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VW - Golf GTE - Thomas Garber

You couldn’t ask for a better VFX brief than the one we recieved from Director Thomas Garber through Tony Peterson Film. Rocketcars, rocketmen, futuristic cities with racing trikes, sonic trains, centrifuges and of course the new VW Golf GTE….this gig ticked off a lot of our CG bucket list!

Working closely with Thomas and our long trusted concept artist Sylvie Minois we researched and refined looks for each of the vehicles. At the same time the surrounding environments were considered, whilst also building a detailed pre-vis as we went. The edit was quick, much like the vehicles themselves, so timing was crucial. The concept designs fed into the Art department, who created some incredible pieces for the shoot - LED biker suits, rocket wings, cockpits and train cabins to name a few. All of these elements combined to shoot over three studio days in Prague. With the talent’s performance, we had the perfect platform on which to build our 5, very different vignettes.

Using a combination of matte painting, fluids, particles, cloth, photogrammetry and just about every 2D tool there is, work began combining the shot material with their environments. Thanks to a clear vision from Thomas, and the foundations laid in the pre-vis, we were able to move through a tight six week schedule smoothly. There was also a host of invisible work required, from scaling down the Rocketcar drivers crash helmet to adding CG visors in all the close ups. The guys at Ten24 created a full 360 degree scan of the rocketman's suit, this allowed us to add in some flapping cloth and other details….for the few frames that you saw it!

Most of what you see in this spot was created at TBA from scratch, from the Icelandic inspired canyons to the future city race track.

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Honda - Inner Beauty - Smith & Foulkes

Time Based Arts has completed the post and vfx for the new Honda Civic Tourer commercial working again with directors Smith & Foulkes through Nexus. The commercial was written and conceived by the creative team at Wieden+Kennedy London.

The campaign celebrates the idea that beauty is about much more than what appears on the surface. The creative plays on the trend in design, engineering and wider society of looks being valued over substance. The viewer is taken on a journey through various objects, including a golf ball, suitcase, chest of drawers and an accordion, discovering something surprising and beautiful about the inside of each one.

The brief in the first instance was to help explore and define how one could travel into and through a series of objects conceived by the creatives and directors. Further to this, we had to establish the right amount of time spent inside each object, the time required travelling towards the object to allow for recognition and the general flow throughout. This all culminated in a sequence of shots of the car in action, inside and out.

We set about making a full 3D pre-vis of the commercial to help to visualise the concept as a complete film. The results were then passed back and forth through an editing process until everyone felt we had locked down the basic structure of the film.

The main challenge of the project was to both accurately represent what was inside each object whilst also embellishing this with the beautiful abstract imagery one might imagine when exploring from an impossible perspective. For example in the case of the camera, robot, amp and accordion we had to sacrifice real objects and cut them up to look inside. We researched how they worked and gained an understanding of how you might pass through each section while maintaining a visual interest and beauty in the image. This meant understanding when an object would be sliced through and when the viewer would become fully immersed in the object, such as in the interior of the golf ball or the snow dome hidden inside the suitcase.

Other challenges included combining 3D with stop-frame imagery. The 3D was put under close scrutiny given the macro nature of the journey through each object. We closely analysed the stop-frame footage and applied the findings in the comp. The addition of shallow depth of field immediately miniaturised the clean CG renders. Lens aberration, light leak, randomising the clean edges and subtle animation in the placing of the object on each frame all helped to mimic the stop-frame look.

Although enormously complex at times the job was a pleasure to work on. Smith&Foulkes, Wieden+Kennedy and of course Honda always wish to push things creatively and it was a enjoyable to be able to respond to that driving force and help to deliver the most creative and beautiful image.

Congratulations to Anthony and Factory for their Bronze at the Clio Awards for sound design on this project.

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Vodafone - Add Power To Your Life

An epic spot for Vodafone from Sebastian Strasser through Radical Berlin

This ambitious project first crossed our path in the spring with a phone call from Sebastian. What followed was a bizarre conversation about sim cards, eggs, cats, transformers, buffalos and rockets. Although we were left scratching our heads it was immediately apparent that the film was going to be ambitious, bold and packed with creative vfx.

Fast forward four months and here you have it. The answer to some very important (and often unasked) questions including: what does an egg turning into a kitten look like? How does one ride a robot/buffalo at speed? and what is the best position to adopt on a transforming rocketship train?

The film's premise is a simple (if crazy) one; that the new vodafone sim card will, like some bizarre piece of modern day sorcery, "power up" any object to a new form.
As for our job, with such varied and complex images needed we were primarily tasked with problem solving at every level, during scripting and development, on set and through to the later post production stages.

Stylistically the director wanted to keep the camera off the tripod and hand held throughout which added to the narrative flow of the spot overall but of course increased the complexity of the vfx shots. With each vignette lasting only a short duration of the overall edit it was also the case that there was enormous amounts of R&D for very short sections. The creature work and full fur on the buffalo for example taking many weeks to perfect for the completion of only three short shots.

We're really proud of the final image and the low-fi and naturalistic feel of the spot overall.
Transformers with kittens - what more could we ask for?!

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Sprint Dream II

We were approached by Leo Burnett Chicago to revisit the creative on the Sprint Mobile cinema commercial that we worked on with UVA and Chris Turner last year. Based on the success of the existing campaign they were looking to take the visual forward, creating abstract visions of what your phone might see if it could dream.

The objective was to invite cinema-goers to switch off their phones before the film, suggesting they text DREAM to Sprint to activate a reward when their phone awakens. This reward was one of three personalised html5 generated films showing what your phone has been dreaming about.

The creatives at Leo Burnett asked us to propose different visual routes that these dreams could take. This allowed us a lot of creative freedom to suggest the visual journey and we were able to work very collaboratively with the agency. We settled on creating an internalised feeling in the opening section, with the user reaching in to shut down the phone. This followed on from the UVA film that ended at the phone's "core". We then used this "core" or "brain" as the starting point from whence abstract dream imagery flowed.
It was also interesting to deliver a job that we knew would be viewed exclusively in film theatres. We worked closely with the sound designer to create a spot that in the context of the cinema commercial break is a really intense and immersive experience.
It was great to produce, direct and then craft a piece all in house here at Time Based Arts.

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Vodafone WOW

It’s not often that a script arrives that manages to tick most of the boxes on our vfx wish list, but this was just the project. It’s a stand out campaign commercial for the latest European wide Vodafone network and came to us via friend and exec producer Christoph Petzenhauser at Radical Media Berlin.

We were delighted to be able to work with Sebastian Strasser in bringing his vision for the film to life.
The spot was shot in Hong Kong by Hoyte van Hoytema (Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy) with Sheldon Gardner vfx supervising for Time Based Arts. It was a huge campaign spot and shot over six long nights in multiple Hong Kong locations.

Every section of the film had a large degree of vfx work – The beauty of the opening scene in the street market for example disguising the fact that it was built from many passes and layered up to build the rich and atmospheric establishing wide shot.
Ahead of the shoot and throughout the post process we developed the look and feel of the lighting effect closely with the director and client. This was important as it acts as the narrative thread throughout the spot. It had to work on the widest range of scales - whether being emitted from a phone held in the hand or being seen spreading across continents from space.

Then there were the obvious challenge of creating photo real creature effects in the form of the fluking humpback whale and it’s naturalistic inter-action with the water - always a huge technical vfx challenge. This was built up by using a variety of techniques and executions to embed the computer generated tail. These included cgi water simulations, shot textures captured here at our studio and source imagery from the location itself.

Sebastian’s attention to detail was incredible and the nights were certainly long but we love an exacting director here at Time Based Arts and we're very proud of the results.

He said:
"All people at TBA are creative, perfectionistic, highly professional and on top of all warm hearted.
Even a grumpy, never happy director like me has to confess: it is simply a pleasure working with them."

The commercial was turned around within a demanding two week post production schedule.

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Lexus GS

We have delivered the ultimate road trip for the latest Lexus GS commercial from CHI & Partners, directed by long term collaborator Anthony Dickenson through Pulse Films.

The new GS 350h is driven through a dizzying array of environments, from slick city streets to forests to highways in the Midwest. The ad was inspired by the efforts of the chief engineer of the Lexus GS, Yoshihiko Kanamori, and his team, who drove the car a million miles around the world during its development.

Our involvement started when Antony approached us to discuss how he wanted to apply stop frame photographic techniques into a seamless journey. We tested with different rigs and setups before settling on a Canon 5D MarkII shooting RAW exposures every second with the camera vehicle moving at 30 miles per hour. This became a constant for the multiple shoot days that occurred around the world including California, South Africa, Namibia and Iceland. This constant movement forward allowed us to begin to stitch the images together, finding links between the forever encroaching landscapes, until it's very hard to see which element is taken from which location. In doing so we created a seamless impossible road that transcends multiple locations, continents and seasons.

All of the car material was shot in Los Angeles where the only examples of the new car were available. This included a day in the studio where one car had it's roof removed to allow a MILO motion control rig to travel through the car and into the sat nav screen on multiple lighting passes. The interior roof of the car was replaced in post with sgi assets.

Other key areas included the "neurones" end sequence which was designed and brought to life by Oscar Gonzalez.
All in all it was a huge project for us here at Time Based Arts, one which we were really able to craft and bring ideas to, under Anthony's direction. The difficulty and complexity of it's execution we hope is suitably disguised by the commercial's overall effortlessness to watch.

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Swatch

On an early morning in June, Jim and I shared a cab with our friend and longtime collaborator Chris Cairns. It was 6am, we were bleary eyed and fatigued from two days spent in Cannes. Chris was bleary eyed and fatigued having cycled 1000km with the Fireflies. As we settled down for a kip on the way to the airport Chris opened his laptop to have a ‘quick’ chat about Swatch… In that moment we left the summer behind. We returned to the dimmed light of our Flame suites and got busy for the next two months.

We surfaced on the other side with this 60″ film for the new digital Swatch “Touch” watch range. The first digital watch that the iconic brand has designed in over 25 years of production. The piece is an audio driven journey set in a club where everything is musically linked, most notably crowd.

It was shot over 4 days (and nights) in a nightclub in Southwark. It combines multiple formats: RED Epic, Alexa and Phantom. Chris not being one to shy away from gargantuan tasks designed an extensive motion control set-up. It included 40 enthusiastic teenagers on green screen, a synced lighting rig and a synced playback system. All of which were set in motion by a purpose built surface controller that takes centre stage in frame. He conducted this orchestra of technology and impassioned youth like a kind of modern day Beethoven and then handed it over to us to stitch it all together.

We started with the development of the look in Flame. The grade had to balance the character of a black and white image but include the three brand colours of the product. This lead on to the design of the various transitions and the look of the audio based digital distortion. We then tackled the huge amount of technical work that included the 5 huge crowd replication shots. The post had a great mix of design and creative challenges combined with problem solving and technical compositing. Just the kind of job we love…….. to design in the back of a taxi on a french motorway with a hangover at 6am!

The guys at Thankyou designed and built the end device and the music was supplied by Danish producer Trentemoller.

The commercial premiered during the MTV Music Video Awards.

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HONDA

The last time Smith & Foulkes made a commercial for Honda, with the genre changing Honda “Grrr”, it became the most talked about (and awarded) animated ad of the last 10 years. It’s also fair to say that the advertising output from Honda is truly innovative and always eagerly anticipated. We were therefore very excited to be involved in helping to craft their latest collaboration, “This Unpredictable Life”.

The tale is told through a poem recited by Garrison Keillor, the author and radio broadcaster whose gravelly voice has become synonymous with the Power of Dreams campaign from “Grrr” to “Impossible Dream”.

The story follows our character from birth to adulthood, meeting his partner along the way and starting a family of his own. The new Jazz features at the end of the spot, it’s multiple seat configurations cleverly adapt to deal with everything life’s journey brings with it. It’s a typically brave approach from the creative team of Chris Groom and Sam Heath at W+K where only 10 seconds of screen time is given to the car in a 60 second product commercial.

The resulting journey is great fun to watch and speaks volumes for Smith & Foulkes’ ability to embue a narrative with detail, richness and of course charm.

The 3D was skillfully designed and animated in house at Nexus by a 30 strong team of multi-disciplined artists. 3D lead and all round virtuoso Ben Cowell headed up the crew even putting his honeymoon on hold to bring this one in.

Time Based Arts were involved from the earliest stages of the project with Sheldon Gardner helping develop style frames for the pitch. This collaboration from the outset proved fruitful as it allowed for a continuity to the look development right through to delivery.

Smith & Foulkes were keen to contrast the simple character designs with elaborate and atmospheric environments which had to feel expansive and epic. It was a very intense post process as the nature of the look meant that the disparate elements for the scenes (including the animated layers, particles, grading and stylisation) could be viewed in context for the first time only in the composite. We worked tirelessly to realise each scene. This allowed for direction and creative input to be fed back to the 3D team where needed and further finesse the end result.

An additional challenge was the fact that the entire 60 second commercial is told in a flowing narrative that has only two obvious cuts.

This lead to very large setups with hundreds of layers needing to be invisibly joined with each subsequent and equally complicated sequence. It was an intense project yet the nature of working with such a creative team made it a hugely rewarding process.

W+K have even developed an iPhone app that allows you to snatch bespoke animations of the characters that feature in the film interactively whilst its playing on your telly!

Special thanks to Ben’s understanding wife Sarah!

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Hornbach

HEIMAT Berlin have continued their work with HornBach with a new campaign. They have become renowned for their inventive, ever changing and award winning DIY campaigns over the last few years and in Europe their work is keenly anticipated.
Their latest project, entitled ‘The Infinite House’ takes on a rather different format.

Rather than a straight run of 30 second television commercials the focus for the campaign is a charming narrative nine minute film being shown in cinemas and online.

From this six shorter TVC’s were cut down to act as trailers and promote the short film. It is supported by a print campaign with the agency also creating 700,000 children’s books based on the film.
“The Infinite House” tells the story of man, who with a lot of inspiration and the right tools transforms a small shack into an impressive improvised house of dreams.

Working closely with director Woof Wan-Bau and Radical Media Berlin we completed around 90 vfx shots for the cinema & web short film.

The five day shoot took place just outside Bucharest, Romania in the huge Media Pro studios. James Hatt designed and constructed the massive set and transforming house that with a team of carpenters and matte painters were three weeks in the making.

Our tasks included the more obvious such as extensive rig cleanup and screen replacements through to detailed work on the house transformation section. The project was conceived with a shorter duration but the production was so packed with detail and creativity that it found it’s own way to a final duration of nine minutes.

With a large team we ran two Flames and a Smoke around the clock to bring it all together knowing also that all the work would have to stand up to the scrutiny of a 35mm film print.

We’re delighted with the results and think Woof Wan-Bau has really succeeded in making a short film with a big heart.

Woof Wan-Bau, Director
“TBA were involved very early on in the project, and as always were incredible in their commitment and enthusiasm from start to finish. Sheldon weathered the gruelling shoot in Bucharest with us to make sure i didn’t mess anything up and even moonlighted as smoke and wind machine operator and general props man. Despite the fact that I came back to London with a substantially longer spot, the TBA team put everything into it, and their hard work and creative input was the icing on the cake. Unlike their superior Flame artistry, they suck at ping pong- it was fun to destroy them all on their new ping pong table once the job was done.”

The spot has since been shortlisted on the TED Initiative's "Ad's Worth Spreading" for 2011.