Zune spec spot “Music is life”

It is a lesser known feature of the Zune media player to revive small animals using the hybrid headphone defibrillator, which this following beautifully crafted spec commercial dutifully demonstrates. Check it out.

[flv:zunemusiclife.flv 640 360]

In case you were wondering, “spec” is short for speculative and it means this was an unofficial ad created by a third party as part of their personal portfolio to showcase their creative skills. In case this, the director – Stewart Hendler is obviously not short of talent. Human Worldwide who produced the soundtrack also deserves a lot of credit for a mesmerizing composition.

A recent interview on Screen Magazine with Human reveals some details.

Human recently teamed up with director Stewart Hendler, who is with Ubercontent, to produce and score a 30-second spec spot for Zune entitled “Music Is Life.” In the spot, a young African-American boy is walking down the street, listening to his Zune music player. As he walks through a less safe part of town, he sees a dead bird lying on the sidewalk. He kneels next to the bird, and gently places his earphones against the bird’s heart. Much to his surprise, the bird springs back to life, and flies away. We see the graphic “Music Is Life.” Then we see “Zune is Music.” The boy quietly continues his walk.

Instead of existing as secondary to the visual content of the ad, the musical score is a surprisingly vital part of the ad. Human composer Morgan Visconti describes the track as one with a “bittersweet, haunting feel. We wanted a track that would be instantly memorable – one that would sound more like a record than a scored piece. We wanted to write something that a potential Zune user would want pre-loaded onto their machine. We used acoustic instruments—piano, guitar, drums and violin. In post, we added reverb over the whole stereo mix to give it a ghostly, ethereal sound, featured during the bird’s ‘resurrection’ sequence.”

Behind the scenes what’s probably even more exciting is that Stewart produced this with one of the new Red One cameras – an extremely affordable high-definition video camera set to revolutionize the cinematography industry. Here, the result (even at such low resolutions) is nothing short of a visual spectacle.

From what I can also gather by reading a forum post by Stewart about the production, he produced this in one day with only 7 people. I presume the bird doesn’t count. Here’s one of the higher-quality stills he posted for a better look.

I really think the Zune could use some more emotional advertising like the one above instead of the abstract and psychedelic acid trips it currently portrays.

Update: Found some information posted by Stewart where he talks about how they shot the scene with the dead bird.

We found a bird that was already trained to lie on its back (only in LA, right?) and it was handled on set by two wranglers. There was a piece of mono-filament line attached to it’s leg so it couldn’t fly away (which we’ll paint out eventually).

We also had a matching, taxidermied bird with an air bladder in it’s stomach to simulate the first breath.

45 insightful thoughts

  1. Really nice/good ad

    Better then the usual ones…. here one can at least see what a zune is*

    *AN MP3 PLAYER. Not a cartoon series….

  2. I liked it , and i could not help myself and uploaded it to youtube. i added the creator links and your link Long.

    in exchange i give you the Live Mesh Web 2.0 Expo Comercial:

  3. This has to be (one of) the best advertisement ever! Wish they’d use it for the real ads instead of the weird psychedelic crap.

  4. Nice adverts is one thing, actually making the product available for purchase in more than one market would probably help sales more though.

    Maybe that’s me just not understanding how this whole “selling” thing works though…

  5. The little bits of dust swifting around when the bird flies off does it for me.

  6. I think it’s really great. But I do like the current ads, which I think I very good.

  7. Wow, Zune should really use this. It would make an extremely memorable ad. Unlike other Zune commercials this actually shows the zune being used which could make people more willing to take a chance on it. Plus the use of a minority figure is great because I don’t think I have ever seen a person of color in an ipod ad.

  8. holy shit dude! this is huge!
    that is the bestest ever! they should definitely use this.
    the regular Zune ads have their place, but not a lot of people make the connection with the imagery in them to actual player functionality.

    this on the other hand takes it to the next level.
    music IS life, and Zune DOES music.

  9. Anouther ‘wow’ ad, that is the best music player ad I have ever seen, and I even think ever made. Very talented Director.
    I just wish the Zune would come to Canada :/ . I know Microsoft said it will be coming to Canada in the spring, but when exactly is spring for Microsoft. Any body know?


  10. If this commercial was released here in India, boy the news channels & animal activists would get good fodder for atleast a week

  11. @ manan: not necessarily

    Great ad, I think MS should pick it up for Zune 3 or whatever comes after the current Zune. Re-shoot/modify the ad and air it. That way, their current campaign (which I like) can continue properly, and they can make more ads with the same spirit as that one (not just more bird difibrillation) for the next campaign.

    Speaking of ads, why has the frequency of Zune ads on TV gone down? Also, why no Zune ads anywhere on the inter-webs?

  12. That’s a pretty nice ad. Ads that kind of touches the heart appeal much more than crazy artsy ads with little sense.

    MS should really consider putting their better ads on TV, instead of just letting them sit on the web hoping that any random user on the internet will be able to discover it.

  13. @ _||_: trust me man, here in India these animal right activists are a bunch of cheap publicity mongers, recently Vodafone released a commercial – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB1UPJ4leqs … guess what the activists are saying that the dog was ill treated by making him run behind the bus 😀

    PS: I love this ad, the way he has shot the moment when the bird gets it’s heartbeat is simply awesome, few ads that can be classified as elegantly shot this is 1 of them.

  14. I think the problem with the current ads on TV is just that they’re really polished, easily ignorable ads.

    Even if Microsoft doesn’t use this ad, I think a better strategy would just to keep on screen for a while one of the psychedelic animations like you can find at zunejourney.net with a cool song; that would get noticed more. I remember the Fruitopia ads in the 90s, while Fruitopia never took off, the ads were very noticable.

  15. @manan: partially true; my point was that not all conservation groups (specifically, animal rights or not) in India are like that. I should know, I was part of one for 4 years

  16. this is amazing, and Zune should definitely use it- it falls in line with other ads that actually make me stop and watch. I’m thankful that the bar has been raised in advertising in regards to the music- I used to find myself always putting ads on mute, now I find myself waiting if it opens up with something that sounds good.
    well done.

  17. Very nice 🙂

    Microsoft should definitely make it official, I agree. On a side note, they are pretty creative – I just checked out their other work 😀

  18. Why MS doesn’t make this an official commercial and get it going around the world RIGHT NOW is beyond me. The concept is very simple, emotional, and of course by extension, shows that Zune IS life.

  19. those are not the zune’s headphones; they are philps! the ad is great and really sentimental, these kind of ad makes people stop and watch, and after that they will tell their friends and family about the ad. Microsoft should use this ad by i also reallly like the current ones, i think they are really imaginative and retro.

  20. Just the worst depressing AD I ever seen.. Typically Microsoft.. They never will be at Apple level..

  21. @andy:
    i can see how the whole boy bringing the dead bird back to life with music thing seems depressing. it would have been better if the boy just kept on walking, right? leave that feathered bastard to rot. worm’s meat, dammit!

    it’s a great ad, and if you think dancing silohettes are better then you have pretty low standards for creativity. they’re old and outdated. even Apple is moving away from those ads and actually making it about the product. seen the last couple Touch commercials?

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