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LSO: Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano

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Superunion creates first live action film for London Symphony Orchestra
WPP brand agency Superunion today unveils the London Symphony Orchestra’s (LSO) first live action film to mark the launch of its new season campaign: ‘Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano’, a two year exploration of music written during the first four decades of the 20th century.

Superunion collaborated with Found Studio and dancer Ella Robson Guilfoyle to create a dramatic, explosive and tension-fuelled live action film that captures the volatility of the period.

It is the fourth campaign Superunion has worked on with LSO since the launch of its new brand in 2017. All the campaigns have visualised the movement of the baton of the conductor, Sir Simon Rattle. The latest film is the first of the season’s campaigns that uses live action rather than CGI to bring the motion capture to life. In order to stay true to the original brand concept, Ella’s dance was choreographed to replicate the movement of Sir Simon’s baton as he conducts Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

The film was inspired by a literal reinterpretation of the season’s theme ‘Dancing on the edge of a volcano’ and combines abstract and literal moments that fleetingly reveal the dancer in motion.

The filming and production took place over three stages:

Stage one: The fabric dance
Ella danced with fabrics to create the base layer of movement. To ensure Ella faithfully followed Sir Simon’s conducting movement to the 50 second clip of Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring, she choreographed 19 individual ‘bite-size’ sequences. Using the RED Helium camera, each sequence was shot in isolation from above in 5K at 50 frames per second.

Stage two: Pyrotechniques
To reflect the power and explosive moments of the music, Ella choreographed and danced a series of expressive movements with sparklers, flares, smoke grenades and chalk dust. These were also shot from above on the RED Helium camera but this time at 100 frames per second.
Stage three: Post-production
A full-length dance piece was then created from the individual 19 sequences and then retimed to match Sir Simon’s timings. This retimed sequence was then processed with a bespoke echo effect to create a motion trail that fades both in terms of opacity and saturation, creating a fiery flame-like effect.

The film will be used on digital and social platforms, as well as featuring on screens at the Barbican. Stills have been carefully selected for print communications and composed with typography to ensure the dancer can always be seen, just like the film, the stills strike an unusual balance between abstract and literal.

Stuart Radford, Executive Creative Director at Superunion, said: “It’s a very exciting stage of the evolution of the brand identity – since the identity’s inception, almost five years ago, we’ve been talking about using the digital motion data to create a physical expression that we could film. ‘Dancing on the edge of a volcano’ has given us that opportunity and collaborating with Found Studio has seen us take our idea beyond our expectations."

Sir Simon Rattle said: “'Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano’ is a phrase Alban Beg and others used to describe the febrile atmosphere in Germany in the 1930s. It’s an extraordinary expression, one that inspires us to explore what was happening in the musical world in the first half of the 20th century. The era produced some of the darkest music possible. For example Webern’s Six Pieces, which we hear in the opening week, prefigure the future catastrophes: rich, but tiny and intense with the power of hydrochloric acid, they go to the heart of everything. And that’s exactly where we hope to take you this Season.”

Fiona Dinsdale, Head of Marketing, LSO added: “This is a fantastic development of the brand identity established when Sir Simon Rattle became Music Director. This vibrant, surprising film sequence perfectly captures how a London Symphony Orchestra concert can be visually surprising and musically powerful and exciting. Thank you Superunion.”

Mike Sharpe, Creative Director, Found Studio, said: “It is an absolute honour to be a part of such an iconic brand campaign and to be able to use our skills in technical film-making and post-production to evolve the story into a whole new realm and aesthetic.”

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