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Conducting an orchestra is a physical activity, one based in passion and musical precision. The action of the London Symphony Orchestra’s conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, is the basis for a surreal launch spot for the LSO’s season campaign, ‘Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano.’

WPP brand agency Superunion unveiled the first live action film to mark the launch of its new season campaign, a two-year exploration of music written during the first four decades of the 20th century.

Superunion collaborated with Found Studio and dancer Ella Robson Guilfoyle to create a dramatically beautiful, explosive and mesmerizing live action film that captures the musical action.

This is the fourth campaign Superunion has worked on with LSO since the launch of its new brand in 2017. All the campaigns have visualised the movement of the baton conductor Rattle, but the latest film is the first to use live action rather than CGI to bring the motion capture to life. In order to stay true to the original brand concept, Guilfoyle’s dance was choreographed to replicate the movement of Sir Simon’s baton as he conducted Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

The filming and production took place over three stages, which are chronicled in a series of making-of videos. First was the fabric dance, where Guilfoyle danced with fabrics to create the base layer of movement. To ensure Ella followed Rattle’s conducting movement to the 50-second clip of music, she choreographed 19 individual ‘bite-size’ sequences. Using the RED Helium camera, each sequence was shot in isolation from above in 5K at 50 frames per second.

In stage two, the dancer highlighted the explosive moments in the music with expressive movements with sparklers, flares, smoke grenades and chalk dust. These were shot at 100 frames per second.

LSO Pyrotechnics
LSO pyrotechnics footage
 
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In post-production, a full-length dance piece was created from the individual 19 sequences and then retimed to match Sir Simon’s timings. This retimed sequence was then processed with a bespoke echo effect to create a fiery flame-like effect. The result is one where the dancer becomes an extension of the baton in an abstractly beautiful fashion.

The film will be used on digital and social platforms, as well as featuring on screens at the Barbican.

Stuart Radford, executive creative director at Superunion, said: “It’s a very exciting stage of the evolution of the brand identity – since the identity’s inception, almost five years ago, we’ve been talking about using the digital motion data to create a physical expression that we could film. ‘Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano’ has given us that opportunity and collaborating with Found Studio has seen us take our idea beyond our expectations."

Sir Simon Rattle added: “'Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano’ is a phrase Alban Beg and others used to describe the febrile atmosphere in Germany in the 1930s. It’s an extraordinary expression, one that inspires us to explore what was happening in the musical world in the first half of the 20th century. The era produced some of the darkest music possible.”

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