Ad of the Day: Lexus Puts On a Dazzling Light Show With Aerial LED Stuntmen

CHI streaks across the night sky in Kuala Lumpur

Nothing says "Lexus" like a guy made of light leaping across the sky.

In "Strobe," an eye-catching minute-long film from CHI & Partners, it seems as if a single shimmering figure is traversing the nightscape of downtown Kuala Lumpur. In fact, dozens of stuntmen and acrobats dressed in LED suits took part in creating the illusion. Using complex rigging and in-camera effects (no CGI), the "illuminated man" appears to vault from rooftop to rooftop, dance across billboards, cartwheel through an empty office and even dive into a high-rise swimming pool.

The film was directed by Adam Berg of Stink Productions, who shot the action over seven nights in April. A pair of behind-the-scenes videos shed (more) light on what it took to make the complicated effort shine.

"Strobe," which will run in the U.S., U.K., Asia and Middle East, is the third impressive entry in CHI's "Amazing in Motion" series, dedicated to "opening Lexus up to a new audience—illustrating not just the brilliant engineering and grace of its products, but also the adventurous, imaginative nature of the brand," says CHI creative director Monty Verdi.

Previous installments "Steps" and "Swarm" dealt with giant metal puppets and copter-bots, respectively. The latter won a bronze Film Lion two weeks ago at Cannes.

All three films are high-wattage affairs that reward repeat viewings. Lexus vehicles only make cameos, which some might criticize as a brand disconnect. I think it's a bright idea that allows the cars to bask in the content's glow without eclipsing the artistry on display.

Below, we asked Verdi a little more about the campaign.

Adweek: Talk a bit about the the process of making the "Strobe" film.

Monty Verdi: There were five full rehearsal days before the shoot, in a giant warehouse in Kuala Lumpur. In the rehearsal studio, we recreated each scene in the ad, making sure each Lightman was at the right height and position to create the illusion of movement.

The shoot itself consisted of seven back-to-back nighttime shoots. We flew in a team of riggers from Thailand who specialized in big stunts and martial arts films that use rigging to suspend performers from wires. They erected vast scaffolding rigs and from those we hung the stuntmen from wires.

Any amusing anecdotes from the shoot?

When we wrapped it turned out a few of the stuntmen could breakdance, so we were treated to a celebration dance in their lightsuits. Also, on the top of the helipad location we were unable to get the scaffolding poles to build the suspension rig, so each piece had to be individually carried up an incredible 32 floors.

What were the biggest challenges or surprises during filming?

One of the biggest challenges was the 40-degree (Celsius, or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) heat and humidity on the shoot days, with performers wearing lightsuits made of seven layers that were heating up as light travelled through them. It was incredibly physically demanding for the performers, who were held up for long periods—some suspended upside down or with individual limbs held in precise positions by wires. We needed to have giant fans and air-conditioning units constantly keeping them cool as the light sequence created the motion.

Every night, we battled to get the shots we needed before the sun came up. Some setups would take up to seven hours to get everyone into position—but luckily we came away with all the shots we needed.

Creating a lightsuit that would work underwater was another big technical challenge. All the electronics had to be sealed off.

This film is about aspects of Lexus, but it doesn't indulge in car-ad clichés like cars racing through dramatic vistas…