- Friday, Oct. 27, 2000
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Paint is a common prop for performance troupe Blue Man Group, whose singular theatrical act incorporates bizarre stunts, percussive music, art and audience interaction.
Paint also serves as a central element of a whimsical Intel Pentium III Processor spot called "Paint," featuring Blue Man Group, out of New York-based agency Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG (MVBMS). The ad was directed by David Kellogg of bicoastal Anonymous in a co-production between Anonymous and Academy Commercials, London.
For the uninitiated, Blue Man Group, which has become a cult event in New York, Chicago, Boston and Las Vegas, was created in Manhattan in the late 1980s by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink. In their act, the three perform as sleek-pated, silent, cobalt-blue alien-like creatures who engage in a variety of unusual activities—e.g., spitting paint-filled gumballs onto a canvas to create "artwork"—in the interest of delivering cultural satire.
Music is also a key part of the spectacle. The group members have a number of homemade instruments made from PVC piping, which they play with paddles or sticks; and they also play drums whose heads hold pools of paint that erupt in fountains of colored spray when struck. The result is a unique form of tribal rock whose driving, industrial rhythms create a strangely hypnotic audio experience.
The same can be said for the music in "Paint"—an original composition which borrows thematic elements off Blue Man Group's '99 album, Audio. The spot's track was composed by Goldman, Stanton and Wink, in collaboration with composers/ arrangers James Wolcott and Tara Gregory of New York-based Wax Music & Sound Design, which recorded and produced the music.
The commercial opens on a wide shot of white background punctuated by three black squares. Two of the Blue Men climb out of two of the black squares, while the other Blue Man enters frame from above. As his cohorts watch earnestly, the lone Blue Man (Wink) rappels down the white wall, painting a neon-green stripe with a paint roller as he descends. The stripe ends just above one of the black squares, creating a makeshift exclamation point. Taking on the challenge, the second Blue Man (Stanton) pushes out a huge catapult that he uses to fire large green paint balls into the air. They splatter against the white canvas, creating another stripe alongside the first.
The two Blue Men then turn to the third (Goldman), who one-ups the previous feats. He picks up a can of green paint and dumps it over his head. Thus adorned, he seats himself in the catapult and launches skyward. He smacks against the canvas and, as his body slides down, it creates the third vertical green stripe. He reaches the ground and collapses, falling backward, out of frame, as his two colleagues stare.
A bit of seamless post wizardry created an extreme zoom backward. Through it the three painted exclamation points become the "III" in the Pentium Processor III supered text that comes up. A voiceover says, "Get the power of three—the Intel Pentium III Processor." The spot concludes with a shot of the Intel logo and Intel's signature four-note music sequence.
"Paint" is one of four spots in a campaign featuring Blue Man Group that also includes "Keys," "Treadmill" and "Rocket Launcher." MVBMS creative director North America Larry Silberfein, who served as copywriter for "Paint," explained that with the current influx of dot-com advertising on the airwaves, Intel and the agency decided they needed a strong branding campaign. "[We needed] something that cut through all the clutter," he pointed out, "and by the end of the commercial, the one thing you'd know for sure was that this was an Intel Pentium III commercial."
Besides Silberfein, the agency team consisted of worldwide creative director/partner Michael Lee, who serves as creative director on Intel; creative director North America Walt Connelly, who was the art director; senior producer Joe Guyt and assistant producer Lia Perretti.
Silberfein added that he can't remember how the idea of Blue Man Group came up. But the creatives realized that the trio was, in some respects, a perfect fit for the client. "On a superficial level, they're blue and the Intel logo is blue," noted Silberfein. "But when we dug deeper, we realized there were very strong similarities between the two. The group's sensibility and approach is very similar to Intel's; they have a sort of tech-y quality about them that Intel has. There's an innovative, fresh approach they have of looking at things ... every time they pick something up, [it's as if] they're exploring it in detail for the first time. Intel also has that sense of being very innovative, very discovery-oriented. Also, the humor of Blue Man Group fit very nicely with Intel's."
The spot was a collaborative effort between the agency, Blue Man Group and Kellogg. After MVBMS created the ad's basic premise, noted Silberfein, the team worked with Wink, Stanton and Goldman, who embellished it. For instance, the original notion of throwing paintballs against the wall was altered to a catapult at the suggestion of the group, which uses one in its act.
The spot was shot over two days at London-based stage Black Island against a 24' x 24' white cyclorama. Among the challenges was the makeup, which ran under prolonged exposure to hot lights. The grease base that Blue Man Group uses in its two-hour-long live show wouldn't hold up for the two-day shoot required by "Paint."
"At one point we were blowing a really fine powder on top of the makeup to dull the shine," said Kellogg. "The next issue became that the [skullcap surface] was so smooth that it reflected the lighting set-up on their heads. We then changed the makeup. But it was incredibly hot for them, and they'd start sweating under their skullcaps. A bunch of water would collect at the base of the skullcaps, and we had to poke holes in them."
Kellogg related that they filmed the spot with the green stripes already painted on the wall. Visual effects supervisor/ Inferno artist/online editor Simon Scott of Santa Monica-based Method traveled to London to oversee the shoot. In the post process, Scott first erased the stripes and then made them gradually reveal themselves in synch with the performers' actions.
One concern was how much splatter should be on the second stripe. "We ended up making these fake splatters that are like the fake vomit things you buy at gag stores," Kellogg recalled. "We also shot separate splats so you could see them hit the wall."
The catapult shot was achieved with a stuntman who was pulled on wires controlled by pulleys. But due to equipment problems, said Kellogg, "The guy was never consistently pulled out of the seat, and you'd have to keep doing it [until you got it right]. Or then the catapult would work great, but maybe the guy didn't wave his arms enough or looked out of control." Still, it was the paint-drenched Goldman who slid down the wall, which was built on an incline. "It was leaning a little bit," noted Kellogg, "so that he'd stay on the wall but also slide down."
Kellogg added that one performer had the flu and another had to deal with a hernia, but ultimately they all came through like champions: "They were totally into it."