Meet Han West. He's a 24-year-old half-Chinese, half-American filmmaker, working on his Master of Fine Arts in Singapore at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Asia. He directed both clips. That raises more questions than it answers: Why did he make the ads?
West filmed the spots a few months back at the Tisch Asia's campus. "The PS4 spots were part of a commercials class I took in my last semester," West tells Kotaku. "In the class, we were required to make one viral ad and one more 'polished' commercial." He picked Sony, because he was a fan of their ads. He picked the PS4, because it was unreleased, providing fertile ground for imagining commercials.
The first viral ad was the first clip. Using the facilities at Tisch, he was able make the spot in four hours for $US20 - the cost of the lab coat. And the second one was the more "polished" spot, which took 12 hours to shoot. It cost $US500, which was the price it cost to construct the set. All of the actors in both ads are Tisch students.
And he never imagined that these two spots, which he filmed for class, would garner so much attention. When the viral spots hit, Kotaku followed up with Sony, but Sony would neither confirm or deny the clips. A Sony spokesperson did tell GameInformer.com: "I can confirm that this video is not from SCE [Sony Computer Entertainment] ." In an age of camouflage marketing, PR doublespeak and viral ads, Kotaku did have its suspicions. Perhaps, Han West is doing marketing for them? Or perhaps he is part of some larger viral ad? This is part of the game? Very clever!
"I haven't been contacted by Sony," he asserts Kotaku. "I made these spots for my class." He is not a professional marketer, he says. This is a guy, a film student, who loves game ads and wanted to make his own. "I have been a big fan of gaming commercials for a long time," says West. "Gaming studios are some of the few clients out there that are really willing to take big chances (and sometimes spend serious money) on their spots."
Part of the reason they do this, West believes, is "because gamers are probably the most demanding consumers out there." Gamers, West notes, have high expectations, high standards and are exceptionally perceptive. "This is partially why I was a little scared to even put this stuff out on the net - I was afraid I was going to get torn to shreds!"
With graduation looming, West decided to upload the clips on YouTube, see what kind of reaction they got and hopefully drum up enough interest to get him actual directing work. The initial reaction was lukewarm, then it spread like wildfire. West was surprised, elated, and then started getting nervous when the ad snowballed into Sony PR having to separate the clips from their company. "I don't think they damaged the PlayStation," he says. That certainly wasn't his intention.
The pre-E3 timing appeared ripe. And while it seemed highly unlikely that Sony would be releasing the PS4 any time soon (something Kotaku pointed out in our initial coverage), the spots were so well done, so slick, that they actually appeared like something Sony could possibly make, but ultimately did not.
Viral or not, trying very hard to come up with recent game ads that are arresting as these two spots West made.
Just think what this guy could do if he had more than $US520 and a couple hours on set.