The Spot: Fighting in Technicolor

An ancient Hindu tradition inspires a music festival's multicolored modern promo

Headshot of Tim Nudd

GENESIS: Summadayze, an Australian music festival, chose "Colourfornia" as its theme for 2012 and needed a colorful promo to match. The Drop Studio in Melbourne pitched the idea of having a group of girls fight with colored powder—an homage to the Holi festivals celebrated by Hindus in India, which mark the arrival of spring. "The images from the Holi festivals looked so amazing," said agency founder Nick Thompson, who directed the spot. Thompson decided the best way to film flying powder was in super slow motion—at 1,000 frames per second. At almost two minutes long, the finished piece, epic and surreal, mimics the hallucinatory feeling—tinged with the threat of violence—of being immersed in music within a crowd.

COPYWRITING: A quick script sketched out the fight in broad strokes. "We wanted it to have a loose narrative but not feel overworked," said Thompson. The spot opens with a girl chewing gum and walking aggressively toward the camera. Another smears pink powder under her eyes like war paint. Then all hell breaks loose as groups of girls converge and hurl red, pink, blue, yellow, and green powder at each other in explosions of color. Set pieces of girls flinching at the moment of impact are followed by a lengthy melee and a single moment of violent escalation, as one pulls another by the hair. The spot closes serenely on one girl standing motionless under a rain of green powder, with a rainbow of colors smudged like psychedelic bruises across her face.

ART DIRECTION: Shooting at 1,000 fps requires an intense amount of light rendered in an even tone. Thompson used some 10K tungsten lights and needed even more lighting to get the right glow. In the end, some of the wider shots were too dark and were scrapped. The girls wore oversized white T-shirts, which would pick up the dust and radiate color by the end. They largely did their own (and each other's) makeup.

FILMING: The spot was filmed entirely with a Phantom HD Gold over eight hours in the parking garage of a large warehouse in Melbourne. With 32 gb of memory, the Phantom can shoot at 1,000 fps for only 8.8 seconds. Each time the camera filled up, Thompson had to review the clip, cut it on the spot, and save it. The final shot—getting the green powder to rain consistently across the frame—was the trickiest. After trying various things, including a gutter-like contraption, the team found the best way was just to throw the stuff at the ceiling. "I had wanted to capture that shot as soon as we came up with the idea for the clip, so I was super happy when it worked out," said Thompson. Overall, the shoot was "heaps of fun," he said. "Watching the playback live on set with everyone was great. It meant the girls could see exactly what we were trying to achieve."

TALENT: All the girls were from Melbourne. None of them was signed to modeling or acting agencies. "The client really wanted to use some fresh faces, rather than girls who have been in other campaigns," said Thompson.

SOUND: The music is Calvin Harris' driving 2007 electronic track "Colours." The lyrics are perfect: "No, I don't care what you dress like/Or what you wear/But please make sure, baby/You've got some colours in there." Harris, a Scottish musician, is also headlining at Summadayze 2012, making the song an even more ideal choice.

MEDIA: The clip is running on YouTube and Facebook, and on the Summadayze 2012 website.



Client: Summadayze 2012

Spot: "Colourfornia"

Agency: The Drop Studio, Melbourne, Australia

Director: Nick Thompson

Assistant Director: Josh Thompson

Creative Director: Peter Deering

Executive Producer: Nick Foley

Producer: Chris Lansell

Post Production: The Pixel Kitchen

Editor: Marty Gilchrist

Cinematographer: Matt Wood

Cinematographer: Mark Morris

First Assistant Camera: Thomas Formosa-Doyle

Music: Calvin Harris, "Colours"

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.