We break down six recent TVCs with visual effects work from studios around the world – Mikros Image, Fuel VFX, Zoic Studios, Glassworks Amsterdam, Mothership/Digital Domain and MPC.
Nissan Juke, ‘Built to Thrill’ – Mikros Image
Building a skydiving car looks surprisingly easily in this Nissan Juke TVC directed by Lieven Van Baelen, with visual effects by Mikros Image. At Mikros, Christophe Huchet was VFX producer, with Antoine Carlon and Laurent Creusot acting as VFX shooting supervisors as well as CG lead and 2D/Flame artist, respectively. We talk to the studio about the ad’s main challenges.
The spot begins with an intrepid driver jumping out of a plane and buckled into a car seat. Soon enough, he is positioned into a car body by skydivers, who get to work – mid-air of course – adding a roof, tires, engine and steering wheel. These plates were filmed against bluescreen with the parachutists and car suspended on wires and the action following detailed storyboards.
“There were two cameras on the set (in South Africa),” says Mikros, “one was with a cameraman standing on track or on a cradle and the other one on a remote jointed arm controlled by three operators. There were a lot of wires to clean up as there were up to nine parachutists shot at the same time. Each of them was hung by four wires plus the car. We had to deal with ‘restore’ on their faces and clothes. We completed an urban matte painting behind the clouds for high-angle shots. To add realism to the shot, we had to add cameras shakes and vibrations to simulate a real skydive, inspired by real shots references.”
Mikros also created CG parachutes for the skydivers, before the half-finished vehicle drops safely in a stadium – landing on a ramp as motor-cross riders add panels and spray paint a red finish. The stadium was populated using Golaem Crowd geometry instancing, generating up to 12,000 spectators at a time. Clothes, shaders and motions for the animated digi-double crowd were established in Maya, with a particle system used to place characters in seats. Mikros then built its own procedural rendering plug-in for Arnold based on a beta version of the Golaem Crowd IO library to render the scenes.
The nearly formed Nissan Juke launches out of the stadium via another ramp and splash-lands in water. Here, scuba-divers secure a windscreen and finishing touches before the car enters a tunnel. Filmed in a tank, Mikros graded the car for readability and added digital bubbles.
Finally, the Juke exits a tunnel before continuing into the city. The tunnel did not exist, so a make-shift surrounding for the car was built at street-level and filmed with tracking markers. “That shot was pretty difficult to tune as there were two opposite camera directions,” says Mikros. “The car is coming towards us and the camera is going the other way. We had to do some research to find a speed that suited the director. We also paid attention to light as the crossover is coming out of a tunnel and is going from dark to light. During the shooting, a truck rode along the crossover with many spotlights to light the car properly.”
Leggo’s, ‘Pasta Loves Leggo’s’ – Fuel VFX
For this Leggo’s pasta sauce ad, directed by Bruce Hunt of Revolver for BWM Melbourne, Fuel VFX created some gravity defying pasta and vegetables. We talk to some of the visual effects team about how the fluid, rendering and comp tools for this pasta musical mash-up.
fxg: What was the brief for this spot and what did Fuel draw from its earlier work?
Dave Morley (VFX Supervisor): ‘Pasta Loves Leggo’s’ is the next generation from ‘Rhapsody in Red’, which Fuel also did. So our brief was to keep the theme where the sound creates the sauce, but now we have a chunky sauce with veggies instead of a smooth tomato-only sauce. And the commercial reflects this ‘chunky’ theme too – we’ve got more texture, more steam, more splashes and more atmosphere; the sound is chopping the veggies and the pasta is attracted to the sauce with an anti-gravity effect.
fxg: What approach did you take to modeling some of the assets in this spot, such as the brass horn?
Dave Morley: A lot of attention was paid to the modeling, because we have a lot of shots close to camera and the transition between live action veggies and CG veggies needed to be seamless. Veggies were modeled with attention not only to the outside appearance, but also sub-surface detail to ensure realistic light refractions. The brass horn was modeled off antique French-style horns with the scale of brass beer vats, metal props such as the colander were also modeled to real-world specs and up-scaled to give that ‘gigantic’ feeling to compliment the music.
fxg: The look of the vegetables and the pasta was crucial in this spot – can you talk about what aspects of the animation and final fx helped match the live action and the approach you took to lighting and rendering the digital food?
Matt Hermans (Lighting & FX): Look development using Maxwell Render was approached in a ‘spare no expense’ fashion whereby an asset such as a capsicum would be modeled to include cavities and the internal chambers which are essential to the light-scattering behavior in real capsicums. High frequency detail would be added as displacement and normal maps using traditional means but would be included in a single beauty render comprising of diffuse, specular, displacement, normal, sub surface scattering and occasionally fur.
On top of this would sit procedural water droplets which created caustic refractions on the surface of the capsicum and greatly increased the realism. Being able to render a single-beauty with complex light interaction while not compromising on quality by still having matte, depth, normal, world position and separate lights on EXR layers means we can save time and disk space by rendering less images. This approach also shows depth of field bokeh, motion blur and caustics as inherent side effects which we would normally have to consciously include using traditional rendering methods. Though we still have available compositing-friendly techniques like primary-visibility, per-object and multi-pass rendering these were only used when we creatively required them.
fxg: How did you use fluid sims for the various sauce and steam simulations?
Matt Hermans (Lighting & FX): RealFlow 2012 was used for most of simulation work; specifically the ‘Galaxy of Sauce’ spiraling in the air. Grid-based simulation with a particle system layered in was meshed at rendertime, and together with thousands of spice instances and a Maxwell material which brought everything together to form the sauce substance. Maya FluidFX was used for the steam rising up the sides of the room to give the spot a wet atmosphere indicative of cooking pasta.
fxg: What kind of compositing and also grading challenges were there in terms of maintaining the richness of the spot?
Carlo Monaghan (Nuke Compositor): For Leggo’s we used Maxwell Render, which is quite different to the usual multi-pass compositing workflow from other rendering solutions. Instead of having a diffuse, ambient occlusion, shadow etc, we get a single beauty render in linear EXR with MultiLight channels. With these separated light channels, each with incredible dynamic range, we can light mix post-render; allowing much more creative freedom than we’re used to. Traditional passes are, however, still available and used wherever necessary.
Ben Eagleton (Head of Color): Within the Fuel color pipeline, we’re always very careful to ensure that we maintain the maximum dynamic range and full color space of any images that we work on. All of our post production tools work in the same color space and this allows us to retain the full integrity of the original source material. In layman’s terms, this means that all the information of the original source material is available throughout our color pipeline. For the Leggos job, we sat down in our grading suite with Bruce at the start of the job and spent a couple of hours setting some colour references based on the source material. From these grades we created monitoring LUT’s which the rest of the team, (Nuke, CG, Flame etc) could apply to their work and see how the end result was going to look after the grade. For the final grade, the ungraded source material, but now including composited images and integrated CG, was then reloaded into Baselight and the original colour reference grade was applied. This then became our starting point for the final grade.
Jeep Wrangler, ‘Avalanche’ – Zoic Studios
In this recent Jeep Wrangler spot, directed by Loni Peristere, Zoic Studios delivered some heavy CG and compositing work to help a Winter X Edition of the vehicle outrun a powerful avalanche.Watch ‘Avalanche’.
“We did a lot of R&D to figure out the different types of avalanches required,” says Zoic visual effects supervisor Dariush Derakhshani. “They can move at 150 miles an hour. We had a couple of different ‘characters’ in them and needed some control-ability and flexibility for each. We had to give an antagonist to the story being told.”
Zoic experimented with Krakatoa inside 3ds Max and rendering through Fury, as well as RealFlow, before settling on a Maya Fluids and Particle approach, combined with compositing additions in Nuke. Live action was filmed in Utah on the ARRI ALEXA and on Phantom cameras. Often, Zoic would keep the real Jeep in the shot but replace the environment and trees via matte paintings and Nuke projections. Other times a fully CG Jeep was used.Watch a breakdown of shots from ‘Avalanche’.
“We started with the environment as simple CG objects to see how things would move down an incline,” explains Derakhshani. “Then we would emit particles and fluid densities and we built the leading edge to the fluid sim that would serve as the main body of the avalanche and the snow/vapor/smoke that drifts off the avalanche.”
“There’s a very solid core with arms or tendrils that reach out,” he adds. “Pretty quickly after the leading edge we get a cloud which looks very strikingly close to a real cumulus weather cloud up in the atmosphere – but it is all water vapor and ice crystals in a high pressure front.”
Edet Soft, ‘Edet Paper World’ – Glassworks Amsterdam
Glassworks’ brief for this toilet tissue spot was to feature origami-like characters representing both softness and strength. The transitions and folds – all one shot – were realized first with actual paper before being completed in CG. Glassworks director and 3D lead Rudiger Kaltenhauser breaks down the work below.Watch ‘Edet Paper World’.
“The transition animations of the folding paper was the biggest challenge to design. As we decided to have a one shot sequence, we could not cheat the transitions with a cut. We had to actually create a transition between the objects and characters that really did use the same material and therefore required a real folding process. After the characters were animated individually, each transition was carefully planned out with real paper.
Martin Chatterjee developed custom ICE tools to fold and unfold the CG paper and created individual rigs to seamlessly get from one shape to the next. Throughout this whole process, the brand-pattern on the toilet paper had to maintain in the right location and form.See how Glassworks created the folding weightlifter, and lit the scenes.
We wanted to create a convincing photoreal animation to support the idea you are looking at something that could really just happen on your desk whilst at the same time enhancing the paper to look soft and immaculate. We created a photoreal environment with a very carefully balanced soft lighting and attention was paid to creating the soft translucent material of the paper.”
Nike, ‘Biomorph’ – Mothership/Digital Domain
Nike’s new Flyknit shoe tech is showcased in ‘Biomorph’, a David Rosenbaum-directed short by Mothership with visual effects by sister company Digital Domain (VFX supervision by Aladino Debert). In it, the feet of a barefoot runner are transformed into the final shoe product via digital muscles and weaving threads. Check out the making of video for the spot below.Watch ‘Biomorph’.
PS Vita, ‘The World Is In Play’ – MPC
Immersing gamers in unlikely settings was the job of MPC for PlayStation’s new portable game console, the PS Vita, in this epic spot directed by Independent’s Cary Fukunaga. Led MPC VFX Supervisor Ludo Fealy and VFX Producer Scott Griffi, artists built a football stadium, added a submarine to a train station and re-created the Normandy beach landing, among other effects.
Here’s some info on the spot from MPC’s press release, and several breakdown pics:
For the subway scene, a static train carriage provided the background plates. The main character was then shot against a green screen at a different frame rate to that of the original background footage. The team then comped these together, allowing the individual to be emphasized and stand out against a slower moving backdrop. For the transition from train to tunnel, a digital matte painting provided the forest canopy with moving mist and birds elements added for effect.
For the Normandy beach landing, original plates were taken from a working quarry and set against a bluescreen backdrop. Separate ocean footage was shot, which was then composited back into the original plates (to give the appearance of a sandy beach). Boats were added in Cinema 4D to the background and the whole scene was tracked and compostited in Flare. The team later added explosions, bullet hits and smoke to enhance the setting and danger elements.
For the football scene, a disused stadium provided the initial setting for the footage. The actors were then rotoscoped out, and the team built a CG stadium complete with crowds, flags and banners to later composit the actors back in.
The 3D team were also tasked with creating a fully CG submarine in a train station platform. Due to the shot selection, the team had to remove various objects from the scene as the actor ascends the escalator to make way for the submarine.
You can also check out our recent coverage of some stunning TVC VFX work in this fxpodcast with Dashing’s Rob Moggach on some Hyundai spots, and learn about an ingenious infra-red tracking solution in our coverage of The Ambassador’s VFX for a WWF ad. Finally, keep an eye out for our fxguidetv ep on Mirada’s VFX in a parkour-style Wrigley’s commercial.