Everything is illuminated

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When digital effects artists have the skill to create characters and sets from virtual thin air, it's almost a shock when you learn that an impressive and easy to animate effect was captured in-camera. In the case of "Liquid Light," a spot for Nissan's Fuga from TBWA/Chiat/Day in L.A. and Tokyo currently airing in Japan, that was the case, but the main tasks performed by A52's Inferno artists were stitching footage together, not animating effects. The "Liquid Light" effect, a white ribbon of light that surrounds and illuminates the car, was realized by director Rupert Sanders, who was also integral to its execution on-set in L.A. Sanders found a 40-camera rig (in the vein of those made popular by The Matrix) that would have a long enough exposure to make moving light linger and exist on a 3-D plane. He then dressed in a black suit and ran with a fluorescent light through the set. Three layers of footage were then recorded: the light, the illuminated back wall and the silhouette of the car.

Lead Inferno artist Pat Murphy said that he was primarily concerned with eliminating jumpiness caused by the multiple cameras. "When you stitch them all together, it just shakes like crazy-every image," he says. "And every time that we'd do a pass, even though it's the same rig, each piece of film is in a different place. It's not like motion control where you get the exact same frame every time. So we had to stitch every frame so that the three layers always lined up. We bought specific sparks to take out the jitter, and then we applied that to the three shots, and then we retracked and restitched."

Happy with the way everything looked, with thick white waves cutting through the air around the car, the visual team was presented with a challenge. "The rig could only take 80 frames, which was a problem because there are only six or seven shots in the edit," says Murphy. "So we had to double up every piece of footage that he saw to give the editorial company more for the edit. Before it was finished, we were slowing it down so they could cut it and make it look good." The resulting visual is a lovely and almost haunting one that emphasizes the smooth lines of the car and those created by the ribbon.

But unsure of how things would turn out, the team did try a technique with more computer manipulation. "We also shot film in another camera, just a regular camera, and we were doing tests with that to see if we could get it to look like their rig," Murphy says. "We got it pretty close, but what they were getting was so organic and real, we decided that it was the way to go. All of the beautiful stuff was in-camera. We just had the task of putting it together."

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