Vision Q&A: Danish Road Warriors

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How do you get people to slow down on the roads of Denmark? If you're the Danish Road Safety Council you start a campaign called "Take Ten Off" to convince drivers that 10 km/hour makes a difference. Then, for the TV spot, you show a play-by-play of how 10 km/hour can affect accident prevention. To do that, The Aid Agency and director Fredrik Callinggard enlisted Copenhagen-based VFX shop Ghost to construct the educational accident.

Founded in 1999 by Jeppe Nygaard Christensen, Martin GĂ„rdeler and Aksel Studsgarth, who met while under the employ of LEGO's computer graphic department, the company has grown from three friends in a camper outside of Copenhagen to a staff of 40. The shop's commercial credits include clients like Coca-Cola, Sony Ericsson, LEGO, Carlsberg, Sony Interactive and Bacardi, while they've done feature work on Harry Potter, Stardust and the James Bond film Die Another Day. They're currently doing work for Hellboy 2. We spoke with Studsgarth about Ghost's work on "Take Ten Off."

How did you approach and construct the effects for this spot?

The crash in the film is based on a real life example, but in the film the agency and director wanted a wire frame car so that when suddenly a real car hits the tree in the end, it has a lot more emotional impact. The crash specialist narrating the accident was to be shot in normal speed while the wire frame car was to be shown in 1/3 speed. In order to get the movement of the wire car as realistic as possible, a stunt driver drove a real car which was filmed with a motion control rig at 75 frames a second. From this footage we were able to extract not only information on how the car moved but also dust and debris that was later mixed with 3D elements.

The actual crash was done by the special effects team by laying 300 feet of rails on which a real car was placed sideways on rollers. A steel wire was then attached to the rollers and pulled by a Land Rover going at high speed. The crash was the last shot of the day, the light was going and there was no contingency plan if the car came off the tracks. The special effects guys did a marvelous job, however, and the crash worked great. Two crash cams were mounted on the car and had to be removed digitally by building a 3D bonnet, and a front wheel and debris also had to be added.

How did you decide what the car would look like when it was transparent?

For the look we received some reference photos of a wire frame car, actually made from wire by a British artist. In a way our 3D wire frame car is a virtual version of a real world interpretation of a virtual car!

What were some of the biggest challenges and how were they overcome?

The biggest challenge in the post production was to get the look of the wire frame car right, since it had to look like wire which doesn't have much visual information yet integrate with the environment at the same time. We did however have a reasonable deadline which meant the team had the time to tackle the technical issues that always pop up during a production.

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