead to more opportunities for R!OT to become involved in projects at the outset, and not just in post. ?We will continue to do projects via the traditional route but we want to nurture projects like this, he said. ?R!OT has a distinct advantage not only in having a strong team of artists with diverse skills, but also in having the infrastructure to carry it out. There are very few facilities that could provide all of the resources that we brought to this campaign.

R!OT Santa Monica is located at 702/730 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401. For more information, call Bill Frazee or Michael Taylor at (310) 434-6000 or visit


Client: United Online / NetZero

Artisans client: R!OT

Agency: United Online In-House Creative Team, Woodland Hills, CA.  Dee Guzzi, executive producer/creative director; Bry Antonio, art director; Erika Miller, producer.               

Production Company:  Patriot Media, Inc.  Austin Smithard, director of photography; Simon Wackley, MILO Operator; Matt Roberts, producer.

Music Company: The Rumor Mill, New York.  Josh Ralph, composer, :30s; Echo Park Music & Sound, Los Angeles :10s and 15s          

Visual EFX Company:  R!OT, Santa Monica, CA.  Tim Conway, director/VFX supervisor; Terry J. OGara, producer; Tom M. Slovick, associate producer; D. Todd Davidovich, executive producer; Claus Hansen, lead compositor; Chris Howard and Wensen Ho, compositors; Marcus LeVere, CG supervisor; Andy Wilkoff, Richard Wardlow, Juan Rubio, Dave Carlson, Shuichi Suzuki, CG artists; Yann Mallard, matte painter.

Audio Post House: POP Sound, Santa Monica, CA.  Mitch Dorf, mixer.

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