1st Ave. Machine: Audi ‘Unboxed’


Happy 2009 to everyone! The folks at 1st Ave Machine and Passion Pictures are ringing in the new year with “Unboxed“, an imaginative commercial for the Audi Q5. Not your typical car advertisement, the spot effortlessly combines traditional and 3D animation. I’m particularly a fan of nice touches like the camera racking focus from the character’s face to his hands and back to his face.

The two co-directors, Aaron Duffy (1st Ave Machine) and Russell Brooke (Passion Pictures), divided their roles on the project. Duffy took responsibility for the overall vision for the spot and the transformation of the car, and Brooke for the 2D drawn character.

Aaron was kind enough to answer a couple questions:

How did you coordinate between the cel and 3D animation?
The first step was to choose a design for the character. Russell Brooke, who co-directed the spot with me, did dozens of designs for the folks at BBH to look at. It did not take us long to settle on our final character, whom we decided was a good balance between charming and industrious. As I built the story boards I worked with Russell to make sure that our character would feel “comfortable” performing all of his tasks as he builds the car. As we went into 3D design the 2D animators were able to use printed frames of the animatic to estimate how the character would look on the form. When a piece of the 2D animation was finished we would UV map it onto the 3D animation and move it around until it fit appropriately.

Were any elements shot or was it all 3D? What software was used?
The final spot is a combination of live action (filmed) environment, 3D animation and 2D cel animation. Nothing in the final product was shot practically. However, I did shoot a lot of little stop-motion tests along the way to figure out how to manipulate the cardboard properly.

The software we used was XSI and Nuke.

How many cardboard boxes were sacrificed for the cause?
My space at Passion Pictures was a constant cardboard mess. But that was the best part. It was very important to me that the construction of the car felt like real tactile moments. I made paper and cardboard models of every stage of the animation so that the translation to 3D would be accurate. In the end it was extremely important to work from cardboard models because it is impossible to make all the unpredictable wrinkles and bends from scratch. Having the bending cardboard mechanisms in front of us dictated how the 3D forms were animated and textured and how the character’s face and arms would bend with it.

The collaboration involved in this project was particularly fun. It was our first project as 1stAve UK and working with the folks at Passion Pictures was like a dream. There was a lot of good input and good times all the way through and I can’t wait to do it again.

Title: “Unboxed”
Length: 1 x 60
Client: Audi
Product: Audi Q5
Agency: BBH
Creative Directors: Nick Kidney, Kevin Stark
Creatives: Maja Fernqvist, Joakim Saul
Producer: Olly Chapman
Music: “The Car Song” Woody Guthrie
Production Co: Co-produced by Passion Pictures + 1st Ave Machine
Co-directors: Aaron Duffy (1st Ave), Russell Brooke (Passion)
Creative Director: Arvind Palep, (1st Ave)
Producer: Belinda Blacklock, Anna Lord
Exec Producer: Serge Patzak (1st Ave), Michael Adamo (Passion)
Animation: Passion Pictures

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Finally, a car commercial different from the usual glossy 3d crap. This is fresh, fun, and quite revealing… nice work 1st Ave, way to start the new year.


Here here! Yes, definitely a refresh car commercial… :)


… Charming.
Intelligent, grabs your attention without much fuss or drama.
A winner!

A SMILE on anyones face, I believe!


Creative review was not feeling it much apparently…



That CR article focused entirely on the music (through a rather cynical lens, I might add); it wasn’t really about the gestalt of the spot at all.

My favorite question that CR asked: “CR: Are creatives looking to stand out with their choice of soundtrack or follow a trend?”

*slaps forehead


how very zeitgeisty.


this CR article is pointless. its focusing on music as the main point of similarity in commercials, but they are too much into motion-graphism to see that almost everything in commercial nowadays is close to the previous ad, and not so different from the next one. Come on guys, folk music, is that all you’ve got ? At least be fair and point out that we are all doing pretty much the same commercial we’ve done, or someone’s done already.

Concerning Audi, Saul Steinberg was an inspiration from the agency i guess, they should mention it, but hey, we all know how it works…
And its a good one, so…


Wow. Woody Guthrie is such a sell out.


I like it, I love it, I think I’ll marry it.


fantastic work.

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