Charlex Gets Healthy With Subway

When the Boston agency, MMB wanted to create three new spots for their new Subway Fresh Fit campaign, they turned to Charlex for all the live-action, design and VFX work.

The first spot, That's a Lot, opens with images of greasy burgers frying on a grill. It then switches to a series of seemingly innocent images: kiddie pools, birdbaths and water coolers. These items—typically filled with water—are instead filled with grease in order to visually illustrate how much grease fast food chains use in a single year. "The concept from the agency was to use strong and graphic images to get this message across, and they asked me to help visually portray the grease in ways that were impactful but not too off-putting," reports Charlex CD Ryan Dunn.

"Once we had established the look and behavior of the grease as well as how it was going to be shot, I developed an editorial style that moves between wide and tight shots in order to break up the rhythm and 'feel' the vastness instead of just see it," adds Dunn. "I didn't want to make it about anything except visualizing the statistic in a strong, simply manner. So the shots are all locked off, and any animation besides the opening hose pour was peripheral. A flock of birds in the sky, for instance, or a bubble gurgling through a water cooler filled with grease." This approach really helped focus the impact of the spot as well as the density of the images that the team later composited together.

Dunn and his team spent a day in Connecticut shooting all of the exterior elements. They also had a night shoot to cover the office building interior, and an additional day filming the table-top of the burger that punctuates the grease sequence.

According to Dunn, the overall process was very traditional in terms of how the live-action was completed. "We used actual grease in the kiddie pools shots, but substituted liquids for the rest," he explains. Dunn shot the piece with the Arri Alexa camera. "I really like the way it captures imagery. It feels like film, even though it's a digital system, with more detail in the highlights than I had become used to with other digital cameras." To portray the thicker viscosity of grease for certain shots, Dunn filmed at a higher frame rate in order to slow the action down a little bit.

Dunn compiled a series of elements that could later be composited together in post. "While in reality, we only had a dozen kiddie pools for the wide shot, we moved them around a locked off plate and had our Flame artists clone and composite these shot elements in order to fill the entire field," he reports. "The bird baths were about one hundred pounds a piece, however, so we couldn't really move them around that hillside as nimbly. We looked to our VFX team to help use our scant reference plates and bring the hillside to life with CG."

Summing up, Dunn stresses, "It was an interesting job for sure, and a bit of a new angle for Subway. The spot has a documentary feel to it, and we're all excited to be seeing a brave message such as this make it on air."