City Harvest Apples in New York Train

City Harvest, a “food rescue” organisation in New York City, has released “Apples”, iPhone footage of thousands of apples to show how food is wasted in New York City. The spot includes real iPhone footage of the subway and 500,000 CGI apples produced at The Mill, New York.

City Harvest Apples

A young woman plans to catch a train to Times Square in New York City. Her boyfriend captures her surprise when the train stops and lets out thousands of green apples. The young woman’s boyfriend captures her surprised reaction at the deluge of unlikely passengers while the subway conductor makes an announcement about how much food is wasted in the city and how many people go hungry, then pans to a poster asking people to donate to City Harvest.

Click on the image below to play the video.

Yann Mabille, The Mill’s Joint Head of 3D, and co-director of “Apples”, explains that the iPhone was singled out by the team for its practical playback feature, and overwhelming popularity and near ubiquitous presence among cell phone users. The spot was filmed in one day, and took three weeks to finish, Mabille says. Although its resulting style is low-fi, finessing that look and feel took technical expertise and innovation behind the scenes.

The Mill created an innovative tracking rig for the iPhone. “It would have been impossible to track the iPhone camera without the rig,” says Vince Baertsoen, Lead 3D, The Mill. “We had to re-create a motion capture set up in the station. On set, we looked at places we could put cameras and determined how we could triangulate the rig. We used three Canon 5D Mark 2 static cameras to record everything in sync simultaneously.”

“The rig was designed to clearly show the iPhone’s exact position and orientation in 3D space,” Kneale elaborates. “The three Canon 5D Mark 2 cameras captured the iPhone’s movement from three varying perspectives. The rig had multiple LED lights attached to make the ‘tracking points’ clearly visible in the subdued light. The rigging simplified 80% of the work, but a lot of fine-tuning was done by hand, sometimes frame by frame.

The resulting “Apples” commercial has a man-on-the-street sensibility. It is also a fine example of the influence of user-generated content in advertising thanks to the iPhone and the star quality of Apples. “Our goal with this year’s campaign is to visualize the numbers behind the hunger problem in New York—both the amount of food that goes to waste and the number of residents that go hungry,” explains Keith Loell, Executive Creative Director, Draftfcb. “We’re hoping that the sight of a few hundred thousand apples pouring out of a subway car will get the attention of potential donors.”


The Apples ad was developed at Draft FCB, New York, by chief creative officer Michael Simons, executive creative director Keith Loell, senior copywriter Greg Wikoff, senior art director Todd Eisner, junior art director Brad Muramoto, senior producer Liz Haberman, senior business manager Jennifer Rubin.

Filming and post production were done at The Mill, New York, by creative director/director/editor Angus Kneale, director/joint Head of 3D Yann Mabille, producer (live and VFX) Dan Roberts, line producer Richard Schwab, editor/lead 3D artist Vincent Baertsoen, 3D artist Naotaka Minami, lead Flame artist Cole Schreiber, Flame assistant Gigi Ng, combustion artist Melissa Graff, still photographers James Studdart and Alex Maxwell.

Sound was designed and mixed at Sound Lounge by Evan Mangiamele and Philip Loeb, with executive producer Gloria Pitagorsky.


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