Stopping time: Behind the scenes of our latest TV campaign


Our campaign for the University of Northampton has been driven by these two words. They’re at the centre of our new TV advert as well – a project that has been both a transforming and inspiring experience for both Engine creative and the University.

We also managed to stop time.

This is the story of how.

The Idea

The story of how this advert came to be begins earlier this year. The print campaign for our friends at the University of Northampton was rolling out with buses and billboards across the town filled with iconic moments of transformation.

These slices of time show a snapshot of the transformation that the University inspires. Each specifically promotes the work that they do on a local, national or international stage. Looking at these images, we started to discuss the possibilities of bringing them to life as a TV advert using high-speed cameras to film each moment in super slow motion.

There’s a fascination with any kind of technique that plays with time to the extreme – whether it’s slow motion or timelapse. For this project it was the perfect marriage of concept and solution. Finding the moment by slowing time itself.

After pitching a few variations of the theme to our friends at the University, the concept was locked. We would focus on showing three moments of transformation focused around people.

What to sing about

The next discussion moved to what the moments should be.

The University effects a wave of positive change in the local community but also on a national and international level. It’s this that beats at the heart of the ‘Transformed, Inspired’ campaign. With the idea in place, it was time to work with the University and work out which of these changes, or transformations, they’d like to promote.

The University wanted to demonstrate a broad cross-section of the kinds of positive impact they have on a local and national level.

Supporting the London Marathon

For over twenty years, the University has been helping out at the London Marathon by sending students from its Podiatry department. This gives the students an opportunity to work with injuries in the field but also has a positive social impact that the University felt was strong. It also has the advantage of having an easily adapted iconic visual from the print campaign.

Teaching the teachers of tomorrow

The University achieved an outstanding Ofsted rating for it’s provision of training to teachers. The University was keen to establish a strong visual of teacher and pupil interacting. The two shot gave us the opportunity to create a direct link between these two and encapsulates the relationship. It is representative of a student teacher finally able to put her training into practice.

Award winning dance

Another direct evolution from one of our existing print campaigns, the Dance visual underwent a few changes. We wanted to create an iconic and arresting visual for the end of the advert. The aim was to show a leap into the air representing the moment of actualisation – when the months of practice become the show. It also shows how lovely brightly-coloured fabrics look in slow motion.

The Tech

There’s some great video shot on the Canon 5D, 7D, 60D and 550D that accomplishes a 1,000fps look in post using the Twixtor plugin. We had a look into doing things this way, but there were too many complex movements for us to trust that the plugin could handle everything that we required.

The next logical step was to look at the Phantom HD – a gold standard for digital photosonics. After a lovely discussion with some camera boffins, we finally decided to shoot on the relatively new Photron BC2 which would let us go up to 2,000fps in full 1080p HD. This essentially extends a leap through the air which takes 1 second in real time over a whole 80 seconds! Yummy stuff.

Unfortunately, to shoot at that many frames per second you need to seemingly harness the power of the sun itself in order to see anything at all. Luckily, our amazing Cinematographer Brian Fawcett and Gaffer Ben Fordesman had us covered bringing an amazing 104KW of light. Toasty.

Back here at Engine Creative HQ, the film was edited on Final Cut Pro with ProRes proxy’s with final text compositing and colour grading done in After Effects before being mastered at 1080p.

Have a look below to see how it all turned out.

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