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SWAY Propels "MINI" Generation with 2011 Mini Countryman Spot

Hollywood-based prodco Smuggler recently turned to SWAY Studio to complete two VFX-driven spots unveiling the brand-new 2011 MINI Countryman.

2011 MINI Countryman spots

Press Release from SWAY Studio

Culver City, CA  - Hollywood-based prodco Smuggler recently turned to SWAY Studio to complete two VFX-driven spots unveiling the brand-new 2011 MINI Countryman. The spots entitled "Flow" and "The Last Spot" capture the versatile spirit of the newest family member, MINI's first ever 4-door and optional 4-wheel drive vehicle, designed for urban cruisers with an appetite for style and spontaneous adventure. With the first Countryman fleet already available in Europe, the spots began airing in that market starting September 6, 2010; The MINI Countryman does not launch in the U.S. until January 2011 so media plans are not yet confirmed.

The ambitious concept for the campaign, via BSUR Amsterdam, called for SWAY's CG expertise and proprietary Drive-a-Tron software. Led by VFX Supervisor Aaron Powell, SWAY cloned hundreds of photo-real MINI Countrymans to stage a riveting race though various Italian vistas and landmarks.

Directed by Brian Beletic, "Flow" embarks with a quartet of stylish urbanites cruising through Milan. Each obstacle and turn they encounter magically spawns a new Countryman, which splits from the pack until the entire city abounds with its red clones racing in an orchestrated adventure. The ensuing phenomenon traverses the countryside and coastline. The action culminates on a ferry at Lake Como where each vehicle, one by one, soars to the finish, seamlessly converging into the single Mini Countryman from which the spot began.

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"Brian was amazing to work with," remarks VFX Supervisor Aaron Powell. "He came with a great energy and brilliant concepts of what he wanted to accomplish. Being a fan of our work and Drive-a-Tron(TM), he looked to our expertise and let us run with it."

According to SWAY, all but 3 of the 317 vehicles seen in the spot are CG. SWAY utilized CAD data supplied by MINI along with reference photos to match the hero vehicle from the live-action shoot, surface for surface, detail for detail. For animation of all the driving sequences, SWAY employed its proprietary Drive-a-Tron(TM) software.

Crucial to director Beletic's creative concept, the premise of SWAY's job entailed fitting as many vehicles in the frame as possible, while exercising creative restraint to maintain a level of realism in terms of physics. The inherent challenge, from a VFX standpoint, was to make each unique vehicle look and feel realistic, particularly with the continuity of the vehicles separating and converging.

"The vehicles had to appear to be converging at will and not just crashing into each other. When you have 80 cars in a scene, it is about careful choreography, almost a dance between each of the cars. It was a tough balancing act, but we pulled it off," Powell said.SWAY's animation pipeline employed a range of other software: AutoDesk 3ds Max; V-Ray for rendering; Nuke and Flame for compositing; PTGui for HDRI reflection and lighting; and a variety of packages for tracking including SWAY's proprietary tracking software, Nuke, and PFTrack.

According to Powell, Drive-a-Tron was by far the most important tool in SWAY's pipeline:

"We wouldn't have achieved the motion realism of all the bounces, slides and skids without it -- much less in a production timeline typical of most commercial work. If there is any project we've done in last two years that really showcases the capabilities of Drive-a-Tron, it's this project."

PRODUCT: MINI CountrymanTitle: "Flow"  (:30/:60)

CLIENT: MINI/BMW GroupHead of global advertising and social media: Robert GockeGlobal advertising: Piera Kaempf

ADVERTISING AGENCY: BSUR Amsterdam / NetherlandsCreative Director: Jason SchraggerCreative Director: Paulo MartinsCopywriter: Gian Carlo LanfrancoArt Director: Rolando CordovaAccount Supervisor: Mia Drexl-ScheggAccount Executive: Thijs van DamPlanning Supervisor: Stein JanssenAgency Producer: Corey Bartha

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Smuggler / Hollywood, CADirector: Brian BeleticPartner & Executive Producer: Brian CarmodyPartner & Executive Producer: Patrick MillingsmithChief Operating Officer/EP: Lisa RichHead Of Production: Laura ThoelLine Producer: Tim KerrisonPost Producer: Franny Faull

ANIMATION & VISUAL EFFECTS: SWAY /Culver City, CAExecutive Producer: Jason CohonVisual Effects Supervisor: Aaron PowellCompositing Supervisor / Senior Flame Artist: Pilon LectezCG Supervisor: Artur SayanSenior Producer: Alex ThiesenProduction Coordinator: Andrew Gilson

Flame Artist: Brad ScottFlame Artist: Todd HemsleyNuke Artist: Lawrence LittletonNuke Artist: Scott HaleNuke Artist: Ken LittletonPre-visualization: Robert GlazerDrive-A-Tron Operators: Cesar Chavez, Alexander PowellAnimator: Nathan MillsapColor & Lighting: Artur Sayan, Cesar Chavez, Nathan MillsapPhotogrammetry: Andrew SwihartFX Artist: Rob ValdiviaFX Artist: Steve Wang

Tracking Lead: Marco MaldonadoTracking: Steve HansenLead Roto Artist: Elissa BelloRoto Artist: Kenneth LuiRoto Artist: Billy Robinson

EDITORIAL HOUSE: Rock, Paper, Scissors / Santa Monica, CAEditor: Adam PertofskyExecutive Producer: Carol Lynn WeaverProducer: Juliet BatterAssistant Editor: Neil Meiklejohn

MUSIC: The Rumor Mill

SOUND DESIGN: Brian Emrich

About SWAY: SWAY creates persuasive, photo-real, computer-generated imagery for ad agencies and other content producers using customized tools and techniques that push the boundaries of possibility, ensuring our clients' product is leading-edge.

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