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Bruno Aveillan's L'Odyssee for Cartier Dazzles

Director Bruno Aveillan's "L'Odyssee" for
Cartier Dazzles the Ad Industry

In an exclusive interview, the Believe Media director
reveals what went into making the branded web
short that's got the ad industry talking.

Panthers appear over Paris in the new Cartier film from Director Bruno Aveillan.

Precious gems, ferocious beasts, otherworldly locations, dazzling effects put them all together, along with an ambitious script and the talents of director Bruno Aveillan and you get "L'Odyssee," the three-and-a-half minute film for the global luxury brand Cartier that's just been released on the web. (You can screen it at a special Cartier web site here.)
The story is an elaborate tale, told in an impressive mix of live action, CGI and visual effects.  A diamond panther, sitting in the window of the Cartier Place Vendome boutique, bursts into a live panther and escapes on an odyssey. His adventures include a prance through St. Petersburg, which is shrouded in snow and ice, followed by a face-to-face confrontation with a golden dragon near the Great Wall of China, followed by a tour of a jewel-encrusted palace in India. 
From there the panther hitches a ride on the back of an elephant and then hops onto a biplane piloted by Alberto Santos-Dumont, the father of Brazilian aviation. He neatly deposits the panther back in Paris, where it ends up in a mansion, being petted by a resplendent Shalom Harlow, who just happens to be wearing the bejeweled panther figurine that we saw at the beginning of the film. The two of them disappear into the mist, like Rick Blaine and Capt. Renault at the end of "Casablanca," only this time the mist is enclosed in a signature Cartier red box.
Aveillan, who's repped in the US and UK by Believe Media and in Germany by Tempomedia, produced the film through Quad in Paris, working for agency Marcel.  The film has generated almost global coverage in the industry and fashion press, with Advertising Age citing it as an example of clients' willingness to produce longer-format ads as a way to engage viewers.  (See the story here.)

Aveillan says he tried to create as many effects for the film as he could in-camera.

It's also been covered in the trendy US business publication Fast Company and in Adweek, as well as in the fashion press. There's also a "making of" video for the piece, which naturally is all in French, but it will give you a general idea of what went into the production.

SourceEcreative tracked down the director in Paris to ask a few questions about what went into this production. Here are excerpts from that conversation.
What was your brief from Cartier? How much of the piece was storyboarded and what did you bring to the scenario? And how long was the shoot and where did you shoot?
Cartier wanted an epic, spectacular, universal film, a sort of dream-like voyage that could convey the legendary history and know-how of the brand, while emphasizing its current dynamic world presence. I immediately went for a cinematographic approach, one that would firstly allow me to tell people a beautiful story, full of life and emotion, without overwhelming them with an excessively blunt advertising message.
From this perspective, the project is globally consistent with my vision of what advertising of the future will be: a message that focuses more on the brand's true substance and deeper philosophy, one that's respectful of viewers and can establish a strong and lasting bond with the audience.
The original project was already incredibly ambitious, but as people always ask me to, I added my vision and imagination to develop each of the atmospheres visited during this voyage as far as was possible. From a narrative standpoint, I tried to smooth the storyline by creating transitions – that were often surreal – between the different worlds.
We shot in Prague, Italy, Spain, Belgium and obviously France. We shot for almost three weeks.
The integration of the elements was seamless. Did you do a lot of pre-viz to guide you in shooting when elements would be created later? What elements were real, and what were rendered in CGI and VFX?
With the Digital District team, we made a very detailed animatic before the shoot… But since we made the radical decision to shoot with a real panther, several things had to be reconsidered… For instance, in the animatic I had envisioned the panther running most of the time. However, unlike cheetahs, panthers aren't crazy about running… I had to readapt all the sequences to fit the attitudes and behavior of a real live panther.
Still, the animatic allowed us to estimate the length of each sequence fairly precisely, along with several "reference" frames, so it gave us a good start.
To preserve a sense of emotion, I wanted to shoot as much as we could live. I wanted to avoid making a film that felt like a video game trailer, with textures and improbable camera movements… So except for the Saint Petersburg sequence, all the landscapes are real.
We still did make a 3D panther, but in the end we used it very little, just in two or three transition shots. All the other animals seen in the film are also real… Even the jeweled panther Love bracelets were large-scale aluminum models that were transported to the top of the Cervin glacier in the Alps.

The panther confronts a dragon in the Great Wall sequence of the film.

I really wanted all the interactions to be as realistic as possible. However, the dragon, the Eternity ring and some other pieces of jewelry are in 3D. There was also some incredible matte painting work to enhance certain sets. The Digital District team did some stunning post-production work in five months, making no compromises.
How did you shoot the panther's interaction with the various environments (snow, rocks, the fabric of the airplane, stairs)? Were the cats always on a green-screen stage, or were they ever in actual environments?
I shot the panther in the actual environments. When you see the panther running on the rocks, in the desert, in the middle of Place Vendome in Paris, in the snow or on ice, the panther is actually doing it. In fact, it's the first time in the world that a panther ever saw snow.  It loved it! We couldn't get it to go back into its cage at the end of the day [he laughs]!
The same holds true when it leaps onto the front of the plane. But we had to strengthen the fabric to do it. In that sequence, the actor who plays the part of Santos-Dumont got a bit jittery; the panther tried to climb up along the cabin and visit him in his nacelle. Fortunately, everything had been made very safe… We did a few green screen shots in the studio, but not many, just for a few cuts.
I shot the panther on every single location and we did some green screen on stage to match some interactions. Almost everything was done in-camera. That was the challenge to make it look as real as possible.
What was it like shooting the jewels in the Indian palace segment? Some were vintage pieces from the Cartier vault, right?
Yes, we had some vintage pieces from Cartier, and most of them were priceless, since they're unique. I have to admit it's the first time in my life that I shot on a set where there were more security personnel than technicians.
The biplane seen in the spot, was it a life-size replica? Was it suspended and shot as if it were flying for the close ups? Was the plane a CGI element in wide shots?

Actual treasures from the Cartier vault, like this bracelet, were used in the production.

For the framing opportunities and the very subtle interactions with the wind, I wanted to make a perfect replica of Santos Dumont's airplane, the 14-bis, based on the original drawings. It was done with painstaking attention to detail, to the point that airplane experts told us the plane could have actually flown if it had a real engine. Well, we decided maybe we wouldn't push the realism to that extent… [he laughs]. In fact, the plane was suspended from a giant crane at heights of 15 to 30 meters… The camera movements and post-production took care of the rest. Just for the story, the production offered the plane to a well-known aviation museum that was delighted to receive this unique specimen.
Given the complexity of this film, were you more involved in post than a director typically is? How did the piece take final shape with the editors, VFX artists, animators and compositors?
I consider that a director's work doesn't end with the shoot, especially for this kind of project. I believe it includes all the preparation stages, from the edit to the final post-production phases. Every detail, no matter how small, has an essential narrative and aesthetic part to play. In the same way, during the shoot, I hold the camera and frame all my shots. That's the way I always work.
I'm involved in post in every step until the job is 100 percent completed. That's the way I always work.
Credits on "L'Odyssee"
Cartier International
Agency: Marcel / Wam
Head of TV: Patrick Pauwels
Creative Director: Sébastien Vacherot
Art Director: Emmanuel Lallève
Copy writer: Seyrane Boulekbache
Production Company: Quad Productions
Director: Bruno Aveillan
Executive Producer: Martin Coulais
DOP: Patrick Duroux
VFX: Wizz & Digital District

Published 9 March, 2012

Published 10, March 2012