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Campaign Brief (AUS/NZ) Online.
Campaign Brief Magazine : July August 2008
Electric Art.15 years of playing god. The year is 1993, strains of Sonia Dada are floating on the airwaves, the price of petrol is around 70 cents a litre and CGI monsters in Jurassic Park are wowing audiences around the world. An auspicious time for the birth of Electric Art. As a company, Electric Art started from modest beginnings in a small, pokey office in the windswept streets of North Sydney. From the beginning Electric Art has worked with some big names in advertising, on campaigns to match. Photographer Andreas Smetana has used the company since its inception, working on creative briefs like the Toyota AFL campaign that required lots of atmosphere, comprised of dark, moody backgrounds and twisted player bodies. Another series, “Hottest Corolla Ever” needed melting lamp posts and lights, and exploding warehouses. Most recently the team worked on Cathy Freeman’s face, compiling and manipulating hundreds of naked bodies, for the SBS series “Who do you think you are?” Ian Butterworth is also a familiar face, with a series for “Pump” needing Electric Art to stitch together thousands of water droplets for different characters. Other photographers found in the vibrant gallery of Electric Art’s work include Urs Buhlman, Andreas Bommert, Michael Corredore and Stephen Stewart. But when the company first started, the world was a different place. In those days fax and phone were the main mode of communication, and cigarette advertising was legal. No email. No internet. The sole remaining witness of Electric Art’s birth continues to sit at the helm of the company, and fifteen years on, he’s still excited by the possibilities of post- production technology. “It was fairly obvious from the beginning the kind of scope this work would have,” says CEO Jonathon Eadie. “But we’re still getting challenging jobs that force us to push the boundaries.” He says in hindsight he can pick out the pivotal moments that propelled Electric Art forward. “At one point we decided that we wanted to focus on creative, high end retouching. So we dropped our other products, and put “creative” in front of the word “retouching” in our logo.” This change of text and attitude, says Eadie, has made the world of difference. “With the big jobs, the creative ones, you often don’t see them coming; and then suddenly you’re in the middle of an incredibly challenging job. Once you’re out on the other side, you have a whole new set of skills in your tool box.” Bruce Bigelow, partner and creative director, says a major change for the industry has been the speed that new technology allows. “Back in the day it was all done with transparencies”, says Bigelow. “Photographers would drop off their transparencies, we would scan them in and depending on how many shots you had, it could be two days before you even started retouching.” They are days that Electric Art’s scanner operator, Chris Tibbles, is happy to leave in the past. A lot of what he did back then involved finicky, hands on work developing and touching up transparencies. These days, the Electric Art scanner sits beside Chris Tibble’s desk, covered in a black velvet shroud. A monolithic instrument whose busy days are well and truly gone. The other tool no longer used (or missed) at Electric Art is “Syquest”, a giant floppy disk that was used to store files up to 200 MB in size. Syquest was the substitute for networked computers, so if the workload of one job needed to be shared, it had to be copied to the floppy disk and handed over. In the early 90s, large working files were around 600 MB and retouchers had three layers to work with. Now, retouchers can work on files up to 10 gig in size. On one job- which involved turning buildings into words- the retoucher printed out the layers. The roll was almost six meters long.
May June 2008