The making of L’Odyssée de Cartier

We take a look behind the scenes of L’Odyssée de Cartier, a three-and-a-half minute epic journey created for the French jeweler and watchmaker, directed by Bruno Aveillan at Quad in Paris for Marcel (Publicis), with visual effects by Digital District. The production incorporated a significant live-action shoot and CG to tell the story of the Cartier brand. We talk to Digital District about their work.

– Above: watch the final piece.

fxg: What was Digital District’s brief for L’Odyssée de Cartier – what did the client want to communicate?

L’Odyssée de Cartier was, from the start, made to be ambitious and unique. Bruno Aveillan and all of his team brought an aesthetic, a unique vision to this film. It results in a feeling that L’Odyssée de Cartier is and will remain a piece on its own, one that illustrates with brilliance the mythical brand Cartier’s 165 years of existence. It highlights a grandiose fresco which recount the history of the Cartier House since its creation, in 1847, through its inspirations, values and symbols.

This film, with a Dantesque aspect, was born from a collaboration between Bruno Aveillan and Digital District. This collaboration allowed to go from dreams to reality by making possible the creation of a fantasized universe, filled with fascinating creatures and gripping decors. It’s a visual creation imagined as a invitation to dream – a moment suspended in the air. The panther, Cartier’s muse since 1914, is the heroine of this epic saga and it invites us to follow it in its frantic race, its journey through the world.

fxg: Can you describe the live action shoot? How were shots featuring the panther filmed, especially when it had to be incorporated into new backgrounds?

The shots of the panther are a combination of a 3D leopard and others were shot on greenscreen.

fxg: What particle effects solution did you use for the diamond panther explosion?

Mathieu Nègrel, the supervisor of the FX team, did the setups of the panther’s explosion. The brilliant aspect was realized thanks to a very fast homemade shader of diffraction, under mental ray.

– Above: Watch behind the scenes of the piece.

fxg: What were the tools and techniques you used to create the Chinese dragon, including the rock and crumbling effects?

To determine the aesthetics of the dragon, a visual research drawn was necessary beforehand. After validations of the proportions, physical elements and colors, the character designer gives way to the pattern makers and animators to later finish with the common phases of texturing, lighting, shading etc. Thanks to this set-up step, the component parts of the heavenly character, as for the scales, reach an optimum level of movement of independence of the entire body, revealing a marvellous creature with a authentic aspect. The design was carried out by Stéphane Levalois. A large number of back and forth between Bruno and Cartier was necessary to make our creation reflect perfectly the spirit of the brand’s jewellery.

fxg: How were the elephant shots accomplished?

The most difficult shot in that sequence with the elephant was to redo entirely the back and animate the skin’s distortions so the palace could really form a part of the back.

fxg: Can you talk about some of the other digital environments, such as for the mountains with the rings, Paris at night and the flying shots?

For the creation of the bracelets rolling in the snow: a part of the bracelets is in full 3D. The others are models (scale ¼) on which we put 3D rings to add some reflections. Digital District also filmed a lot of rubble elements. But for a better integration concerning the interaction of the dragon and the mountain, they did a lot of FX mass of fallen rocks, smoke, dust, etc too.

For the Moscow sequence, Digital District’s graphic designers used the matte painting technique, which consisted of re-creating a decor that doesn’t exist during the filming and that is, therefore, painted in 2D. After a research phase of iconography allowing to create a decor close to reality, the graphic designers put the matte in 3D and cut it in several shots to obtain a real interaction, with a parallax effect, which allows to create the camera move (the bridge, the posts, the statues and one part of the background are thus established beforehand).

The matte painting has also been used for a part of the sequence Love, the one-to-one with the heavenly dragon and the one occurring in Paris. Three months of work were required only for the matte painting phase. The St Petersburg shots are actually filmed on an airport. All the decors are digital extensions. The graphic designers who did the mattes did an amazing work but the big difference between this movie and another one is that all the mattes were specialized either with the compositing team or in 3D, which make them even more alive.

As far as the creation of Paris by night is concerned, Digital District had to do a lot of work of matte painting and graphic research in compositing to find the look of that sequence. It was oddly more complicated than the team expected but the result transports us in a reinterpreted Paris.