Zoic Creates Prius Spot with Z.E.U.S.
Executive Creative Directors Chris Jones and Andrew Orloff worked together to employ Z.E.U.S. in a new and exciting way to realize Feng and interTrend’s vision. Using Z.E.U.S. for automotive work required some modification to the system, since the witness camera typically mounts above the Arriflex Alexa camera, and requires direct line-of-sight to a tracking array in the ceiling for data capture. Car beauty lighting involved large reflective silks above the set, obscuring Z.E.U.S.’ ceiling markers.
Demonstrating Z.E.U.S.’ flexibility, Zoic Studios engineered the UVS-1 facility to incorporate an encoded crane – the Teloscopic LLC Techno Jib – prior to the shoot day. This proved invaluable for capturing accurate, real-time tracking data, while also helping the crew to move efficiently through multiple set-ups of the four Prius vehicles and talent. On the shoot day, a live composite was generated for each camera take using the Lightcraft system, an integral component of the Z.E.U.S. pipeline. Seeing the game-version asset of the virtual environment in reference to the live HD video feed of talent and cars through an iPad app, also designed by Zoic, Feng was able to refine camera moves and lens choices for optimum effect.
Production complete, Zoic Studios editorial imported the pre-composited footage and completed the edit with the director. Senior Editor Dmitri Gueer cut the spot in-house for Zoic Studios. Special attention was paid to finessing the speed and scale of each Prius vehicle and choreographing the four models, which were sometimes driven in separate takes due to the size of the stage. Once the edit list was generated, Zoic reconciled tracking data with the green-screen footage through time code. This gave CG artists the ability to reestablish the camera’s position in the final version of the virtual environment.
Creating the Virtual Environment
Doug Ludwig led the visual effects team with Steve Meyer overseeing Flame composition and 3D supervision by Andy Wilkoff and Mike Kirylo. In post production, the CG team worked with the director to customize the environment layout for each shot, sculpting the rolling hills and placing the trees, flowers and refueling pump in relation to the deeper mountain background. Every aspect of the terrain was modeled in Autodesk's Maya and rendered using Chaos Group's V-Ray render engine. Leveraging V-Ray's robust global illumination, subtle bounce lighting and nuanced shadow details were accurately and efficiently rendered in full 1080 HD, bringing the natural setting to life. Proxy geometry and fur systems easily produced very high resolution tree models and lush grass textures. Specific placement of wildflowers patches added color and dimension. Finally, each scene was deconstructed and rendered in specific layers to give the compositing team the necessary control to manipulate the final image.
Using The Foundry’s Nuke software, along with custom tools developed for Nuke and Z.E.U.S.-based shows, Zoic’s compositors quickly processed the green-screen footage to realize near-final working comps. With Nuke’s 3D and projection capabilities, along with Kronos, The Foundry’s retiming software, compositors matched editorial’s placement and pacing, but allowed for seamless spatial integration within the virtual environment. Several matte passes, XYZ shaders, and normal maps enabled the team to adjust the look of the environment based on elevation, depth, and contour. Each vehicle was spill suppressed two ways, for sky and for the grass, giving the Prius family a more integrated look. As a final touch, each Prius was tracked and match-moved with a CG duplicate, placed into the scenes to catch natural environmental reflections.