Fernet Branca: An Interview With Laurent Barthelemy

We sat down for a quick interview with Laurent Barthelemy, the director of the beautiful Fernet Branca spot we posted here on Motionographer. Here is the Q&A:

The concept and execution of this piece is very tightly woven with the product. Could you describe the origins of this piece? Was the treatment you received from the agency very open or were you tied to creating a story based around liquid from the start?

The project came from JWT, a very solid ad agency. They had already developed some of the concept with their client. They asked us to think of a way to tell the story of Fernet Branca out of Fernet Branca liquid. After a couple of rounds of storyboards and designs, we won the project, proposing to create a connected story told with a series of elegant imagery, perpetually flowing one after the other.

Considering that this animation is created entirely out of liquid, there is very clear imagery to tell the story as well as a great amount of depth with the liquid. What was your design process like knowing that everything had to eb and flow like liquid. Was there any special design process for this project knowing how specific and challenging the production would be?

Yes. We knew from the start that creating very complex shapes out of he liquid could be very challenging. Our design process took some trial and errors. We had a lot of information to convey. We wanted to say a lot without overwhelming the viewer. But we didn’t want to tell our story with a series of iconic images. The exciting challenge for us, in terms of design, was to stay off the beaten path visually and create a very particular tone for the piece. Fernet Bracnca is known to be a very particular drink. It is more of an upscale connoisseur beverage. So we tried to craft each scene with an elaborate and refined composition, a sense of natural elegance and sophistication.

This spot displays in full Psyop’s ability to develop a great concept as well as the strong technical follow through to bring any treatment to life. This one must have created a specific challenge in that you had to dictate something as natural as a liquid, but still maintain a sense that it real in order to trick the viewer. What would you say was the biggest challenge for you and your team execution wise on what seems like a very challenging spot to create?

The indomitable nature of liquid was the hardest challenge ;) The team used the most powerful tools around and still had to develop their own techniques to be able to create the world we set out to create. We were really in uncharted waters for this project. There were a few attempts at partial rendition of reality with fluid floating around at the time. But, to our knowledge, no one ever made an entire animated world out of liquid. That sense of exploring an unknown territory brought its share of challenges and excitement. We were all very exhausted at the end of the project, but we also felt that we arrived somewhere quite magical.

Obviously there was a lot of technical firepower used to create this spot. Would you mind telling us the tools that you used?

We used a couple of high-end 3D softwares and 2D composting softwares. Our main tool was Softimage XSI. At the time we started the produciton of the spot, XSI had just release a new addition to their 3D package called “Ice”. We knew that this new tool was very powerful and that it had the potential to help us create the world we wanted to create. The learning curve was steep because of the newness and complexity of this particle system. After some accelerated self-training sessions, we started taking advantage of it and it became a major help for us.

From looking through previous work you have directed for Psyop it becomes clear that your style is dictated by the project that you are working on rather then the other way around. This chamelean apporach is surprisingly rare in directors. Would you find this a true statement for your work? If you had to narrow it down to one common thread, what would you think you bring into every project that you direct?

As a commercial director, I am telling a different story every time. And I communicate about a different product every time. So I try to really dive in and create a unique look for each spot. It is a bit like method acting ;) To me, there is a real excitement in exploring different worlds.
My background is animation. And for a long time I’ve had a love for the craft. So, I hope that it is something that can be felt in the pieces I’ve directed. I really enjoy the process and I am very lucky to be working with amazing people here at Psyop. The talent and fervor that everyone brings to each shot really make the spot shine.

Thank you for the interview. Pleasure talking to you Jon.

No No No, thank you Laurent!