the first boy in space

škoda auto

case study

client: skoda auto
creative agency: fallon
director: lieven van baelen
DOP: glynn speeckaert

For the launch of the new Škoda Superb Combi, creative agency Fallon, director Lieven van Baelen, and production company Boogie Films, once again looked to space for inspiration. Continuing on perfectly from the previous spot, ‘Intelligent Life’, this film would focus less on the technological aspects of the Superb and more on the spaciousness of the design.

The script began with a memory shared by all the creatives. The idea of being a child in the back of the car and pretending it was a spaceship. This small idea eventually became ‘Costume Party’, a script that saw a young boy dressed as an astronaut on the way to a costume party.

Colin Lamberton, creative director Fallon Prague

It is a family story, typical of Škoda, and this forms the heart of the film. Around this, the young boy’s imagination turns the normal journey into a cosmic adventure. This would require the seamless integration of a variety of techniques and cinematic tools to create a realistic, believable, and yet magical glimpse into the mind of a young boy.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was turning this interesting script into reality. On paper, everything looked fine. The Flagship of Škoda should look like a spaceship. The agency script said ‘You are in the car and it looks like a flying spaceship, this is how we show spaciousness and at the same time sell the claim “travel in space, travel in style”’. Easy to say, but hard to do.

Jan Honza Hrubec, Executive Producer

One thing that everyone agreed on from the very beginning was that finding the right boy to play the young hero was key. Not only was the story told from his perspective, but the audience needed to feel that he really believed he was an astronaut. This belief would ground the film in reality and bring an engaging and authentic charm. The search for the tiny astronaut took place all over Europe. Production went the extra mile, searching high and wide for an unknown to take the role. After scouting in Belgium, Germany, the shooting location of Portugal, and at home in Czech Republic, all parties agreed that David, seen in the Czech Republic casting sessions, had the right mix of innocence and wonder that made him the perfect astronaut. Working with children is always a challenge. Filming time would be limited, and once combined with schedule and the restrictive and uncomfortable space suit, production knew that it would be tough. With help from the family of Czech actors around him, and guided by Lieven and a Czech 1st AD, David showed that he is made of the right stuff, giving a great cosmic performance.

It was clear from the first reading of the script that the film would require several techniques all coming together to create the effect of interstellar space travel. Director Lieven van Baelen and DoP Glenn Speeckaert drew on their extensive experience, combining both practical in-camera VFX with post enhancements.

"I suggested we lose the ‘eclipse’ shot, as I didn’t think it would transfer on film very well and preferred to find other visuals, using the city, light, and sound effects to create a more abstract feeling of space. Like Stanley Kubrick did in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but without copying any specific shot – which would be too easy and has been done to death"

Lieven van Baelen, Director

The main challenge was creating the effect of space travel. This would be done using predominantly practical effects. The Poor Man’s Process – a filmmaking technique that creates the illusion of a moving vehicle without it actually moving – would be extensively used. Roving lights, reflections caught in the body of the Superb, backgrounds projected onto canvas, and a moving camera, would all come together to turn the Superb into an intergalactic spaceship – at least in the imagination of the boy.The state of weightlessness inside the car was created through a combination of wirework and a high frame rate – made possible by using the Phantom HD camera, allowing up to 1000fps. This simple effect highlights the overall approach to VFX throughout the whole campaign, creating organic and believable effects that are always in service of visuals and support the emotion of the story.

‘Every car has its own lines we have to promote. They spend ages in meetings designing the look of the car and deciding how to promote it, and we have to respect that’

Glenn Speeckaert, Director of Photography

This was a team effort with Fallon London and supposed to be the first ad in the “Travel In Space” campaign. But it was felt to suit the combi better as it was a ‘family’ script.

Colin Lamberton, creative director Fallon Prague

Once shooting had wrapped, the team reunited for post-production. Edited by Manu van Hove, ‘Costume Party’ would require a touch of post enhancements to bring everything together. Alongside ‘Intelligent Life’, this film’s counterpart in the campaign, ‘Costume Party’ would be epic in scale but personal in its observation, creating a spot that is truly out of this world.