The Spot: Stereoscopic Love

Leonard Cohen narrates Sony's tribute to the emotional power of 3-D viewing

GENESIS: Most ads for 3-D televisions pitch a visually spectacular experience. Sony wanted to make a more emotional appeal, focused less on what the device projects and more on feelings the viewer projects back. "People want to be closer to the things they love. This is why 3-D technology was invented," says Nils Leonard, executive creative director at Grey London. "We wanted to showcase 3-D in a way that didn't involve flying cars or cowboys coming out of the screen." The agency began with an original poem about love and destiny by Leonard Cohen (a Sony artist), who agreed to narrate it for the voiceover. It then hired director Arev Manoukian to craft a 60-second visual story around it—essentially a shorter version of his celebrated 3:30 short film Nuit Blanche, a slow-motion, black-and-white, hyper-stylized paean to love at first glance. In the spot, a man and woman glimpse each other from across a street. Their worlds literally explode, as they slowly walk through chaos to the middle of the street and move in to kiss—a tribute to the power of love, and its lifelike simulacrum on 3-D film.

COPYWRITING: Cohen adapted lines from his poem "A Thousand Kisses Deep" for his gravelly voiceover. He reads: "Don't matter if the road is long, don't matter if it's steep/Don't matter if the page is gone, it's written that we'll meet/I loved you when you opened like a lily to the heat/And I'll love you when it closes, a thousand kisses deep/I know you had to lie to me, I know you had to cheat/You learned it on your father's knee, at your mother's feet/But did you have to fight your way across the burning street/Where all our vital interests lay, a thousand kisses deep."

"Our first concern was creating something visually that would do justice to the poem. Leonard is a true creative visionary," says Grey's Leonard. The characters start off in normal life—he's studying in a library, she's the last person to leave the office—before their worlds come crashing down in what Leonard calls a "hyper-romantic environment." "Nothing physical matters to them anymore," says Manoukian. "They enter this surreal fantasy and move toward each other with this magnetic inertia." There's no dialogue. "Don't just watch. Feel," says the on-screen tagline at the end.

ART DIRECTION: The global spot is set in a modern city that could be anywhere—"somewhere where the drama could unfold with maximum effect, where beauty and romance would stand out," says Leonard. Much of the world is digital, but all of the organic elements—the rubble, smoke, books, explosions and sparks, and of course the man and woman—were filmed in camera at super high speeds of between 500 and 2,500 frames per second. This required a huge amount of light—more than a half-million watts of power for a close-up.

FILMING: Production took just under a year, with the live shoot in Toronto. The camera movements are all about getting closer. Digital Domain handled the visual effects, working off the agency's pre-viz. Everything on screen was modeled and rendered in 3-D. There were no matte paintings or image projections.

TALENT: Cohen's words bring a raw human emotion, which balances the technically impressive visuals. The American actor and Canadian actress were chosen for their classic "timeless and filmic" looks, says Leonard.

SOUND: The British composer Clint Mansell, a frequent collaborator of film director Darren Aronofsky, wrote the music—his first commercial after doing Black Swan. The epic, swelling piano and orchestral score moves slowly, a lush bed for Cohen's poetry. The music and voiceover are everything—there is no sound design matched to the visuals.