Our VFX team were approached by STV Creative tasking us with an exciting project: To create a spectacular TV commercial that would turn the world of accident claims upside-down, for one of their biggest clients, Digby Brown Solicitors.
We were tasked to create two photorealistic cgi environments, one depicting a car crash and the other an accident in the workplace. The twist was that these scenes were to be inverted in space, with the “ceiling” of the virtual set aligning with the floor of the live action shoot. The look was designed to fit alongside the existing de-saturated design of previous Digby Brown commercials.
Watch the VFX build-up sequence below to get an insight into the work that goes into producing a project such as this.
After discussing a few ideas with the creatives and director, we created an initial set of basic mock-up images that would demonstrate our thoughts on how we would propose to approach the brief and the techniques that we would employ. This was the first time that the client had used visual effects techniques in their commercials and they needed a little reassurance that the creative would work and that we could achieve a realistic result. The mockups we submitted enabled the client to visualise what we had planned and give them the confidence needed to sign off on the idea to proceed.
The green-screen was set up for keying, and tracking markers were placed around the set to enable us to recreate the camera motion used and apply that to our virtual cameras within our 3d environment.
Next we took measurements of the entire space – vital for allowing us to accurately reconstruct the set once back at the studio.
Once the on-set lighting was set, we took bracketed lighting references as a reference to the conditions the actors were under, so we could recreate the approximate lighting conditions in the final CGI rig.
Keying and Camera Tracking
Back at the studio we started work on the keying, rotoscope and camera tracking. A combination of automatic keying and manual frame-by-frame rotoscope work gave us a good clean mask, enabling us to isolate the actors from the greenscreen and place them in our CGI environments. A rock-stready camera track allows us to place virtual CGI items alongside the actors, or in this case place the actors within a full CGI environment. There was non of the spacial disparity that can occur with a poorly executed track, our characters feet were firmly anchored to their inverted worlds!
We also extracted the cast shadows from the greenscreen shot, which were re-used to anchor the actor to the CGI back plate.
During the shoot it was decided that the location of the camera on set didn’t allow enough room in-frame to place both the cars and street scene high enough such that they didn’t obstruct the actor. Thinking quickly on our feet the solution was to add in an extra virtual camera move in 3d to give more space above the actor and allow the framing that the director desired.
Once we had a good solve for the camera track we were able to start the layout of our 3d scene, creating and positioning 3d objects to populate the scene. Once this work was complete the initial lighting and surfacing of the cars and their environment takes place.
Initially working with grey, mid-tone shaders allowing us to see the lighting on it’s own,without being distracted by more complex surfacing at this stage. Once we were happy with the lighting we progressed to assigning realistic surface textures and properties to the cgi objects.
Refinements and final look
In addition to creating the with the virtual car crash and warehouse sets we would have to create a seamless set extension for the “office” which appears in the second half of the commercial to extend the walls higher than the constructed set and also hide a large lamp that was suspended in the middle of the room.
We also cleaned up some marks, imperfections and constructional seams on the walls, to give the Digby Brown office set a feeling of smooth-walled perfection. We continued to iterate and refine the lighting, layout and overall grade until we arrived at the final approved result. Linking together the seamless set extension work with the photorealistic virtual environment, to produce two separate seamless 30 second shots.
Layering the Final CGI
The final film was the result of many days of hard graft, problem solving, smart techniques and creative magic by the team. The client was thrilled with the result and we are too.