180Amsterdam vs. Koichiro Tsujikawa

A new advert for smartphone manufacturer HTC has been making the rounds lately. It’s a beautifully realized mini-narrative starring a pair of dexterous fingers as they walk, climb and skate through several lushly detailed miniature scenes.

I was pretty excited about sharing it with you, gentle readers, until I was shown this 2001 Cornelius music video from the amazingly talented Koichiro Tsujikawa:

I’ve rambled here on Motionographer plenty about the complexities of simultaneous invention and the dangers of over-applying the term “rip-off.” Usually, the accusation is delivered in black-and-white when the truth is a mottled mess of gray, especially when one’s perspective is enlarged to include the entire history of design and art—which, given a dash of cyncism, could be read as one long series of “rip-offs” following another.

A cursory search on YouTube turned up another finger-walking ad that contains a Billy Jean sequence with a lighted floor strongly reminiscent of the Saturday Night Fever sequence in the HTC advert.

I asked agency 180Amsterdam if Koichiro Tsujikawa’s video was an inspiration, but I haven’t heard back yet. His name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the press release or credits, despite many striking similarities. (There’s even a skating sequence.) I promise to relay anything I hear from them to you.

“Set Your Fingers Free” credits

About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com
Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.

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21 Comments

Matthew Bennett

It’s a deserving rip off, ’cause its so well executed. I did this idea once too, but it never got beyond the testing phase. With the exception: I had little soft boots that were originally made for mid-size GIJOE figure. The boots fit on the ends of the fingers, and really added a feeling of legs and walking to the action. If I can find it I’ll upload it.

Matthew Bennett

Also thanks as always for the interesting post.

boca

hmmmmmmmm….

Marc B.

If this ain’t a rip off what then?

mtgentry

Marc B, it’s not that blatant. The concept is something everyone has done before with their fingers. I would say the Kozyndan controversy from a few months back raised many more eyebrows than this, and rightfully so.

yogert909

Thanks Justin for an even-handed description. There are so many dimensions to judging a ripoff. Of course the fingers walking looks very similar in the two spots, but who hasn’t walked their fingers across a table and made some sort of narrative out of it? ..and how easy is it to marry that idea with that of a cell phone?

My guess is that most of the people who might say ripoff would have a hard time coming up with the same spot if they were told that they MUST rip off a cornelius video.

Of course I would be that much more impressed if I hadn’t seen the Tsujikawa video.

martz

the product looks like a rip off of an iphone…

oh and i did some research and this is the original video that started it all:

Simon Robson

Like Matthew Bennett, I did a test animation for the ‘Taking Liberties’ film involving a hand walking aross the screen and tapping someone on the shoulder to symbolize the interference of the state in everyday life. The walking hand thing works in some many ways to convey so many ideas…The skating part is perhaps where things get a bit close, but again, if i were given a brief and asked to come up with loads of things a walking hand could do, I may well have come up with skating as well as skateboarding:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUj9GQKL5bw
snowboarding:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xn7LJ2Kn18

etc etc etc.

As mtgentry says, my eyebrows were raised mare at the kozyndan controvery…

Lilian

And lets not forget ‘yellow pages’, universally recognised concept of ‘let your fingers do the walking’.

What excited me is actually the full credits. Shot in Sydney! Commissioned by an agency in Amsterdam! I love the idea of our industry erasing the geographical boundaries like this. Awsum. :)

Simon Robson

and for that matter:

zeniamai

This is really not blatant rip-off however the idea is not original. Fingers mimicking a person walking past life is one idea that has been used and reused.

najork

Both nice pieces, but totally different to my eye. The commercial’s main emphasis is on clever impossible scene changes. The music vid is all about communicating tactile sensation.

Pretty common stuff to mess around with of course.
An experiment I did like 2 years ago…

theCursiveL

did I hear battle….?

mfh

Presenting this as a rip-off even with the disclaimer sets the tone for a debate about how this was or wasn’t a rip-off.

From my eyes theres no actual evidence that there is at all. It may or may not have been inspired by. In both pieces it’s a pretty clear stream of consciousness about a simple concept (that everyone has done in their life) that used the techniques and technology that is available in our field. Similarities arise because the concept is the same… The concept is the same because it’s relevant and we’ve all walked our fingers across something before which makes it a universal concept.

If this post was presented as Look at this spot and hey, look at some more fun with hands then there wouldn’t be this tone of controversy about it.

justin

I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments on this post. They’re pretty fair and even-handed. But I definitely think there’s room for some debate here.

While the concept is nothing new (fingers acting like a person), 180Amsterdam’s camera framing and direction of the hand-talent is nearly *identical* to the Cornelius vid. It’s seems as though they were referring to the Cornelius vid when they were developing their boards and planning their shots. I mean, c’mon, it’s a straight-on side view, with the fingers taking up the same amount of the frame, consistently moving in one direction (albeit in an opposite direction).

It’s also incredibly odd that both have an ice-skating sequence in which the hand behaves almost exactly the same way.

That fact that I still haven’t heard back from 180Amsterdam on this project only raises my suspicions a little further.

Marc B.

Bravo justin couldn’t have said it better.

Marc B.

Oh by the way justin what about the partizan directors involved in this? Did you contact partizan?

mfh

Theres always room for debate, and the piece definately could be completely *inspired*, but still to me everything seems the way it is because that’s the best answer. If you were to ask 20 competant directors the same question with the same concept, I think that you’d find a lot of similarity.

The framing I disagree on. There’s a big difference between the two as one is pretty extreme close-up and the other is as wide as you could possibly get it without it being an arm. In one the camera keeps the subject centered, where the other allows it to meander around.

Both have profile side shots with with similar posturing but given the environment I think that’s the best and easiest way to present the narrative (i think after initial tests the vast majority of directors would do it this way)

The posturing is similar for sure, but again that could be due to the fact that theres only so many ways to personify a hand. Both move in one direction to establish a seamless background. I would say that if you were to change directions in either piece and it would break flow. As for the skating shot I agree with Simon. You have to come up with so many activities that you can do with just your hands and it’s by no means a stretch to have those similarities.

You may be right, but I wouldn’t say it’s any more likely than you being completely wrong.

bumfluff

Too much media…new forums for viewing content…all have an implication for ‘ripping’ I think the term gets used too frequently. No such thing as a new idea. Also as most of us work (there or thereabouts) with advertising, can we expect anything other than plagiarism (blatant or not) in a time of increased access to visual reference and decreased trust from clients. ‘That’s advertising folks!’ We all know the score – if we’re bothered too much we should maybe try to become Bill Viola and maintain integrity.

dannyyount

I don’t agree with those who are dismissing the ripoff – this is how advertising works. They bring to the client references and an idea (that is usually based on some of those references), instead of trying to do something fresh (or even disguise their sources).

What I like about this post is the challenge for all of us to make something we can “own” intellectually and be proud of, instead of ripping others off for the sake of financial or personal gain.

matt

I believe there are a couple of Ford ads in this style for the G-Series in NZ and Aus. Not done with miniature sets but comped into live backgrounds.

Comments are closed.