Usually a tire spot involves tightly focused shots, but in the recent campaign for Michelin directed by Tim Damon (for agency SapientNitro) and The Reserve, a story unfolds solely for the senses.

Tunnel Vision
In a spot titled “Tunnel,” the ability to stir the senses begins with Michelin. Viewers are purposely propelled down a curvy mountain road before everything decelerates into a dreamy, surreal tunnel. Sound design filled with low bass notes, car engine exhaust and heartbeats build with the ride. The pace returns to real time with just glimpses and outlines of a car once again hitting daylight. “Only you know where this leads,” the voiceover says, “but we both know where it started.” The Michelin Pilot Series of tires are lastly revealed.

“The agency wanted something very unconventional,” says Damon. “The only shot of the car was to be completely out of focus. No one has ever asked me to shoot a car out of focus. I said I’m in. I was so happy that Reed Coss (agency creative director and executive producer Michael Diaz) trusted me. Car work can be very conventional. They wanted to shoot a dramatic, surreal spot, never showing anything until the end. “Tunnel” is all about the action of a driver going somewhere, then boom, we show the Michelins as catalyst for an intense, memorable driving experience.”

According to Damon, he took agency creative along for a ride in the camera car, then asked the assistant cameraman to rack the car scene out of focus for the length of the tunnel. “We were “oohing” and “aahing” as light danced and popped off the sheet metal. I held my breath when we played it back to the client. I have to admit, I was surprised when they started “oohing” and “aahing” too."

Visuals, Equipment and Post
To put the viewer in the driver’s seat for such a visceral involvement, Damon scouted the ideal tunnel in Northern California, pulling in camera cars, flight heads and mini cranes, all with the perfect lensing to pull the required effect. “The spot needed to live anywhere in the world, geographically neutral,” says Damon.  “So, the location could be in Argentina, Shanghai or Geneva.  As Damon describes it, the editorial phase was crucial for the storytelling, creating pattern and pacing in time with both voiceover and sound design. “The spot is truly immersive,” says Damon. “We show off the tire’s capabilities by highlighting the journey. I want to credit The Reserve and Executive Producer Ryan Slavin for expediting this production."