Sephora | Beauty Under My Control

September 19th 2018

French beauty chain Sephora launched its first ever television commercial made for Mainland China this week, with 60-seconds of mixed-media eye candy in which in-vogue singer, actor and model, Z.Tao,dances among iridescent textures, jets of liquid colour and lustrous glitter explosions.

The creative came from Fred & Farid, an agency well versed in beauty campaigns.  To visualize and execute the ambitious concept, they called Shanghai-based animation and mixed media production company, Final Frontier. 

 Executive producer Gustavo Karam explains that though the company is best known for animation, “At our core Final Frontier is all about design, and that’s what I loved about this project.  Even with a big live-action component, it was a design piece, with creative set designs, beautiful compositions, artistic inspirations and a cool music video vibe.”

 The production would prove to be a truly global effort working across time zones with talent in North and South America, Europe and China.

 To direct, Karam drafted in multi-award winning, Shane Griffin, global creative director at New York and Los Angeles mixed media studio, Los York.  A young but already firmly established artist, Griffin has created iconic work for the likes of Google, Nike and Apple, including the Chromatic iPhone wallpapers.

Griffin explains that his creative approach was “more like a music video.  I really focused on creating something different both visually and sonically.”

Z.Tao’s participation was not revealed until after Griffin had already begun developing ideas and concept art.  When he learned he’d be working with the pop star, a multi-skilled performer trained in martial art Wushu, Griffin says “it opened up a whole new creative aspect to the project and allowed me to push the look and feel to be more inline with his aesthetic."

The shoot took place over two July days in Beijing on a pair of giant custom-built studio sets.   Griffin tells of an efficient local crew and a pleasing experience working with the celebrity. “[Z.Tao] is a great performer”,  he says. “Most of the shots were his first takes.”

Even with that caliber of director and lead, the success of the concept ultimately would depend heavily on the execution of the visual effects.  Final Frontier drafted BleedVFX, a Buenos Aires based studio specializing in 3D materials like particles, liquids, fire and smoke, led by Paolo Cavalieri, a renowned pioneer of digital simulation effects in South America.

Cavalieri says that the major challenge was “balancing the real with the unreal without ending up with a fake or artificial look” and creating beautiful textures that moved seamlessly around Z.Tao.

“We needed to show the spirit of Sephora in a captivating way,” says Cavalieri. “Scale, point of view and rhythm were key to achieve an interesting film.  To that end, the partnership with Los York was essential.” 

 Masterminding the music was Final Frontier resident composer, Facundo Capece. “The general concept was to create a track that varies between different textures, but that feels like a whole,” says the Argentine.  “It was important to create spaces where you can breathe, where the changes between the different parts were natural and super rhythmic.”  

 Capece took inspiration from trap and the classic hi-hat and 808 Bass Drum.  To create the rhythmic sections, he mixed electronic drums with sounds that seemed to fit each of the products. “This was accompanied by a strong bass that ranged from the most rounded and sinusoidal, to something more aggressive, bordering on dubstep”, he adds. “This was mixed with lots of different reverbs, to give the feeling of the large enclosed spaces where Z.Tao performs.”

 Sephora launched the spot in a glitzy press conference in Beijing last week.  Reflecting on the project, Griffin says,“Sephora took a risk by allowing us to do such an experimental edit and music track, but it really paid off in the end.”

Client: Sephora China
Brand Supervisor: Yvonne Zhou, Kate Lee, Linda Li
Agency Supervisor: Louise Battus, Wenwen Zhao, Arlene Qi, Kaitlyn Liu
Chief Creative Officers: Fred & Farid
Creative Director: Juliette Lavoix
Copywriter: Hilda He
Art Director: Jessica Tan, JiaXin Tang
Brand Strategist: Gabrielle Guan
Agency Producer: Jessie Huang, Charles Renard
Agency Post-Producer: Charles Renard
Production Company: FINAL FRONTIER
Executive Producer: Gustavo Karam, Chris Colman, Santino Sladavic (Los York)
Director: Shane Griffin (Los York)
Director of Cinematography: Stéphane Vallée
1st Assistant Director:  Patty Tsai
Producer: Rose Yeow, Ken Li
EP Assistant: Stacey Lu
Field producers: Rainbow, Chen Chang
Art Director: Chang Dan Ni 
Props: Liu Sai
Makeup Artist: Serena Li
Wardrobe Stylist: Le Ya
Casting: Li Dong Mei
Camera Assistant: Shi Xu
Steadicam: Rick David Tullis
DIT:  Liu Pei Xun
Rigger: Xu Yong Jie
Gaffer: Hou Jian
Still Photographer: Charles Guo 
Post Production: BleedVFX
VFX Supervisor: Paolo Cavalieri
Executive Producer: Lisa Maffi
Producer: Lucila Trobbiani
TD: Nico Zabala