Lexus International has released the third film in their ongoing Amazing in Motion global branding project — the new video is called STROBE, and it’s quite something:
Even so, there are two differences between STROBE and the previous two films. The biggest change is the inclusion of a Lexus product in the filming — the Lightman finishes his journey on the roof of the RC F super-coupe.
The other thing different about this new commercial? I was behind-the-scenes when it was being filmed in Kuala Lumpur.
By invitation of Lexus International, I travelled to Malaysia to see STROBE being filmed at the beginning of May.
Straight from the airport, it’s off to the first location — a vacant concrete-only building in south Kuala Lumpur transformed by the production team to resemble a lived-in office at night.
As my first experience at a film shoot, it’s amazing to see the co-ordination of so many people working together — this is a full scale production, with hundreds of people all working in unison.
For some perspective, here are two video documentaries of the commercial being filmed:
It’s one thing to see the finished product, and something completely different to see people outfitted in full body light costumes suspended by a crane off the side of a building.
The extreme humidity and complexity of the scaffolding makes the entire process very slow, but no one seems edgy or rushed.
Spending a few moments with director Adam Berg, I remark on the difficulty and am impressed by his response: “If it was easy, we wouldn’t be doing it.”
Speaking frankly, the first two brand films (again, see STEPS & SWARM) came as a real shock to enthusiasts. There were no vehicles or major reveals, just giant puppets and quadrotors and only the tiniest indication that it was related to Lexus at all.
Speak with Lexus executives and two central themes come up. The first is rational — Lexus is trying to reach a very specific audience rooted in the creative community, an audience generally unimpressed by the typical automotive brand commercial but highly influential in shaping the opinions of others.
The second theme is Emotion, which is more abstract and difficult to quantify — Lexus is determined to bring a deeper feeling to their products and to the brand itself.
It’s these two factors that have played a huge role in the development of Lexus’ recent lifestyle initiatives — it’s at the core of Lexus Short Films, the Lexus Design Awards, Intersect by Lexus, and most importantly, it explains the reasoning behind STEPS, SWARM, and STROBE.
Get beyond the positioning and target markets, and the traditional Lexus strengths start to show themselves on the set of STROBE.
There’s craftsmanship in every aspect of the production — you can see it in the elaborate rigging, the highly detailed light costumes, the precision in the posing actors, and the insistence that all footage be shot completely in-camera.
It would have been much easier to create the entire commercial by computer, digitally inserting the Lightman into the cityscape. Post-production could have removed all traces of the wiring harnesses and the cranes and the scaffolding, making the Lightman float effortlessly through the air.
Instead, the difficulty is exposed and the finished product is a showcase of the time and effort required to create something unique. That attention to detail is the very definition of Lexus, at least in my mind.
As an observer in its creation, I was predisposed to enjoying this new commercial, and I’m happy the final cut doesn’t disappoint.
The puzzle of the puppets and quadrotors has given way to a highly visible feat of engineering and ingenuity, and best of all, the RC F manages to tie it all back to the vehicles. This small adjustment gives a good indication that Lexus products and the new brand direction are now at the same stage in their development, and that makes for a more mature, more cohesive result.
Long story short, I liked it. What about you?
My thanks to Lexus International for inviting me to the STROBE filming, including paying for my flight and accomodations.
I would also like to thank CHI & Partners, the agency responsible for the design & development of the Lexus International brand films, for their hospitality and kind patience.
Lastly, a special shout-out to Michael Tripp, Mika Torigaki, Atsushi Takada & Jack Shute for helping create an exceptional experience.