The latest spot for BMW 7 Series in China employed ambitious VFX techniques to recreate a 3D version of the Tian Shan Mountains in Xinjiang, western China.
The brief from Beijing agency Serviceplan was to showcase the car as a trailblazer that metaphorically and, in this case, literally lights up the environment around it. As the car cruises through the mountains it sets trees aglow and illuminates mountainsides to an increasing degree of intensity. The spot was required to be an arresting blend of commercial and art filmmaking, an approach designed to reflect the car’s innovative features. The brief also specified the need to display the vehicle in its entirety as late in the film as possible.
Chosen to direct was rising French talent Xavier Chassaing, who had won admirers for previous commercial work for luxury brands like Chanel, and in particular his spectacular experimental short film Dry Lights, which employed similar light effects that Serviceplan and BMW were looking to capture. For Chassaing it marked his debut directing a car commercial. His skillset was complemented by DoP Paul Meyers, a Mandarin-speaking US-based cinematographer with a wealth of car shooting experience in China.
The key to successfully executing the brief then, lay in creating attractive, believable light effects. Most such effects are created in 3D, meaning shooting the landscape alone would not be sufficient – the production would need to digitally build a full 3D environment. Production company P.I.G China EP Nick Dodet explained the necessity and benefits of working in this way,
“By scanning existing locations and rendering them as 3D elements, we were able to incorporate the light effects, and adapt the locations to the car and the story simultaneously. Creating a full 3D version of the scenery, using real textures, allowed us to adapt the locations at will.”
As such, all locations in which the car appears are a blend of live action and 3D. Live action shooting involved three days in Xinjiang and a day of studio shoot in Shanghai. A further four days were spent scanning the Tian Shan range by drone.
Xavier Chassaing’s ‘Dry Lights’
With the verdant Xinjiang landscape built in 3D, it then fell to VFX, animation and motion design studio Mathematic to bring the scene to life with spectacular light effects. The Paris-based studio was the obvious choice, having worked with Chassaing on Dry Lights, meaning they had ready all the required tools, software and plugins.
To process the massive volume of data required to illuminate thousands of individual plants, trees and rock faces, Mathematic utilised Clarisse software, a fusion of animation package, compositing software and a 3d rendering engine. The program comes with the added benefit of allowing the artist to see their work on the final shot, rather than working on a single layer.
Clarisse has won over important sections of the VFX industry since it came onto the market. London VFX powerhouse Double Negative’s Chief Technical Officer, Graham Jack, for instance, says “Not only is Clarisse a blazingly fast renderer but it allows an artist an incredible amount of flexibility in how they setup their scenes. It somehow manages to allow very complex setups while making it seem simple, intuitive and artist friendly.”
With a crack-team and cutting edge software in place to tackle the 80% of shots that required VFX, the biggest challenge was time, with just 31 days to edit and post produce the 30 second film.
The final film represents a successful collaboration of creative and technical teams in China and France. Dodet partly attributes the successful execution of a complex job to a decisive and supportive client, “[BMW] had a very clear brief, which didn’t change much throughout the production and post production process, which makes a big difference. The client trusted the agency, director and production house, and we felt their support throughout the project.”
He also wished to pay special tribute to agency Serviceplan, “Working with Serviceplan is a very horizontal type of relationship. Agency, director, production and post production work together as a team, and it makes a huge difference when looking for solutions to unforeseen issues,” adding that “the involvement, dedication, and passion for the project displayed by the Serviceplan team was a major driving force, allowing all to focus on doing what they do best and not lose time and energy on peripheral issues.”
The spot, without voice over
法国新生代导演Xavier Chassaing被选中执导广告片，他此前为香奈儿等奢侈品牌打造的商业广告曾为他赚得了不少人气，其中实验性短片Dry Lights尤为突出，它所采用的灯光特效正是Serviceplan和宝马所要捕捉的。对于导演Chassaing来说，这也是他执导汽车广告的处女秀。此外，电影摄影师Paul Meyers担任该广告的摄影指导，这也是对导演的有力补充。Paul Meyers平日在美国工作，但是会说中文，有着丰富的在中国进行的汽车拍摄经验。
要想将成功将广告创意落到实处，关键在于打造既有吸引力同时又真实可信的灯光特效。大多数灯光特效都是由3D创作的，也就意味着只是把山脉景色拍下来是不够的 – 制作中需要采用3D数字技术搭建整个环境。广告由P.I.G中国制作，监制Nick Dodet向我们解释了采用这种方式进行制作的必要性以及优势，
Clarisse软件自从面世以后，在视效行业就已经赢得了举足轻重的认可。比如说，伦敦很棒的特效工作室Double Negative的首席技术官Graham Jack这样评价道，“Clarisse不仅仅是一个能够快速进行渲染的软件，同时也让艺术家在场景设置时有着充分的灵活性。也可以应对非常复杂的设置，让它们看起来非常简单、直观、好用。”