Keeping up-to-date at HAT

August 7, 2015 / Features

By Jane Jarvis

Today's digital archives are built on creaking old machines and arcane knowledge.

Digital archives are where two very different worlds collide. In order to provide videos that stream through your fibre optic broadband in seconds, hours and even days must be spent in a windowless, climate-controlled room full of whirring machines, some obsolete for decades which require manual loading and expertise that’s becoming more arcane by the day.

But in this fast moving digital age of mov, avi, mp4, mkv, dav and dat files (to name but a few), it is worth reminding ourselves of the work needed by all media archives to ensure access to such a valuable part of our industry and social history is secured. Viewing and transferring to digital from a wide variety of formats is no mean feat.

With online access to our archives the priority, digitisation has become the (current?) solution to the obsolescence of all analogue audio and video formats. But to ensure the archive of the last century can move forward in this digital intensive environment, archives have come to rely on what are the ‘scrap yards’ of outmoded machines.  Think ebay, Gumtree, sale yards, even car boot sales and of course, TV and production houses where large, clunky analogue machines lie unused as victims of the digital age.

The History of Advertising Trust, the ad industry’s archive and barometer of social history holds all manner of images, film and documents charting the world of advertising since the early 19th century right through to recent years. To keep this unique archive up to date HAT is constantly on the look out for a host of specialist machines considered ‘old fashioned’ and redundant in the fast moving hi-tech environment of TV and production studios as they seek to de-clutter and rework their space.  Thankfully, these machines were built to last and designed for heavy use in editing suites with tapes freeze framed, rewound and played back again and again -  many make it to HAT who, paradoxically benefit from media’s technological progress, to continue their work in ‘retirement’,

Over the last four decades, HAT have built up a working ‘museum’ of equipment of all ages, shapes and sizes in their media suite. When Anglia TV closed its production studios a few years ago, HAT were delighted to take on a host of equipment including digi beta players, monitors and a one-inch tape machine but is always on the lookout for more specialist equipment including time base correctors, Steenbecks or any other equipment – indeed, for HAT, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

But it’s not just the equipment that is required. People who have a specialist knowledge to understand, operate and maintain the equipment play a crucial role in the archive’s work. These skills are disappearing as new technology replaces the old and with the threat that the future of analogue transfers relies on highly skilled people, we have to acknowledge that these specialists are a breed which will slowly become extinct.

Archive Technician Tim Day at work with the 1” tape machine at HAT


One such specialist, Tim Day joined the HAT team in November 2012 as an enthusiastic volunteer with experience working in International Broadcast Facilities in London as a VT operator in the late ‘90s. HAT soon recognised the value of his specialist knowledge of early technology and understanding of all formats and in May 2013 Tim joined HAT as their replacement  Archive Technician to work on the digitisation of their archive. Tim’s work involves patience, dedication and attention to detail to ensure the industry’s archive is preserved and, just as importantly, accessible to the industry. It’s a fairly unique job and one that Tim, like his HAT colleagues, feels passionate about. Transferring at ‘real time’ requires patience and constant monitoring and Tim looks on it as a labour of love.

“When I first came to HAT as a volunteer I had no idea of the extent of their archive and to be able to join the team and use my skills all these years later, working with analogue formats and machinery, which I thought I would never see - let alone use again, is fantastic.”

So are we on borrowed time to digitise our analogue formats  before these wonderful machines expire and the knowledge to operate them goes with them…? As a charity, HAT is always keen to welcome volunteers to the fold who might have worked in the industry and can give even a small amount of time to assist the staff and, more importantly,  educate a new generation to support HAT’s valuable work and so avoid this dilemma.

High Five: August

August 6, 2015 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Have a giggle, paid for by these big brands.

Our pick of the best ads of this month are fun pieces of film that you might actually enjoy watching. The brands who paid for them want your money and they’re happy to pay for your amusement if it means you’re more likely to give you their custom. As consumers we’re the kings and queens that the court jester brands are desperate to please. What an ego trip that is.

Brand: Foster’s
Title: Cheerleader
Production Company: Independent
Director: Gary Freedman (The Glue Society)
Production Company Producer: Jason Kemp
Director of Photography: Ryley Brown
Ad Agency: adam&eveDDB
Creative Director: Ben Priest
Creatives: Colin Booth, Ben Stilitz
Agency Producer: Louise Richardson
Editing Company: Playroom
Editor: Adam Spivey
Post Production Company: The Mill

Foster’s - Cheerleader

So this is what post-blokey Foster’s advertising looks like. They may have got rid of the Aussie stereotypes a bit, but they’ve still got the right tone of humour in this mockumentary ad. Clever casting has made sure the hero looks totally out of place and the dialogue is well timed. It may not have been the most socially progressive campaign, but Brad and Dan’s bro-down of a call centre won the IPA Effectiveness Grand Prix last year. Will this new, less conventionally masculine approach deliver the same value for the client?


Brand: Harvey Nichols
Title: Shoplifters
Production Company: Blinkink
Executive Producer: Bart Yates
Director: Layzell Bros
Ad Agency: adam&eveDDB
Creative Directors: Ben Tollett, Richard Brim
Creatives: Colin Booth, Ben Stilitz
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Anne Perri
Sound Company: Wave
Post Production Company: Blinkink Studio

Harvey Nichols – Shoplifters

This is a neat little idea that amazingly, after 60 years of TV advertising, hasn’t been done yet. It’s compelling in the sadistic, guilty-pleasure way that shows like Road Wars and Cop Squad are. The animations the Layzell Bros have used to protect the identities of these rapscallions are a fun touch too and give the whole idea a cheeky charm. And it’s true, who hasn’t fallen in love with a £770 butterfly T-shirt while perusing Harvey Nicks and considered stuffing it into their haversack? The advertised rewards might just allow you to afford it.


Brand: Lotto
Title: Please Not Them
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Jeff Low
Production Company Producer: Kwok Yau
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Creative Directors: Alex Grieve, Adrian Rossi 
Creatives: Tim Riley, Charlotte Adorjan, Michael Jones
Agency Producer: Matt Towell
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Saam Hodivala
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: The Mill

Lotto – Please Not Them (Katie Price)

This series is a good laugh and its widely despised subjects (Piers Morgan and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen complete the set) are surprisingly good sports. Jeff Low has done an admirable job getting them to caricature themselves, accentuating the bits we all love to hate. The idea has some logic to it – if you don’t play the Lotto you can be sure some self-obsessed arse clown will – although it’s hard to believe any of these particular idiots are struggling for money. They’ve managed to con people into paying them for behaving like this.


Brand: MoneySuperMarket
Title: Colin
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Noam Murro
Production Company Producer: Andrew Denyer
Director of Photography: Eric Schmidt
Ad Agency: Mother
Editing Company: Work
Editor:  Neil Smith
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Robson
Post Production Company: MPC

MoneySuperMarket – Colin

Advertisers seem well into dismantling norms of masculinity at the moment. It’s cool. And understandable – it’s the sort of strategy that wins awards. It may well also reflect the metamorphosis the modern man is going through in the 21st Century. We’ve broken free of the age of Nuts and Zoo. Men can eat salads in public now. Dave’s ample booty went down very well last year, so Colin’s steamy routine, amusingly caught on camera, is probably going to be popular too.


Brand: Samsung
Title: Surf
Production Company: Stink
Director: Eliot Rausch
Production Company Producer: Jennifer Barrons
Directors of Photography: Alexis Zabe, Daren Crawford
Ad Agency: 72andSunny
Editing Company: Whitehouse Post
Editor: Russell Icke
Creative Director: Paulo Martins
Creatives: Yann Corlay, Patric Franz
Agency Producers: Peter Williams, Eline Bakker
Post Production Company: Glassworks

Samsung – Surf

It’s as bold move to make an ad about surfing. Comparisons against the official best ad ever are usually best avoided. But this is just a stunningly good-looking film about a particularly cinematic sport. The script is a little cheesy but powerfully conveys the passion surfers feel for their way of life. Working with the World Surf League, they’ve got it just right. Credit to Eliot Rausch, this sort of film lives or dies on how its directed and he’s filled it with humanity and beauty.

Does the Lexus Hoverboard Deserve the Hype?

August 5, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Space-age engineering projects like this might be a glimpse into the future of advertising.

Imagine a car commercial. It’s probably got a car in it – the one that it’s trying to sell to you. It’s probably a 30- to 60-second film playing in a commercial break on TV or before a film. It’s probably shot very nicely with a big crew and a high production budget. And it’s probably completely failing to hold your attention.

There’s room for those ads, but that’s not what Lexus and their agency CHI & Partners have been doing in their most recent global campaign. They’ve chosen to do something more futuristic. As the fourth and arguably most ambitious project in their Amazing in Motion series, the Japanese car brand and their agency have built a hoverboard.

The main video of the campaign, called Slide, hit the internet this week. Directed by Smuggler’s Henry-Alex Rubin, it shows pro skateboarder Ross McGouran gliding around on it in effortless skate-film style. “He’s the only person in the world to have mastered the art of hoverboarding,” says Sarah Golding, CHI & Partners’ CEO at a launch event for the film. That’s a big claim, but he’s certainly come the closest out of anyone to achieving the Marty McFly dream.

Brand / Client: Lexus International
Title of Ad: SLIDE
Executive Creative Director: Jonathan Burley
Creative Director: Monty Verdi
Creative: Brad Woolf, Dan Bailey
Photographer: Olly Burn
Photographer’s Assistant: Hannah Rose
Agency Executive Producer: Zoe Barlow
Agency TV Producer: Zoe Barlow, Nikki Cramphorn, Nicola Ridley, Matt Cresswell, Lindsay Hughes
Agency Content Producer: Karina Aloupi
Digital & Content Creatives: Chad Warner, Ben da Costa
Digital Designer: Chad Warner
Production Company: Smuggler
Executive Producers: Fergus Brown/Chris Barrett
Production Company Producer: Ray Leakey
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Director’s Assistant: Sarah Michler
Cinematographer/DOP: Ken Seng
Production Designer: Joel Collins
Rider/Hoverboarder: Ross McGouran
2nd Rider/Hoverboarder: Ignacio Morata
Editing Company: Marshall Street Editors
Editor: Spencer Ferszt
Editor Assistant: Jake Armstrong
Local Production Company: Goodgate
Local Production Company Producer: Gordon Mackinnon

Music Artist and Title: Rudimental “Waiting all Night”
Music Company: Platinum Rye
Music Composition:  “Waiting all Night”
Master Recording: Warner Music
Publishing: Bucks Music Group, BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Music Supervisors: Platinum Rye
Music Writer: Edward Jonathan Harris, Kesi Dryden, Piers Sean Aggett, Amir Izadkhah, James Richard Newman
Post Production Company: MPC
VFX Supervisor: Bill McNamara
Post Production Supervisor: Tim Phillips
Colourist: Jean-Clement Soret
Audio Post Production: Wave Studios
Sound Design: Parv Thind

Content Production Company: Carbon
Head of Carbon: Chris Reed
Content Director: Ben Hanson, Simon Frost
Content: With special thanks to Henry-Alex Rubin
Content Producer: Nazneen Hosenie
Content DOP: Ben Hanson, Simon Frost, James Blann (Announce only)
Content Editor: Simon Pearson, Pete Brenan, Alastair Graham
Content Colourist: Simon Pearson
Content Post Production Producer: Leanne Tarvin
Content Graphic Animator and Supervisor: Thomas Brady
Content Post Production: Kerry Arif, Aubrey Ghansah
Content Audio/Sound Design: Russell Bradley @ Scramble
Art Buyer: Emma Modler
CHI&Partners CEO: Nick Howarth
CHI&Partners Business Director: Jack Shute
CHI&Partners Account Director: Catherine Peacock
CHI&Partners Account Manager: Chris Tivey, Lexi Alston
CHI&Partners Planner: Rebecca Munds
Public Relations: Nita Rushi

Digital Content Strategy: AllTogetherNow
AllTogetherNow CEO: Conor McNicholas
AllTogetherNow MD: Steve Parker
AllTogetherNow Account Director: James Chanter

Model Maker: Robert Jones
Model Maker Assistant: Glenn Haddock
Production Designer: Joel Collins

Technical Partners: IFW Dresden and Evico GmbH
Evico GmbH CEO: Dr Oliver De Haas
Evico GmbH Chief Engineer, Hoverboard: Dr Lars Kühn
Evico GmbH Engineer, Hoverboard: Marcel Hüpfel
Evico GmbH Engineer, Hoverboard: Kai Günther
IFW Dresden, Pioneer of Superconducting Levitation: Dr Ludwig Schultz
IFW Dresden, Chief Engineer Supratrans: Dietmar Berger
IFW Dresden, Scientist: Thilo Espenhahn
IFW Dresden, Engineer: Ronald Uhlemann
IFW Dresden, Student: Stefan Hameister

Client Details: Lexus International; Atsushi

The Lexus hoverboard works with liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and magnets. Tiles of yttrium, barium, copper, and oxygen are cooled down to around -197 degrees Celsius using liquid nitrogen. To levitate, the board must be resting on magnets, which is why Lexus had to build their own custom hoverpark in Catalonia, complete with a magnetic track for the board to follow.

Ross isn’t the first famous skateboarder to try hoverboarding. Last autumn Tony Hawk demonstrated the Kickstarter-funded Hendo hoverboard, sliding around on a copper halfpipe.

The Lexus team claim they weren’t worried about this stealing their thunder. Ross asserts that it was easy to do something more impressive on this project. “As a skateboarder you could see that he couldn’t control it at all,” he says. “With this board I’m not in control of it at all either – I’m just riding it. The track controls where it’s going. [But] you can have more fun with it. You can do more tricks, whereas he couldn’t really do anything.”

CHI & Partners’ Creative Director on the project Monty Verdi agrees that the Hendo board was a good benchmark for them to beat. “We knew what we had was going to be better than that,” he says.

By the point the public saw the Hendo board, Lexus and CHI & Partners were already deep into the development of their board – a gruelling 18-month challenge chronicled by the documentary film Lexus released with their demo video. Working on it for over a year, Monty says the five-minute film could have easily been up to an hour long.

The agency’s Business Director Jack Shute summarises the obstacles the project faced:

“It was a first of every front. It wasn’t like you were taking a proven thing and putting it in an environment where it hadn’t been used before. You’re trying to invent the technology, then trying to develop that into something that exists within a shape that you need it to, then trying to make it ride-able and work with Ross to deliver that, then trying to build the environment that it can exist in, then putting the two together. Every facet of the project is learning at the same time. So every time you solve a problem you get a call at three o’clock in the morning saying ‘this bit’s not working.’”

Negotiations between scientists and engineers, an advertising agency and a skateboarder weren’t always smooth. Monty marvels at the number of times somebody said what they were doing was impossible, from scientists to production companies.

Ross remembers the engineering team repeatedly telling him no. One particular surprise was the jump that serves as the film’s climax. The engineering team didn’t believe it would work, assuming the magnet forces would pull the board in and then even if the board did escape they didn’t think it would reconnect. Ross tried it anyway. “And it worked straight away on his own,” he says. “So we just kept going through things like that. [The engineers] saying no then just trying it anyway.”

Why go to all the trouble just for an ad though? Considering these hoverboards won’t be on sale to the public in the foreseeable future and it certainly doesn’t look like a Lexus hovercar is on the cards, is all this work worthwhile?

Naturally, CHI & Partners defend their decision. Sarah explains her hopes that their achievement will make people “reappraise the Lexus brand and product.” The hope is that when people see Lexus can make a hoverboard they will wonder how this innovative spirit is applied in their cars. If they can overcome this challenge, imagine how well engineered their engines must be.

This strategy falls neatly into the groove several well-regarded brands are moving of marketing through product design and development. Like Volvo’s award-winning and potentially life-saving Life Paint campaign, which promoted a high-visibility paint to make cyclists safer on the roads, Lexus are creating something real rather than simply ‘telling a story’ with their advertising. “Brands that do, not just say, seem to be doing very well these days,” says Sarah. “They’re living their purpose.”

Just as Life Paint reminded us of the safety that Volvo prides itself in, Lexus’ hoverboard reminds us of the cutting-edge innovation that is integral to this Japanese car brand.

In a category full of clichés this approach is particularly interesting. We’ve seen a hundred pretty cars in beautifully shot films cruising through impossibly stunning scenery. Everyone’s bored of these spectacles. For Lexus to deliver what is essentially a skate video with a technological twist is a welcome surprise from the brand that made Alan Partridge’s car (it’s the Japanese Mercedes).

That’s why a pro skateboarder like Ross is a clever choice of brand ambassador. “I think it makes them look cool to a lot of people who probably didn’t think they were very cool,” he admits. Partridge probably wouldn’t get on with him.

The media attention the project has earned Lexus is pretty cool too. Tech publications like The Verge, Engadget and Wired got excited about their teaser video, which earned over 11 million views on YouTube without a penny of media spend or even actually showing the board in action.

It got people talking, which is key to this kind of marketing. “Ross has so many followers that people recognised [his] legs somehow,” says Monty, illustrating how closely the video was scrutinised by the citizens of the internet. And it didn’t take long for the geeks to speculate about the board’s design, deducing from the vapour it emits, it’s behaviour, size and shape that it uses nitrogen-cooled superconductors to levitate the board over magnets. 

Since the Slide film launched the web has been buzzing with conversation about the hoverboard, with articles about it on sites from the Daily Mail to Mashable. Naturally it’s all over social media too, with Lexus getting a spike of roughly seven times the number of daily mentions they’re used to.

The risk with daring the internet to talk about your brand like this is that it has a lot of potential to go wrong. Several articles and some social media opinions have focused on the limitations of the board – that it can only run on a track and has to be fuelled with liquid nitrogen and is hard to balance on. The Verge’s reaction was particularly brutal, summing up that “Even if you can get past the limitations (hope you’ve got a liquid nitrogen tank handy!), it doesn’t really matter, since Lexus won’t sell you one of these things. What we got is movie magic — well, ad magic, in this case — and I got to experience that magic in person.”

The problem is we’re spoilt by the dreams of science fiction. Everyone has an idea of a hoverboard in their mind. It’s the image of Marty McFly gliding effortlessly through the streets of the future. To judge Lexus’ real-life hoverboard by those fictional standards is unfair. Taking real physics and the technology available to us into account, what they’ve achieved is remarkable. Watch the film again. It’s much more exciting than a 30-second film of a car driving through a picturesque mountain pass.