BUICK ELECTRA

unnamed-56

Case Study

BUICK ELECTRA CONCEPT CAR

Juice | Buick Electra - Concept Car

During the unveiling of the new Buick concept car something even more incredible was unveiled: our first-ever fully remote post-production workflow on a mostly CG auto commercial. The SAIC holding company had big dreams about its futuristic electric car. It wanted to take would-be drivers on a 150sec. imaginary ride through a universe of fantasy worlds that finally converge in reality. 

The project kicked off at the height of the Covid19 pandemic when most of China was still in quarantine and Europe was getting ready to enter its first major lockdown. It was clear we had to find a replacement for the traditional workflow that included several SFX supervisors working alongside the production team on set, marking and mapping objects in real-time, and adjusting as the production progresses. Even though we had just set up the first Juice outpost in China, this production called for hundreds of simulations and a massive undertaking by our art department. 

The motion experience alternates between our driver—deep in a dream state—and the concept car that materializes around her before our eyes. Strong energy vectors paint the car in space and continuously remind us that this particular electric vehicle derives its energy from driving on the road. In the Buick, the cabin is exceptionally expansive sporting a carefully modeled driver UI with beautiful information displays including a video feed from an over-the-wheel camera of a girl on a hoverboard. Yeap, nothing out of the ordinary. 

And because it was post-produced remotely, our talented supervisors Olga, Kuba, and Hesu spent four grueling nights pouring over previews and sharing meticulous comments on WeChat. No one could dream it would look and feel as pristine as it did but when you have a dream team on board, in two continents, there are very few challenges that can’t be met. Read below for all the nitty gritty.

unnamed-49

Juice | Buick Electra - Concept Car

  • SHOOTING

A studio shoot. One actress in one hell of a sleek wardrobe. Lots of loose hair. An insanely glossy car.

In a series of dream sequences, our main character is fantasizing about her perfect car while floating between different CG worlds. To seamlessly integrate the footage with our CG environments we had to give extra attention to lighting and reflections. It’s a challenging job even when we get to have our VFX Supervisor physically on set, let alone when it’s all happening remotely.

The first thing we did to overcome that challenge was to prepare a 3D layout where we could position the props and account for all the big character movements on set as we set up our cameras and plotted their movement. This helped us anticipate almost all of the problem areas and deliver precise camera and lighting instructions to the production team

unnamed-55

Juice | Buick Electra - Concept Car

Green screen proved tricky as well. In the opening space sequence, when the girl is floating inside the energy sphere, we opted for black screen instead of green, which created a more realistic lighting matching the darkness of space. It also ensured we don’t get stuck with extra hours of hard core flying hair roto. Lastly, it saved everyone a great deal of headache dealing with green spills all over the main character’s sleek outfit.

unnamed-3

Director Li Zimo loves to scatter light off of different surfaces in his minimalistic designs. In other words, a nightmare scenario when shooting lots of green screen. Generally speaking, green screens and reflective materials don’t mix quite well, which is why we had to push back on the shiny pearl suit for the fencing scene and go for a matte white suite with silver accents.

unnamed-444
unnamed-556

Shiny Pearl Suit

Matte White Suit

But it didn’t end with her outfit. In fact, the actual Buick had an extremely reflective coating, which meant we had to deal with a ton of green spills. With the exception of the final rooftop scene that featured the real car, we decided that every car scene would use a 3D model which helped us eliminate those pesky spills completely.

correctiosn

The rooftop scene actually started out as a golden hour location shot, somewhere high up above the city - a tight shot to begin with. But with Covid19 restrictions, the production had to move into the studio. Now instead of dealing with unwanted reflections, we had to make up for some missing ones. The solution? Oversized LED screens for projecting sky HDRI’s. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to get these screens at such short notice so instead the production had the sky printed on large vinyl canvases. But this quick fix proved to slow things down in post.

So while this setup worked for the car and its reflection on the floor, we ended up recreating most of the elements in the shot in CG. The glossy floor and water on set simply attracted a ton of unwanted reflections from the white ceiling and the supporting stands.

A word about props. Few people outside the industry know this, but when filming a car commercial, we almost always get exclusive access to a variety of car parts to accomplish some impossible interior shots. In this case, the car was getting constructed in space around our actress but without a car seat and steering wheel to reference how her body, her dress, and her hair interact with the interior, we had to rely on specialty green props cut to scale. We even had to trim the sides of the seat so as not to obstruct the driver’s body when shooting.

unnamed-1
unnamed-46-1

Another scene worth mentioning is where the woman’s hand was playing with the celestial rings of one of the planets.

While the rings were created in CG, we wanted the interaction to feel credible and the light play feel realistic. We solved this by shooting a hand against a black backdrop while shining on it with a laser beam. We think it turned out quite nicely.

unnamed-47-1
unnamed-48-1

CG - THE SETUP

Minimalistic environments: The darkness of space vs a squeaky clean white environment. Energy vectors birthing the car. A few creative transitions: Energy bursts, Light-to-grid transformation, Supersonic challenge.

The motion board presented by the director had quite a lot of minimalistic references with only one or two prominent elements that lead the scene. This effectively put all eyes on the nuances of each shot.

ref-pack-1

Buick Electra - Motion Board

The first sixty seconds were all about dark space. For lack of any perceived reference points, we’re typically tempted to summon some of the less-than-realistic space representations we were fed by sci-fi classics where physically impossible things happen like fast moving close stars that are extremely small or slow-moving giant starts that could never be so close. Either way, our perceptions are warped. So in order to solve our visual challenges the decision was to push this dreamworld beyond any physical constraints.

unnamed-32
unnamed-39

The darkness of space had to eventually give way to layers of cloud nebulae that interact beautifully with an unseen golden light source. And being the dream world that it was, the proportions of those layers were bent at will and we even threw in some liquid surfaces as the car was being formed.

unnamed-38

For the energy sphere containing the actress, we ended up combining the structural feel of a glass bubble with a golden hair light then surrounded everything by filaments of light reminiscent of coronal-mass-ejections and a touch of Tesla-ball internal lightning.

unnamed-35
unnamed-36

We created two kinds of light vectors: one set that felt more organic and tangled more freely with the hand and another set of more engineered vectors that both built the outline of the dashboard and then adhered to it.

Untitled-2

Buick Electra - Animated Light Vectors

We created two kinds of light vectors: one set that felt more organic and tangled more freely with the hand and another set of more engineered vectors that both built the outline of the dashboard and then adhered to it.

unnamed-29
unnamed-30

Lastly, we maintained equal weight for the lines and added particles to create a harmonious sense of style even though these two sets originated from two totally separate FX setups. But the work with the light vectors wasn’t always straight forward.

I
nitially all the energy lines were supposed to be formed procedurally, but at a later point in the story, those lines had to also take on the function of revealing the car interior. They had to appear at a particular time in the shot and the only way to control that was to animate the contours manually, then generate a separate pass of particles surrounding the lines.

Revealing the surfaces that make up the car interior against the dark space was a subtle dance as we didn’t want it to look like a rough mask.  We solved this by combining the render of the interior with the golden glow, as if emanating from the contours, and the FX revealing mask assisted by a fluid shape.

unnamed-31
unnamed-26

"Growing" mask

unnamed-27

Generated particles surrounding lines

unnamed-28

Manually animated contour lines

CG - TRANSITIONS

To achieve smooth flow of the video and make seamless change from one environment to another the director planned for a lot of creative transitions already at the step of the initial motionboard. And creative transitions in post need special treatment. To make stitches between shots invisible we had to make matching of camera movement in the shots as well as animation of certain elements. 

Energy bursts. One of the challenges of a creative transition is the fact that sometimes it is not fully clear which object should help make the transformation. In the energy ball outburst scene the first stitch is covered by the burst itself while keeping the same camera movement, then the imaginary nebula surface transforms into the planet rings as the woman disappears in the form of energy on the horizon like a newborn star.

unnamed-23
unnamed-24
unnamed-25
unnamed-20

To help the transition happen more organically we defined a visible plane in the center of the scene. Then we created a special particle simulation for the nebula look, and inside this nebula we placed the  transformation of the plane that helps fit in the planet rings. 

unnamed-21
unnamed-22

Light-to-grid transformation. The visual story took a turn here and called for a dramatic transition from the more “stripy” structure of the car lights to the more grid-driven structure of a wheel which transforms into a tunnel as it rotates. Here’s how we did it:

1. From rigid to curving and fluidy. 
2. From curving to rigid.
3. To the spokes of a wheel.
4.To the segmented structure of a tunnel.
5. A glowing light grid scattering in the tunnel.

Untitled-3

The rigid stripes that make up the car lights had to transform into an abstract spiral with curved lines - like in the reference:

unnamed-8

At the same time we had to stay within the framework of the wheel grid that came next. In addition to unifying the rotation movement throughout the entire shot we also preserved the glow of the lights that scatter in the tunnel. This scene is also transitioning the story from the dark space, which we can glimpse in the background, into the clean white space. Reference:

unnamed-5

Supersonic challenge. The director wanted to use supersonic waves created by the car as a transition effect. Where the sound barrier is broken, one environment was supposed to be broken and give way to another. Sounds pretty simple on paper.

unnamed-6
unnamed-7
unnamed-3

The director’s reference was quite clear (left image). However, in the reference the dark background made the effect stand out. When a jet is going supersonic, there’s a clear contrast between the blue sky and the intense air flow around the jet (right image). In our case, we were working with a near-white environment. We couldn’t rely on classic air flow so we relied on the gray tones in the background and in the car to help the air waves. We compounded the effect by distorting the environment to intensify the final effect.

unnamed-4
supersonic-e1571248880585

“Often the decisions made in conjunction between the CGI artist and production specialist, benefit client, and agency, while still delivering on the very tight deadline. And as we all know in today's commercial world, times are not extending but constantly shrinking. Whatever solutions we might have to accommodate that – especially if they are in sync with cost-saving, we believe them to be the future of approach to commercials.”

svg-image

Adam Tunikowski, the CEO and co-Founder of Juice.

2021 聚思工作坊1:别克 ELECTRA 概念车的中文广告

这次我们邀请您一同探索别克ELECTRA 概念车的幕后,一窥这支后期制作全靠远程,基本由CG完成的汽车中文广告。

上汽控股公司希望让车主们体验一段150秒的“未来”虚拟旅程,穿越一个最终将与现实融合的梦幻世界。千禧传媒制作方联手JUICE后期制作团队,两个团队均富有能力胜任这项工作。而该片的制作正逢新冠疫情的高峰,这意味着JUICE团队无法按照以往的流程开展工作。我们必须得在特效主管无法与制作团队并肩工作的情况下完成摄制,实时标记并绘制对象,并随着制作的进展进行调整。

如何摄制一部后期全靠远程的CG汽车广告大片?
项目挑战:

第一个挑战

在一系列的梦境中,女主角一边幻想着她完美的汽车,一边漂浮在不同的CG世界中。为了将镜头与CG环境无缝丝滑地整合在一起,制作团队必须特别关注灯光与反射。同时,因受新冠疫情的限制,有部分拍摄内容在工作室完成,为了补完这部分镜头内容,JUICE团队进行了大量的CG工作。

第二个挑战

导演Li Zimo在他的极简主义设计中喜欢将光洒落在不同的表面上。但在拍摄大量绿屏时,这简直就是噩梦般的场景。通常,绿屏和反光材料,比如汽车的涂层和人物的服装并不是很协调。

第三个挑战

导演展示的动作板同样也是极简主义,很多地方只有一两个突出的元素主导场景作为参考。如此,便可有效地引导观众将目光集中在每个镜头的细微差别上。
第四个挑战
为了让影片流畅自然,且从一个环境到另一个环境的切换丝滑无缝,导演在最初的动作板阶段就计划了很多创造性的过渡。 丝滑转场的挑战之一便是有时并不完全清楚应该利用哪个对象进行转换。

解决方案
方案一

JUICE 团队搭建了一个3D场景,在那里他们可以放置道具,架设摄影机,规划动作,现场模拟所有主要的角色动作。得益于此,我们几乎预测了所有有问题的区域,并向制作团队交付了精准的运镜和照明指示。
有一幕,女主的手在拨弄某个行星的天体环,为了让观众感到这个互动真实可信,追光游戏逼真有趣,项目团队在黑色背景下拍摄手的同时,也用激光光束照射了手部。

方案二

选择一套银色带镶边的哑光白色套装作为角色在击剑场景中的服装,算是为了省时的妥协。
但实际的别克车也有着非常容易反光的涂层,这意味着团队必须处理大量的绿光溢出问题。因此我们大部分场景采用了3D建模的车辆,仅在最后的屋顶场景中使用了真车,大大减少了绿光溢出的问题。
至于屋顶的场景,项目团队必须补全缺失的反射,因此JUICE想出了利用超大的LED屏幕来投影天空高动态范围图的解决方案。但由于时间紧迫,最终的方案是将天空印在了巨大的乙烯基画布上。
 
 
因为片场光滑的地板和水只是吸引了白色天花板和支撑架上大量不必要的反射,这意味着要用CG再现镜头中的大部分元素。
 
方案三

为了解决视觉方面的挑战,制作团队决定让这个梦幻的世界超越所有物理的限制。因此,为了打造那个包裹女演员的能量球,JUICE结合了玻璃泡的结构感和金色的光丝,然后用闪亮的灯丝包围一切,这让人联想到日冕物质的喷射和特斯拉球内部的闪电。
我们的团队创造了两种光的载体: 一种感觉更有组织,与手更自由地纠缠在一起; 另一种更工程化,它们勾勒了仪表板的轮廓,然后依附在上面。
而汽车内部的展示与周围黑暗空间的对比则像是微妙的舞蹈。因为项目团队不想让这一画面看起来显得粗糙,所以在展示渲染汽车内饰的部分加入了金色的柔光,仿佛是从轮廓中散发出来的一般,同时展示操作面板的部分还加入了流体的形态。
生成粒子环绕线
 
方案四

在能量球爆发的场景中,第一针被爆炸本身所覆盖,同时镜头保持相同的运动,随后幻想中的星云表面转变成行星环。
 
而从光到网格的转换则需要更多戏剧性,从递增的“条纹”结构的车灯,到更多的网格驱动结构的车轮,随着车轮的转动,又转变为一个隧道。而JUICE是这么做的:
 
 
导演还提出想利用汽车产生的超声波作为过渡效果。当音障被打破时,一个环境就会被打破,让位于另一个环境。导演的参考很清晰明了,但黑暗的背景使得效果非常突出。
 
在几乎纯白的环境中,项目团队无法依靠传统的气流进行判断,所以他们选择依靠背景和车内的灰色色调来帮助实现气流,通过扭曲环境来强化最终效果。
 
结语
 
挑战百分百远程的后期制作意味着大量的预览审核,更多,更细致地关注细节和创造性的解决方案,以弥补制作团队的缺席。而最终,虽然有一定的制作调整,但并没有在原有的创意上妥协,制作团队最终让别克ELECTRA概念车的幻想世界成为了现实。

SUBSCRIBE FOR JUICY STORIES

CONTACT

Aleksandra Watras
Head of New Business
Email: a.watras@j.studio
Website: j.studio
Instagram: @juice.pl

© Juice 2021