Vision Q&A: Helping Lexus Pop

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For its newest spot, Lexus stuck with the changing landscapes theme established with "Hydrant" and "Hospital" as part of its "Actively Safe" campaign. Though much of the spot, directed by Stylewar, was shot on a huge pop-up book set, the VFX wizards at A52 really made things come to life. We spoke with producer Sarah Haynes, CG supervisor Andy Hall and lead flame artist Raul Ortega about the various challenges in getting a 20-foot book to look real.

How did you bring so many moving and coordinated elements to each page?

Sarah Haynes: It was a bit of a challenge. They shot a 20x30 steel frame that was painted green and the actors swung that as pages. So we picked the takes we liked of the actors that timed out correctly and then they shot the miniature book which was six-feet tall and they were able to shoot the opening of a page, the movement of a page and the closing of a page in a different take. So we had the reel of all the pages opening and closing and handed it to Raul for him to pull them all in and see which ones fit together. Then we worked to fill in the gaps with a combination of Raul warping things and Andy's CG team building the bigger elements in between.

Was it the sheer number of layers that made this so complicated or were there other aspects that contributed to it?

Raul Ortega: One challenge was the fact it was a sequence in one shot. So you have to put all the layers in at once because everything in the book is connected. It's not like a lot of other jobs where there are different shots with cuts that you can focus on for 20 frames. So that was a big challenge. It's a pop-up book so there are a lot of elements in total, There were more than 120 layers.

Andy Hall: In terms of (CG), because of how things were shot, there were some things you just hoped would work out. There's one particular page that had to be completely rebuilt in CG and that was the city shot with the taxi. There was some stuff shot that we couldn't get to work with 2D because it was distorting other elements and it just became easier to reconstruct the whole page in CG. That was one of the more complicated pages but all the pages were touched in some shape or form with CG, just because of the nature of this shoot and with these elements there is always a chance that some of the things won't work perfectly. It really fell on the shoulders of Raul and he really took the job on. It became a bit of a jigsaw puzzle really, and he worked out which parts CG had to come in and help out with to get it to a place that fit with the other 2D elements.

You kept a lot of elements looking imperfect to maintain that organic, man-made touch. Is that more difficult to do than making things flawless?

AH: Yeah, that's what makes it achieve the next level of believability. It's a testament to the work done on-set, done here and in the editing room that you can't really tell how much work actually did go into it.

RO: We had so much good stuff to work with from the shoot. If we needed help with one of the pop-up book elements, we could always go and track that movement in the real board and reference that to help us out. We were able to use a lot of the reflections and shadows they shot and that was very helpful.

AH: The foundations were there from the shoot and it's always better to get as many things as you can shot because people automatically buy into those images. Even though you can create those images in CG or 2D, there's a level of believability that people accept right away from plate photography so having those elements coupled with what we did made it into the spot it is now. To discuss this article, visit the Creativity Forums.
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