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17th April 2013
Art of speed solving
Title of film: National Geographic Channel TV Spot – The 80s: The Decade That Made Us
Director: Hoku and Adam
Production Company: Partizan
Hoku and Adam talk about the complexities of creating this spinning Rubik's cube film in camera. See the clever calculations in Related Content

The Rubik’s cube is a great tool to use as a changing backdrop for the historical film. Where did the idea come from and what was the original brief?

Hoku: It’s a brilliant concept and we’d LOVE to take credit for it, but we can’t. The concept was created by the very talented Tom Prendergast and Joe Stamp at The Corner.

The brief came to Adam and I as we were finishing another job and we immediately had this sentiment of “My God, this is awesome. We really want this one.”

The original brief was the basic concept: 80s cultural touchstones on a Rubik’s cube. But the structure of the spot and the content on the cubes have changed a good deal since then.

How complicated was it to execute? Can you tell us about the nitty gritty of the production please?

Hoku: It was surprisingly complicated! It was a little like our Evelyn Evelyn video where when you first think of the concept you go “that sounds simple enough”. But you think about it for a few more minutes and the kinks begin to arise.

One thing we all agreed on at the top was that we were attracted to doing as much as possible on this spot in camera, with as little post trickery as possible. Which meant the planning had to be very precise.

You start with an image, but then you have to think about how the cube is going to be manipulated to FIND that image (the right column will turn twice – the bottom row will turn once, etc…). So then you deconstruct the image accordingly and find where to put these stickers on the cube so they’ll come together properly. Then throw in a subsequent image and where that fits on the cube, and you’ve got a lot of intense problem-solving on your hands.

You have to find ways to manipulate the thing so the images can animate a little and feel alive – it’s not a slide show.

It should be said that save for the stock footage comped on, all the images you see are stickers, physically on the cube, and not green screen.

There is post work done on the spot in After Effects, but everything you see was captured in camera, nothing built whole cloth of CG or anything.

Creatively, it was challenging presenting big, nostalgic moments on such a small, limiting canvas, but it was an exciting challenge. And when you click on ideas that work, it’s powerful.

We also worked closely in developing some of the more complicated cube manipulations with this amazing speed cuber, Simon Crawford from Nottingham. He’s one of the best in the world. There’s this whole underground world of competitive Rubik’s cube speed solving. He can solve a cube in under 15 seconds and he’s the pair of hands that you see.

My (Hoku’s) Mom is a dance director. And what Simon does looks like dance to us. We would work with his timing like you would dance. Everything’s got rhythm.


National Geographic Channel TV Spot - The 80s: The Decade That Made Us

Directed by Hoku & Adam Produced by Partizan Producer Henry Scholfield Production Manager: Alex Halley Production Assistant: Leo Green Client: Emanual Madeddu, marketing director, National Geographic Channel Creative Advertising Agency: The Corner Creative Director: Tom Ewart Creative Team: Tom Prendergast and Joe Stamp Producer: Spru Rowland Designer Rob Russell Business Director: Oliver Morgan Sound Design: Adelphoi Cuber: Simon Crawford