In a global community TVC spots are now often being made ‘overseas’. This inventive spot was for the chinese market, shot in Shanghai, made in Australia for a Japanese car company.

Nissan directed by Rob Dupear

Cars seem to have increasingly complex extras – none more so than the new Nissan as shown in this spot from China! Post visual effects by Iloura in Melbourne Victoria.

fxguide spoke to Sigi Eimutis – VFX supervisor and Josh Simmonds – CGI Project Leader about a new Nissan Nissan Livina spot which was recently filmed in and around Shanghai. The director was Rob Dupear and the Agency is TBWA Hakuhodo based in Guangzhou China. In ths spot a Nissan pops up with more tricks than Inspector Gadget. Luckily for the team at Digital Pictures Melbourne, language never became an issue as the director and DOP were Australian, the Agency Creatives speak perfect English, as did the First AD.

The spot had at least a month in pre-production with a couple of weeks devoted to pre visualization of the mechanical arm sequence, and almost 4 weeks just on the design of mechanical arm/moving walkway structures.

The shoot was done over 4 days in Shanghai, by director of Photography Daniel Ardilley on 35mm. The post production schedule was 4 weeks.

Live action

fxg: How were the shots composited, what was the pipeline ?

Sigi Eimutis :
All final compositing was completed in Flame with both Digital Fusion and Shake being used as a vital support systems throughout post. Rotoscoping was carried out using Commotion.

Pre-production was used primarily to establish the timings and movement of the mechanical arms and the moving platform. They were refined and did evolve further during the course of post production, but the essential layout of these were locked in prior to the shoot. For instance, the texture of the mechanical bits were being refined right up until the end of the project.

In the moving floor sequence, the legs supporting the platform on the steps would also evolve from the final pre-viz version, but the timing of the pan from the car across to the stairs would be used as a final on-set timing.

The commercial was filmed 35mm with final delivery as full frame PAL. We knew we would be undertaking a fair bit of 3D tracking and would also need to manipulate a number of the plate shots in order to line them up, so we decided to bypass our standard PAL finish pipeline to one that permitted working with higher resolution frames.

We decided that we needed to work with the entire 35mm neg fullgate frame as this would give us more picture area for 3D tracking and allow us flexibility in lining up the various plate shots.

The process started with a 2K scan of the select shots using our Arri Laser Scanner, then grading the selected shots in Lustre. We also did a 2K best-light grade of all the additional plate shots.

We then loaded all the graded 2K files into Flame and assembled the commercial. We spent the next couple of days lining up all the plate shots in 2K. What we did want to avoid was needlessly sending 2K files for roto and CGI knowing the final output would be PAL, but we still needed to have the advantage of an aspect locked full gate frame for 3D tracking and retaining higher than PAL image quality. The path we chose was to downsize the 2K files to 1K then crop the final 1K comps to the final PAL output. It worked a treat.

One of many on set HDR reference stills

fxg: What reference was taken on set?

Sigi Eimutis :
There were three environments featured in the commercial – shop, hotel and home. Measurements were taken of all three environments as well as a swag of still photos with varying exposures of ground surfaces, buildings, and the vehicle itself.

Each new camera setup involved capturing HDR images with a reflective ball. Panoramic multiple exposure stills were also taken from the camera target point.

The rough concept

fxg: Were the rigs and arms prevized – how complex was the pre-production ?

Sigi Eimutis :
The art design of the arms commenced 5 weeks prior to the shoot, and as discussions evolved, pre-visualizations of key sequences of the storyboard were also undertaken. Having said that, we reached a point in pre-production where the pre-viz of the CGI raised, and answered for that matter, a number of issues that affected everyone from the Director, to the Agency Creatives and client, as well as the post side of things. Once a general consensus was reached on a series of items, we knew we had the template sorted to go into production, but also room to evolve the design and animation further.

Motion control is a tool that was not available to us for this shoot. Made even more complicated, on-set playback to check the line-up of the two passes was limited to a Sony ‘clam shell’ video recorder, a stop watch and a black marker pen. The final results show the importance of collaboration between the different production departments on set.

The lifting arm

fxg: How were the mother and child lifts done? Were they cranes replaced in post – ie done at the same time of done on green screen etc?

Sigi Eimutis :
It was decided early on that the mother and child lifts should be done on location, in situ, and not in a studio. This came about for a number of reasons, not least of which was schedule driven. It also would ensure that lighting, move timings and shadows/reflections would be as natural as possible. As it transpired, the mother and child were not filmed against greenscreen. Essentially, they were rotoscoped from their ‘hero’ pass and integrated into the car/background plate.

fxg: What software and in particular what render engine did you use? What did you do to achieve ‘realism’ visually

Josh Simmonds – CGI Project Leader for Nissan
We did all 3d pre-vis, modeling and animation in 3dsMax, and rendered in Vray, using our established HDRI render pipeline. Our first passes of animation were executed with lo-res models, and given the tight turnaround, we had modelers working on more detailed versions concurrently. We updated scenes with higher-res models as shots approached final animation. We also used Render Pass Manager, a plugin for 3dsMax written by one of our TD’s, Grant Adam, extensively. It makes the job of outputting different passes, including GI, Ambient Occlusion, Reflection and Shadows much easier.

On set and location were in China

fxg: The Slide into the car – was that practical?

Josh Simmonds Sure was. Having said that, the two chaps sliding into the car with the backseat was a greenscreen studio shot.

fxg: For any of the shots was the camera locked off and just moved in post – or was it all just 3D tracked moves – if so what tracking software did you use?

Josh Simmonds There were no post moves – all CGI shots were tracked in either Boujou or Syntheyes.

The car while action needed to be finally done as CG both for the previz and also later in more accuracy for the reflections.
The live action and final shot

fxg: Can you discuss the compositing of the shots – in particular getting the reflections mapped believably into the car’s natural reflections

Josh Simmonds
Josh Simmonds : We built an accurate 3d model of the Livina based on a scan we had done, and matched it to the live action car. We used this model primarily for catching the reflections and shadows from the various CGI attachments, which were rendered as seperate passes. This is pretty standard practice, giving our compositors much more flexibilty in terms of integrating with the footage.


Entire spot and plates comparison movie 2MB

Shot 17 breakdown movie 2MB