Kia Canada: “Glasses” | “8 Bit” | “Toolbox”

Kia Canada: “Glasses”

Kia Canada: “8-Bit”

Kia Canada: “Toolbox”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
AGENCY: Innocean Worldwide Canada

In addition to the finishing, I handled a number of visual aspects for these three Kia spots. “Glasses” is the 60 second hero spot. “8-Bit” and “Toolbox” are spin-offs that draw from specific shots in “Glasses.”

There were two big challenges. First, due to some undesirable plate photography, the footage needed to be transformed from a late afternoon cool temperature to a sunny mid afternoon warmth. Second, due to a tight schedule, a number of Nuke comps needed to be augmented, re-graded, or finished in Flame.

Also, there were additional tasks specific to each spot. For “Glasses,” I designed the POV look for the world as viewed through the glasses. For “8-Bit,” I worked on the look of the bee and resulting splat. And for “Toolbox,” I supervised a number of transformation shots.

In addition, there was the usual car and environment clean-up – everything from tires and rig reflections to signage and vagrant people.

DC Shoes presents Ken Block’s Gymkhana Five: Ultimate Urban Playground, San Francisco

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
DIRECTOR: Ben Conrad

Ken Block’s annual stunt ride through Americana landscapes brings this 5th edition of Gymkhana to the streets of San Francisco. A Bay Area native myself, this one rings true to my roots. Plus, it blows my mind that they were able to achieve all this crazy driving in a city that’s not all that driver friendly.

The short film is presented by Block’s own DC Shoes, and directed by Logan’s Ben Conrad. All the driving is entirely in camera, with no effects added.

However, that didn’t mean I had nothing to do. There were obvious goals that couldn’t be achieved on location, such as the checkered starting line painted on the Bay Bridge, or the absence of all people and background vehicles. Surprising, on that latter not, production managed to film S.F. as ghost town for many shots. But there were a few that needed spectator removals.

Also, I had to add or take away Go-Pro cameras mounted in the car’s interior, due to continuity issues. Sometimes cameras came loose, or they were placed in different locations to achieve the given shot. But most importantly, the cameras always needed to be present to show that what was occurring was real.

Lastly, there was quite a bit of grading and balancing of levels to get the various footage to feel consistent.

Arianna & Pitbull: “Sexy People” (a.k.a. The Fiat Song)

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Luma Pictures
AGENCY: The Richard’s Group

An Italian songstress I’d never heard of. A Cuban rapper named after a canine. An abundance of ridiculously fit women with embarrassingly tight swimsuits. Topless mermaids. Something resembling a spy plot. An armada of Fiat 500s that drive both underwater and on the ocean surface. The ultimate beach dance party. And of course, Charlie Sheen.

Every now and then, I get to work on a project that’s batshit nuts. And with this one, I got to participate in the insanity three times – in English, Italian, and Spanish – because, of course, every language needs an entirely different edit with entirely different takes.

So … Three conforms, with three times the beauty work, three times the sky replacements, three times the ocean clean-up and land removal, and three times the dancing fish and floating Fiats of an entirely CG underwater kingdom. You get the general idea.

On the plus side, the end result does put a smile on my face. And I have to say, even though I can’t stand listening to the song, it does sound best in her native Italian.

For each of these videos, I worked with fellow Flame artist Chris DeCristo.

BMW i3: “Decisions”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Ntropic
AGENCY: Dorten

This “one-take” German-market spot kicked off the launch of BMW’s new EV series, primarily focused on the i3. I entered this project midway through its completion, and spent a couple weeks helping lead artist Alex Frisch nudge the various takes into place.

Originally, the entire spot was shot practical, with real cars on real streets, as well as some helicopter plates for overhead city views – drones weren’t a thing yet. To get the various plates to align, each take had to be re-projected on Flame geo to achieve a single, continuous motion. This often required stabilization, counter animation, and in some cases, completely new camera motion. Honestly, it wasn’t easy.

The work was split equally among multiple artists, who came and went during the project’s duration. I handled the intro city flythrough, landing on the i3 and i5 pair at street level. I also contributed a flythrough into and out of the i3’s interior, which required a complete rebuild of the roof, seats, and dashboard, due to the camera rig.

Ford Escape: “Exterior” | “4 Wheel Drive” | “Lift”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Ntropic
AGENCY: Team Detroit
DIRECTOR: Andrew Sinagra

The above featured FX reel covers the CG aspects of these spots, of which I contributed a few car comps. I had to pull this one from an old Ntropic “making-of,” since I don’t have the original spots. But for the most part, this contains the nuts and bolts of all three.

And although not featured in breakdown fashion, there was a tremendous amount of practical car beauty and road/environment clean-up. Lens flares and unwanted reflections required removal. Tires, rims, headlights, grills, and badges needed further emphasis in detail and brightness. Windows had to be tinted, and body contours needed to be exaggerated.

The various highways received their own fresh coat of asphalt, removing cracks and potholes, as well as a new coat of paint for the dividing lines. Bridges had water stains removed and concrete wall guards had scrapes and scuffs cleaned off.

Surprisingly, out of all the environments, the garage required the most work, transforming the interior space into the cleanest, most organized space on the planet to store a Ford.

Some stylized endcard backgrounds featured cityscape matte paintings and sandy oceanside views. I always thought some of the focal choices used to emphasize the car came off a bit weird, almost like miniature photography. But that’s what was directed.

American Idol: “2012 Ford Music Challenge”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Ntropic
AGENCY: Team Detroit
DIRECTOR: P.R. Brown & Ethan Lader

12 weeks.  12 music videos.  Each custom-themed.  Shoot on Sunday.  Edit on Monday-Tuesday. Compositing and post on Tuesday-Wednesday.  Finish and deliver on Wednesday night.

That’s the production schedule for “American Idol” and Ford’s fourth annual “Music Video Challenge.” To say it’s a short turnaround is a bit of an understatement.

I worked on 8 of the 12 weeks, with Lead Flame Artist MB Emigh, as well as additional Flame Aritsts Chris Moore, Chris DeCristo, and Rob Hubbard.  Each week was different, depending on the theme: fairy tale, zodiac, ghosts, school, magic, giants, etc.

One week would necessitate heavy greenscreen compositing, making the Idols look like giants; the next week creating stylized treatments, transforming the Idols into astrological signs or magical fantasy figures. In short, a lot of hard work with no time, lots of creativity, and a reliance on pretty much every trick in the book.

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.

Lincoln: “No Other Anything” | “All Things Equal” | “Something”

Lincoln: “No Other Anything”

Lincoln: “All Things Equal”

Lincoln: “Something”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
CLIENT: Lincoln, Ford
AGENCY: Team Detroit
DIRECTOR: Lance Accord

Lincoln gets a facelift for their luxury brand of vehicles, with the help of John Slattery, aka “Mad Men’s” Roger Sterling. Interesting that an actor portraying an ad man is the one doing the actual selling this time around. Prophetic, serendipitous, or simply ironic?

These three spots were primarily a 2D job done in Flame, with 3D support in the form of hold out mattes (from tracked geo), match-moved floor textures, and additional camera tracks to integrate matte paintings.

There were the usual suspects – removal of camera car reflections; replacement of dashboard monitors; and tinting of windows, and brightening of headlights.

A few flopped plates were introduced, as well, requiring correction of badges, license plates, and additional body features, so as not to read backwards.

Also, sets needed to be re-lit through color correction, using camera tracks and mattes projected on cards. And in a few instances of Slattery in the driver’s seat, motion blur needed to be removed after stabilization. That was a bit tricky, since there’s quite a bit of detail in his facial features, and he’s also delivering dialogue.

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.

Mazda Cx7: “Director’s Cut”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
DIRECTOR: Dael Oates

Director Dael Oates originally shot this spot roughly three years prior to the current work done on it. Due to creative differences, the agency that commissioned it decided to go a different direction. Dael’s vision was never realized.

When Dael joined Digital Domain’s sister company Mothership, he finally had the opportunity to complete the work the way he always intended … hence, his director’s cut.

Dael shot a majority of the spot in camera, stop-motion-style, then enhanced it through editorial techniques.

Having worked with Dael before on 7 Days’ Croissants, I was brought on to enhance the edit, complete the visual effects, and color grade the entire spot.

Most of what you see is what he shot. Everything else was finished in Flame.