MPC LA finishes a new spot, Road Trip, for DIRECTV, complete with World War II epic, a medieval fantasy battle, and a bit of science fiction thrown in.
When MJZ Director Rupert Sanders and Grey New York needed high-end VFX to bring a World War II epic, a medieval fantasy battle, and a bit of science fiction together in a new spot for DIRECTV, they turned to the team at MPC. The spot is a showcase of MPC’s impressive skillset and resources. The LA office led a team that included artists across MPC’s global family of studios, taking the project from rough concept design to photo-real rendering to flawless compositing.
“This was one of those projects that only comes along once in a while,” noted MPC LA Managing Director Andrew Bell. “To help create three disparate and fantastic environments with such an incredible director and agency is a VFX team’s dream come true.”
Acclaimed production designer Dominic Watkins (National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Bourne Supremacy) and his art department helped MJZ transform a quiet canyon two hours north of Los Angeles into the otherworldly scenes. Working with MJZ’s footage of a battle scene populated with 50 extras in authentic military garb, Jeeps, a burnt-out half-track, derelict troop carriers, and a Sherman tank, MPC joined forces with the physical special effects experts at Full Scale Effects to help provide in-camera explosions and balloon lights to illuminate the vast canyon. MPC enhanced these elements in VFX as well as adding the parachute flare in CG.
They also collaborated to create the computer-generated dragon and a spectacular live-action fireball of dragon’s breath. Watkins worked closely with Sanders to recreate the backdrop with several imaginative twists, including a matte painting, a gnarled tree reaching toward the moon from a built-up hill, and a valley rippling with trees, scorched earth, and the skeletons of fallen combatants. The spot’s samurai warrior was shot onsite with a high-speed Phantom camera and lit by glimmering heatwaves to match the CGI dragon.
“One of our greatest challenges in this sequence was to have the dragon’s fireball interact with, but not touch, the warrior and his stallion,” said Mike Wynd MPC LA’s VFX Supervisor. “We solved this problem by digitally rearranging the scene to provide more distance between the two opponents with some of the live-action trees moved and foreground scrub added.”
To create the UFO scene, a small second-unit MJZ team shot the car traveling down a darkened country road. MPC then added the computer-generated spaceship and digitally added light to the ground, the car, its shadows, and the surrounding scenery. The studio also added additional atmosphere and jolted the power poles and cables with an alien-induced shake.
MJZ shot the plates of the back-seat observer with a green screen outside the windows and MPC composited the outside environments in afterward. MPC sealed the effort with interactive lighting in both the live-action and digitally enhanced segments.
Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.