The Masters Tournament, also known as The US Masters, is one of the four major championships in professional golf. It is played each April at the Augusta National Golf Club, and it is extremely prestigious. Along with the general public, the advertisers consider this an important and exclusive event. Only three advertisers are chosen, and even they must present commercials that have not aired before.

One of this year’s principal sponsors is Mercedes-AMG, who produced a set of new spots for the event. Two of which were CG and involved cutting edge virtual production with teams spread across the USA.

Principle NY production company, The-Artery collaborated with Scott Metzger ,who co-founded Nurulize in LA, on the CGI virtual production. “We produced a new campaign for Mercedes-Benz, and used Nurulize for shooting the spot by acclaimed DP Paul Cameron (Westworld, Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Men Tell No Tales, Total Recall.)” commented of the co-founders of The-Artery Vico Sharabani. These spots were directed by “Rob Moggach, Paul and myself” he adds.

The spots launched this weekend and as you can see in the video below the team used the latest VR tools to provide the DOP with the ability to film the spots virtually.

We sat down with Vico Sharabani and discussed the spots

FXGThanks for taking time to talk to use Vico. What was the advantage of taking this virtual production approach? …

The way I sold the campaign to the clients was to hire the best cinematic talent we can in every department. Cinematography, vfx, and editorial. Treating the campaign as a traditional filming process was embraced by everyone, and Rob suggested we bring our friends at Nurulize to maximize the “on-set” experience.

The technology was in Alpha so we got to be the first to use it, and Rob’s technical knowledge was invaluable in making that happen. Paul was able to then choose the camera, lenses, and move a camera as he wished.It was beautiful to see him walk around and asking “can we go down there?” Or “Please crane up 30 feet” just like in a normal production.

This is by far a more intuitive way for him to operate the camera than interfacing with a CG artist using a mouse.  Seeing Paul move the camera as he searches for the composition made it clear that in 5 seconds he can lock something that can take a coupe of revisions with a remote artist…

FXG:  Am I correct in thinking during a virtual shoot, the three of you were in different cities?

Yes, Paul was “shooting” in LA, Rob was recording in Toronto, and I was monitoring the shoot in NY.  Nurulize supported streaming for a great collaborative experience.

FXGDid this use special Nurulize tech such as their point cloud VR work shown at Siggraph ?

We used Nurulize as a previz tool to capture the camera movements. So the models were grey shaded as you can see in the teaser. This was one of the first uses of this new technology, from Scott and the team.

FXGWhat was the final render output with ?

We rendered using the Redshift, (fully GPU-accelerated, biased renderer) at 2.5k resolution. We rendered via GridMarkets who were great.

FXGHow many ads in the whole campaign?

We created a 6 spot campaign for the Golf Masters Tournament. It is a very exclusive event for advertising.  Four of the spots were editorial and two of the spots were CG.

FXG:  Was the car design from your team or a direct CAD translation from the client

It was all based on CAD Data from the clients.

In comparison to the VR of the CG spots, the edit room took the traditional path or traditional filming making approach and was filled with hundreds of frames posted on the walls. “The CG spots as well as the existing footage spots had the same talented editor, Michael Elliot”, commented Sharabani.

Rob Moggach adds “We started the camera work with Paul in a traditional manner with previs of hardware-shaded models. This was too slow to visualize and iterations meant it would take more than a week to complete. To speed the process I knew we needed to get an actual camera in Paul’s hands and the car in front of him”.  Moggach had been working with Nurulize for a few years and knew their capabilities and how he thought it could speed up their process dramatically.

“It’s not remarkable to walk around a car in VR”, he comments. “It is remarkable however to be able to render Deep EXR images of a car from multiple angles, import them automatically into VR, choose from industry standard film backs on the fly (like the Alexa65 with anamorphic lenses we used), see it in VR with multiple people in completely different geographic locations and be able to export to 3D packages from captured data after the shoot to get dailies out for editing the next day”.

The VR was ful 6 degrees o freedom not just 360 stereoscopic video. Paul’s reaction was that it was the closest thing to being on set in VR he’d experienced “so I considered that a big success given his legacy as a traditional filmmaker. My goal as a Director and Creative Technologist is to use the best tools at my disposal to bypass the mundane work and focus more intently on the creative” .

The team captured almost 40 setups in 4 hours and had 60000+ frames of “VR previs” delivered to the editor the next day.

Below is the extended creative team from Merkley and Partners and The-Artery.

Andy Hirsch -ECD at Merkley and Partners
Drummond Berman – Group Creative Director , Greg Wells – Creative Director,
Gary Grossman – HOP, Anthony DelVecchio – Producer at Merkley + Partners
Vico Sharabani – Director/Founder at The-Artery
Michael Elliot – Editor and Deborah Sullivan – EP at The-Artery