H&M : The Road Trip
What a wonderful experience to work again with Sonny London and MJZ LA on the latest H&M project featuring David Beckham and Kevin Hart on a journey to Vegas, full of accidents and laughs.
Usually these jobs that are a continuation of a very successful campaign tend to move towards bigger and more crazy VFX but thanks to Adam&EveDDB and Fredrik Bond’s vision this was not the case, and as usual, he brought an incredibly human and quirky adventure to life in style.
From the start, the logistics are always complicated with celebrities but in this case, both David and Kevin were surprisingly professional so we got lots of time to get the right shots.
Our focus at Glassworks is always to make sure we invest the time on the right effects and bring some sense of scale and “epic-ness” without taking it full Hollywood VFX so the core point in this project was to invest as much as possible on the bus crashing and exploding while trying to get as much in camera as possible.
Shooting the real RV falling over the cliff and extend the explosion was cost prohibitive so the decision was made to throw a completely wrecked one instead and replace it with a 3D version of the bus based on photogrammetry done by hand with 3DEqualizer to model and texture the RV in really high detail.
The explosion was particularly important to have as a reference so we did suggest to use a small one to give the cinematographer, editors, agency, director and client a good reference they all could commit and with an edit locked it was time for us to kickstart the process.
Once we started shooting it was clear the weather didn’t want to play ball and we ended up having quite a bit extra work in terms of grading, sky tweaks and general balancing but overall it was related mostly to one of the three-day shoot that had to be manipulated.
For the driving sequence while they are talking we invested the time on having a really good green screen setup so director and talent could comfortably explore options and although it may look big the reality is that such a setup make the whole production safer, fast and allows the actors to work without too many technical interruptions and certainly no logistics interruptions.
For the helicopter shots we managed to get one of the best pilots in the world, and true as I am here today writing this, I didn’t think twice going up to shoot some plates and experience firsthand the sensation of doing some crazy moves around power lines. Amazing
Clearly one of the main points was to have a very high-quality 3D RV, but not an anyone, we neede this particular one as we were substituting the original so I photographed the RV from two different heights, wide shots and medium ones to feed into 3DEqualizer for model reconstruction.
To get highly detailed textures one Davide did model and textured, based on the 3D lineup done in 3DEqualizer, and used these cameras in Maya to match our 3D model to the photographs.
Furthermore, these same photos were used to paint the bus in MARI and add later even high-resolution textures so we could get close enough.
Omar took textures and model and did all the shading and handled the hero shot beautifully to the point that our first iterations already looked very nice and it was only a matter of finessing the look, add details to make sure it sat on the shot nicely.
Given the scene with the bus falling through the cliff required some good tracking and integration my approach was to film with the helicopter and use photogrammetric techniques with 3DEqualizer to build a detailed polygon mesh that would allow me to have a good model with textures that can be used not only to assist the tracking but more importantly to interact with the rigid body simulation, the volumetric simulation and lighting so the final integration can be more realistic.
For this I selected 1 in every 50 frames shot at 4K and tracked more than 250 frames to reconstruct the terrain, once processed I lined it all up in Houdini to make sure the scale was correct and all the simulation work would benefit from it.
Certainly the key shot we did substitute a placeholder RV that had similar dimensions…
…to the hero one and carefully tracked and animated every bit, from wheels, doors and antennas to make it feel real.
But of course we got real shadows contact and what not from the placeholder RV so the key task aside from rendering it looking realistic was to rotoscope the vegetation which was a long and arduous process.
Using Houdini for pyrotechnic work is a no brainer and quickly got to a point in which we had something looking nice…
…but of course needed a lot of personality so I redesigned it to make sure it had all the features of a dramatic explosion without being too much as editorially would not have worked.
This meant the bus had to be broken into little pieces procedurally based on structural role (glass breaks very different from metal).
I played with many options and seemed like a layer of dust and then the tendrils mixed with the main plume would do the job and after quite a bit of testing where the memory limits were, I finally produced the master explosion that was later rendered.
Following the approach that has guided me over the last 6 years seems to be yet again validated as a great method. By trying as much as possible to shoot everything and rather than invent too much, I rather just extend and replace things allowing all the other departments do their jobs and provide the clients, directors and other collaborators with the necessary material to take informed decisions.
Director: Fredrik Bond
Production: Sonny London / MJZ LA
Task: VFX Supervisor/FX TD
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