Fiat 500 feat. J’Lo: “My World” | “Elegance”

Fiat 500: “My World”

Fiat 500 Gucci: “Elegance”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Big Block
AGENCY: Doner Michigan
DIRECTOR: Max Malkin

Fiat 500 made waves when they brought on Jennifer Lopez to be their spokesperson in 2011. It was kind of a coup. Back then, she went by the more streetwise abbreviated moniker of J’Lo, which works well for this particular campaign. Also, rumor has it, she got five of these things when she signed on. I wonder if she drove any of them.

Anyway, with this pair of spots, I can definitely confirm that she drives two, since technically the Gucci model is its own thing.

For starters, “My World” capitalizes on J’Lo’s Bronx origins, and the inspiration it provided to rise to the pinnacles of her immensely successful career.

A majority of the work involved sign clean-up (due to clearance issues), camera shadow and reflection removals, exterior car revisions, due to the EU car being used instead of the US, speedometer adjustments (i.e. a full gas tank, the proper speed limit), and of course, J’Lo’s beauty work, which was unsurprisingly nuanced and specific.

Also, an EU version of this spot was produced, via CG and 2D fixes to the car. Revisions included removal of wheel reflectors, white side mirrors instead of chrome, different license plates, and a white dash and steering wheel instead of a black one.

Thanks to the Gucci branding, the second spot, “Elegance,” moves uptown, with J’Lo again waxing narrative about the city’s lasting influence. Except, this time, the down-to-earth streetwise world gets swapped for the style-minded environs of high fashion and hip nightlife.

The spot is structured visually from afternoon to evening, with color grading to match. This includes adapting day-for-night Fiat running footage, accenting the afternoon sun with glints and flares across the environment’s buildings, and sexing up the night streets with bokeh flares from headlamps and street lights.

In addition, much like “My World,” there’s the typical clean-up and beauty work. This involved removal of camera reflections from the Fiat’s glossy black hood, street and storefront signage that didn’t receive clearance, and unwanted cones, cops, and people in the streets. And of course, there’s the obligatory J’Lo digital makeup and facial tucks.

Project X

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Method Studios
CLIENT: Warner Bros. Pictures
DIRECTOR: Nima Nourizadeh

“Project X” is a teen raunch-com that utilizes the faux-documentary found-footage technique to depict the ultimate high school party. The film culminates in a fiery showdown, featuring an angry flamethrower-wielding party-goer, thousands of drunken panicked teenagers, water-dousing helicopters, news crews, and a swat team.

Although there’s a considerable amount of practical fire in the shot footage, including the flamethrower, much of it needed enhancement to intensify the chaos and danger of the situation. And due to the footage’s frantic handheld nature, cleanup and integration of additional fire, smoke, and people/props proved that much more challenging.

I was tasked with creating the initial flamethrower explosion, where the police shoot one of the tanks, causing it to ignite. I also enhanced a number of flamethrower plumes, enlarged gas explosions, tracked leaves to fake trees that I made catch fire, and removed countless fire bars and hoses scattered throughout the set.

Lastly, on a number of shots, I assembled multiple disparate plates to appear as one continuous take, the main one being the run through the house, as it’s being doused with water from a hovering helicopter.

Microsoft Studios | Epic Games: “Gears of War 3: Walls of Brotherhood”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Microsoft Studios | Epic Games
DIRECTOR: Aladino Debert

“Walls of Brotherhood” consists of six spots, each depicting a different stage of destruction of a large triangular walled object. As explosions occur, an etched mural depicting the Gears of War story is revealed behind the debris. The above featured clip is a compilation of highlights from all six spots.

The primary task was to augment or completely replace the murals being revealed. Per client critique, plate photography explosions were great, but the murals beneath them didn’t read as effectively as intended.

This posed a few unique challenges. To replace the murals behind the blank walls, a number of keying and color correction techniques were implemented to create a convincing composite. For the murals exploding to reveal the statues, additional warping, hand-tracks, and g-masks were utilized to shatter the newly replaced murals.

Additionally, parallax was added to static shots, and unwanted exploding debris was removed.

Myself and Jeff Heusser contributed to 5 of these spots. Lisa Tomei worked on the exploding logo at the end of the featured compilation, which chronologically was the campaign’s first spot.

Ubisoft: “Brothers in Arms: Furious 4”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Ubisoft
DIRECTOR: Aladino Debert

During my latter days at Digital Domain, I worked on a number of game cinematics, E3 trailers, and promotional spots.

The studio just inherited Robert Zemeckis’ mo-cap stage in Playa Vista, which was perfect for creating game-related content. And their internal production company Mothership boasted a roster of directors that were looking to branch out from commercial work. Cinematics and long-form trailers proved am appealing medium for broader storytelling.

This brings us to one of their earlier efforts, “Brothers in Arms: Furious 4,” directed by longtime VFX supervisor and Mothership member Aladino Debert. This ultraviolent, WWII fantasy assumed a Tarantino-flavored take on killing Nazis.

At the time, it was created as an announcement trailer for E3. But apparently, after the gaming conference, it was deemed a little too close to Tarantino’s wartime fantasy “Inglorious Bastards,” and was consequently changed quite a bit from what you see here.

History aside, the trailer itself was tons of fun to work on, albeit sometimes pretty eye-opening in its irreverent take on wartime vengeance. All of the CG was comp’d in Nuke by a talented roster of artistd. I had the opportunity to tackle a couple of shots in Flame, although most of my contributions were touch-ups and flourishes that occurred on top of Nuke comps.

I also managed the conform, handled all animated titling, treated the overall style and grade, and crafted additional explosive and flash effects in 2D.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: “Strong for Life”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
DIRECTOR: David Rosenbaum

As metaphor for the benefits of playtime, this PSA features giant-sized children engaged in a game of hide-and-seek throughout the streets of Atlanta.

This is one of those spots where I was brought in late in the schedule to help finish. As such, I only worked on a couple of shots, primarily with kids sitting on a rooftop, and children chasing each other down streets.

The primary challenge was integrating the greenscreen plates of normal-sized children into city footage to make them feel as if they were the size of buildings. Much of this was achieved with 2D re-lighting and interactive shadows, along with typical comp needs such as DOF, color, and the proper keys, edges, and holdouts.


ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Marvel Entertainment
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branaugh

My contribution to Marvel Entertainment’s “Thor” consisted of a brief yet significant flashback sequence, depicting mischievous brother Loki’s origins as a Frost Giant baby discovered by King Odin.

Originally, the shots were intended to be quick color corrections to depict the Frost Giant baby, the skin color of which is blue. But following a late redesign of the sequence, Marvel requested that the baby also feature the signature Frost Giant scarification on its body and head.

With no time in the schedule for a full CG solution, the sequence was turned over to Flame for a 2D fix. Myself, along with Sam Edwards, worked on these shots, primarily relying on 2D projections and geometry object tracks to matchmove the scarification to the baby’s smooth jiggling flesh. Also, long hours of hand-tracking and bicubic warping factored heavily into the solution.

Technical challenges included object tracking on multiple axes without markers, as well as close-up handheld photography, offering no distinct environmental or body features to aid in the tracking.

Dr. Pepper: “Thor”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Dr. Pepper

This Dr. Pepper spot was first conceived for the Super Bowl, but through the powers-that-be, instead revised to be a cross-promotion to coincide with the May release of Marvel’s “Thor.”

As such, the spot benefited from better footage to choose from, as many FX shots from the film had yet-to-be completed, improved integration with the film (the Destroyer’s fire beam was originally a lightning bolt from Thor), and an opportunity to further revise the sky replacements and storm composites.

I handled the Flame duties, while compositors Sven Dreesback and Arthur Argote took on a majority of the Nuke work.

My primary Flame tasks were removal of unwanted awning poles, street lights, and trees, plate blending for multiple takes of Stan Lee, minor beauty work on Lee, and the standard keeping of the conform. I also handled some Nuke shots, further refining composite edges of talent for sky replacements, as well as updated comps to accommodate new takes.

Dodge Charger: “The Future of Driving”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
DIRECTOR: Carl Erik Rinsch

Originally slotted for Super Bowl 2011, this Dodge commercial ultimately found its way to the internet a few months later. A long colorful journey precedes its cancellation. But for all practical purposes, let’s just say that the powers-that-be simply just didn’t get it.

Designed as a counterpoint to contemporary car conveniences, the spot depicts the Charger as a no-frills driving machine. This is achieved through an absurdist extrapolation of technology and the future, where an automated lifestyle doesn’t always lead to a satisfactory one.

A number of compositors worked on this spot, but my contributions primarily consisted of futuristic apartment interiors (the clothes changing device, the automated door handle), some garage clean-up (rig and greenscreen removals), and the beautifying of all of the running car footage (car and street clean-up, color grading). I also contributed some interior car robot comps, particularly focused on the animated face.

Additionally, I managed the conform, accommodating all editorial changes, which doesn’t seem like much … unless you take into consideration that the edit was never truly “locked,” and on delivery day, we were receiving edit v84 from the agency.