Framestore Pictures Director Anh Vu brings her unique aesthetic to Macy’s once again for its 2021 back to school campaign, encouraging kids and their families to dust off and head back to school in style after lengthy COVID-related lockdowns and a disrupted year of learning.
Joining forces with creative agency Major Behavior, ‘Dust Yourself Off’ acknowledges that everyone could use a bit of polishing off as they reenter their respective classrooms, harnessing that energy through dynamic color, camera moves and a nod to social videos.
Vu led the team across a number of challenging elements, factoring in pandemic restrictions that led to the campaign being shot in Kyiv, Ukraine. From casting the young actors, all the way through to directing their performances and overseeing the upbeat choreography throughout each scene.
“I was thrilled to be working alongside Ken Erke and the team at Major Behavior once again for Macy’s,” said Vu. “It was such a fun opportunity to explore a new visual language that speaks to what kids are consuming right now. Visually manifesting the dust and being able to show the kids shake it off of their clothes was very challenging to conceptualize. After exploring multiple routes, including full CG effects, we opted for a more in-camera FX approach and combined dynamic transitions to seamlessly reveal the new outfits.”
The transition shots between scenes involved extensive pre-planning, seeing Vu work closely with Framestore’s VFX and production teams and referencing numerous social clips from TikTok to Instagram to achieve a polished, yet homemade, aesthetic. Multiple tests were undertaken in order for both VFX and practical effects to nail down the look and feel of the dust particles featured throughout the spot, and in particular how they would translate from one shot to the next.
“The challenge with the VFX on this commercial was twofold; planning the transitions between dusty and clean environments, as well as creating CG dust to enhance the practical effects in a way that would add fluidity and motion to the transitions themselves,” said Framestore 2D Lead, Ruairi Twohig. “The 2D and 3D teams worked closely together to achieve the look of the CG simulated dust and how best to integrate it with the stitched transition shots.”
A variety of cameras and rigs were used on set to capture the more dynamic moves, while some of the VFX elements involved working with drone and 360 footage along with the Alexa raw plates to help build out the more complex shots.
The 15-second spots will run on network and cable with a longer form 30-second spot running online and in Macy’s iconic Herald Square store window. The final campaign was graded by Framestore’s very own Simon Bourne.