The Massive Miniature World of Airbnb

Cirkus likes dreaming big, so when TBWA and Sixtoes Singapore briefed us on this project, we were delighted to take on the challenge of helping Airbnb make the world a little bit smaller. Juggler Christian Greet and Flea Norman Yeend, backed by a talented team, created this epic miniature 60 second train ride showcasing that wherever you go with Airbnb, you can make yourself right at home.
The brief was to educate the viewer about Airbnb, how to use it and how to be part of the community. We needed to show how using Airbnb while travelling makes the world that little bit smaller with the service giving opportunities to meet people all over the world and live like a local when you visit new places.
The homes and rooms on offer making up the environments had to reflect and play against the voiceover. They needed to be different, stunning with an extremely high level of detail. To tick all of the boxes for our target market, we wanted the journey to be whimsical, dreamlike, artistic and fantastic, just as travelling can be.
We wanted this train ride film to be shot as one long take, with everything happening in-camera without the use of CG imagery. With the above in mind, the team settled on a hand/home made approach utilizing out of the box mechanical transitions to take the viewer from one environment into the next. We thought it’d be cool for the environments to change in scale; traveling from a miniature landscape into a bigger scale interior, and at times these different scales could even overlap. The frame is naturally split by the railway track, creating a symmetrical aesthetic. An example being one environment that is made up of a snowcapped mountain scene on the left, and a lush green farm on the right of the track.
Many of our initial ideas that were in the storyboards (below) presented to the Agency and Client were welcomed with pleasure, and ended up in the final set “as is”. 
Juggler Christian pushed the envelope once again with his instructions to set builders and technical modelers in the team headed by Glasshammer’s mighty leader, the remarkable, Justin Buckingham. A particularly great transition carries us from a beach at sunset to a thick forest, and up into a tree house. Given the small size of the train and its engine, sending it up on a dramatic incline was nigh on impossible. So, rather than bringing the train up into the tree house, the tree house was brought down to the train (nice one Christian!)
Play the below Making of “Welcome to Airbnb” and Making of “Contraptions” videos to see how this was achieved:


train contraption on our miniature set
Check out our camera rig/train! Photo Courtesy of Gary Steele @ TBWA.
Cirkus set up shop @ a warehouse in lovely Wairau Park on Auckland’s North Shore, and started building the environments around the railway track during a 6 week modelling period.  This has been a massive team effort, with everyone at Cirkus working alongside contractors to get this project finished to the best of their abilities.

Check out the timelapse of the build here:

The transitions and contraptions were done by hand – purposely built by the cleverest chippy in the southern hemisphere, Philip Stokes. True to their calling the Cirkus performers were on the floor, under, above and next to the set, to make sure that hills rolled, doors opened, tracks and set rotated and lights were dimmed etc. Take a look how this was done here:
For the most part, the sets’ detailing was painted, cut out, glued and/or sprayed on by an army of art directors and set designers. Another technique we played around with was projection. Rather than putting together a small metropolis with 3D printed skyscrapers or lighting the city with miniature street and office lights, we created a digital layout of a city at night and projected it onto white cardboard cutouts. We also utilized 3D printing to create the fantastical castle.
Standing ovation for this outstanding troupe of model makers, chippies and art directors who have produced the mother of all miniature jobs.
Cirkus Team
Co Directors – Christian Greet, Norman Yeend
Storyboarding – Dylan Coburn
Concept Art – Laura Dubuk
Producer – Ringmaster Marko Klijn
Production Manager – Zara Hayden
Production Assist – Puteri Raja Ariff
DOP – Christian Greet, Andrew McGeorge
Lighting – Christian Greet, Gracie Spence
Model Making and Design – Norman Yeend, Justin Buckingham @ Glasshammer, Dion Boothby, Barry Down, Tim Wells, Philip Stokes, Ashley Turner, Henric Matthiesen, James Turnbull, Joon Yoon, Priyan Jayamaha, Kurt Adams, Nynne Mors, Matt Ramsay, Simon Coles, Romain Borrell, Thomas Bozovic, Marion Angebault, and Quinn Klijn.
The Making Of – Sandesh Codhadu
Production Company: Sixtoes Singapore
Executive Producer – Haydn Evans
Agency: TBWA Singapore
Creative Team – James “Jexy” Holman, Nuno Pestana Teixeira, Gary Steele and Edmund Choe
Account Director – Nirmalo Wilkes, Joyce Wong
Planning Director – Ruben Beijer
Client: Airbnb
APAC Head of Marketing – Matthias Schueking
Chief Marketing Officer – Jonathan Mildenhall
Head of Global Production – Rachel Holbrook
Music: Oliver Daldry @ Platinum & Rye
See the Cirkus team with Agency and Client in this backwards train ride selfie: